One topic that you’re bound to touch on while walking the inner path is that of demonic possession.
We’ve all heard of stories detailing seemingly innocent people who seem to become possessed by supernatural forces. As a result of being possessed, such people are said to do extraordinary things like speaking ancient Latin, attempting to harm themselves, and even lapsing into violent psychotic episodes in which they try to attack others.
We humans naturally have a morbid fascination with topics such as demonic possession. The idea that an external force could forcibly enter us regardless of our will causes us intense anxiety and captivates our darkest imagination (just look at all the demonic possession horror movies out there).
But is demonic possession real? And if so, how can we prevent it from happening?
Origins of Demonic Possession
Demonic possession traces back to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). Take this quote from the New Testament for instance, “And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way” (Matthew 8:28).
In the Islamic tradition, demons are often referred to as “Jinn” which are otherworldly creatures who come and cause humanity to sin against Allah. The Quran (holy text of the Islamic people) also speaks about ruqya which is translated as “exorcism” to cast the Jinn out of one’s body.
Discussion about evil and its influence on humanity features a lot in the texts of the Judaic, Islamic, and Christian traditions. Unfortunately, it was this belief in “demonic possession” by external forces that lead to the discrimination, mistreatment and ultimate alienation of what we would refer to in modern times as the mentally ill.
Is Demonic Possession Real?
My answer? Yes and no. It all depends on what you define as “demonic,” and where such forces originate.
In the religious sense, “demonic possession” is ultimately misguided and its modern interpretations are reflective of the immature dualistic thinking of mankind. In other words, “good” and “evil” is based on the simplistic and psychologically juvenile belief that a person or entity is 100% good or 100% bad. This mental division of life fails to see the full spectrum and multi-faceted nature of reality.
So, for instance, from the religious perspective, any bizarre or extreme display in behavior from a person isn’t from some inside force, but is instead blamed on some kind of external entity. When it comes to this religious perspective, all sense of self-responsibility, free will, and psychological influence is bypassed, or worse, seen as non-existent, because evil is always seen as coming from “out there”; it never originates within us. Therefore, because this external force is seen as being outside of us, we must “get rid of it” rather than try to understand it, integrate it, or get to the root core of it. Conveniently, once we are possessed we have no other option but to seek out the help of a priest or religious authority who then becomes our savior (another form of disowning our personal power). Thereafter, the “possession” is not analyzed (because it’s unthinkable that such a force could originate within us), instead, it is shamefully avoided and fearfully attributed to “something out there” trying to fulfill its evil instincts through us.
As you can see, the religious approach to demonic possession is fuelled by fear, paranoia, self-disempowerment, and ultimately a misunderstanding of the nature of reality.
Ironically, belief in demon possession is often carried by people in spiritual movements far removed from the Abrahamic religions (although still indirectly influenced). Such beliefs, I would argue, stem from a kind of psychological immaturity or ignorance that fails to understand the nature and role of the unconscious mind in “demonic possession.”
In my perspective, demonic possession is a psychological phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not ruling out true demon possession completely (i.e. taken over by a dark energetic force), but these are rare.
To me, in the majority of cases, demon possession occurs when the repressed forces of the unconscious mind temporarily ‘act out’ and take over our conscious personality. Famous psychotherapist Carl Jung referred to these repressed tendencies within us as the Shadow Self, noting that:
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.
As we’ve explored in previous articles about the human shadow, this dark and hidden face of ourselves builds through time, and when not explored, eventually explodes into consciousness. The explosion of the shadow self into consciousness often appears as blind acts of rage, neurotic obsessions, chronic anxiety, deep depressions, addictions, sexual depravity – and yes, even the appearance of demonic possession.
When I say demonic possession I am not referring to some separate entity outside of ourselves, but a hidden force within ourselves, within our shadow self. As our shadow self contains every emotion, personality trait, thought, and desire that we have ever considered “unacceptable” and have thus repressed, such a place within us can indeed seem demonic – and sometimes even express itself in demonic ways.
But what about cases of demonic possession where the person can access different languages (unknown to the actual individual) or special knowledge? Such phenomenal cases reflect our ability to access the Collective Unconscious, also called the Akashic Field.
The Collective Unconscious, as described by Jung, is a vast web of knowledge that “contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution.” In other words, all knowledge known and created by humanity is stored in this immensely vast (and possibly endless) etheric “hard drive.”
Just as the shadow self is unconscious, so too is the Collective Unconscious, which explains why in some states (such as “demonic possession”) we’re able to access previously inaccessible knowledge.
So to sum up the question of “is demonic possession real?” yes, it is real, but it isn’t of external origins: it is of internal origins. The more we repress, suppress, and deny certain parts of our authentic nature, the more likely these rejected parts will fester and build within the unconscious mind, eventually resulting in an episode of psychosis (demonic possession).
How to Prevent Yourself From Getting Possessed By “Demons”
In order to not be possessed or taken over by the repressed aspects of our shadow selves, we need to bring to the light of consciousness what is hiding within us. This practice is called shadow work, and it requires serious effort.
Unlike many shallow and feel-good forms of spirituality, shadow work isn’t about affirming the beliefs you already have about yourself, it is about challenging you to authentically grow. In order to truly grow, you need to face some of the darker, more “devilish” aspects of your unconscious mind in order to be free from their influence. This often requires you to let go of who you think you are in order to embrace who you really are.
Shadow work involves radically accepting and integrating whatever you find buried within yourself – it is not about trying to “kill,” “exorcise” or somehow banish the repressed parts of your nature.
By shining a light on, and subsequently embracing the alienated parts of your persona, you will experience more wholeness, more inner peace, more emotional balance, and ultimately, more freedom. You will no longer be ruled by hidden desires and instincts which erupt into addictions, relationship issues, and other dramas in your conscious life.
However, there is one caveat: you have to be open. If you aren’t first open to accepting whatever you find within yourself, you will do more harm than good. You have to start shadow work with a mind and heart that is prepared to show compassion and curiosity, not judgment and ridicule. If you reject whatever you find, you will only bury your shadow aspects more deeply into your unconscious mind, making them harder and harder to access.
So with this being said, I encourage you to explore shadow work a little more. Here are some articles that may help:
- Shadow Self: Embracing Your Inner Darkness
- Illuminative Ways to Encounter Your Shadow Self
- Shadow Self Test – How Dominant is Your Dark Side?
- Sexual Repression, Erotic Dreams, and the Shadow Self
- Shadow Work: How to Let Your Demons Guide You (Without Going Crazy)
What are your thoughts on demonic possession?