July 2, 2016

"As a psychoanalyst, a blanket rejection of the possibility of demonic attacks seems less logical, and often wishful in nature, than a careful appraisal of the facts."

"As I see it, the evidence for possession is like the evidence for George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. In both cases, written historical accounts with numerous sound witnesses testify to their accuracy. In the end, however, it was not an academic or dogmatic view that propelled me into this line of work. I was asked to consult about people in pain. I have always thought that, if requested to help a tortured person, a physician should not arbitrarily refuse to get involved. Those who dismiss these cases unwittingly prevent patients from receiving the help they desperately require, either by failing to recommend them for psychiatric treatment (which most clearly need) or by not informing their spiritual ministers that something beyond a mental or other illness seems to be the issue. For any person of science or faith, it should be impossible to turn one’s back on a tormented soul."

Writes Richard Gallagher, a psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College who is writing a book about demonic possession in the United States. Watch out, it's a WaPo link.

ADDED: The question of what is true is often superseded by what will help. In a sense, what helps is what's true. It's true that it helps (if it helps).

60 comments:

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Without clicking on the link, I'm just going to go ahead and assume that a psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychology does not believe in the reality of demonic possession because his credentials imply that he is much smarter than me.

rhhardin said...

The devil comes up in witty palindromes all over owing to being the reverse of lived.

rhhardin said...

Levinas on Heidegger, 1987

It is impossible to be stinting in our admiration for the intellectual vigor of ``Sein und Zeit,'' particularly in light of the immense output this extraordinary book of 1927 inspired. Its supreme steadfastness will mark it forever. Can we be assured, however, that there was never any echo of Evil in it? The diabolical is not limited to the wickedness popular wisdom ascribes to it and whose malice, based on guile, is familiar and predictable in an adult culture. The diabolical is endowed with intelligence and enters where it will. To reject it, it is first necessary to refute it. Intellectual effort is needed to recognize it. Who can boast of having done so? Say what you will, the diabolical gives food for thought.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Clinical psychiatry, not psychology.

See what I mean?

n.n said...

Separation of logical domains.

I wonder why it doesn't apply to religious instruction received from the twilight zone. And spontaneous conception, really? Not in the scientific domain.

Fernandinande said...

Worth repeating:

What happens if you don't pay your exorcist?
You get re-possessed.

tim in vermont said...

I think "purport" would be a better word than "imply" eric.

M Jordan said...

I remember my New Testament professor, a liberal, telling us demon possession in the NT was mental illness. I couldn't figure out how Jesus cast mental illness into a bunch of pigs who then rushed into the sea and drowned. Maybe most human messed-up-ness is simply mental illness and, post Freud, maybe there's a pill to cure it. But I wonder. I recall the mass shooting in San Ysidro, California where the shooter shouted that he had killed thousands before ... a man who had killed no one up to that point.

Here's the Wikipedia account: "Huberty referred to all present in the restaurant as "dirty swines", shouting that he had killed thousands and that he intended to "kill a thousand more". That man, Huberty, did not kill thousands that day -- he gunned down 21. But the demon that possessed him? Maybe the same one that did his ugly work in Orlando.

Sounded to me then like a demon speaking and, upon re-reading it today, sounds even more so.

Paul Snively said...

Let's call a spade a spade: "Materialistic reductionism exhaustively explains reality" is a metaphysical assumption, and "Materialistic reductionism is complete and consistent in the material realm" is merely wrong. What bothers me about members of the cult of scientism isn't their rejection of religion—one can hardly blame those who reject religion for acting as if they reject religion—it's that their grasp of many of the truths of science as best we understand them, and, crucially, science as a process, is so spectacularly poor. No, it's not a cut-and-dried conclusion that speciation occurs via the Modern Synthesis. No, it's not a cut-and-dried conclusion that "randomness" is a feature of the physical universe. No, the second law of thermodynamics does not say that entropy always increases. No, Bell's Theorem is not a successful "no-go theorem" against locally realistic interpretations of quantum mechanics. No, it is not a priori illogical to believe in God, given certain defensible axioms (that is, there is a successful ontological proof of God's existence in a heavily-studied and accepted formal logic).

Perhaps most importantly: no, science does not give us the assurance of logical deduction.

Real science is humble, and very aware that it is always open to correction. Scientism is a cult.

Fernandinande said...

50 “stable” exorcists ... up from just 12 a decade ago
20 inquiries per week, double the number from ...2005


I wonder how those ratios compare with the numbers of immigrant peasants from 3rd world countries.

tim in vermont said...

Post modernists are just pre-modernists with refreshed mythology.

wholelottasplainin' said...

These days, any self-respecting demon would have the sense to have his possessee announce that he/she "identifies" as a demon.

Who's to say he/she is wrong?

Ashe Carter might even consider demon-possessed people as an military asset, and invite them to sign up!

Can't be discriminating against demons, can we....?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

As I see it, the evidence for possession is like the evidence for George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware.

No. Washington's crossing was observable to those witnesses. Demonic possession is not observable. It is a subjective interpretation of a person's behavior.

Bob R said...

"Mental illness" is a conveniently imprecise term - much like "demonic possession." Each makes certain people feel in control of a situation that no one really understands. (Medical science of the mind is in the Theodoric of Yorik stage - "What she needs is a good bleeding" = "Here, take these pills.") "What is true" doesn't have a good answer now, and may never have one. "What will help" is, indeed, the better question.

tim in vermont said...

The problem with science and logic as it has operated since the Enlightenment is that it is precluded from proving or disproving Global warming. See Naomi Oreskes.

Google "Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth"

mockturtle said...

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet.

C Stanley said...

ADDED: The question of what is true is often superseded by what will help. In a sense, what helps is what's true. It's true that it helps (if it helps).

This encapsulates my belief in Christianity during times of doubt. I don't know it to be true in the same way that I know about facts of the physical universe, but when something causes me to doubt I then consider how well Christian doctrine explains human nature and how well the precepts of it "work".

Fernandinande said...

"One cannot force these creatures to undergo lab studies or submit to scientific manipulation; they will also hardly allow themselves to be easily recorded by video equipment, as skeptics sometimes demand."*

Well, then, just try THIS ONE WEIRD TRICK: banish the demons, or at least prevent them from doing anything interesting, by keeping a video camera on the crazy person. No more secret knowledge and definitely none of that there levitatin'.

*Exactly the same feeble excuses given by psychics and their ilk when they can't do anything. See James Randi.

Mark said...

Washington's crossing was observable to those witnesses

What witnesses? Where are they? Have you spoken to them? And while we are at it, what evidence is there that this supposed "Washington" guy ever existed?

Where is your proof? Or are you just relying on what other people have said about what other people have said about what other people have said?

For all we know, Washington and the story of our nation's founding could all be a complete fiction. Our belief that it is true is based on trust in what has been handed down to us (i.e. tradition and faith).

traditionalguy said...

If there are no spirits, and we agree that is true since science cannot measure them, then the people who possess unclean spirits are just SOL in getting any help dealing with it.But don't tell an African that or they will laugh.





buwaya puti said...

Malachi Martin had a great book on this, case studies of exorcisms. There are many opinions on Martin, but he was a fine writer and these are of interest. They also fit with the general Catholic experience of the nature of possession. So check it out, its a good introduction.
In Catholic circles it is well understood that "something" as yes not scientifically explainable is going on. The good doctor hits on several of these.
Afaik numbers of exorcisms and demand for exorcists varies without reference to immigrant numbers, as Martin points out these have fluctuated at other times also.

robother said...

Whatever possessed George Washington and his thousands of men to cross the Delaware on the holiest day of the year and demonically attack the Hessians hungover from their innocent Christmas celebrations? Indeed that was a time that tried men's souls.

Sebastian said...

""ADDED: The question of what is true is often superseded by what will help. In a sense, what helps is what's true. It's true that it helps (if it helps)." This encapsulates my belief in Christianity during times of doubt." See, this is what's odd to non-believers. Serious Christianity makes life much harder for believers. Sinners in need of salvation: that doesn't "help" in many ways.

cyrus83 said...

The point of this psychiatrist's participation in the process is that he is there to give his opinion on whether or not the malady has a natural source. An exorcism is generally only allowed when he or a similar expert renders an opinion that there is no known natural cause (e.g. in the case of the article, someone speaking a language that they do not know or having knowledge of things they could not possibly have known).

It's not very different from what goes on with investigations into alleged miraculous healings by the Congregation for Saints, where medical experts are called in to offer any natural explanation they can and a miracle is only declared if no natural explanation can be found. That Congregation rejects many of the alleged miracles proposed to it, which is why the sainthood process frequently takes a long time.

Back to the psychiatrist, he has seen things he cannot explain by means of science. His experiences have led him to the conclusion that there is something spiritual in play. He is also going with the quite reasonable theory that if nearly every culture in the world has written about possession, there is something more there than mere superstition.

Laslo Spatula said...

For thousands of years I have travelled amongst the mortals, seeking to possess those that are weak.

Every Demon has a specialty in what they do to those they possess; for instance, I have great fondness for a Brother who induces people to bark like dogs -- you'd think after thousands of years it would get old, but it really doesn't, I laugh every time.

Me, I find susceptible pregnant women to possess and slyly convince them to kill their unborn child: it's what I do.

The problem is, now I'm not really needed much in that regard. In eras past I would have to whisper and cajole and confuse with an exquisite silver tongue; now I usually don't even have to make the suggestion, the women already are planning on doing it on their own.

It makes me miss the good old days, when you really had to work at it to convince a woman to kill her unborn child: that Child was her Hopes for the Future, and she would fight with every ounce of strength to bring that Child into the World.

Now it is like I am not even needed. I find a pregnant woman at Starbucks taking solace in a Mocha, only to find that she has already made her abortion appointment, and her only regret is that she will have to miss her Yoga classes for a few days. I could tell you stories about Yoga, but that is another demon's bailiwick...

Hell, even the demon who makes people bark like dogs is still relevant. I have wondered about changing my Specialty, but all the good forms of Possession are already taken.

Make people act like Monkeys? Taken. Make people believe that they have been anally probed by aliens? Taken. Make women make false accusations of rape? Taken. See what I mean?

I guess I am just going to have to find a hobby for all my new spare time. I am open to suggestions...

I am Laslo.

gadfly said...

I agree with Yassine Aadouli.

Bob Boyd said...

"There's a stain on the wall of Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther flung his ink horn at the devil." - Notes From A Bottle Found On The Beach At Carmel by Evan S. Connell

Fernandinande said...

buwaya puti said...
Afaik numbers of exorcisms and demand for exorcists varies without reference to immigrant numbers, as Martin points out these have fluctuated at other times also.


Part I, Question V
"What is the Source of the Increase of Works of Witchcraft? Whence comes it that the Practice of Witchcraft hath so notably increased?"

cubanbob said...

Interesting article. Gallagher while clearly in the mindset of a scientist has also recognized that he has personally witnessed things that cannot be explained (at least at this time) by science. He is a scientist and not a scientism cultist. The comments at the WaPo are a hoot; the atheists/non-believers and or scientism cultist commenting cannot compute that observable actions occurred that cannot be explained by currently known science so therefore they really did not occur. I admit that the whole demonic possession and exorcism thing to me is a bit crazy and certainly appears to be theatrical at best but if I were to actually observe such a thing where all known mechanisms are ruled out by science yet the observable reality remains I would be humbled and would not disregard my lying eyes.

Bob Boyd said...

@ Laslo,

Cucumber in the ass? Taken.

Fernandinande said...

Laslo Spatula said...
I guess I am just going to have to find a hobby for all my new spare time. I am open to suggestions...


How about making dogs talk like people? (As long as there are no video cameras around, of course.)

Seems like if you demon-type-guys can do pigs you could do dogs. Or, as PETA asserts, is it impossible to "possess" a companion animal?

buwaya puti said...

Laslo, this could work as a start to something larger.
A demon looking for a new shtick in a world so fallen that he is obsolete? You have endless material here.
Would sell well self published on Amazon I think.

cubanbob said...

Perhaps Laslo can do a treatment of The Pony Tail Girl In Full Demonic Possession.

Fernandinande said...

cubanbob said...
Gallagher while clearly in the mindset of a scientist has also recognized that he has personally witnessed things that cannot be explained (at least at this time) by science.


He might think he has (being generous there), just as some people think they observed Uri Geller bending spoons using paranormal mental abilities.

It's truly unfortunate that those pesky demons are so clever that they stop doing anything interesting when a camera is present - they're so paranormally powerful that they can even detect hidden cameras!

He is a scientist and not a scientism cultist.

No, he's just a superstitious fool.

Michael K said...

I will spare the group my opinion of psychoanalysts.

Rusty said...

Please allow me to introduce myself.



"Real science is humble, and very aware that it is always open to correction. Scientism is a cult."
Ah! "Climate Change."
Some of my best work.

Harold said...

Fernandinande said..
I wonder how those ratios compare with the numbers of immigrant peasants from 3rd world countries.

There are more rpacticing Wiccans in the U.S. then ever before. And greater numbers of people who seriously consult their horoscopes; not just for entertainment purposes. And people who believe in crystal healing, touch therapy, and other such nonsense.

And most of them, and ALL that I have met come from the middle middle to upper middle class, and all I've noted have pretty much one thing in common. As children, they were never taught the foundations of their nominal religion, whether Christianity of Judaism. They don't know any of the biblical stories. They can't actually define the major tenets of Christianity or Judaism. Total ignorance of religion is the rule. If you don't raise your children up to believe in something greater then themselves, they'll believe in anything.

Two of my favorite shows (watched on Netflix- haven't watched broadcast TV since 1997) are The Mentalist and Psych. In a different manner, they both pop the balloon on new age beliefs. And The Mentalist stays away from attacks on traditional religions as it goes after thinly disguised Scientology in the form of the Visualize cult.

So I don't really think an increase in reports of demonic possession are coming from increased numbers of immigrant peasants. haven't delved into the subject recently, but most cases I've read started out with people dabbling in the occult, ouija boards, tarot cards, I Ching bones, etc., and getting in deeper until finally- possession.

cubanbob said...

Blogger Fernandinande said...
cubanbob said...
Gallagher while clearly in the mindset of a scientist has also recognized that he has personally witnessed things that cannot be explained (at least at this time) by science.

He might think he has (being generous there), just as some people think they observed Uri Geller bending spoons using paranormal mental abilities.

It's truly unfortunate that those pesky demons are so clever that they stop doing anything interesting when a camera is present - they're so paranormally powerful that they can even detect hidden cameras!

He is a scientist and not a scientism cultist.

No, he's just a superstitious fool.

7/2/16, 12:13 PM"

Were you there in person? Did you witness the event? Did you overlook that after applying all other possible causes there wasn't a currently known scientific explanation? I wasn't there and neither were you. If I recall correctly Gallagher didn't say the incident was proof positive of demonic possession but simply something that appears to have it's properties and that no presently known scientific explanation can account for.

Bob Ellison said...

This guy Gallagher should be old enough and well-enough schooled to not do the "as a cat, the mouse looks tasty" writing offense.

cyrus83 said...

Even if they got the demons on camera, people like Fernandinande would just say it was a photo-shopped or edited thing. Even when some people see these things in person they rationalize it away rather than believing their own two eyes. Satan could appear on TV on every channel tonight and most of the country would dismiss it as a practical joke played by some hackers.

It's kind of related to people who demand proof from God of his existence. God could appear in the flesh and still be widely ridiculed and rejected despite making numerous demonstrations of divine power. At least one book claims that God did this and the outcome wasn't everybody bending the knee but rather an execution. Modern man isn't so very different from the men in that story.

Roy Lofquist said...

What is the functional difference between flying a drone from your backyard and telekinesis? What is the functional difference between using a telephone and telepathy? What is the functional difference between a television set and remote viewing? What is the functional difference between watching a movie and a spiritual vision?

The difference is that 200 years ago it could get you burned at the stake.

mockturtle said...

Until very recently, atoms could not be seen but we have believed their existence for well over a century, based on their activity.

Jupiter said...

"The question of what is true is often superseded by what will help."

While we tend to suppose that the goal of science is "Truth", the goal of science is actually prediction. Which may or may not be the same thing. Certainly, it makes for good technology, but is no basis for theology.

"When you peer into the abyss, the abyss peers into you". Or perhaps "pours" into you, like a stream of icy water, bracing and refreshing at first. Yet ultimately numbing. I have peered into that abyss off and on since my teens. I can only take it for so long, before I must seek the respite of allowing myself to believe something untrue.

Paul Snively has clearly been to see the Elephant a time or two. What did you see, Paul? Is he beautiful? Can we hope to be wise, or only foolish in a different way?

n.n said...

It is because of the liberal expansion of the scientific domain, a progressive divergence from the constrains implied by the scientific method, and a failure to separate logical domains, that purportedly civilized people have selectively normalized classes in the transgender spectrum disorder (e.g. homosexual), [class] diversity (e.g. racism), predictions or prophecies of events and spaces increasingly outside of the scientific domain, and debased human life with the resumption of abortion rites.

cubanbob said...

mockturtle said...
Until very recently, atoms could not be seen but we have believed their existence for well over a century, based on their activity.

7/2/16, 1:52 PM

The belief in atoms had more credibility at the time than what passes for credibility today with respects to dark matter and dark energy yet we take as fact that these things exist.

As I said before I find the whole demonic thing as way out there but I also find it not plausible that a professor of medicine of medicine at a top university is going to advocate a premise that can be easily disproven. All he said is that he observed something that after using all known plausible explanations has no currently acceptable scientific explanation.

Qwinn said...

If someone *did* post photographic evidence, that would be dismissed as well. Is there any doubt at all of that?

Jupiter said...

Interesting point, Laslo. Somehow, women have come to believe that participating in the transcendental act of which only they are capable, and by which alone life is possible, is a drag. Bit of a bore, really, and even slightly dangerous, though not like it used to be. Shopping for lipstick, now, that gives life meaning. Or dtudying economics, or something. What, Demon, what? What is it that I want?

Remembering that to want is to lack, not necessarily to desire.

I suppose from an evolutionary perspective, we might say that some trait can be adaptive for a long time, then become maladaptive, due to changes in the environment, and ultimately lead the species off the cliff of extinction. The male ability to reason, in whatever limited degree, was adaptive, and the males used their superior strength, and some plausible fabrications, to keep the women on board with the whole project. But the fabrications have lost their plausibility, and the females are ructious. Amidst unprecedented plenty, populations decline. Perhaps this spells the end of the species. Or perhaps merely a new evolutionary pressure. Not all populations decline.

traditionalguy said...

If one thinks of a spirit as an intelligent speaking being, you can better understand they are like assistants or counsellors that people seek a relationship with. Witchcraft and divination using spirits assistance is the basic religion of man. The services are attempts to use spirits and therefore to possess the useful spirits.

The Catholic Priests can assist those that think it is more of a problem than a benefit to possess spirits. The failure to translate scripture that promotes the Priests idea that evil spirits possess or own men rather than the other way around is basic to understanding here.
The indigenous people in Australia and America always live by using spirits in hunting and battle. And the winning tribes God spirit is acknowledged as the powerful one.

Most of our ideas on the subject are Egyptian in origin. The astounding thing the carpenter's son from Galilee was doing was defeating spirits that were harmful, seemingly easy by using Authority the spirits recognized as powerful one.

D. B. Light said...

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary confirmation. Rowing across the Delaware is not outside the range of normal human experience -- demonic possession is.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

mockturtle--I had the same quote from Hamlet come to mind.

Roy Lofquist said...

Blogger D. B. Light said...

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary confirmation. Rowing across the Delaware is not outside the range of normal human experience -- demonic possession is."

"The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness." -Pierre-Simon LaPlace

More than 90% of all men who have ever lived believed in supernatural beings. Seems to me you have reversed the burden of proof.

Qwinn said...

Call me when "Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary confirmation" gets applied to "Climate change". Or the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Or that Bush let 9/11 happen intentionally. Or that dead voters must be kept on the voter rolls because voter suppression. Or that Obamacare will reduce medical costs. Or 18 million other absurd beliefs held by the left that lack even vague confirmation, never mind the extraordinary variety.

Michael K said...

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Arthur C. Clarke


I think that rule chiefly applies to those ignorant of science.

And that' of course, includes psychoanalysts.

harrogate said...

Althouse poll: Is demonic possession real?

With all sorts of clever answer options.

Would be "interesting."

n.n said...

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Arthur C. Clarke

There is a corollary to this statement.

Any sufficiently advanced technology will engender a belief in magic.

The scientific method was designed to acknowledge the self-evident fact that accuracy is inversely proportional to the product of time and space offsets from an established frame of reference. The scientific domain is highly constrained by this observable limitation of natural and enhanced human perception.

Paul Snively:

A semblance of science has become a crutch for people who are afraid to acknowledge what they know, don't know, and cannot know due to the limitations of a chaotic order (i.e. incompletely or insufficiently characterized and unwieldy systems). They are making the same mistake as people who once aborted human life for secular relief, or those people who discovered fire and thought that their insight was complete.

David said...

"Watch out, it's a WaPo link."

WaPo link is an oxymoron.

Sammy Finkelman said...

They're other, and better, things, that can explain some things. Tourette's syndrome is not demonic possession.

Jose_K said...

Psychoanalysis is not science

mikee said...

When a pill can eradicate the demonic possession, it wasn't demonic possession, it was something worse, much worse: Biochemistry.

netmarcos said...

Perhaps we should ask Sansón Carrasco...