The practice of exorcism or the removal of the spirit in possession of a person’s body is an ancient ritual that has some of its roots in the traditional cultures of man before the written word, with the fine tuning of its meaning and our interpretation of this world becoming a part of world culture in two steps each during a different period in world history.
This above sentence implies there are three major periods in the practice of ritual related to exorcism–the primitive, the ante-christian and the Christian. The definition and meaning of the term exorcisms for the most part is a product of Christian culture, although it has its post-Mosaic predecessors and even its Cabbalistic equivalents of pre-Mosaic and post-Mosaic periods in religious history. Notice, the emphasis of the action of exorcism is linked primarily toe Judaeo-Christian traditions and philosophy. Other religious traditions bear similar concepts of course–all religions bear some philosophy that is used to assign the value of good or bad, blessed versus evil to something, unless of course that something is somewhere in between these two extremes in classifying an existence.
So the Devil and the Witch concept in American and United States history, and in effect Christian and a little bit of Judaic history is the topic being discussed here.
Just how did we begin to define good from evil with the perspective of exorcism as a means to eliminate evil? And when is it that exorcism became a cultural concept attached to health, be is somatic in nature and/or mental in nature and/or spiritual or possessive in nature? The latter aspect of the illness leading up to the need for exorcism is inherently assumed by some groups to be spiritual in nature, or more precisely soul-related in nature. This groups defines the illness in need for exorcism as a state of being in which ones innermost self or soul has been either over-ridden, put into hidden, detached from the physical state, or removed and replaced by some other spirit, namely an evil spirit, and principally that of the most evilv thing that can exist. The names for this most evil thing of course will vary depending upon which group has dictated that this evilness is within someone–some call it Satan, some the devil, some a demon, some beelzebub, etc. etc.
But there are those other cultures that belief in the lesser form of possession of the body, one that is not necessarily satanic in origins but one that is still evil, demonic and spiritual in origin. In the purest sense, these explanations and descriptions may not necessarily be at all the same thing that possession is when the practice of exorcism is actually needed. These bad spiritual possessions may of may not be an invasion by some “alien spirit” to the body, be it in the form of energy, alternative state of being, what have you. But taht possession in reality isn’t satanic, based on the cultural definition that there can be only one Satan, one of the worst of the most evil things to exist.
So, for the sake of this review, I will focus mostly upon that one concept–the one Satan related change in physical, mental, spiritual, and soul, if your want, state of being, and the events that are similar to this loss of one’s self, such as becoming what cultures defined to be a witch or the like. This focus will also have to be mostly worded based upon my onw personal upbringing and training of the lacguage, which is Christian based not Qabala or Judaic based. So any phrasing of the Jewish alternatives to the concept of Satanic forces and the rituals related to its removal may remain very distinct and detached from any Qabalistic beliefs considered similar to this particular Christian belief.
So, in the traditional, modern, Christian way of interpreting diseases that are closely related to events that may conjure up thought of the need for exorcism as a form of treatment, we can take the classical Christian approach to viewing these conditions, the modern Western approach to what “possession” is actually considered to be, and some variations of philosophy that might help us define the other perspectives about “possession” and the need for “exorcism” based on other cultural ideologies.
In particular, I began this thought process and categorized it under the title of Culturally-based syndromes. This means that I am implying that “satanic possession” is a culturally derived state of health or lack of health–an illness–and that culture therefore somehow defines how we will treat it and eliminate it, help to cure the body of the person suffering from this condition, disease, syndrome, whatever it is you want to call it.
I am going to base this essay on three things or experiences. The first is that average experience we have as people of my age, having grown up with “The Exorcist” as a movie I could (and did) attend during my freshman year in high school. Second, I base this upon my studies of religion and health over the years, both in the regular medical and public health world and in the religious classroom at a missionary setting, reviewing those concept about health, disease and the roles religions play in one health, both in a psychological way and in what those teachers might call a religious, spiritual, and/or “God-defined” way. Third, I base this of course on my reviews of anthropologic medicine, including both present and past forms of disease that were culturally defined. Anthropologically, early Americans defined diseases in the mental health class culturally, and their definitions, names and treatments for these conditions were very much valid only for the time the diagnosticians who used these terms survived. For example, the apoplexy of spirituality is no long a diagnosis in the modern ICD, but in early 19th century disease nosology it was a given disease state of the mind and spirits. The stroke of the brain we normally think of was back then just a symptom to most, and that symptom of having the stroke mimicked very much the symptoms of being mentally engaged so much that you cannot stand anymore, that your have to fall to the ground and become possessed by convulsions, and that you have voice gibberish, as if your brain stopped working–speaking in tongues according to any religious diagnostician for that time.
So anthropology also helps to define the concept of being possessed and in need of exorcism back in the early 1800s. A learned religious scholar who falls to ground and becomes paralyzed, but then behaves like Saint Paul and begins to speak some archaic language that no one can translate, but some words end up sounding families, and who suddenly lifts back up on his feet and takes a position as if he/she were crucified, suddenly displaying blood from his side and hands, and then dripping from his feet–that is someone who the witness could very well believe was possessed, but by what he/she was possessed they would not know.
Is he/she a saint as indicated by the blood stains that have now formed on skin and clothing?!
Is he/she a body now no longer occupied by the person he/she used to be?!
These are the questions that the most religious devoted onlookers will ask of someone who in the eyes of medicine for the time appeared to be a manic to maniacal victim of uncontrolled passions. The doctor of today might call this individual biological and psychiatric, in need of help. The religious leaders of today will consider all of these possibilities, and perhaps be the only one to take both possibilities seriously. The cultural experience of possession and the need for exorcism today has two ways of thinking, as did that of the past, but only one set of these rules or axioms used to define what the true diagnosis is or could be remain unchanged. The rules or axioms of defining a case of the possession of the body by Satan himself, versus being a Witch or some other psychological, psychiatric example waiting to be published in a book or journal as a unique case study.
So what are the rules used to differentiate this cultural syndrome in modern and recent times? on the regular medical side and/or on the religiomedical side?
A handsome book was published in the 1920s that really helps to define this paradigm on a healthy state, applicable to religiomedicine more than modern medicine, and provides very helpful insights into the cultural reality of a patient that is possessed, as well as the religious versus western medical realities of the same kind of patient.
Some cultural syndromes are best treated with culturally-defined, most fitting care. There are times when culturally-derived care mechanisms are not always the best avenue to explore, such as the use of an herbal remedy rather than the harsher chemicals now out there for some diseases. But there are also cases when these harsh chemical processes are not the best avenue to take clinically and therapeutically, meaning the patient could in the long run be better off by engaging him/her in the culturally-define cure for his or her disease, which is the case of exorcism is the outcasting of Satan from that persons body, or “soul-capsule” you might say.
Part I. Traditions.
Compendium Maleficarum is a book that tells us all we need to known about demons, witches, the devil, evil, and their impacts on the body, mind and “spirit” or soul, and their impacts on health. Written in 1608, the purpose of this book was mostly to teach its readers about the witch, however due to the classical history that existed at that time, there were problems being able to differentiate someone who was a witch from someone who was possessed by the devil. Written in Mila, by Brother Francesco Maria Guazzo of the Order of S. Ambrose ad Nemus, this book was design to teach us how the witch behaves adn their “Iniquitous and Execrable Operations . . . Against the Human Race.” The “Divine Remedies” for these simpler forms of spiritual possession were delineated in this book, their purpose quite obvious.
This book is available to read on Google Books, but unfortunately in Latin [Link] (Guazzo also edited one other Latin book in this library). For the time being however, I will not engage in any translation of this. There are English copies of this writing available much like to 1929 version of this work that I an in possession of, but for now have to refrain from covering the main topic of this book–witches–exorcism and demonism are the topic and purpose of this writing–the cultural anthropology of this particular past, present and future disease state contained mostly in the religious and non-religious western medical traditions. Its purpose today is to assist someone who wants to become a witch. The purpose of this writing is to explore the issue or exorcism, its realism and its conjurings, so to speak . . .
[Part 2. Modern Medicine and Satanism].