Keener on Spirit Possession


[S]tudies overwhelmingly confirm the existence of experiences indigenously interpreted as spirit possession by a vast range of cultures around the world…. The instances surrounding Jesus … do have both ancient and modern parallels. … Tertullian lists prominent pagans whom Christians had cured from evil spirits…. In the fourth century, exorcisms and miracles are the most frequently listed reason for conversion to Christianity…. Augustine reports affidavits attesting effective exorcisms…. Unfashionable as the idea of real spirits is in Western intellectual discourse, some mental health professionals have become sufficiently convinced about the reality of harmful spirits that they have laid their reputations on the line and noted them openly. … [Psychiatrist R. Kenneth McAll] notes one case where a mother’s successful deliverance from spirits proved simultaneous, unknown to them, of her son’s instant healing from schizophrenia in a hospital 400 miles away, and the healing from tuberculosis of that son’s wife. … Other cases include:

1. A patient instantly freed from schizophrenia through an exorcism that removed an occult group’s curse.

2. The complete healing through an exorcism of a violent person in a padded cell who had previously not spoken for two years.

3. The instant healing of another person in a padded cell, when others far away and without her knowledge prayed for her; her aunt, a mental patient in another country, was cured simultaneously.

4. A six-year-old needed three adults to restrain him, but he was healed when his father repudiated Spiritualism.

Keener concludes, “While typical psychiatric problems encountered in the West may involve other explanations, for some sorts of phenomena, especially those connected with preternatural phenomena, the activity of genuine, extrahuman spirits remains the simplest, most economical solution.”


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