Friday, March 2, 2018

Vatican Demands "Thousands of Trained Exorcists" For Demonic Possession Crisis - Can We Agree Bunkum Never Dies?

The header for the NBC Today story in yesterday's 2nd hour was: "Vatican Training More Exorcists Among Rising Reports of Demonic Possession"- which featured  interviews with a couple of padres including one Spaniard who insisted he was getting at least "one excorcism request" per week. Another insisted the "demand is definitely exceeding the supply" e.g. of trained exorcists. And,we are expected to believe that because of this increased demand,  the Vatican will have to train thousands in the art of exorcising Old Scratch wherever he appears.   May I offer one suggestion? That they commence by sending a team of exorcists to the White House to get all the demons out of the "Prince of Lies", aka Donald Trump?

Indeed, according to several other sources, demonic activity appears to be on the rise not only in Europe but in the U.S. See e.g. but in the U.S. 

Therein we also learn:

"There is an alarming increase in demonic activity being reported by those who work in exorcism ministry, said the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Although steps are being taken to increase the number of exorcists, demand is still outpacing supply.

Father Vincent Lampert has been an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2005 and is the pastor at St. Malachy’s in Indianapolis. He trained at the North American College in Rome and assisted with more than 40 exorcisms with longtime Italian exorcist Father Carmine De Filippi. Although the identities of most exorcists are hidden, Father Lampert often gives talks to warn against evil and turn people toward the power of God.

In an interview with the Register, he said that he sees an increasing number of people involved in Satanic rituals and opening themselves up to evil.

“The problem isn’t that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it,” Father Lampert said. He pointed to rampant pornography, illegal drugs use and the occult. “Where there is demonic activity, there is always an entry point,” he said.


"He explained that demonic infestation happens in places where things might move and there are loud noises. With vexation, a person is physically attacked and might have marks such as bruises, bites or scratches. Demonic obsession involves mental attacks, such as persistent thoughts of evil racing through one’s mind.

“In possession I have seen eyes rolled back in the head, throwing out obscenities, bodily contortions, foul odors, temperatures drop in the room, and I’ve witnessed someone levitating.”

An entry point? Give me a break.  Eyes rolling back in the head? Likely an opioid overdose! Foul odors? A flatulence problem and perhaps suffering from lactose intolerance.  Shouting obscenities? Ever heard of Tourette's syndrome?   Levitating?  Have you taken into account brief gyrations from a prone position displacing a body briefly (10 -50 ms)   above a surface? Have you measured the "altitude" and the actual duration?

A far more compelling explanation for this demonic inicrease was offered by UK psychologist Chris French in the NBC piece. That is, by adopting the "possession" mantle the "victims" can more easily absolve themselves of any responsibility for their actons (e.g. "The Devil made me do it")

To see Prof. French's lecture on the psychology of demonic possession go to:

It will be well worth your investment of time!

Astonishingly,  according to Prof. French, "belief in possession is widespread both geographically and historically and is far from rare in modern western societies". A YouGov poll of 1,000 US adults last year found that over half of the respondents endorsed belief in possession and 20% remained unsure. Only 11% said categorically that they did not believe people could be “possessed by the devil”.

Only eleven percent? One out of every nine?  8 out of every 9 buy into this baloney? You must be kidding!

What this tells me, convincingly, is that the promise of the Enlightenment has never been fulfilled - even in the West.  It couldn't have been if the methods of rational inquiry and  science engendered from it never made their way into the brains of these people.  They may have taken a high school (or even 1st year university) biology, physics or chemistry course and even memorized a lot of formulas and  mastered some principles (conservation of mass- energy) but it clearly hasn't been embedded into their core being.  It hasn't become second nature.  It is more or less in the background "mental ether"  since their superstitious instincts take precedence over their prefrontal cortex and remain intact.

Prof. French in a separate article pointed out that the condition that would often have been interpreted in a similar manner to demonic possession in ages past is Tourette’s syndrome.  He also noted:

"Interestingly, the first recorded description of a case of Tourette’s may be in the Malleus Maleficarum (or Witch’s Hammer) published in the 15th century by Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer. This notorious book served as a guide for identifying witches and the possessed and included a description of a priest whose tics were thought to be a result of possession by the devil."   

Recall I did a blog post on this topic back in  November, 2012,  in terms of rooting out demonic incubi and succubi, e.g.

In the same  article Prof. French noted:

"Of course, we must not forget that the outcome for the person who is labelled as “possessed” can sometimes be far from positive. To give one notorious example, the parents of 23-year-old Anneliese Michel and two West German priests were convicted in 1978 of causing her death (they received suspended sentences). They had starved the young epileptic as part of a horrendous 11-month exorcism. She weighed just 68 pounds (5 stone or 30 kilograms) at the time of her death. The Guardian has noted that belief in possession has been a factor in several child abuse cases in the UK, including the tragic death of Victoria ClimbiĆ© in 2000.

The official recognition of such pre-Enlightenment beliefs by the Vatican will do nothing to prevent future tragedies of this kind."

And believe me, more tragedies will occur if this garbage continues. That elicits the question: Why have  Enlightenment values not taken hold?

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. As Exhibit "A" there's  The Pope Leo XIII Institute for the “education & training of priests in the holy ministry of exorcism and deliverance."  which opened in 2014 when the initial exorcist jabber got on the radar. 

Often quoted at that time was Father Francesco Bamonte, president of the Italy-based International Association for Exorcists. Back in 2014 he opined:
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.
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No truly mature and rational priest or Bishop really believes that. It is merely fed to them, like the whole concept of “sin”, to keep the faithful at the level of malleable infants to be controlled. I left the Church precisely because I wanted to be an independent thinker …and doer. Not bound to any silly, centuries -old dictates or dogmas.

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 -  and also create a new demand for Church services and even joining (or rejoining) Mother Church. Why? Well to pump back up her falling numbers! (Pew Religion Research surveys have found Catholic numbers have plummeted by at least 10 percent over the last decade.)

Now, we return to the question of why the Enlightenment values haven't been absorbed - including by university -educated people. The basic reason is that they may go to the finest schools, even "Ivy League" - but they never learned the skills associated with critical thinking.  Hence, they never learned to question claims from alleged authorities deeply and critically.   In addition, too many of those graduating with degrees today only have a limited, one-dimensional education whether in science, business or whatever. They lack the breadth of the liberal arts grounding, i.e. being exposed to multiple domains of learning, that we had in the past. (My background, for example, included not only physics and advanced math but theology, biblical exegesis, philosophy, ethics, logic ...oh, and English literature.)

Hence, because their education - such as it is - amounts to literal "ivory towers" - they often find themselves perched atop one or other and unable to connect, integrate and unify disparate findings from other areas.   I mention this because it is precisely such an integrated disciplinary approach which enables the most effective critical thinking. This kind of critical thinking then, becomes a powerful tool whether applied to investigating statistical anomalies in solar flare and CME occurrence in magnetically complex regions,  the Kennedy assassination,  crop circles or demonic possessions and exorcisms.

Those who fail to see how a space physicist could also investigate such things as political assassinations and exorcism,  even questioning the validity (or veracity)  of such "off specialty" inquiries, merely expose their own limited educations and being stuck on academic "steeples".  (Assuming they possess academic backgrounds at all!) They are unable to integrate aptitudes, knowledge and can't see how others can.  Bolstering this view is the WSJ piece (3/2,  p. A13) by Michael Zimm extolling the import of liberal arts education, e.g. :

"Liberal arts courses don't offer clearly defined answers to questions. Rather they nurture disagreements among students and help them to develop the ability to marshal cogent arguments in support of defensibe positions."

Those without such education are often unable to apply critical thinking to disparate claims - especially in the supernatural realm. Such people then become hostage to these  absurd claims, and - if something is remotely not understood - fall prey to the nonsense.  Consider that the most fundamental  premise for existence of demons, and by extension "Satan" - is that there is a supernatural domain.

Once one admits to the existence of this "plane" then he is also liable to accept it can intrude into our material plane, and hence demonic possession.   As I noted in my ASTRONOMY magazine article:  ‘The God Factor’ (Astronomy Forum, March, 1990), science selectively excludes problems for which no practical method of inquiry exists. The supernatural, which is neither measurable or verifiable, falls into this category and that includes ‘God’ - if depicted as "causeless" and "supernatural"  as well as "Satan" and hence, demons and demonic possession.

Demonology perhaps saw its greatest advancement and takeover of human brains - like your typical mind virus - when humans began to take pen to paper to draw demonic characters. For example, in one ancient text the following prominent demons were given names  - and hence - to many of the weaker minded, existence:

Naturally, naming the demon then became an important part of exorcism rituals.  Watch the movie "The Exorcist" again and see if you can pick out the point where the demon possessing Reagan is named by the exorcist. (Hint: the demon's name was Pazuzu, also called "Captain Howdy" by Reagan.)

Christian theologians - with endless time on their hands and nothing positive to energize their brains- ultimately worked out whole hierarchies for Hell. Basically, if one examined them, they pretty well resembled what one beholds in modern corporations. The "head CEO" was Lucifer or “Beelzebub” who – as the Christian top Devil- was to lord it over all other circles and levels. The 2nd hierarchy was to be ruled by Carreau, the Prince of Powers. His specialty was “hardening human hearts”(Lauran Paine, ‘The Heirarchy of Hell’, p. 62)

The third hierarchy was under "Lord Belial". Each hierarchy had its own prince under Satan (Lucifer) and its own specialty for temptation. Probably the total number of Devils in all the hierarchies numbered two thousand, if one omitted their (demonic) “choirs” or sub-orders, which members were to be known as “demons”. To these were allotted the real dirty work of human possession. (Dirty work because a demon never knew when he might be violently ejected from his host!)

It bears noting that 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 what should have been permanent  rejection of  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. But alas, that human cost appears to have been for nothing as we see the demands for this archaic and questionable practice resurrected now in the 21st century.

Sadly, while the curse of belief in demonic possession had for a time 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 cycle that can't get enough bull crap to broadcast.

For the confirmed skeptic or atheist, there is only one place to put this latest rush to sanctify baloney and superstition - in the dustbin of history - along with using leeches to bleed out disease, and slaughtering cats to stop the plague.

See also:

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