Exorcism. The term sounds so medieval. In the past mental illness was taken for demonic possession. Medicine was so backwards and bizarre only a few centuries ago. Yet the fearsome specter of the devil still lingers in the dark corners of our modern consciousness. We may disbelieve…but not completely.
There was an article at chicagocatholicnews.com about the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Chicago exorcist draws big crowd at speech, says the “evil one” is very real
Near the end of the article it states:
“But in the end, even though demonic possession is rare, Grob said it does exist, as he performs exorcisms two or three times a year. Though no heads spin, he has witnessed objects levitate in the presence of the “darkness.” The devil — “the evil one” — is very real, he said.”
The idea of devils and demons is controversial. Rationalists obviously say demonic possession is a reflection of an overactive imagination. Many pagans dismiss the idea of the devil as a Christian fable. Pagans are justifiably tired of being accused of devil worship when their beliefs don’t even recognize a Christian devil.
The demon, real or imagined, is a part of many spiritual beliefs, not only of Christianity. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians had their demons. So do Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Exorcists are not only catholic priests, but include shamans and fundamentalist Christians.
“Demons” could be more broadly defined as evil spirits or negative entities. Are they products of the human psyche, or could they be objective, sentient beings?
Banishing evil influence, dark spirits, bad luck and negativity is a widespread spiritual activity. The Catholic priest waves a censor of incense, pagans use smudging; the idea is the same. Cleansing. It makes us feel better, safer. Consider banishing as exorcism lite.
If possession is rare, there is something else more common. It is called spiritual obsession, a term not widely recognized. With spiritual obsession a spirit doesn’t possess your body but influences your thoughts in a destructive way. Think of it as spontaneous, irrational, self-destructive impulses that appear from nowhere. Where did that thought come from? Why? It made no sense. If we reject these thoughts, they go away. But if we dwell on them…the negativity will linger, fester and become ingrained as our own.
Occult traditions have some ideas about the topic. Tradition suggests a maleficent spirit (or thought) can try an invasion. Normally we put it out of our mind, and it is gone. However, if we are passive in the face of a negative influence, eventually our connection with our own Higher Self may be severed. Our higher self is that part of our being that coexists with the realm of eternal Spirit. We are normally unaware of our higher self, but it steadily guides us invisibly. Call it our intuition.
A negative entity (or thought) might try to replace our higher self (or intuition) with itself, like a parasite. If we allow it, the entity/thought will become our new, lower self. Then we’d be stuck, unable to access our higher self’s assistance. Once our own spiritual abilities are extinguished we require help from others. An exorcist…or rehab!
Obsession may be quite common. We don’t need to be devil worshippers, wearing robes and sacrificing animals. People metaphorically sell their souls to the devil everyday. This is a process where people gradually abandon their humanity for some goal they think is more important.
For instance, some are willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, even if that includes harming others. Think of a gangbanger involved in a drive-by shooting, or a big businessman who feels no guilt about downsizing, firing employees and harming families. After awhile it gets easier and easier until neither cares anymore. Hey, it’s only business! Every day people sell their souls, if they realize it or not.
Losing our humanity is a process that takes time and neglect. Eventually no exorcism can cure this. It is called perfect possession. The world is filled with such monsters.