The matter of demonic possession of persons is a dangerous topic. Even the mentioning of the possibility that someone is demon possessed can bring about judgementalism and condemnation from Christians and non-Christians alike. On the other hand, some parts of the Church revel in their “demon bashing parties” where they verbally and sometimes, though rarely in the UK, physically beat up the suffering and afflicted person so suspected of being possessed. Both approaches are grave errors.
As previously stated, the mentally ill should be treated with compassion where at all possible. In addition, the Orthodox Church – the church branch most experienced and successful in treating the mentally unstable – suggest an extremely gentle approach when it comes to the casting out of demons.
The denial of demonic possession at all is in direct contradiction of the vast majority of the Four Gospels. Those who say demon possession doesn’t exist; that it’s merely a chemical imbalance or a physical disease, are in direct contradiction to the teachings and deeds of Jesus the Messiah.
Identification of Demonic Possession
Discerning if someone is possessed by a demon is fraught with danger. A mistaken identification can cause untold harm to the sufferer of some other condition, even to the destruction of their faith or of a church.
A non-Christian, or a Christian with their own unresolved issues, might end up being badly beaten or even killed by the demon, which the legal system would them blame on the demon possessed victim rather than dark spiritual forces. Again, untold harm.
The primary thing to bear in mind is that spiritual matters are spiritually discerned. It is this same reason why some think the Bible is full of contradictions: the fleshly mind cannot comprehend the spiritual.
I can, however, point to some signs which may well indicate demonic possession rather than a physical cause or a more benign form of mental illness.
“Illuminati signs” from a person, if they clearly appear to be involuntary, are telling. Such signs are the “devils horns” (the two outside fingers raised with the two middle fingers folded.) The “AOK” or the “6” sign can also be telling if involuntary. The “pyramid” sign also is another as it indicates allegiance to the Evil Eye.
Other manifestations may be guttural or childish voices (the “Simple” which some mental health professionals actually encourage vulnerable people to connect with!) especially if intermittent; twitches; rolling of the head, especially rolling the head to look with an evil eye and then rolling away again.
All of these may indicate demonic possession. Certainty, however, can come form only two methods of which I am aware.
- The Use of the Gift of Discerning of Spirits – A rare spiritual gift these days. Speaking in tongues and prophecy are well known, but the discerning of spirits often goes under the radar even of charismatic churches and is thus not encouraged nowadays, despite its great benefits to church and society.
- The Testing of the Spirits – Simple tests. Ask the spirit who its Lord is. Ask it where it comes from. Ask it to say “Jesus is Lord.” This must be done with care. Remember, Satan is a deceiver. He is an expert at it and he can make you think he is a sheep when he is a wolf and he can make you think he is calling Jesus Lord when he is really denying him.
Gentleness in Deliverance
Compassion. That is our watchword. Another is gentleness. That is key to driving out demons because we are not only talking to a demon but talking to a suffering person at the same time or, more commonly, we are talking to a demon one moment and a suffering person the next, and then we are talking to a demon again, and so on.
“The Fathers in general pitied the mentally ill and possessed – and even at times admired them. St. Augustine speaks of the compassion of those who minister to “those whom they greatly love as if they were their children, or some very dear friends in sickness, or little children, or insane persons, at whose hands they often endure many things; and if their welfare demand it, they even show themselves ready to endure more …” (St. Augustine, 1980, p. 25). St. John Chrysostom says, “Physicians, when they are kicked, and shamefully handled by the insane, then most of all pity them, and take measures for their perfect cure, knowing that the insult comes of the extremity of their disease …. If we see persons possessed by devils, we weep for them; we do not seek to be ourselves also possessed” (St. John Chrysostom, 1978, p. 127).
“Chrysostom admires at least some of the possessed because “the demon makes men humble. … Great is the admiration it calls for, and many the praises, when struggling against such a spirit, they bear all thankfully …” (St. John Chrysostom, 1979a, p. 254).
“The Orthodox prayers of exorcism are remarkably gentle towards the possessed person. The prayers are directed to God, or they sternly command the demons; there are no harsh words for the demoniac. In one place, they even refer to the possessed as the Theotokos’s “faithful servant” (St. Tikhon’s Monastery 1999, p. 17).
“This is not to say that all the mentally ill were admirable. In various cases, the godless and the persecutors of the righteous became mentally ill as a result of their evil deeds. However, at least a few of them benefited from their mental illness. Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind because of his pride, but was restored to his senses and gave thanks to God. King Tiridates of Armenia became mentally ill as a result of persecuting martyrs, but later repented and became a saint (commemorated on November 29). In many other stories, though, the persecutors who became mentally ill never showed any repentance. In looking at these stories, though, we have to remember that they are from the “Lives” of saints; the writers were extolling the saints, not talking about mental illness.
“In short, the Fathers did not generally look on the mentally ill and possessed as the worst of sinners, but rather with compassion. At least some of these people seem to have developed great humility and thankfulness to God through their afflictions, and they are to be admired.”
Each case shall be unique. Every person is unique; every demon is a particular case. No single approach will work in every instance. In order to perform deliverance ministry one must be extremely in-tune with the Holy Spirit. Even the Twelve Apostles, all in unison, were unable to deliver one person from a demon and had to wait until Jesus came down from the mountain to do the work, for in that instance, “this kind comes out only through prayer and fasting.”
Every instance will be a unique spiritual battle where compassion and gentleness are paramount. Few are those who are so equipped to do this in this present day. And if you attempt it blindly or foolishly you may destroy a person’s soul, his body, the church, yourself or those around you. Be warned!