In Christianity, a ceremony used to drive demons out of a person they have possessed. Jesus healed people tormented by evil spirits, casting them out with a word, and his followers later drove out demons “in his name.” By the 3rd century this task was assigned to a specially trained class of lower clergy. Rituals for exorcism of people and places also exist in many other traditions.
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Exorcism (from Late Latin exorcismus, from Greek exorkizein - to adjure) is the practice of evicting demons or other evil spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed. The practice is quite ancient and part of the belief system of many countries.
The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a member of the clergy, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use prayers, and religious material, such as set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons, amulets, etc.. The exorcist often invokes God, Jesus and/or several different angels and archangels to intervene with the exorcism.
In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions. Therefore practitioners regard exorcism more as a cure than as a punishment. The mainstream rituals usually take this into account, making sure that there is no violence to the possessed, only that they be tied down if there is potential for violence.
The Christian New Testament includes exorcism among the miracles performed by Jesus. Because of this precedent, demonic possession was part of the belief system of Christianity since its beginning, and exorcism is still a recognized practice of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant sects. The Church of England also has an official exorcist in each diocese.
After the enlightenment, the practice of exorcism has diminished in its importance to most religious groups and its use has decreased, especially in western society. Generally, in the 20th century its use was found mainly in Eastern Europe and Africa, with some cases gaining media coverage; Anneliese Michel is perhaps the most recent of these. This is due mainly to the study of psychology and the functioning and structure of the human mind. Many of the cases that in the past which were candidates for exorcism are often explained to be the products of mental illness, and are handled as such.
However in 1973 the motion picture The Exorcist came out, and the idea of Exorcisms became thrust into the limelight. After its release a very large response came from the public in the United States and Europe, and belief in Demon Possession and Exorcisms found a place in contemporary society. Belief in the validity of the practice became less of a radical idea, and more widespread.
The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jesus stated that Jesus "was devoted especially to casting out demons" and also believed that he passed this on to his followers, however he was superior to them in the Exorcisms.
In the time of Jesus, non-New Testament Jewish sources report of exorcisms done by administering drugs with poisonous root extracts or other by making sacrifices. (Josephus, "B. J." vii. 6, § 3; Sanh. 65b). They do not report of Jesus being an exorcist, but do mention that exorcisms were done by the Essene branch of Judaism (Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran).
The Catholic Church revised the Rite of Exorcism in January 1999, although the traditional Rite of Exorcism in Latin is allowed as an option. The act of exorcism is considered to be an incredibly dangerous spiritual task; the ritual assumes that possessed persons retain their free-will, though the demon may hold control over their physical body, and involves prayers, blessings, and invocations with the use of the document Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications. Other formulas may have been used in the past, such as the Benedictine Vade retro satana. In the modern era, the Catholic Church authorizes exorcism rarely, approaching would-be cases with the presumption that mental or physical illness is in play. In mild cases the Chaplet of Saint Michael should be used.
In The Episcopal Church the Book of Occasional Services discusses provision for exorcism; but it does not indicate any specific rite, nor does it establish an office of "exorcist". Diocesan exorcists usually continue in their role when they have retired from all other church duties. Anglican priests may not perform an exorcism without permission from the Diocesan bishop. An exorcism is not usually performed unless the bishop and his team of specialists (including a psychiatrist and physician) have approved it.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck researched exorcisms (initially in an effort to disprove demonic possession), and claims to have conducted two himself. He concluded that the Christian concept of possession was a genuine phenomenon. He derived diagnostic criteria somewhat different from those used by the Roman Catholic Church. He also claimed to see differences in exorcism procedures and progression. After his experiences and in an attempt to get his research validated, he has attempted to get the psychiatric community to add the definition of "Evil" to the DSMIV.
The method for determining if a person needs a Deliverance is done by having someone present who has the gift of Discernments of Spirits. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit from Cor. 1:12 that allows a person to "sense" in some way an evil presence. While the initial diagnosis is usually uncontested by the congregation, when many people are endowed with this gift in a single congregation results may vary.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth references these people calling them "seers and Sensitives" and uses them on many occasions; they have the ability to detect an evil presence. He notes however that "They are not always right: their "feelings" must be checked out." In his examples they are able to detect the events that caused the Demon to enter, or are able to discover the evil object that has cursed the individual. He notes that "they are always Humble.
On Scientology advanced level "OT3", "body thetans" are exorcised using a complicated technique. Body thetan exorcism, with a simpler technique, is revisited on advanced level "OT5", also known as "New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans. after these levels (which are used to accomplish other goals as well, not just an "exorcism" for Body Thetans) you are supposed to be free from the BT's influence. It should be noted that Scientologiest believe that Body thetans possess every person, except for those who have been exorcised.
Anneliese Michel was a Catholic woman from Germany who was said to be possessed by six or more demons and subsequently underwent an exorcism in 1975. Two motion pictures, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Requiem are loosely based on Anneliese's story.
A boy identified by the pseudonym "Roland Doe" was the subject of an exorcism in 1949, which became the subject of The Exorcist, a horror novel and later film written by William Peter Blatty. Blatty heard about the case while he was a student in the class of 1950 at Georgetown University. The exorcism was partially performed in both Cottage City, Maryland and Bel-Nor, Missouri by Father William S. Bowdern, S.J. and a then Jesuit scholastic Fr. Walter Halloran, S.J.
The Roman Ritual of exorcism cautions the priest to look for signs of mental and physical possession and the Catholic Church authorizes exorcism rarely, approaching would-be cases with the presumption that mental or physical illness is in play and employs mental health and medical professionals to rule out physical or mental causes before giving authorization. Many mental illnesses have been treated as demon possession, and show signs that are interpreted as such.
Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis recognized by either the DSM-IV or the ICD-10. Those who profess a belief in demonic possession have sometimes ascribed the symptoms associated with mental illnesses such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder to possession. In cases of dissociative identity disorder in which the alter personality is questioned as to its identity, 29% are reported to identify themselves as demons. Additionally, there is a form of monomania called demonomania or demonopathy in which the patient believes that he or she is possessed by one or more demons.
The fact that exorcism works on people experiencing symptoms of possession is attributed to placebo effect and the power of suggestion. Some supposedly possessed persons are actually narcissists or are suffering from low self-esteem and act a "demon possessed person" in order to gain attention.
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