(Bill Baldwin, Ph.D.)
On Spirit Releasement Therapy
Spirits invade us through chinks in our natural armor caused by
emotional and physical trauma. If a person ... strongly indulges the
carnal appetites or succumbs to the lure of occult or spiritualistic
practices, he renders himself vulnerable to infestation by demonic
energies (Basham, 1972, p. 127). Without the proper awareness of
this condition, continuation of this lifestyle can lead to obsession
demonic influence, which is seen as quite common, and finally to
full demonic possession, which some people believe to be rare
(Montgomery, 1976) ... In a number of cases, persons whose
condition would ordinarily be described as due to hysteria, dual, or
multiple personality, dementia praecox, paranoia, or some other
form of mental disturbance, showed unmistakable indications of
invasion by foreign and discarnate agencies (Hyslop, 1920, p. 387).
Similarities Between MPD And SPS
The study of Multiple Personality Disorder cannot be complete
without a serious examination of the condition known as Spirit
Possession Syndrome. Comparison of MPD and SPS reveals some
indisputable similarities. Some signs and symptoms of the two
conditions are quite similar, some are distinctly different. Most
mental health professionals have considerable skepticism regarding
The classic symptoms of MPD may be muted and attenuated in
childhood. The condition is often ignored, misunderstood,
misinterpreted or misdiagnosed. A child's complaints and behavior
are frequently disbelieved or passed off as childhood fantasy, and
may lead to punishment.
Recognizable symptoms may begin to manifest in the late teens, but
the condition is often not discovered and accurately diagnosed until
the mid to late thirties. Approximately 65% of cases are found
between the ages of 20 and 40 (Kluft, 1985a, p. 215). The condition
has a natural history from the original traumatic episode(s) to full
manifestation of symptoms of MPD. The person with MPD usually holds
a poor self-image of mental and physical health. Cases of MPD in the
United States may number in the thousands (Putnam, 1989, pp. 54-55).
The earthbound spirit of a deceased human can form an attachment to
a living person at any point between conception and death. The
mental, emotional and physical health of the host has no bearing on
the potential for an attachment. Many cases of SPS are discovered in
therapy while searching for the cause of a chronic problem or
unexpected new conflict in the life of the client.
Some phases of the treatment of MPD and Spirit Releasement Therapy
have a parallel intention, yet the final goal is totally different.
For the alter personalities in MPD, the final step is either
integration and fusion or at least cooperation and co-consciousness
(Braun, 1986). For the condition of spirit attachment, only the
release of the spirit can bring relief of the symptoms. (Wickland,
1924; Fiore, 1987a).
William James spoke on "Demoniacal Possession" in his 1896 Lowell
Lectures. Recapitulating his previous lecture, "Multiple
Personality," he mentioned three types of mutations in the sense of
self: insane, hysteric, and somnambulistic. The fourth type, he
said, is spirit control, or mediumship, which in the past had been
equated with devil worship and pathology. He continued:
"History shows that mediumship is identical with demon possession.
But the obsolescence of public belief in the possession by demons is
a very strange thing in Christian lands, when one considers that it
is the one most articulately expressed doctrine of both Testaments,
and ...reigned for seventeen hundred years, hardly challenged, in
all the churches. Every land and every age has exhibited the facts
on which this belief was founded. India, China, Egypt, Africa,
Polynesia, Greece, Rome, and all medieval Europe believed that
certain nervous disorders were of supernatural origin, inspired by
gods and sacred; or by demons -- and therefore diabolical. When the
pagan gods became demons, all possession became diabolic, and we
have the medieval condition."
(Taylor, 1984, p. 93-94)
In James' day, there was "...much alarmist writing in psychopathy
about degeneration," and he suggested that "...if there are devils,
if there are supernormal powers, it is through the cracked and
fragmented self that they enter." (Taylor, 1984, p. 110). Referring
to the spiritualistic activities of Boston and New York in 1896,
James states that the diabolic nature of demon possession now
"...has with us assumed a benign and optimistic form, [in which]
changed personality is considered the spirit of a departed being
coming to bring messages of comfort from the 'sunny land"' (Taylor,
1984, p. 94). James (1966) further stated that:
"The refusal of modern 'enlightenment' to treat 'possession' as a
hypothesis to be spoken of as even possible, in spite of the massive
human tradition based on concrete experience in its favor, has
always seemed to me a curious example of the power of fashion in
things scientific. That the demon-theory will have its innings again
is to my mind absolutely certain. One has to be 'scientific' indeed
to be blind and ignorant enough to suspect no such possibility."
James' prescient forecast concerning the "demon-theory" is proving
true. Dr. Ralph Allison (1985), considered a pioneer in the modern
treatment of MPD, says bluntly that many of his multiple personality
patients have exhibited symptoms of possession. He has described his
encounters with aspects of their personalities which were not true
alters. He found it difficult to dismiss these bizarre occurrences
as delusion. With no "logical" explanation, he has come to believe
in the possibility of spirit possession. (p. 12)
Allison (1980) describes numerous cases of apparent spirit
possession in MPD. He has developed a conceptual scheme which
distinguishes five levels or types of possession:
Simple obsessive compulsive neurosis.
Thought forms and created beings.
An aspect or fragment of the mind of a living person.
The earthbound spirit who once lived as a human being.
Full demonic possession.
Dr. Allison states that he has corresponded with many professionals
who have come to similar conclusions about the origin and purpose of
alter personalities (1985).
Arthur Guirdham (1982), an English psychiatrist who is also psychic,
has been in practice more than 50 years and refuses to consider the
possibility of MPD as a viable diagnosis. He considers the condition
to be possession by one or more spirit entities. He considers
psychic influence or spirit possession to be the cause of many kinds
of illness, mental and physical and other conditions such as
sleepwalking and addictions.
It is interesting to note that the three subjects -- hypnosis,
spirit possession, and multiple personality disorder -- were quite
prominent at the turn of the century, then faded almost
simultaneously into obscurity. With the publishing of the book, The
3 Faces of Eve, MPD once again came into public awareness (Thigpen
and Cleckley, 1957). Hypnosis was accepted by the health professions
in mid-century. Treatment of spirit possession never ceased but
continued quietly through the years without much publicity.
The connection between spirit possession and MPD was brought back
into public and professional awareness by psychiatrist Ralph Allison
(1980). Included in his book is a chapter entitled, "Possession and
the Spirit World." He describes the effects of spirit interference
and the process of releasing the discarnates. Though considered an
expert in the field of MPD, he has been criticized by many of his
colleagues for considering the spiritual approach to the clinical
treatment of MPD.
Dr. Richard Kluft (1985b) has coined the term co-presence, meaning
an alter's ability to influence the experience or behavior of
another personality. This describes precisely the effect of an
attached earthbound spirit on the host.
Walter Young (1987) described a case of ostensible adult onset of
MPD. Duane, a veteran of World War II, began having dissociative
episodes after being discharged from the navy. Duane did not drink
or use drugs. He described an inner voice that had been present
since the war which sometimes advised suicide.
Duane had an unhappy childhood but there were not the usual
precipitating factors leading to MPD. Duane and a friend named Max
joined the navy together. In a tragic episode, Duane ordered Max to
stand Duane's gunnery watch. A Japanese plane strafed the area and
Max was fatally wounded. Duane was with Max in the last moments and
heard Max promise, "I'll never leave you." Duane felt responsible
for the death of his friend.
With Duane under hypnosis, "Max" claimed to have entered Duane
because Max held Duane responsible for his death. He claimed that he
had a score to settle with Duane because "it wasn't my time to die."
He denied the presence of any other alters. He acknowledged that he
was the "voice" that Duane heard. He took control occasionally and
Duane was amnesic during these periods. Max lived a hedonistic
lifestyle when he was in control of Duane's body, riding
motorcycles, having affairs with women, and urging Duane to leave
home on repeated trips. This fits the definition of co-presence
Previous psychiatric records revealed that a dissociative condition
was suspected. Max revealed that the former psychiatrist knew of his
presence and had attempted to "banish" him. He just went away
briefly and returned after the psychiatrist was gone. This is the
result of inadequate knowledge of the releasement process.
Duane left therapy with Dr. Young after three months. His anxiety
increased as hypnotic sessions were pursued with the intention of
exploring the war and early life experiences.
In the discussion, Dr. Young suggests several unusual aspects of the
case. Adult onset of MPD is little studied, little understood and
considered rare. A single alter in a case of MPD is highly unusual.
His discussion attempted to explain the case in psychoanalytic terms
but without concrete conclusions.
The description of the case of Duane and Max is typical of spirit
attachment. There are many specific indications, including the
There was no history which would indicate the antecedents of MPD.
The two were friends.
Duane was present at the time of Max's death.
Duane felt guilt, Max felt blame. This is an exact fit of emotions.
Max promised, "I'll never leave you."
Max stated that he had entered Duane. This is a clear description
which the therapist must accept as valid.
The voice urged suicide as a way of assuaging the blame and guilt
and achieving peace for both. This is typical of the influence of
the dark beings exacerbating the feelings of revenge. The idea of
achieving peace is a manipulative deception.
With Max in control, Duane was amnesic of the lifestyle adopted by
Max. This is a case of occasional complete takeover.
Max knew he was a separate being and resisted the former
psychiatrist's efforts to banish him. Max was not at all confused by
The situation worsened with further inadequate and inappropriate
treatment. Psychiatric intervention was obviously the wrong
treatment approach for the condition.
Spirit attachment, or possession, is not affected by standard
medical treatment, and traditional psychotherapy simply does not
apply. Psychiatric intervention, especially the use of mind-altering
drugs, can exacerbate the condition. A process of releasing the
attached entity is the treatment of choice and indeed the only
successful method of alleviating the problem. The process is gentle,
logical, methodical, systematic and grounded in sound
Depossession, disobsession, minor exorcism, or spirit releasement
procedures are not dangerous or frightening, once a client is aware
of the reality of the situation, and the therapist harbors no fear
of the subject. The condition of spirit attachment, if properly
treated, can be cleared immediately. However, hypnotic suggestion
can mask organically caused symptoms, behavior can be altered by
post-hypnotic suggestion, and the placebo effect of any kind of
treatment ritual is well known (White, Tursky and Schwartz, 1985).
For these reasons a psychological evaluation is recommended prior to
the intervention and a thorough medical examination is necessary if
there are physical symptoms. This treatment cannot be considered as
a substitute for appropriate medical or psychological treatment.
Background And History
The first written accounts of the treatment of illness were
deciphered from the cuneiform texts of Assyrian tablets dating from
about 2500 B.C. Eloquent incantations and prayers to the tribal gods
were interspersed with direct challenges to the demons that imposed
disease of every description (Ehrenwald, 1976, pp. 27-29). Through
the centuries, mental illness has been attributed to spirits, animal
bites, phases of the moon, humors of the body, and many diverse
causes. Transformations of personality, as evidenced in trance
mediumship and multiple personality disorder, have occurred
throughout history. Dual or multiple personality has been recognized
and described only in the last two centuries. The diagnosis of
multiple personality disorder is still not widely accepted in the
mental health professions.
Through the annals of human experience, people have believed that
there was a non-physical existence parallel and coexistent with the
physical universe. People considered this world to be filled with
spirits. In this belief system, termed animism, everything was
imbued with spirits, including the air, earth, water, fire, storms,
lightning, earthquakes, plants, animals, the wind, and their own
physical bodies. This belief held that good fortune and bad were
under the influence of non-physical intelligence. The ancients
believed that most sickness was caused by evil spirits (Hoyt, 1978,
The early writings of the Chinese, Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks
show that they generally attributed mental disorders to demons that
had taken possession of an individual. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.),
the great Greek physician, has been called the "father of modern
medicine." He denied the possibility of intervention of deities and
demons as the cause of disease. Further, he insisted that mental
disorders stemmed from natural causes and, like other diseases,
required more rational treatment. He agreed with the earlier view of
Pythagoras that the brain was the central organ of intellectual
activity and that brain pathology led to mental disorders. Plato
(429-347 B.C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) studied and wrote about
mental disorders. Both considered the cause to be natural, not
The physician Galen (130-200 A.D.) studied and described the anatomy
of the nervous system. He also elaborated on the Hippocratic
tradition, compiling and integrating the existing material on the
descriptions of mental disorder. Among the causes of mental
disorders he listed the following injuries to the head, alcoholic
excess, adolescence, fear, shock, menstrual changes, economic
reverses and disappointment in love.
With Galen's death in 200 A.D., the contributions of Hippocrates and
later Greek and Roman physicians were lost in a resurgence of
popular superstition. There was a return of the belief in demonology
as the source of illness. Not until the sixteenth century did
another prominent physician, Paracelsus (1490-1541), reject
demonology as the cause of abnormal behavior. He defied the medical
and theological traditions of his time, for which he was hounded and
persecuted until his death. Also ahead of his time was Johann Weyer
(1515-1588), one of the first physicians to specialize in mental
disorders. His progressive views and wide experience in the field
led to his reputation as the true founder of modern psychopathology.
The attitude of scientific skepticism developed rapidly in the
sixteenth century, as illustrated in the works of Reginald Scot
(1538-1599). Oxford educated and the author of a book entitled
Discovery of Witchcraft, Scot devoted his life to exposing the
fallacies of demonology and witchcraft. None other than King James I
of England came to the support of demonology and ordered Scot's book
seized and burned. During this period, a few churchmen were also
beginning to question demonology and the practices of the time. St.
Vincent de Paul (1576-1660) questioned and openly challenged the
belief that spirit forces were the cause of mental illness.
In the face of this ongoing dissent, demonology lost ground. Reason
and the scientific method gradually led to the development of modern
clinical approaches to mental illness. Even so, the belief in
demonology was still widespread. In 1768, the Protestant John Wesley
declared that "The giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up of
In 1792, Phillipe Pinel brought reform to La Bicetre, the hospital
for the insane in Paris. He was later given charge of the
Saltpetriere and established similar reforms in that institution.
Concurrently, William Tuke established the "York Retreat" and
ushered in the era of humane treatment of hospitalized mentally ill
patients in England.
The success of these more humanitarian methods was reflected in the
United States in the work of Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), the founder
of American Psychiatry. Rush was associated with the Pennsylvania
Hospital in 1783, and encouraged more humane treatment of the
mentally ill. Still, the established beliefs of the time affected
Rush. Astrology influenced his medical theory and he used
bloodletting and purgatives as his principal remedies. Even so, he
is considered an important transitional figure between the old era
and the new.
Mental illness and demonology -- the study of spirit possession --
have been inseparably linked through the tortuous course of history
(Coleman, Butcher, & Carlson, 1980, pp. 25-44).
MPD and SPS
In eighteenth-century Europe, the concepts of possession and
exorcism were eclipsed by the rise of rational philosophical and
scientific inquiry. Franz Anton Mesmer, considered by many to be the
father of modern hypnosis, was instrumental in this process. Through
the application of his theory of animal magnetism, he was able to
duplicate the curing feats of the popular and successful
healer-exorcist, Johann Gassner (1727-1779), thus undermining
Gassner received his ordination into the priesthood in 1750, and
carried out his ministry in a small Swiss village beginning in 1758.
A few years later, he began to suffer dizziness, violent headaches
and other disturbances that worsened during the celebration of Mass.
He suspected interference by "the Evil One," and sought relief
through the Church's exorcism and prayers. The disturbances
disappeared. Gassner began to use the practice of exorcism with good
results, healing all sorts of ailments. His fame spread.
Though the Church held a firm grip on the lower and middle classes,
Europe at this time was swept with the new philosophy of
Enlightenment. Reason was expected to prevail over ignorance and
superstition. As the result of an inquiry ordered by the Prince
Bishop of Regensburg, Gassner was advised to reduce his healing
activity and restrict the practice of exorcism to the patients
referred by their church ministers.
In Munich, the Prince-Elector Max Joseph of Bavaria also ordered an
inquiry, to which he invited Dr. Mesmer. Mesmer gave demonstrations
in which he elicited various symptoms from subjects, and dispelled
symptoms and behaviors such as convulsions and epileptic seizures
simply by a touch of his finger. He achieved success similar to that
evidenced by the exorcism procedures of Gassner, without the
attendant ritual and superstitious trappings.
The year was 1775 and the clash between these two men -- Gassner, an
unselfish man of great and recognized piety, and Mesmer, a son of
the Rala, "Enlightenment" -- represented the struggle between the
forces of tradition and the principles of the new Enlightenment.
This triumph of reason over tradition contributed to the rise of
dynamic psychiatry, a method of healing that retained no ties with
religion. In Rome, Pope Pius VI looked into Gassner's activities and
decreed that the religious, ceremonial, ritualistic approach of
exorcism must be performed with discretion and strict adherence to
the code of the Roman Ritual.
It seems that healing is not enough. Curing the sick must be
accomplished with methods that are acceptable to the community. The
spiritual aspects of mental and physical illness were consequently
ignored, and spiritually oriented methods of healing were swept into
obscurity (Ellenberger, 1970, pp. 53-57).
Though an official committee of inquiry later discredited Mesmer,
his theories form the basis of the current form of hypnosis. Today,
hypnosis is the primary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of
After the time of Mesmer, occasional brief reports of multiple
personality appeared in the medical literature. In 1791, German
physician Eberhardt Gmelin reported a case of "exchanged
personality." In 1811, Erasmus Darwin mentioned a case of a woman
"possessed of two minds." Dr. Benjamin Rush described several cases
in 1812. Around 1816, John Mitchell reported a case involving a
young woman named Mary Reynolds. In 1840, French physician Despine
published the case of successful treatment of Estelle, a young Swiss
girl with dual personality. The case of Ansel Bourne, a man who
experienced a total change of personality and life circumstances in
the beginning months of 1887, was described by William James (1950,
The period from 1880 to 1910 was an era of great theoretical
contributions to the study of dissociation. Among the foremost
investigators of this era were Pierre Janet, Jean Charcot, Etienne
Azam and Alfred Binet in France; Frederick W.H. Myers in England;
and Morton Prince, Boris Sidis and psychologist William James in the
United States (Putnam, 1989, pp. 1-4). Charles Cory of Washington
University published an account of a case of alternating personality
in 1919 (Crabtree, 1985, pp. 35-44).
Janet first used the term dtsagrcgation, then later adopted the word
dissociation (the translation used by William James) to describe the
symptoms of hysteria. Janet proposed that a system of ideas can be
split off from the major personality and exist as a subordinate
personality, unconscious yet accessible through hypnosis. Too, he
introduced the term subconscious, referring to a level of cognitive
functioning that is out of normal awareness, but can occasionally
become conscious. Morton Prince introduced the term co-conscious to
indicate the result of splitting of normal consciousness into
separate parts (Hilgard, 1986, p. 5).
By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, hypnosis
had fallen out of favor and popular usage, hastened by Freud's
disenchantment with it. Clinicians, deprived of the use of hypnosis
in diagnosing and treating MPD, reported fewer cases and interest
waned. Bleuler introduced the term "schizophrenia" in 1910,
replacing the older term "dementia praecox." This one act may have
contributed to the misdiagnosis and consequent mistreatment of MPD
for many years. It is well documented that MPD patients are still
trying to escape this "schizophrenic net" (Putnam, 1986, p. 178).
Three popular books (the first two of which were made into popular
movies) kindled a renewed interest in multiple personality disorder,
though professional skepticism has not abated. The Three Faces of
Eve (Thigpen & Cleckley, 1954), Sybil (Schreiber, 1973), and The
Minds of Billy Milligan (Keyes, 1981) reintroduced the concept to
the public. The deliberate exclusion of Dr. Schreiber's eloquent
case presentation of Sybil's treatment, delivered at a professional
symposium, from publication in the proceedings of that symposium
indicates the prevailing attitude (Putnam, 1986, p. 179).
Because the professional journals refused articles on MPD, the
modern pioneers in the treatment of the disorder began to
disseminate information through workshops, courses and newsletters
as the oral literature grew. The oral tradition was formalized in
1984 by Dr. Bennett Braun, who organized the first annual Conference
on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States, sponsored by
Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. There is a
growing literature on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
of MPD (Kluft, 1985a; Bliss, 1986; Braun, 1986; Putnam, 1989; Ross,
In a cave in southern France is found an Old Stone Age painting of
the Horned God. This God represented all the unknown forces in the
universe -- some good, some bad (Baskin, 1974, p. 9). Demons and
devils were thought of as commonplace in Babylonia and Assyria. In
ancient Egypt, the exorcism was performed by a team: a physician to
cure the ailment and by a priest to drive out the demon of disease
(Hoyt, 1978, pp. 6-10).
In ancient Persia of the sixth century B.C., the religious leader
Zoroaster founded the religion which became known as Zoroastrianism.
The God of Light was named Ahura-Mazda, the master of darkness was
called Ahriman. Zoroaster, who was considered the first magician,
was also an exorcist who used prayer, ritual and the sprinkling of
water to drive out the evil spirits (Hoyt, 1978, pp. 11-12).
Tibetan Book of the Dead
This ancient and revered tome outlines the steps of dying, the
luminosity and the other states of mind which will await the spirit
of those who pass permanently out of the physical body. It is a
guidebook which shows the way beyond the earth plane into the Light
(Fremantle and Trungpa, 1975).
In the New Testament, fully one fourth of the hearings attributed to
Jesus consisted of casting out unclean spirits. He specified more
than one type of spirit. The Old Testament also makes reference to
interference by evil spirits. The Bible includes many references to
reincarnation, although some are quite obscure and open to
interpretation. The notion of the preexistence of the soul and the
basic concept of reincarnation were voted out of the Christian
belief system in 553 A.D. at the Second Council of Constantinople
(Head & Cranston, 1977, pp. 156-160).
Middle Ages -- Demonology and Mental Illness
In the period of the Middle Ages, 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D., there was a
revival of the most ancient superstition and demonology, slightly
modified to conform to theological demands. Treatment of mental
illness was left largely to the clergy in the belief that it was
caused by evil spirits. All sorts of physical pain and scourging
were used to drive out the devils (Coleman, Butcher, & Carlson,
1980, pp. 30-33).
In 1484, Dominican monks Kramer and Sprenger produced the Malleus
Maleficarum, also known as the Witches' Hammer. This book was used
by generations of inquisitors to send thousands of women to be
burned at the stake as witches in the belief they had trafficked
with the Devil (Ehrenwaid, 1976, p. 105).
Developed over a long period of time, the Roman Ritual continues as
the model of exorcism in the Catholic Church. This concept of
deliverance is based on the explicit command and example of Jesus to
"cast out devils," though the Church to this day fails to
differentiate between demons, the minions of Lucifer, and the
earthbound spirits of deceased humans. Development of the Ritual
continued through medieval times and reached its present format in
the seventeenth century (Nicola, 1974, pp. 91-104; Martin, 1976, pp.
Eighteenth Century -- The Modern Era Begins
Born in Sweden, Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was the master
scientist of his time. He wrote treatises in 17 sciences, several of
which he founded and developed.
He may have been the last man to have encompassed everything that
was known at that time. Late in life he went on to study psychology
and all that was known of the mind. He studied his dreams and
developed a scheme of dream analysis that stands equal to any in use
in psychology today. He delved into the inner reaches of his own
mind, and found -- and described -- too much of the spirit world for
the comfort of his contemporaries. His explorations led him far
beyond the religious teaching of the day (indeed, of today as well),
and he was tried as a heretic.
In his inner exploration he discovered many spirit beings, some of
higher orders of intelligence, some of a much lower and more vulgar
presentation. He described Heaven and Hell and discussed the way in
which spirits attach to living persons. He maintained perfect
contact with the world of consensus reality and showed no other
signs of mental disturbance or illness.
He seemed able to enter the world of spirits, investigate, and
return totally safe and protected. He developed considerable
clairvoyance during these explorations (Van Dusen, 1974; Swedenborg,
Nineteenth Century -- The Spiritualist View
Modern spiritualism began in America in 1837 in Mount Lebanon, with
communications received from spirits. In 1848 two young girls, the
Fox sisters, purportedly received spirit communication in the form
of knocking sounds. Spiritualism is concerned with two basic
premises: the continuity of personality after death and the powers
of communication with the spirits of the deceased. It teaches that
death works no miracle, that it is a new birth into a spiritual body
(the counterpart of the physical) which is gifted with new powers.
Neither punishment nor rewards are meted out. Individuality,
character and memory undergo no change. Every spirit is left to
discover the truth for itself. Evil passions or sinful life may
chain a spirit to the earth but the road of endless progress opens
up even for these as soon as they discover the Light (Fodor, 1966,
The possibility of the survival of the human personality after death
has intrigued people throughout history. The SPR, the Society for
Psychical Research, was established in England in 1882 to study
mesmeric, psychical and spiritualistic phenomena. The early work on
spiritualism was conducted with trance mediums, people who seem to
have the ability to make contact with the " spirit world" in an
attempt to communicate with the spirits of deceased persons. A
spirit could apparently incorporate into the medium, taking
temporary control or "possession," and would then speak through the
medium's voice. Messages and information usually meant for a loved
one left behind would come from the "dead" person. This information
was often very private, usually something which could only be known
by the deceased and the one receiving the message (Myers, 1904;
Mediumship is defined as the phenomenon in which a non-physical
intelligence, usually a discarnate human, assumes some degree of
control of a physical body in order to communicate something useful
and meaningful. Mediumship is distinguished from the phenomenon of
spirit possession in that it occurs only with the deliberate
cooperation of the medium and produces a constructive result. The
difference is in purpose, duration and effect.
Taken at face value, the initial results seemed to be successful.
However an alternative explanation exists which might also account
for the apparent contact with the "dead" person. Since clairvoyance
(clear seeing), clairaudience (clear hearing), and mental telepathy
are all extrasensory perceptions (ESP), these might account for the
alleged contact between the medium and the spirits of deceased
persons. The SPR and its U.S. counterpart -- the American Society
for Psychical Research, formed in Boston in 1885 -- eventually
switched their research efforts to the study of ESP (Gauld, 1968,
Dr. James Hyslop (1854-1920) was professor of Logic and Ethics at
Columbia University, New York, from 1889 to 1902. He authored a book
on psychology in 1895, and taught the subject at Smith College when
the science was in its infancy. The points of connection between
psychology and parapsychology were not yet clearly drawn.
Hyslop was elected president of the American Society for Psychical
Research in 1906. Explorations of the survival of consciousness,
spirit obsession, and multiple personality disorder were high on the
Society's priority list under his leadership (Fodor, 1966, pp. 180,
As president of ASPR, Hyslop explored the problem of distinguishing
obsession from multiple personality. He described his approach:
I take the patient to a psychic under conditions that exclude from
the psychic all normal knowledge of the situation and see what
happens. If the same phenomena that occur in the patient are
repeated through the medium; if I am able to establish the identity
of the personalities affecting the patient; or if I can obtain
indubitably supernormal information connecting the patient with the
statements made through the psychic, I have reason to regard the
mental phenomena observed in the patient as of external origin. In a
number of cases, persons whose condition would ordinarily be
described as due to hysteria, dual, or multiple personality,
dementia praecox, paranoia, or some other form of mental
disturbance, showed unmistakable indications of invasion by foreign
and discarnate agencies (Hyslop, 1920, p. 387).
More than a theoretician, Dr. Hyslop was an experimentalist and
empiricist. After he admitted the credibility of the existence of
spirits, it required ten years of investigation to convince himself
of the possibility of obsession by discarnate beings as a cause of
mental illness. In the years that followed, he accumulated the facts
that make it scientifically probable (Hyslop, 1920, p. 385). He is
the true pioneer in the systematic investigation of spirit obsession
and possession as a cause of mental disorder.
Dr. Carl Wickland was an avowed spiritualist. He was also an
exorcist. Wickland graduated from Durham Medical College in 1900,
and nine years later became chief psychiatrist at the National
Psychopathic Institute in Chicago. In 1918, he moved to Los Angeles
and established the National Psychological Institute where he
continued the work of healing spirit obsession (Rogo, 1987, pp.
160-163). His seminal work in the treatment of spirit obsession and
possession is chronicled in his two books, Thirty Years Among The
Dead (1924) and Gateway to Understanding (1934).
Dr. Wickland first became interested in spirit possession after
observing the frequency with which people suffered character changes
after engaging in such practices as the ouija board or automatic
writing. Many such people required hospitalization for apparent
mental illness. Wickland consulted discarnate intelligences through
his wife, Anna, who was an excellent and gifted medium. He was told
that possession of the living by the "earthbound" spirits of
deceased humans was the cause, and that he could alleviate the
symptoms of the victims if he followed their instructions. The work
was conducted with the help of a "concentration circle," a small
group of people assembled to support this rescue work.
Following guidance from the discarnate intelligence, Wickland built
a device called a "Wimhurst" machine that generated static
electricity. The charges of static electricity from this machine
were applied to the head and spine of the afflicted person with a
short wand. Simultaneously, in another room, Mrs. Wickland was in
trance, surrounded by the members of the concentration circle.
Mediumistic ability and the trance state are like open doors to a
discarnate spirit. The entity would disengage from the patient, then
incorporate into Mrs. Wickland and begin to speak. The voice would
often complain about the "fire" running up the back, referring to
the static electricity, and would express annoyance at the
Dr. Wickland would initiate conversation with the discarnate
personality, who would often turn out to be some identifiable
deceased person. The first task was to convince the spirit that
physical death had occurred and they no longer belonged in the earth
plane. Many spirits are oblivious to the fact that they have died,
and are extremely confused concerning their whereabouts. Most of the
spirits would quickly grasp the nature of their condition, and would
willingly go with the guiding spirits who came for them. The guides
often turned out to be loved ones who had also died (Wickland,
Dr. Hyslop was so much impressed with the importance of this type of
cure that he established a foundation in his will for the
continuance of the work. The James Hyslop Institute was located in
New York City, headed by Dr. Titus Bull, a graduate of New York
University and Bellevue Medical College. Bull was the first to
suggest that one earthbound spirit could have another earthbound
spirit attached to it as the result of being a victim of obsession
before its passing (Bull, 1932, p. 19). This describes the nested or
layered condition of attached entities often discovered in clinical
Spiritualism began losing its popularity in 1888 after the public
confession by the Fox sisters that they had faked the spirit
rappings. Belief in spirit possession became increasingly suspect,
and the decline of belief in possession paralleled the decline of
interest in multiple personality disorder.
Hypnosis lost favor in professional circles, multiple personality
disorder was no longer diagnosed, and the process of exorcism as a
healing technique virtually disappeared among the medical
practitioners and the clergy as twentieth-century materialism
flourished in America.
Twentieth Century -- Possession and Exorcism Today
Max Freedom Long was the man who brought "Huna," the ancient
psychospiritual system of the Polynesian peoples, into a form that
Westerners could read and understand. In his several books he
outlined the secrets of the Kahuna, the priest healer of the
Hawaiian Islands. In the belief system of the Hawaiians, much
illness -- mental, emotional, and physical -- was caused by the
invasion and possession by spirits. The Kahuna could get rid of
these "eating companions" (so called because they used the energy or
food of the host) by delivering a large dose of mana, or life energy
(Long, 1948, pp. 269-296; 1953, pp. 222-247).
In Japan, a messianic religion was channeled by a man named Mokichi
Okada (1882-1955), respectfully and affectionately known as
Meishu-sama. He revealed that a major cause of mental and physical
illness and human misery was possession by intrusive spirits. If a
person's spiritual body became clouded with impurities and toxins,
it was easier for an evil spirit to enter (Okada, 1982, pp. 99-103).
The method of healing or dispersing the clouds of impurity is called
Johrei. This is a Japanese word which means the act of purifying the
spiritual body by focusing the Divine Light of God. It is prayer in
action (Okada, 1982, p xvi). Spirits are forced out by the gentle
focusing of this energy through the hands, held palm outward toward
the receiver of the healing.
Mahikari is another method of healing and releasing attached
discarnate spirits. This is based on the teachings of Yoshikazu
Okada (1901-1974), also known as Sukuinushisama. The kamikumite, or
student of Mahikari, channels True Light through the palms toward
the forehead of the client, or to any other area of the body which
is diseased. The prime focus is releasing attached spirits which are
seen as the cause of most mental and physical ailments (Tebecis,
Spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda identifies some ghosts as
the earthbound spirits of deceased humans which he called tramp
spirits. They are troubled for some reason and wander aimlessly. In
some cases, they cling to living humans, causing mental and physical
problems. Apparently unaware of the extent of the distressing
condition of spirit attachment, he makes the statement that God
would not allow this interference to be widespread, as living humans
have enough problems in the physical world (Yogananda, 1975, p.
Ed and Lorraine Warren have investigated cases of possession for
more than 30 years. They have developed a roster of the types of
entities which plague mankind, which is quite similar to that of Dr.
Ralph Allison. The more ordinary earthbound spirits and haunted
houses are quite easily treated.
The Warrens are Catholic and they refer the worst cases involving
demonic interference to Church officials. Between 1970 and 1980 in
this country, the clergy of the Catholic Church performed over 600
solemn exorcisms (Brittle, 1980, p. 200).
George Ritchie, a psychiatrist in practice in Virginia, was
clinically dead for nine minutes as a result of complications of
pneumonia. This occurred while he was in Army basic training. During
the NDE he was conscious of being out of his body and traveling
throughout the universe. Among the experiences he described was an
episode in a bar. As an out-of-body discarnate being he could
perceive other discarnate spirits as well as the living people who
were the patrons. One drunken patron fell to the floor, either dazed
or unconscious. Ritchie observed a discarnate spirit rush into his
body, apparently through an alcohol-induced weakness in the aura,
the protective energy field surrounding the body. He saw the same
phenomenon repeated several times during his observation in this
location (Ritchie, 1978).
Possession and Exorcism, the work of Traugott K. Oesterreich, first
published in German, is considered the definitive volume on
possession and exorcism. He suggests that possession is
psychological in spite of massive evidence of inexplicable
phenomena. He claims that the instance of possession diminishes in a
society as the educational level rises. Even in his book, this claim
is proven inaccurate. He names William James as the greatest
American philosopher and psychologist and acknowledges James'
enormous influence on his own thinking. But James' work with mediums
provides enough valid evidence of paranormally derived information
and temporary possession to shake the foundations of Oesterreich's
conventional opinions. In the end of the book, these earlier
opinions are in part overcome by later opinions forced upon him by
the evidence (Oesterreich, 1974).
For 16 years, Wilson Van Dusen worked as a clinical psychologist at
Mendocino State Hospital in California. In an attempt to better
understand the mentally ill, Van Dusen sought out those patients who
could distinguish between their own thoughts and the things heard
and seen. He literally struck up a relationship with both the
patient and the persons they saw and heard. The patients resented
any reference to hallucinations. To them these voices were real
beings of some other world or order of beings.
Van Dusen found consistently that the bulk of the other beings which
spoke to the patients were of a lower order; vulgar, threatening,
malevolent, persistent, intrusive, boastful, anti- religious or
non-religious, deceptive, and not very intelligent.
In direct contrast stand the higher-order hallucinations. These made
up perhaps one-fifth or less of the patients' experience. They were
considerate, respectful of the freedom of the patients, and
genuinely instructive. They claimed power over the lower order and
showed it at times. The higher-order beings suggested that the
usefulness of the lower beings was to illustrate the weaknesses and
faults of the patient. Van Dusen suggests that the higher beings
represent what Carl Jung called the Archetypes and the lower order
most closely resembles the Id, as described by Freud.
Wilson Van Dusen found that the consistency of the hallucinations,
or beings, with whom he communicated through his patients matched
almost perfectly with the descriptions of the spirit world and its
interaction with humans described by Emanuel Swedenborg nearly 200
years earlier. Swedenborg did not know about psychosis, yet he
presented a clear picture of what would now be labeled psychotic.
(Van Dusen, 1972, 1974).
Van Dusen (1974, pp. 138-139) makes the guess that the spirit world
is the unconscious mind; that most mental experience is participated
in by spirits who don't know they are anything other than our
feelings; and that the only thing left that is really ours is the
struggle to choose. If we are not choosing, then we are going the
way the spiritual winds blow, and the pitiful condition of the
hallucinating psychotic is just an exaggeration of everyone's
Swiss psychiatrist Hans Naegeli-Osjord, in private practice since
1940, has studied cases of possession and the practice of exorcism
extensively. He presents a broad philosophical discussion of the
demonic as well as case studies. He also works with earthbound
spirit infestation of his clients, and sees mental illness as at
least occasionally partially caused by attached spirits. His book
was first published in Germany in 1983. He describes his work with
exorcism on the mentally ill. In his exploration of the subject, he
has discovered the same types of entities which were described by
Swedenborg, Van Dusen, and Wickland (Naegeli-Osjord, 1988).
In a landmark case, the application of an exorcism accomplished what
was considered impossible. A young man had been under treatment by
psychiatrists for several years in preparation for
gender-reassignment surgery. Psychotherapy is considered ineffective
in reversing the gender dysphoria, the desire for the surgery, the
transsexualism. During the young man's visit to a physician who was
also a Christian, an exorcism was performed and the young man's
desire for the surgery and a female lifestyle disappeared completely
(Barlow, Abel, and Blanchard, 1977).
Anabel Chaplin (1977) was a licensed clinical social worker in Los
Angeles, California. She practiced visual imagery techniques and
meditation as part of her own growth. Her vivid images seemed
somehow true to life. One session in particular involved a female
friend who had succumbed to a heart attack only months before. She
seemed to wrap herself around a man whom Ms. Chaplin also knew. In
real life, this male friend had been ill for a time with some
indefinable malaise. In the internal imagery Ms. Chaplin directed
the form of the deceased friend away from the man and up a stairway
into a Light. Several days later Ms. Chaplin had reason to visit the
gentleman and his wife, only to find out that his illness had
suddenly disappeared at about the same time as Ms. Chaplin's
personal visual imagery experience. She was informed that the
deceased woman had been somewhat flirtatious with the man prior to
her passing. Apparently, this continued after her death.
She continued to do the internal visual imagery work specifically
directed toward her clients who came to her for assistance. In her
book she recites numerous cases of relief of symptoms typically
caused by earthbound spirit interference.
Dr. Edith Fiore (1978) authored one of the first books on past-life
therapy, the clinical use of past-life recall. Past-life therapy is
a quick and effective approach to many emotional and physical
problems. She discovered during the course of her past-life therapy
practice that the past lives described often turned out to be the
experience of attached earthbound spirits and not at all pertinent
to the client. Release of the attached spirits resolved the
presenting problems in many cases where past-life therapy proved
ineffective, especially in cases which could normally be expected to
respond to past-life recall.
Fiore's second book describes the problem and treatment of spirit
possession. She estimates that approximately 70% of the population
is so afflicted. She is one of the first therapists to deal with the
discarnate spirits directly through the voice of the person
afflicted with the possession, instead of working through an
intermediary, a trance medium (Fiore, 1987a).
Aloa Starr and Eugene Maurey have achieved success in the release of
attached discarnates at a distance through the use of the pendulum
and prayer. Maurey suggests that the remote work can be attempted on
politicians and world leaders for the betterment of the world
situation. Of course, the results cannot be known. This is no more
an intrusion than a prayer spoken for these people. Ms. Starr
requests a photograph or a signature of the afflicted person. The
work is done, often without notifying the afflicted person of the
time of the procedure. In some cases the afflicted person does not
know anything of the procedure. The request is forwarded by
concerned and loving family members. The results are often quite
dramatic (Finch, 1975; Starr, 1987; Maurey, 1988).
In Brazil, remote spirit releasement is conducted routinely at the
healing centers run by the Medical Spiritist Association of Sao
Paulo. The work is done without charge. A doctor or a family member
can send the name and address of an afflicted person. There is no
welfare system in Brazil and these centers serve to fill this need
for many people. Spiritual healing is performed in addition to
standard health care.
The work of disobsession, as it is called, is conducted by a group
of six mediums. Four of the people sit in a circle facing a fifth at
the center. A sixth person acts as facilitator. The facilitator
calls out for the spirit interfering with the identified person.
That spirit incorporates, or enters into, the medium in the center
of the circle. Reminiscent of the work of Mesmer, the facilitator
makes magnetic passes with the hand over the person, from the head
downward, about six inches to a foot from the body. The spirit is
expelled and apparently guided to its appropriate destination
(Villoido and Krippner, 1986, pp. 9-25, 39-54; Rogo, 1987, 219-241).
The Theological View
The religious viewpoint holds that possessing spirits are demons and
devils. There is no acknowledgment of earthbound spirits of deceased
humans. The Book of Revelation, Chapter 12, gives us the story of
Lucifer who rebelled against God, thus becoming Satan (which means
adversary) and who was cast out of Heaven along with a third of the
heavenly host. Satan manifests his hatred of God, Jesus Christ, and
Man (who was created in God's image) by constant attack on human
beings, mostly by the fallen angels of various rank, now called
demons. Jesus came into this world to destroy the works of Satan
Spirits invade us through chinks in our natural armor caused by
emotional and physical trauma. If a person gives in to temptation
and strongly indulges the carnal appetites or succumbs to the lure
of occult or spiritualistic practices, he renders himself vulnerable
to infestation by demonic energies (Basham, 1972, p. 127). Without
the proper awareness of this condition, continuation of this
lifestyle can lead to obsession by demonic influence, which is seen
as quite common, and finally to full demonic possession, which some
people believe to be rare (Montgomery, 1976).
Dr. Ken McAll is an English psychiatrist and was a medical
missionary to China. He used the Eucharist as the vehicle of
exorcism and has recorded thousands of cases of healing spirit
attachments with individuals and families. He suggests that
ancestors may indeed cling to the family and produce a sort of
family curse (McAll 1982).
Diabolic possession or possession by the Devil itself is considered
rare and is extremely dangerous both for the victim and for the
exorcist (Rodewyck, 1975; Martin, 1976; Brittle, 1980, 1983).
Within this century, many people have investigated the phenomenon of
spirit possession intelligently and with purpose. A few have sought
an alternative approach to healing the condition. In an attempt to
be acceptable to the mainstream Western, materialistic,
scientifically oriented society, the Catholic Church seeks to
diminish the notion of spirit possession, ignoring or denying the
possibility, or referring the cases which come their way to a
psychiatrist. Except in a relatively few secret instances, the
Church fathers have abnegated their responsibility for the spiritual
health of the people.
Allison, R. (1980). Minds in Many Pieces. New York: Rawson, Wade.
Allison, R. (1985). In B. O'Reagan (Ed.), Investigations: Research
Bulletin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Vol. 1, No. 3/4, (p.
9). Sausalito, CA: IONS.
Barlow, D., Abel, G., & Blanchard, E. (1977). "Gender Identity
Change in a Transsexual: An Exorcism." Archives of Sexual Behavior,
Vol. 6 (pp. 387-395).
Basham, D. (1972). Deliver Us From Evil. Washington Depot, CT:
Bliss, E.L. (1986). Multiple Personality, Allied Disorders and
Hypnosis. New York: Oxford University Press.
Braun, B.G. (Ed.). (1986). Treatment of Multiple Personality
Disorder. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
Brittle, G. (1980). The Demonologist. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Brittle, G. (1983). The Devil in Connecticut. New York: Bantam
Bull, T. (1932). Analysis of Unusual Experience in Healing Relative
to Diseased Minds. New York: James H. Hyslop Foundation.
Coleman, J.C., Butcher, J.N., & Carson, R.C. (1980). Abnormal
Psychology and Modern Life (6th ed.). Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman
Crabtree, A. (1985). Multiple Man. New York: Praeger.
Ehrenwald, J. (Ed.). (1976). History of Psychotherapy: From Healing
Magic to Encounter. New York: Jason Aronson.
Ellenberber, H.F. (1970). The Discovery of the Unconscious. New
York: Basic Books.
Finch, W.J. (1975). The Pendulum and Possession (rev. ed.). Sedona,
AZ: Esoteric Publications.
Fiore, E. (1978). You Have Been Here Before. New York: Ballantine.
Fiore, E. (1987a). The Unquiet Dead. New York: Doubleday/Dolphin.
Fodor, N. (1966). Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. Seacaucus, NJ:
Fremantle, F. & Trungpa, C. (1975). The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Gauld, A. (1982). Mediumship and Survival. London: Granada.
Guirdham, A. (1982). The Psychic Dimensions of Mental Health. Great
Head & Cranston, V. (1977). Reincarnation: The Phoenix fire mystery.
New York: Julian.
Hilgard, E.R. (1986). Divided Consciousnes: Multiple Controls in
Human Thought and Action. (expanded ed.). New York: John Wiley.
Hoyt, O. (1978). Exorcism. New York: Franklin Watts.
Hyslop, J.H. (1920). Contact With tthe Other World. New York: The
James, W. (1950). The Principles of Psychology Vol 1. New York:
Dover. (Original work published in 1890).
James, W. (1966). In N. Fodor, Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. (pp.
265-266). Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press.
Keyes, D. (1981). The Minds of Billy Milligan. New York: Bantam.
Kluft, R.P. (Ed.). (1985a). Childhood Antecedents of Multiple
Personality. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
Kluft, R.P. (Ed.). (1985b). In B. O'Regan (Ed.), Investigations:
Research Bulletin of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Vol. 1, No.
3/4 (p. 5). Sausalito, CA: IONS.
Lodge, O. (1909). The Survival of Man. New York: Duran.
Long, M.F. (1948). The Secret Science Behind Miracles. Marina del
Rey, CA: De Vorss & Co.
Martin, M. (1976). Hostage to the Devil. New York: Bantam.
Maurey, E. (1988). Exorcism. West Chester, PA: Whitford.
McAll, A. (1982). Healing the Family Tree. London: Sheldon.
Montgomery, J.W. (Ed.) (1976). Demon Possession. Minneapolis:
Bethany Fellowship, Inc.
Myers, F.W.H. (1904). Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily
Death. New York: Longmans, Green, & Co.
Naegli-Osjord, H. (1988). Possession and Exorcism. (S. & D. Coats,
Trans.). Oregon, WI: New Frontiers Center. (Original work published
Nicola, J.J. (1974). Diabolical Possession and Exorcism. Rockford,
Oesterreich, T. (1974). Possession and Exorcism. (D. Ibberson,
Trans.) New York: Causeway. (Original work published 1921).
Okada, M. (1982). Foundations of Paradise. Church of World
Putnam, F. (1986). State of the Art. In B.G. Braun (Ed.), Treatment
of Multiple Personality Disorder. (pp. 175-198). Washington, D.C.:
American Psychiatric Press.
Putnam, F. (1989). Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Personality
Disorder. New York: Guilford.
Ritchie, G.G. (1978). Return from Tomorrow. Waco, TX: Chosen.
Rodewyck, A. (1975). Possessed by Satan. (M. Ebon, Trans.). Garden
City, NY: Doubleday & Company. (Original work published in 1963).
Rogo, D.S. (1987). The Infinite Boundary. New York:Dodd, Mead.
Ross, C. (1989). Multiple Personality: Diagnosis, Clinical Features
and Treatment. New York: Wiley.
Schreiber, F.R. (1973). Sybil. Chicago: Regnery.
Starr, A. (1987). Prisoners of Earth. Los Angeles: Aura.
Taylor, E. (1984). William James on Exceptional Mental States: The
1896 Lowell lectures. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.
Tebecis, A. (1982). Mahikari, Thank God for the Answers at Last.
Tokyo: L.H. Yoko Shuppan.
Thigpen, C. & Cleckley, H. (1957). The 3 Faces of Eve. New York:
Van Dusen, W. (1972). The Natural Depth in Man. New York: Swedenborg
Van Dusen, W. (1974). The Presence of Other Worlds. New York:
Villoldo, A. & Krippner, S. (1986). Healing States. New York: SImon
White, L., Tursky, B., & Schwartz, G.E., (1985). Placebo New York:
Wickland, C. (1924). Thirty Years Among the Dead. Los Angeles:
National Psychological Institute.
Yogananda, P. (1975). Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles:
Young, W.C. (1987). "Emergence of a Multiple Personality in a Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder of Adulthood." American Journal of
Clinical Hypnosis, 29, 249-254.
Spirit Releasement Therapy: A Technique Manual
1995 by William J. Baldwin, D.D.S., Ph.D.
ISBN 092991516X, Headline Books, Inc.
POB 52, Terra Alta, WV 26764 (800) 570-5951