Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is mental illness ever related to demon possession?

The reason this post was one of my favorites over on my blog is simply because the topic interests me. I don't necessarily think that I've said anything so brilliant, or that you couldn't think of for yourself, but I am interested in your response to my ending question:

Is mental illness ever related to demon possession?

If you've read this blog much you know that I have a heart for mentally ill adults. Since I have a sister who is a paranoid schizophrenic, and I'm a CA licensed nursing home administrator who has ran secured psychiatric facilities serving the chronically mentally ill for the past 9 yrs, I've had lots of experience with mentally ill folks.

I've seen up close how much mentally ill people can suffer.

There are some groups of extreme belief type Christians who think that all mental illness is caused by demon possession. On the other hand you get folks like Michael Spencer over at the Internet Monk who wrote a post entitled Is mental illness demonic that cautions us as to how we should read the gospel accounts where Jesus cast out demons. Spencer states:

"The Bible was written in the narrative world of ancient, prescientific cultures that often interpreted reality and events through a grid quite different from our own way of looking at the same reality. When the Bible speaks to us from its ancient setting, it does not “update” its cultural interpretations of causation for commonly observed phenomenon. Instead, it speaks in the cultural norms of the time. Those cultures tended to see most of what we call mental illness as the result of demonic influence or as a punishment for sin. Now, Christians have been entirely free, in their own settings and cultures, to appropriate, interpret or re-interpret these Biblical explanations. "

I see Spencer's point and agree with the principle. Just as the Bible parables relate to a different culture, so do the accounts. So it may be that some of the people we read about in the Bible who acted in ways we see Schizophrenics behave today, may have been healed of Schizophrenia and it was explained in terms of demons because that was the understanding of the day.

But I do not think it's an either or situation. It's very difficult for me to separate out the physical and spiritual so completely. I think it may be that we have both physical and spiritual phenomena occurring simultaneously. The fact that the voices that many Schizophrenics hear talking to them in their heads (I've met at least 300 individuals on whom I'm basing this statement) are always negative, leads me to seriously question the origins of these voices.

My guess is that in some instances, mental illness is almost exclusively a physiological phenomenon. In these cases the person has a physical anomaly that is causing the mental illness, and the enemy tries to use against the person , as well as his loved ones, just as in any other serious physical illness such as cancer. I would also guess that this is the most frequent case for mental illness.

But I'm also quite certain, from many situations I've observed through the years, that there are cases where what is manifesting as mental illness is almost exclusively spiritual.

But, if I'm being totally candid here, I would never let some religious group come into my facility and start casting out demons.

I really don't have any great insights or answers to this issue, just thoughts and questions.

What do you think, is mental illness ever related to demonic possession?


Joyce Lighari said...

Boy you stirred up a hornets nest on my facebook this morning -
I didn't have a chance to read it to defend it or criticize it. Now that I have read it, it's a very good blog.
I too worked in mental health. We are holistic beings and as such, spiritual is part of who we are and you are right, they cannot be separated completely.

David said...

A thoughtful approach to the subject, Tracy.

I believe that we are made up of body, soul and spirit. Each one can have its own problems and diseases. Sometimes all 3 areas are affected, or intertwined.

Let me qualify my statements by saying that I have seen demonic manifestations, and they are real. There are also external or oppressive forces that can cause problems too. Oppression and possession are not the same.

I have suffered from mental illness; severe depression, and that also was real. As best as I can tell, it was triggered by medication I was given in the ER after a car accident.

With those things said, I do not believe that all mental illness is the result of demon possession - or even demonic oppression. However; in the manicured American church, a solid understanding of the demonic is rarely taught, and seldom experienced. My blogs on the demonic are some of my most often read posts.

I am big fan of emotional healing, the breaking of curses, and when necessary, the casting out of demons. I am on the ministry team at my church, and we regularly see the Lord heal toxic memories and break generational curses.

I have also seen those with medicated depressions, and bi-polar stop taking medication after hearing prayer and live successful and productive Christian lives. I am one of them. My brother is another. The Lord is able to heal emotional disorders as easily as removing a tumor.

In all my years in the church, I have found that unforgiveness, traumatic emotional experiences, and in some cases spiritual abuse are the most likely culprits of depression, ADD and bi-polar disorder. I know a number of folks that have had these conditions healed and no longer take medication. (No I don't recommend you toss around a few prayers and go cold turkey on your meds! Though I know a few who have done exactly that.)

Does everyone that receives healing prayer get healed? No, but enough do that I am going to keep on doing it.

When I was in Brazil, our team prayed for a woman with advanced Alzheimer's. After prayer, she was able to recognize and remember visitors, which; the pastor (her son) said would never happen. We came back a week later and she still remembered us.

What we need is discernment, and revelation. There are NO formulas for Christianity in any area, and this is just another one.

Regan said...

I, too have been healed from mental illness , PRAISE THE LORD, I have great conviction and revelation when it comes to this subject. My knowledge of demonic influence and spirits of oppression came to me about a year after my father commited suicide, unfortunately :(. people tend to get offended when I speak my feelings on this subject because they are more comfortable with a medical diagnosis and all of the "fix it" pills they are taking. I suffered post partum depression severely after my oldest was born and didn't have a clue why...and when I discovered why, I was freed from it ...Thank You Jesus. my mom is constantly (still) telling me that I inherited it from my father...of course I rebuke that in Jesus' Name every time I hear her speak it...I too have a heart for teens and adults that suffer from this. I have friends all the time talk about going on depression medicine, or getting it refilled, or that their new meds seem to be working..and it breaks my heart. I have warned several people against starting the meds for depression and have fasted several times in faith that they would obtain the truth about the situation and abstain from these meds....the doctors will tell you once you start these will have to take them for the rest of your life.....I promise whether you think i am extreme, radical or crazy, God DOES NOT WANT YOU TO LIVE LIKE THIS AND HE CAN DELIVER YOU FROM IT. My intention is not to offend , but hopefully help free someone from the lies that they believe...satan would love nothing more than for us to keep on blaming disease & diagnoses for the torment and oppression he causes..... and this is not my's biblical !