“When an evil spirit comes out of a man ...” (Matthew 12:43-45)

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

How does 'an evil spirit come out of a man'?

Here Jesus explains how unembodied spirits can occupy a physical body. The physical body is simply a vehicle. Each of us is a spirit-person occupying a temporary physical body.

But each of us is the rightful occupier of our physical body. We were assigned this physical body as a result of our consciousness and prior activities.

We each leave our bodies at the time of death.

What Jesus is explaining is what a spirit-person who has been left without a physical body will do after being expelled from a physical body.

This can describe a spirit-person who has left their own physical body at the time of death or a person who was unembodied and forcefully occupied someone else's physical body will face after being expelled from that physical body.

What are 'arid' or 'dry places'?

Jesus said that such an evil spirit, "goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it."

Other Bible versions have translated this to "dry places," "the desert" or "waterless places." These words are being translated from the Greek word ἄνυδρος (anydros), which means "without water." It can also mean places that "promise rain but yield none" according to Thayer's lexicon.

This terminology is derived from the notion that demons often haunted desert places.

This would also refer to a place that is alone and without life, because humans cannot survive long without water.

Metaphorically speaking, someone sent to a desert is being sent to a lonely place without comfort or life.

An unembodied spirit-person is in such a hellish situation because they can see the physical world but cannot participate in it. This is a lonely state of being.

This is why such demon spirit-persons seek to become involved in a physical body where they are not the rightful possessor. So they attempt to gain control or influence over a physical body occupied by an unaware spirit-person.

How does an 'evil spirit' gain access?

The reason such a living being becomes unembodied in the first place is due to a continued attachment to their previous life after they left their physical body at the time of death.

Typically we move on after our body dies. We leave the body behind and continue on our journey of learning. This may include another physical lifetime in another body, with an interlude of learning in between.

But should a person not disconnect with their dead physical body, they may continue to hover within the environment of the physical time and place their body lived within. They could watch, and perhaps struggle to participate somehow.

Such an unembodied spirit-person may in some cases be able to force their influence onto another physical body. This can take place should the owner of that body become disengaged from their body - through intoxication or illness that weakens their nervous system control over the body.

This lack of control allows another unembodied spirit(s) to gain some influence over the body. They see the opportunity to move in, because unembodied spirits are lonely and looking to engage in the physical world.

It is for this reason that some become uncharacteristically violent or otherwise different when they are drunk. Another spirit-person may have exerted undue influence over that body while its owner was disengaged.

What happens to the primary occupant during this time? They remain in the body, but in a partial state of limbo. When the body wakes up the next day, after the drugs and/or alcohol have been partly flushed out, they may again be in control over the body.

The possessing spirit that entered during drunkenness is still probably around, however, awaiting the next period of weakness - as Jesus is describing.

How can we discourage unembodied spirits?

Destructive spirits typically do not like to worship the Supreme Being - which is one reason they are away from Him in the first place. They do not like to witness prayer. They do not like to participate in loving service to the Supreme Being. They don't want anything to do with God.

This is our weapon against such unembodied spirit-persons. To protect ourselves against unembodied spirits, we should avoid becoming intoxicated with drugs and alcohol. Secondly, we should regularly invoke the Supreme Being. We can bring the Supreme Being into our lives using prayer and praising of the Supreme Being.

This is the power and authority Jesus wielded as he was able to send away evil spirits who were influencing others:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus is speaking of the Supreme Being's power and authority.

There are many stories of how evil spirits have been driven away by the depiction of the cross that Jesus' body was murdered with. Why is this cross so significant and abrasive to an evil spirit? Simply because the cross represents the ultimate devotional sacrifice to the Supreme Being.

The cross symbolizes Jesus' complete devotion and commitment to the Supreme Being. (And therefore should not be taken lightly either.)

Meanwhile, demons are devoted and committed to themselves.

What about evil spirits around us?

There are also evil spirits who appropriately occupy bodies in this world. They live all around us and create mischief by harming others in one respect of another.

This sort of evil influence is like mud: A person who enters a mud-slinging contest might start out nice and clean, but then as the mud starts flying they will get covered in the mud.

But underneath all that mud - once they wash it off - is a clean person.

In the same way, each of us is a child of the Supreme Being - even the worst of evil spirits. But as self-centeredness progress into activities, that person's consciousness becomes increasingly covered up. The more it is covered up the worse it can get.

But contact with the Supreme Being - through praising His Holy Names and worshiping Him - can clean and purify our consciousness, just as soap and water can clean the mud off.

This means there are also different shades of "exorcism." An evil spirit can be driven out of a body they don't belong in or an evil spirit can be purified while occupying their own physical body.

Was Jesus purifying the primary spirit-person within, or was he driving out a secondary sprit-person when he did exorcisms? In some cases, he was purifying the spirit-person within with his devotion to God. For example:
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:3)
In such cases, Jesus connects an illness with the cleanliness of the spirit-person within. This is because our physical ailments are often connected to self-centered things we have done in the past.

Jesus’ statement in Matt 12:43-45 also explains how human society will suffer a worsening of its enterprise of greed and violence as time goes on. This is because self-centeredness often produces increasing self-centeredness - which can give rise to greed and violence.

Greed leaves a person empty, because the forms and things of the physical world cannot feed the spirit-person, and self-centeredness is a very lonely existence. Only love for the Supreme Being can feed the spirit, and cure this emptiness. This is the foundation of Jesus' teachings:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)