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Modern Possessoin and Exorcism


Deadworm
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Burl requested that I deal with this topic.  So I decided to start a separate thread for that purpose.

When Christians discuss modern possession and exorcisms, they do well to heed C. S. Lewis' s famous caution;  “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”  The first issue that needs mentioning is the Gospel distinction between demon possession and mental illness: "People brought to Him all who were ill of various diseases, , those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed and the mentally ill [Greek: "seleniazomai" ] and the paralytics, and He healed them (Matthew 4:25)."  This Greek verb is often mistranslated "epileptics" because of its use in Matthew 17:14 where a distraught father uses the term to describe his sick son's symptoms which are reminiscent of epilepsy.  But there are 4 objections to this interpretation:

(1) Mark is the source used by Matthew here and Mark does not use this verb; instead, he uses the phrase "dumb spirit" to label this son's condition (Mark 9:17).                                                     (2) So it is Matthew's interpretation of Mark that labels the son "mentally ill."   Demon-possessed victims can also be mentally ill, but not all mentally ill people are demon-possessed.  That point is established by Matthew 4:24.   Those mentally ill and those possessed can display overlapping symptoms.                                                                                                                                     (3) The Greek verb "seleniazomai" derives from the noun "selene" which means "moon," and so, the verb literally means "moonstruck."  The Latin equivalent of "selene" is "luna," from which we derive the word "lunatic."  So the Greek verb cited in Matthew 4:24 means "moonstruck" or "insane" or "mentally ill."                                                                                                                   (4) Sirach 38 (c. 200 BC) in  the Catholic OT may be instructive here.  It encourages Jews to combine prayer for healing with medical consultation and the use of herbal medications and then insists that consultation with a doctor is essential, even after prayer for healing has been offered up.  By implication, the doctor's craft might be the instrument by which God answers the prayer.

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I posted in previous thread about my wife's experience with a possessed child.  LSS, early primary school age girl admitted for epilepsy observation.  She started at night cursing in an extremely low male voice and speaking in latin.  My wife and her nursing colleague prayed over her and the child eventually fell asleep.

Clearly possession and not mental illness or epilepsy.  I can entertain the idea of possession, but what gives me pause is how often you hear about this speaking in latin symptom.  Why?  Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or even Sumerian would make more sense.  Possession is not a Western only phenomenon, but Latin is.  

This peculiar use points a finger of suspicion at Roman civilization as the SOURCE of these possession events.  I can not think of a reason why Latin would be used unless the phenomenon was rooted in the Roman empire.

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Burl, in the Catholic exorcist discernment process, they have been taught to look for xenoglossy (not just Latin) as a sign of possession.  Modern speaking in tongues is an awesome gift as an expression of worship and surrender to God.  But sometimes seekers merely want a spiritual high akin to a drug high.  In such cases, the act of surrender needed to speak in tongues can function like a Ouija board and attract demonic entities.  Fundamentalist opponents of speaking in tongues use such cases as a strawman to attack the whole modern phenomenon.  One of the most important spiritual lessons I have learned is this: every powerful life-changing experience of divine power has its counterfeit inspired by dark forces. 

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You missed my point.  Latin is a common component of many possession type experiences.  Why latin?

Logically it points to something in Roman culture being the source of the "demon".  

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Well, nothing in Roman religion itself would account for Latin xenoglossy.  But consider these 2 facts:

(1) In the classic possession case that inspired that movie "The Exorcist,"  a pivotal moment came when Father Bowdern got the child victim to agree to taking Holy Communion.  The demon haughtily challenged the efficacy of this sacramental act by snarling: "There's a word he might say that might force me out, but I will never let him say it!"  That word proved to be "Dominus." the Latin word for "Lord" (Christ as "Lord").  When the boy, after great struggle, was able to say that word, a possession lasting months quickly ending in exorcism in an explosion of blue light that was seen by a group across the street in St. Louis.

(2) There is a widespread false belief that exorcisms were commonplace in Jesus' time.  In fact, there is not a single example of an exorcism of an evil spirit in the Roman world prior to Jesus.  But after Jesus, exorcisms became commonplace in the Roman world.  That might help explain Jesus' claim that His exorcisms ushered in the kingdom of God.

My cousin E's Dad told me the story of E's exorcism as a 3-year-old.  E is now a psychiatrist and he confirmed my uncle's account for me.  I'll recount the details of that case in my next planned post.

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So you can entertain the idea that Jesus was somehow responsible for enabling the form of possession we see today?  Interesting, and worth moving off topic a bit.

We know Pentecost marked the renewed ability of the Holy Spirit to indwell within a person, but could this have been not simply a discrete event but rather the culmination of a process which began perhaps at the baptism of Jesus?  If we consider the baptism of Jesus as the establishment of prevenient grace perhaps this opening of self to the divine also provided new opportunities for evil?

Quote

Genesis 3:22-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Perhaps this protection of mankind from everlasting life without salvation was being removed to enable Jesus' salvific activities, but this removal of divine protection also created opportunity for possession as we know it?  Perhaps as Jesus moves in as God's two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) he enabled salvation with one edge and possession with the other? 

 

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When the 70 return from their preparatory missions in Palestinian towns and villages, they report their succession mission, including their ability to perform exorcisms.  Jesus accounts for their success by saying, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:17-18)."  Jesus' incarnation was apparently timed to coincide with a dramatic change in spiritual dimensions.

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Yes, and there is evidence that the entire cultural conception of what demons are and how they act seems to have changed.  The Testament of Solomon is a rather silly book, but one does get a flavor of what early Christians believed about how demons were named and how the demons behaved.  They had ancient, bizarre names and did not possess individuals in our sense of replacing the personality but were more like bad thoughts, habits or influences.

Probably the most well known exorcism is that of the Gadarene demoniac.  Legion seems a peculiar name for a demon, and the first thing I think of is Roman Legion.  Certainly a Latin connection there, and I remember from somewhere the most popular religion for Roman soldiers was Mithraism.  I can't connect the dots, but the idea of a pagan religion generating a different kind of demon/possession is not incongruent with your thoughts on oppositional forces and on oujia boards.

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2 hours ago, Burl said:

Yes, and there is evidence that the entire cultural conception of what demons are and how they act seems to have changed.  The Testament of Solomon is a rather silly book, but one does get a flavor of what early Christians believed about how demons were named and how the demons behaved.  They had ancient, bizarre names and did not possess individuals in our sense of replacing the personality but were more like bad thoughts, habits or influences.

Probably the most well known exorcism is that of the Gadarene demoniac.  Legion seems a peculiar name for a demon, and the first thing I think of is Roman Legion.  Certainly a Latin connection there, and I remember from somewhere the most popular religion for Roman soldiers was Mithraism.  I can't connect the dots, but the idea of a pagan religion generating a different kind of demon/possession is not incongruent with your thoughts on oppositional forces and on oujia boards.

For me, the most interesting autobiography ever is Carl Jung's "Memories, Draams, Reflections," which is a history of his soul rather than a history of his life events.  A primer on basic Jungian psychoanalytic concepts is helpful because Jung shares childhood experiences that catalyzed those concepts.  At one point, he explores channeling, something he would later regret.  Soon paranormal experiences began to plague his house.  For example, he would find his dishes and silverware totally rearranged in his kitchen by an unseen hand.  Once, there was a loud knock at his door.  When Jung opened it, no one was there, but he heard a disembodied voice say, "We are Legion and we are from Jerusalem!:  

Around that time, one of the most famous atheists ever, Sigmund Freud, paid him a visit.  During their conversation, there was a loud boom coming from a nearby bureau.   Such explosions had been happening at times during Jung's  occult exploration phase.   Freud tried to explain the noise as natural house rumblings.  Jung responded, "Well, wait! It will happen again!"  Another loud boom immediately followed and a visibly shaken Freud left.  Later, he wrote Jung to try to explain away the 2 booms as natural house noises.  Jung presents a copy of Freud's letter in his autobiography.

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4 hours ago, Deadworm said:

Around that time, one of the most famous atheists ever, Sigmund Freud, paid him a visit.  During their conversation, there was a loud boom coming from a nearby bureau.   Such explosions had been happening at times during Jung's  occult exploration phase.   Freud tried to explain the noise as natural house rumblings.  Jung responded, "Well, wait! It will happen again!"  Another loud boom immediately followed and a visibly shaken Freud left.  Later, he wrote Jung to try to explain away the 2 booms as natural house noises.  Jung presents a copy of Freud's letter in his autobiography.

Just to correct you on a couple of things Deadworm - the visit was of Jung visiting Freud, not the other way around.  So it was in Freud's house the noises were heard, not Jung's.  There is no report of Freud leaving visibly shaken and indeed, he probably didn't leave at all because it was his house and Jung was the visitor.  Freud did send a letter to Jung which is detailed as follows:

"I do not deny that your comments and your experiment made a powerful impression upon me. After your departure I determined to make some observations, and here are the results. In my front room there are continual creaking noises, from where the two heavy Egyptian steles rest on the oak boards of the bookcase, so that's obvious. In the second room, where we heard the crash, such noises are very rare. At first I was inclined to ascribe some meaning to it if the noise we heard so frequently when you were here were never again heard after your departure. But since then it has happened over and over again, yet never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem. (Not now, either, I add by way of challenge). The phenomenon was soon deprived of all significance for me by something else. My credulity, or at least my readiness to believe, vanished along with the spell of your personal presence ... ... The furniture stands before me spiritless and dead, like nature silent and godless before the poet after the passing of the gods of Greece."

I think it was Carl Sagan who said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof".  It seems that as far as Freud was concerned there was no indication of even ordinary proof in this event.

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I'm actually grateful for the correction. I normally look up such references before posting, but this time I trusted my memory of reading "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" back in the 1980s.  But my mistake does not affect my main point.  Jung predicts a repeat of the immediate loud boom from the bookcase.  

I want to respond to Burl's case of childhood possession.  About 15 years ago, I attended my Aunt Ruth's funeral.  My Uncle George was a retired Pentecostal pastor.  He shared this exorcism story with me in the presence of my cousin E. who is a psychiatrist.  When E. was just 3, George was summoned to perform an exorcism on a possessed lady.  My Aunt Ruth waited with E in the car outside the house during the exorcism.  When the demon was finally expelled, E's eyes rolled up in their sockets, so that only the whites were visible and E began screaming hysterically.  Apparently the demon had left the woman inside and was infesting little E, who had no concept of what was transpiring inside the house.  His parents prayed frantically during the drive home and the demon apparently left.  E said that all he recalls of this episode is having a vision of being safely cradled in the arms of Jesus.  It is striking to me that a psychiatrist like E considers this an authentic case of a demon seeking to control his young mind.

 

 

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