Many “mental” and emotional ailments relegated to the domain of psychology are in point of fact demonic in nature. “Double-mindedness (possession by a spirit) may be labeled “schizophrenia.” A violent demon often leads to a diagnosis of sociopathy or psychopathy. A spirit of infirmity can be labeled “psychosomatic.” Demonic obsession: neurosis. And possession by more than one demon? That’s usually misdiagnosed as “multiple-personality syndrome” when in actuality it involves just as Jesus showed at the Garesenes: a “legion” of devils (using the label of the demons themselves, Mark 5:1)
Few are aware that the “father” of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, based his theory in part on research with a patient who was given the pseudonym “Anna O” (real name Bertha Pappenheim, 1859–1936) who later — incredibly — complained that she wasn’t mentally ill but rather possessed. Bertha was a feminist whose case formed the basis of Freud’s “groundbreaking” book, Studies on Hysteria. Remarkably, Freud’s co-author and mentor, Dr. Josef Breuer, later agreed with Bertha that something uncanny was at work — and once fled the room in a cold sweat when he hypnotized her! Her “split personality” is today referred to as “dissociative identity disorder.” (Besides shifting into different languages, she hallucinated snakes.)
Yet Freud’s psychological explanation not only was allowed to stand but set the stage for the tsunami called psychotherapy, whereby the therapist’s couch (or the psychiatrist’s drugs) replaced the exorcist’s prayer room and parish confessional.
At any rate, this all comes to mind as we carry a new book by a psychiatrist who not only recognizes but assists in exorcism.
Decades ago, Dr. Richard Gallagher, an academic psychiatrist, awoke in the night to the sound of his two otherwise-docile cats screeching and clawing at one another. Gallagher was forced to separate the berserk cats into two rooms, then went back to bed, mystified by their strange behavior. The next morning, a priest with whom Gallagher was acquainted knocked at the door, accompanied by a woman with jet black hair whose eyeliner stretched to her hairline. “How’d you like those cats last night?” she quipped.
This was Julia, who claimed to be a high priestess of Satanism possessed by demonic forces. Her remarkable case was among the first of many that Gallagher would encounter in a long career spent distinguishing psychosis from alleged possession. Julia exhibited a series of behaviors that, as Gallagher sees it, constituted a “once-in-a-century” possession, from speaking in languages she claimed not to know to allegedly levitating for over half an hour during an exorcism. [see bottom for book]
From the Washington Post:
The priest who had asked for my opinion of this bizarre case was the most experienced exorcist in the country at the time, an erudite and sensible man. I had told him that, even as a practicing Catholic, I wasn’t likely to go in for a lot of hocus-pocus. “Well,” he replied, “unless we thought you were not easily fooled, we would hardly have wanted you to assist us.”