Exorcism is a confrontation with evil. A direct and often costly clash with an ancient and malign intelligence that has superimposed itself onto the personality of its victim. This imposition, often referred to as demonic possession, involves a taking over of the victim’s agency and identity. This inhuman onslaught is a perilous experience where the human victim is slowly transformed by a sinister entity with fatal consequences. Exorcists are trained to look for signs of demonic possession and are encouraged to differentiate between these and those caused by mental illness.

The consensus among the scientific community is that whilst possession states bear some similarities to psychotic disorders the phenomena itself may not be a form of mental illness. In all likelihood it is a religious form of suffering that mimics mental illness but is distinct from it. Therefore once mental illness has been ruled out the best course of action is to undergo a religious rite of exorcism. This rite, often protracted and highly traumatic, confronts the occupying evil in the name of Jesus in the belief that the humanness of the victim is treasured by God. This confrontation, if successful, removes the occupying entity from the life of the victim and frees him from its sinister clutches thereby allowing the victim to act independently once more.

A qualified exorcist usually performs this rite by using prayers; liturgies and an assortment of religious paraphernalia and is done under the authority of the church. Exorcisms vary in length from a few minutes to a series of sessions over many months.

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