The paranormal field is littered with false claims, poor science, and an overarching ignorance regarding the dispelling of demons through the process of exorcism. There are several fallacies and inconsistencies that arise when discussing such events.
When many people hear the word ‘exorcism,’ they immediately think of The Exorcist or other Hollywood-esque versions that depict the process. The problem is, however, that not all exorcisms are created equal nor is any single exorcist the same. In fact, exorcism predates Christianity by hundreds of years and was practiced long before Christ walked the earth. Why then, do so many priests and self-proclaimed demonologists employ Catholic-style exorcisms to every single case regardless of the client’s belief system? A few questions if I may…
How would a Catholic exorcism help a person who is not a Christian? Can it? What about atheists? Do they gain any benefit from a Catholic exorcism? How does it all work? These are important questions for an exorcist to be able to answer.
A few years ago, the Vatican began training priests in the art of exorcism due to a seemingly exponential spike in demonic possession around the globe, and they blame this resurgence in cases on occult practices such as witchcraft, magick, and tarot card reading. But wait, we just said that exorcism predates Christianity, so what exactly is going on here? If successful exorcisms among Pagans were happening before Christianity, why would their practices suddenly be considered the root cause behind demonic possession? Let us start by defining some terms.
An exorcism is a forced expulsion or attempted expulsion of an unwanted entity, force, or energy from a person, place, or thing that is afflicted by that energy. Therefore, an exorcist is a person who specializes in casting out these unseen forces. Common symptoms of demonic possession in humans mimic many psychiatric disorders and can often be misconstrued as dissociative identity disorder (DID), schizotypal personality disorder, or even autoantibody-mediated encephalitis. Some of these symptoms include cognitive impairment, unusual movements, hyperexcitability, insomnia, seizures, and psychosis to name a few. The point is that it can be hard to differentiate between a medical condition and a demonic possession (if you believe in possession at all).
But what are demons and why do they afflict us and cause us harm? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. If you asked a Christian, they would tell you that demons are literal beings – fallen angels that rejected God and were cast out of Heaven. However, it is worth mentioning that many of the listed demons in the field of Christian demonology were Pagan gods that were worshipped by people for centuries prior to the Church’s formation. The Christian Church quite literally demonized and turned them into evil beings that should not be trifled with.
Now, if you asked an occultist, they would probably tell you that demons are egregores, or thoughtforms, that arise from our collective subconscious minds. Demons are, in that simplistic definition, a non-physical aspect of the brain that can be accessed for good or bad through ritualistic magick and meditation. They are brought into our physical plane of existence through our own energy and will – or intent.
Long story short, there are many definitions for what people believe demons to be, and there is no proven consensus on the matter. Others believe that demons are simply a chaotic, yet intelligent type of energy that feeds off low-vibrational negativity and fear. Through this definition, this energy is sometimes believed to cause natural disasters and are responsible for entropy, disease, and basically anything that includes violence, chaos, or destruction. It is important for an exorcist or demonologist to be aware of the varying beliefs about demons and their origins for if they do not, they will be limited to what they can achieve.
Equating all demons to be either all good or all evil is limiting the exorcist to what he/she can do, and if we go off the three definitions discussed above, two of them have nothing to do with good versus evil, but are simply energies or forces of nature in their own right. Nature is objective - it cannot be good or evil, it simply is.
Often, as religious, or spiritual individuals, we develop paradigms that we get stuck in. For example, a Christian will see everything through a Christian lens and an atheist may see everything through a scientific lens. There are pros and cons to having these paradigms but getting stuck in any particular one is not a good practice for an exorcist to follow as it will significantly (and once again) limit their ability to engage these forces.
As the primary demonologist for E.C.P.S., I find myself in discussions about the topic of exorcism far too often. Much of my job is simply dealing with people who claim understanding but refuse to operate outside the confines of their paradigm or “safe space” as I like to call it. An exorcist cannot go into a home with any preconceived notions. They should never assume there is a demon present at all and should instead let the evidence guide them toward a conclusion. If they do not, they are actually attracting these energies and doing their client a disservice.
What makes an exorcism work is pure intent and will, and anyone can technically do it. Jesus’ name is often used by Catholic exorcists to command demonic energies to leave because His name holds a strong assertion of power behind it. It is further propelled forward and “charged” by collective effort. Since many people believe in Him, His name will naturally hold more substance. However, do not assume that using Jesus’ name (even with intent) will always result in a successful exorcism. If the afflicted is not a Christian, the efforts may be futile. If demons are a result of our own free will and energy, then it is truly up to the clients themselves to expel the demonic presence from their lives. In cases like this, the exorcist is simply an instruction manual or tool that educates and guides the client toward spiritual liberation. E.C.P.S. can always be quoted as saying “intent is everything,” and we mean it. It is the collective effort of the client and the exorcist that makes for a successful process.
True exorcisms are rare and are deeply personal experiences. We find that many of our clients who were afflicted by demonic forces had significant past traumatic experience in their lives. Drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse (or any abuse), and/or any event that leads to suppressed emotions can attract these forces into your life. These events can also cause lost faith, depression, seemingly bad luck, and more - all-natural cycles that exist within a cause-and-effect spectrum. It is interesting how demonic forces and known side effects of mental distress go hand-in-hand.
Exorcists must individualize the process to the client. I cannot stress that enough. In the Roman Catholic Rite of Exorcism, there is no room for individuality. Priests are told to follow step-by-step instructions and read the Rite word for word until the entity is banished, but demonic forces are a part of nature and must be conceptualized as a legitimate part of the Self – and therefore of the client, hence the profound and meaningful experience they may have during the process. The client’s identity in all aspects must be utilized – from age, sex, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, upbringing, and more. All of it.
First, the exorcist must gather evidence that a paranormal affliction is occurring and rule out as many medical and psychiatric prognoses as possible. If they do not, they may be held liable for negligence (or worse) should injury or death result from the process. Then, conversations must be had with the client to discuss their understanding of the affliction, and for the exorcist to determine the best course of action. It is all about the root cause of the issue. If the exorcist can identify what invited the demonic energy into the client’s life in the first place, they can target their own intent toward expelling it, and can simultaneously educate and empower the client on shaping their will. After that, it is simply focusing that intention and will to purge the demonic energies that are present, causing the client to essentially heal themselves through the exorcism ritual. Afterward, new and positive intentions can be set. For those who have gone through the process, it is a truly life-altering experience.
What confuses many people in the field, and I haven’t seen very many well-thought-out answers to this either, is the question: what do demons look like? Again, it depends. Since we are technically the ones who “create” these forces and they come from within us, then that energy will present itself in any way that the afflicted will recognize and understand it. Many Christians will claim to see demons as the typical ugly, horned creature with wings, claws, and razor-sharp teeth, whereas an atheist might see them as a mist or fog. This explanation also explains why demons are just as real as djinn, loa, or tricksters.
Either way you view exorcism, the bottom line is that it is all about the person being afflicted. The exorcist is simply a tool that can be used to help the client reach spiritual liberation and rid themselves of demonic forces.
Stay safe, and Happy Halloween.