Exorcisms and Demonic Possesssion

We have all heard stories, seen the movies, maybe even think we know people who are possessed and in need of an exorcism.   But what exactly is possession, and how do we go about having an exorcism done to get rid of it?


Possession is a difficult concept because it can be applied at different levels, and exorcism is more or less a term for calling up and banishing something that is unwanted.  When you are speaking in terms of church theory, it means something specific that is bound within the rules of the church.


The idea of possession can apply to any addictive or obsessive behavior that overtakes a person’s life.  A possessed person begins to act in a particular way, and goes to extremes to maintain this state of being. 


Some typical signs of possession are: Loss or lack of appetite,  Change in voice, or in the person's face and body, losing control of their normal personality, entering into a frenzy or rage,  Cutting, scratching, and biting and/or attacking others.  Increased physical strength or resistance to dangerous situations speaking in languages or having knowledge of things not originally known to the person.


When applied to religious principles, a possession means that a person takes on the characteristics of a particular entity within the beliefs of the religion.  Sometimes this entity is a known demon or demonic aspect.  But possessions are not always considered bad or evil.  In some religions, temporary possession by a deity is considered to be a blessing and something that is desired during services.  In other cases, temporary possession is used as an oracular method to gain knowledge and advice from a higher being.


But is possession a supernatural occurrence, or just an extreme change in mental state caused by distress, traumatic experiences, or psychological breakdown?  This is generally where the medical and psychological professions disagree with the religious institutions.  We have all heard the stories of conditions such as these being studied for years by doctors and psychiatrists, only to be cured through an exorcism by the local clergy.


Which brings us to the other part of this subject.  Exorcism. 


We all hear stories about demonic possessions being cured by an exorcism performed by a representative of the church.  In practice, however, it is extremely difficult to get the assistance of the church in these matters.  The reason for this is that the church considered a real possession to be extremely rare, and has strict guidelines regarding what is considered to be a true possession case.  Before the church will even consider the case, psychological evaluation needs to be done, as well as other forms of medical and spiritual treatment without any signs of improvement.  Even then, the church needs to recognize some demonic signs or set of stigmata in order to even consider investigating the case.


Now there are people who claim to be able to do exorcisms.  In keeping with the teachings of the church, however, a true or solemn exorcism can only be performed by an ordained priest, with training and authorization by the local Bishop.  Anyone else who claims to be able to do exorcisms is relying on their own faith and personal skills to try and reproduce an actual exorcism.


There is a known version of an exorcism known as a Lay Exorcism and containing a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel .that was issued by Pope Leo in 1890 that regular priests and lay persons could use prayer to protect against the activities of demons and the devil. If anything, a person claiming to do exorcisms should be using this, though it is not considered by the church to be as effective as a solemn Exorcism.


However, other religions and spiritual practices will have their own ideas about possession and exorcism that may be, from their point of view, equally valid to the Catholic Churches beliefs.


As a general rule we should probably take the advice of the church and realize that a true possession is very rare.   The idea of a demonic possession has gained popularity, with ghost hunters, paranormal investigators and other experts in demonology claiming that they have experienced cases of true possession.   You have to wonder what stringent methods they used to confirm that the possession was real, and what other steps were taken to resolve the problem before resorting to these extreme claims.


So this time we ask two questions

Are Demonic Possessions just a Myth, or are they reality?

And do exorcisms really work?   You Decide.