Demonic Possession: A Theoretical Analysis

Decent Essays
Possession rituals not only form social identities but also act as ways of healing for both the Harijans and Catholics. Sax describes how “ritual healing sometimes “works” by addressing the social causes of stress-related disorders” (Sax, 231). For the Harijans, possession rituals provide spaces to express their oppression, to be aided by the god Kachiya, and finally, to heal and move forward with their lives. Sax also explains that “placebos are extremely effective (often more so than standard biomedical techniques), but also that the efficacy of conventional medical therapy depends to a surprising degree on the healer’s own confidence in his or her methods” (Sax, 245). Sax proves that such rituals do work for Harijans, and even though the…show more content…
Sax critiques the narrow-minded, science-obsessed tendency in America by saying that “scientific “knowledge” is effective, but also limited and narrow. Indeed, it is effective because it is narrow. It is focused on the particular, it heals the part and not the person” (Sax, 241). However, there is also a similar argument within the scientific community. In his article The Growing Evidence for "Demonic Possession": What Should Psychiatry's Response be?, Stafford Betty states that “the vast majority of the reader of this journal think that “spirits,” at least the kind that oppress or possess us, are not real. Indeed the very raising of the question, Do evil spirits molest us? seems to most of us like a return to the Dark Ages and may be greeted with derision” (Betty, 14). Betty, like Sax, critiques the tendency of modern American society to be quick to discredit anything having to do with spirits and their effects on people; spirits cannot be seen so they are therefore not really afflicting anyone. Spirits are very real to some people, and afflict and possess people in ways that make their bodies distort and change as it controls a person’s body. To simply gloss over these occurrences would be to deny a person’s…show more content…
If so, there is no evidence of it in the professional literature... It never occurred to the authors that some of those patients might really be possessed” (Betty, 27). Betty raises important questions and insights within the medical sphere regarding the treatment of possession that deserve more attention. Instead of wondering if possessions are real or not, or whether spirits or gods even exist, perhaps we should shift to focusing on what such rituals do for people in the end. If these rituals are able to heal people dealing with a mental illness, daily effects of oppression, or the torments of gods and spirits and familial ghosts, then what does it matter if we think they are real or not? If gods, spirits, familial ghosts, and the devil are real to these people, then such entities are real, and it does little good to think less of these people or tell them they can only be treated with science and medicine. Research has shown in both the Catholic and Harijan spheres that exorcisms and possession rituals often work, and if these groups of people are able to heal, then people should respect those practices and remain open to the possibilities that they can
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