Vol. 39, Number 4, Autumn 2018 (Special Issue)

On the Psychology of Demon Possession: The Occult Personality

Mark Crooks, Institute of Mind and Behavior

The notions of possession within psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, parapsychology, and demonology are evaluated as to their relative de/merits. The sheer quantity of evidence as to the phenomenology (descriptive facts) of possession means it transcends any dismissal as anecdotal in kind (e.g., the academically archetypal Biblical possession case involving the swine stampede — a so-called “poltergeist,” here redefined as pan-demon-ium — following the expulsion of the Legion demons). Copious empirical data concerning possession are the same for all contending interpretations, so the prime question is which interpretation has the simplest, most comprehensive explanatory hypothesis. There is a great logical and empirical rigor that may be attached to the traditional conception of demonology. A stereotyped antithesis between science and superstition is suggestive but an alternative, actual dichotomy obtains between good and better hypotheses, which map the same evidential field of facts shared by Biblical demonology and its competing interpretations of possession.

Correspondence should be addressed to Mark Crooks. Institute of Mind and Behavior, PO Box 522, Village Station, NYC,  New York 10014. Email: crooksma@msu.edu

 

COMMENTARIES

Crooked Spirits and Spiritual Identity Theft: A Keener Response to Crooks?

Craig S. Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary

Mark Crooks’ article offers a new paradigm for exploration: namely, that many instances in the transcultural phenomenon of spirit possession reflect the activity of genuine and harmful spirits. Although subsequent research may refine a number of points, the activity of genuine spirits reflects the most common indigenous explanation and makes sense of a significant part of the data that is more difficult to explain on some other academic paradigms. Indigenous explanations do not always view all spirits as harmful, but they usually treat many spirits as harmful, and a case can be made that this is true of much other spirit activity as well. Crooks’ explanatory model brings coherence to many points of data less well served by some competing models, and thus merits continuing exploration.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Craig Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary, 204 N. Lexington Avenue, Wilmore, Kentucky 40390. Email: craig.keener@asburyseminary.edu

Demon Possession: Symbolic Language and the Psychic Fact

T. Craig Isaacs, Institute for Christian Psychotherapy and Spiritual Formation

The concept of demon possession fell out of scientific favor with the rise of modern and post-modern philosophies. These ways of thinking, however, have failed to adequately describe the phenomena of demonic possession. They have likewise been unsuccessful in developing an appropriate treatment method for those experiencing the signs and symptoms of classical possession. Though belief in possession has been rejected as superstition, the phenomenon of demonic possession is a psychic fact and necessarily should be approached as such. Re-appropriating a pre-modern philosophy and using an understanding of symbolic language, this article offers a renewed method of understanding the possession state.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to T. Craig Isaacs, M.Div., Ph.D., 7 Mount Lassen Drive. Suite A-134, San Rafael, California 94903. Email: drcraigisaacs@aol.com

Commentary on Mark Crooks’s Essay, “On the Psychology of Demon Possession: The Occult Personality”

John Warwick Montgomery, University of Bedfordshire

The present short commentary on Crooks’s essay focuses on Crooks’s methodological distinction between proper empirical, scientific method and the so-called “religion of science.”  It argues that only when this distinction is maintained can one avoid a metaphysical positivism that makes impossible any scholarly evaluation of occult phenomena.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to M. le professeur John Warwick Montgomery, 2 rue de Rome, 67000 Strasbourg, France. Email: jwmontgomery@compuserve.com