Possession is the state of being inhabited by a demonic spirit. Victims manifest many signs such as agitation, lethargy and paranoia. Good movies to watch on the topic are the Exorcist and The Rite (2011).
Protestant Christianity usually does not attempt to deal with cases of possession, regarding all occult activity as spiritually unwise. In some cases, Catholic clergy may feel that an exorcism is required, in which the power of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is used to rid the afflicted soul of the demonic presence.
In 1924, Dr. Carl A. Wickland wrote:
- Lacking physical bodies through which to carry out earthly propensities many discarnate intelligences are attracted to the magnetic light which emanates from mortals, and, consciously or unconsciously, attach themselves to these magnetic auras, finding an avenue of expression through influencing, obsessing or possessing human beings. Such obtruding spirits influence susceptible sensitives with their thoughts, impart their own emotions to them, weaken their will power and often control their actions, producing great distress, mental confusion and suffering.
Wickland attributed many mental problems to spirit possession, including some cases of amnesia:
- the cause of amnesia conditions found in certain patients is probably possession by confused spirit intelligences.
Schizoid personality disorder, Tourette's syndrome, epileptic seizures, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, Alzheimer's disease, the effects of traumatic brain injury, have all been tradically mistaken for possession. There are many documented cases of oppression by unclean spirits which do not in any way present episodes of inexplicable speech and bizarre behaviors. In the New Testament, both Judas Iscariot and Ananias were filled with Satan, and they acted like normal men (John 13:2, 26-30; Acts 5:1-10).
Oppressive influence and attacks
Evil spirits can attach themselves to their victims as constant companions, often without their knowledge. The victim is like a city under siege. In those episodes in which the oppressive evil spirit intensifies the attack and does seize complete control of the victim's body, the victim's human mind and will are rendered inert and inoperative, and, after the oppressive and dominating evil spirit concludes the attack, without truly releasing the victim by lifting the siege and actually departing, the victim is afterward utterly unaware of the bizarre physical and verbal (if any) behavior of those moments, and these episodes of attack can happen repeatedly and will continue, and the sense of oppression continues, until the evil spirit is forced to depart by the holy power of God the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit of the Lord poured down from heaven in compassionate answer to humble prayer invoking divine mercy on the victim.
Misguided amateur exorcists and charlatans
In genuine exorcisms it is Christ who compels the unclean spirit to depart, not the self-assumed authority of the exorcist who claims to be acting in his name, saying, "I bind thee" and "I take authority over thee" and "I cast thee out", a potentially disastrous situation in which claiming spiritual dominance by telling demons where to go degenerates into a personal power play and turns what is supposed to be a sacred ministry into an egotist's playground. (Compare Acts 19:11-16.)
Aggressive, violent and extreme physical force intentionally inflicted on the body of the victim, including cruel forms of restraining the subject by methods that identically resemble the sado-masochistic perversion called "bondage", is never necessary to drive it out, never used by authentically trained exorcists, and such methods cannot drive it out, since a spirit is not a material being that can be affected or injured by physical assault. Such extreme physical measures only result in serious harm to the victim, with degrading, humiliating, painful injury, causing severe mental, emotional trauma and shock, even death—such viciously cruel and lethal "exorcisms" done by individuals claiming for themselves authority to act "in the name of the Lord" are outstanding examples of Satanic blasphemy, and may actually be signs that the "exorcist" is the one possessed by an unclean spirit (if he or she is not instead actually mentally ill)—not the innocent victim of the "exorcism". (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
According to the Bible, unclean spirits were driven out with a word, and by prayer and fasting, joined to confident faith in the power and goodness of God, and by gently with reverence laying holy hands on the victim. (See Matthew 8:16; 17:19-21; Mark 16:17; Luke 4:36; Acts 5:12; 9:17; 14:3; 16:18; 19:11-12; 28:8; 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Peter 2:9. Compare Mark 11:22-25; 1 John 5:14-18; especially John 14:23; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 5:6-11.)
In those actual cases of undramatic and hidden possession which appear limited solely to the torment of unrelenting oppression and depression without actually being proven to be demonstrable clinical forms of illness and without apparent clinical episodes of any central nervous system disorder, experiences of peaceful relief are either inexplicably short-lived or totally non-existent, and finally cannot be cured without a genuine complete exorcism of the oppressing evil spirit.
Unfortunately there are independent predatory "quack" practitioners claiming to be expert in "methods of spiritual warfare" who notoriously take advantage of the condition of mentally and emotionally afflicted individuals who are not in fact truly possessed, and mislead them in order to perform dramatic imitations of exorcisms and physical healings of diseases and afflictions which they attribute to evil spirits as the cause, to gain followers and fame and wealth (see especially Romans 2:24 and 1 Timothy 6:9)—who publish books and conduct seminars promoting dangerously presumptive attitudes of spiritual invincibility which appeal to pride and prompt their disciples with ill-advised counsel to unwittingly place themselves in situations where they are actually woefully unprepared and at terrible risk of being themselves unexpectedly dominated by genuine evil spirits who do not recognize them as having any kind of spiritual authority to act in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 19:13-16)—clever charlatans who take every opportunity to promote themselves as prophets with a revolutionary new mission from God to denounce authentic medicine and religion along with their harsh blanket denunciations of whole churches and denominations and legitimate church leaders, attacking those who have shown good faith in genuinely promoting the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and who have honestly manifested over and over again obviously evident signs of their own authentically anointed ministry as being overall and generally on the whole truly led and taught by the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit of God.
Compare Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50; and also Matthew 12:30.
See Mark 16:17-18; John 14:12; Acts 4:29-30; 1 Corinthians 12–14; Ephesians 2:1-10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
- Possible Signs of Demonic Possession (theparanormalsociety.org)
- The six signs of demonic possession? by Gene Veith (patheos.com)
- Interview with an Exorcist, Learn how to protect yourself against demonic attack, by Wesley Barnes, Beliefnet (beliefnet.com), page 1
- Interview with an Exorcist, by Wesley Barnes, Beliefnet (beliefnet.com), page 2
- Interview with an Exorcist, by Wesley Barnes, Beliefnet (beliefnet.com), page 3
- Interview with an Exorcist, by Wesley Barnes, Beliefnet (beliefnet.com), page 4
- Redeeming God - What Are the Signs of Demonic Possession by Jeremy Myers (redeeminggod.com)
- The 4 Tell-Tale Signs of Demonic Possession, According to Chicago's Expert Exorcist (churchpop.com)
- 'Spiritual abuse': Christian thinktank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms. Report by Theos warns that "astonishing" increase in exorcisms is doing harm to people with mental health problems (theguardian.com)
- WebMD - Tourette's Syndrome (webmd.com)
- Demonic Possession - Tourette Syndrome (weebly.com) This site includes the following menu of topics relating to discernment of disorders often mistaken for demonic possession:
- –Religious Background (of multiple religions' approach to possession)
–Psychological Perspective (discerning psychological disturbances from actual demonic possession)
–Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Meeting the Exorcist. Exposing Bob Larson: "That demon in the room just might be you, Reverend" (exposingboblarson.wordpress.com)
- Warning: Exorcism Dangers, Grantley Morris (net-burst.net)
- Unsolved Mysteries: Exorcisms that have Ended in Death (unsolvedmysteries.com)
- ListVerse - 10 Deadly Exorcisms, Robert Grimminck (listverse.com) tragic instances in which the amateur "exorcists" themselves seem to have been demon-possessed dupes of the Devil—and those they falsely accused of being possessed were in reality known to be harmless innocents who were never possessed, whom they unjustly targeted, victimized, restrained, tortured, maimed, and killed in fiendishly inhuman rituals of barbaric and sadistic cruelty utterly devoid of human compassion or godly mercy, with a degree of viciousness far beyond human comprehension.
- When Spiritual Warfare is Dangerous - Dr. Carol Ministries (drcarolministries.com) The author says, "The term “spiritual warfare” doesn’t appear in Scripture, and therefore we must be cautious in how we think and talk about it."
Compare 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 6:7; 1 Timothy 6:12; Romans 13:12-13; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Peter 1:3-11; 3:14-18 Hebrews 13:17.