1. The spiritual world is legalistic. There are rules just like there are laws in our world. God wrote the laws and God enforces them.
2. Usually we break the rules and through our free will allow evil spirits to start affecting us. When it is simply allowed by God it is usually to encourage our spiritual growth or show us the reality of the spiritual world. In the midst of things it's hard to see this but usually after a short period of problems a lifetime of spiritual growth follows.
3. Spiritual "legal rights" can be given to evil spirits, people, buildings, objects, or family lines.
Possession is the most famous example, being full rights to the body of a person and therefore ability to take over their body. Rights of that level are almost always explicitly given by the person, usually in exchange for something. Rights to oppress a person are usually given by spirit communication, the occult, or black magic.
Rights to a building are usually given through the rule breaking that goes on there, or through explicit permission from the person with authority over the building. When we bless a home with the owners request we mark that territory for God, the opposite happens with black magic and serious violations of God's rules. Rights to a building usually leads to infestation by evil spirits. Once they are in through free will they have to be cast out and then the home has to be claimed for God.
Rights to an object is a common way that people involved in black magic get spirits into a persons home or life. They cast "spells" on an object that give rights to evil spirits to attach to it. Then they try to get the target to accept the item as a gift, etc. Then through free will the person has brought a spirit into their life. Sometimes they simply break in and leave the object hidden in a home, sometimes they leave it behind after a visit.
Rights to a family line are usually given in multi-generational cults that serve evil spirits. Usually these spirits try very hard to stay with the family once they are in, often afflicting the next generation starting a few years before their current host will likely die.
4. Spiritual rights to a person can be limited, taking the form of having spirits in them, but not having them take over their body. This generally takes the form of spirits residing in the body, felt by the person at times and felt violently during prayer over them. This requires the Sacramental life and deliverance work, not an exorcism. It is not uncommon for people with spirits in them to have untreatable medical conditions that stop as soon as the spirit is cast out.
5. There is often a mental health component to situations with spiritual affliction. It is normal to be frustrated and possibly depressed after being harassed by spirits for some time. It's also not uncommon for spirits to cause physical health problems if they are inside of a person.
6. Once rights are obtained by evil spirits they do not give them up without being forced to. They may make it seem like they will but it's a lie. The rights must be renounced and then prayer must be said to cast out/away the spirit. Prayers to fill the space occupied by the evil spirits with the Holy Spirit should follow. This could take the form of a baptism in the Holy Spirit, a house blessing, etc.
7. The breaking of rights and casting out/away of evil spirits is generally referred to as "spiritual warfare" or deliverance work. Deliverance prayers should only be used by someone trained and approved to do so. Catholic laity are not to pray "over" (or lay hands on) another person, they can pray for that person only. There are exceptions to this when someone has been deemed to have a charism for deliverance work and has permission. A special ritual within the Catholic Church, called exorcism, is done by priests with the permission of their Bishop for cases of full possession only.
8. Assuming that you are Christian or Catholic your first contact should be your local pastor or minister. You may find that you cannot find someone willing to work with you to determine if a spiritual problem is present and pray against it. If that is the case you may need to reach out to your Bishop's office directly.
9. There are cases that are simply mental illness that are mistaken for spiritual problems. Unfortunately serious mental illness can cause a state where a person is convinced they are possessed or that the voices they are hearing are spirits. It takes experience and evaluation by someone trained in mental health to identify these cases. It is imperative that medical and psychiatric situations not go untreated because the spiritual hypothesis has been accepted inappropriately.
10. Many Christian and Catholic parishes have prayer meetings or people that pray deliverance prayers. There are many people who call themselves demonologists or exorcists. It is important to verify that they have been trained and have a calling to this work, usually through their church (Bishop's office).
Q: What makes you qualified to write on possession, exorcism, and hauntings?
A: As professional background I have a Masters of Science degree in adult clinical psychology. I've worked for over seven years as a therapist in both community and forensic settings. I've done hundreds of psychological evaluations and worked with all of the extremes of mental illness and human evil. My spiritual work is within the Roman Catholic Church and I work under obedience to Bishops from a number of dioceses. My authority to teach priests comes from my being named a Peritus of religious demonology and exorcism by formal decree of my Bishop. I have also learned from a number of experienced exorcists. My current functions include training priests in exorcism and deliverance on a national level, psychological evaluations to help determine if cases are mundane or demonic, assisting at exorcisms and house blessings, performing deliverance prayers, counseling victims and family members, investigating claims of paranormal activity, and speaking to the public about the dangers of paranormal investigating.
Q: What is a religious demonologist?
A: The term demonology simply means the study of demons. The popular term, demonologist, is therefore a person who studies demons. A religious demonologist is someone who studies demons from a religious perspective. The title religious demonologist is generally granted by the Church and usually requires a Ph.D. on demonology. Functionally a religious demonologist evaluates people or places that have possibly become entangled with the demonic and assists at religious intervention against demons. There has been a recent trend of people claiming to be demonologists on the internet and in paranormal television shows. Though these people might be well trained by exorcists and have access to the verbal tradition passed down through mentorship under exorcists, it is unlikely. There are very few lay people admitted to the inner world of exorcism and demonology. Anyone claiming to help people with demonic problems from a Catholic perspective, or especially to be a religious demonologist, should be able to prove that they work under the authority of a Bishop and with exorcists.
Q: What is a demon?
A: A demon is a fallen angel that rebelled against God along with Lucifer, refusing to be humble before, and serve, God. A demon is an immortal spiritual entity that hates human beings with a complete and merciless passion. Their only goal for humans is to deceive and corrupt them into turning away from God so that they die in a poor spiritual state and become their eternal slave and victim.
Q: Do you do solemn exorcisms?
A: No, never. A solemn exorcism can only be performed by a Priest with permission from their Bishop. Laity should never attempt to perform a solemn exorcism. I assist at exorcisms, which usually means I hold the possessed person and respond to the prayers in the ritual. I may also help by giving advice about the exorcism as part of training.
Q: If I say a demon's name will it attack me or possess me?
A: Very likely no. There seems to be a common myth that saying a demons name causes an immediate reaction from said demon. There must be two factors in place before a demon attacks a person: an interest on the part of hell to attack the person and some "rights" to attack them recognized by God (so the demon has permission to attack them from God). If demons attacked every person that said their name many people a day would be attacked by the Devil for saying "Satan". Conversely, not saying a demons name does not stop it from attacking a person. People that are being attacked and call for help almost never know what is bothering them and very likely have not said its name.
Q: Knowing or saying a demon's name gives me power over it, right?
A: No, only God has power over demons. This belief may come from the fact that the Roman Ritual for exorcism involves trying to get a demon's name in order to make the exorcism more effective. The power of an exorcism comes from God, knowing the name has some benefit to the process but is not part of every successful exorcism. People not called to spiritual warfare who know a demons name have no more "power over" that demon than a high school student has power over a professional boxer in the ring just because he knows that boxer's name. Having "power" or "authority" are dangerous ideas because they inflate the ego and lead people to pride about their imagined greatness. This is exactly what the Devil wants because then they are likely to overstep their bounds. The devil's first sin was pride and it is a great human weakness and therefore he often tricks people into shifting the respect and credit due to God toward mortals who have no intrinsic power or authority without Jesus. We do have authority over demons when we invoke the name of Jesus but that is Jesus, not us, that affects the demons.
Q: Are Satan and the demons in hell?
A: No. The Book of Revelation is clear that after the war in heaven Lucifer and the errant angels were cast down to Earth to roam here and tempt mankind until the final judgment. It seems to be a common assumption or misunderstanding that demons are locked in hell, they are not. When demons are cast out of a person or location they are usually tortured by Satan for their failure and then re-assigned to a new case. We know this from encountering the same demons over time in disparate locations and times.
Q: Can demons possess anyone at any time?
A: No. Demons can scare people and influence their feelings, and sometimes thoughts, for a short time. Possession requires people to explicitly give permission. It is also very important to remember that demons don't move an inch without permission from God, they are not running free. God does not wish demons to harm people but He doesn't violate our free will if we choose to form a relationship with demons.
Q: What about 'X' religion and demons ?
A: I can't really know the answer to that. I take a Catholic perspective and my experience is with using Catholic prayers, symbols, sacramentals, and rituals against demons. I cannot ethically speak to whether other religious perspectives work or don't, because I have not witnessed them. I would not expect that God's mercy would be withheld from those acting in good faith to help another person no matter the religion they practice.
Q: If my faith is strong am I safe to confront demons?
A: Very likely no. Faith is not enough to make one safe and effective in confronting demons. First one should be working under the authority, and therefore protection, of the Church. Practically this means under a Bishops authority and direction. There are also specific gifts of God's grace moving through exorcists and others in this work that protects them from feeling fear, being driven mad, or injured. Only people called by God to have direct interactions with evil spirits are equipped with these gifts of protection and efficacy, faith does not make God give these gifts. We see that Bishops are moved by the Holy Spirit to appoint those chosen by God for this work.
Q: How do I become a demonologist?
A: Why would you want to? Many people in the paranormal community, and in the public, seem to think demonology is "cool" or "exciting" or will make them famous. These reasons fade very quickly for those who actually meet a demon. Being a demonologist is a spiritual calling that leads one to live part of their life in nightmare environments of intense physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering that people go through. People don't choose to be demonologists or exorcists; God makes people demonologists or exorcists.
Q: What are some common tricks of the demonic?
A: The most common is appearing to be a helpful or needy spirit / ghost / phenomenon / guide. The enemy almost never appears in their true form, they lie and deceive constantly. Many cases of demonic oppression and possession start with a "harmless" or "helpful" spirit interaction. They sometimes start with communication with what seems to be a dearly departed relative or helpful spirit guide, or a pitiful soul that needs help. If demons showed up and looked horrible and menacing people would run the other way and right into a Church. They reel people in slowly by offering knowledge, playing on pity, giving comfort or power. Only when they have a sufficient hold will their true intent (to take people away from God and destroy them) become clear. Another is convincing people that they will give life, health, power, money, fame, sex, etc. The enemy often takes advantage of weakness or misfortune: they come when people are sick, bankrupt, depressed, or swollen with pride. They offer to fix problems or elevate one above others. The trick comes later when the person is at their peak and they tear it all down so that they suffer the most intensely. Another is tricking people into letting a "spirit" enter their body. The enemy has many tricks for convincing people to let a spirit into their body. Using the body as a tool to "free" or "remove" a spirit or demon from a haunted location is one. There is always an act of free will involved in letting a demon enter the body; one just might be unaware that it is a demon. Permission might be given in response to a deception, but the door is opened nonetheless. One should never assume that they can get something out once it is let in. Entering the body is not the same as possession but it is a large step.
Q: How is free will granted for full possession to take place?
A: A person makes a clear choice to say yes, verbally or in their mind, to the demons explicit request to fully possess them, knowing full well what they are giving themselves over to.
Q: Can demon possession really do the horrible things to the human body seen in movies?
A: Hollywood exaggerates things and not all phenomena happen in each case. Bodies do sometimes contort, bones may dislocate, people have caught fire spontaneously, levitation does rarely happen, and they have vomited bizarre things.
Q: Is a person asking for trouble when they tinker with an Ouija board?
A: Yes, in the sense that if the demonic world deems them useful they will use their ignorance of how things work to trick them into relying on "spirits" and "guides" until they are obeying their commands consistently. Often a person tries to cut off the communication and obedience then the “guide" turns ugly and punishes them, showing their true colors. Using spirit communication devices such as a Ouija board involves giving permission for an unknown spiritual entity to partly possess the body (by inviting them to use the arm and hand). The problems with spirit communication are not specific to Ouija boards; it is the act of inviting random spirits to form a relationship that is the problem.
Q: What are the requirements for working against demons in a Catholic context?
A: First and foremost, the religious demonologist must be called to the work by God, not by their own choice. If one wants to be a demonologist, that is a problem. No rational person wants to interact with pure evil and put their sanity, physical life, and soul at risk when they don't have to. People in this work are called into it and guided to people and situations that train them. God is in charge from the beginning to the end. Everyone functioning along with an exorcist or demonologist must also be called to do so. There can be no bystanders or curious onlookers; they are open to being attacked and their presence is a weakness that will be used against all those present. There must be special protection and intervention from God in order to survive, remain sane, and be effective in religious demonology. It is not the human person or the priest who drives a demon from a person's home or body. It is not the human will that makes a demon stop throwing objects around the room or causing horrible thoughts and pains in the people there. There is no personal power or authority in humans: all intervention, protection, and authority come from God on a moment-by-moment basis. If one meddles with demonic forces without the special protection that comes from a calling from God it can lead to depression, isolation, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, obsession with demons, delusions of power or control of demons, or ultimately working for evil. With a calling from God naturally come the contacts, friends, and guidance from people with decades of experience in this work. One cannot learn how to function as a religious demonologist from any book or web site. One must be ready to give their life to God. Death is a real possibility in this work and that reality can be used against one to intimidate or control them if they have not surrendered to God. One should be of a mature age. It is unhealthy for a young developing mind and soul to interact with the demonic realm. Once people cross the line into knowing the reality of demons they go through a psychological and spiritual crisis where they must come to terms with this new reality. This can be very challenging for any adult; the young forming mind is generally not equipped to handle this stressor successfully. Better to live a normal happy life when young and leave this topic for later in life. This work must be done as an act of charity and not for selfish motives like fame, money, social power, or other benefits. To do this for selfish reasons puts one in an arena with a preternatural force beyond human comprehension with little or no protection.
Q: Should I trust information from "the dead"?
A: The Bible clearly forbids talking to the dead (necromancy). Why is this? It is very dangerous to attempt communicating with the dead because you have no idea who or what is communicating. Many people will say that they get information that convinces them that they are communicating with a dead relative, a helping Angel, or some other entity that is "good". It is important to remember that demons can sometimes know personal things because they watch people during some of their lifetime. They can also mimic people very well, sounding just like whomever they want to. The dead in purgatory are only allowed to ask for help or prayers, and in rare cases in resolving some sin they committed in life. They don't have permission to talk to the living beyond that. Damned souls are another matter; they are slaves to the Devil and will engage in deceptive interactions with people. It is very tempting to believe people have special powers to hear from the dead, or that some technique or technology like EVPs can do this. Generally this is a trick of the enemy to draw people into dependence on such methods to guide their life or give them comfort, as opposed to trusting God.
Q: Can you tell me where the Bible says I shouldn't consult the dead?
A: Here are some references: Deuteronomy 18:10: Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Isaiah 8:19: When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Leviticus 19:31: 'Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 20:6: 'I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people. Don't be quick to dismiss these references because they are from the Old Testament and therefore "don't count." In the New Testament Jesus states that he will be our judge after death but Moses will be our accuser and will accuse us based on God's law that Moses wrote down in the Old Testament.
Q: Should I trust information from demons?
A: No. Demons almost always lie, telling partial truths only when it fits their manipulative agenda. They only tell the full truth under duress in exorcisms. Information from demons is almost always designed to make people feel helpless, scared, and powerless. The truth is they are powerless before God.
Q: Can demons be redeemed and go back to God?
A: No, they cannot. This is because they made a free will choice very different than a human free will choice: their choice to turn away from God was made with 100% foresight and knowledge of the consequences. Humans are not capable of being totally aware of the truth and consequences of actions, which is partly why there is always mercy for people from Jesus. There is no mercy or redemption for the Devil and the demons because they knew exactly what they were committing to. Even if they could be accepted back by God they would not wish to be.
Q: Can psychic sensitivity be used to find out if demons are present and their names?
A: Almost certainly no. Discernment is the word used to describe a spiritual gift from God that allows a person to know things they cannot know naturally. Discernment, as well as all gifts from God, is active on an as needed basis. Generally the people that have psychic sensitivity do not have discernment. People with psychic sensitivity are generally used to it "working" all the time and being able to know what is "going on" in an area. This sometimes leads to a kind of arrogance that if they don't detect it then it's not there and no threat to them. This creates situations where they are vulnerable to being manipulated by demons. Demons can easily communicate any illusion or miss-information to a psychic sensitive without being detected for what they really are. One example of this is feeding a false name to a psychic, convincing them that they "got" the demons name. This is to encourage people to confront or try to expel the demon with this false name, thereby overstepping their bounds. Demons never give their true name unless under spiritual duress.
Q: How can demons be dangerous if God restricts their activity ?
A: If a person exercises their free will to knowingly confront or try to control a demon without a calling from God they bear the consequences of that choice. God doesn't violate our free will choices or the consequences of those choices.
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