A chapter on exorcism and possession in The People of the Lie had my head in a spin. I left the woo scene many moons ago and now have trouble reading any book or article which tries to explain superstition or the supernatural. Although my main gripe is that it’s littered with inconsistency and can take excessive amounts of mental effort to sift through the words. Many humans are psychologically affected by ritual. Ritual can be shown to lessen anxiety, improve performance, and help people grieve after bereavement. I’m not only speaking of the hardcore stuff such as exorcisms, weddings, and funerals but the small ones we do too. Tapping on a surface, eating a particular food and lighting candles – any of those things you do compulsively to ward off negativity or improve your luck, are rituals.
I’d found the self-help books I read to be comprised of veiled observations of the human psyche with a whole load of magical thinking thrown in to fluff it up and make it look more appealing. That’s not to say I didn’t find bits of the material useful, but I did find it repressive. Yes, repressive. Although I wonder if ‘limiting’ is possibly a better term to use. I don’t know. I’m certainly aware that ‘thinking’ tends to be discouraged because it leads to questions. Questions then lead to places those gurus don’t want you to visit, usually because it takes you away from their ‘teaching’.
I have a need to mention denial because I can’t help feeling that exorcisms are just a way of dealing with something an individual finds intolerable. It might help to imagine it as psychological barrier erected to ward off something the person finds threatening to their existence. Exorcisms may ‘work’ but not because they force a discarnate entity out of the body. I’m wondering if it may be a case of the ritual itself being responsible for initiating an emotional shift within the person so they can change their thoughts or behaviour?
What I am more aware of now than before I re-read this book is that many people have trouble with the concept of evil. It’s not just the religiously inclined either. Those who work in the social sciences are also looking for reasons as to why people commit evil acts. The difference here is they want to blame biology, or they want to blame upbringing. Seriously, I reckon they’re looking for someone to blame and disguising it underneath the cloak of ‘research for the truth’ so they may find a cure.
Maybe there is NO cure?
And worse still, maybe there’s NO REASON for it?
Originally posted: 10/04/2015