Demonic possession

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Demonic possession is held by many belief systems to be the spirit possession of an individual by a malevolent preternatural being, commonly known as a demon. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions (i.e. epileptic seizures or “fits”) and fainting as if one were dying.[1] Other descriptions include access to hidden knowledge (gnosis) and foreign languages (xenoglossy), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength. Unlike in channeling, 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.

Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim.[2] The priests who practised exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves.[3] Many cuneiform clay tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.

Shamanic cultures also believe in demon possession and shamans perform exorcisms. In these cultures, diseases are often attributed to the presence of a vengeful spirit (or loosely termed demon) in the body of the patient. These spirits are more often the spectres of animals or people wronged by the bearer, the exorcism rites usually consisting of respectful offerings or sacrificial offerings.

Christianity holds that possession derives from the Devil, i.e. Satan, or one of his lesser demons. In many Christian belief systems, Satan and his demons are actually fallen angels.[4]

Bible accounts[edit]

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:[5]

"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." However, the Old Testament does contain numerous references to evil spirits, often interacting in malevolent ways with people.[6]

The New Testament mentions several episodes in which Jesus drove out demons from persons:

Acts of the Apostles also contains a number of references to people coming under the influence of the Holy Spirit (1:8, 2:4, 2:17-18, 2:38, 4:8, 4:31, 6:3-5, 7:55, 8:15-19, 8:39, 9:17, 10:19, 11:12-16, 11:28, 13:9, 16:6-7, 19:2-6, 20:23, 21:11, 23:8-9) which is believed to be a good thing (see Baptism with the Holy Spirit) in contrast to demonic influence.

The 1902 work Demonic possession in the New Testament by Rev. William Menzies Alexander attempted to explain accounts of possession in the Synoptic Gospels, outlining their historical, medical and theological aspects.[7]

Christianity[edit]

Catholic exorcists differentiate between "ordinary" Satanic/demonic activity or influence (mundane everyday temptations) and "extraordinary" Satanic/demonic activity, which can take six different forms, ranging from complete control by Satan or some demon(s) to voluntary submission:[8]

  1. Possession, in which Satan or some demon(s) takes full possession of a person's body without their knowledge or consent, so the victim is therefore morally blameless.
  2. Obsession, which includes sudden attacks of irrationally obsessive thoughts, usually culminating in suicidal ideation, and typically influences dreams.
  3. Oppression, in which there is no loss of consciousness or involuntary action, such as in the biblical Book of Job in which Job was tormented by a series of misfortunes in business, family, and health.
  4. External physical pain caused by Satan or some demon(s).
  5. Infestation, which affects houses, things, or animals; and
  6. Subjugation, in which a person voluntarily submits to Satan or some demon(s).

In Hostage to the Devil, Malachi Martin also mentions a type of demonic attack called "familiarization". He writes:

True demonic or satanic possession has been characterized since the Middle Ages, in the Roman Ritual, by the following four typical characteristics:[10][11][12]

  1. Manifestation of superhuman strength.
  2. Speaking in tongues or languages that the victim cannot know.
  3. Revelation of knowledge, distant or hidden, that the victim cannot know.
  4. Blasphemous rage and an aversion to holy symbols or relics.

The Bible indicates that people can be possessed by demons but that the demons respond to Jesus's authority:

It also indicates that demons can possess animals as in the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac:

The literal view of demonization is held by a number of Christian denominations. Official Catholic doctrine affirms that demonic possession can occur as distinguished from mental illness, but stresses that cases of mental illness should not be misdiagnosed as demonic influence. Catholic exorcisms can occur only under the authority of a bishop and in accordance with strict rules; a simple exorcism also occurs during Baptism (CCC 1673). In charismatic Christianity, deliverance ministries are activities carried out by individuals or groups aimed at solving problems related to demons and spirits, especially possession of the body and soul, but not the spirit as ministries like Ellel Ministries International, Don Dickerman Ministries and Neil T. Anderson explicitly teach that a Christian can not have demons in their spirit because the Holy Spirit lives there, though they can have demons in their body or soul due to inner emotional wounds, sexual abuse, satanic ritual abuse.[15] This is usually known as partial possession or demonic infestation, as opposed to outside demonic oppression which does not reside in any of the 3 parts of a person: body, soul, spirit.

A great deal of controversy surrounds the book War on the Saints by Jessie Penn-Lewis published in 1912 as a resource to the Christian faced with combating demon influences.

In the New Testament Jesus is reported to have encountered people who were demonized and to have driven the "evil spirits" out of these demoniacs. In the 4th century, Saint Hilary of Poitiers asserted that demons entered the bodies of humans to use them as if they were theirs, and also proposed that the same could happen with animals.

The New Testament's description of people who had evil spirits includes a capacity for hidden knowledge (e.g., future events, innermost thoughts of the people around them) (Acts 16:16) and great strength (Act 19:16), among others, and shows those with evil spirits can speak of Christ (Acts 19:16, Mark 3:11). According to Catholic theologians[citation needed], demonic assault can be involuntary[8] and allowed by God to test a person (for more details about God's tests on persons see Job). Involuntary demonic assault, according to these theologians, cannot be denied because this would imply the negation of the cases mentioned in the New Testament (12, some of them repeated in more than one Gospel). However, in the overwhelming majority of cases of alleged demonic possession in modern times, the victim can suffer due to any of a number of personal initiatives: occult practices, mortal sin, loss of faith, or psychological trauma, among others. Furthermore, Malachi Martin goes as far as to say "...no person can be Possessed without some degree of cooperation on his or her part," and "The effective cause of Possession is the voluntary collaboration of an individual, through his faculties of mind and will, with one or more of those bodiless, genderless creatures called demons."[16]

In previous centuries, the Christian church offered suggestions on safeguarding one’s home. Suggestions ranged from dousing a household with Holy water, placing wax and herbs on thresholds to “ward off witches occult,” and avoiding certain areas of townships known to be frequented by witches and Devil worshippers after dark.[17][18]

T. B. Joshua, a Nigerian pastor, has one of the most prominent 'deliverance' ministries, releasing hundreds of videos on YouTube and his Christian television station, Emmanuel TV, purporting to show individuals being 'delivered' from apparent 'demonic possession'.

Buddhism[edit]

In Buddhism, a demon can either be a soul suffering in the hell realm,[19] or alternatively, it could be a delusion.[20]

Practitioner will go to the local Buddhist healer for treatment. The healer will commonly take their pulse and urine while offering counsel - the aim being to divine the origins of the patient's suffering. In the case possession they may use medications, like sleeping pills, to take care of the symptoms. They will also prescribe actions to appease the demon, like giving away food and clothing in its name.[21] Afterward, it is believed that the demon will depart to a different realm.[22]

Medicine and psychology[edit]

Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis recognized by either the DSM-V or the ICD-10. Those who profess a belief in demonic possession have sometimes ascribed to possession the symptoms associated with physical or mental illnesses, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia, conversion disorder or dissociative identity disorder.[23][24][25][26][27][28]

Additionally, there is a form of monomania called demonomania or demonopathy in which the patient believes that he or she is possessed by one or more demons.[29]

Notable cases[edit]

In chronological order:

In fiction[edit]

The 1973 film, The Exorcist, is based on the book of the same name and portrays a fictional case of demonic possession loosely inspired by the case of "Robbie Mannheim".

Demonic possession is an important element in the Evil Dead film series, the first of which was released in 1981. In the films, possessed people take on a zombie-like appearance.

The 1995 US soap opera, Days of Our Lives, featured the character Dr. Marlena Evans, played by Deidre Hall, in a demonic possession storyline.

Demonic possession is a common theme in the American TV series Supernatural, which was first broadcast in 2005.

In the 2006 film 5ive Girls, several characters are possessed by the demonic spirit named Legion.

In the 2007 Spanish horror film series REC, people (and animals) become infected with a contagious demonic virus. The outbreak started with the possession of a Portuguese young girl, Tristana Medeiros.

Several characters are possessed by a demonic spirit named Toby in the Paranormal Activity series. Katie is possessed and kills her boyfriend Micah in Paranormal Activity. Kristi (Katie's sister) is briefly possessed and is successfully exorcised by her husband Daniel, but both are killed by a possessed Katie who then kidnaps their son Hunter in Paranormal Activity 2. Toby takes over Katie (as a child) at the end of Paranormal Activity 3. Katie reappears and the demon still is in her in Paranormal Activity 4.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ferber, Sarah (2004). "Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France". London: Routledge. pp. 25, 116. ISBN 0415212642. 
  2. ^ Sumerian "gidim"
  3. ^ Indiana Univ: MEDICINE IN ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA
  4. ^ "An Exorcist Tells his Story" by Fr. Gabriele Amorth translated by Nicoletta V. MacKenzie, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Demoniacal Possession". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  6. ^ Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, "Old Testament demonology." Ministry: International Journal for Pastors 1998 (7:6), pp. 5-7. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1998/06/old-testament-demonology
  7. ^ Alexander, William Menzies (2003). Demonic Possession in the New Testament. Kessinger Publishing. 
  8. ^ a b p. 33, An Exorcist Tells his Story, by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, translated by Nicoletta V. MacKenzie; Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
  9. ^ Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil, Harper, San Francisco, 1992, p. 260.
  10. ^ p.25, The Vatican's Exorcists by Tracy Wilkinson; Warner Books, New York, 2007
  11. ^ The rite: the making of a modern exorcist by Matt Baglio; Doubleday, New York, 2009.
  12. ^ The Roman Ritual Translated by Philip T. Weller, S.T.D.; Copyright 1964
  13. ^ "Luke 4:33-37 (New International Version)". By Biblestudytools.com. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Luke 8 - The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man". By www.tobechristian.org. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  15. ^ http://www.dondickerman.net/id70.html
  16. ^ Martin, Malachi, Hostage to the Devil (San Francisco, Harper, 1992, preface p.xx.)
  17. ^ Broedel, Hans Peter (2003). The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft. Great Britain: Manchester University Press. pp. 32–33. 
  18. ^ Barajo, Caro (1964). "World of the Witches". Great Britain: University of Chicago Press. p. 73. 
  19. ^ Hinich Sutherland, Gail. "Demons and the Demonic in Buddhism". Oxford Biliographies. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0171. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Tibetan Buddhist Psychology and Psychotherapy". Tibetan Medicine Education center. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  21. ^ Plakun (2008). "Psychiatry in Tibetan Buddhism: Madness and Its Cure Seen Through the Lens of Religious and National History". Journal Of The American Academy Of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry 36 (3): 415-430. ISSN 1546-0371. 
  22. ^ Hinich Sutherland, Gail. "Demons and the Demonic in Buddhism". Oxford Biliographies. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0171. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  23. ^ Henderson, J. (1981). Exorcism and Possession in Psychotherapy Practice. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 27: 129-134.
  24. ^ Maniam, T. (1987). Exorcism and Psychiatric Illness: Two Case Reports. Medical Journal of Malaysia. 42: 317-319.
  25. ^ Pfeifer, S. (1994). Belief in demons and exorcism in psychiatric patients in Switzerland. British Journal of Medical Psychology 4 247-258.
  26. ^ Beyerstein, Barry L. (1995). Dissociative States: Possession and Exorcism. In Gordon Stein (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 544-552. ISBN 1-57392-021-5
  27. ^ Tajima-Pozo, K., Zambrano-Enriquez, D., de Anta, L., Moron, M., Carrasco, J., Lopez-Ibor, J., & Diaz-Marsa, M. (2011). "Practicing exorcism in schizophrenia". Case Reports.
  28. ^ Ross, C. A., Schroeder, B. A. & Ness, L. (2013). Dissociation and symptoms of culture-bound syndromes in North America: A preliminary study. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 14: 224-235.
  29. ^ Noll, Richard. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders. Facts On File Inc. p. 129. ISBN 0-8160-6405-9
  30. ^ Demonic possession of Elizabeth Knapp: Cotton Mather's widely cited report on the demonic possession of Elizabeth Knapp of Massachusetts (1701)

Further reading[edit]

  • Forcén, Carlos Espí; Forcén, Fernando Espí. (2014). Demonic Possessions and Mental Illness: Discussion of Selected Cases in Late Medieval Hagiographical Literature. Early Science and Medicine 19: 258-79.
  • McNamara, Patrick, (2011). Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology. 2 volumes, Praeger. Santa Barbara, California.
  • Westerink, Herman. (2014). Demonic Possession and the Historical Construction of Melancholy and Hysteria. History of Psychiatry 25: 335-349.

External links[edit]