Demonic Possession

Medieval engraving of holy men casting out demons.

THEOLOGIANS BELIEVE THE idea of possession began with the Zoroastrian religion in Persia, but the continual references to the phenomenon in the teachings of Christ sealed the concept as a major spiritual occurrence. A survey conducted in 2002 revealed that 54 per cent of Americans believe in the genuine power of unwelcome spiritual forces to control a person. Many people believe the religious aspect of possession refers just to our natural instinct, desires and temptations. Surely other-worldly forces cannot really inhabit the human mind? Something bizarre does seem happen to people who become fixated with the occult. Possession is believed to happen over a gradual period, and begins with spiritually sensitive people dabbling with strange forces. It can be inflicted by a bad Ouija board experience, an uncontrolled séance, or by an encounter with a particularly potent ghost or poltergeist. As time passes, so the possessed person gradually loses control over their actions. To begin with, their ‘mind-invader’ can be pleasant and helpful, but as soon as the host body tells it to leave, it can become hateful and spiteful. The original partial possession becomes more total. It results in the possessed person being isolated and aggressive. Their behaviour increases in its unpredictability, and they suffer from terrible nightmares, sleeplessness and headaches. Finally, the fear that the spirit’s power is uncontrollable can drive the possessed person to attempt suicide, or to be locked in a mental hospital. If caught in time, the possessed person can be exorcised by a priest, but the exertions needed for this have also been known to kill the victim.

In 2002, an American woman called Andrea Yates claimed demonic possession had caused her to kill her five children. Yates drowned the infants aged between six months and seven years in June 2001 and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Many experts believe possession is nothing more mysterious than being an outlet for severe mental difficulties. Just as Biblical possession may represent impure desires, so real-life possession may represents psychosis. In whichever case, possession is a dangerous state of mind that needs immediate professional help to restore the mental balance of its unfortunate victim.

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