Demystifying Demons is a sophisticated yet accessible analysis of feelings such as self-loathing, anxiety, and guilt. Within its pages, retired philosophy professor Clayton Morgareidge weaves together diverse threads of scholarship to address the origins of the “demons” that so often haunt us. Drawing from psychoanalysis, existentialism, and social science, and illustrating his points with examples from music and literature, Morgareidge succeeds in providing an unusual and insightful take on an engaging topic.
The author takes pains to differentiate his work from self-help books, noting that “this book is not a course in do-it-yourself therapy, but an exploration of the way our souls work.” Here, “soul” is used in its original, secular sense, as in the Greek psyche, just as “demons” are to be understood figuratively and not in any religious sense. For Morgareidge, while natural sciences may provide some objective data about the physiology of our feelings, it’s more relevant to examine the impact of our experiences on our interior beings, namely the journey from love shown us as children through a variety of traumas and ultimately emergence into an adult world of conflicting expectations.
Demystifying Demons winds through a variety of collateral philosophical topics, such as the origin and nature of the self and the effect of language on thought. Throughout, Morgareidge’s ideas are organized and cohesive, presented in a straightforward manner that doesn’t require a background in philosophy or psychology to follow (although having one might increase the reader’s appreciation). In that sense, Demystifying Demons is that rare piece of scholarship that neither dumbs itself down nor condescends to the reader.
Demystifying Demons is an unusual book in a time where psychoanalysis has lost much of its popularity in academia, and for that reason Morgareidge’s approach may not resonate with all readers. But for the curious and open-minded, Demystifying Demons manages to provide a fresh and comprehensive perspective on our more neurotic tendencies.
Also available as an ebook.