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Demonic possession and the ancient practice of exorcism

Demonic possession and the ancient practice of exorcism

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Last year, the Roman Catholic Church announced that they were training up a new army of exorcists to meet the growing demand for experts to rid people of evil spirits. The Church claims that the “unprecedented rise” in requests for exorcism comes from more people dabbling in the ‘dark arts’ with the help of information found on the internet.

“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” said Fr Francesco Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based International Association for Exorcists. “The few exorcists that we have in the dioceses are often not able to handle the enormous number of requests for help,” he told La Repubblica.

“Demonic” possession is said to manifest itself in people babbling in languages foreign to them, shaking uncontrollably and vomiting nails, pieces of metal and shards of glass, according to those who believe in the phenomenon. They must undergo the official Catholic rite of exorcism, which involves a consecrated priest invoking the name of God, as well as various saints and the Archangel Michael, to cast out their demons.

However, the Catholic Church is not the only religious organisation to conduct rites to rid a person of demonic possession. Virtually every religious and cultural tradition worldwide has espoused the idea of spirit possession and the need for some form of exorcism, and this custom dates back thousands of years.

Panel painting by unknown artist (1512), on an altar in the shrine at Zell in the Duchy of Styria. Image source .

In ancient Mesopotamia, it was believed that all forms of sickness came from powerful spirits entering a person’s body and attaching to a person. Assyrian tablets make reference to the use of incantations and prayers to the gods, as well as direct challenges to demons, which were believed to inflict every type of disease, both physical and psychological. Ancient Babylonian priests performed rituals by destroying a clay or wax image of a demon.

In the Hindu religion, the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which were composed around 1000 BC, refer to evil beings that interfere in the work of Hindu gods and harm the living.

Accounts from ancient Persia, dating back to around 600 BC, offer evidence of exorcism using prayer, ritual, and holy water by the religious leader Zoroaster, who was considered the first magician, and who founded the religion Zoroastrianism.

In Christianity, there are many references to Jesus performing exorcisms, and the ability to cast our evil spirits was a sign of a true disciple. In one well known story, Jesus encountered a madman and commanded that the foul spirits leave him; the spirits then entered into a herd of pigs, which ran over a cliff and drowned in the waters below.

The Middle Ages (500-1500AD) saw a revival of ancient superstition and demonology and mental illness was seen to be the result of evil possession. The barbaric treatment of mental illnesses was primarily left to the clergy who exorcised patients through a variety of techniques which caused physical pain, such as scourging.

Mental illness was seen to be the result of demonic possession and patients suffered brutal treatments in the Middle Ages.

Over the centuries, the rites of exorcism have included the use of prayers, commands, fumigations, holy water, hellebore, rue, salt, and roses. However, exorcisms have also attracted their fair share of scepticism. Many scientists believe that so-called demonic possession is simply a form of mental illness, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette’s syndrome, schizophrenia or personality disorder. Sceptics claim that the illusion that exorcism works on people experiencing symptoms of possession is attributed to the power of suggestion, or the placebo effect, which has also been used to explain phenomena such as faith healing.

Beliefs in spirit possession have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of civilization and still exist to this day. But whether possession by demonic forces is real or simply the result of a medical or psychological imbalance is still hotly debated.

With rampant growth of the occult and Satanism in our societies, and with the exploding popularity of New Age spiritualism, the spirit world is receiving more attention than ever before. But is there a spirit world? Are evil spirits real? If so, what are they? Where did they come from? And what about demon possession? Does this phenomenon really exist in our world today?

“Now the Spirit speaketh, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons] speaking lies in hypocrisy having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). So warns your Bible!

But what are “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of demons”? Most psychologists and many theologians believe demons to be mere figments of the imagination, and regard “demon possession” as nothing more than an unscientific way of explaining mental illness. But does the Bible support such views?

Proponents of the “New Age,” on the other hand, believe very much in the existence of a spirit world. New Agers claim to have achieved “enlightenment” and inner peace through contact with “spirit guides” whom they believe to be the “spirits of the dead.” Are these “spirit guides” really the disembodied spirits of human beings? Or are they figments of the imagination? Or, are they something else?

What about this so-called “New Age”—is it really new? And what of the widespread practice of witchcraft, Satanism, necromancy, transcendental meditation, divination, and other forms of the occult? Are these mere “passing fancies”—fads that are not to be taken seriously?

Let’s now turn to the Bible, and see what God has to say about these practices.

Pagan Abominations

In the ancient world, the use of “curious arts” was common. The Egyptian Pharaohs had their sorcerers and magicians (Genesis 41:8,24 Exodus 7:11), as did Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king (Daniel 1:20 2:2-13 4:7). The Bible speaks of diviners (Deuteronomy 18:4 1 Samuel 6:2) of soothsayers (Isaiah 2:6 Daniel 2:27) of those (mediums) with “familiar spirits” (Leviticus 19:31 1 Samuel 28:7) of wizards (Leviticus 19:31 1 Samuel 28:3) of enchanters and witches (Exodus 22:18 2 Chronicles 33:6) of necromancers (Deuteronomy 18:11) of astrologers (Isaiah 47:13 Daniel 1:20). Both the Bible and archaeology confirm that these practices were universal in the ancient world.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, He utterly condemned the use of such practices, This is clearly proved by the following scriptures:

Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Leviticus 19:26,31: “…neither shall ye use enchantments, nor observe times…. Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 20:6,27: “And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people…. A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”

Deuteronomy 18:9-11: “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire [human sacrifice], or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”

In spite of God’s clear and repeated warnings, the people of Israel, time after time, “went a whoring” after the customs and practices of the heathen. They sought out the soothsayers, the enchanters, the charmers, and the consulters of familiar spirits. They sacrificed to the “gods” of the heathen took up their abominable customs. They even burned their children as human sacrificial offerings to pagan deities (Jeremiah 19:5 32:35).

Many of the same pagan practices were still occurring in New Testament times. A man named Simon “used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one” (Acts 8:9). In Cyprus, the apostle Paul confronted a sorcerer named Elymas, calling him a “child of the devil” and “enemy of all righteousness” (Acts 13:8-11). In Philippi, Paul cast a demon out of a woman “which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16-18). And in the book of Galatians, witchcraft is included among the “works of the flesh” (5:19-21), showing that the “craft” was practiced at that time.

Clearly, the same old pagan abominations that brought great curses upon ancient Israel were still alive in the time of Christ and the apostles, And they are alive today!

Actually, all the spiritualistic “arts” and “crafts” we hear so much about today are nothing more than modern manifestations of very ancient practices—practices absolutely condemned in God’s Word! God calls these things abominations, and pronounces the death sentence upon those who practice them. Those who practice these things today are as guilty of sinning against God as those who practiced them in ancient times. Moreover, they are tampering with spiritual powers that could literally wreck their lives!

Spirits of the New Age

In our time, the abominations committed by ancient Israel have emerged in what is called the “New Age movement.” Proponents of New Age practices claim to have achieved “enlightenment” and personal fulfillment through “channeling”—contact and communication with the “spirits of the dead.”

Many book stores now carry hundreds of books on the New Age, including “how to” guides on channeling with so-called “spirit guides,” astral projection (“out-of-body” experiences), clairvoyance, transcendental meditation, astrology, use of pyramids, reading Tarot cards, dream interpretation, discovering “past lives,” and achieving altered states of consciousness.

Thousands have read of the much-publicized “spiritual” experiences of actress Shirley MacLain—who describes her spiritualistic journeys in her books, Out on a Limb and Dancing in the Light—and have attended her seminars on achieving enlightenment through New Age techniques. Doubtless, Ms. MacLain’s “enlightening” experiences have “inspired” many to set out on their own New Age adventures.

Who hasn’t heard of the well-known psychic Jeane Dixon, the crystal ball gazer who claims God as the source of her “gift of prophecy,” or the late Edgar Cayce, the so-called “sleeping prophet”? These and many others have helped pave the way to New Age “enlightenment” for thousands.

Even professing Christian ministers have gotten in on the act, and have actually advocated spiritualistic techniques. Bishop James Pike, for instance, wrote of his experiences with the spirit world in his book, The Other Side. Bishop Pike and medium Arthur Ford contributed to the popularity of spiritualism by going into a trance in a 1967 televised event.

Pike’s claim of having made contact with his dead son, Jim, is but one of many such claims. Undoubtedly, reports of such experiences have motivated many to attempt communication with their own deceased loved ones.

Many New Agers have made contact with the spirit world—and have paid dearly! To their dismay, the “spirit guides” they encountered were not the friendly “angels of light” they expected, but were evil spirits—the “rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). Some New Agers have renounced their practice, and now speak out against New Age spiritualism, warning of its danger. Nevertheless, interest in the “spirit world” is widespread—and growing!

But New Age mysticism is not the only modern manifestation of ancient pagan practice. The grisly sacrificial killings committed in Matamoros, Mexico, in 1989, along with hundreds of reports of ritualistic animal sacrifices, helped to heighten the public’s awareness of the practice of Satanism in the United States and other parts of the world.

The Devil’s Advocates

Tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans are involved in witchcraft and sorcery, and other forms of the occult. Scores of “practical guides” on these “crafts” have been published and sold, and are readily available to almost anyone witches’ and sorcerers’ conventions are held in open, public facilities witch covens and occult shops in America and Europe number in the thousands.

Witches and warlocks, with their potions, spells, and rituals, have been with us for years, and have generally been regarded as harmless, though peculiar, But, evidence of widespread Satanic activity—occultism in its most bizarre form—has surfaced in many areas of the United States.

“SATAN LIVES NOW”—a message painted on a blackboard in an abandoned school in New Galilee, Pennsylvania—was one of several signs of the practice of Satanism in the Beaver County area. According to an article appearing on the front page of the Beaver County Times (August 6, 1989), “Satanic activity has moved across Beaver County like a shadow on the landscape.”

The article reports that Satanic graffiti had been painted in the hallways, classrooms, and cafeteria of a former New Galilee school, and that “black mass” celebrations had been taking place for years in the New Brighton area. In addition, the bodies of small animals found in Allegheny County and cases of animal mutilation reported by the Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania have led some residents to wonder if the animals had been ritualistically killed.

This was only one of a flurry of newspaper articles on Satanic activity that appeared across the country in 1989. Dozens of reports on the occurrence of Satanic rituals, animal sacrifices, and Satanic graffiti found on walls, buildings, and overpasses throughout the United States have confirmed the existence of Satanic activity. But most chilling of all are the reports of Satanic-related cases of child sexual abuse, cannibalism, and ritualistic human sacrifice.

The May 17, 1989 edition of The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), for instance, reported on the sentencing to death of Jason Wayne Rose, 21, for the May 1987 killing of nineteen-year-old Melissa Ann Meyer in a ritualistic human sacrifice. According to the report, Rose and a seventeen-year-old companion, John Ray Jones, “declared the killing a sacrifice to Arioch, an occult god of chaos and evil.”

Dozens of reports on the occurrence of Satanic rituals, animal sacrifices, and Satanic graffiti found on walls, buildings, and overpasses throughout the United States have confirmed the existence of Satanic activity. But most chilling of all are the reports of Satanic-related cases of child sexual abuse, cannibalism, and ritualistic human sacrifice.

Then there are the two million reports of missing children and the discovery of thousands of unidentified bodies of children every year, along with the horrifying specter of kidnaping and stories from preschool children of ritualistic sexual abuse by both male and female adults. How many missing children have become the victims of Satanic cults? How many have been murdered in ritualistic human sacrifices to the devil?

Most practitioners of the occult do not participate in such heinous crimes. Nevertheless, many occultists are aware that they are dealing with very real forces and powers, even if they do not understand the origin and nature of such forces.

Some Satanists believe in a literal, personal devil, and claim to worship him directly while others—Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, for example—believe “Satan” is a metaphor for the forces of nature. The latter, like witches and sorcerers, generally claim to be “nature worshipers” rather than “devil worshipers.”

Regardless which category the occultist prefers, the fact remains: Dabbling in the occult can and does result in demon possession! Some have learned the hard way!

Devil Movies

While not as dangerous as the occult, “devil movies” have caused serious psychiatric problems for some movie-goers. The Exorcist, a 1973 Elm based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel, proved too shocking for some of its viewers. Sleeplessness, hallucinations, nightmares, and fear and suspicion of demon possession were among the problems some experienced after viewing the film. Nevertheless, the film did exceedingly well at the box office.

Blatty himself claims to have made contact with the spirit of his deceased father, and with the spirit of a sixteen-year-old Central European girl named Bats. It happened during a twenty-five-hour Ouija board session, while he was taking a break from writing The Exorcist.

Since the screening of Rosemary’s Baby in 1968, followed by The Exorcist in 1973, a whole spate of devil movies have been released. These films present some small amount of truth about demons and demon possession, but for the most part are purely fictional—the products of men’s imaginations. For example, demons do sometimes cause the people they possess to curse profusely, exhibit obscene behavior, and spew out vile, filthy language, as in The Exorcist. But demons (or the devil) do not impregnate women or female jackals, as in Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.

Besides the harmful effects (for some people) of viewing such films, perhaps the greatest danger is the preoccupation with the spirit world some people develop after viewing. An unhealthy curiosity about the spirit world could lead to dabbling with spiritualism, whether occultism or the New Age variety. This could lead to encounters with evil spirits.

But some claim that “evil spirits” are not literal beings, but are “personified” psychiatric problems. What about it? Are Satan and his demonic cohorts real spiritual entities? Or are they mythical creatures fashioned in the imaginative minds of superstitious men?

Demons Are Real

Many people, including theologians from various denominational backgrounds, believe that evil spirits belong to the world of superstition and myth. Satan is nothing more than a “literary device,” a personification of evil and demons are mental and emotional disorders, such as schizophrenia, paranoia, and psychoneurosis.

The many scriptures attesting to the existence of supernatural evil are either rejected as myth or viewed as allegory. The “devil” of Christ’s temptation (Matthew 4), for example, is nothing more than the human side of Christ’s nature or, according to one interpretation, is an unnamed human “devil,” a representative of Herod, who offers provincial authority to Jesus if He will but do homage to the Ronlan governor.

According to this thinking, demons, or evil spirits, were conjured by primitive imagination today we understand them as mental and emotional disorders. Satan is seen as a parabolic—rather than diabolic—character an emblem of evil a literary personification. As Wisdom is personified in Scripture (Proverbs 8), so is Evil. As “gods” are conceived in ignorance and superstition, so are demons.

Such reasoning may appeal to some, but if we are honest with the Scriptures if we accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God, then we should be willing to lay aside our personal ideas, and believe what the Bible plainly reveals.

The truth is, all attempts to see demons and the devil as “mere mental diseases” and the “personification of evil” are really attempts to rationalize something that seems irrational. But the Bible is clear: Satan is a literal, personal being and demons are spiritual personalities that think, reason, speak, and express fear, and under certain conditions, can enter into and possess the mind of a human being!

When Christ confronted a man possessed by a “legion” of demons (Mark 5), the evil spirits exhibited their ability to think, reason, and speak by imploring Christ not to send them out of the country, but into a nearby herd of swine, instead. James says that demons “believe” in God, “and tremble” (James 2:19).

Jesus “cast out many devils [demons] and suffered [allowed] not the devils to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1:34). In some cases, the demons came out “crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God…” (Luke 4:41)—showing that demons are intelligent beings, with cognitive and communicative abilities.

Demon intelligence was again exhibited when seven Jewish exorcists attempted to cast out an evil spirit in the name of Jesus: “And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know but who are ye?’ And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:13-16). It was the evil spirit that spoke, not the “man in whom the evil spirit was”!

Evidently, the difference between mental illness and demon possession was acknowledged during the first century, Matthew speaks of “those which were possessed with devils [demons], and those which were lunatick” (Matthew 4:24), apparently recognizing that insanity and demon possession are not necessarily the same.

It is clear, then, that demons are literal beings, not “mental disorders.”

What Are Demons?

Virtually every culture in the history of mankind has believed in the existence of spirits, both good and evil. Such spirits have been called “gods” have been venerated and feared have been regarded the spirits of ancestors, of animals, and of the wicked dead.

Throughout the ages, men have attempted to appease the spirits have sought guidance, protection, “good luck,” and personal power from them have created rites and rituals to ward off evil spirits.

The Greek word daimon, from which we derive “demon,” originally “had a good as well as a bad connotation… Socrates, for example, was thought to have a daimon or familiar spirit that warned him when he was about to make a wrong decision” (The Encyclopedia Britannica) vol. 7, 1972 edition article: “DEMON”).

Many tribal cultures believe that evil spirits are the hostile spirits of deceased ancestors, Ancestral worship and various rites of exorcism have emerged from this belief.

Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that evil spirits were the “ghosts,” or “souls,” of the wicked dead, and were to be feared. Such ideas about evil spirits spilled over into Judaism. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, apparently believed that demons “are no other than the spirits of the wicked, which enter into men that are alive, and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them” (Wars of the Jews, 7:6:3).

Some, even today, believe that demons are the spirits of the offspring of unions between angels and antediluvian women. This belief is based on a misinterpretation of Genesis 6, where we read of the “sons of God” who married the “daughters of men.” Proponents of this theory say that the “sons of God” were angels, since angels are sometimes called “sons of God” (Job 1:6 38:7), and the “daughters of men” were human beings. However popular, this idea is destroyed by Christ’s assertion that resurrected saints are “equal [like, or as] the angels” in that they “neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die anymore” (Luke 20:35,36).

In today’s world, where “gods” and “spells” have been replaced by science and technology (except among New Agers and occultists), demons are often associated with superstition and myth, and are believed to have been conceived in the imaginations of men who lacked scientific understanding.

But the belief that demons are nonpersonal “mental disorders” contradicts several scriptural passages, as we have seen and the belief that demons are the “departed souls” of the wicked is based on the false doctrine of the “immortality of the soul.” Therefore, neither belief is correct neither adequately explains the existence of demons.

The Bible is the foundation of knowledge. It does not contain all knowledge, but provides us with the foundational knowledge on how this world came to be, why God created man, and the destiny of humankind. In its pages, we find “bits and pieces” that help fill in the gaps in recorded history and scientific discovery.

The Bible has little to say on the origin of demons, but the little it does say provides us with information sufficient for deriving reasonable conclusions about what demons are and why they exist. One such bit of information is round in Peter’s second epistle: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartarus: a place of confinement], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment And spared not the old world [the pre-flood period], but saved Noah the eighth…a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly…” (2 Peter 2:4,5). Jude makes a similar statement: “And the angels which kept not their first estate [principality], but left their habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (verse 6).

Because the word angels (Greek: angelos) is sometimes used of men, and may be defined as “messengers,” some claim that Peter and Jude were referring to human messengers who had committed sin. But if Peter had Jude meant to say men, why didn’t they? In the vast majority of cases, “angels” refers to spirit messengers. This is proved by a simple concordant study.

For either Peter or Jude to have used the word angelos when the subject was “men” is hardly believable. For both to have used it is completely out of the question!

Though men are sinners, in this case it was angels that sinned and abandoned the purpose for which they had been created. And as sinners, they must be judged in the world to come. This is why the “legion” asked, “Art thou [Jesus] come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).

The apostle Paul writes, “Know ye not that we [the saints] shall judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). Had there been no sinning angels, there would be no need for a judgment of angels.

The Bible speaks of “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41 Revelation 12:9). Obviously, the devil’s “angels” are the “angels that sinned.” They were created to be “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14), but became evil spirits—they “kept not their first estate, but left their habitation.”

In Revelation 12, the “devil and his angels” are engaged in supernatural warfare with the archangel Michael and his celestial armies: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [Satan] and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (verses 7-9).

This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled but, scriptural evidence indicates that this, as many other prophecies, has dual meaning, where a past occurrence is used to describe a future event. This implies that the devil and his angels have already been cast out of heaven—and from all indications, it happened long ago, in the pre-Adamic world.

The “angels that sinned,” then, are the angels who followed Satan in his rebellion whose expulsion from heaven is used in Revelation as a type, a representation, of a future event.

The main point is that Satan the devil has angels, and the devil’s angels are the evil spirits the Bible calls “demons.” They are the angels that followed Satan in his rebellion. No other explanation for the existence of demons agrees with God’s revealed Word.

Demon Activity

Yes, demons do exist! They have been active on this earth for millennia, as we have seen. But what kinds of problems do they cause? Are there different kinds of demons? Are some more aggressive than others? And what about mental illness how does it differ from demon possession?

Jesus gave His twelve disciples “power and authority over all devils [demons], and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1). Later, He “appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, wither He Himself would come” (Luke 10:1). When the seventy returned from their mission, they said, “Lord, even the devils, [demons] are subject unto us through thy name” (verse 17), Jesus had given them “power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (verse 19), and they had used that power had cast out demons in His name.

But on one occasion, His disciples were unable to cast out an evil spirit (Mark 9:17,18). After Jesus cast the spirit out, “His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could not we cast him out?” Jesus answered, “This kind come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (verses 28,29), Notice the words “This kind.” This implies that there are different kinds of demons. In this case, the demon appears to have been a particularly stubborn, aggressive kind.

Some demons are more aggressive, hateful, vengeful than others, and different demons affect the people they possess in different ways. The following are some of the ways demons affect their hosts:

Some demons attempt to hurt, harm, or destroy the persons they possess. In the example cited above, the demon often threw the possessed person “into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him” (Mark 9:22). The man possessed by the “legion” (Mark 5) was “always, night and day… in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones” (verse 5).

Some demons cause physical impairments such as dumbness, deafness, and blindness. “… they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil [demon]. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake…” (Matthew 9:32,33). “Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw” (Matthew 12:22). “He rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, ‘Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him’” (Mark 9:25).

Some demons exhibit their supernatural powers through “miracles” and oracular messages. The apostle Paul confronted “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination…which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16). In the end-time, the “spirits of devils” will go forth “working miracles” (Revelation 16:14). The “miracles” of demons often include such phenomena as levitation, telekinesis, mind reading, and automatic writing, Perhaps even greater “wonders” will commonly occur in the end of the present age, when the devil and his angels are cast down to this earth.

Demon possessed persons sometimes display extraordinary physical strength. In the case of the man possessed by the “legion,” “no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him” (Mark 5:4).

Some demons are “foul spirits. “ We read of these in Mark 9:25 and Revelation 18:2. Apparently, they are considered “foul” (or “unclean7’) because they cause the people they possess to exhibit immoral, perhaps perverse, behavior, and spew out vile, filthy language and obscenities.

Very often, demons cause the persons they possess to appear insane. This may not be true of every case, but it is certainly true of many. The man with the “legion” and the boy who was thrown “in the fire and in the water” are examples.

In addition to the above facts about demon possession, the Scriptures also reveal that multiple possession—when a person is possessed by several demons at the same time—occasionally occurs. When Christ cast out the “legion,” the demons went into a herd of swine, and the whole heard—about 2,000—ran into the sea and drowned (Mark 5:13). The number of swine may indicate how many demons had possessed the man. In any case, the name “Legion” indicates more than one or two, or even seven, which was the number Jesus had cast out of Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9).

Some present-day cases of “split personality” are probably demonic possessions. Distinguishing between possession and mental illness, however, is often difficult. The rule of thumb is: MOST CASES OF MENTAL ILLNESS ARE NOT CASES OF DEMON POSSESSION! However, where there are marked changes in personality (not the occurrence of despondency, depression, or anxiety), the onset of sudden bouts of violent hostility, or the occurrence of supernatural phenomena in the vicinity of the person in question, then demon possession is a very real possibility. But be careful about jumping to conclusions, and don’t go looking for an exorcist when such cases arise. The psychiatric evaluation of a trained professional is the first course of action one should pursue.

Misconceptions About Demons

Now that we know what demons are, and what they are capable of doing, let’s take a look at what they are not.

Some people speak of “lust demons,” or “jealousy demons,” or “pride demons.” Such terminology indicates a basic misunderstanding about the nature of demons and the effects of demon possession, and often provides a “scapegoat” for the sinner.

It is certainly true that evil spirits are capable of subjecting men to temptation (Matthew 4:3), and have a leading role in much of this world’s wickedness (Ephesians 6:12), but problems involving lust, pride, jealousy, and other components of man’s nature, do not indicate demon possession. James says, “‘But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Lust is one of the components of human nature it resides within us all, To blame one’s “lust problems” on a demon is to remove the blame from one’s self, where it belongs.

Moreover, it is a mistake to see demons lurking behind every bush, or to assume demon influence or possession every time something strange happens. Most unidentified flying objects, strange noises, and creaking floors are not the result of demonic activity. Most mental and emotional illnesses are not brought on by demons.

By assuming that demons are to blame for our sins—our pride, jealousy, covetousness our “hot-headed” temper and impatience—we are depriving ourselves of any real success in spiritual growth and development. The drives and emotions involved in problems such as these do not warrant expulsion they call for a firmly established set of priorities, for a disciplined life, and for time.

This is not to say that demons do not exert an influence in the evils of this world. Indeed, they do. But influence and possession are two entirely different manifestations of demonic activity. In possession, the evil spirit inhabits and takes control of the mind of its victim. In cases of demon influence, however, the spirit is able to put certain thoughts into a person’s mind, but does not inhabit and control the mind.

The apostle Paul links “course of this world” with the “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). This suggests that the devil—and, by extension, the whole demonic realm—is a major causal factor behind the evils of this world. It also provides an important clue on how to avoid demonic influence: Do not follow the course of this world! Do not become a child of disobedience! Rather, follow Christ! Obey God! “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

The devil and his demented cohorts are the “rulers of the darkness of this world” Ephesians 6:12), but they cannot rule those who submit to God’s rule.

Possession and Exorcism — Ancient and Modern

From the New Testament record, we learn that demon possession was fairly common in the first century. Perhaps this phenomenon was partly due to a considerably widespread fascination with the “black arts”—spiritualism, necromancy, magic, divination, etc, Evidence of this fascination is found in Acts 19, where we find the apostle Paul in the city of Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia.

In this account, “God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (verses 11,12). Then follows the case of the seven Jewish exorcists whose attempt to cast out a demon “by Jesus whom Paul preacheth” failed miserably (verses 13-16).

When the citizens of Ephesus heard of what had happened, “fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver” (verses 17-19).

This fascination with the “curious arts” does not account for all cases of demon possession in the ancient world, but it undoubtedly accounts for many such cases. It is a well-known fact that, even in our time, demon possession is far more common among the peoples of lands where the “black arts” are commonly practiced than in the United States and other “Christian” nations. However, evidence of demonic activity—including actual cases of possession—in the United States and other English-speaking countries has increased since the arrival of the New Age movement, and with the spread of occult practices and Satanism.

Demon possession is a very real phenomenon in today’s world and so is the practice of exorcism—rituals, prayers, incantations, and special methods used in the expulsion of evil spirits from possessed persons. This curious “art” was well known among both Jews and. pagans in ancient times, Some Jewish rabbis still practice exorcism, as do Hindus and Muslims.

In some pagan exorcisms, the possessed is tortured—based on the belief that the possessing spirit can be afflicted, and thus driven out, by afflicting the body of the possessed. Apparently, and for whatever reason, a certain degree of success has been achieved through the use of such cruel techniques.

The exorcism rites of ancient Jews were apparently borrowed from pagan cultures, Josephus tells of an exorcism wherein the demon was drawn through the nostrils of the possessed person by use of a special method allegedly handed down from Solomon. The rite consisted of a special nose ring and incantations allegedly composed by Solomon. Of course, no such rites appear in the Law of Moses, and are nowhere authorized by Scripture. If the exorcism ritual described by Josephus was indeed composed by Solomon, then it was composed in his latter years, while he was under the influence of his heathen wives.

Many cases of possession and exorcism have been documented in the professing Christian world, as well. Malachi Martin, Catholic scholar and former Jesuit Professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, recounts five American cases of possession and exorcism in his book Hostage to the Devil. Before detailing the events of the five cases, Martin states that the cases are true, and that his accounts are based on extensive interviews with persons directly and indirectly involved, and on tapes made during the exorcisms.

The chapters that follow recount some of the most chilling events imaginable. The aberrant behavior of the possessed, as well as the supernatural phenomena occurring during exorcism, are in some ways similar to the fictional story of Regan, the twelve-year-old demoniac of the film, The Exorcist.

According to Martin’s research, some of the “physical phenomena frequently associated with possession” include “the inexplicable stench [which permeates the room where the exorcism is performed] freezing temperatures [in the room, though other parts of the house are warm] telepathic powers about purely religious and moral matters a peculiarly unlined or completely smooth or stretched skin, or unusual distortion of the face, or other physical and behavioral transformations ‘possessed gravity’ (the possessed person becomes physically immovable, or those around the possessed are weighted down with a suffocating pressure) levitation (the possessed rises and floats off the ground, chair, or bed there is no physically traceable support) violent smashing of furniture, constant opening and slamming of doors, tearing of fabric in the vicinity of the possessed, without a hand laid on them and so on” (page 13).

Before the exorcism rites begin, loose objects are removed from the room. “During the exorcism, one form of violence may and most often does cause an object, light or heavy, to move about, rock back and forth, skitter or fly across the room, make much noise, strike the priest or the possessed or the assistants. It is not rare for people to emerge from an exorcism with serious physical wounds” (page 15).

Diocesan authorities usually appoint a junior priest colleague to assist the exorcist and to receive training as an exorcist, His role is to “monitor the words and actions of the exorcist, warn him if he is making a mistake, help him if he weakens physically, and replace him if he dies, collapses, flees, is physically or emotionally battered beyond endurance—and all have happened during exorcisms” (page 15).

Others are also appointed to assist the exorcist in his grueling task. Martin writes, “The exorcist must be as certain as possible beforehand that his assistants will not be weakened or overcome by obscene behavior or by language foul beyond their imagining they cannot blanch at blood, excrement, urine they must be able to take awful personal insults and be prepared to have their darkest secrets screeched in public in front of their companions. These are routine happenings during exorcisms” (page 16).

“Even with all the care in the world,” Martin states, “there is no way an exorcist can completely prepare his assistants for what lies in store for them. Even though they are not subject to the direct and unremitting attack the priest will undergo, it is not uncommon for assistants to quit—or be carried out-in the middle of an exorcism” (page 16).

According to Martin, exorcisms commonly last 10 or 12 hours, but some continue for several days, and a few last for weeks! “Once begun,” Martin explains, “except on the rarest occasions, there are no time outs, although one or other of the people present may leave the room for a few moments, to take some food, to rest very briefly, or go to the bathroom” (pages 16,17).

Exorcisms are not only stressful for the possessed, but for the exorcism teams as well. In People of the Lie, author M. Scott Peck, M.D., discusses the two exorcisms he has personally witnessed. One lasted four days the other lasted three days, he says, and both were successful. “And even though the outcome was successful,” he writes, “most [members of the exorcism teams] had emotional reactions to contend with in the weeks afterward” (page 189).

Dr. Peck is not certain about which comes first: involvement in the occult or demon possession. But one thing is certain: There is a definite connection between the two. Peck writes, “It seems clear from the literature on possession that the majority of cases have had involvement with the occult…” (page 190).

Both the patients in the exorcisms he witnessed had been involved in the occult. “In one patient the process seemed to begin with involvement in the occult at the age of twelve. In the other the process apparently began at the age of five with something more ghastly than what one would ordinarily consider occult” (pages 190,191).

The lesson is clear: If you value your life, your sanity, your mental and emotional health and well-being, then stay away from the occult! Avoid anything that resembles the occult, including New Age spiritualism. Remember, Almighty God utterly condemns such things!

And there are other preventative steps you can take.

How to Protect Yourself

The following is a summarization of the things you can do to protect yourself from demonic activity:

(1) As stated above, avoid all forms of the occult and New Age spiritualism. Also be aware of the harmful effects of drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) and heavy metal “music.” Most drug addicts and heavy metal fans are not demon possessed, but the connection of drug abuse and heavy metal with the occult, and with aberrant behavior, depression, and suicidal tendencies, cannot be ignored. Ancient mediums used mood-inducing substances and environments to prepare their minds for contact with the spirit world their modern-day counterparts are still using drugs.

(2) Practice emotional control. Fits of blind rage, uncontrolled anger, and prolonged “temper tantrums” may lead to demon possession.

(3) Be aware of the existence of demons and the reality of demon influence and possession, but do not become preoccupied with them, and do not search for evidence of demonic activity. Most strange occurrences are not demonic in origin, and most mental patients are not possessed. Assuming demonic activity where none exists is more harmful than helpful.

(4) Follow the principles of God’s Word. God’s laws were intended to be beneficial to man, Obedience to them produces happiness, well being, and true peace of mind.

(5) Put your trust in the promises of God’s Word, James writes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), Paul says, “Be careful for nothing but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6,7).

Paul’s words go hand-in-hand with the promises Jesus gives to those who follow Him. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” He says. “Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations… and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Think of it an exorcist of our time spends long grueling hours, which may expand into days and weeks, trying to expel a single demonic spirit. He risks injury and emotional impairment during the ordeal. And when it is over, he may require some weeks in recovering from the incredibly demanding experience, But Jesus, who cast out more demons than any exorcist ever has, did not need long hours to accomplish the task. He required no period of recovery, no therapy, once a demon was cast out. He employed no rituals, no special incantations. A single command—”Come out!”—brought instant results, On one occasion, a whole legion of demons fled at His command.

What power! And that same power provides comfort and assurance to Christ’s followers today—for the Christ who with but a single command cast out a multitude of evil spirits is the same Christ who promises, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” To have Him with us, all we need do is follow Him walk down the path He carved follow the way of life He proclaimed.

In the Scriptures, both Christ and the path He carved are called “the Way” (John 14:6 Acts 9:2 24:14), And when it comes to guarding the door of your mind, there’s no better way.

The subject of exorcism has fascinated people for centuries. In our modern day, Catholic priests all over the world claim to exorcise demonic spirits out of the human body, as well as many Protestants and other spiritual individuals. In order for an exorcism to take place, a demonic spirit must be present. This statement leads us to several questions, all of which can be answered through a detailed study of God&rsquos word. While undoubtedly demons at one time freely roamed the earth, is this still the case in our present day? If demons still possess humans today, do exorcists cast out demons with the authority of God? Do exorcisms work?

The History Of Evil Spirits

From a historical standpoint, possession of evil spirits has been around as long as civilization itself. Ancient Mesopotamia believed and recognized bad fortune, diseases, and all other sicknesses as the work of evil spirits prevailing in a person. Ancient Babylonian priests carried out the ritual of melting a clay statue in the figure of a demon to disconnect the evil spirit from the body. The Persians, Greeks, Hindus, and even the Romans all looked at demon possession as real, having spiritual leaders and rituals to cast out these demons.

From a biblical standpoint, the mentioning of demon possession has a far shorter history than the world perspective. The Old Testament mentions nothing of &ldquofree will&rdquo demons attaching themselves or possessing human beings. The only mention of any kind of spirit occurs with the case of Abimelech (Judges 9), and Saul (1 Samuel 16). Abimelech was the son of Gideon, the great judge who defeated the Midianites with only 300 men (Judges 7:7, 21 8:30-31). It was coveting of power that led Abimelech to kill all of his brothers save one, that he could become ruler. The Lord sent a &ldquospirit of ill will&rdquo (&ldquoevil spirit,&rdquo KJV, ASV) upon Abimelech and the people of Shechem. This was not the Lord tempting Abimelech (1 Corinthians 10:13 James 1:13-14), but rather allowing Abimelech to pursue his own evil desires. This made the people of Shechem rebel against him, and he ended up dying as he had lived -- a prideful man (Judges 9:53-55).

King Saul had disobeyed the Lord on two occasions, both of them cost him his right to be king and his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:11-14 15:10-26). It was during this time that the Lord sent a &ldquodistressing spirit&rdquo upon Saul causing him to be swallowed up in his own grief (1 Samuel 16:14-15). The nation of Israel under the Law of Moses was forbidden to have anything to do with pagan spiritists or diviners (Leviticus 19:31 20:6, 27). This is why the exorcising of demon-possessed souls does not show up in Jewish history until around the 1st century A.D. The dybbuk is considered a demon possession which causes a person mental illness, and changes in their personality.

Unclean Spirits Of The New Testament

The dawning of the New Testament era brought with it a new wave of demon possession across the lands of the Bible. This shows an interesting contrast between the times that demon possession pops up and the purposes God has for mankind. All during the 400 years of silence (the time period which God had no verbal interaction with man), no possession of demons are mentioned in the secular history of mankind within these lands.

When the time for Christ to come into the world approached, God allowed spiritual things to take place, and demon possession was one of them. It is interesting to find that nearly all of the mentions of demons possessing people happen within the three year span of Jesus&rsquo life covered in the Gospels. Only three instances occur outside of the Gospels: Peter cast out unclean spirits from the people surrounding Jerusalem (Acts 5:16), Phillip in Samaria as he preached the gospel (Acts 8:7), and Paul did it twice during his travels preaching the gospel (Acts 16:16-18 19:12). This is to show the point that demon possession was not random, but was planned and calculated so that the Messiah would be glorified through the miracles He would perform.

Consider the whole purpose for God to work miracles through man to begin with it is to prove a message that was spoken (Mark 16:20). When we answer the reason why Jesus cast out these unclean spirits in this particular point of time in history, we understand the reason for demon possession in the first place. Jesus cast out demons from people so that they would know He was the Messiah (John 5:36). Consider His first time casting out an unclean spirit, from the man in the synagogue at Galilee. As Jesus cast it out, He had to rebuke it because it was testifying of Him as the Son of God. After this spirit had come out, many people were curious of Him, and this was exactly the point! The people wanted to know by what authority Jesus did this, what doctrine this was, and who this man is?! Such a reaction was exactly what Jesus expected. In many other instances this is also the case (Matthew 4:23-25 8:29 Mark 3:11, 22 5:7-8, 20 Luke 4:41). So God&rsquos whole purpose of allowing demon possession in the times of the first century was to prove Jesus was the Messiah, whether by Jesus Himself, or later by His apostles and disciples.

If Jesus gave this power to His apostles and disciples (Matthew 10:1 Luke 10:1, 17), does this mean that everyone could possibly have this power also? No greater example exists in answering this question than that of Sceva and his sons (Acts 19:13-17). Practice of magic and incantations was common in the days of the first century, and the Jews were no exception.

Ephesus in particular was a popular place for magic, shown with the vast number of people coming and confessing of these deeds (Acts 19:19). Jewish practitioners of magic were highly esteemed, as they only were known to have the correct pronunciation of the sacred name of God. The ancients misunderstood this and looked to it as a prestigious magical incantation. The priests especially were looked upon as higher, being they had closer contact with God. However, the account with Sceva&rsquos sons shows quite the opposite as far as what God thinks of them. As these exorcists looked to use the name of Jesus as an incantation, seeing the effectiveness Paul had with it, were overpowered by this demon and humiliated along with it. The name of Jesus was not to be misused, something these men learned firsthand! Not everyone using the name of Jesus is going to have success, but only those who carry with it the approval and authority of God! These sons found themselves in the same circle as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:20-21). If an exorcism is going to take place, then it must first have the power of God, and second the authority of God. This does not happen by merely saying the name of Jesus, but only happens to those to whom it has been given!

So we see that the Bible teaches that the possession of evil spirits were very few and far between in the Old Testament times, and served a very pointed purpose when Jesus walked the earth. In the next article we will examine if exorcisms can properly be carried out today with the authority of God.

Exorcisms Happening Today

In order for exorcisms to be valid today, demons must still be free to roam the earth and possess whom they please, but is this the case? Demons are spiritual beings (Matthew 8:16), they are not simply changes in personality that develop in a person, but enact a distinct and sudden change, foreign to the person. These are spirit beings that were able to leave the human body and enter into swine (Mark 5:12-13). Demons no longer exist today in this sort. The fact is God no longer needs demon possession to exist, because He has completed His message to mankind, and has given us a complete word that needs no addition, making demon possession no longer valid in proving Jesus as the Messiah.

God from long ago had a timeframe in which demons would operate in the way we read about in the New Testament. But, this time frame would not last forever. God prophesied through Zechariah that demon possession would end (Zechariah 13:2). Exorcisms were a miracle that God performed through Jesus and the hands of men, and Paul stated that miracles also were not to last forever, but only were here until &ldquothe perfect&rdquo came, which is the completed word of God (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Demon possession was indeed a miracle, for it involved something supernatural (not of this world). So the need for demon possession does not exist in our modern time, for it no longer serves God&rsquos purpose.

Biblical Exorcisms vs. Modern Exorcisms

A comparison of the way modern exorcisms are carried out reveal quite a bit of difference from the way that those in the Bible were carried out. When Jesus or any other person in the New Testament cast out a demon, the response was immediate (Acts 8:7 16:18). The demon would go out, and never do we hear of it entering another person. The only subject a group of demons would enter were swine, and this was still under Jesus&rsquo authority (Mark 5:12-14). Once the demons were cast out, they were gone, never to return this shows the true power that Jesus and His ministers had over demons!

However, this is a far stretch from how modern exorcisms are performed today. The Catholic system of exorcism exists in what is called The Rituale Romanum (The Roman Ritual). This consists of a series of prayers, reading of scripture, and then while laying hands on the victim, the priest calls for the demon to succumb to the power of Jesus Christ. Catholic exorcists never work alone, but generally have three other people to &ldquoassist&rdquo in this ritual. The first person is normally another priest who is in training, the second is a medical physician, and the third is usually a physically strong member of the victim&rsquos family to hold them down. If the victim is a female, then another female is chosen for this position, to avoid scandal. Perhaps the most famous exorcism of modern times was that of Anneliese Michel. Her eventual death from malnutrition came after a period of 10 months performing exorcisms and over 76 exorcism sessions. As one can clearly see, the performance of exorcising demons has changed drastically from the days of the first century.

Exorcism and demon possession in our modern day does not exist. In fact, nearly all of the cases of supposed demon possession have been diagnosed with normal human disorders by psychiatrists and medical doctors. The Bible teaches that demon possession has served its purpose, and therefore no longer has a reason to be exist today. When comparing the modern practices to those of biblical times, the difference is obvious. If God could cast out demons instantly back then, why would the same God take months to do the same today? The purpose of demon possession was to show that Jesus is the Christ, and without a faith in Him, there is no hope for your soul (Acts 4:12).

Demonic Possession And The Ancient Practice Of Exorcism

Last year, the Roman Catholic Church announced that they were training up a new army of exorcists to meet the growing demand for experts to rid people of evil spirits. The Church claims that the “unprecedented rise” in requests for exorcism comes from more people dabbling in the ‘dark arts’ with the help of information found on the internet.

“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” said Fr Francesco Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based International Association for Exorcists. “The few exorcists that we have in the dioceses are often not able to handle the enormous number of requests for help,” he told La Repubblica.

“Demonic” possession is said to manifest itself in people babbling in languages foreign to them, shaking uncontrollably and vomiting nails, pieces of metal and shards of glass, according to those who believe in the phenomenon. They must undergo the official Catholic rite of exorcism, which involves a consecrated priest invoking the name of God, as well as various saints and the Archangel Michael, to cast out their demons.

However, the Catholic Church is not the only religious organisation to conduct rites to rid a person of demonic possession. Virtually every religious and cultural tradition worldwide has espoused the idea of spirit possession and the need for some form of exorcism, and this custom dates back thousands of years.

In ancient Mesopotamia, it was believed that all forms of sickness came from powerful spirits entering a person’s body and attaching to a person. Assyrian tablets make reference to the use of incantations and prayers to the gods, as well as direct challenges to demons, which were believed to inflict every type of disease, both physical and psychological. Ancient Babylonian priests performed rituals by destroying a clay or wax image of a demon.

In the Hindu religion, the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which were composed around 1000 BC, refer to evil beings that interfere in the work of Hindu gods and harm the living.

Accounts from ancient Persia, dating back to around 600 BC, offer evidence of exorcism using prayer, ritual, and holy water by the religious leader Zoroaster, who was considered the first magician, and who founded the religion Zoroastrianism.

In Christianity, there are many references to Jesus performing exorcisms, and the ability to cast our evil spirits was a sign of a true disciple. In one well known story, Jesus encountered a madman and commanded that the foul spirits leave him the spirits then entered into a herd of pigs, which ran over a cliff and drowned in the waters below.

The Middle Ages (500-1500AD) saw a revival of ancient superstition and demonology and mental illness was seen to be the result of evil possession. The barbaric treatment of mental illnesses was primarily left to the clergy who exorcised patients through a variety of techniques which caused physical pain, such as scourging.

Over the centuries, the rites of exorcism have included the use of prayers, commands, fumigations, holy water, hellebore, rue, salt, and roses. However, exorcisms have also attracted their fair share of scepticism. Many scientists believe that so-called demonic possession is simply a form of mental illness, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette’s syndrome, schizophrenia or personality disorder. Sceptics claim that the illusion that exorcism works on people experiencing symptoms of possession is attributed to the power of suggestion, or the placebo effect, which has also been used to explain phenomena such as faith healing.

Beliefs in spirit possession have remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of civilization and still exist to this day. But whether possession by demonic forces is real or simply the result of a medical or psychological imbalance is still hotly debated.

Demonic Possession Symptoms, Signs, Stories and Facts

Demonic Possession is when Satan or a demon enters and takes over the physical and mental capabilities of a victim, however, the soul and will remains free. Satan acts through the victim without the victim's consent, thus the victim is morally blameless. Satan does not act alone when he possesses an individual. He works side by side with many evil spirits such as spirits of lust, hate, destruction, suicide, revenge, anger, anxiety, desperation, death, torment, etc. Such an example is found in Luke 8:30 the case of the possessed man in the territory of the Gerasenes: "Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion," because many demons had entered him".

Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, "fits" and fainting as if one were dying. Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge (gnosis) and foreign languages (glossolalia), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength. Unlike in channeling or other forms of possession, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism.

Man is in various ways subject to the influence of evil spirits. By original sin he brought himself into "captivity under the power of him who thence [from the time of Adam's transgression] had the empire of death, that is to say, the Devil" (Council of Trent, Sess. V, de pecc. orig., 1), and was through the fear of death all his lifetime subject to servitude (Hebrews 2:15). Even though redeemed by Christ, he is subject to violent temptation: " for our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places " (Ephesians 6:12). But the influence of the demon, as we know from Scripture and the history of the Church, goes further still. He may attack man's body from without ( obsession ), or assume control of it from within ( possession ). As we gather from the Fathers and the theologians, the soul itself can never be "possessed" nor deprived of liberty, though its ordinary control over the members of the body may be hindered by the obsessing spirit (cf. St. Aug., "De sp. et an.", 27 St. Thomas, "In II Sent.", d. VIII, Q. i Ribet, "La mystique divine", Paris, 1883, pp. 190 sqq.).

A possessed individual is typically characterized by having strange physical ailments or disfigurements verbal outbursts, mostly obscene or sacrilegious in nature violent behavior and vulgar behavior bodily spasms and contortions ability to speak languages never before studied self-mutilation superhuman abilities such as psychic abilities, abnormal strength, or an ability to perform behaviors out of the realm of human possibility such as levitation cessation of normal bodily functions for periods of time, including breathing and heart beat and a pronounced revulsion to symbols, places, people, objects, and ceremonies having any religious context. Other phenomena associated with the presence of a demon include an acrid stench marked decrease in the temperature of the room which a possessed individual occupies writing appearing out of nowhere sounds and voices arising from nowhere and objects moving on their own and destruction of objects in the room, without anyone having laid a hand upon them.

Satan's army of evil, torment many unknowing lost souls to the point of destruction of others and of themselves. Today a more favorable climate exists for cases of possession and obsession then ever before. Our world has become a playground of pornography, sex, money, material possessions, drugs, and alcohol. There are so many instruments to spread these Satanic messages such as television , video games , Internet, radio , music , and even the clothing we wear thus our children are exposed to a multitude of temptations and are wide open to evil. The "predominant" gods of this age we live in include money, television, music, thrill seeking, and sex. Unfortunately, the "cure" exorcism, is considered an "ancient" ritual and is snubbed by most religious leaving many victims to suffer indescribable torments, and in some instances, even suicide.

Among the ancient pagan nations diabolical possession was frequent, as it is still among their successors. In the Old Testament we have only one instance, and even that is not very certain. We are told that " an evil spirit from the Lord troubled " Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). The Hebrew rûah need not imply a personal influence, though, if we may judge from Josephus (Ant. Jud., VI, viii, 2 ii, 2), the Jews were inclined to give the word that meaning in this very case. In New-Testament times, however, the phenomenon had become very common. The victims were sometimes deprived of sight and speech (Matthew 12:22), sometimes of speech alone (Matthew 9:32 Luke 11:14), sometimes afflicted in ways not clearly specified (Luke 8:2), while, in the greater number of cases, there is no mention of any bodily affliction beyond the possession itself (Matthew 4:24 8:16 15:22 Mark 1:32, 34, 39 3:11 7:25 Luke 4:41 6:18 7:21 8:2). The effects are described in various passages. A young man is possessed of a spirit " who, wheresoever he taketh him, dasheth him, and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away , . . . and oftentimes hath he [the spirit] cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him " (Mark 9:17, 21). The possessed are sometimes gifted with superhuman powers: " a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling in the tombs, and no man now could bind him, not even with chains. For having been often bound with fetters and chains, he had burst the chains, and broken the fetters in pieces, and no one could tame him " (Mark 5:2-4). Some of the unfortunate victims were controlled by several demons (Matthew 12:43, 45 Mark 16:9 Luke 11:24-26) in one case by so many that their name was Legion (Mark 5:9 Luke 8:30). Yet, evil as the possessing spirits were, they could still help testifying to Christ's Divine mission (Matthew 8:29 Mark 1:24, 34 3:12 5:7 Luke 4:34, 41 8:28). And they continued to do so after His Ascension (Acts 16:16-18).

Demonic Possession in the Bible

The Bible gives some examples of people possessed or influenced by demons. From these examples we can find some symptoms of demonic influence and gain insight as to how a demon possesses someone. Here are some of the biblical passages:

Matthew 9:32-33: "And when they were gone out, behold they brought him a dumb man, possessed with a devil. And after the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke, and the multitudes wondered, saying, Never was the like seen in Israel."

Matthew 12:22: "Then was offered to him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, so that he spoke and saw."

Mark 5:1-20: "And they came over the strait of the sea into the country of the Gerasens. And as he went out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the monuments a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling in the tombs, and no man now could bind him, not even with chains. For having been often bound with fetters and chains, he had burst the chains, and broken the fetters in pieces, and no one could tame him. And he was always day and night in the monuments and in the mountains, crying and cutting himself with stones.

"And seeing Jesus afar off, he ran and adored him. And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not. For he said unto him: Go out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him: What is thy name? And he saith to him: My name is Legion, for we are many. And he besought him much, that he would not drive him away out of the country.

"And there was there near the mountain a great herd of swine, feeding. And the spirits besought him, saying: Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And Jesus immediately gave them leave. And the unclean spirits going out, entered into the swine: and the herd with great violence was carried headlong into the sea, being about two thousand, and were stifled in the sea. And they that fed them fled, and told it in the city and in the fields. And they went out to see what was done: And they came to Jesus, and they see him that was troubled with the devil, sitting, clothed, and well in his wits, and they were afraid.

"And they that had seen it, told them, in what manner he had been dealt with who had the devil and concerning the swine. And they began to pray him that he would depart from their coasts. And when he went up into the ship, he that had been troubled with the devil, began to beseech him that he might be with him. And he admitted him not, but saith to him: Go into thy house to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had mercy on thee. And he went his way, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men wondered."

Mark 7:26-30: "For the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophenician born. And she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. Who said to her: Suffer first the children to be filled: for it is not good to take the bread of the children, and cast it to the dogs. But she answered and said to him: Yea, Lord for the whelps also eat under the table of the crumbs of the children. And he said to her: For this saying go thy way, the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come into her house, she found the girl lying upon the bed, and that the devil was gone out."

Luke 4:33-36: "And in the synagogue there was a man who had an unclean devil, and he cried out with a loud voice, Saying: Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying: Hold thy peace, and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him into the midst, he went out of him, and hurt him not at all. And there came fear upon all, and they talked among themselves, saying: What word is this, for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they go out?"

Luke 22:3: "And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve."

Acts 16:16-18: "And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain girl, having a pythonical spirit, met us, who brought to her masters much gain by divining. This same following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the servants of the most high God, who preach unto you the way of salvation. And this she did many days. But Paul being grieved, turned, and said to the spirit: I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to go out from her. And he went out the same hour."

In some of these passages, the demon possession causes physical ailments such as inability to speak, epileptic symptoms, blindness, etc. In other cases, it causes the individual to do evil, Judas being the main example. In Judas case, he opened his heart to evil&mdashin his case by his greed (John 12:6). So it may be possible that if one allows his heart to be ruled by some habitual sin, it becomes an invitation for a demon to enter. In Acts 16:16-18, the spirit apparently gives a slave girl some ability to know things beyond her own learning. The demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes, who was possessed by a multitude of demons (Legion), had superhuman strength and lived naked among the tombstones. King Saul, after rebelling against the Lord, was troubled by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-15 18:10-11 19:9-10) with the apparent effect of a depressed mood and an increased desire to kill David.

Thus, there is a wide variety of possible symptoms of demon possession, such as a physical impairment that cannot be attributed to an actual physiological problem, a personality change such as depression or aggression, supernatural strength, immodesty, antisocial behavior, and perhaps the ability to share information that one has no natural way of knowing. It is important to note that nearly all, if not all, of these characteristics may have other explanations, so it is important not to label every depressed person or epileptic individual as demon-possessed. On the other hand, western cultures probably do not take satanic involvement in people's lives seriously enough.

In addition to these physical or emotional distinctions, one can also look at spiritual attributes showing demonic influence. These may include a refusal to forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) and the belief in and spread of false doctrine, especially concerning Jesus Christ and His atoning work (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15 1 Timothy 4:1-5 1 John 4:1-3).

From missionaries' experiences, demon possession also seems to be related to the worship of heathen idols and the possession of occult materials. Scripture repeatedly relates idol worship to the actual worship of demons (Leviticus 17:7 Deuteronomy 32:17 Psalm 106:37 1 Corinthians 10:20), so it should not be surprising that involvement with idolatry could lead to demon possession.

Based on the above scriptural passages and some of the experiences of missionaries, we can conclude that many people open their lives up to demon involvement through the embracing of some sin or through cultic involvement (either knowingly or unknowingly). Examples may include immorality, drug/alcohol abuse that alters one's state of consciousness, rebellion, bitterness, and transcendental meditation.

There is an additional consideration. Satan and his evil host can do nothing the Lord does not allow them to do (Job 1-2). This being the case, Satan, thinking he is accomplishing his own purposes, is actually accomplishing God's good purposes, as in the case of Judas' betrayal. Some people develop an unhealthy fascination with the occult and demonic activity. This is unwise and unbiblical. If we pursue God, if we are clothing ourselves with His armor and relying upon His strength (Ephesians 6:10-18), we have nothing to fear from the evil ones, for God rules over all!

How Do People Become Possessed by Demons?

Demonic spirits are also referred to as evil spirits and are depicted in the bible as fallen angels. These are the angels who took side with Lucifer (Satan) in his rebellion against God. (Rev. 12:4)

Specialists in the area of demonology have categorized the state of demon possession into two groups: "Demonic oppression" and complete "Demonic possession."

Demonic oppression is said to be a mild to severe harassment by demonic spirits which often comes as a result of doors that have been opened in an individual's life through voluntary sin which leads to manipulation in different areas of that life by evil spirits.

A complete demonic possession on the other hand is a state in which one or several demonic spirits have gained access to the body of an individual and then proceeds to takes full control over the person's will. In such a condition, the demonic spirits uses the body of the individual to express its personality and to carry out its evil intent.

How do demons enter?
Demonic spirits gain access into the life of an individual through what is known as a door way. A door way is a vulnerable area in the life of a person that becomes open to the access of evil spirits whether through voluntary or involuntary means.

These doorways can stem from different level of involvement in the occult, traumatic occurrences, taking of drugs, generational curse, and different situation which triggers intense negative emotional reactions. A persons voluntary sins can also have an affect if a person is to become demon possessed. In most cases of demonic possession, a steady prayer life (like praying the fifteen decades of the Rosary each day), and the abstaining from sins, especially mortal sins (fornication, masturbation, heresy, pride, anger, etc.), is for most people enough to free themselves from the demonic influences.

Nature of Demonic spirits
Demonic spirits are merciless beings that will not hesitate to try and take advantage of the lives of humans with every opportunity they get. Whether it is through a willful act that creates an open door in the life of an individual, or through a traumatic experience. a Demonic spirit will seek to take full advantage of those moments and will try to gain access in the life of a person.

Dabbling in the occult is by far the quickest way for demons to gain entrance in the lives of humans. This is because most occult activities involve having direct contact with demonic spirits. Whether it's dabbling with Tarot cards , Ouija board , Necromancy, Witchcraft , or any other means of consulting evil spirits, will certainly open up the door way to demonic bondage.

Using drugs also increases susceptibility to demonic invasion in a person's life. Because drugs disrupt the coherent state of the mind and will open up an individual to be controlled by Demonic spirits. By use of drugs is a person putting himself into a state in which he can see and have access to demonic entities. In the Apocalypse (e.g., chapter 9, verse 21) the word sorceries is used. It's from the Greek "pharmakeia," which includes the use of drugs to achieve hallucinations, as part of witchcraft, evil arts, etc. The point is that there is a biblical connection between drug use, and sorcery (access to evil spirits). It's therefore no surprise that people who are using drugs see evil spirits. A person who uses drugs is definitely opening himself up to becoming possessed.

Involuntary entry point of demons
In instances where demons enter the life of an individual through involuntary means, are usually during those times when a person goes through a traumatic experience, which causes intense negative emotional reactions that are above normal. This can be an overwhelming response to an experience which causes one to be completely overcome by fear, deep depression, deep sorrow, very deep emotional pains and different negative emotions which are above normal.

Anger is also another emotion which demons tend to feed off, especially when a person decides to dwell on being angry by choosing to hold on to whatever is making them angry. This will open the door for demonic spirits to come in and influence them to do different deeds by further fueling their anger into rage.

Generational curse
A generational curse is also another involuntary way in which demons enter into the life of an individual. As mentioned in the bible that God will visit the iniquity of the parents on to the children and their children's, children. This is often evident when a child grows up and seems to inherit bad habits, addictions or conditions from their parents or past relatives they may even have never met.

This could be drug addiction, addiction to alcohol, many different addictions and different sicknesses and diseases. It could be something that is passed on to only one individual in the family, or something that every member of the family seems to have inherited.

Demonic spirits have been around for many years and are still constantly going around looking for their next target. As the Bible says, the Devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. To guard ourselves from demonic oppression and possession, we have to stay clear away from the occult and drugs and mortal sins. Also don't dwell too much on negative emotions. For instances where we feel overwhelmed, it's important to seek counseling and if necessary, seek also godly spiritual help .

How Do Evil Spirits Enter Us?

Evil spirits enter us through many ways as indicated in the examples below.

Those Cursed or Held Guilty by Original Sin
In some cases, evil spirits enter an apparently innocent victim or a victim held guilty by original sin. The victim may be an unborn baby who is cursed from the mother's womb. The curse can be from original sin or from a jealous relative, friend, enemy, or even the child's own parents.

In reality, there are no such thing as an "innocent victim" with regard to demonic possession. Excluding those victim souls God allows to be possessed and tormented for the sake of their own and the salvation of others, only those people who are actually guilty of mortal sin (or even deliberate venial sin) can become possessed by evil spirits. All unbaptized infants and adults are held guilty through original sin and are under the dominion of the devil until they have received baptism. This is the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence , Session 11, Feb. 4, 1442, ex cathedra: &ldquoRegarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, when no help can be brought to them by another remedy than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the Devil [original sin] and adopted among the sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not be deferred for forty or eighty days, or any time according to the observance of certain people&hellip&rdquo (Denz. 712)

Here comes a good example from St. Bridget's revelations about the efficacy of baptism against the influences of the Devil:

Christ describes why a three year old boy is tormented by a demon : &ldquoEven though the boy is born by the seed of the father and mother, the devil still has the greatest power over him, for he is not reborn through the true baptism, but is only baptized in the way that women are accustomed to baptize, who do not know about the words of the Holy Trinity. That is why the boy may be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit then he will be cured.&rdquo

Victims of demonic oppression/possession may also include children who are not loved, who are mistreated or abused or rejection by other children, siblings, parents, etc. The abuse can range from sexual abuse, mental abuse, or physical abuse.

Those who Choose Evil
In other cases, an evil spirit may enter us because of involvement in evil practices such as the occult. The occult is any practice that involves ceremonies, rituals, chants, magic, or activities that are obviously not God centered. These activities or rituals can change the course of nature, the lives of those who are involved in such practices, and of course, the so-called innocent victims.

The Ouija board is a popular occult board game and there is also Dungeons and Dragons. Satan's main target in Dungeons and Dragons game is our youth. With Dungeons and Dragons, the most powerful and successful players are those who use magic. There is a Dungeons Master Guide that even teaches new beginners how to communicate with the dead, cast spells, and learn to chant. In fact, most if not all role-playing and fantasy games includes the evil practice of magic &mdash in addition to being extremely violent games ( for example, hav ing as one of their main plot going around killing people or creatures by magic and by the use of weapons) all such and like games (see evil video games ) are therefore evil and forbidden to play and find enjoyment in. T hey also invites demons into one's soul .

The use of magic revolves around evil spirits, psychic abilities and contacting spirits. Magic is a power that does not involve God. It is a power that is derived from such things as voodoo, sorcery, witchcraft , primitive religions and Satanism . Most witches who use magic swear that they do not worship Satan but worship the gods and goddesses of nature (The gods and goddesses of nature are hardly Jesus Christ! Of course they worship Satan! Do not let someone who practices this occult practice tell you otherwise!). Many of these individuals are unknown because they blend in quite well. They can be found attending religious services in every denomination and they practice their magic on the side. If someone tells you white magic is ok &mdash don't believe them.

Use of occult/new age tools such as crystals, divination, astrology , tarot cards , crystal balls, reincarnation , pendulums, Yoga , Transcendental Meditation.

Those who make a pact with Satan or attend Satanic services or rituals.

Going to Séances, fortune tellers , Horoscopes , or spiritualist meetings for the purpose of contact the dead.

Those who use or abuse alcohol or mind changing drugs such as LSD, cocaine, marijuana (see Smoking and Drugs ) . If someone tells you using drugs is ok&mdash run away from them.

Those who try to commit suicid e or have suicidal tendencies.

You can renounce a spirit through personal deliverance prayers (see Exorcism Prayers ) but in order for you to achieve freedom you must be spiritually prepared by making a commitment to God. You must stop any and all sinful acts ( see Spiritual Information You Must Know About to be Saved and The Ten Commandments ) and confess your sins. If you don't stop leading a sinful life, being temporally freed from the might of the devil for a little while while on earth will benefit you absolutely nothing in the end &mdash and for eternity. Before you can renounce evil in your life you must want to change and follow God where ever H e leads you.

Signs of Demonic Possession

The Extraordinary Activities of Satan Defined - The following is taken from Fr. Gabriele Amorth's second book "An Exorcist More Stories." Fr. Amorth's book is published by IGNATIUS released in 2002. Fr. Amorth is a member of the Vatican II Sect . The boundaries between one category and another are not clear-cut, because there is a lot of mingling and compounding of symptoms.

External Pain - deals strictly with physical suffering. This includes the beatings, scourging, and injuries caused by inexplicable pushing, falling objects, and so on, that we read about in the lives of many saints, such as the Curé of Ars . Saint Paul of the Cross, and Padre Pio . These occurrences are not as rare as we may think, and the demon's activity is usually confined to external activity internal activity, if any, is only temporary and limited to the duration of a particular disturbance.

Diabolic Possession - is the gravest form of demonic activity, which allows a continuing presence of a demon in a human body. The evil symptoms do not have to be continuous but can alternate between periods of crisis and periods of rest. Possession implies intervals of temporary suspension of mental, intellectual, affective, and volitive faculties. Symptoms can include the knowledge of languages unknown to the victim, superhuman strength, and the ability to know the occult or someone else's thoughts. Typically, there is an aversion to anything sacred, often in conjunction with blasphemy. There are also frauds who pose as demoniac therefore, we need to be extremely wary.

Diabolic Oppression - is a ransom discomfort. We must remember that symptoms and gravity differ greatly case by case. This oppression can strike health, job, affections, relationship with others, and so on. Its symptoms include unexplainable rages and a tendency to complete isolation. Oppression can affect both individual and groups (even very large groups).

Diabolic Obsession - causes an almost split personality. Our will remains free, but it is oppressed by obsessive thoughts. The victim experiences thoughts that may be rationally absurd but of such a nature that he is unable to free himself. The obsessed person lives in a perpetual state of prostration, with persistent temptations to suicide. We must be aware that the temptation to commit suicide is also present in diabolic possession and diabolic oppression. [Suicide is a mortal sin and one must never give in to this diabolical deception.]

Diabolic Infestation - In this case, the malefic activity is directed toward places (houses, offices, stores, fields), objects (cars, pillows, mattresses, dolls) and animals, therefore it only indirectly affects man. Origen tells us that the early Christians resorted to exorcisms in these situations.

Diabolic Subjugation - The term indicates a voluntary pact&mdashimplicit or explicit&mdashwith Satan, by which we submit to the lordship of the demon. There are also involuntary times with the evil one these cases fall into the preceding categories, especially the most severe: possession.

How Does One Become Possessed?

Below, Fr. Amorth explains that there are four principal causes that may cause one to fall victim to these evils.

Pure Divine Permission
Clearly, nothing happens without divine permission, but God never wills evil, suffering, or temptation. He gave us freedom and allows the existence of evil, but knows how to turn it into good. When he gives the demon his permission to torment us, he does so to strengthen us in virtue, as in the biblical example of Job, as well as of many blesseds and saints. We must keep in mind that sometimes diabolical harassment in itself has nothing to do with the state of grace of its victims. [However, in almost all cases people definitely become possessed or obsessed by demons because of mortal sin.]

Subject to a Curse
Here, too, the victim is innocent [may be innocent if it is only oppressed, that is, tempted or harassed,] but there is culpability on the part of whoever casts and/or commissions the curse. [Generally, no one ever actually becomes possessed by a demon unless they are living in, and are guilty of, mortal sin.] By the word curse, I mean the intention of harming others through demonic intervention. This can be achieved in many ways: malefice (or spell), binding, evil eye, malediction, and so on. The matter is serious, but we need to be on guard against misconceptions. By their nature, curses lend themselves to all sorts of abuses, especially when we consider the current escalation in the number of frauds, suggestions, manias, and more.

Grave Hardening of Sin
Judas Iscariot is the classical Gospel example. The many individuals who abandon themselves to sexual perversions, violence, and drugs fall into this group. The heinous crime of abortion aggravates this situation its terrible repercussions are clearly seen during exorcisms, because to liberate a victim who is guilty of abortion usually requires a very long period of time. Due to the current devastation of the family and the laxity of morals, the repercussions that stem from the scourge of abortion are much more common than in the past. When we take all these factors into account, we can understand why the number of individuals stricken by evil ailments has multiplied.

Proximity to Evil Places or Persons
This includes attending spiritualistic session, dabbling in magic, or consulting magicians, witch doctors, and some card readers also, practicing the occult, belonging to satanic sects, or practicing in rites that climax with black masses, and so on, put us at great risk.

To this category we can add the influence of mass media, such as pornographic shows and violent horror movies broadcast by many TV stations. We witness the effects of the widespread presence of rock music, culminating in satanic rock performed in what we could easily refer to as "churches or rock", such as stadiums, parks, and discothèques. We should not be surprised that, today, there is an explosion of these activities: a decline in faith life is directly connected to an increase in superstitions. I will not tire or repeating that members of the clergy have done nothing to oppose, or at least warn against, all these evils, because they are completely ignorant even of what the Bible explicitly says on the subject [expect nothing but indifferentism and laxiety from the faithless non-Catholic Vatican II heretics, whether they be called priests or laymen]. This forth category has greatly contributed to the increase in evil ailments in the last decades, especially among the young. Taken from (An Exorcist More Stories by Fr. Gabriele Amorth).

We receive e-mails at this site from all over the world. The majority of the e-mails are from people who are in some sort of bondage to Satan or have friends or family members who are suffering. Many of the requests we receive are from people in search of an exorcist living close to them. We are often asked if we can help locate or recommend an exorcist. We do not have a list of exorcists. There is a good chance that those individuals seeking an exorcist do not need one (see Signs of Possession). In most cases these individuals need deliverance prayers. Deliverance prayers do not require an Exorcist.

If you are seeking help, you must first start by ridding yourself of those things that prevent God from working in your life. In most cases, the bondage we are in is due to the lifestyle we live. God gave us the Commandments because He loves us and He wants us to be with Him in Heaven one day. If you do not follow the commandments that God established then there is only one other rule to follow-the self-destructing rule of Satan.

When you do not live by God's rules the door is wide open for Satan to enter into your life. Are you willing to change your lifestyle? If you are willing to change there is hope for you. If you are not willing to change you may never find help. Reflect on the questions below. Do not become alarmed if many of these questions pertain to you. Confess your sins and work at eliminating them from your life. Ask God for help.

Do you give God time in prayer everyday? Do you read Holy Books everyday?

Are you involved with the occult , horoscopes , séances, Ouija Board , Dungeon's and Dragons or play other immoral or violent mortally sinful video games ?

Have you mocked God, use his name in vain?

Do you wish harm to come to someone who has hurt you or who has annoyed you.

Do you read bad books or see bad movies/series that are anti-God or occult oriented or are otherwise ungodly, unchaste, violent or bad?

Do you listen to ungodly or sinful songs or watch these immoral music videos on the television?

Are you involved with new age practices such as yoga , crystals, Transcendental Meditation?

Do you go to church every Sunday ( if you have a non-heretical Catholic Church in your area )? Do you neglect church so that you can participate in a sports related activity or so that you can sleep-in? Where are your priorities? Are they God centered or "ME" centered? Do you keep the Sabbath (the Sunday) holy?

Is your lifestyle not of God? Do you have sex out of marriage, are you committing adultery, do you approve of abortions ?

Are you a homosexual ? Do you masturbate (also in marriage) ? Do you practice Contraception or Natural Family Planning (NFP) ? Do you commit sexual sins with your spouse within the holy sacrament of marriage ( foreplay , sensual kisses and touches , impure thoughts ) ?

Do you fantasize about sex ? Are your thoughts chaste? Do you read romance novels or bad, sensual magazines or newspapers (any magazine that contains immodest women) ?

Do you dress modestly so as not to arouse the opposite sex.

Do you steal? Do you you take away from people what are theirs? Have you given back what you have stolen?

Do you lie to get out of jams? Do you find pleasure in saying negative things about people or do you speak about them behind their back?

Are you jealous of what other people have? Are you greedy and selfish? Do you feel bad about giving to others or about not getting something that someone else got instead?

Are you a proud person? Do you have high thoughts about yourself? D o you admit to being wrong w hen you are wrong? Do you make corrections when you have done or taught wrong? Are you ashamed of humility and of being humbled ? Do you understand that no proud person can ever be saved or be pleasing to God? (Please read these words from Our Lord to gain true humility and fear: The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden )

Do you trust in God or do you trust instead in the material world around us?

Help for Family and Friends

Many people are concerned for friends and family members and want to find them help (which is a pious thing to do). The big problem is that the majority of your friends and family members do not want help. They are very comfortable in their lifestyles and in most cases there is not any room for God. Freedom cannot be found for those who do not want help. The best course of action is to pray. Have as many people you know pray so that they may be converted.

St. Michael The Archangel Prayer

(Latin version) Sancte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio contra nequítiam et insídias diáboli esto præsídium. Imperet illi Deus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, princeps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in mundo, divína virtúte, In inférnum detrude. Amen

(English version) Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

Kyrie eleison. God, our Lord, King of ages, All-powerful and All mighty, you who made everything and who transformed everything simply by your will. You who in Babylon changed into dew the flames of the "seven-times hotter" furnace and protected and saved the three holy children. You are the doctor and the physician of our soul. You are the salvation of those who turn to you. We beseech you to make powerless, banish, and drive out every diabolic power, presence, and machination every evil influence, malefice, or evil eye and all evil actions aimed against your servant. where there is envy and malice, give us an abundance of goodness, endurance, victory, and charity. O Lord, you who love man, we beg you to reach out your powerful hands and your most high and mighty arms and come to our aid. Help us, who are made in your image send the angel of peace over us, to protect us body and soul. May he keep at bay and vanquish every evil power, every poison or malice invoked against us by corrupt and envious people. Then, under the protection of your authority may we sing, in gratitude, "The Lord is my salvation whom should I fear? I will not fear evil because you are with me, my God, my strength, my powerful Lord, Lord of peace, Father of all ages."

My Lord, you are all powerful, you are God, you are Father. We beg you through the intercession and help of the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel for the deliverance of our brothers and sisters who are enslaved by the evil one. All saints of heaven come to our aid. From anxiety, sadness and obsessions&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from hatred, fornication, and envy&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from thoughts of jealousy, rage, and death&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from every thought of suicide and abortion&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from every form of sinful sexuality&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from every division in our family, and every harmful friendship&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord from every sort of spell, malefice, witchcraft, and every form of the occult&mdashWe beg you. Free us, O Lord Lord, you who said, "I leave you peace, my peace I give you," grant that, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we may be liberated from every spell and enjoy your peace always. In the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayers against Every Evil

Spirit of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Most Holy Trinity, Immaculate Virgin Mary, angels, archangels, and saints of heaven, descend upon me. Please purify me, Lord, mold me, fill me with yourself, and use me. Banish all the forces of evil from me, destroy them, vanquish them, so that I can be healthy and do good deeds. Banish from me all spells, witchcraft, black magic, malefice, ties, maledictions, and the evil eye diabolic infestations, oppressions, possessions all that is evil and sinful, jealousy, perfidy, envy physical, psychological, moral, spiritual, diabolical ailments. Burn all these evils in hell, that they may never again touch me or any other creature in the entire world. I command and bid all the powers who molest me by the power of God all powerful, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary to leave me forever, and to be consigned into the everlasting hell, where they will be bound by Saint Michael the archangel, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael, our guardian angels, and where they will be crushed under the heel of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

Prayers for Inner Healing

Lord Jesus, you came to heal our wounded and troubled hearts. I beg you to heal the torments that cause anxiety in my heart I beg you, in a particular way, to heal all who are the cause of sin. I beg you to come into my life and heal me of the psychological harms that struck me in my early years and from the injuries that they caused throughout my life. Lord Jesus, you know my burdens. I lay them all on your Good Shepherd's Heart. I beseech you&mdashby the merits of the great, open wound in your heart&mdashto heal the wounds that are in mine. Heal the pain of my memories, so that nothing that has happened to me will cause me to remain in pain and anguish, filled with anxiety. Heal, O Lord, all those wounds that have been the cause of all the evil that is rooted in my life. I want to forgive all those who have offended me. Look to those inner sores that make me unable to forgive. You who came to forgive the afflicted of heart, please, heal my own heart. Heal, my Lord Jesus, those intimate wounds that cause me physical illness. I offer you my heart. Accept it, Lord, purify it and give me the sentiments of your Divine Heart. Help me to be meek and humble. Heal me, O Lord, from the pain caused by the death of my loved ones, which is oppressing me. Grant me to regain peace and joy in the knowledge that you are the Resurrection and the Life. Make me an authentic witness to your Resurrection, your victory over sin and death, your living presence among us Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Please consult the How to Pray the Rosary section . The Rosary Prayer will be the most powerful prayer against the attacks of the demons. You must not neglect to Pray the Rosary everyday, especially all fifteen decades, if you can do so.

Regarding the Holy Rosary, Sister Lucia of Fatima told Father Fuentes in a famous 1957 interview:

"Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary . There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls."

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Now, more than two millennia later, the Roman Catholic Church is reported to be secretly educating a new crop of exorcists to meet a rapidly rising demand for exorcisms in Italy, Australia, America and elsewhere around the globe. Here in the U.S., where there is evidently an acute shortage of formally trained exorcists, burgeoning numbers of suffering souls--some deeply disillusioned with or wary of what mainstream psychology and psychiatry have to offer today--are desperately turning to exorcism to deal with their debilitating "devils" and "demons."

Exorcism can be said to be the prototype of modern psychotherapy. (See my prior post.) Despite the secular scientific persona of most mental health professionals today, simply scratching the surface of rationality and objectivity reveals a secret exorcist: Like exorcists, psychotherapists speak in the name of a "higher being," be it medical science, rationality or some psychological, metaphysical or spiritual belief system. They firmly (and, in the case of biological psychiatry in particular) literally believe in the physical reality of the pathological problem manifested in the patient's symptoms and suffering, and dispense drugs and/or encouragement while joining with the patient in a sacred "therapeutic alliance" against the wicked and debilitating forces bedeviling them.

Notwithstanding today's economically-driven, superficial, simplistic trend toward brief psychotherapies such as CBT, DBT (see my prior post) and myriad psychopharmacological treatments, sooner or later one inevitably is confronted in clinical practice with strikingly similar phenomena and principles to those educed by traditional exorcists.

Psychotherapy, like exorcism, commonly consists of a prolonged, pitched, demanding, soul-wrenching, sometimes tedious bitter battle royale with the patient's diabolically obdurate emotional "demons," at times waged over the course of years or even decades rather than weeks or months, and not necessarily always with consummate success.

And there is now growing recognition--not only by psychoanalytic practitioners--of the very real risks and dangers of psychic infection inherent also in the practice of psychotherapy. (This psychic susceptibility is almost universally depicted in these films, starting with The Exorcist and most recently by The Devil Inside.) Counter-transference is what clinicians technically call this treacherous psychological phenomenon, which can cause the psychotherapist (or exorcist) to suffer disturbing, subjective symptoms during the treatment process--sometimes even as the patient progresses!

Hence the ever-present importance for psychotherapists, like exorcists, to perform their sacred work within a formally ritualized structure, making full use of collegial support, cooperation and consultation, and to maintain inviolable personal boundaries. (Dr. Marsha Linehan's DBT, for instance, structures this support and consultation into the treatment program.) T

o paraphrase Sigmund Freud, no one wrestles with the emotional demons of others all day without themselves being affected. This is an unavoidable occupational hazard of both exorcism and psychotherapy.

Of course, the main difference between psychotherapy and exorcism is that modern psychotherapy is typically a secular treatment for figurative, metaphorical "demons"--mental, emotional or psychological traumas, memories or "complexes,"-- whereas exorcism takes the existence of demons quite literally. Doing so can have certain advantages in treating patients who believe in the Devil, demons and exorcism, if for no other reason than the extremely impressive power of suggestion. (This is also the power behind the so-called placebo effect.) Someone in the midst of an acute psychotic episode, for example, is confused, disoriented and hyper-suggestible. They desperately seek some meaning to hang on to.

Unless we can seriously offer a more or at least equally satisfying explanation of the patient's disturbing experience, it is, as clinicians well know from working with delusional patients, exceedingly difficult if not impossible to rationally dissuade someone of the fervent conviction that they are victims of demonic possession. Sometimes the best approach can be to go with where they are and use the patient's belief system to the treatment's advantage

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who believed in and sometimes practiced exorcism, drew a distinction (like the Catholic Church, but mistaken in my view) between demonic possession and mental illness. Peck (1983) correctly pointed out that, unlike individual psychotherapy, exorcism makes more use of power in waging war against the patient's sickness, and is usually conducted by a team of exorcists who attempt to overpower the patient's efforts to resist treatment.

He further notes that, unlike time-limited psychotherapy sessions, exorcisms can extend far beyond forty-five minutes, and often involve forcible physical restraint of the patient during these intense and typically angry confrontations. In religious exorcism, as opposed to psychotherapy, the team invokes the healing power of God via prayer and ritual, and attributes any success directly to God rather than themselves or even the exorcism process itself. Whereas in psychotherapy, success is typically attributed primarily to some combination of the doctor-patient relationship and the treatment process itself.

Exorcism is based on a theological, spiritual or metaphysical model, unlike psychotherapy, which is generally rooted in a psychiatrically-based biopsychosocial or medical paradigm. But both methods address similar symptoms or syndromes, especially as seen in the most severely disturbed patients. The Catholic Church is careful today to rule out malingering or demonstrable mental illness when considering candidates for exorcism, using medical doctors and mental health professionals to help distinguish between so-called genuine possession and pseudo-possession. But can such a distinction truly be drawn? And, if so, on what basis.

The Roman Catholic Church's official diagnostic criteria for discerning genuine demonic possession (something mentioned in many of these movies) includes speaking in tongues or languages formerly unfamiliar to the possessed person, supernatural physical strength, and visibly negative reactions of the victim to prayers, holy water, priests, etc. But for the modern Church, physical and/or psychiatric disorders must first be excluded. From a psychiatric perspective, the problem with such criteria is that these phenomena can be found in many mental disorders, including dissociative and psychotic disorders of various sorts.

According to Dr. Peck, a born-again Christian, the distinction between "human evil" and "demonic evil" is crucial: He distinguishes "satanic possession" from mental illness, stating that though in such cases some emotional problem predisposes the patient to satanic or demonic possession, "the proper question to pose diagnostically would be: ‘Is the patient just mentally ill or is he or she mentally ill and possessed?' " This is a clearly religious conceptualization. But another way of looking at this same possession syndrome is that in such cases what we are seeing are the most extreme and treatment resistant states of mind manifested in patients who may truly believe themselves to be demonically possessed.

The pertinent question then for psychologists and psychiatrists is how best to treat such severely disturbed and intensely suffering individuals? It seems that at least some familiarity with their religious beliefs and meaningful integration of these beliefs into their psychotherapy is essential. These patients have usually tried traditional psychiatric treatment, with its banal neurobiological bias, to no avail. Providing some way to help such frustrated patients make sense of their frightening and bewildering subjective experiences and integrate them meaningfully into a deeper psychological and spiritual understanding of themselves and the world is what real psychotherapy should, really must, strive toward. Without such a meaning-centered, spiritually sensitive secular psychotherapy (see my prior post), exorcism is seen by some bedeviled individuals as their only hope.

This question as to the true nature of what I call the "possession syndrome" is at the very crux of the matter regarding exorcism: Exorcism is the traditional treatment for possession. What is possession? Is so-called demonic possession a psychological phenomenon, a form of psychosis or another as yet ill-defined mental disorder? Or is it the work of the Devil, and irrefutable proof of Satan's powerful reality? In one of my previous posts, I discussed the infamous Andrea Yates filicide case . By the time she deliberately drowned her five children in 2001, Yates was convinced she was possessed.

Satan himself, claimed Yates, compelled her to carry out her evil deeds. In her second trial, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution. How can we make sense of her delusions and diabolically destructive behavior? Postpartum depression? Schizophrenia? Bipolar disorder? Or was Yates, as she fervently believed, a hapless victim of "possession"? And if so, what exactly is that? Do demons really exist? What is evil? Where does it come from? What is our relationship to it? Is it a proper subject of study for psychology and psychiatry? And how can we better deal with it?

The idea of demonic possession is a metaphysical, theological or spiritual explanation for human evil. The Exorcist (1973), a film based on William Peter Blattey's book about a supposedly "real" case, provides a highly dramatized depiction of evil, possession and exorcism, and stimulated renewed public fascination with what I call the "possession syndrome" (1996). The Exorcism of Emily Rose, also loosely based on an actual case, had a similar effect, raising legitimate ethical, legal and psychiatric questions regarding the practice of exorcism. As does The Devil Inside to some degree.

Possession has been a well-documented phenomenon occurring across cultures in virtually every era. But the term possession is seldom mentioned in the psychiatric and psychological literature. Instead, we speak of obsession, which has similar intrusive, involuntary, egodystonic qualities. Or we refer to "multiple personality disorder" (Dissociative Identity Disorder), in which one or more sub-personalities temporarily take possession of the person against his or her will. Or we diagnose bipolar disorder in those possessed by mania, irritability or melancholy, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder to describe someone repeatedly possessed or overtaken by uncontrollable rage. It must be admitted that the archetypal phenomenon known historically as "possession" persists today in differing forms and varying degrees. The only difference is the way in which we now attempt to explain and treat it

Phenomenologically, the subjective experience of possession--feeling influenced by some foreign, alien force beyond the ego's control-- is, to some extent, an experiential aspect of most mental disorders. Patients frequently speak of symptoms, unacceptable impulses, thoughts or emotions as ego-alien, and uncharacteristic moods or destructive behaviors as "not being myself," commonly exclaiming "I don't know what got into me," or wondering "What possessed me to do that?" Presently, such disturbing symptoms are hypothesized by psychiatry to be due primarily to some underlying neurological or biochemical aberration.

Biochemistry, in the form of the tiny neurotransmitter, has become our postmodern demon du jour for which all manner of evils are blamed. Depth psychologists C.G. Jung (in his concept of the shadow) and Rollo May (1969) provide psychologically sophisticated, secular theories of human evil and daimonic (as opposed to demonic) possession which do not demand literal belief in the devil or demons. (I discuss these matters in detail in my book Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic.) But, tragically, most psychotherapy today does not adequately comprehend or treat the possession syndrome. For some bedeviled individuals, the traditional ritual of exorcism or myth of "demonic possession" serve to make more sense of their suffering than the scientific, secular, biochemical explanations and cognitive-behavioral theories proffered these days by mainstream psychiatry and psychology. If psychotherapy as a healing of the soul (not just the mind) is to survive and thrive into the future, our current overemphasis on cognition, behavior, genetics, neurology and biochemistry must be counterbalanced by the inclusion of the spiritual and depth psychological dimension of human existence. It must become, as Freud intimated and C.G. Jung courageously recognized, psychotherapy for the soul. (See my prior post.)

The truth is, most psychotherapy patients need far more than what pharmaceutical intervention and/or cognitive therapy--the two most popular so-called "evidence-based" or empirically supported modalities today--can provide. They need and deserve support and accompaniment through their painful, frightening, disorienting, perilous spiritual or existential crises, their "dark night of the soul." They need a psychologically meaningful method to confront their metaphorical devils and demons, their repressed anger or rage, and the existential reality of evil. They need a secular spiritual psychotherapy willing to ask the right questions. In a time where so many have lost faith in God, rejected organized religion, yet still seek something transpersonal to believe in, something spiritual, something transcendental or supernatural, the notion of demonic possession has diabolically tempting appeal.

For to believe that the Devil and his demons can take possession of one's body, mind and soul is to find evidence also of God's existence. And to make meaning from meaninglessness. This "will to meaning," as existential psychiatrist Viktor Frankl called it, is a fundamental human drive, one which abhors a meaningless "existential vacuum." For those who have lost faith, the myth of "demonic possession" can--in addition to providing a possibility of attributing responsibility for our darkest, most despicable or spiritually unacceptable emotions, impulses and evil deeds to something or someone other than ourselves-- paradoxically provide a path back to God, since God and the Devil are but two opposite sides of the same spiritual coin. Unless psychology can provide a better or at least equally satisfying, meaningful alternate explanation of the possession syndrome--and a more effective way to deal with it-- belief in demonic possession and the practice of exorcism are bound to persist.

Depression and demonic possession: the analyst as an exorcist

Man's attempt to understand mental illness, and especially depression, have historically alternated between two general concepts: a belief in some form of evil spirits that have invaded the body or of an internal black toxic substance, melancholia. Each age and culture can be found to have devised its own appropriate treatment for depression to remove the "biochemical" cause of the disease process by means of prayer, exorcism or fire, or to do away with the evil spirit. Psychoanalysis has evolved a concept of depression that deals with ideas about introjects, rather than conceiving of them as concrete toxins or demons. Psychoanalytic treatment is a cognitive technique for "exorcising" certain identifications by delineating them and then neutralizing them through understanding. The superficial similarity of both concepts, albeit substituting a "tangible" substance by an ideational one, helps to explain why it has been so difficult to avoid the temptation to reify psychoanalytic concepts. The Greeks' black humour, the demon, and the mental construct of an ambivalent introject, can be understood as different metaphors of a similar universal concept.

Exorcists are back – and people are getting hurt

E xorcism is intrinsic to Christianity. From driving possessed swine into a lake to expelling a spirit from a boy who foamed at the mouth, Jesus could reasonably be considered a therapeutic exorcist. So it’s hard to tell some churches to get real and rational – although, regrettably, that message is as relevant as ever.

The Vatican has just set up a new exorcism training course, following an alleged increase in demonic possession. According to the Sicilian priest and exorcist Benigno Palilla, speaking on Vatican Radio, there are half a million cases reported in Italy yearly, and demand for assistance has tripled. To claim that such a large number of Italians have been inadvertently contaminated by Satan, like some paranormal STD, is a significant aspersion on a nation of 60 million people. Palilla lays the blame on people who visit fortune-tellers and tarot-readers. These practices “open the door to the devil and to possession”.

A quick breeze around the Catholic Herald website certainly confirms that exorcism is a live topic. And in 2014, the Vatican officially recognised the International Association of Exorcists.

So what’s the problem? The first is that people get hurt. Really hurt. Recent UK government statistics suggest that almost 1,500 child-abuse cases a year are linked to notions of witchcraft and demonic possession. The Metropolitan police’s Project Violet was set up to explore child abuse connected to spiritual beliefs. I have written about Nigeria’s “witch children”. And there was the recent horrific case in Nicaragua of Vilma Trujillo, who died after being burned alive. This all demonstrates that the danger is neither localised nor irrelevantly ancient.

Second, those diagnosed as “demoniacs” often get spiritual rather than medical attention. The 2015 case of a GP struck off for taking a mental health patient to church for an exorcism is probably unusual in this country. But it should go without saying that distressed people benefit more from an evidence-based intervention than a belief that the Dark One is tormenting them.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the traditional candidates for a false diagnosis of demonic infestation. The Catholic church includes psychiatric experts on its exorcism panels for balance and information. But there are other confusing conditions. Mental health charities estimate that between 5% and 28% of the adult population hear voices, and that most are not mentally unwell. Sleep paralysis is another common experience that can alarm those who don’t know about it. In both cases, the subject will probably be absolutely fine on finding out that they are neither at the beginning of a personal disintegration nor the target of demons. Superstition is simply not the most constructive therapy.

But another thing bothers me: the class of specialists produced by exorcism courses and professional bodies. These specialists derive status from the practice of their “skills”, in the manner of Maslow’s hammer: when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. An investment in the intellectual models of demonic possession and exorcism can bring catastrophic momentum.

A quick look at history demonstrates how just one educated yet gullible fool can wreak havoc: in the witch-hunts of Labourd, in France, in 1609, Pierre de Lancre brought at least 70 people to the stake. There are many more career witch-hunters of whom similar stories can be told.

The burning of an Anabaptist by the Inquisition in 1571, in an engraving by Jan Luyken. Photograph: UIG via Getty Images

Even more worrying is the creation of a whole institution – in which case the momentum becomes harder to stop. The Inquisition started as a body to root out heresy, but soon became a witch-hunting machine with a specialist workforce – the Dominican order – subject only to the pope. It created human misery on a grand scale before it was stopped from burning witches.

I detect some ambivalence within the church itself about possession and exorcism. It must function as a political body that accommodates a very wide range of views. That doesn’t mean that every clergyman or bishop agrees with all of them.

The formal Vatican decree that approved the International Association of Exorcists recognised it as an organisation of Catholics, not operating in the name of the church, but having some accountability to the Vatican. This would be one way – in the event you couldn’t make the exorcists go away – of maintaining some form of discipline over them. I hope I’m right in that interpretation.These days the most egregious cases of abuse associated with exorcism are from evangelical churches. This may be because that kind of religiosity appeals to the most isolated, marginalised, often disadvantaged and inward-looking communities.

So how do we balance freedom of speech and belief against the potential for harm? I would focus on professional exorcists and their fees. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations cover psychic services, but not exorcism. Where exorcism is charged for, it should be against the law. You shouldn’t charge for fairy dust, and you shouldn’t charge to expel demons.

This wouldn’t affect Catholic services, but it could be used against independent, evangelical “pastors”. (This is where “respectable” religion gets off lightly compared with “frivolous” superstition.) To stop the belief proliferating, you have to denature the specialists.

The Vatican Calls for More Exorcists as Demonic Possessions Increase

We’re living in strange times. Then again, was there ever a point in history which wasn’t strange? For whatever reason, cases of alleged demonic possession have been on the rise in recent years and show now signs of stopping. Religious institutions around the world have been reporting an exponential increase in the amount of exorcisms performed by clergy, and many churches are failing to meet the deman d due to a lack of trained exorcists. In a sign that perhaps this problem is in fact being taken seriously by global religious leaders, the Vatican itself has issued a call for increased exorcism training to combat the demonic forces reportedly running amok here on the Earthly plane. Are these possessions merely a psychosocial phenomenon, or are dark forces truly on the rise?

“We told her not to use those social media, Father, but she wouldn’t listen.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio , Italian priest and trained exorcist Benigno Palilla says that reports of demonic possessions have been on the rise for some years and are continuing to increase. In Italy alone, over a half a million cases of possession were reported last year. Palilia blames the phenomenon on the rising popularity of occult beliefs and practices like tarot cards, fortune telling, and and other seemingly innocuous activities which he claims “open the door to the devil and to possession.”

And naturally, the church claims it has the only cure.

Palilla claims that while many self-taught exorcists advertising their services in response to the growing possession problem, these amateurs are likely to make mistakes and suggests true exorcists must undergo an apprenticeship through the church in order to gain the skills necessary to correctly pin screaming children to beds and throw holy water at them.


To meet the growing demand for trained exorcists, the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Rome-based Catholic education facility, will hold a six-day course this April on exorcism, demons, and combating the forces of Satan. Looking for a career change? “Demon Hunter” would look pretty rad on your CV .


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