As a college student, after reading Lord of the Flies for the second time (I’d first read it as a young teenager), I asked the professor in my philosophy of literature class if he thought humans were inherently evil. He responded by asking if I was pursued by daemons. Taken aback, I replied that I didn’t know anything about “daemons,” much less if I were being pursued by them, but I did know that Golding’s book struck a powerful chord and I suspected then that it would, along with possible daemons, pursue me for the rest of my life.

As he explained, daemons are, in the classical Greek sense, forces or spirits that animate our passions, whatever they might be, positive or negative, and that some people are possessed, or pursued by them, more strongly than others. He told me that great composers, artists, and writers are pursued by daemons. His favorite example was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

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