By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D.

(C) May-June 1996 PLIM REPORT

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Although most cultures believed in god and spirits that inhabit a spirit world, from the earliest time this non-physical realm has been shrouded in all forms of superstitions, primitive magic and myths. According to the Golden Bough by James Frazier, men of this era universally believed that some of the spirits of this world were evil by nature and caused all forms of sickness and ill fortune. Ancient cultures developed these concepts before the Bible and the formation of Israel as a nation.

Now all cultures also believed that evil spirits could inhabit a physical body and influence human behavior. This usually resulted in a condition called “demonic possession” where the person’s soul lost its will and these spirits performed their will.

Does the Bible mention demons and possession?

Israel’s belief in evil spirits and possession basically conformed to the Gentile’s beliefs of that era although Israel also believed in Yahweh. No where in the Old Testament is there an in-depth analysis or discussion of demons, their nature, origin, and their abode in the earth plane.

The Old Testament only provides three instances where evil spirits plagued men. The first occurred when Lucifer appeared to Eve in the Garden. By lying to her, he caused her to violate the law of Elohim (Gn. 3:1-10). Second, Yahweh sent evil spirits to trouble Abimelech (Jud. 9:23) and the third happened when they troubled King Saul, the first king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:14-16).

Another form of possession mentioned in the Old Testament is mediumship (i.e., someone who had a “familiar spirit,” Deu. 18:10-11; Lv. 20:7; I Sam. 28:3-15), which Elohim prohibited Israel from performing. These beliefs in evil spirits continued during the Messiah’s ministry.

Yahshua the Messiah acknowledged that possession by evil spirits or demons exists. He demonstrated that He had the power to cast these spirits out of man by just speaking words instead of performing elaborate rituals. He states: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of Elohim (God), then the kingdom of Elohim (God) is come unto you (Mt. 12:28).”

What is the intent of this article?

This article is the first in a three part series. Due to space limitations all points concerning possession will not be covered. Several books could be written on the subject and not cover all the points.

The intent of this article is to examine the principle of possession in modern times and prove its existence in the light of scientific knowledge that strips away superstitions. This article will also cover both the Biblical and scientific definitions of possession. In addition, it will reveal the purpose of possession (See Job 1st chp.). The tabernacle pattern will be used to explain possession on a physical, psychological, and spiritual level. We understand that the most obvious forms of possessions (i.e., people acting bizarre or crazy) are just "the tip of the iceberg" of evil spirits influencing people because the greater part of possession is more subtle and invisible.

Part Two of this article will examine further the more subtle influence evil spirits have on men along with various case studies of multiple personalities, which cannot be fully explained without acknowledging the existence of evil spirits and ghosts. Part Two will also examine how possession takes place, types of possessions, and its symptoms. Part Three will discuss exorcism of these spirits. Before we begin this investigation, several definitions of possession would be helpful.

What does it mean  to be possessed?

Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience defines possession as follows. “The taking over of a person’s mind, body and soul by an external force perceived to be a deity, spirit, demon, entity or separate personality (p. 457).” From this definition one can see that possession does not necessarily have to be evil, but the Holy Spirit and a ghost (or human soul) can also possess someone (Exo. 28:3, 31:1-6).

The Dictionary of the Bible by James Hasting ( 1963 Charles Scribner’s Sons) provides a further definition of possession. “The central idea in the word is the coercive seizing of the spirit of man by another spirit, viewed as superhuman, with the result that the man’s will is no longer free but is controlled, often against his wishes, by this indwelling person or power (p. 782).” In the next section, we will reveal the state of men’s mind during Biblical times.

Was the Bible written in a superstitious time?

During the Roman reign of the Caesars (Matt. 2:1-7), men were still bogged down in a multitude of superstitions and most people believed that evil spirits caused various sicknesses. Many Bible students read the scriptures without realizing that very little is written in them about possession or the Spirit world since the Messiah’s era was not scientific. Thus, the people were unable to distinguish the causes of physical and mental illnesses.

Did Israel understand possession?

When one begins to examine spirit possessions, one has to have some type of paradigm or model. The examples found in the four gospels of the New Testament form many Christian’s model of possession.

The biggest problem with the New Testament model is the people of this era’s belief system. They believed evil spirits or demons caused all forms of physical and mental illness as stated in the introduction.

The Messiah knew the people of this era did not understand their physical body or the world from a scientific viewpoint. Thus, when the Messiah cured Israel, He did not explain medically what He was doing. Many believed He was casting out evil spirits, but in reality He was healing some part of the body that had a health problem. For example, several instances in the four Gospels show the Messiah curing the Israelites of dumb and deaf spirits (Mt. 9:23; Mk. 9:25). Spiritual entities are not deaf and dumb in a literal sense.

In our scientific culture we understand that people can suffer neurological damage, such as a tumor or lesion on the brain, that can cause them to be deaf and dumb or to behave as if they are mentally ill or crazy. These physical conditions have nothing to do with evil spirits. So when the Messiah healed various people that could not speak, an evil spirit did not cause them to be dumb in the literal sense. The person may have had a medical difficulty with his physical body that Israel did not understand at this time. Simply put, without scientific knowledge, Israelite’s belief system diagnosed every health problem as demonic.

Now havoc may reign in some people’s mind today because they read the Bible without knowing Israel’s mind set at that time. They unquestioningly accept ideas from a bygone world that was totally ignorant of modern science. In order to examine possession, one has to strip the phenomena of all its superstitions.

What is the structure of the soul?

According to the threefold tabernacle, man is composed of a physical body, a soul (spiritual body), and spirit (I Thess. 5:23). Elohim created Adam’s soul by breathing into his physical body the breath of Life and He became a living Soul (Gn. 2:7; Jn. 20:22). The tabernacle Israel built in the Wilderness is figurative of man’s physical body. The Cloud of Yahweh that filled the tabernacle is figurative of man’s soul and the spirit within that dictates to it (Ex. 40:34). Simply put, Adam’s or any human soul had no prior existence until the physical creation was formed.

Now all humans have a psychological component—the mind along with the knowledge and experiences obtained from this physical plane. This gives humans their worldview and personality to direct them in their everyday affairs.

On a spiritual level the mind is integrated with the Spirit which means the Holy Spirit subjugates the mind’s “will.” The mind and the Holy Spirit being ONE transforms the perspective of the mind where it can perceive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:1-9). The Great Master said He came to do the will of the Father and anyone that does the will of the Father is His brother or sister (Jn. 5:30; Mk. 3:35).

What is the structure of the spirit world?

To understand possession, one must have an understanding of the basic structure of the spiritual world. Elohim and His angels along with those resurrected souls of humans are on the highest level of the spiritual world or the angelic realm, called Heaven, that corresponds to the Holy Place and Most Holy Place of the tabernacle (See illustration on p. 23). Angels are ministering spirits to humans (Heb. 1:7).

Fallen angels, who were originally a part of the angelic realm, but were cast out for their disobedience and chained to darkness (Rev. 12:9) now inhabit the lowest part of the spirit world, which is where the physical creation exist, that corresponds to the Court Round About of the tabernacle. They are also called demons. According to the book The Demonologist ( 1980 Berkley) by Gerald Brittle, these spirits hate the human’s soul and seek to destroy the human mind.

Human souls that are carnal minded (i.e., devoid of any spiritual understanding or spiritually dead, Rom. 8:6) or died physically without being resurrected also occupy the lowest part of heaven with these evil spirits.

As the laws of physics concerning electricity show, there exist both negative and positive energies. Thus, on a spiritual and psychological level, there also exist positive and negative energies (Rom. 1:19-20). For example, love and faith is positive and doubt and hate are negative. Now the negative energy or a pessimistic influence can dominate if there are no positive influences to counteract and balance the negative. If a soul is spiritually dead, meaning it is not at ONE with the spirit within, yet physically alive, then an evil spirit can enter into the body or temple. By terror and cunning, these spirits can make the will of the soul succumb to their will. Simply put, the will and the personality of an individual can be entirely taken over. Some people, as in the case of mediums, voluntarily request possession.

What is the purpose of possession?

It is very hard for humans to understand why Elohim (God) would create evil (Gn. 3:1; Isa. 45:6-7). Yet the Bible is full of stories illustrating this principle. Israel and others were made subject to evil that good or righteousness may triumph.

For example, Israel in bondage to Pharaoh represents human souls in bondage to evil spirits. Their resurrection from Egypt symbolized men resurrecting over these spirits through the Holy Spirit. To understand and appreciate the operation of principles such as, Light, Truth, Love, Knowledge, Power, Strength, Faith, etc., we must see them in opposition to the attributes of Ignorance, Darkness, Hate, Weakness, Doubt, etc.

Paul said it the following way: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of Elohim (God, Rom. 8:20-21).” Elohim must create evil spirits (fallen angels, Isa. 45:6-7) to play out negative attributes so that we can identify and worship the Savior Yahshua (Jesus) the Messiah who delivers us from this state.

Many who have confronted evil spirits confirm their intent. Gerald Brittle’s book, The Demonologist ( 1980 Berkley Books), states the following about the purpose of possession. He writes: “…the demoniacal strategy is to create fear in order to begin breaking the human will … the entrenched spirit tends to either launch a bombardment of incredible phenomena or embark on a surreptitious psychological attack, dedicated to the complete domination of the victim’s will (p. 115).”

The classic work The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec, contains the principles of Spiritist Doctrine. He obtained this information from a spirit that spoke through mediums and states the following about evil spirits. “Imperfect spirits are used by Providence as instruments for trying men’s faith and constancy in well-doing. You, being a spirit, must advance in the knowledge of the infinite. It is for this end that you are made to pass through the trails of evil in order to attain goodness (# 466; p. 227).” The next section will detail the time that the study of spirits became popular.

When did modern science begin to investigate the spirit world?

In the mid-19th century with the Spiritualism movement, men began to use the scientific method to examine possession and other paranormal phenomenon. This movement began in 1848 with the Fox family in Hydesville, New York, when two sisters heard rapping and knocking sounds in their house. They began to imitate the sounds they heard the ghosts or poltergeists make. A neighbor developed an alphabetical code to communicate with these spirits. According to Colin Wilson’s classical book Poltergeist (1981 New England Library), the first message was: “Dear friends, you must proclaim this truth to the world. This is the dawning of a new era…,”

Now the Spiritualists first meeting began in November 1849 and spread throughout Europe. The Spiritualists held seances, automatic writing sessions, etc. The spiritualist movement believed that certain illnesses, such as schizophrenia and multiple personality, have spiritual causes and can be treated through communication with spirit guides.

Mediums were used to appeal to the spirit world to rid sufferers of various aliments. The spiritualist movement caused men of science to investigate the paranormal and found that many who claimed to possess some power were not frauds. They began to put forward many theories to explain these phenomena, which added another view besides the religious one.

On a spiritual level, there was not much discerning of spirits in this movement. Not realizing who they were talking to was their failure. The Apostle John warned Israel to try the spirits and see if they be of Elohim (1 Jn. 4:1-2).

Let’s continue the investigation of possession with discovering how a spirit possesses a human.

Are a car and a driver a good analogy to describe possession?

Felicitas D. Goodman provides an excellent analogy of possession in her book, How About Demons? She states that possession can be compared to a car and the driver. Now the car represents the physical body and the driver represents the soul. The driver can loan his car to a friend and sit in the back seat or the driver can be car-jacked. Here the friend and the car-jacker represent a ghost or an evil spirit. Either can take control (by force or with permission) of the body depending on the situation. For example, in the Voodoo religion loas or spirits possess certain people during ceremonial dances held every Saturday. Mediums also allow spirits to enter their body and use it to speak through them.

Another analogy of possession by force can be likened unto home invasion where intruders enter someone’s house and make the occupants do everything they want or unto diseases where viruses enter the body and take over its operation.

What does voluntary possession reveal about possession?

After observing voluntary possession in mediums, shamans and voodoo ceremonies, many researchers generally agree that it usually occurs while the individual is in some type of trance.

The next thing that occurs during possession is the manifestation of the spirit in the body. The facial expression, change in voice, body language, and the personality change can identify the spirit.

In these ceremonies spirits identify themselves, manifest, and they eventually leave. Melville J. Herskovits, an American anthropologist, in his book Life in a Haitian Valley ( 1971 Doubleday) documents this. Herskovits states: “Possession occurs according to well defined rules and under specific circumstances” as quoted in Ms. Goodman’s book. More on voodoo possession will be discussed in Part Two.

Using these voluntary examples of possession as models, we will discuss also in Part two of this article how involuntary possession mimics these principles in some way.

How did science change man’s view of possession?

What the scientific revolution and modern medicine did for the belief in possession was to remove superstition and primitive magic from mankind’s mind. Science showed that birth defects, failures in various organs, and microorganisms (such as germs and bacteria) were the chief causes of most illnesses and that medicine could cure many diseases.

Thus, this new knowledge dispelled the idea that evil spirits were the sole cause of various physical illnesses. There are many today though that still believe evil spirits cause all forms of mental disorders. These spirits can cause mental disorders, but they are not the cause of all mental illnesses.

Now the downside of modern science is that it has denied the existence of all spirits and the spiritual realm as modern psychology and psychiatry do with their scientific model.

How does science define possession?

In psychology, possession is diagnosed as multiple personalities (MP). Felicitas D. Goodman in her book How About Demons? ( 1988 Indiana University Press) quotes psychiatrist Frank W. Putnam Jr.’s definition of MP. Dr. Putnam believes that the condition exists when: “…various alternate personalities ‘split off’ from the core of the self. As we notice, the experience is not interpreted in religious terms. The distinct personalities joined in the patient do not originate from outside the person, in another reality, which would be the interpretation in the terms of the “soul theory,” but comes about by forces or experiences internal to the individual. The entities in question are not spirits in this view; they are “alters (p. 80).”

Dr. Putnam's definition rejects the belief in the existence of the soul and spiritual entities. Instead, it says the core personality splits into other personalities, which we will discuss later in this article. This splitting of the core personality is likened unto a glass breaking and each of the pieces forming smaller glasses. How this is done is not fully documented or proven.

A book and film named The Three Faces of Eve depict a true case of a multiple personalities where a woman had three different temperaments or dispositions. We will discuss this in more detail in Part Two of this article.

Now there are a few mental health therapists in modern psychology and psychiatry, like psychiatrists M. Scott Peck, M.D. and Ralph Allison M.D., who have shown possession cases exist, which will be discussed in the next section.

Has science proved the existence of MP?

Mental health professionals have always been suspicious of multiple personality claims. Many thought that this was a game, role-playing, or individuals acting to avoid unpleasant and threatening life situations. It was not until 1982 that a definitive test was developed to show that an individual’s multiple personalities were not role-playing or acting, but that these multiple or alter personalities were as real as the individual’s core personality.

Frank Putnam Jr., a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health, developed a test called “evoked potential.” Another psychologist Colin Pitblado confirmed the results of this very sophisticated test. The procedure for the test, in simple layman terms, involves shining a light into the eyes of the patient. His brain waves are monitored to register this activity. The test found that every human’s brain reacts uniquely to light.

How did different groups respond to the “evoked potential” test?

Now the “evoked potential” test was performed on a number of groups to document its authenticity. Researchers tested a group of actors pretending as if they had multiple personalities. The test showed that these actor’s roles did not vary much from their core personality. The “evoked potential” test was also tried on people who had obsessive-compulsive personality with the patients showing no abnormality.

On the group of people who actually manifested multiple personalities, this test showed that each personality had its unique brain pattern that differed from the core personality. This proved the individuals or patients were not acting or role-playing. These were real, distinct personalities whose brain waves displayed a different pattern to light than the core personality.

How can these results be interpreted?

Now the question arises on how to interpret this test. If these are real personalities, then how did they develop? Did spirits take over the person’s physical body? Currently, there is no theory or explanation.

In a number of cases, those working with people who manifest multiple personalities have recorded that some of these personalities have documented history of their existence prior to the patient’s birth, which we will discuss in Part Two of this article. The only possible explanation is that these other personalities are spirits that took possession of the individual’s body, soul, and mind. Many modern psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to accept this fact.

Now this ends Part One of “Possession” that examined the religious and scientific views on the subject. The scientific evidence shows that spirits exist that have the ability to take control of the human body, soul, and mind. In Part Two, we will discuss the different types of possession and present actually case studies.

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