Psellus, Michael

Psellus, Michael (1018–ca. 1078) was a Byzantine scholar, philosopher, author, and statesman, who undertook a classification of Demons in his work On the Work of Demons.

Michael Psellus was born in Constantinople, where he rose to prominence in the royal court as a lawyer and philosopher. He became imperial secretary under Emperor Michael V in 1041–42. He taught philosophy at the Academy at Constantinople, where he advocated the ideas of Plato over those of the more popular Aristotle. Psellus’ book On the Work of Demons was translated into Latin by Marsilio Ficino, and then into Italian by a mid-16th-century scholar. He said the Devil was the artificer of all evils, the lord of subcelestial things, and the counterpart to God.

In the Neoplatonic view, Demons were more like the Greek DaimonES, morally ambivalent intermediary beings rather than Fallen Angels. Psellus’ Demonic classes are
• leliouria, shining or glowing ones who live in the ether, a rarified sphere beyond the Moon
• aeria, Demons of the air below the Moon
• chthonia, Demons who live on the land
• hydraia or enalia, Demons who live in the water
• hypochthonia, Demons who live beneath the earth
• misophaes, blind and nearly senseless Demons who hate the light and live in the lowest parts of Hell Demons swarm everywhere. Higher Demons act on the intellect, imagination, and senses, and lower Demons are animalistic, causing disease and bad luck and engaging in Possession. Lower Demons can speak, and they utter false prophecies.

Demons can be repelled by sacred words and objects in Christianity, Psellus said, and by holy women and men, who can cause them great pain.


The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.