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Demonic possession refers to the state of one being controlled, either directly, or indirectly, by a supernatural force, commonly of satanic origins. Symptoms of demonic possession commonly claimed by believers include missing memories, altered personalities, convulsions (i.e. epileptic seizure or "fits"may occur after about a week), fainting, and spastic hand movements.
The DSM-5 indicates that the variant personality states of dissociative identity disorder may be misinterpreted as possession in some cultures. Instances of demonic possession are often related to trauma-suggesting that mental distress could be a contributing factor. There are concerns that medical attention may not be sought in time due to such misinterpretations.
Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim. The priests who practised exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves. Many cuneiform clay tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.
Shamanic cultures also believe in demon possession and shamans performing exorcisms. In these cultures, diseases are often attributed to the presence of a vengeful spirit (or loosely termed demon) in the body of the patient. These spirits are more often the spectres of animals or people wronged by the bearer, the exorcism rites usually consisting of respectful offerings or sacrificial offerings.
Oppressions and possessions of the devil are considered by many religions to be evidence of the existence of demonic entities or evil spirits.[further explanation needed] The term oppression is used when the demon acts externally against the person whom it besets, and possession when it acts internally, agitates them, excites their ill humor, makes them utter blasphemy, speak tongues they allegedly have never learned, reveals allegedly unknown secrets to them, and apparently inspires them with obscure knowledge of philosophy or theology.[A 1]
Other claims include access to hidden knowledge and foreign languages (xenoglossy), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength. Odd odors, lack of sensitivity to pain, and self-mutilation have also been reported. Unlike in channeling, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism.
Christianity holds that possession derives from the Devil, i.e. Satan, or one of his lesser demons. In Christianity, Satan and his demons are actually fallen angels. In modern medicine, it is now suspected that an underlying cause of what sometimes appears to be demonic possession is actually anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says that there is only one apparent case of demonic possession in the Old Testament, of King Saul, but it relies on an interpretation of the Hebrew word "rûah" as "evil spirit", an interpretation that is doubted by the Catholic Encyclopedia. Others theologians such as Ángel Manuel Rodríguez say that mediums like the ones mentioned in Book of Leviticus 20:27 were possessed by demons.
The New Testament mentions several episodes in which Jesus drove out demons from persons. The 1902 work Demonic possession in the New Testament by Rev. William Menzies Alexander attempted to explain accounts of possession in the Synoptic Gospels, outlining their historical, medical and theological aspects.
Catholic exorcists differentiate between "ordinary" Satanic/demonic activity or influence (mundane everyday temptations) and "extraordinary" Satanic/demonic activity, which can take six different forms, ranging from complete control by Satan or some demon(s) to voluntary submission:
In Hostage to the Devil, Malachi Martin describes a type of demonic attack called "familiarization". He writes:
|“||The possessing spirit in "familiarization" is seeking to "come and live with" the subject. If accepted, the spirit becomes the constant and continuously present companion of the possessed. The two "persons", the "familiar" and the "possessed", remain separate and distinct. The "possessed" is aware of his "familiar".||”|
The Bible indicates that people can be possessed by demons, but that the demons respond and submit to Jesus' authority:
|“||In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 "Ha! 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!" 35 "Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:33-35 NIV)||”|
It also indicates that demons can possess animals as in the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac:
|“||When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. 30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. (Luke 8:27-33 NIV)||”|
Official Catholic doctrine affirms that demonic possession can occur as distinguished from mental illness, but stresses that cases of mental illness should not be misdiagnosed as demonic influence. Catholic exorcisms can occur only under the authority of a bishop and in accordance with strict rules; a simple exorcism also occurs during Baptism (CCC 1673).
Since Jesus is reported (in the New Testament) to have encountered people who were demonized and to have driven the "evil spirits" out of these demoniacs, Saint Hilary of Poitiers of the 4th century asserted that demons entered the bodies of humans to use them as if they were theirs, and also proposed that the same could happen with animals.
The literal view of demonization is held by a number of Christian denominations. In charismatic Christianity, deliverance ministries are activities carried out by individuals or groups aimed at solving problems related to demons and spirits, especially possession of the body and soul, but not the spirit as ministries like Ellel Ministries International, Don Dickerman Ministries and Neil T. Anderson explicitly teach that a Christian can not have demons in their spirit because the Holy Spirit lives there, though they can have demons in their body or soul due to inner emotional wounds, sexual abuse, satanic ritual abuse. This is usually known as partial possession or demonic infestation, as opposed to outside demonic oppression which does not reside in any of the 3 parts of a person: body, soul, spirit.
Randy Delp defines the soul as the mind, will and emotions of an individual. He offered three categories of spirits: divine, soulical and non-soulical. Soulical spirits are those that have minds, wills and emotions. Such spirits include humans, angels, demons (fallen angels) and unclean spirits. Unclean spirits were the only spirits that Jesus exorcized from people. Delp suggests that non-soulical spirits are "thought generators" that produce emotions and influence behavior. Although the Bible references fear (2 Timothy 1:7,) anger (Genesis 4:5-6,) division (Judges 9:23-24,) and murder (1 Samuel 19:9,) and lying (1 Kings 22:22; 2 Chronicles 18:2,) as evil spirits, most cultures consider them emotional or behavior expressions that must be managed by the humans who are influenced by them. 
The New Testament's description of people who had evil spirits includes a capacity for hidden knowledge (e.g., future events, innermost thoughts of the people around them) (Acts 16:16) and great strength (Act 19:16), among others, and shows those with evil spirits can speak of Christ (Acts 19:16, Mark 3:11). According to theologians, demonic assault can be involuntary and allowed by God to test a person, as seen in the Biblical figure Job, who was tormented by Satan as part of God's test. Involuntary demonic assault, according to these theologians, cannot be denied because this would imply the negation of the cases mentioned in the New Testament (12, some of them repeated in more than one Gospel). However, in the overwhelming majority of cases of alleged demonic possession in modern times, the victim can suffer due to any of a number of personal initiatives: occult practices, mortal sin, loss of faith, or psychological trauma, among others. Furthermore, Malachi Martin goes as far as to say "...no person can be Possessed without some degree of cooperation on his or her part," and "The effective cause of Possession is the voluntary collaboration of an individual, through his faculties of mind and will, with one or more of those bodiless, genderless creatures called demons."
In Great Britain in previous centuries, the Christian church offered suggestions on safeguarding one's home. Suggestions ranged from dousing a household with holy water, placing wax and herbs on thresholds to "ward off witches occult," and avoiding certain areas of townships known to be frequented by witches and Devil worshippers after dark. Afflicted persons were restricted from entering the church, but might share the shelter of the porch with lepers and persons of offensive life. After the prayers, if quiet, they might come in to receive the bishop's blessing and listen to the sermon. They were daily fed and prayed over by the exorcists, and, in case of recovery, after a fast of from 20 to 40 days, were admitted to the Eucharist, and their names and cures entered in the church records.
T. B. Joshua, a Nigerian pastor, has one of the most prominent "deliverance" ministries, releasing hundreds of videos on YouTube and his Christian television station, Emmanuel TV, purporting to show individuals being "delivered" from apparent "demonic possession".
Various types of creatures, such as jinn, shayatin, 'afarit and ruh, found within Islamic culture, are often held to be responsible for demonic possession. Usually, Iblis, the leader of evil spirits, only tempts humans into sin by following their lower desires. Though not directly attested in the Quran, the notion of jinn possessing humans is widespread among Muslims and also accepted by most Islamic scholars. There are various reasons given as to why a jinn might seek to possess an individual, such as falling in love with them, taking revenge for hurting them or their relatives, or other undefined reasons. Since jinn are not necessarily evil, they are distinguished from cultural concepts of possession by devils/demons. In contrast, the shayatin are apparently inherently evil. To prevent such entities from doing further harm, an exorcism is required. Since hadiths suggest, that the demons/devils whisper from within the human body, within or next to the heart, devilish whisperings (waswas) are thought of as a kind of possession.
Antoine Augustin Calmet, a French Benedictine monk writing in the 18th century, commented that the Jews attributed the greater part of their maladies to the works of demons and were persuaded that demonic torments were a punishment for some crime either known or unrevealed.[A 2] He also states:[A 3]
Although the Jews were sufficiently credulous concerning the operations of the evil spirit, they at the same time believed that in general the demons who tormented certain persons were nothing else than the souls of some wretches, who, fearing to repair to the place destined for them, took possession of the body of some mortal whom they tormented and endeavored to deprive of life - Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants:not proper citation style
In traditional Buddhism, four metaphorical forms of "māra" are given:
And in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, 50 types of skandha related demons (Fifty skandha-māras) been mentioned that can possess practitioners. Also flying demons from Devaputra-Mara can confuse the practitioner, make them and their students believe they have achieved Enlightenment, then mislead them to wrongdoings, wrong teachings, dangers, crisis and even death.
A practitioner will go to the local Buddhist healer for treatment. The healer will commonly take their pulse and urine while offering counsel - the aim being to divine the origins of the patient's suffering. In the case of possession they will also prescribe actions to appease the demon, like giving away food and clothing in its name. It is believed that the demon will depart to a different realm once this is done.
According to Augustine Calmet, several obsessions and possessions noted in the New Testament were simple maladies or fantastic fallacies which made it believed that such persons were possessed by the devil. The ignorance of the people maintained this prejudice, and their lack of contact with physicians and medicine served to strengthen such ideas.[A 2]
Those who profess a belief in demonic possession have sometimes ascribed to possession the symptoms associated with physical or mental illnesses, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia, conversion disorder or dissociative identity disorder. It is also not uncommon to ascribe the experience of sleep paralysis to demonic possession, although it's not a physical or mental illness. The symptoms vary across cultures. Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis recognized by either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10. The DSM-5 indicates that personality states of dissociative identity disorder may be interpreted as possession in some cultures, and instances of spirit possession are often related to traumatic experiences—suggesting that possession experiences may be caused by mental distress. Some have expressed concern that belief in demonic possession can limit access to health care for the mentally ill.
In chronological order:
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