On Demons, Evil Spirits, and Possession

Tonight, I kicked back and watched an ABC Nightline episode called Beyond Belief: Battle With the Devil. Sadly, as expected, I was less than amazed by it.

It took things from the standard wacky Christian playbook that’s been around as long as I can remember (at least since the 80s), didn’t include any good interviews with non-Christians (be they atheists or pagans or any other religion), focused on some of the most outlandish practices out there, and interviewed some people who were far from what one could call “grounded in reality”.

There is no shortage of people who believe that “the devil” is all around us, trying at every opportunity to make us do bad things. Every ill of the world is tossed into a heap on Satan’s doorstep… and with it, far too often, all ties to personal responsibility for the actions of the individual. This “news” show was full of those people, just like most shows I’ve ever seen on the subject.

Where I Stand

Just to be perfectly clear: Yes, I do believe Evil exists. I do think there are things out there that can get inside of us and make us do things and I do think they can be cast out.

However, I also believe that most cases of possession you’ll ever see or hear about are either fake or a misdiagnosed (or undiagnosed) psychological problem. Others are psycho-somatic reactions generated by deeply held beliefs of the “possessed”–a kind of dissociative state where everything they think is “bad” about themselves is given its own personality.

Very, very few ever involve any actual non-physical entities.

Also, Christians don’t hold the monopoly on evil spirits or the ability to cast them out. Anyone can draw them in or send them away. It’s just a matter of faith–not in any religion, but in oneself.

See, evil spirits only have as much power over us as we’re willing to give them.

Faith and Power

Demons and their ilk may be most famous from the tales of terror common told in a lot of churches (and from movies like The Exorcist), but the mythology and cosmology of every religion I’ve come across has it’s own share of dark spirits and shady characters. Many are trickster gods, some are outright hostile toward humans, but all of them, in every story, can be beaten one way of another. Even The Devil himself has lost at everything from fiddle playing to cards.

More often than not, they’re beaten because they underestimate the humans they’re playing with.

See, here’s the thing, we are composite beings, a mix of the physical and spiritual. That gives us some special benefits. One part of our nature can be used to strengthen the other. Our minds can be quick, our spirit strong, our bodies pushed beyond normal limits. All because we believe we can do better, we can be better.

And when one part of our nature fails us, there’s the other to fall back on.

That mixed nature gives us power that a more “pure” creature can’t lay claim to. (Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we’re always so in demand.)

Religious faith, without a doubt, gives us a framework from which to access that power… but it’s not the only way to do so. Knowledge, in general, is power. As is basic self-respect.

Possession and Exorcism

There are many ways we can let evil spirits into our lives. Thing is, most people will never encounter an evil spirit unless they go looking for one (or are extremely unlucky).

More often than not, we’ll generate our own negative constructs by doing things we’re ashamed of or that we know are wrong for us. Those negative constructs, depending on our personal beliefs, can take many forms. For those with a heavy Christian-flavored religious (or horror pop-culture) background, it makes sense that demons would be common.

These negative constructs can be dealt with in a number of ways.

Exorcism works because it fits in with the framework that created the “demon” to begin with.

Honest self-evaluation and dealing with the behavior or thought process that’s causing the problem can work, too, if you’re willing to accept responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

And, because it’s a construct of your own mind, plain old therapy could work, too.

In other words, there’s more than one way to get “possessed” and there’s more than one way to “exorcise the demons.”

The Bigger Picture

What far too many documentaries and “news” programs fail to realize is that the problem of evil is a very human one.

There don’t need to be devils and demons for bad things to happen. We’re more than capable of doing all sorts of horrible things all on our own. It’s one of the problems with human nature and free will (not to mention how delicate the balance of our neurochemistry can be and the wild ways it can go out of whack).

Another part of the problem is how easily we look to give up responsibility for our actions. No one wants to believe they’re evil, so why not ascribe it to some malicious force that has tricked you into letting it take over your body?

The good news–and something that shows like Nightline’s Beyond Belief need to start incorporating into their formats–is that we have an equal capacity to create good and heal ourselves of our self-inflicted problems.

We need to be reminded that this is our world. If you’re of a religious bent, we were given either dominion of custodianship of it. That gives us a lot more control over things than most care to take responsibility for. If you’re non-religious, well, then we’re the only ones who can make any changes in how things work.

Demons and devils and other evil spirits are creatures from another realm (not necessarily unnatural, but not native denizens to the physical). They are at a disadvantage here, which is why they prey on the weak.

To defend against them–and any number of other evils in the world–be strong. Have faith, first and foremost in yourself. Be educated, in how your mind works, in how the world works, and in what you believe to be.

Instead of just telling us stories of the bad that can happen, these documentaries and reports have to do more than scare people. They have to give them an equal helping of hope.

For as much Darkness as there is in the world, there is at least as much Light.


  1. i want to play spirit board game.is it any harmful to me?is this devils and this spirit board games are really true?please reply to my answers.

    • Hi, Shalini,

      I’ve actually worked a bit with spirit board over the years and have read many more stories of other people who’ve used them. From that experience and research, I can tell you that they can, indeed, be a bit dangerous… but not quite in the way they’re usually portrayed.

      Using a spirit board does one of three things: it connects you up with a random spirit, it connects you to your subconscious, or it does nothing.

      Getting in touch with a random spirit can be problematic in that you never really know who or what you’re going to get in touch with. It’s kind of like dialing a random number on a phone or loading up the Chat Roulette site online. You may get in touch with something that wants to help you. You may get in touch with something that wants to manipulate you. You may get in touch with something that just wants to play around.

      Getting in touch with your subconscious can be problematic if you have a lot of unresolved issues rolling around in your head. If you have low self-esteem or genuine mental problems, things can get pretty nasty. Because of the way our subconscious minds work, you may not know right away that you’re not talking to yourself.

      By far the best way I’ve found to work with spirit boards is to not just “play” with them. Use them as tools. Just as a chainsaw can be very useful when you follow the proper safety procedures–and very dangerous when you don’t–spirit boards can be fun and enlightening tools for personal internal development and for broader spiritual development.

      My general set of rules is: Never use the board alone, always use it with at least one other person who you trust implicitly (my normal crew consisted of three or four people, two or three on the board and one taking notes). Never use the board when you are drinking or taking any drugs that may have an effect on your perception of reality (this includes many illegal substances as well as a number of prescriptions drugs). Always ground and center yourself before starting to work with the spirit board. And, perhaps most importantly, be very critical of any information you get from whatever you contact via the board–it’s really no more reliable than asking questions of a random person on the street.

      If you do decide to use a spirit board, I’d be interest to hear what your experiences are. Good luck, and be safe.

      • I am facing a problem and I need to be clear about whatever I feel.
        During 2 years I feel an existence of a Spirit in my bed room. but on today 3pm at night I have felt the touch of that spirit on my back and even seen him to climb on the wall(North East corner) when i have shouted after feeling his touch…What is it? Is it my imagination or really its a bad spirit?? Why does he touch me? Even these days a lots of bad incidents are happening in my family..We are mentally not well…I am totally confused…What to do now please suggest me…Waiting for your reply.

        • If you think there’s a presence there that’s making you and your family uncomfortable, the first thing I’d suggest is that you ask it to leave. Sometimes, just that simple act of asserting yourself can clear things right up.

          The issue of whether or not it’s a “bad” spirit is very unclear without more details. Just touching your back doesn’t seem to be an attack, but you mention a lot of “bad incidents”. If I knew more about these bad incidents, I may be able to offer some opinion as to whether they were related to the possible spirit presence or just unfortunate coincidences.

          Our minds tend to find patterns even if there are none to be had… so, in many cases, things we see as connected, aren’t. There are also a good many things that people often attribute to spirits–both good and bad–that can be more easily explained by much more mundane things.

          The important thing, though, is that you and your family feel safe in your home. So, if the basic assertion that you want to be left alone doesn’t clear things up after a few tries, you may want to seek some help in getting rid of any lingering energy. If you are practicing members of any religion, have a priest from that religion come through and bless or cleanse your house. If you aren’t religious, there are other things that can be done that are similar (blessing/cleansing techniques can be performed by anyone).

          Please let me know how things turn out. I wish you the best of luck!

  2. For your kind information I am a 25 years old girl….

  3. You seem to have a pretty good base of knowledge, so I will ask you my question and hope for a reply.

    I have a friend who’s grandmother passed not long ago. Lately she had been hearing the sound of children singing/playing outside her home. When she went to investigate she saw what looked like herself and a childhood friend playing in the yard. Shortly thereafter her grandmother manifested herself… but she had to be acknowledged, she said, before she could enter my friend’s house.
    My friend tells me that this manifestation was very strong- she wasn’t hazy or translucent. Her personality was also spot on all except for not just entering her home.
    Your opinion?

    • If your friend doesn’t feel threatened by the contact, then there’s probably no problem with inviting the presence.

      The exception to that is if your friend has been dabbling in various bits of supernatural and occult practices that would make them a target for problematic entities or thought forms. Those things can be sneaky. Possible practices that would attract such attention include playing (as opposed to “sensibly using”) a talking board (like a Ouija board), summoning spirits/entities in other ways, or engaging in negatively focused spell or energy work (such as curses and other things meant to do harm).

      There’s an even chance that what your friend experienced is merely a projection of her own subconscious, presenting itself in a way that will allow it to get a point across. Not knowing more about your friend or the situation, I can’t even guess what that point would be, but things like that happen. Our minds are powerful things and all we know of reality get filtered through them. Not uncommon at all for stuff to be inserted/removed along the way.

      And then there’s the more pragmatic response: Next time it shows up, poke it with a stick. See if it’s an actual physical form. Talk with it more outside before inviting it in. Even though it seems familiar, treat it like any random stranger on the street.

      Hope that all helps in some way. Let me know what happens! 🙂

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