Category Archives: Bible

Sunday Devotional: Not everyone goes to Heaven

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

Coming HomeA 2005 ABC News poll found that 89% of Americans believed in Heaven, which is consistent with data going back 30 years. More interesting is the fact that among those who believed in Heaven, 85% thought they would personally go there, such is our preening narcissism.

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke, however, is a sober reminder that we flatter ourselves when we imagine that we are destined for Heaven, for our Lord Jesus Christ said the gate is “narrow” and many “will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

Recall that although we read and hear about near-death experiences (NDE) of what appears to be Heaven, there are NDE accounts of being in a dark place, full of demons. As an example, during his 2004 quadruple bypass surgery, Bill Clinton had a frightening near-death experience in which he found himself in a dark hellish place. As he recounted in an interview on ABC’s Primetime Live:

“I saw, like, dark masks crushing, like, death masks being crushed, in series, and then I’d see these great circles of light and then, like, Hillary’s picture or Chelsea’s face would appear on the light, and then they’d fly off into the dark.”

See also:

The road to Heaven is a rigorous and demanding one. Afterall, Jesus did say “I have come to set the earth on fire” (Luke 12:49). So we are to look upon our life on this mortal coil as a trial by fire, wherein we must rid “ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters,
You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children:
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when reproved by him;
for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;
he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
Endure your trials as “discipline”;
God treats you as sons.
For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

Only the holy go to Heaven. I want to be holy, and I so want you all to be holy. So let’s help each other trod that hard and “narrow” path of goodness, no matter the slings and arrows, the trials and tribulations. And at all times, “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

Christ crucifiedThe Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

Jesus, I love you.

Rejoice that we have lived to see another glorious Sunday! And may the love and peace and joy and goodness of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you!

~Eowyn

Sunday Devotional: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire’

Luke 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

I don’t know how and when it happened, but sometime in the ages, our Lord Jesus Christ, who chose hard work as a brawny carpenter and who instructed that “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36), became depicted as an effeminate whimp tossing rainbows and sprinkling fairy-dust, while spouting facile words of “peace” and “love”.

But the above passage from Luke 12 is a sober reminder that Jesus didn’t say following Him would be easy. Once you are committed to good, there can be no compromise with evil and with those who choose and support evil — even when they are your family and friends.

As St. Paul reminds us, we are part of a much larger war: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)

And though we may “grow weary and lose heart,” we must “persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:3,1).

How?

By ridding “ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us” and “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

Ephesians 6:13-16

Therefore, put on the armor of God,
that you may be able to resist on the evil day and,
having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth,
clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances,
hold faith as a shield,
to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Armor of God I can do all things through Christ
The Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

And may the courage of St. Paul, and the strength and serenity and joy of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you this glorious Sunday!

~Eowyn

Sunday Devotional: He will never break your heart

Luke 12:32-40

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Last Sunday, my pastor, who is the official exorcist of my diocese, delivered a profoundly true and wise homily. Below is my woefully inadequate summary of what he said:

At some point in our lives, we wonder if this is all there is, disappointed that our lives have not turned out the way we had hoped and dreamed.

It may be wealth or professonal achievement. We worked hard, got an education, performed our jobs in an exemplary fashion, but still our financial goal eludes us, or we have not received due recognition and accolade.

It may be relationships — with our spouses, children, friends, colleagues, priests, parishioners — which disappoint and break our hearts, for we are imperfect humans and no one person can fulfill all our needs.

But God never disappoints.

God satisfies all our needs.

We don’t have to work hard for His love.

And Jesus will never break your heart.

I will be with you always

For “you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” -St. Augustine, Confessions

May the love and joy and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you this beautiful Sunday!

~Eowyn

Standing Headlines From God

standing-headlines

Psalm 46 gives us 3 standing headlines that we can use to keep today’s news stories in proper perspective.

About standing headlines, Virginia Butterfield, of San Diego Magazine, writes a comprehensive background…

Standing Headlines

BY VIRGINIA BUTTERFIELD

Published: 2007.06.29 06:49 PM
In the publishing business, newspapers and magazines have what are called “standing headlines.” The concept started decades ago, when printers used molten lead to make type. Newspapers created standing heads for their columnists, stock tables and regular categories of coverage, such as obituaries, society balls and sports scores. Once created, the theory went, the heads could be used forever, lowering the cost of production. This also made it easier to design the page and drop in type…

http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/May-1998/Standing-Headlines/

The Lord has provided some standing headlines we can memorize for quick and easy mental self defense against fear:

#1: – Nations are in uproar!

#2 – Kingdoms Fall!

#3 – He lifts his voice, the earth melts!

You could say these things about the human condition on any day from the time of Nimrod, to the news alerts of today. Nations are always in uproar, kingdoms always fall; God lifts His voice, the earth melts, or tsunamis strike, earthquakes devastate, volcanoes erupt.

What if Hillary wins? What if Trump wins, and then betrays us? What happens if the Yellowstone super volcano erupts? What happens if Iran nukes us? What happens if ISIS launches a huge attack on soft targets in America while our president is supporting them instead of us? You know the familiar pattern of worry.

We live with a false expectation of our nation’s or its politics having long lasting stability. In fact, the things of this earth and the affairs of humanity are in a constant state of change.

God’s Remedy, Psalm 46

(memorize it, meditate on it)

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
HE lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46

b2ap3_thumbnail_white-knuckleThat psalm is a clear declaration that the Lord’s people can and should live with a different set of expectations than those who are not his people. When it says “Be still, and know…” one translation from the ancient Hebrew text means, “Let go, and know.” So we are to let go of our white-knuckled grip, and relax in faith that our Lord is in control, and that He is an ever present help, right inside of our crisis.

Let’s look at it this way. When the idiotic things happening in the world start weighing too heavily, we need to step aside and see it differently.

The world freaks out over cataclysms like tsunamis. But we can focus on a different water source than the raging sea. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, then we are the City of God, and a river of the water of life runs right through us, refreshing, healing, and strengthening the holy place where the Most High dwells, (that would be us).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

So to sum up the Lord’s message to us when the news gets to be too much, let’s see Him telling us…

Chillax!
I’ve got this.

♞ PS: I’m preaching to myself, too

Sunday Devotional: How to evaluate someone who claims to be Christian

Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

TOPSHOTS-BRAZIL-LIGHTNING-CHRIST THE REDEEMER

We are in the midst of another presidential election season.

And since Christians still constitute a majority, though shrinking, of the U.S. population, the two major parties’ nominees and VP running-mates all claim to be Christians.

But surely, we are not gullible little children who believe someone just because he or she claims to be one? As an example, the Democratic Party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees both claim to be Christians, and yet both support the absolute “right” of women to kill their unborn. Some followers of Christ they are! More absurd still is Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party’s VP candidate, who says he’s a Catholic when the Catholic Church’s unchanging and unwavering principle is that abortion is an intrinsic evil, for which there can be no excuse, rationalization or justification.

But in the above passage from his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul had given us a simple yardstick to ascertain the truth or falsity of someone — including ourselves — who claims to be a follower of Christ:

“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another….”

Five of St. Paul’s criteria — immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed — are internal attributes that may be opaque for outsiders to see. But the sixth criterion — lying — is an external behavior that is observable and verifiable.

It is also a violation of one of the Ten Commandments — the 9th.

But it’s not just the 9th Commandment, for lying is at the basis of every one of the Ten Commandments. Think about it . . . .

I suggest that we ask ourselves when we are in the voting booth this November 8:

“Which candidate(s) lies, constantly, for which we have incontrovertible evidence?”

No matter your party affiliation, no matter your self-interested reasons for supporting a candidate, imagining that she/he would give you what you want, do you really think a Christian would lie, constantly?

And if she lies about everything, can you believe the promises she’s making in her quest to be president? Seriously, are you really that deluded or stupid?

John 8:43-44

Why do you not understand what I say?
Because you cannot bear to listen to my words.
You are from your father, the devil,
and you prefer to do what your father wants.
He was a murderer from the start;
he was never grounded in the truth;
there is no truth in him at all.
When he lies he is speaking true to his nature,
because he is a liar,
and the father of lies.

Jesus says the Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and with all our strength.

So if you love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength, how can you lie to others and to yourself, not just once, not just an occasional lapse from grace, but repeatedly, constantly, relentlessly?

See also:

May the joy and peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~Eowyn

Sunday Devotional: God of Mercy and of Right & Wrong

Genesis 18:20-21, 23-26, 32

In those days, the LORD said:
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,
and their sin so grave,
that I must go down and see whether or not their actions
fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.
I mean to find out.”

Then Abraham drew nearer and said:
“Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?
Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city;
would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it
for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?
Far be it from you to do such a thing,
to make the innocent die with the guilty
so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!
Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”
The LORD replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom,
I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

“Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.
What if there are at least ten there?”
He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”

The Genesis passage above is a sobering reminder that God is a just God, who has inscribed within each of us a moral code of right and wrong. As the Book of Jeremiah (31:33) puts it, that law is “written in our very hearts.”

If we, exercising God’s gift of free will, violates that moral code, knowing already in “our very hearts” what is right and what is wrong, there will be consequences, as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah discovered, too late.

Genesis 19: 24-25

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah
brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;
And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain,
and all the inhabitants of the cities,
and that which grew upon the ground.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin, 1852

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin, 1852

If you think the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is fictive, you should know that archeological excavations at Tall-el-Hammam, which fits the geographical context of Sodom and Gomorrah at 14 km. northeast of the Dead Sea in contemporary Jordan, confirmed the biblical account.

The archaeological team found stunning evidence that the cities in Tall-el-Hammam were suddenly and completely obliterated in the Late Bronze Age in a “terminal MB2 heat event”. In the words of one of the archaeologists, Dr. Steven Collins:

“…multiple lines of evidence continue to confirm that not only massive Tall el-Hammam, but also its many satellite towns and villages on the eastern Kikkar, suffered some sort of fiery, civilization-ending cataclysm toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age, with the selfsame, well-watered-in-abundance area remaining devoid of settlements for the next 600 years or so [….] The entirety of Tall el-Hammam’s MB2 footprint is covered in heavy ash (from .5m-1m thick), ash filled destruction debris, and other conflagratory indicators….”

See “Archaeologists find evidence of the obliteration of Sodom-Gomorrah“.

Let this sink in: A cataclysmic, “civilization-ending,” “conflagratory” (fiery) “heat event” that reduced Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, making the area uninhabitable for 600 years.

That’s no ordinary fire. Not even a volcanic eruption would do that.

As an example, the ecology of Mount St. Helens in Washington state quickly recovered after the devastating eruptions of May 18, 1980. Within weeks, small mammals like pocket gophers already started meandering through the devastation.

Sobering and frightening though the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah is, remember that God is also merciful and loving. All He asks is that we choose right, and when we go astray, we admit we had done wrong and ask for His forgiveness.

And when we do that, He is overjoyed and envelopes you in His warm embrace, and you will have a peace beyond all understanding, no matter this world’s slings and arrows, abuse and buffeting.

Coming HomeLuke 11:9-13

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

But admitting we’re wrong, of course, takes humility. And humility is sorely lacking in an increasingly narcissistic people and culture, devoted to the worship of the self, of “Do As Thou Will” — that first temptation by the serpent in that first garden.

All He asks is that we are true to what we already know “in our hearts”. Is it so much to ask?

The Greatest Commandment of all is to love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

And may the joy and peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

Psychiatrist says demonic possession is real

crucifix repels vampire

Richard Gallagher, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College.

In an article for The Washington Post on July 1, 2016,  Dr. Gallagher describes some of his experiences. Below is his essay in its entirety.

As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession

By Richard Gallagher, M.D. and Professor

In the late 1980s, I was introduced to a self-styled Satanic high priestess. She called herself a witch and dressed the part, with flowing dark clothes and black eye shadow around to her temples. In our many discussions, she acknowledged worshipping Satan as his “queen.”

I’m a man of science and a lover of history; after studying the classics at Princeton, I trained in psychiatry at Yale and in psychoanalysis at Columbia. That background is why a Catholic priest had asked my professional opinion, which I offered pro bono, about whether this woman was suffering from a mental disorder. This was at the height of the national panic about Satanism. (In a case that helped induce the hysteria, Virginia McMartin and others had recently been charged with alleged Satanic ritual abuse at a Los Angeles preschool; the charges were later dropped.) So I was inclined to skepticism. But my subject’s behavior exceeded what I could explain with my training. She could tell some people their secret weaknesses, such as undue pride. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including my mother and her fatal case of ovarian cancer. Six people later vouched to me that, during her exorcisms, they heard her speaking multiple languages, including Latin, completely unfamiliar to her outside of her trances. This was not psychosis; it was what I can only describe as paranormal ability. I concluded that she was possessed. Much later, she permitted me to tell her story.

The priest who had asked for my opinion of this bizarre case was the most experienced exorcist in the country at the time, an erudite and sensible man. I had told him that, even as a practicing Catholic, I wasn’t likely to go in for a lot of hocus-pocus. “Well,” he replied, “unless we thought you were not easily fooled, we would hardly have wanted you to assist us.”

So began an unlikely partnership. For the past two-and-a-half decades and over several hundred consultations, I’ve helped clergy from multiple denominations and faiths to filter episodes of mental illness — which represent the overwhelming majority of cases — from, literally, the devil’s work. It’s an unlikely role for an academic physician, but I don’t see these two aspects of my career in conflict. The same habits that shape what I do as a professor and psychiatrist — open-mindedness, respect for evidence and compassion for suffering people — led me to aid in the work of discerning attacks by what I believe are evil spirits and, just as critically, differentiating these extremely rare events from medical conditions.

Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans? Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no, because of their frequent contact with patients who are deluded about demons, their general skepticism of the supernatural, and their commitment to employ only standard, peer-reviewed treatments that do not potentially mislead (a definite risk) or harm vulnerable patients. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained in no other way.

*          *          *

The Vatican does not track global or countrywide exorcism, but in my experience and according to the priests I meet, demand is rising. The United States is home to about 50 “stable” exorcists — those who have been designated by bishops to combat demonic activity on a semi-regular basis — up from just 12 a decade ago, according to the Rev. Vincent Lampert, an Indianapolis-based priest-exorcist who is active in the International Association of Exorcists [IAE]. (He receives about 20 inquiries per week, double the number from when his bishop appointed him in 2005.) The Catholic Church has responded by offering greater resources for clergy members who wish to address the problem. In 2010, for instance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a meeting in Baltimore for interested clergy. In 2014, Pope Francis formally recognized the IAE, 400 of whom are to convene in Rome this October. Members believe in such strange cases because they are constantly called upon to help. (I served for a time as a scientific adviser on the group’s governing board.)

Unfortunately, not all clergy involved in this complex field are as cautious as the priest who first approached me. In some circles there is a tendency to become overly preoccupied with putative demonic explanations and to see the devil everywhere. Fundamentalist misdiagnoses and absurd or even dangerous “treatments,” such as beating victims, have sometimes occurred, especially in developing countries. This is perhaps why exorcism has a negative connotation in some quarters. People with psychological problems should receive psychological treatment.

But I believe I’ve seen the real thing. Assaults upon individuals are classified either as “demonic possessions” or as the slightly more common but less intense attacks usually called “oppressions.” A possessed individual may suddenly, in a type of trance, voice statements of astonishing venom and contempt for religion, while understanding and speaking various foreign languages previously unknown to them. The subject might also exhibit enormous strength or even the extraordinarily rare phenomenon of levitation. (I have not witnessed a levitation myself, but half a dozen people I work with vow that they’ve seen it in the course of their exorcisms.) He or she might demonstrate “hidden knowledge” of all sorts of things — like how a stranger’s loved ones died, what secret sins she has committed, even where people are at a given moment. These are skills that cannot be explained except by special psychic or preternatural ability.

I have personally encountered these rationally inexplicable features, along with other paranormal phenomena. My vantage is unusual: As a consulting doctor, I think I have seen more cases of possession than any other physician in the world.

Most of the people I evaluate in this role suffer from the more prosaic problems of a medical disorder. Anyone even faintly familiar with mental illnesses knows that individuals who think they are being attacked by malign spirits are generally experiencing nothing of the sort. Practitioners see psychotic patients all the time who claim to see or hear demons; histrionic or highly suggestible individuals, such as those suffering from dissociative identity syndromes; and patients with personality disorders who are prone to misinterpret destructive feelings, in what exorcists sometimes call a “pseudo-possession,” via the defense mechanism of an externalizing projection. But what am I supposed to make of patients who unexpectedly start speaking perfect Latin?

I approach each situation with an initial skepticism. I technically do not make my own “diagnosis” of possession but inform the clergy that the symptoms in question have no conceivable medical cause.

I am aware of the way many psychiatrists view this sort of work. While the American Psychiatric Association has no official opinion on these affairs, the field (like society at large) is full of unpersuadable skeptics and occasionally doctrinaire materialists who are often oddly vitriolic in their opposition to all things spiritual. My job is to assist people seeking help, not to convince doctors who are not subject to suasion. Yet I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners nowadays who are open to entertaining such hypotheses. Many believe exactly what I do, though they may be reluctant to speak out.

*          *          *

As a man of reason, I’ve had to rationalize the seemingly irrational. Questions about how a scientifically trained physician can believe “such outdated and unscientific nonsense,” as I’ve been asked, have a simple answer. I honestly weigh the evidence. I have been told simplistically that levitation defies the laws of gravity, and, well, of course it does! We are not dealing here with purely material reality but with the spiritual realm. One cannot force these creatures to undergo lab studies or submit to scientific manipulation; they will also hardly allow themselves to be easily recorded by video equipment, as skeptics sometimes demand. (The official Catholic Catechism holds that demons are sentient and possess their own wills; as they are fallen angels, they are also craftier than humans. That’s how they sow confusion and seed doubt, after all.) Nor does the church wish to compromise a sufferer’s privacy any more than doctors want to compromise a patient’s confidentiality.

Ignorance and superstition have often surrounded stories of demonic possession in various cultures, and surely many alleged episodes can be explained by fraud, chicanery or mental pathology. But anthropologists agree that nearly all cultures have believed in spirits, and the vast majority of societies (including our own) have recorded dramatic stories of spirit possession. Despite varying interpretations, multiple depictions of the same phenomena in astonishingly consistent ways offer cumulative evidence of their credibility.

As a psychoanalyst, a blanket rejection of the possibility of demonic attacks seems less logical, and often wishful in nature, than a careful appraisal of the facts. As I see it, the evidence for possession is like the evidence for George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. In both cases, written historical accounts with numerous sound witnesses testify to their accuracy.

In the end, however, it was not an academic or dogmatic view that propelled me into this line of work. I was asked to consult about people in pain. I have always thought that, if requested to help a tortured person, a physician should not arbitrarily refuse to get involved. Those who dismiss these cases unwittingly prevent patients from receiving the help they desperately require, either by failing to recommend them for psychiatric treatment (which most clearly need) or by not informing their spiritual ministers that something beyond a mental or other illness seems to be the issue. For any person of science or faith, it should be impossible to turn one’s back on a tormented soul.

[End of Dr. Gallagher’s essay]

~Eowyn