Monday, January 10, 2011

Evil Spirits in Our Modern World

I believe there is a lot of good that can come of understanding one's self more fully. It's the heart of repentance, and much of what we do to help people understand themselves is no more than helping people see and understand and address the core aspects of their inherited tendencies and finding coping and/or change mechanisms. I believe in that type of effort deeply, so I applaud any work to acquire this type of "internal understanding".

However, I cringe mightily when physical and emotional disabilities appear to be credited to evil spirits. I have no problem with the overall doctrine of evil spirits, but I also believe strongly that much of our terminology in this arena is symbolic - and I am wary of people who present things in ways that can confuse the issue and frame everything in black-and-white, mortals v. spirits terms.

Also, the framing of the idea that children can be subjected to evil spirits because of their ancestors sounds like just another way to say that they inherited certain characteristics and tendencies as a result of the Fall. I would rather phrase it the way the Church currently phrases it (inherited characteristics from the Fall) than do so the way it was phrased 2000 years ago (evil spirits) - even if I accept that the way it was phrased 2000 years ago was the proper way to phrase it then.


mkprr said...

The gospels talk a lot about casting out evil spirits, and I see what you are saying that in some instances they may be referring just to helping someone overcome a mental illness or disability. There are other passages where it seems obvious that actual evil spirits inhabited peoples bodies and were cast out. These seem to be more than physical or mental disabilities. In 18 years of being a member of the church however I have never seen or heard of anyone being possessed by an evil spirit. does this still happen like it did in Christs time?

Papa D said...

I really do believe in the existence of "evil spirits". I have had one experience directly with casting out evil spirits in my life, and I know of a few more - but only a few.

I believe those sorts of events in the Bible (like the casting of "legion" into the swine) might actually have been what they were reported to be, and I really appreciate the events in the Bible when evil spirits were NOT blamed - when the malady was attributed explicitly to some disease or physical condition.

I just know that there are ways to regulate some mental illnesses that remove the symptoms without removing the underlying illness (like my mother's medication or like certain coping mechanisms). For instances like that, I believe that they could be healed EITHER through a miraculous manifestation of power OR through a bestowal of peace and/or powerful comfort to the mind. This is most relevant, perhaps, to things like instances of anxiety induced schizophrenia.

All I'm really saying here is that I am wary now of labeling many things as the result of evil spirits, even as I believe some things probably are.

That's not profound, really; it's more of a word of caution than anything else.

mkprr said...

thanks for posting this. It's an interesting topic