Sunday, June 15, 2008
Those Wacky, Tacky 'Demonologists'
You know I find the current trend of self made 'Demonologists' funny as Hell. I mean that in a strictly Theological sense, by the way.
To be honest, having had quite a bit experience with this area of paranormal phenomena in a trained professional Christian setting, this would be the last area that I would try to "learn as ya go". Many who call themselves Demonologists today have only the most rudimentary level of training: mostly book knowledge or having trained with someone who has had only book knowledge and have been involved with a paranormal investigation team.
You know I really dig the Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters, it is entertaining and creepy and it sure beats the poorly made movies the cable channel usually puts out. My 8 year old son and I watch it religiously (ha ha) every week and we are now sure that the old house we live in is haunted. I find the skeptical approach of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson to be a wise approach to the paranormal. Doubt and debunk until you can have good evidence that something funky this way comes. That was how I was trained while at Seminary in relation to paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately their popularity has spawned a host of copy cat groups that have neither the training nor the ethical fortitude that the T.A.P.S. team have. Now I'm not disparaging these offshoot investigative teams as a whole, there are many among them who have had years of experience and even some good substantive training. But specifically in the area of Demonology many members of these teams are ill equipped for the task at hand. They risk harming themselves and others.
I saw such an example on a cable television show that was one of the many that try to copy the Ghost Hunters 'unscripted' reality formula. I will not name it because I am sure that there are those connected to the show who take the task seriously but what I saw really alarmed me. In most episodes the team makes many investigations and seems to almost always tie the possibility of paranormal activity to demonic activity. This conclusion is mostly done by feeling rather than substantive proof. Specifically disturbing was when confronted with a possible paranormal phenomena that might have a connection to a depressed woman, the immediate response from the lead investigator was to assume it was a case of demon possession. He went about preforming his own tests to see if he could elicit a response from whatever demonic spirit that might be infesting the young lady.
In the words of the late great Peter Boyle as Frank from the show "Everybody Loves Raymond", Holy Crap. And I mean that in a strictly Theological and scatological sense by the way.
When it comes to a possible demonic encounter rule #1 is unless there is a direct supernatural or physical manifestation that you witness with your own eyes, you should always rule out every other possibility before you assume it might be a demonic possession. I can't tell you how much harm one can do to someone with a fragile psyche or mental illness by even mentioning the possibility of demonic activity for the cause of their malady. You could cause extreme mental duress or exacerbate an existing mental condition. And you could be sued.
But it seems this practical rule of thumb is either being ignored or has never been taught to many fledgling 'Demonologists'. Not only have I observed this lack of logical inductive reasoning in knock off reality programming but also in the content of web sites of self proclaimed experts. I have also observed it in the actions of other clergy. I don't know if it's inexperience or being caught up in the excitement of the moment but many are too quick to label anything unexplained or eerie 'Demonic'.
I attended Nyack College in Rockland County NY in the early 80s. It is a sponsored and accredited Liberal Arts College of a progressive Evangelical Denomination, The Christian and Missionary Alliance. At that time there was an independent student group that people labeled the 'Ghost Busters'. They felt called to preform exorcisms whenever the need arose. I was able to sit in on a few of these 'Power Encounters' and the results were less than positive. I witnessed some bizarre things but nothing that I would qualify as paranormal. They seemed to focus on people with personal issues and those with mental illness. I sat in on three of their 'encounters'.
One was the son of a prominent minister who had a 'demon' of homosexuality. They 'cured' him by casting out the demon and he was happy that he could finally fit in with the culture of his father's fundamentalist church without the risk of being outed.
Within a month the kid was a wreck because he was sure his recurring sexual urges were actually signs that he was again possessed. He dropped out of college, forsook his family and his personal faith because he felt that God had forsaken him.
The second time I observed them I didn't stay for more than five minutes. A young man had an uncontrollable twitch during which he would make grunting sounds. I was sure it was Tourette's Syndrome and pleaded with him to not go through with the 'encounter' but rather see a physician. He really thought it was a demonic issue though and after a few minutes of their trying to cast out the demon I just had enough and left the room.
His faith in God and himself was shattered after that experience. He was in constant fear of the demonic, for the intense psychological drama of the 'exorcism' convinced him that the source of his problem truly lay in the spiritual realm and not the physical.
Next was a student who was seen to frequently walk alone in the woods of the State Park that surrounded our campus, a place where it was long rumored to be active with satanic cults and demonic forces. He exhibited odd behavior and would have uncontrollable fits of rage for no apparent reason. I asked a good friend of mine to sit in with me at the 'exorcism' and tell me what he thought of the proceedings. During the preliminary interview before the 'exorcism' the leader grilled him about his activities in the woods behind the college. He just enjoyed the peaceful night air and the serenity of the forest. They asked him if he was involved with any occult or satanic practices or rituals. Nope. They then asked him if there was anything he felt guilty about that Satan could have used to enter into his life. He said he had masturbated three weeks ago. That was it! And they exorcised the spirit of masturbation from the man. They asked him if he felt any better. "Not really" he replied. They then asked him if he had the urge to masturbate anymore. "Not right now!" He said giving the 'exorcist' a disgusted expression.
Right after the 'encounter' and when the 'exorcists' left, my friend who had observed with me went up to the evil masturbater and shook his hand. "I don't know how you do it, man. I can't go three days let alone three weeks!" I grunted an Amen in fidelity. Later that semester the student's father took him to a psychiatrist and he was diagnosed with manic depression and a chemical imbalance. With treatment he was a changed man. But he still loved to walk alone in the woods at night.
Extreme examples? You bet. I'm sure many of you reading this are aghast by this exhibit of rabid fundamentalism run amok, as well you should. I could go on-maybe not with as egregious examples as these, but just as damaging. Now some might nitpick that I am blurring Demonologists with Exorcists. However most novice 'Demonologists' that I see in the current rush to paranormal investigation try to communicate with the entities they encounter. That in and of itself falls into the realm of Exorcism, for the first job of the Exorcist is to in some way communicate with the evil spirit he wishes to evict. Without addressing the spirit, it cannot be expunged.
Of course most intelligent Demonologists would not link homosexuality, masturbation or Tourette's to demonic activity. But the point is that unless you see visible paranormal activity involved with the situation then you are being as blatantly ignorant as the examples above. Certain activity can indicate the possibility of possession, but in those cases the activity is so psychologically dominant and damaging that it is obvious something spiritual is going on. But even then, that doesn't mean it's demonic.
And what's worse, if you do proceed without concrete evidence you run the risk of actually inviting a demonic presence into your midst. Most evil spirits love attention. They are up for a party if you invite them. And like many unwanted guests they don't like to leave when the party is over. And sometimes you don't find out until much later that you have the unwelcome guest to begin with.
If you go around looking for a demon behind every bush, you will find them.
I've noticed that many who immerse themselves in Demonology often get caught up in darkness. It's an obsession that manifests itself in almost every facet of their lives. I've known people who become so paranoid that they get themselves 'tested' to see if they are under demonic influence. A professional Exorcist I trained with told me that in his 40 years of experience in dealing with these type of people over 95% of them have at least one 'demon' either residing in them or attached to them in some way. Most had multiple infestations. Paranoia reached such a fever pitch in some of my friends as they took Demonology and Exorcism classes that they even worried that their new born infants and toddlers were possessed. We have all read stories of late that show what a horrible direction that line of thinking can take you.
For when you take an inordinate amount time exploring evil, evil itself will explore you.
But when you get right down to it Demonology itself is a shaky science. I don't care who you are or what religious or world view you claim-Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, Aethiest or any other, much of what we know about demons (or angels for that matter) is just conjecture. In fact the Biblical hierarchy of Angelic and Demonic beings that many Christian and non-Christian Demonologists hold dear has classes of these beings that are taken out of context from the Biblical source itself.
I'm talking about demonic classification of Principalities and Powers.
In the New Testament the Ancient Greek word translated Principalities is Arche, a derivative of the Greek word meaning one who holds political power. A politician.
The word translated Power in almost all instances is the Greek word Exousia which holds the meaning of the authoritarian rule of government. The law.
In all instances of the use of these words together the meaning is associated with the political persecution of the Church in the 1st Century AD by the Roman Empire. (Ephesians 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:15 and Titus 3:1)
The use of these words together might be comparable to the 1960s and 70s term "The Man" that was used in connection with anyone associated with political or judicial authority.
Only once in Romans 8:38 does the term Power have supernatural connotations in the original Greek and the word translated there is Dunamis which literally means miraculous power. But not evil miraculous power, in the context it likely means the supernatural 'miracles' worked by spiritual con men who in their self aggrandizing spectacle tried to glorify themselves instead of glorifying God. The 1st century's version of a Televangelist.
In fact the only time the Bible directly classifies a type of evil spirit the term is unrecognizable as such in many English versions of the Bible. In Genesis 6:4 the Hebrew word Nephilim is usually translated 'Giant' or 'Mighty Men'. But the term Nephilim is a derivative of the Hebrew word for 'fallen' giving the term Nephilim the rather different denotation of "Fallen Ones". In this context the sons of God (the term usually given to any type of angelic beings) mated with the daughters of men and their offspring were 'The Fallen Ones'. Just what that means we are left to guess, but the connotation has strong implications. ( Actually these implications are the background for the latest book I am writing, "The Ashes of Molech" my first true fiction novel)
Which is why Demonology is associated with the Occult. We truly know next to nothing of what we face. We can know how to deal with it, but what it truly is in a substantive way we can only guess. Oh you can ask the spirits themselves during an exorcism. They will tell you all sorts of things. Funny how it is usually exactly what you want to hear. But in truth we know nothing except that which has been handed down to us through Medieval tradition based on flimsy Scriptural interpretation.
Which is why I get goosebumps when I see some self made 'Demonologists' and 'Exorcists' practice their trade on unwitting victims. Not because I fear the evil beings that they could unknowingly unleash, but rather I fear the Hell that they could be subjecting their victims to. It is something I know first hand. You see many years ago I was a victim myself. I had myself 'tested' by a self made 'Exorcist'. At the time I didn't know any better but his methods amounted to nothing more than a bastardization of free association in a 'spiritual counseling session'. At the time I had no real serious spiritual problems, but afterward I was oppressed for years. It wasn't until I understood what had happened to me that I was able to be free of the spiritual harassment by demonic forces that was unleashed upon me that day.
It's something I would not wish on my worst enemy.
Interaction with the Demonic should only be done by those who know what they are doing, by those who have actually had some professional training as well as education on the subject.
Or else you never know what you might bring home.
Until next time,