Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Satan entered into him"

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In my Sunday School class, we left off our study of John's Gospel with Judas' betrayal of Jesus followed by his washing of the disciples' feet. We talked about what it meant that "Satan entered into" Judas right before he left the Upper Room. The following passage may provide some additional insight. Dr. Malachi Martin (1921-1999, pictured above) served as a priest exorcist in New York for a number of years. In his book on the subject entitled Hostage to the Devil, he observed (p. 436):

Still, Father Conor, who taught Father Peter so well during his months in Rome, remains the exorcist of my acquaintance who seemed to have the broadest understanding of the stages and perils of the actual processes of possession and of Exorcism. Conor's general outlines of the process of possession ran as follows.

First, the actual entry point, the point at which Evil Spirit enters an individual and a decision, however tenuous, is made by the victim to allow that entry.

Then, a stage of erroneous judgments by the possessed in vital matters, as a direct result of the allowed presence of the possessing spirit and apparently in preparation for the next stage.

Third, the voluntary yielding of control by the possessed person to a force or presence he clearly feels is alien to himself and as a result of which the possessed loses control of his will, and so of his decisions and his actions.

Once the third stage is secure, extended control proceeds and may potentially reach the point of completion—perfect possession.

In any individual case, these four stages will dovetail and overlap differently. And, while the process may be swift, more often it seems to take years to accomplish. "We have the eternity of the Lord of Knowledge," Tortoise told Hearty arrogantly.

At every new step, and during every moment of possession, the consent of the victim is necessary, or possession cannot be successful. The consent may be verbal, but always involves choice of action. Once initial consent has been given, its withdrawal becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. In Jamsie's case, he was subjected to intense physical pain when he thought of ejecting Ponto. When Carl hesitated, he was threatened with vivid images of his own extinction. But whatever the pain or threat, it is wielded to retain the consent of the possessed for the continuing presence and power of the preternatural spirit.

Rather than being signs of the great power of preternatural spirits, these threats are evidence of their limitations, for they cannot attack and seize control of the will directly. They can only work through the senses (Jamsie's pain) or the imagination (Carl's fear was produced through the attack on his imagination), in order to assure the continuance of that most basic element of all human possessions: the consent of the victim by his own will.

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