Monday, 3 June 2013

Demonic Possession

Lesser Poland St. Catherine of Siena

In many religions and cultures, demonic possession is believed to be a condition when a person's body is taken control over by a malevolent spirit popularly called a demon, thus causing the victim to behave unnaturally and perform such activities that lack a rational explanation, including speaking in strange languages, a drastic change in the voice, deep spiritual knowledge and superhuman strength.

Earliest Reference: The earliest reference to the concept of demonic possession is found in the ancient Sumerian Civilization that originated in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerians maintained that all sorts of diseases were caused to human beings by the 'gidim' or sickness-demons.

What is a Demon?: Many popular cultures believe that a demon is a supernatural, diabolic and often destructive entity who takes pleasure in causing harm to human beings in varied ways. Although the concept of demonic possession is found in several religions, the details and descriptions vary significantly.

Symptoms of Demonic Possession: The symptoms or signs of a person's being possessed by demons are trembling, frequent vomiting, sudden faints, access to unknown spiritual knowledge, knowing of foreign languages, speaking in a strange and often dreadful, fearsome voice, injuries all over the body, possession of more physical strength than is humanly possible and even a changed facial appearance.

Suggested Religious Treatments: All cultures and religions agree that exorcism is the only way of getting rid of a demonic possession. However, the methodology of performing this exorcism to get rid of the demonic possession varies greatly. Different religions suggest different methods of performing an exorcism, including performance of rituals with offerings to please the demon, praying to God to expel the invading demon from the person's body, compelling the demon to leave the victim's body by asking the good spirits for assistance and the use of incantations, special enchanted objects like holy water, ash, etc. to scare away the demon.

Demonic Possession in Popular Religions

Demonic Possession: Image Courtesy by kennethkonica
Demonic Possession in Christianity: Christianity believes that all demons are regulated by the one Devil or Satan, who is the Prince of Delusion and the ruler of Hell, a banished or 'fallen angel' who was created by God himself but later rebelled against him and was expelled from Heaven. All the demons are other fallen angels in league with the Satan who were expelled along with him and are his ardent followers. It is said that these demons have the 'license' to possess human bodies provided that the person himself grants permission to the demon to do so by either openly challenging the demon or otherwise. The Christians who are experts in the technique of warding off demons are called exorcists. The most common technique used by the exorcists is to pray to God, Jesus and good angels for assistance.

Demonic Possession in Hinduism: Hinduism too believes in demonic possession. However, unlike Christianity, it suggests that the demons are spirits of those dead people who were either very evil when they were human beings or had to die due to an unnatural cause or else have failed to detach themselves from this materialistic world even after death. In primitive Hindu societies, the exorcism is performed by 'ojha' or 'ouja', who is methods like special incantations, gestures, rituals and holy objects and even beat the victim to expel the demon. Enchanted objects like holy ash, amulets, etc. are often used  to protect people from a demonic possession. In some Hindu societies that are more progressive, the 'pundits' or religious leaders perform the exorcism.

Demonic Possession in Islam: In Islam, the demons are called 'jinns'. If a jinn happens to possess a human body, a religious person of high spiritual knowledge, faith (iman) and fear of God or Allah (taqwa) must perform the exorcism. the environment in which the exorcism is performed should be clean, both physically and spiritually. The exorcist must recite the verses of the Quran (the holy book of Islam). The recitation of the verses of the Quran will make the jinn feel uncomfortable and force it to leave the victim's body.

A Rational Approach to Demonic Possession

Psychiatrists have traced the scientific cause of demonic possession to a mental disorder called 'Dissociative Identity Disorder', in which the sufferer has multiple personalities dwelling in his body. These personalities are all nothing but creations of the victim's mind. These personalities will often take control over the victim's body and cause him to behave in a way completely different from his own behavior, characteristic to some other personality that is occupying the victim's body at that time. It has been observed in many cases of dissociative identity disorder that the other personality identifies itself as a demon. This medical condition is called demonopathy. The symptoms of this mental illness coincide with many symptoms of demonic possession, leading several psychiatrists to believe that this is the possible rational explanation to this occult phenomenon.
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