In my latest reading of People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, M. Scott Peck talked about exorcism. I did not finish Peck's chapter on this subject, so I will be commenting on what I have read so far.
distinguishes demonic possession from multiple-personality disorder.
One difference between the two is that, in multiple personality
disorder, "the 'core personality' is virtually always unaware of the
existence of the secondary personalities----at least until close to the
very end of prolonged, successful treatment" (page 192). When people
are possessed by demons, by contrast, they are often aware that there is
an alien presence within them. Another difference is that, in
multiple-personality disorder, the personalities usually are not evil.
In demonic possession, however, the alien presence is evil.
had to think about Peck's distinction between multiple-personality
disorder and demonic possession for a second, for I wondered if his
characterization of multiple-personality disorder was correct (not that I
have the knowledge or credentials to challenge him, but I have the
right to ask questions). I vaguely recalled that, in the movie Sybil,
in which Sally Field played a woman named Sybil who had
multiple-personality disorder, at least two of Sybil's personalities
were carrying on a conversation with each other, and that made me wonder
if personalities within multiple-personality disorder were indeed
unaware of each other. But then I took a closer look at what
Peck was saying: Peck didn't say that none of the personalities was
aware of the other, but rather that the "core personality" was unaware
of the "secondary personalities". And, indeed, in Sybil,
the two personalities who were talking with each other were secondary
personalities. But Sybil herself, if I recall correctly, was unaware of
the other personalities, and it was like a black-out for her when
another personality was taking over.
But back to Peck's discussion of exorcism. Why
do people get possessed, according to Peck? Peck listed at least three
factors: loneliness, selling out on one's morals, and involvement with
the occult. This made me think about an episode of Touched by an Angel called "The Occupant",
in which a man named Lonnie is possessed by Gregory, a demon. How did
Lonnie become possessed? Lonnie grew up in a troubled home, so he was
lonely. A woman he met got him involved in the occult, and that's when
he met Gregory, who promised never to leave him. Reading Peck worried
me somewhat, since I myself have difficulty establishing relationships
and can easily find myself becoming lonely. At the same time, lonely
people can reach out to God, so perhaps loneliness can have positive
spiritual outcomes. And yet, oddly enough, Peck says that some whom he
knew who were possessed by demons had an extraordinary potential for
holiness. So what can I do? Probably seek God's protection, stay away
from the occult, and nurture whatever healthy relationships with people
that I have.
Peck also makes the point that those conducting the exorcism must be loving and compassionate people.
They're not necessarily perfect, for one participant Peck mentions said
that he had a cold element of his personality until helping to perform
an exorcism cleansed him of that. (Peck was saying here that exorcism
not only cleanses the possessed person, but it also has a positive
spiritual impact on those performing the exorcism, even though the
activity is draining enough to them that they usually don't want to
conduct an exorcism ever again.) Peck also says that God can use
people's imperfections amidst the exorcism. Moreover, Peck denies that
one has to be a Christian to conduct an exorcism successfully, for he
knows of participants in exorcisms who were atheists, plus he notes that
exorcisms occur in non-Christian contexts. What is important is that
one be loving and compassionate. Not only does that create a proper
atmosphere for an exorcism, but it would also help the person who has
just been cleansed of the demon, for he longs for community, so it's
good when he has loving and compassionate people there to support him.
doubt that I would be qualified to conduct an exorcism, for, although
love, compassion, and empathy are within me, I can see myself getting
puffed up when attempting an exorcism. What's odd is that I
hear stories from people who claim to have cast out demons, and they
sound pompous, self-promoting, and spiritually proud, so I wonder how
they succeeded in performing exorcisms, if Peck's criteria are true.
Maybe they're just shooting off their mouths!