Demons, Angels, and other phenomena-Are they real?

Cetta responded to my recent Bloggers Block post with this request:

I’d really like to see you try to rationalize the supposed power of the occult, without anything to balance it out (like say, Christianity, or even just God in general).

I think this is a really good request–its something I have been mulling around with for quite some time-you see, I experienced a lot of things that most Christians had barely even heard of-very real things that are difficult to reconcile without having some semblance of faith. So here I will attempt to do that.

What Cetta knows, that a lot of my readership will not know, is that I was an exorcist just a few years ago. Without giving away far too much detail, I performed the ritual of exorcism with many clients under a lot of different situations and ailments. Sometimes the event itself was rather dramatic. IE: convulsions, vomiting, hearing the voices of the “evil spirits” speaking etc—almost anything you would see in The Exorcist or The Exorcism of Emily Rose movies. All this, along with my own very radical experiences with the “holy spirit (or ghost as you pantycostals say)” like speaking in tongues, being “slain in the spirit”, visions, dreams, prophesying, and etc. Cetta wants to know; How does one, once he loses his faith, reconcile those events?

Warning: May be triggering past this point-if you have experienced emotional trauma or are undergoing any sort of exorcism or therapy for ritual abuse or other reasons.

The “Gifts of the Spirit”, in most cases, can very easily be dismantled. I’m not saying some very real phenomena do not happen at any point-but the vast majority of the “tongue talking” and being slain in the spirit and such can be reliably connected to ones expectations. Franz Mesmer discovered the trait of Animal Magnetism, for me explaining many of the Benny Hinn figure heads as mangetists and hypnotists. Tongues is often magnetic mimicry rather than a genuine experience—one proof of that is that i still speak in Tongues frequently, as it is one of the few things that calms my nerves–should an unbeliever be able to do such things if they come from the holy spirit alone?

What then of exorcism and possession? Dr. Stephen Diamond has a great article on that very subject here, validating the ideas I have been pondering on this issue since my deconversion:

“But the term possession is seldom mentioned in the psychiatric and psychological literature. Instead, we speak of obsession, which has similar intrusive, involuntary, egodystonic qualities. Or we refer to “multiple personality disorder” (dissociative identity disorder), in which one or more sub-personalities temporarily take possession of the person against his or her will. Or we diagnose bipolar disorder in those possessed by mania, irritability or melancholy, and intermittent explosive disorder to describe someone repeatedly possessed or overtaken by uncontrollable rage. It must be admitted that the archetypal phenomenon known historically as “possession” persists today in differing forms and varying degrees. The only difference is the way in which we now attempt to explain and treat it.”

Many times, possession comes about through trauma—just like Dissociative Identity Disorder—In my experience, the more physically attached the trauma (ie through constant violent rape) is the more likely there is to be a violent Daimon associated with it. The more emotional the trauma, the more likely the exorcism will be accompanied by other emotional blocks (Alter ego’s often do this in the DID patient, preventing the therapist from finding the root of a feeling or emotion by bringing up false personalities or distractions to the therapy session or exorcism). I posit that most of the exorcisms I encountered, most of which were with clients that were deeply connected with the Occult, were only exorcisms because my understanding of the Problem was that it was demonic rather than ego. Either way the problem is the same—but the understanding of the problem determines how one approaches it and therefore comes by ways of fixing it. A person with a spiritualistic background is much more likely to seek exorcism over psychotherapy because of their understanding of the “spiritual” world and the mind. Also, exorcism is going to work better for the spiritually minded individual in most circumstances  because they BELIEVE in what is occurring….your mind can be just as easily healed by the act of having a demon expelled as it can by having an ego (alternate identity) reintegrated into the whole mind—in fact it is much easier for those that believe in the demonic.

There is a lot more i could say on this subject–but then I think I would be skirting the lines of reality and comfort for me a bit too much. I would like to open up the comments for comments AND Q&A—please feel free to ask anything you like—make sure you leave an email though.

  • Hey! Thank you for answering my question, Matt. 🙂 It was very informative. As you know, I don’t actually believe in the whole “speaking in tongues” thing and with exorcism, I never believed it truly happened the way you have described it. Even when I was Christian myself, I never believed in it. I do believe that it is hypnosis and power of the mind (and when I was Christian it was either the mind or demonic). I think that this article and question is really good for others to read and to get this information out there!

    My question, however, was for the more subtle miracles or spiritual occurrences. Things like angels protecting people (there’s an actual story accompanied w/ this – a woman, who was a marked women in certain communities, which I can’t tell you why on this blog, but I knew her personally, had a roof on her house in Brooklyn you couldn’t get on or jump on – it was impossible unless you went through her house to get on that roof. One night it had two men walking on it for all to see in the neighborhood – busy neighborhood in Brooklyn, a lot of people saw it. Back and forth, etc etc, and people did see these two men and everyone just was looking up at the roof, someone called the cops, etc — because like I said, you can’t get on the roof without getting inside the house. They searched top to bottom in the house from the stairwell to the roof to the basement, and they couldn’t find these men — Another impossible feat besides getting on the roof without getting in the house — they just disappeared. Anyway, that woman believed that she was going to meet danger that night — because she was marked — and those two men on the roof were angels to save her life indirectly by causing a stir on the street when everyone saw them).

    Or another subtle occurrence – someone praying alone in their house and then out at a store fifteen minutes later and a woman who they never met coming up to them and replying to something they said alone in their house in prayer, answering for God and even mentioning God (happened to my father).

    Then there is my own personal experience when I was 12. Way too old to believe in things that go bump in the night or being afraid of whats under the bed or in the closet, so I wasn’t. I was in my parents bedroom ready to go to sleep in Georgia (I slept in the living room in Georgia but my parents were still in there watching T.V. so I figured my father will sleep in the living room and my mother will come in the bedroom when she’s ready). Anyway I’m laying in bed staring at my parents closet when I see this thing in there. Wide shoulders, brim hat, no face, no feet (yet it was jumping around from left to right and back and forth). Could my eyes have been playing tricks on me? Sure. I stared at it for a while just staring, and when I finally got up the courage to run out, I told my father and before the words even came out of my mouth he said he sees it too — nightly. So it couldn’t have been my eyes playing tricks on me. (Turns out my whole family has seen this thing). Anyway, he goes into the closet and tells the thing, whatever it is, some verses from Revelations and that that was going to be it’s ending point, etc.

    Never seen it again.

    Neither did he.

    And then there are countless Tarot card readings I did as a teenager when I was no longer Christian (that were correct), and Ouija board sessions that were spot on.

    Ouija board sessions that my grandmother did when she was younger that predicted her husbands death on Easter (which came true) and talked about things that came true YEARS and years later that only her daughter Mary remembered and reminded her like “hey didn’t the Ouija board say this was going to happen…” And 100 other things I can tell you about what the Ouija board said and did that came true.

    How do you explain all of those occurrences without a God?

  • By the way, more about that woman in the first story I told you: She had a congregation and a Church in Brooklyn. She was a heavy believer in Jesus Christ. Her Church was called “Emanuel Fellowship” and she was actually known through out the COUNTRY, and even in the government. They invited her to open up Congressional meetings with a prayer before — which she said no. So it wasn’t just some random person who believed angels were on their roof – it was a Bible believing person.

    She always used to say, by the way, that if speaking in tongues were true or being “slain in the spirit” and all the rest of that stuff you used to do — that she would be doing it too. She never did. Yet she believed God blessed her life time and again with many things. They were all subtle though.

    And about those men on her roof: Let’s say they were the people that were after her (they didn’t dress the part though — I’ll tell you more later about this later), they were not at all discreet, and let everyone see them, and continued to walk back and forth on the roof even after a crowd was gathering. (The whole neighborhood knew her, which is another reason they were gathering and looking up at the roof — they were worried. She was an old lady everyone knew, and they wanted to know why these two mysterious men were on her roof).

  • Honestly, if demons aren’t real, how can you possibly explain Dick Cheney?

  • Word to Relevant Rhino.

  • Rhino makes a wonderful point

    and cetta—i hate you

  • OMG I'm sorry 🙁

  • Matt

    dont you OMG me

    dont you do it

  • OMG………… :O

    Haha Matt, why do my questions make you angry? Does it make you rethink your whole "God is dead" theory? I'm not just talking about the Christian God, or God at all, but SOMETHING spiritual.

  • Mulled Vine — What odd happenings do you know about?!

  • Read your post this time around. I have very little personal experience of such things and have always been deeply skeptical, not of the possibilities, but of the claimed occurrences. This was made worse (or better) depending on your viewpoint by my wife’s early bipolar episodes which were very real to her but delusional as far as I could ascertain.

    One of my frustrations with religion is that it becomes a free for all, just because the door is opened to the possibilities.

    Having said all of this, I also learned through my wife’s bipolar, that doctors are generally quite clueless about the makings of the mind, so facile explanations using jargon noone can understand can be equally irritating.

    Like Cetta I know anecdotally of many very odd happenings that can’t be explained. Doesn’t prove anything I know, but it adds to the general sense of there being something more out there.


  • I firmly believe in this article for I have experienced exorcism some 5 years back to my roommate. When I was young, I can see "things and people" but I associated them as a fruit of my wild imagination. But as time goes by, I see these "things" more often. Only when my roommate was exorised did I believe that "they" exist and that there is nothing more powerful to drive them away by praying.

    Just my two cents.

  • Matt, my odd happenings won’t be empirical enough for you.

  • A thought has just popped into my head. Any supernatural manifestation will presumably have to interact with the material world in order to be manifested. If we see the material effects and explain it in terms of psychosis or whatever does that mean there was no manifestation? No.

    Its like the joke of the woman who prayed for a car parking space. Suddenly a car pulled out in front of her so she prayed “Never mind, got one”. Did He answer that prayer miraculously or not?

  • Sorry, me again. I see it was Cetta who asked me about my odd happenings, not Matt…

    They are mostly of the healing nature. People I know who have been ill with a range of serious illnesses and have stumped the doctors with “miraculous” recoveries. People I trust have told me of raisings from the dead in Africa. I have also heard stories involving guardian angles that I’ve wiped from my mind because of skepticism. However, my dear wife almost certainly has a guardian angel – either that or she is stupendously lucky – the number times she should have been killed because of her driving but wasn’t boggle the mind. 😉

    Seriously, and apologies to Matt for this simple mindedness, I sense that He is watching over her – even with all my cynicism.

  • Spirit beings exist, and we are spirit beings ourselves dwelling in a human body. That explains why we have beyond natural experiences.

    We can better appreciate and understand the natural if we recognize the spiritual.

    • Tom

      Most things we experience can be explained with the fact, that we have brains. Not even perfect ones. It stores up information we don't understand, but somehow need to. There will be always "something" out there that we don't understand, so we need to make up stories to make us comfortable about it.

      Spirits is just too insanely comfortable concept to hide many things behind it or to use for "explaining away" something you relly don't understand or something someone else does not want you to understand. I just don't buy it.

      My personal experience: I slept in one room with my sister. She had few dolls. I was looking at one of them in the dark until I started imagining it's head turned. The more I stared the more it turned. Thinking about it still gives me chills after 20 years. Did the doll really move? I actually went and switched on the light and kept staring – nothing. After all the staring I was so tuned to seeing "strange" things, that even if my father came to look why the light was on, his face seemed STRANGE – like it was just somebody with my fathers face, not my father – even more chills. But all this – easily explained with the way brains and vision work.

      Look at the numbers: there are almost 6.8 billion people around. SOME of them have to get into weird situations sometimes.. if you would hear about 1 billion prayers answered every day, then there is MAYBE somebody answering them, but if you hear about 100 or even 1000 over 10 years, it's more than probably just freaky random events interpreted conviniently.

  • I could not believe in spirits and in demons and everything fantastic and supernatural. And of course I don’t believe that religion is useful to me.

  • Wow, you really have had many religious expiriences. I don't think one needs to believe in the Christian God in order to believe in demons. I don't know how much I believe in all that, but I do believe that there's something there.

  • There are some interesting things to consider when thinking about things like demons, angels, speaking in tongues and other "unexplained" events. One thing for the Christian to consider is: Do these events happen with non-Christian circles? The answer is, yes. Therefore, these events do not necessarily prove the Bible to be a book of truth because virtually every religion in the world touches on these things, experiences them and has their own explanation for what has occurred.

    Another thing to consider is the human mind. It is a great and complex thing that we do not come near to understanding. When it comes to seeing things (a man in the closet, men on the roof, etc) it is possible, and has been demonstrated, that even masses of people can be led to believe they saw something that did not actually occur. And, even if the event did occur, just because it is (at this time) unexplainable, does not mean that we make the leap to "god", "the Bible" and "demons" or "angels". It is just as "logical" to make the leap to aliens, ghosts and any other explanation one cares to dream up.

    Lastly, and this is where I will get a bit weird, we have to admit that we do not know a lot about our own universe. There are all kinds of theories out there. Some of these scientific theories are so strange and wonderful that sci-fi movies and books have centered on them. One concept, dealing with Quantum Physics and the concept of a multi-verse (multiple, overlapping realities) could explain some of the strange things we see from time to time (if the theory is pushed to the limit). If, for example, there are a multitude of universes overlapping each other, then could it be possible that where these realities overlap that we sometimes catch a glimpse of them? Could this explain some of the sightings of strange and unexplained things? Whether multiple dimensions and multi-universes are true or not is not the issue. It is just as valid to think this as anything else (and maybe even more so because of the math behind it). But, just to emphasize again, just because we don't know what happened (why there were men on the room that no one can get to) does not mean we have to make a logical jump to "god" and all of that.

  • Davey

    I am 42 years old and have never had any kind of experience that was in any way out of the ordinary. But then I'm just not the suggestible type.

    I was brought up in a family of believers and was open to the possibility. In the end I came to the conclusion that those who believe have a strong desire or need to believe.

    To add to what has been said about people's minds fracturing through mental illness of some kind I would add the case of the man who was perfectly normal all his life and suddenly started experiencing paedophilic desire. When it was investigated, he was found to have a brain tumour. Once that tumour was removed he returned to normal. In a less enlightened age I'm sure people would have accounted for his change in personality by saying he had been possessed by a demon.

    Auditory hallucinations are quite common even in healthy people, especially if they are feeling tired. They can often clearly hear voices speak to them. Once you understand that all our perceptions are created inside the brain from the electrical impulses from our senses, it's not hard to see that the brain can sometimes create these perceptions without the external input in times of stress, illness, tiredness or heightened emotions.

    There is no reason to think that disembodied spirits exist in anything other than our imaginations.

  • [Y]our mind can be just as easily healed by the act of having a demon expelled as it can by having an ego (alternate identity) reintegrated into the whole mind—in fact it is much easier for those that believe in the demonic.

    I have DID. Your statement makes absolutely no sense to me. There is no way someone can be “cured” of DID via exorcism. I have several alters inside now laughing and also getting somewhat insulted that they would be “killed” or removed as a solution. These parts of me carry part of my memories, some of my emotions, and also many of my skills that make me a very successful and accomplished woman. If I were to just “remove” them, I am no longer a great writer or photographer. My witty use of sarcasm and humor is gone. Perhaps humorously, my ability to always find the right direction out of the mall.

    Removal is quite the opposite of integration. My work is to recognize and acknowledge why I am the way I am (obviously the trauma that I mostly remember from the start). And to bring all those broken pieces back together again. Even the very angry and hurtful parts of me were there to protect me, and I need to understand why and thank them for how they saved me. Not kill them and expel them. They may be/have been evil, but not in the demonic sense.

    No disrespect, but if an exorcism “works” on someone, it is my firm believe that they never had DID in the first place. Actual demonic possession is more likely the cause, perhaps misdiagnosed as DID from the start.