The evidence that discarnate spirits exist and exert an influence upon the lives of living people is so voluminous that it would require a huge library of books to document it all. It predates historical accounts. It involves ghosts and hauntings, poltergeists, near-death experiences, psychic healing, out-of-body experiences, extrasensory perception and the experiences of millions of ordinary people who have had encounters with the spirits of their own deceased loved ones or close friends. It also includes historical accounts of ancient seers, shamans and oracles that have been handed down to us through the ages. These oracles, shamans and seers were what we today would call mediums. They could transmit information that would be known only to the spirits of persons who had died.
One of the most ancient bodies of evidence for discarnate spirits is the link between insanity and “evil spirits.” (Note: The term “discarnate” refers to “a soul without a physical body”, while “incarnate” refers to a soul which occupies a physical body– i.e. a living person.) Devils and demons were a part of religious theology in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, and later, in Pharaonic Egypt. Jesus, the greatest western mystic and psychic was well known during His own day as a rabbi who could cast out evil spirits. In the New Testament a quarter of all of His healings involved the casting out of unclean spirits. (It’s not much of a stretch to call Jesus the greatest mystic of all time because it was upon His shoulders that the entire edifice of Western Civilization was built.)
For example, when Jesus arrived in the country of Gadarenes, he encountered a man who was insane. The man wore no clothes, and was homeless, having taken up residence in the local cemetery. Jesus recognized the man’s madness to be caused by spirit possession, and in a famous demonstration of his ability to cure madness by casting out evil spirits, He commanded the spirits to leave the man. Luke 8:26-39 gives the following account:
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Legion”, for many demons had entered into him. They begged him that he would not command them to go into the abyss. Now, there was a herd of many pigs feeding on the mountain, and they begged him that he would allow them to enter into those. He allowed them. The demons came out from the man, and entered into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned.
Many moderns who read this may think of it as a quaint fairy tale, but there is a great deal of modern literature that describes examples of exorcism, and not all of it is easily dismissed. Mental illnesses with stark changes in personality have been dealt with by various religious establishments for millennia. William Peter Blatty’s famous novel, The Exorcist, is a fictionalized account of a real exorcism, by Catholic priests, of a fourteen year old boy in 1949. It took place in a St. Louis Hospital, and is based on the diary of one of the priests who did the exorcism (See Possessed by Thomas B. Allan).
There are literally thousands of accounts of exorcisms. Perhaps one of the most interesting and well documented was performed in Earling, Iowa in 1928. It is chronicled in a 48 page contemporary pamphlet entitled “Begone Satan” which is still available for free online and from online bookstores. Here is a very short excerpt:
Father Theophilus had hardly begun the formula of exorcism in the name of the Blessed Trinity, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the name of the Crucified Savior, when a hair-raising scene occurred. With lightning speed the possessed dislodged herself from her bed and from the hands of her guards; and her body, carried through the air, landed high above the door of the room and clung to the wall with a tenacious grip. All present were struck with a trembling fear. Father Theophilus alone kept his peace.
“Pull her down. She must be brought back to her place upon the bed!”
Real force had to be applied to her feet to bring her down from her high position on the wall. The mystery was that she could cling to the wall at all! It was through the powers of the evil spirit, who had taken possession of her body.
Rev. Alexius Hoffmann, O.S.B.
IMPRIMATUR: Joseph F. Busch
Bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota
July 23, 1935