TPD pp 240-244: The Exorcism

Disclaimer: I know pretty much nothing about catholic-style exorcisms. I could tell you how I’d have dealt with the problem back when I used to lead a small coven, but that’s really entirely different. I have no idea how accurate this may or may not be.

Bobby Corsi and his five demons are dragged into the church; Hank has been doing research in the gospels. According to wikipedia, there are 7 major exorcisms in the gospels. The first was in Capernaum:

23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

Mark 1:23-28, NIV

Apparently, if you’re Jesus, it’s really really easy to get demons out of someone. The story I’m most familiar with is the one with the pigs:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a]When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Mark 5:1-23, NIV

This one’s more interesting in that the easy solution does not work; there are many demons in one man, and Jesus’ simple admonishment is met with bartering and pleading. Finally, Jesus and the demons reach a compromise; you might even say Jesus was being merciful to the demons by granting their request.

(Another interesting one is Mark 7:24-30, wherein Jesus at first refuses to help someone who is not of the right religion until she convinces him otherwise, but that’s no longer related to the narrative of TPD anymore)

(… or is it?)

Anyway. Hank has the unfortunate disadvantage of not being Jesus himself; you’d think he’d be reading extra-biblical sources of information like maybe the Malleus Maleficarum or the Key of Solomon or something that specifically is written for priests who need to perform an exorcism, but maybe not being Catholic he rejects all such formal ceremonies? Where do Protestants turn when they need a big fancy ceremony? Because Catholicism is pretty much Ceremonial Christianity — they have all the rules and tools and fancy outfits and rituals, and everyone else kind of adapts from there, don’t they? Where else would you GET a fancy ceremony?

Chaos looked at me with confusion and then said “You just make one up”, so maybe I’m thinking too much about it. I then pointed out I’m talking about an exorcism where you kind of need it to be correct, and then he said “Oh… you just get fucked, I guess.” (He’s a Baptist. Go figure.)

(I asked Kae too. He looked at me gravely and said “You get an old Billy Graham and a young Billy Graham.” He is not a Baptist.)

Anyway, so Hank is going to do this the way Jesus himself did, starting with reading a book published long after Jesus’ death and then performing the ceremony in a church built thousands of years after Jesus, in the style of a tradition founded hundreds of years after Jesus.

Authentic!

As before with Ron, Bobby’s eyes are glassy and his speech is disorganized, not making too much sense; as I mentioned before, it feels a lot like schizophrenia or drug abuse rather than demonic possession, especially if you skip over the demon parts and just read what’s happening on the material plane. But since I already covered that, I’m going to look more at the procedure here.

In one sense, it’s similar to the Jesus exorcisms from the gospel; Hank begins to have a conversation with the demons. In another sense,  it’s completely different. He prays to God in Jesus’ name to send angels (and is that not the ultimate trifecta of power or what? He’s just missing the holy spirit I think), and demands to know how many demons there are.

“Millions!” Triskal jabbed Fortune-telling lightly in the flank. “Aww! Ten! Ten!” Another jab. “Aww! No, we are five, only five!”

Fortune-telling sounds like a small child here, doesn’t he? Maybe it’s the “Aww”s.

They cast out Fortune-telling, and the next demon gives this tidbit:

“Who are you?”

“Confusion, Madness, Hatred… Ha! I do them all!”

I think we’re meant to assume the demon is lying, but I’m honestly curious about this naming scheme for the demons. Can one demon do multiple things?

Anyway, he’s cast out as well, then Witchcraft gives them a bit more trouble, claiming to have been with Bobby most of his life. This exchange… well… it makes me laugh, honestly. It sounds like they’re trying to calm someone who is having a psychotic episode, mixed with a bit of Monty Python:

“Rafar!” Bobby cried. “Ba-al Rafar!”

“Say that again?”

[…]”Rafar… Rafar…”

“Who is Rafar?” Hank asked

“Rafar … is Rafar… is Rafar… is Rafar…” […]

“And who is Rafar?” Andy asked

“Rafar rules. He rules. Rafar is Rafar. Rafar is lord.”

“Jesus is Lord.” John reminded the demon.

“Satan is lord!” the dmeon argued.

“You said Rafar was lord,” Hank said.

“Satan is lord of Rafar.”

“What is Rafar lord of?”

“Rafar is lord of Ashton. Rafar rules Ashton.”

Andy tried a hunch. “Is he prince of Ashton?”

“Rafar is prince. Prince of Ashton.”

“Well, we rebuke him too.”

I feel like John Cleese is going to ask “Well how many lords are there? And have you got any cheese?”

Anyway, they have to start praying before Witchcraft is loosened from his spot, at which point he begins to bargain, asking to stay. They pry him out, and the angels banish him and the other two from the “region”.

Mary shows up to help, and another demon begins hitting on her through Bobby. She, however, recognizes him as the one from the parking lot who accosted her, the “man in leather” (the same description Bernice gave of her attacker).

“I want to– I want to–” It went on to describe rape in hideous detail.

Kid-friendly!

I assume this one’s Rape then? Anyway, Mary rebukes him herself, and the last one starts bragging about beating up Bernice in stupidly childish terms:

“I hit her and I kicked her and I beat her up–“

Riveting. Bobby, finally freed, begins to spill details as our camera shifts to Chapter 27.

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7 Responses to TPD pp 240-244: The Exorcism

  1. Firedrake says:

    Getting the nasty brutal bit out of the way first, well, yes, the reason most “demon possessions” sound like mental health problems is that most of them are, squeezed through the lens of a religious environment that believes demon-possession is possible. And their only effect in the modern day, at least, is to stop people from getting treatment that might actually help them. Yeah, people die of exorcism.

    But then, as an atheistic paganish magician, I would say that wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t do an exorcism on a person, but I might well do one on a place (and have) – because even if I’m talking complete rubbish (something I always bear in mind), I’m at least doing no harm there. But then I don’t really do ceremony or formality; it’s more swoop in, burn everything in sight, eat the ashes, and fly off again. 🙂

    • Taryn Fox says:

      I personally use the concept of fox possession to explain a pivotal event in my life, to myself and to others who are willing to listen (and who I actually want to explain to). I dare anyone to try to exorcise me, though. 😛 And in my case it’s not a way to ignore or obfuscate the reality of my situation, such that I’m denied something I need, so much as a way to help me understand that reality whether it’s literally true or not.

      Believing it helps me grasp emotionally a situation I have a hard time wrapping my intellect around. It reminds me that understanding a thing intellectually doesn’t mean I completely understand it, and that the world’s a more magical place than I give it credit for.

  2. Jarred H says:

    If memory serves, Hank is what would be considered Pentecostal or Charismatic. In my experience, those types tend to like formal liturgy and symbolic literature even less than Baptists. 😉 So yeah, they tend to take a much more direct, informal, and “Jesus-like” approach to spiritual deliverances (a common P/C term for exorcisms).

    Oh, I’ll also note that many (though not all, and I certainly can’t speak for Peretti) P/C-types tend to believe that mental illnesses are cause by demons. (Yeah, they can be really big on victim blaming in general. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.)

    • Taryn Fox says:

      They use Jesus magic! Which mostly consists of telling people their god is bigger than everyone else’s, and then writing stories about how demons are unbelievably widespread and powerful and control basically the entire world.

    • neverstatic says:

      I think it’s unlikely Peretti is in the “illness caused by demons” camp. In one of his other Christian, demon prayer thrillers “The Visitation”, the main character visits a church that’s big into healing through prayer. Things almost go tragically south when a young woman goes into diabetic shock while people are praying away her “demon of diabetes”. Pretty sure it wasn’t an endorsement of that practice.

      • Jarred H says:

        1. You’ll note that I said “mental illnesses” rather than “Illnesses.” There are plenty of evangelical Christians who will acknowledge that “medical” diseases like diabetes are “real” while still insisting that mental illnesses are demonic.

        2. “The Visitation” was released thirteen years after “This Present Darkness.” It’s entirely possible the Peretti’s views changed during that span of time. Indeed, I’d note that “The Visitation” itself might hint at major changes in Peretti’s understanding of numerous things, given the themes that run throughout that book.

  3. Mau de Katt says:

    “Depression” is also a demon, according to the demon-believing Christian types. Which really screwed with my head decades ago (in the Peretti days, even!) back when I had a nervous breakdown. Funny how none of the “spiritual deliverances” worked….

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