Good news! I am not possessed by demons

Richard Gallagher has written an article reporting on what he has learned about the signs of demonic possession after about 25 years of studying it. He is a practicing Catholic which naturally raises questions about his impartiality so he emphasizes his academic credentials, to assure us that he is not some kind of religious nut. His byline tells us that he is a “board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College.”

The text of the article continues that effort, where he speaks of himself as being skeptical of “hocus-pocus”, an “academic physician”, a “sophisticated psychiatrist”, and informs us that, “I’m a man of science and a lover of history; after studying the classics at Princeton, I trained in psychiatry at Yale and in psychoanalysis at Columbia.”

So what are the signs that he looks for that indicate that a demon is playing around with you? He says that warning signs are that the person suddenly speaks multiple languages that they could not have known, knows things about the backgrounds of people they have never met and their secret sins and weaknesses, shows enormous strength or even levitates, and “may suddenly, in a type of trance, voice statements of astonishing venom and contempt for religion”.

He says that he has personally seen, or heard from reliable sources, all these things. So how come we never seem to get concrete evidence of these things? He gives the usual answer.

As a man of reason, I’ve had to rationalize the seemingly irrational. Questions about how a scientifically trained physician can believe “such outdated and unscientific nonsense,” as I’ve been asked, have a simple answer. I honestly weigh the evidence. I have been told simplistically that levitation defies the laws of gravity, and, well, of course it does! We are not dealing here with purely material reality but with the spiritual realm. One cannot force these creatures to undergo lab studies or submit to scientific manipulation; they will also hardly allow themselves to be easily recorded by video equipment, as skeptics sometimes demand. (The official Catholic Catechism holds that demons are sentient and possess their own wills; as they are fallen angels, they are also craftier than humans. That’s how they sow confusion and seed doubt, after all.) Nor does the church wish to compromise a sufferer’s privacy any more than doctors want to compromise a patient’s confidentiality.

So there you are. We simply have to believe him and other observers. But why will these crafty fallen angels not allow themselves to be videorecorded? What better way than to convince people of their existence and sow confusion and doubt among skeptics?

But the good news is that I have never exhibited any of these symptoms of demonic possession and although I have criticized religion, it has been run of the mill and can hardly be described as with “astonishing venom and contempt”. This is a relief because it would be a real nuisance to have my body inhabited by someone else. Furthermore, I am not sure what an exorcism involves but it sounds painful.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … he speaks of himself as being skeptical of “hocus-pocus”…

    Presumably in blithe obliviousness of that term’s origin in the magic spell used in Communion rituals: Hoc est corpus!

  2. Matt G says

    The Catholic Church certified 200 exorcists when Pope Fluffy took office. They haven’t gotten past that nonsense. Glad to hear your immortal soul is not in danger, but you should always be on your guard. What happens in the human brain which causes people to think they are reasoning when they are actually rationalizing? I have a friend who has a water “restructuring” filter which means he only needs to drink 75% as much water as he would otherwise. Absolute craziness, but he is not a stupid person!

  3. Chris J says

    But my subject’s behavior exceeded what I could explain with my training. She could tell some people their secret weaknesses, such as undue pride. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including my mother and her fatal case of ovarian cancer.

    Has this guy ever sat in on a psychic reading? His mind would be completely blown!

    Six people later vouched to me that, during her exorcisms, they heard her speaking multiple languages, including Latin, completely unfamiliar to her outside of her trances.

    Were those languages that the six people were familiar with? Because it’s pretty easy to think that something sounds like a foreign language without it being one, especially if you aren’t trained in linguistics and can’t determine if even the phonemes match up.

    This was not psychosis; it was what I can only describe as paranormal ability. I concluded that she was possessed

    Obviously the only rational conclusion to take. Can’t explain it? Definitely demons.

  4. dphuntsman says

    Yeah, I was bothered by that guy, too. Obviously, the priests don’t want anyone too objective; it has to be a Catholic who automatically buys into non-evidential supernatural beings and spirits without question.

  5. Holms says

    This guy desperately needs to see some James Randi style psychic debunking. Though that might result in him realising he has wasted his entire career, which of course he won’t countenance.

  6. jrkrideau says

    he is not some kind of religious nut

    I trained in … in psychoanalysis ….” Ergo just a nut? Well, my opinion of psychoanalysis is that it is up there with many other woo approachs though the talking may help.

    Oh course an erudite and well educated man cannot be tricked. “Sir Arthur, would you like to see the fairies at the bottom of the garden?

    Sheeh, the Amazing Randy would have had him for breakfast. He’d probably have fallen for Uri Geller in a trice.

    On the other hand the book should sell well.

    @ 7 holms
    This guy desperately needs to see some James Randi style psychic debunking.
    Yes, my thought exactly.
    Perhaps an example of psychic surgery?

  7. jrkrideau says

    Hey, wait a minute! If these demons are so smart, would not the demon possessing Mano Singham tell us that Mano is not possessed to lull us into a false sense of security?

    I’m picking a bottle of holy water at the Cathedral as soon as I sign out and then I’ll sprinkle a few drops on the labtop every time I read this blog.

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