Exorcism goes mainstream


As a thriller writer, I’m never certain where my research will take me, and often it takes me to very dark places. Demonic possession, for example.

“Possession” is now recognized in the American Psychiatric Assn.’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I have on my desk a letter from an exorcism team at a Southern California Catholic church telling me that “more people of good will have been experiencing various forms of spiritual attack since the onset of the pandemic” and that “the team is overwhelmed with its current workload.”

M. Scott Peck, the well-known psychiatrist who wrote about spiritual development in “The Road Less Traveled,” treated two patients he diagnosed as possessed and helped do exorcisms on both of them. He admitted he went from being a complete nonbeliever to a complete believer in the demonic ability to possess.

A recent Vatican-sponsored exorcism conference in Rome was attended by 250 priests from 51 countries. The tools of the trade in Catholicism are simple: a purple stole, a crucifix, holy water, a copy of “Exorcisms and Related Supplications.” Most Catholic exorcisms these days take place in a church office, with the possessed sitting in a chair.

Modern medical practice agrees that physical well-being and mental well-being are intertwined with spirituality. There are countless examples of this: Somatization disorder is defined as recurrent and multiple medical symptoms generally with no discernable organic cause. The symptoms are physical, mental and spiritual — a fear/survival response to emotion and physiology. Integrative medicine is the combination of treating mind, body and spirit. An alternative to traditional psychiatry, psychoneurology, “bridges ancient wisdom with leading edge technology to pioneer an entirely new paradigm in healing and wellness,” according to its accreditation board.


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