By Terence James Palmer, PhD
Terence James Palmer, author of The Science of Spirit Possession: A 21st Century Approach to Mental Health, offers an in depth thesis on spirit possession in hopes of bringing the treatment of the possessed into the 21st century with a protocol entitled Spirit Release Therapy (SRT).
“I argue the case for a revised epistemology,” Palmer writes, “that will enable medical practice to understand more fully the relevance and validity of Spirit Release Therapy (SRT), as a clinical approach to releasing alleged discarnate spirits from the living, in its application for the treatment of a wide range of psychological and physiological disorders.
SRT is unlike the Catholic practice of Exorcism in that it takes into account the type of spirit attachment – wayward spirit, demon, lost soul, deceased relative, etc. – that might attach itself to someone, as well as the feelings and intent of said spirit. SRT is based on the belief that these types of attachments are very real and not simply figments of a person’s overactive imagination, although this does happen as well and it is up to the practitioner treating such a person to determine fact from fiction.
“In contrast to positivist scientific assumptions that spirits are created in the minds of the superstitious or the mentally ill, SRT finds earthbound spirits of the deceased that are found to be attached in some way to the living,” he writes. “It treats these spirits with equal compassion to those presenting patients who are unwilling hosts to them. In contrast with that of the Roman Catholic tradition which casts out spirits deemed to be ‘evil’ using its Rite of Exorcism.
It was a common belief for centuries that mental illness was caused by spirit possession. The Roman Catholic faith enforced the belief in angels, devils and demons, while most other religions such as Islam with its Jinns had their own versions of evil discarnate entities. Palmer notes the Rituale Romanum of 1614, which “gives three signs that indicate the possible presence of a demon: abnormal strength, the ability to speak and understand a previously unknown language, and the knowledge of hidden things.”
The idea of being possessed by evil spirits in modern America stems primarily from such books/movies as William Blatty’s The Exorcist in 1973 that was loosely based on a true story. After the film was released, Palmer says there was “a sudden increase in reported cases of possession in the United States.” This was followed by Malachi Martin’s book, Hostage to the Devil, depicting graphic cases of alleged demonic possession.
Canadian anthropologist and sociologist Michael Cuneo, who wrote a book entitled American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty, conducted research during the ‘70s to 90’s on the phenomenon in North America and attended about 50 exorcisms, Palmer wrote. This research was “partly funded by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.” However, Cuneo was not convinced that those involved were truly possessed and chalked up the hysteria surrounding the phenomenon to the “entertainment media” and its “over-dramatization.”
He came to believe that the act of exorcism in itself, offered a placebo effect with the person believing he or she was healed. However, he did concede: “Their depression lifted, their fears fled, their inner torments dissipated, their blues melted away. I have no way of knowing how extensive this improvement was or how long lived… it’s quite possible that exorcism actually works but it may have nothing to do with driving out demons.”
Palmer makes it clear that unlike exorcisms, SRT “does not impose any theory, concept, philosophy or belief system onto the patient,” unlike that of Catholic psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who wrote Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption (Simon & Schuster, © 2009). He participated in the Roman Catholic rite of exorcism of two of his own patients.
“I dispute about Peck’s procedure with Jersey (a woman and one of the two) is his focus on expelling Satan as the cause of her distress and ignoring the lesser voices that remained with her.”
With SRT he adds, the aim is “to facilitate the healthy well-being of the patient and the ‘attached’ entities through the patient’s and the ‘attachment’s’ own understanding of their experiences and perceptual world-views.”
Previous Review of Glimpses of the Devil
The Spirit Release Foundation (SRF)
Spirit Release Therapy
See Part 2: Palmer says Research and Study on Possession Needed
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