Exorcism and Possession

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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:22 pm

The problem is that therapy is expensive. I know many therapists who will reduce costs or even not charge if people can't afford it but it's difficult to break even if you price that low let alone make a living. Most of the free services cut the number of sessions too low so people end up doing quick fixes.
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby spongebob » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:39 pm

Moonwood the Hare wrote:No. It is the material in the various case studies that stands as evidence and not the interpretation placed on those experiences. If you want to know what the evidence is then read the studies; there are certain patterns of behaviour for example which are observable and in that sense objective.


I might, but I had never heard of such studies before. It seems very limited to equate "behavior" with evidence. Human behavior can be all sorts of things for all sorts of overlapping reasons. Behavior itself is often just a symptom of an abnormality. So a guy mumbles a lot and shouts obscenities. Is he possessed? Is it Turrets? Is he drunk? Or is he just a jerk? At least one of these is testable.

There are very few testable models in psychology and in any science no model is testable tothe extent that no other explanation is possible which is what you seem to me to be asking for. A myth as Robert Graves pointed out is a verbal iconograph, a way of symbolising something in language and I would agree that a lot of the language in demomology is mythical in this sense.


You just assumed that was what I was asking for; I never said that. It's all about probabilities, what is most likely the cause. But if you declare at the onset that there is no testable model for some condition then you are limiting the credibility of the whole thing.

I would see them as part of the natural universe but not neccessarily part of the material universe,having the same kind of noetic status as numbers or archetypes.


This just sounds contradictory and at the same time like nonsense. The kind of thing that would get you a quick prescription for weed in California.

That's not so much an answer as a repetition of the question. I am asking why people respond differently and you reply because they are different, which begs the question 'what makes them different?' Specificaly are there experiences prior ro trauma that make some people more prone to suffering long term damage by it?


Well, you didn't really pose the question, you made a statement, but sure people are different at some level of the mind. If you could adequately explain how, you would likely advance the science of mental health and probably even consciousness many years into the future. That's the real problem with this area, we just don't know a lot and those kinds of voids are often easily filled with whatever kind of myth that people feel comfortable with, like demons. These are easy answers made up of nonsense that do nothing to actually explain the real world. You need some kind of mechanism and/or a predictable pattern to make some sense of it, both would be preferred.

I'm not sure what you mean by spiritual dimension.


It was more of a joke. When I say things like that I'm being facetious because I don't believe such things exist. May as well say from the Peanut Butter Universe.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:05 pm

spongebob wrote:I might, but I had never heard of such studies before. It seems very limited to equate "behavior" with evidence. Human behavior can be all sorts of things for all sorts of overlapping reasons. Behavior itself is often just a symptom of an abnormality. So a guy mumbles a lot and shouts obscenities. Is he possessed? Is it Turrets? Is he drunk? Or is he just a jerk? At least one of these is testable.

I wouldn't equate behaviour with evidence but an awful lot of what we usualy mean by evidence is behaviour of one kind and another. Theories are usualy trying to explain behaviour and in order to account for that behaviour they have to treat it as evidence. In the case of psychology this will be human behaviour, and a great deal of psychology concerns theories about the influence on behaviour of factors the person behaving is not aware of. There are degrees of testability but to insist that the theory most likely yo be true is the one that is most testable seems myopic to me. In the specific case of psychology the quest for testable theories has lead down some major dead ends. You only have to look at the work of Watson and Skinner to see that.
You just assumed that was what I was asking for; I never said that. It's all about probabilities, what is most likely the cause. But if you declare at the onset that there is no testable model for some condition then you are limiting the credibility of the whole thing.

I would think it is an even bigger problem if you claim to have a testable model but actually only test something trivial and produce a trivial theory on the grounds that it is testable. When you talk of probabilities I think you have to distingusih between calculations of proability and judgements of probability. If there is no mathematicaly calculable probability then the judgement of what is proable is always personal and therefore person relative.
I would see them as part of the natural universe but not neccessarily part of the material universe,having the same kind of noetic status as numbers or archetypes.


This just sounds contradictory and at the same time like nonsense. The kind of thing that would get you a quick prescription for weed in California.

It sounds contradictory because you are assuming that the natural universe, the cosmos, simply is material but I think there are reasons for thinking there are noetic as well as physical aspects of creation, as well as potheads this view has been taken by such wackos as Kurt Godel, Richard Feynman, Carl Jung and John Polkinghorne.
Well, you didn't really pose the question, you made a statement,


True but you stil offered an answer!
but sure people are different at some level of the mind. If you could adequately explain how, you would likely advance the science of mental health and probably even consciousness many years into the future. That's the real problem with this area, we just don't know a lot and those kinds of voids are often easily filled with whatever kind of myth that people feel comfortable with, like demons. These are easy answers made up of nonsense that do nothing to actually explain the real world. You need some kind of mechanism and/or a predictable pattern to make some sense of it, both would be preferred.

I find this facinating and I am fairly sure you have not noticed what you have done. In the first part of the paragraph you offer a theory about human psychology, that people hold certain beliefs because they feel comfortable with them. In the second half you say that theories about psychology need a mechanism or predictable pattern. But you did not offer any such mechanism or predicatble pattern for your own theory. Furthermore although you explain belief in demons in this way it never occurs to you that you feel the need for mechanism and predictability because that is what you feel comfortable with; you fail to apply your theory to your own beliefs or alternatively to explain why this theory applies to some beliefs and not others which would be a minimum requirement for any kind of predictab;e pattern.
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby spongebob » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:13 pm

Moonwood wrote:I find this facinating and I am fairly sure you have not noticed what you have done. In the first part of the paragraph you offer a theory about human psychology, that people hold certain beliefs because they feel comfortable with them. In the second half you say that theories about psychology need a mechanism or predictable pattern. But you did not offer any such mechanism or predicatble pattern for your own theory. Furthermore although you explain belief in demons in this way it never occurs to you that you feel the need for mechanism and predictability because that is what you feel comfortable with; you fail to apply your theory to your own beliefs or alternatively to explain why this theory applies to some beliefs and not others which would be a minimum requirement for any kind of predictab;e pattern.


I don't see any "gotcha" there as you seem to. If we're talking about why people experience these things or what the possible causes might be, and that's what I thought was happening, then it only makes sense for me to express what I imagine is reasonable and what isn't. When people offer these demonic origins for mental health issues, I am immediately curious about where these "demons" reside, what they consist of, how they inhabit a person, what that mechanism looks like, why it begins and what can make it end, and of course how can we even know these answers if we can't measure any part of this. So I categorize those types of answers (like demons) as generally useless because they are limited only by your imagination. It's unclear if reality plays any part at all. That's not the same as they way you are characterizing my comments. I don't offer a theory for what is really going on with mental health because I don't have enough experience with it and really the rest of your comment is nothing but a circular argument that goes nowhere and yet also goes far beyond anything I stated. Please try to keep that in mind when you characterize my comments.

But I will offer this if you can be so patient. I just saw the film "Unbroken" and the film depicts the brutal torture of American officer Louis Zamperini in WWII by the Japanese. The film didn't show the enormous emotional problems that followed Zamperini, as it did many war veterans. We now call that PTSD and doctors have some success with treating the condition even if they don't completely understand what causes it. I laugh at the suggestion that it's demons from hell like it's some kind of comic book response. It could just as well be flomagarnets from Xghiantingytot. Clearly there is something that happens to the human psyche when we experience extreme distress, some sort of feedback loop within our emotional centers of the brain. My guess is that our ability to experience emotion with such intensity is involved in this somehow and I would expect that research into psychopaths may one day shed some real light on this subject. Humans are capable of surviving astonishing suffering and at the time it may have very little affect on us, but somehow these events get tangled up with the normal functioning of our emotions and it can result in extreme dysfunction. There is some repeatability there, btw.

I wouldn't equate behaviour with evidence but an awful lot of what we usualy mean by evidence is behaviour of one kind and another. Theories are usualy trying to explain behaviour and in order to account for that behaviour they have to treat it as evidence. In the case of psychology this will be human behaviour, and a great deal of psychology concerns theories about the influence on behaviour of factors the person behaving is not aware of. There are degrees of testability but to insist that the theory most likely yo be true is the one that is most testable seems myopic to me. In the specific case of psychology the quest for testable theories has lead down some major dead ends. You only have to look at the work of Watson and Skinner to see that.


I think you are waving your hands a lot here. You said we have evidence in human behavior. Evidence of what, I haven't really understood yet, but when you say this it sounds to me like you are saying: Patient X behaved in this way and thus we believe he is inhabited by a class 4 demon. Why? Did you look in the book of demon possession and cross reference profanity, jitters and a sense that someone's watching them and find those all checked under class 4 demon behavior table? Seriously, where's the reference from? Ancient stories? Is the answer written in the stars? Does some clergy just "know" this because he's a man of god?

I would think it is an even bigger problem if you claim to have a testable model but actually only test something trivial and produce a trivial theory on the grounds that it is testable. When you talk of probabilities I think you have to distingusih between calculations of proability and judgements of probability. If there is no mathematicaly calculable probability then the judgement of what is proable is always personal and therefore person relative.


You are just manufacturing these things on your own. I didn't say anything about testing trivial things or producing trivial theories. All I said was that before you can fix something, you need to understand something about what causes it or what the mechanism is, otherwise you don't know what you are doing. Sort of like if your house was on fire and you thought, well maybe it's that way because of a lack of babies. So maybe I should throw my baby at it. And I was talking about mathematical probabilities, not personal judgements, but you are just hedging your bet here to make it sound like there's no way to evaluate this because it's "magical" I suppose. At this point you seem to be having a discussion about magic and if that's really the case then I suppose I'll just step outside.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Aaron » Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:43 pm

Spongebob wrote:But I will offer this if you can be so patient. I just saw the film "Unbroken" and the film depicts the brutal torture of American officer Louis Zamperini in WWII by the Japanese. The film didn't show the enormous emotional problems that followed Zamperini, as it did many war veterans. We now call that PTSD and doctors have some success with treating the condition even if they don't completely understand what causes it. I laugh at the suggestion that it's demons from hell like it's some kind of comic book response. It could just as well be flomagarnets from Xghiantingytot. Clearly there is something that happens to the human psyche when we experience extreme distress, some sort of feedback loop within our emotional centers of the brain. My guess is that our ability to experience emotion with such intensity is involved in this somehow and I would expect that research into psychopaths may one day shed some real light on this subject. Humans are capable of surviving astonishing suffering and at the time it may have very little affect on us, but somehow these events get tangled up with the normal functioning of our emotions and it can result in extreme dysfunction. There is some repeatability there, btw.

I haven't seen the film yet (I want to) I read Laura's book (which was great) but from what I understand the film stops after the war ends, here's the rest of the story:

From Louis Zamperini: How he came to Christ through Billy Graham in L.A.

    "...After the war, he met and married the girl of his dreams, but post-traumatic stress disorder threatened to destroy his marriage. All the while, he dreamed of a return to Japan to hunt down and kill the former guard who tormented him.

    “I had nightmares every night,” says Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book “Unbroken.” The nightmares followed Zamperini home like a crazed hound from hell. “No one knew about it, because I looked perfectly normal,” he says. “I covered it up by drinking.”

    His wife Cynthia suspected something was terribly wrong, because Zamperini often woke up in a cold sweat, shouting. One night he dreamed he was strangling The Bird. In fact, he was on top of his pregnant wife with his hands around her neck, choking the life out of her. “I woke up and couldn’t believe it,” he says.

    His life spiraled downward as he began to chase other women at local bars, where he and his Olympic buddies often got free drinks. “I began to fall apart,” Zamperini recalls. “My wife decided she wanted a divorce.”

    About that time, a new couple in their apartment building talked about a young evangelist preaching in a large tent in downtown Los Angeles. “In those days ‘evangelist’ was a dirty word because there were so many crooked ones,” Zamperini notes.

    The young evangelist was Billy Graham, the object of William Randolph Hearst’s famous order to his news editors — “Puff Graham” – that led to 10,000 people jamming the tent each night. Cynthia went with the couple to hear Graham, but Louis refused to go. When Cynthia returned home after the event, Louis immediately noticed something was different.

    “She started speaking of a peace and joy in her heart,” he recalls. Still, Louis stubbornly resisted her invitation to hear Graham. “She knew that to save our marriage I would have to be converted.”

    Despite her appeals, Louis continued to dig in his heels. “I wanted no part of it.”

    But then Cynthia said something that got his attention. “Because of my conversion I’m not going to get a divorce,” she announced.

    The next day Cynthia was all over Louis again, and this time he relented. “Ok, Ok, I’ll go,” he said. “But when that fella says, ‘Every head bowed and every eye closed,’ we’re getting out of there.”

    That night, Graham spoke from the eighth chapter of John about the woman caught in adultery. “He began to preach and quote scripture that reminded me of my life,” Louis notes. Still, his heart was hardened. At the end of the message when Graham asked people to bow their heads, Louis grabbed his wife’s arm and bolted from the tent.

    As they got in their car, he said, “Don’t ever get me back in a place like that again.”

    Louis suffered a fitful night’s sleep that night, with more nightmares about The Bird. The next morning, Cynthia was just as firm in her resolve that a change in Louis’s heart was the only possible way to save their marriage. She went after Louis again and convinced him to go back a second time to hear Graham. Louis warned his wife, “If he says ‘every head bowed and every eye closed,’ we’re out of there.”

    This time, Graham spoke about why Christians suffer and why God seemed to allow communism to flourish. At the end of the message, when Graham asked people to bow their heads, Louis got up to leave. As he moved to the end of their row and stood in the aisle, he hesitated and stopped.

    Something Graham said about people “at the end of their rope” who turned to God triggered a flood of memories. He thought about his ordeal in the Japanese P.O.W. camp, when he and the other men prayed daily. He promised God then ‘If you get me home alive I’ll seek you and serve you.’

    Likewise, his mind returned to his suffering on the raft. “On the raft we were at the mercy of the elements on the ocean. I came back alive. God kept his promise,” he realized, but he had not kept his part.

    “What a heel I’ve been,” he muttered to himself.

    Instead of heading for the exit door, Louis turned and walked toward the prayer room. There, he fell to his knees and gave his life to Christ. “The Holy Spirit came into my heart and I became a member of the true church, the Body of Christ.”

    Something unusual happened as he knelt humbly before God. “When I was still on my knees I forgave all my guards, and I knew I was through smoking, drinking and chasing women.”

    That night his nightmares stopped abruptly. “The miracle that happened,” he says, “it was the first time in years I never had a nightmare. I haven’t had one since.

    Zamperini rummaged through their apartment the next day. He tossed out all the liquor, cigarettes and girlie magazines hidden in various places. He dug out his WWII Bible, walked to a local park and began to read. “I got to the crucifixion and I started crying like a baby.”

    He left the park and hurried back to see Cynthia. “A miracle has happened in my life,” he said excitedly.

    “The same miracle happened to me,” she said. “That’s the miracle of conversion — it happens the moment you believe!”

    The following day Louis found Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows and told them about the marvelous change that happened. “I was bubbling over with joy,” he recalls. Louis insisted, however, they would never get him up on a platform talking about his faith.

    But God had other plans. “The next day Cliff Barrows gave me a train ticket to Modesto.” Zamperini boarded the train and headed for his first participatory Graham event, where he shared about his newfound faith. “I only knew two or three scriptures,” he admits. “Since then I’ve been on platforms all over the world.”

    Zamperini notes that one of the reviewers of “Unbroken” faulted the book in one respect: “He couldn’t understand how someone with post-traumatic stress disorder could get over it in a moment.”

    “The reviewer didn’t know the scripture,” ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things become new.’”"
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:53 am

spongebob wrote:I don't see any "gotcha" there as you seem to. If we're talking about why people experience these things or what the possible causes might be, and that's what I thought was happening, then it only makes sense for me to express what I imagine is reasonable and what isn't.

The point I was making, which you are either missing or avoiding, is that you are not playing with an even hand. You are simply expressing what seems reasonable but you are asking more than that of me in asking for precision and measuarability.
When people offer these demonic origins for mental health issues, I am immediately curious about where these "demons" reside, what they consist of, how they inhabit a person, what that mechanism looks like, why it begins and what can make it end, and of course how can we even know these answers if we can't measure any part of this.

These are good questions but if they cannot be answered or can only be answered very tentatively this does not mean exorcism is not phenomenologically valid. The claim that we have to be able to answer complex metaphysical questions in order for a treatment to be valid seems unwaranted to me. So to take the questions. If daemons are notetic in nature then asking where they are is like asking where mathematical equasions happen. If however they are amphibious able to occupy both a physical and a noetic realm they may at times have a kind of location. I would not take claims about inhabbitting literally, I don't think what you are calling the mechanism looks like anything. There are a number of things that seem to be the origin of demonic activity, for example certain kinds of unregulated psychic activity - I knew a clergyman who was called in after soldiers at a local barracks had been usin a oija board - certain kinds of mental game playing including pacts witht he devil, certain commitments to a negative or destructive lifestyle and so on. Demons submit to the name of Jesus, this may be because Christ is a powerful symbol of psychic wholeness. I don't accept your idea that we can only know what we can measure, if that is what you are implying.
So I categorize those types of answers (like demons) as generally useless because they are limited only by your imagination.

You will find that a lot of exorcists are very down to earth. They no more need to know the ontological nature of the forces they deal with than an electrician needs to know the ontology of physical forces.
It's unclear if reality plays any part at all. That's not the same as they way you are characterizing my comments. I don't offer a theory for what is really going on with mental health because I don't have enough experience with it and really the rest of your comment is nothing but a circular argument that goes nowhere and yet also goes far beyond anything I stated. Please try to keep that in mind when you characterize my comments.

I undrstand that saying people believe things because they find them comfortable is not really a theory so much as an unsupported assertion but why all these demsnads for precision when you, yourself are being vague?
But I will offer this if you can be so patient. I just saw the film "Unbroken" and the film depicts the brutal torture of American officer Louis Zamperini in WWII by the Japanese. The film didn't show the enormous emotional problems that followed Zamperini, as it did many war veterans. We now call that PTSD and doctors have some success with treating the condition even if they don't completely understand what causes it. I laugh at the suggestion that it's demons from hell like it's some kind of comic book response. It could just as well be flomagarnets from Xghiantingytot. Clearly there is something that happens to the human psyche when we experience extreme distress, some sort of feedback loop within our emotional centers of the brain. My guess is that our ability to experience emotion with such intensity is involved in this somehow and I would expect that research into psychopaths may one day shed some real light on this subject. Humans are capable of surviving astonishing suffering and at the time it may have very little affect on us, but somehow these events get tangled up with the normal functioning of our emotions and it can result in extreme dysfunction. There is some repeatability there, btw.

There are links between traumatology and demonology. One of the first people to speculate on this was William Sergant who wrote a very intersting book called 'The Mind Possessed'. Sergant had been working with trauma victims in world war 2 using drug abreaction. But the field of trauma studies and the treatments offered do not uniformly support a physicalist explanation. For example the Emotional Freedom Techniques (tapping) which is an energy therapy and perhaps EMD (Eye Movement Desensitisation) would both come into the category you would call magic and yet have as good a success rate as the more physicalist therapies. The rewind therapy offered by the human givens people seems very succesful but it is not clear that the physicalist theories they offer are vindicated by the success of the treatment. I can discuss some of this in a lot more detail if you wish. The rest of what you say here seems to be an argument from personal incredulity.
I think you are waving your hands a lot here. You said we have evidence in human behavior. Evidence of what, I haven't really understood yet, but when you say this it sounds to me like you are saying: Patient X behaved in this way and thus we believe he is inhabited by a class 4 demon. Why? Did you look in the book of demon possession and cross reference profanity, jitters and a sense that someone's watching them and find those all checked under class 4 demon behavior table? Seriously, where's the reference from? Ancient stories? Is the answer written in the stars? Does some clergy just "know" this because he's a man of god?

I thought you were the one advocating this precise diagnostic analysis. Basically people involved in this work learn from experience and expect anomalies like any other therapist.

You are just manufacturing these things on your own. I didn't say anything about testing trivial things or producing trivial theories. All I said was that before you can fix something, you need to understand something about what causes it or what the mechanism is, otherwise you don't know what you are doing.

Whereas above you say traumatologists can be succesful without completely understanding what causes a condition. I was saying that an insistance on precision and measurability often leads to trivial theories in the human sciences. There is an idea, dating all the way back to Aristotle, that any science should only attempt to be precise to the degree that is subject area permits.
Sort of like if your house was on fire and you thought, well maybe it's that way because of a lack of babies. So maybe I should throw my baby at it. And I was talking about mathematical probabilities, not personal judgements, but you are just hedging your bet here to make it sound like there's no way to evaluate this because it's "magical" I suppose. At this point you seem to be having a discussion about magic and if that's really the case then I suppose I'll just step outside.

Okay, now tell me how you would calculate the mathematical probability that a person believes in demons because it makes them comfortable. And can you say whether for you everything must be either magic or science or whether any other categories might exist?
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Razor » Tue Feb 24, 2015 6:58 am

You could ask people why they believe in demons?

Belief in things to make yourself feel better is well documented. It is the basis for whole trading strategies around loss aversion (basically believing things will change because it makes you feel better).

I don't think you can try and justify using a being who's existence cannot be in any way evidenced (demons) as a mechanism for mental illness.

The act of believing in demons could well contribute to mental illness (I can see it making one rather paranoid at the very least).

In reference to treatment success rates- as you know from the placebo effect present with drugs treating physical ailments, the effect of thinking you should be getting better should be equally, if not more, present in mental illness.
Given this, if the patient believes in demons the most effective treatment could be exorcism, even tho the act of exorcism only has effect in the mind of.the patient.
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:04 am

Razor wrote:You could ask people why they believe in demons?

Isn't the comfort theory suggesting that people are not always aware of their motives?
Belief in things to make yourself feel better is well documented. It is the basis for whole trading strategies around loss aversion (basically believing things will change because it makes you feel better).

This is a good example of where something which can never be directly encountered (a person's internal state of mind) is inferred from a behaviour. The evidence certainly supports the theory but it by no means proves it. It is then a further stretch to say what has been demonstrated in one context can be applied in another, so because some people avoid losses does not directly imply that some people believe in demons because it is comforting.
I don't think you can try and justify using a being who's existence cannot be in any way evidenced (demons) as a mechanism for mental illness.

It can be evidenced to the same extent that your theory about a person's internal state can be evidenced from behaviour.
The act of believing in demons could well contribute to mental illness (I can see it making one rather paranoid at the very least).

This I doubt. It implies that a belief held at a concious level can be a cause or one of the causes of a mental health problem. All the evidence suggests that these conditions are rooted in the aspects of the self we are not concious of. So a mental health problem could give rise to abelief but it is not clear there is traffic the other way.
In reference to treatment success rates- as you know from the placebo effect present with drugs treating physical ailments, the effect of thinking you should be getting better should be equally, if not more, present in mental illness.
Given this, if the patient believes in demons the most effective treatment could be exorcism, even tho the act of exorcism only has effect in the mind of.the patient.

It could but exorxism like abreaction is quite an intense process which could do further damage. It would be like prescribing a drug with hugely destructive side effects for its placebo effect. It is different with exorcism of places which may well work as you suggest but actual exorcism of people is not something to enter into lightly. It can be especially harmful for some mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and can result in death.
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Re: Exorcism and Possession

Postby mjplatt » Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:03 pm

I think there is absolutely no evidence for any sort of supernatural demon. On the other hand I hear that possession is 9 tenths of the law.
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