By Rick Hinton
Discernment is “The quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.)
Catholic and Protestant priests have a big job ahead of them after finding themselves in the dark netherlands of determining if a person is truly possessed and at a point where an exorcism is warranted. People can easily be deceived by the inner workings of the imagination. Could it be that … a natural explanation that would explain the behavioral change of the individual? Or something darker, taking them down a road few would want to travel? It can be a life-altering decision.
As of late I’ve been reading a lot about exorcism. It started as research on deliverance ministries and has expanded into full-blown research on demonic exorcism. The subject both fascinates and terrifies me. Exorcism has resided in the shadows for hundreds of years, but never really went away. Today finds it more prevalent than even 30 – 40 years ago. However, to see if an exorcism is even warranted, there are initial steps.
It starts with an interview, the results of which will determine the route the priest will take. In the interview process discernment is one of the gifts God gives to the faithful. It’s a good tool to have. A seasoned exorcist relies on it. What might be mistaken for demonic possession? In Matt Baglio’s book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, he lists a few examples:
- Schizophrenia (paranoia, delusions, hearing voices, hallucinations).
- Hysteria (a condition that can develop a host of physical ailments).
- Bipolar disease (fluctuating moods).
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-OCD (feeling tormented by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions).
- Epilepsy (uncontrollable tics, movements and speech).
- Disassociation (normal routines turn strange: “zoning” out while driving a car, consistently in a haze or feeling that you are located outside the physical body).
Discernment is also important for paranormal investigators during the beginning phase of a private investigation, also starting with an interview. The interview is crucial in determining whether you will say “goodnight” or return with a car full of teammates and equipment. If you go in totally buying a story, then you are already predisposed as to the conclusions you will draw. A good interviewer will weed out the paranormal as opposed to the medical conditions mentioned above. There are, however, no interviews at the paranormal amusement parks (Pay & Plays), only a good story. You’re along for the ride for a space of a few hours. Enjoy!
Many exorcists in training, serving an apprenticeship in learning the “Ritual”, are apprehensive they might get it wrong and misdiagnosis the true condition of their client. They should. And paranormal investigators should worry about the same thing! Nothing like giving a wrong call that will affect someone’s life.
The exorcist must be the ultimate skeptic. And … in the realm of chasing Caspers, so should we.