Thursday, July 07, 2016

Washington Post Article - Psychiatrist Diagnoses Mental Illness and Demonic Possession

(Thank you J.W. for linking me with this article.)

Richard Gallagher is a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College. He is at work on a book about demonic possession in the United States. He loves science, studied the classics at Princeton, trained in psychiatry at Yale and psychoanalysis at Columbia.

Gallagher helps people. And, while most people who claim to be possessed or oppressed by demons are not, some of them are. See "As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession."

Gallagher believes mental illness is insufficient to explain what's happening with some people. Consider one patient who was a self-described Satanic high priest. Gallagher writes:

"I was inclined to skepticism. But my subject’s behavior exceeded what I could explain with my training. She could tell some people their secret weaknesses, such as undue pride. She knew how individuals she’d never known had died, including my mother and her fatal case of ovarian cancer. Six people later vouched to me that, during her exorcisms, they heard her speaking multiple languages, including Latin, completely unfamiliar to her outside of her trances. This was not psychosis; it was what I can only describe as paranormal ability. I concluded that she was possessed. Much later, she permitted me to tell her story."

Gallagher is open-minded, intelligent, respects evidence, and has compassion for people. Gallagher differentiates what he believes are attacks from evil spirits (which are rare in his experience) from medical conditions.

Gallagher knows this is not popular with everyone in his field. But he asks, "What am I supposed to make of patients who unexpectedly start speaking perfect Latin?" He writes:

"My job is to assist people seeking help, not to convince doctors who are not subject to suasion. Yet I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners nowadays who are open to entertaining such hypotheses. Many believe exactly what I do, though they may be reluctant to speak out."

See the entire article for Gallagher writing about science and reason, skepticism, and his working within the Roman Catholic Church.

Note: I just purchased the well-reviewed new book by Richard Beck, Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted.