A popular theme of Halloween horror movies, the threat of demonic possession is taken a bit more seriously by members of some faiths. This week’s clergy discuss why they believe a malevolent spirit can take over a human body, and how such evil can be exorcized.
Dr. Bhavani Srinivasan
Board member and Hindu representative, Long Island Multi-Faith Forum
When a demon invades a human body, it is said that possession has occurred. An exorcism may be required to free the victim from the evil spirit’s grasp. Hindu mythology describes ghosts and demonic beings. They are called pretas and bhutas. Pretas are souls who are in constant pain. Bhutas, on the other hand, are souls of people who have left their physical bodies following accidental death. Bhutas and pretas are troublemakers, but do not go where God-fearing people live. Rakshasas were beings created by Brahma, the Creator, when he created night. These demons were powerful during darkness. Even stronger, aerial foes of the gods, were the asuras. Hinduism refers to heaven as Swarga and hell as Naraka. Neither are considered permanent, or eternal. They are intermediary planes of existence in which the soul exhausts a part of its karmic debt prior to taking up another physical birth (reincarnation). The Bhagavat Purana says that all enjoyments and sufferings are experienced right here on earth. In Hinduism, Satanic or negative forces are caused by Maya or ignorance, and these stand in the way of the spiritual upliftment of man. Hindu exorcism consists of chanting mantras, prayers and performing pujas. There are four Vedas (sacred scriptures) in Hinduism, Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Yajur Veda and Sama Veda. The Atharva Veda has mantras or prayers for getting rid of evil spirits. This is done in the name of God or Supreme Being.
The Rev. Thomas R. Schmidt
Apostle, New Apostolic Church, Bethpage
The New Apostolic Church considers evil as a power opposed to God, and evil as a person. The origin of evil cannot be explained. Paul speaks of evil as a mystery. The entire creation was very good. God created man according to his own likeness. Man was endowed with a free will to decide between obedience and disobedience to God. The ability to do evil is also rooted in this free will. Evil was not created by God, but allowed through mankind’s exercise of choice. Evil is a destructive power that arises from the will to be independent from God. It changes those who fall prey to it: angels become demons, humans become sinners. Evil is not only manifested as a power, but also as a person. Holy Scripture refers to the personification of evil as “the devil” (Matthew 4:1), “Satan”, or “unclean spirit,” that is demon (Job 1:6; Mark 1:13, 23). Scripture speaks of angels who have sinned. These spiritual beings fell prey to evil and became evil themselves. The antichrist is a manifestation of evil. “The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8). The extent to which angels who have become demons can possess sinful human beings is also a mystery. However, no one is exposed to evil without a choice. All carry within themselves an awareness of the will of God; a conscience, defined by reason and faith, that weighs the question of what is good and evil.
The Rev. Thomas Boyd
Pastor, Church of the Nazarene, Massapequa Park
Most people have seen a movie or two about someone who is demon possessed. Entertaining? Maybe. Frightening? Certainly. Realistic? Probably not. So where does this whole subject matter come from? Well, right out of the pages of the Bible with specific references in the New Testament. In Luke 4:41, we read demons come out of many people as Jesus laid his hands on them. In Luke 11:14, Jesus drove out a demon that caused a man to be mute. When the demon left, the man spoke. In Luke 8:27 when Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a man possessed by a demon. These are just a few examples of people possessed in the Bible. So, what is our faith’s position on demon possession? We believe it exists. Is your next door neighbor demon possessed? Well, probably not, although I don’t know your neighbor. Demon possession is not what a normal person would desire. By the way, if you are wondering if you are demon possessed, you are not. Trust me. You would know. To be demon possessed, a person must be seeking evil, with very few exceptions. There are cultures that have given themselves to the pursuit of darkness, and they will find what they are looking for to their dismay. As Christians, we know that we have nothing to fear from the dark side. For the Bible assures us in 1 John 4:3-4 that God, who is in us, is greater than the one who is in the world.