On Demonic Possession

On Demonic Possession

Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?”

And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.

Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

The exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, as it is called, tells us that possessions need not be continuous, that abnormal and even normally impossible physicality can result, that there is room for plenty of demons in any object, and that animal rights can be violated.

The last seems like a joke, but it is described in earnest in the great Wikipedia (“Spalde, Annika; Strindlund, Pelle (2012). ‘Doesn’t Jesus Treat Animals as Property?'”). Proving, of course, that man is infinitely idiotic. Note that this conclusion follows even if you don’t (yet) believe in demonic possession.

Now you might not have heard of it, but there is an official fallacy named after this true event called the Gadarene Swine Fallacy. Shortly, it is the false conclusion of saying the one man going against the mass is wrong because he isn’t following the mass. It is thus a form of the Voting Fallacy (the favorite of Democracies everywhere). The GSF is named after the last part of the incident, where the possessed pigs were caused to drown. Supposing the doomed swine in their headlong rush must be going in the right direction because there are so many is the fallacy.

We can, of course, turn it around and apply it to the masses today. The “mass” of elites, that is. They do not acknowledge (openly, at any rate) demonic possession, or even the reality of demons. The reason they do not is usually “This is the Current Year”, which is to say, The Wrong Side of History Fallacy. And this is because most do not give the matter any thought: they go along with the mass.

Possession does pique the general interest, however. The Atlantic recently released the too-many-words article “American Exorcism: Priests are fielding more requests than ever for help with demonic possession, and a centuries-old practice is finding new footing in the modern world.”

The conviction that demons exist—and that they exist to harass, derange, and smite human beings—stretches back as far as religion itself. In ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonian priests performed exorcisms by casting wax figurines of demons into a fire. The Hindu Vedas, thought to have been written between 1500 and 500 b.c., refer to supernatural beings—known as asuras, but largely understood today as demons—that challenge the gods and sabotage human affairs. For the ancient Greeks, too, demonlike creatures lurked on the shadowy fringes of the human world.

But far from being confined to a past of Demiurges and evil eyes, belief in demonic possession is widespread in the United States today. Polls conducted in recent decades by Gallup and the data firm YouGov suggest that roughly half of Americans believe demonic possession is real.

This multitude of similar stories from all human cultures and history is what is called (or used to be called) evidence; observations that were taken as sufficient proof of the reality of demons. Only now our elites take the same data and say, in effect, that because these similar stories exist, they must all be false.

There are, of course, fakes, frauds, fictions. But to say that because a fraud is discovered that therefore all claims are therefore frauds is the Fraud Fallacy. Just because a bamboozling inventor claims to have designed a heavier-than-air powered flight machine (that crashes at every attempt), does not mean no such machine can exist. And have tiny seats and pricing models which must have been written under the influence of demons.

There has been a change of mind in some elites. Possession is admitted, and even seen to be on the rise. There is a recent odd peer-reviewed paper “The Growing Evidence for ‘Demonic Possession’: What Should Psychiatry’s Response be?” (note the scare quotes) by one Stafford Betty (great name) in Journal of Religion and Health.

Betty’s metaphysics are a confused jumble of ideas typical of modern scientists. But he is willing to concede the possibility of demons and possession, and he thinks psychiatry should conduct more rigorous studies of the phenomena. A seemingly good idea. But only seemingly because, of course, if demons are real (and they are), they, being quite a bit smarter than scientists, and known recalitrants, might not cooperate.


  1. Joy

    Try being the person who doesn’t go with the crowd, as opposed to the one who is part of a smaller crowd who won’t go with the bigger one.

    If people think staying in a preparatory group gives protection, it does, but only if you comply. It also is a sign of cowardice. You are sill also at the mercy of the group ‘leader’. Don’t join an ideological crowd on an official basis. Don’t subscribe. All sorts of beasties follow from allowing entities that don’t know you, the honour, of such a thing as knowing your email addresses. (Let alone your IP.) . They are not worthy.

    However, the mistake is made in thinking that calling people demons in groups or demonic, makes it true and therefore the genocidal germ of fundamentalism is allowed another go. There are the cheer leaders, the eggers on, the reactionaries and the do’ers.

    Face it. The truth is hard, if you don’t love it. If you do, it’s still hard because there are consequences of telling the truth. i.e. people don’t like it.
    If demons exist, they are no joking matter. Mass hysteria or group think is just herding mentality. Also a bad thing.
    Just the same as twitterati, thinking life is about their worth based on social media head counts.

    They are stuck with the crowd. Still in the playground.
    The ducks behave much the same way.
    “what”? “what do we think?”
    “nothing, just run and don’t ask question…she’s got something yellow in her hand.”
    They’re probably colour blind too, officially.

  2. Ken

    What never ceases to amaze is how readily people are willing to accept something that comports with a cherished belief.

    Consider this: https://www.wmbriggs.com/post/4488/
    That’s but one of numerous examples of Briggs’ essays about the foibles of polls.

    Today, however, we see a post about a religious theme and, viola! such quality of feedback is presented evidence:

    “…multitude of similar stories from all human cultures and history is what is called (or used to be called) evidence; observations that were taken as sufficient proof of the reality of demons…”

    That same criteria sufficed for people to believe in ESP, trance channeling, spoon-bending (recall Uri Geller) … Even Peter Popoff was exposed, conclusively, as a fraud … now he’s back at a different version of his same ole tricks and people are buying (literally) and giving testimonies to his veracity.

    The kinds of references cited to support demonic possession are every bit as credible as the current crop of followers endorsing Popoff.

    “Al is a good boy.”
    – Mrs. Capone, mother of the famous gangster.

    It never ceases to amaze how easily people will believe what they want to believe–despite all evidence to the contrary.

  3. Faith

    It never ceases to amaze me, Ken, that people continue to read blogs with which they consistently disagree and then waste a portion of their allotted life-span to write down their disagreeable thoughts. You remind me of the teenage boy who pulls the hair of the girl he secretly has a crush on.

    Or maybe you are just a demon troll. Trip trap, trip trap.

  4. McChuck

    Ken – When I was a teen, I saw a cougar in my back yard in Ohio one night. Nobody believed me. There were no cougar in our State.

    Until two days later, when the newspaper reported on a cougar escaped from a private zoo.

    Until recently, everybody knew ulcers were caused by food. Until one doctor infected himself with an ulcer.

  5. Paul Blase

    I highly recommend “I Am Not Afraid” by Dr. Robert Bennett, detailing his work among the Christians in Madagascar. These people have had to deal with demonic possession for a very long time, due to the folk beliefs in their culture, and have some good ways to deal with it.
    And also

    Which is an interview with Erik Pederson about similar experiences in Australia.

  6. Joy

    Crying wolf?

    Ken is right in his summary. The story about the pigs is not a scientific proof of demons or demonic possession. It is evidence. All evidence can be weighed on its merit. So nobody is any further on. What was registered as demonic possession was things like schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, (which takes many guises), any given episode of fear or terror that might lead to bizarre behaviour, such as believing falsely that they, are possessed! I presume the latter happens often amongst ignorant populations.

    In the context that westerners understand or experience life, demonic possession is hardly common. In fact, no documentary evidence I’ve seen has yet convinced me. It’s like big foot. It is reported happening more in countries where ignorance reigns, so I expect the cases of labeled demonic possession will also be higher. The Truth does mean the light of science as well. If it’s consensus, it is just evidence, good or bad. Accepting authority, common ailments, such as conditions listed above.

    Group think is just a form of misplaced trust and cowardice that might eellike good sense.

    Consider mass panic as a prime example. People pushing each other, trampling each other underfoot, as if they were swine! In these situations, lives are lost in the madness. It isn’t madness in the strict sense. People are just confusing terms. Normally people would argue about it because figures of speech are fine. They are perfect for literalists to insert their own form of madness. i.e. gossip and misinformation.

    Consider evil cults. Those people have been broken down, or chosen specially, usually, groomed, because they are malleable for the purpose of improving the popularity and usually sexual success of the ‘leader’. Using false powers that are believed totally by the victims. It is psychological manipulation. Jesus did not teach this way. Nor did he claim mating rights!

    At the beach landings. A man carried a Bren Gun and as such was a target. His job was to take out the guns on the towers. He said once the fighting started it was like nothing he’d ever experienced. “Chaos. Just do what you can”
    “you’re like a man possessed.”
    He lost friends, watched all sorts of horror. Acquired some metalwork “the size of a corn beef tin” in his shattered scapula. He became a gardener and worked outside for the rest of his days. He won prizes for his carpet badges planted by the roadsides and in public parks.
    He was not actually possessed. Even if they believe evil entities have a force of their own as opposed to evil being a vacuum of holiness, a rational person knows the difference between metaphor and plain english.

    “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.”
    When one of his disciples cut off the ear of a guard, he healed the guard. (with a clean cut and a rapid replacement, it is likely to have healed. Although I believe in miracles, either way. That part just being an aid to sound transmission and not involved in hearing, generally looking symmetrical! John Lennox makes the point that what matters is the message.

    Stop cutting people’s ears off! Using violence or aggression to enforce truth is to disobey Christ.
    1. Jesus was not a gangster,
    2. Gangsters don’t tell the truth.
    3. Outside of Christianity, anything goes, as long as it’s legal.

    Jesus said,
    “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there.” So internet discussions are the same.
    Psychological manipulation causes no outward bruising.

  7. Shecky R

    No doubt many believe in demons, and may even see in the above post just the sort of mis-direction that demons regularly engage in.

  8. Nate

    There are a lot of charlatans out there as well, busy fooling people into going along with their ‘exorcisms’. Pentecostals in particular are quite strident on the subject, and to some, pretty much every problem that happens in your life is due to being oppressed by the devil or one of his minions. Not to discount the phenomena, but I would argue it requires extraordinary evidence. As Billy S. said in The Tempest, Hell is empty and all the devils are here. I have personal experience with these Pentecostals, who provide you with a 30 page document of prayers to pray in order to request that Jesus remove Generational Curses and Demonic Oppression due to the sins of your fathers. The sins are a list from the mundane (such as an ancestor being a Catholic) to horrific. How they square the circle of the fact that most Christians that lived xisted prior to the Reformation were the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox is beyond me… most of them didn’t seem well schooled in history.

    Point being, take these stories with a big dollop of salt. The human brain is a massively complex thing that can create Hells of its own quite often, with little or no help from the Adversary.

  9. Merde

    “But only seemingly because, of course, if demons are real (and they are), they, being quite a bit smarter than scientists, and known recalitrants, might not cooperate.” Or they may be much too willing to cooperate.

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