"Woe to Ye Who Scoff At Demons!" So blared one letter-to-the -Editor headline in the Barbados NATION newspaper in 1979, after I'd written an op-ed scoffing at the very notion of demons, the Devil and exorcisms. As I seem to recall I referred to such nonsense as "emanations from brain embolisms" likely spawned by too much hard liquor or drugs.
Well, it's one thing to write or talk of demons in the Barbados context where "Obeah" is still in vogue. It's another to behold demonic references in the supposedly advanced industrial world. But recent verbal expulsions by assorted padres and even the Pope make one wonder if we've progressed at all from the Dark Ages.
For reference, let's take this recent expatiation:
“There are those who try to turn people into vampires and make them drink other people’s blood, or encourage them to have special sexual relations to obtain special powers,” said Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, head of The Group on Research and Socio-Religious Information, an Italian occult watchdog, at a conference in Rome last week.
Seriously? Such a dopey group really exists and devotes time to this balderdash? Evidently, as the padre went on:
“These groups are attracted by the so-called beautiful young vampires that we’ve seen so much of in recent years.”
Vampires? I thought that went out with the Count Dracula legends. Don't tell me that this crackpot takes them seriously! But incredibly Ferrari is no mere fringe exorcist. The guy is actually backed by the Vatican and the Pope himself, who has insisted that dioceses have one trained exorcist on campus to deal with any urgent possessions. (Hmmm...maybe we need to dispatch one to deal with John McAdams!)
Father Cesare Truqui, a Swiss exorcist and protégé of Father Gabriele Amorth (the Vatican’s longtime chief exorcist) who also spoke at the conference, told The Independent (UK) newspaper that exorcism training is super important but overlooked. According to Truqui:
“It’s like training to be a journalist without knowing how to do an interview.”
Yes, but see journalists are expected to do interviews about factual events, not humbug or artificial nonsense fabricated by stoners and wackos. (With the possible exception of former NY Times staff reporter Judith Miller - who almost single-handedly confabulated the march to the Iraq war with WMD propaganda bullshit).
Readers might regard this stuff as flaky but they'd be wrong. In fact, under Pope Francis, who frequently mentions the Devil, exorcisms are booming. Even here in the U.S.last year a new school for exorcists opened in Illinois:
According to another padre: Father Francesco Bamonte, president of the Italy-based International Association for Exorcists:
“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism. The few exorcists that we have in the dioceses are often not able to handle the enormous number of requests for help.”While it is true that exorcism has been taught as part of Catholic theology – as my old Loyola University Theology notes show, e.g.
But that hasn't halted the new breed of superstitious twits from spreading their malarkey - likely as a tactic to take the heat off the Vatican for the sex abuse scandal. Cripes, even the Brits - who we usually associate with greater rationality - have invested in this crap.
“Until a few years ago, a significant number of people in the Church didn’t believe in the Devil, but people are now going back to the Scriptures,”
said an unnamed British exorcist priest in an interview with The Telegraph. adding:
“Pope Francis has given a certain amount of encouragement to that. A few years ago at least half the dioceses in England and Wales did not have an exorcist. Now, pretty much all of them do.”
But again, the increase in exorcists doesn't prove there is any bona fide object or entity on which to act. It only proves enough superstitious, paranoid people exist who need the crutch of exorcism to manage their stupid beliefs.
Which is sad and shows regression. The basic problem with the whole exorcism shtick is that it’s based on primitive, superstitious gibberish. Namely belief in a demonic entity in the first place. We can probably trace it back to Martin Luther. In his ‘Teufelsbucher’ or Devils’ Books, written from 1545- 1600, he laid out the whole warp and woof of how the Devil involved himself in human affairs.
According to Luther, the Devil was involved in everything that made life worth living: dressing up, food, party going, dancing to poetry, drama, writing. The Devil was behind virtually all the vices and manifestations of the world. Especially sex! The other bottom line made clear is that Satan was not to be trifled with or taken lightly. Woe to those (like atheists) who did, and all that!
But why the obsession? Why the need for Satan, devils, or exorcisms at all? Little known by the demon mongering idiots is that in Yeshua's time, before the dawn of modern psychiatry, ordinary schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorders were commonly believed to be manifestations of "demonic possession". Thus, we had biblical allegories and stories referring to Christ "casting out" Beelezebub from sick people, and even animals. But modern biblical scholars now understand these were metaphors for seeking cures (at that time) for the mental illness that stalked the population even then.
Further, the Catholic Church's ritual of exorcism was founded and promulgated not on the belief that demonic possession was real, but that the afflicted person believed it was real. Thus, the rite of exorcism was initiated as a memetic template to cure the belief in the person's possession, not any objective possession per se. Up to now, indeed, no one has been able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that any demonic possession has ever occurred, never mind absurd fictional portrayals like those in 'The Exorcist'.
Doubts that possession was real probably surfaced first just after the period of the Inquisition. This is because the tortures and executions of the Inquisition were self-sustaining, because none of the greatest theological minds could figure out how one might exterminate demons or Devils permanently by killing the allegedly possessed humans. Because they could not be killed, and could still possess humans (according to the Inquisition), then whenever you tortured a heretic or apostate to death the possessing devil or demon would just skip to another forlorn soul, who in turn would have to be killed. With that possessing demon jumping to another ,…..and so on keeping the Inquisition’s fires and torture wheels going indefinitely.
Eventually, the Church's great brains figured out they could potentially slaughter every single living member of the "Body of Christ" yet not be able to get at the demons or Satan himself! In other words, their own feverish delusions were having them on, leading them to excessive actions and reactions that didn't do a damned thing to advance the welfare of the "Body of Christ".
Adding fuel to Satan-mania was the Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer (Dean of Cologne University) and Jacob Sprenger (Dominican Inquisitor General of Germany). This was the book which gave the prescriptions for exposing those possessed, or under the influence of familiars or witches or other demonic entities (succubi, incubi) under a Bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII.
Because this book allowed persecution to spread to tens of thousands of women - as "witches" - it soon became evident to the best and brightest that belief in demonic possession was in fact a recipe for self-extermination, not purification!
At the very least it meant one half of humanity being exterminated, since generally, throughout the Middle Ages, the belief persisted that the female was closer by far to the demonic hordes, by virtue of her enhanced carnality. Indeed, the demise of male virtue as well as mental power could allegedly be traced to female wiles, and what better way to enhance them than using a herb like savin (given by a witch)
Given the “evidence” of any one or all of these the accused witch could be apprehended and subjected to “the question”. This meant usually prodding her flesh with special instruments to locate the mark of “the Beast” (666) or any similar mark usually associated with the Devil. If a first pass wasn’t enough gradually more pressure and torture would be applied, usually ending up in some sort of disfigurement being found eventually and attributed to the Devil. According to author Peter Stanford (‘The Devil’, 1996, p. 162):
“Witches and warlocks provided an easy target for the Church, intent on rallying the faithful with a bout of demonization”
Probably over a half million innocent women throughout the West underwent such appalling tortures merely to appease savage and depraved minds they didn't have a demon lurking inside them.
Thus, the road to rejecting demonic possession was replete with horrible suffering and endless death. In other words, nearly 2 million innocent humans had to be brutalized, maimed or slaughtered, before humans (at least in the West) figured out that retaining a belief in demonic possession did not redound to their benefit.
Sadly, while the curse of belief in demonic possession had retreated in the more enlightened West (thanks to the continuing benefits of rational skepticism and the Enlightenment) these dark ideas now seem to be making a comeback, thanks to anti-rationalists in the Church - as well as a 24/7 media that can't get enough bull crap to broadcast.
Is there a way to cure or limit the spread of demonic obsession as manifested in reviving rites of exorcism and sensationalizing them for the sake of a passing publicity (given how the Church loses more members each year)"
Not too likely. Decades of research discloses only limited value for psychotherapy, and in any case, the true believers and upper echelon (priest, bishops, ministers, preachers) are seldom subjected to treatments, only their forlorn victims.
What is needed is a non-negotiable agreement or contract that obligates anyone who practices religion in any form to reject demon-mongering – including all exorcisms or other manifestations that even indirectly validate the Satan-Hell myth.. And – if they do not – they must submit themselves for "demonic expurgation" by whichever method works the best and drives demonic belief from their brains.
Probably the optimum method right now is electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Much different from the antiquated version (shown for example in the movie, 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'), the new ECT uses milli-amp range bursts for brief periods of seconds to re-energize and renew the brain for improved reality cognition.
I warrant if ECT stations replaced all the exorcists, and people could be treated for their "possessions" 24/7 we'd see a dramatic fall in this bull shit. But, of course, the response of the exorcists and the Vatican would likely be that "demonically possessed people are proposing this as a way to avoid detection".
And so it goes.