Legion: The Gerasene Demoniac

Fear filled him.

Fear had attached itself to his very being. It was a presence, something a part of him, deep inside, usually hidden, absent from awareness.

All creatures in each moment sense the Fear. Instinct usually takes over to impel the creature to act, to survive, to put off, for a time, the inevitable. Humans sense the Fear but willingly brush it aside, submerge it, ignore it, make it appear ludicrous, mask it. But it is unrelenting. The Fear arrives from everywhere, nowhere, instantly surrounding its prey, overwhelming, suffocating.

The Fear is the most horrible nightmare, the most disgusting creature that attacks without warning, its coils, or pincers, or tentacles grab, overpower, squeeze, cut, tear the flesh, wrap around the throat, strangling, excruciating.

The Fear strikes, a plague, erupting with horrible swelling boils, aching, bulging with pus, sickening, bringing about a slow agonizing end to life. Fear has a tendency to reproduce, like a virus splitting, dividing, becoming infinitesimal in number, legion, finding obscure parts of the brain to hide and wait for a moment of weakness in the host at which time to emerge, attack, disable.

The Fear invaded a man.

It was the most hideous torture, burning the man alive at the stake of thoughts and emotions, drowning him slowly in his past guilt and sin, nailing him to the cross of the mistakes of all humankind and forcing him to bleed, suffocate, and thirst to death.

The Fear was his dark side, always on the brink of taking over his mind. In each moment, the fear convinced him that he would lose control, give in to the obsessions, do exactly what he did not want to do. To become something different, unrecognizable. To become legion.

Thousands of images, experiences, memories, feelings of guilt and humiliation, times of wanting to do something but being afraid to do it, moments of embarrassment and inaction, other times of action that were wrong, sinful: These were legion, stored in his mind, penetrating every aspect of the present, like countless atoms banging against the walls of his brain, wishing to exit, to be free—but the Fear kept them in control, waiting for the right time, the exact moment—when the man never knew—and without warning the legion of demons, of the images of the past, would come together, marshaled under the commanding Fear, and the man then would be faced with images of committing the unthinkable.

He thought of the most disgusting things, the most horrible crimes, the excruciating details of murder, all a product of his ruminating mind. He was like a cow, a horse, a donkey, an ass, grazing, hungering for grass, and more grass, unable to fill himself, unable to stop, obsessed with eating, compulsively swallowing–but it was never enough.

The thought, the panic, gripped him, as images, a legion of images, erupted in his consciousness about death and destruction and evil and sorrow. His future appeared determined. Fantastic thoughts foretold reality.

He was a demon, an agent of Hell, intent on destruction, on murder, biding his time, awaiting the moment when suddenly he would lose all sanity, all control, and he would throttle, strangle, and his victim would die horribly without a sound, silently.

The webs of fear were spun in earlier years. To live is to experience fear. The man’s fear was in response to the uncertainty of his environment–the constant possibility of loneliness, the darkness of night, the unknown, pain. The Fear was the result of restlessness, the dependence on the passing moment, as well as the narcissistic search for constant gratification, for pleasure to counter the pain of existence. The wisdom of the past supports the reliance upon doubts and fears to guide humans through the years; this message of despair and unhappiness seeps into the brains of old and young alike, instilling an infernal hubris and arrogance, that what cannot be known for sure is not worth knowing, indeed does not exist. Decay overwhelms delight and joy. Pleasure, beauty, and euphoria give way to pain, blemishes, and sorrow.

The man was a certain person in a certain place in a certain time who represented all humans in all places and in all times. Ancient sources briefly describe the man tortured by fear. He is unnamed save for his own appellation: Legion.

Whatever creature inhabited his brain, whatever legion of demons possessed his soul—it stirred the pot of fantasy with so many ingredients of fear and foreboding, so many tormented images of crime, of uncontrollable sins, insane murders. followed by accusations, torture, dungeon, chains, trial, confession, guilt, execution.

The Fear became the dominating force in his life. Every morning upon awakening his mind ferreted within to find a thought, an obsession, with which to destroy his sense of peace, his happiness. The legion of images flocked about him, settled upon him, determining the day of fear and anxiety. He could not rid himself of the thoughts that entered his consciousness; he could not reason them away; he could not convince himself that he would not do what he imagined. The Fear was like a great automaton within him, calculating, indiscriminate, unpredictable, and completely autonomous from what this man, Legion, wanted, wished, thought, or said.

He was unable sometimes to think because of the overwhelming presence of the Fear, his mind jumbled by so many images of disaster and despair—unspeakable images that he could not believe he was having, and yet he was. They were images of folly, one after the other. He dreamed of murder, of patricide, of random death, of rape and torture, involving people known and unknown. He envisioned himself as the agent of destruction. The resultant guilt mixed with confusion of how to explain it, what to do about it. So random were the fantasies that they were ultimately nonsensical.

Legion tried everything he could think of to resist, to fight, to avoid, to ignore; to embrace fear so to familiarize himself with it, to laugh at it. Nothing worked. Only death would bring it to an end. But death is not an option for a person unwilling to die. Death is to be resisted. Every part of one’s being—mind, body, spirit—must fight to survive.

Resist. Resist the foe. Resist the fear. Struggle against it. Force it away. Throttle it. Destroy it. Murder it. Free yourself from it at all costs. Run from it.

Legion had tried running from fear time and again. When the thoughts came, he tried to stifle the fear by going outside into the summer heat or cool winter nights; he drank wine beyond normal intoxication; he had sex, thought of sex; he hid in places of darkness to see if the Fear would go away; he called out to Heaven for help; he tried hiding in the city, anonymous, normal; he tried secluding himself. Fruitless. Winless. Exhausted.

How does a person resist Fear? How does a person resist the countless images from the past of error, sin, wretchedness, lust, violence? How is a random thought, a sensation, an image, a horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach, the stark loneliness, the seclusion from reality, the temptation, the deception, the demonization of the mind, the overwhelming presence of a legion of fear—how is it to be resisted?

Legion’s entire life had been focused on resisting. He had resisted how he looked, who he was, what he was taught, how he lived, where he lived, his society, his culture, dominant institutions, religious leaders, education, teachers, morals, ethics, government, war, life, death, and the present. He resisted anything that tried to pigeon-hole him, to define him, to control him, to institutionalize him, to make him what he was not.

To spend a life resisting yields questions upon questions. Some questions are simple, childlike: Why do we steal? Why do we lust for another? Why do we lie? Why do we seek to hurt? Why are we only concerned with Self? Some questions are profound, unknowable: How can the diversity of nature have a single point of origin? How can the years and months of countless centuries have a representative moment? How can the multitude be singular? How can the lives and thoughts of humans throughout time be contained in one? Then there were the ultimate unanswerable questions: Is there a god or gods? Who? What does he, they, want from us? Why does he, they, allow chaos, destruction, war, disease, hunger, death? What deity/deities would allow the suffering seen everywhere, every day, throughout time? What deity/deities would allow such Fear?

Legion personified the age-old struggle between freedom and order, liberty and authority. The liberty and freedoms human yearn for are opposed by the restrictions of society, artificial rules that impede natural inclinations, systems that guarantee order in a world filled with potential chaos. Youthful ideas of wantonness and misbehavior are confronted by authority imposing restrictions and regulations. The ways of the body, feeling, going against the ways of the mind, thought. Legion’s fantasy world—some of it he allowed, some of it he could not help—was opposed by the standards, norms, and decorum of society.

His fears were a veritable army of images, thoughts, recollections, fantasies, and dreams covering years of angst about physical cowardice, angst about self-control and obsessive thoughts, guilt about so many actions based on fantasy and images. He had obsessed about making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, looking askance at a person, appearing ridiculous, obsessing over the erotic.

He was insane with guilt, grief, and fear. Guilt is a deep well in the human psyche, and it takes much effort to descend deeper and deeper into the well of the past to discover the pangs of conscience that represent guilt. His guilt combined with poor self-esteem and an appalling lack of confidence; it burdened him with chains of the weight of the past. He was known throughout the region as a man in chains, naked and savage, violent and angry, fearsome, haunting. He was a man pursued. All throughout the village. Everywhere. No place to hide. Who were the pursers? Legion did not know. Likewise, he did not know what they wanted, why he was being pursued. He kept trying to hide. He found the best place of refuge to be living among the tombs of the dead.

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About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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