Search Results for Possession
According to this view, possession may be temporary or permanent.
Exorcism prayers and rituals of various complexity were developed over the centuries by the Catholic Church to repulse what are regarded as spiritual attacks from Satan. One example of an exorcism prayer is Prayer Against Satan and the Rebellious Angels, published by order of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII.
The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung used the term ‘possession’ to describe the unhealthy influence of an archetype on the ego. Jung’s discussion of the archetypes includes the idea that many are equivalent to the pagan gods which are lesser than God.
The claims of contemporary psychiatry complicate the idea of possession. Materialist psychiatrists no doubt would look to delusional systems possibly rooted in faulty brain functioning as an explanation for the belief in possession.
It’s also possible that faulty brain functioning and spiritual attack go hand in hand. Just as a hacker finds weak spots within a computer’s operating system, the devil, one could argue, exploits physiological vulnerabilities within human beings.
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Alien Possession Theory (APT)
A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit (Luke 6:43)
APT considers the possibility, commonly found within science fiction, that hostile extraterrestrials (ETs) from another world or realm may have a negative effect on psychologically vulnerable human individuals through the use of psi.
This alien invasion motif does not involve visible aggression as portrayed in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids or Star Trek‘s Borg collective.
Instead, APT entertains the notion of a purely transpersonal colonization of the mind by malevolent ETs or evil spiritual beings (traditionally regarded as demons), which together are called negative spiritual influences (NSI).
According to APT, NSIs might convince individuals that they are better, special or chosen from the common herd partly by preying on unresolved inferiority complexes, bestowing paranormal abilities and promising to fulfil personal hopes and dreams.
From an Adlerian perspective, some victims of early psychological and/or physical abuse might compensate for deep-seated feelings of inferiority by believing they’re superior to others.
It’s probably easier for some to see themselves as chosen prophets or invaluable, inter-dimensional ambassadors instead of examining the psychological scars of childhood left behind from a dysfunctional family and/or oppressive political environment.
APT explores but does not assert as true or false the notion that NSI and related paranormal phenomena could exist.
Arlan K. Andrews summarizes a considerable number of reports suggesting that belief in the presence of ETs and UFOs, especially after first contact, is linked to a significant increase in psi abilities.¹
From the perspective of APT, any newfound abilities (e.g. telepathy, precognition, telekinesis) or perhaps the uncritical belief in such abilities could entice victims into regarding themselves as hereditarily above the rank and file.
In keeping with this idea, it is a historical fact that both violent tyrants and non-violent fanatics often believe they are uniquely privileged agents of God or some higher power.
In contemporary psychiatric parlance one might say that the pain of a childhood complex is repressed and supplanted by magical thinking that contributes to the development of sociopathy at one extreme or, at the other extreme, to harmless, non-violent daydreamers and religious zealots.
But APT favors a holistic approach over the psychiatric tendency to emphasize biological, psychological and social factors contributing to destructive mental illnesses or innocuous fantasies and delusions. Alleged paranormal phenomena such as ETs and psi are not necessarily explained away as hallucinations, fantasies or delusions born of so-called chemical imbalances, faulty genes, poor nutrition, stress, childhood trauma or some combination thereof.²
Again, APT recognizes the possibility that NSI and psi could exist. But rather than setting out to prove or disprove the existence of NSI and psi, APT is more concerned to practically assess the ethical attitudes and behavior linked to a given person or group’s beliefs about these, as of yet, unproven possibilities.
Thus APT examines whether or not observable attitudes and behavior support a person or group’s belief in the alleged goodness of supposed ET associates and the paranormal powers they allegedly bestow.
APT draws on the theological idea of ‘the discernment of spirits’ but its overall outlook is not necessarily restricted to traditional religious cosmologies.
Rather than limiting itself to the assumptions and parameters of a single discipline, APT builds on and attempts to integrate aspects of scientific, sociological, philosophical and theological discourse in order to advance knowledge and promote wellness in this intriguing and sometimes difficult area.
It should be stressed that APT is chiefly concerned with understanding and rectifying beliefs about ETs and psi that are deemed as potentially unhealthy and dysfunctional.
The notion that not just hostile but benevolent ETs may, indeed, exist is not ruled out. But APT places Husserlian brackets³ around any such truth-claims.
- See “Psychic Aspects of UFO’s” in Ronald Story, ed. The Encyclopedia of UFO’s. Doubleday & Co. Garden City, New York: 1980, pp. 286-289.
- The widespread belief, promotion and advertising of ideas like chemical imbalance and faulty genes has been critiqued from diverse sociological, philosophical and scientific perspectives.
- See “5. The phenomenological epoché” at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/#PheEpo
» 1984, Aliens, “ET’s, UFO’s and the Psychology of Belief,” UFOs
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Most religious and mythological traditions attest to the reality of demons. For the most part, demons are regarded as dark, evil spiritual beings whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on individuals and the world.
In Hinduism, demons appear in the Puranas as Rakshakas (evil beings capable of shape-shifting) and tramp souls. Also in Hinduism the, at one time, god-like asuras of the Vedas devolve into demonic spirit beings which, the mystic Sri Aurobindo says, try to place false and harmful ideas into the minds of impressionable, vulnerable human beings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, immediately after a person dies a priest reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud over the dead body, instructing the departed soul how to avoid different spiritual lights and deceptions that demonic beings use to try to trick the deceased into falling into another earthly incarnation. And Mahayana Buddhism portrays many hells, each presided over by horrific entities
In China demons are thought to be able to inhabit dead bodies and haunt various places, both inside and out.
Demons in China… are capable of animating dead bodies, haunting cemeteries, cross roads, and the homes of relatives. Some live in Hades…others inhabit the air. Many are hungry ghosts, the spirits of those who have had no proper burial or who have no decendants to feed them sacrifices.¹
Traditional Roman Catholicism doesn’t envision the demon in terms of a psychoanalytic, physiological id or Jungian shadow archetype, as is fashionable in some circles today. Instead, traditional Catholicism makes no bones about the belief in demons. The Prayer Against Satan and The Rebellious Angels, published in 1961 by order of H. H. Pope Leo XIII refers to various “spirits of wickedness,” “diabolical legions” and “infernal invaders” that are to be driven away with the help of this solemn prayer.
Contemporary Catholicism, however, is incorporating secular and psychiatric perspectives on demons, but arguably in a clunky manner that seems to conform to ancient and medieval styles of analyzing issues. This shouldn’t be surprising as certain aspects of Catholic theological discourse borrow from Aristotelian and Thomist analytical categories and modes of analysis. And as history suggests, deeply entrenched patterns of thought and practice usually take time to be positively redirected.
In secular society alleged demons are often described as nothing more than a product of the imagination, hallucinations, an arrested or disturbed personality, mutated chromosomes, or the much debated idea of chemical imbalances. Along these lines the Catholic Catechism makes a sharp distinction between “the presence of the Evil One,” on the one hand, and current understandings of mental illness on the other:
The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.²
In contrast to the arguably underdeveloped either/or perspective outlined above, a more productive and responsible approach would intelligently consider different perspectives — physiological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal and spiritual — using as many of the analytical tools that are available to us in the 21st century.
Having said that, we should also keep in mind the very real possibility that God could permit a fundamentally good and ‘well adjusted’ person to be afflicted by evil, as we find, for instance, in the Old Testament Book of Job.
Related Posts » Aliens, Alien Possession Theory, Anathema, Angels, Avesta, Bodhi Tree, Bosch (Hieronymus), Christianity, Discernment, Fallen Angels, Hero, Jinn, Lilith, Madness, Mandala, Michael (St.), Miracles, Occam’s razor, Possession, Psychosis, Rakshakas, Shaman, Spiritual Attack, UFO, Underworld
¹ S. G. F. Brandon, A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 230.
² Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1673.
- Audio of exorcism performed in Germany, 1976 (NoiseMadeMeDoIt.com)
- Woman Says ‘Exorcist’ Priest Abused Her (courthousenews.com)
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- Angels and Demons (probings.wordpress.com)
- Faith, not spinning heads, takes center stage in ‘Exorcist’ play – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
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Extrasensory perception (ESP) is a type of alleged psi phenomena. ESP is sometimes used as an umbrella term for many types of alleged paranormal phenomena but it properly refers to the ideas of telepathy (reading another’s thoughts) and clairvoyance (‘seeing’ without the eyes).
Some Fundamentalist, Protestant and Catholic Christians have a knee-jerk reaction to this idea, saying ESP is the workings of Satan, a delusion or evidence of mental illness. However, in Catholicism some of the more advanced saints claim to have been given similar gifts, usually called the reading of hearts. Indeed, some Catholic mystics claim to know another’s thoughts and/or feel their emotions near or at a distance with no observable cues.
Reading of Hearts. The knowledge of the secret thoughts of others or of their internal state without communication is known as reading of hearts. The certain knowledge of the secret thoughts of others is truly super-natural, since the devil has no access to the spiritual faculties of men and no human being can know the mind of another unless it is in some way communicated. But knowledge of the secrets of another’s heart may be conjectured by the devil and transmitted to a person, or they may be surmised by a deluded individual who takes his conjectures to be supernatural illuminations.¹
From the above it should be clear that Catholics – or, at least, sane Catholics – are cautious when it comes to mysticism. Central to Catholic mysticism is the idea of discernment or “the discernment of spirits.” Discernment is said to be a gift and acquired ability that enables one to differentiate supernatural experiences and abilities that come from God from those that do not.
¹ AUMANN, J. “Mystical Phenomena.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 105-109. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
- Empath (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- ESP: how it works (holykaw.alltop.com)
- How to identify your extrasensory perception? (using-spiritual-energy.blogspot.com)
- Do You Have ESP Abilities? (towardstomorrow.net)
- The Psychic Life (theosophywatch.com)
- Unverified Results: The History of Scientific Research into ESP [Pseudoscience] (io9.com)
- Politics & NWO – Re: THE ESP OF ESPIONAGE: REMOTE MIND-CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES (disclose.tv)
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Rosemary Ellen Guiley (19?? – ) is an American researcher, author and broadcaster on paranormal phenomena. Dr. Guiley promotes awareness of the paranormal. At her website she writes that her “driving purpose is to help further our understanding of our place and role in the cosmic scheme” (visionaryliving.com). She also addresses issues like communicating with the dead and dealing with malevolent spirits.
This is all very interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it’s still difficult for most people to understand because of the inherent difficulties in the public verification of paranormal reports. In addition, some materialist or (ironically enough) religious reactionaries tend to cast aspersions on anyone interested in trying to understand the paranormal—even though the very same people will often delight at movies like The Exorcist.¹
¹ The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, of course, would say that the horror movie watcher is momentarily fascinated by the archetype of the shadow. For Jung this is not unhealthy. But in some destructive instances, if left unconscious the shadow archetype apparently can erupt and compel non-integrated individuals to behave in a manner harmful to self or others.
- Paranormal? Earling Possession – Anna Ecklund – Last Sanctioned Exorcism – Begone Satan (etxhaunted.com)
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- Strange Dimensions January 2012 (visionaryliving.com)
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William James (1842-1910) was an American pragmatist philosopher/psychologist and the brother of the famous novelist Henry James.
James suffered poor health and frequent bouts of psychological exhaustion but this did not adversely affect his work. His Principles of Psychology (1890) became a popular textbook for psychologists, influencing Carl G. Jung among others.
His collected lectures on religion, published as The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), remains a classic in religious studies.
James was raised in an affluent and literary Presbyterian family in New York City, later moving to various European cities, Boston and eventually Cambridge Massachusetts. Prominent guests frequented his New England residence, to include statesmen and intellectuals.
This diversity of blue chip characters and opinions likely influenced his outlook. Jung says that he was struck by James’ curiosity and fresh approach to psychology, calling him one of the few open-minded psychological researchers of his era.
James’ theory differentiates the personal and social dimensions of religion. He advocates a religious plurality to accommodate the specific needs of diverse individuals.
In describing direct, unmediated religious experience (i.e. mysticism), James, like Rudolf Otto, says the Godhead possesses a mysterious, non-discursive authority. His ‘Four Marks’ of mysticism have become standard fare in university religion courses.
James says these four marks of mysticism are
- Ineffability: Mysticism must be experienced first-hand, it cannot be adequately described to others through language
- Noetic Quality: The experience is accompanied with an increase in knowledge that cannot be obtained through discursive reasoning
- Transciency: Mystical experiences do not last very long (nuns, monks, yogis and some religious persons would likely disagree on this point)
- Passivity: While bodily exercises or meditation may prepare, facilitate or, perhaps, generate an experience of mysticism, the experience itself is overwhelming, rendering one a passive receptor
James also makes a distinction between “healthy-minded” – i.e. positive – approaches to religion and the morbidly pessimistic “sick soul.”
His comments about the value of saintliness reveal a materialistic bias, especially in his discussion of St. Teresa of Ávila. In keeping with this bias, James’ Principles of Psychology outlines a functionalist approach.
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- Bibliography: History of Functionalism (ahp.apps01.yorku.ca)
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- Sunday Devotional: Authentic Mystical Experience by Richard Rohr (zoecarnate.wordpress.com)
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Mythic Inflation is a term introduced by Joseph Campbell.
Campbell says Egyptian cultural beliefs about a ruler’s relation to God or gods progresses through several historical stages, each taking its own form.
In the second stage of mythic inflation, the ruler’s aggrandized ego believes and acts as if it were a deity. Mythically inflated rulers exhibit haughty arrogance and are obsessed with gaining material wealth and power over others. They ruthlessly lie, trick, exploit and murder to achieve earthly desires and prestige.
In contrast to mythic identification, the mythically inflated king would never consider sacrificing himself for the good of the community.
In ancient Egypt the often brutal, power-hungry kings envisioned themselves as “God on earth,” as did Julius Caesar in Rome.
Whether or not the examples Campbell provides to (apparently) support these stages reflect actual social-historical conditions remains open to debate.
- Mythic Subordination (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Mythic Identification (earthpages.wordpress.com)
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- Mythic Eternalization (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Myth (earthpages.wordpress.com)
Mind Abuse is a fairly recent term relating to a wide variety of phenomena where a person or institution psychologically manipulates a victim or victims into accepting beliefs and performing actions that a third party or parties, representing the moral majority, deems unhealthy and destructive to the victims’ true character and, perhaps, his or her greater society.
Standard examples would be so-called cults and suicidal spiritual movements.
However, some like John Lennon and Elton John make the case that all organized religion exemplifies mind abuse by deflecting pressing concerns about this world to another world (Lennon), or by encouraging hateful discrimination (John).
Organized religion could also be seen as a kind of mind abuse if upper level officials in a religious hierarchy had knowledge of unsavory practices within that hierarchy but withheld that knowledge from tithing believers and lower ranking clergy (who, in this scenario, would invest their lives in a lie or partial lie).
The idea of “mind abuse” is potentially useful for bona fide victims but also problematic in some cases. For instance, what if the status quo sees something as “abusive” when, in fact, it’s liberating for a believer? Clearly, some kind of social value judgment is involved here. Whether or not this value judgment is always correct is occasionally open to debate.
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- Nowhere Boy: Lennon and McCartney Before the Beatles (time.com)
- John Lennon, Unwitting Prophet? (catholicexchange.com)
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Some contemporary discourse about so-called mental illness arguably simplifies this complex physiological, psychological, sociological, spiritual and perhaps evolutionary issue.
Undoubtedly, individuals suffer who find themselves significantly different from the cultural norms in which they live. And sometimes this suffering escalates or develops into behavior patterns that their society deems deviant, in the negative sense, and not just different, in the non-judgmental sense.
In addition, the afflicted individuals, themselves, often see it this way. But several questions remain open to interpretation and debate:
- Why are these individuals different?
- Why do they suffer?
- What does it mean?
Spiritually based answers from various world traditions tend to focus on ideas of sin, taking another’s sins, intercession, impurity, spiritual attack (or ‘spiritual warfare’), obsession, possession, evil, ignorance, deception, curses, spiritual pollution, karma and karma transfer.
Sociological perspectives include factors such as cross-cultural norms, economic disparity, gender, race, violence, hypocrisy, corruption and the role of social power in defining so-called mental illness as an illness, per se.
Psychological studies tend to focus on a person’s genetic predisposition (nature) and his or her social conditioning (nurture).
Biological accounts emphasize factors like genetics, physiology, diet, environmental pollution and possible substance abuse.
The Catholic view tends to outline a combination of current scientific and traditionally understood spiritual beliefs. In fact, Catholics try to distinguish among redemptive suffering, avoidable suffering and suffering due to mental illness. Whether or not they’re always successful in getting it right here is a matter open to debate.
The Catholic catechism also defines certain lifestyle choices and their related behaviors as “grave disorders” and sometimes as “perversions,” which may include the concepts of sin, nature, nurture, as well as negative spiritual influences–that is, the invisible influence of Satan. Two good examples of this are homosexuality and masturbation, which for the Vatican are both unacceptable.
In actual practice, which arguably is not always the same as an official teaching, it seems that some priests and Catholic writers lean toward their spiritual tradition by emphasizing the idea of ‘spiritual warfare,’ while other Catholics emphasize a biogenetic or developmental aetiology for so-called mental illness.
Other leading figures combine several approaches, which seems most sensible.
More recently, the importance of the idea of mental injury in contrast to mental illness has arisen. The notion of ‘injury’ seems to connote a greater possibility for full recovery, while the sociologist Erving Goffman says that the tag ‘illness’ stigmatizes individuals. Moreover, Goffman says institutionalized treatments may involve not just a potential cure but, on the down side, a “destruction of life chances.”¹
Futurists and visionaries tend to focus on the interpretive aspect of the phenomenon of mental illness. If someone, for example, really does receive other people’s thoughts but grows up in a culture that doesn’t understand nor accept this ability, they might feel unhappy and perhaps develop of full-fledged mental illness.
But what if, the theory goes, in a thousand years time humanity has evolved to a point where mind-reading is a cultural norm? In this scenario, the person who doesn’t read minds might be seen as mentally ill. And 31C historians would possibly look back at some of today’s so-called mentally ill as tragic pioneers, treading along a thorny path strewn with cultural bias and ignorance.
In short, the idea of mental illness is probably best seen as a complex and ever-changing issue, one that involves nature, nurture, community, ideology and belief.
¹ Erving Goffman, Asylums, New York: Anchor Books, 1961, p. 344.
Search Think Free » Athleticism, Demons, DSM-IV-TR, Foucault (Michel), Illness, Laing (R. D.), Madness, Occam’s razor, Shaman, Suffering, Szasz (Thomas)
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- Book Review: My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness by Sandra Yuen MacKay (blogcritics.org)
- You: Stigma for Mental Illness High, Possibly Worsening – PsychCentral.com (news.google.com)
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