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The Truth about Demons from Demons
March 16, 2010 1:32 PM   Subscribe

The source Fr. Amoth refers to, according to Fr. Fortea, is the demons who are being exorcised. Of this, the Spanish priest wrote that knowing whether or not the demon is telling the truth "is in many cases impossible." "We can know with great confidence when a demon tells the truth in the subject directly related with the exorcism. That is, the number of demons, their name and similar things. But we cannot be confident in what regards concrete news relating to people."

Excerpt of Fr. Amoth's Book "Power of Satan"

INDE AB ALIQUOT ANNIS - On The Current Norms Governing Exorcisms - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

a bit of exorcist history
posted by ServSci (57 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not that demons are liars, per se. It's that our version of the truth only appeals to a certain market share. Luckily, it's a very popular market.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2010


apocalyptic messages and revelations about the infiltration of Satanism and the Masons within the dome of the Church

Dan Brown's influence rears its ugly head, even in the pits of Hell.
posted by hippybear at 1:41 PM on March 16, 2010


Actually, hippybear, that "satanism/masons" thing may also be from Malachi Martin. I did some research for a potential TV special about exorcism about ten years ago (Looooooooooooooooooong story), and came across Martin's writings about there being whole sekrit cabals at the Vatican that seemed coincidentally to heat up right around the time of Vatican II.

The show never got made, I quit the company in question for unrelated reasons soon after, and my research partner and I dismissed Martin as a nutbag.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Amoth" is a pretty good name for someone writing about demons.
posted by grobstein at 1:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Four exorcisms a day. Yes, it’s a devil of a job.
posted by adamvasco at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Amoth" is a pretty good name for someone writing about demons.

So's Fortea.
posted by vorfeed at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2010


It's a six demon bag.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not that demons are liars

No, it's that we don't lie all the time that confuses some people.
posted by quin at 2:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a pretty bad Heath Ledger movie about secret Satanitc cabals in the Church (it also involved sin-eaters, which is a pretty interesting concept). It had some cool scenes, like when the Satanic bishop wanted to perform a divination, they'd hang a priest and he'd choke out the answers to their questions as he hung twitching from the noose. It felt like it could've been a much cooler story if it'd been stretched into a mini-series on cable or something.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2010


No, it's that we don't lie all the time that confuses some people.

Or do we?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The truth about demons; they know just the right time to come into your house. If you have party snacks, frozen pizzas, or hot wings they know. They us the last of the toilet paper and always leave the empty roll. They can move objects with their mind; car keys, condoms (i've said to much), laserdiscs, and they can make your armpits stink.
posted by nola at 2:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's actually Father Amorth, which is even better than Amoth.

Father Amorth loved "The Exorcist," by the way.
posted by blucevalo at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2010


If the entire book is like that excerpt, it sounds interesting. For example, I hadn't seen his particular version of God's plan and Satan's rebellion yet (I mean, I had seen bits of it, but never spelled out that "Satan rebelled because he didn't understand The Plan (TM) because Christ hadn't showed up yet". In most of the versions, he just understands and doesn't like The Plan (TM)).
posted by qvantamon at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2010


It is "Amorth"... weird I have no explanation for how that "R" got lost in all my cutting and pasting... twice. Demons, I guess.

Thanks infinitywaltz, I guess that was the Order: "Alex Bernier (Ledger) is a member of an arcane order of priests known as Carolingians. When the head of the order dies,..." youtube trailer.

cool.
posted by ServSci at 2:47 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm not particularly confident of the accuracy of the third ("exorcised") link even in expounding Catholic doctrine. From "The Ritual of Exorcism" on that page, claiming that the exorcist should bring a Bible as the posessed person will identify a relevant passage: "One girl indicated the story of Jacob and Essau [sic]. Her twin brother was murdered at three months of age. She was the second to be born and like Jacob became the first through infanticide." In fact, Esau is not killed at all in the Bible, let alone as an infant. While Jacob buys Esau's birthright and later tricks their blind father into blessing him as the firstborn, Jacob and Esau eventually reconcile.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:47 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm glad I'm not the only one who said 'Amorth! Rock on...oh, wait. That's Amarth I'm thinking of.'

That being said, the picture of him in the Times Online article makes this whole thing feel even more like a Metalocalypse subplot.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 3:03 PM on March 16, 2010


The encyclopedia linked to in "demon" is from 1913, as well. So it isn't particularly up-to-date, i just thought the project of scanning the original pages and then transcribing them was interesting... and the implied one-upmanship of newadvent.org with the Original Catholic Encyclopedia was funny.

Anyway, the truth about demons is best found elsewhere maybe.
posted by ServSci at 3:06 PM on March 16, 2010


DevilsAdvocate, I think there is good reason to doubt the linked article. The author does appear to be a Catholic Priest in Trinidad, but there's the error you point out and I noticed another:
The appendix of the Roman Ritual has the longer rite of exorcism and states that the exorcist should "Superpelliceo et stola violacea indutus," (wear an alb and a purple stole) right before the part of the prayer that begins "Ecce crucem domine, fúgite partes advérsae."
The "Superpelliceo" is the surplice. The Latin word for alb is "albam".
posted by Jahaza at 3:19 PM on March 16, 2010


I guess that was The Order

Yeah, that's the one.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:22 PM on March 16, 2010


Casting out critters is not all that complicated.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:38 PM on March 16, 2010


Casting out critters is not all that complicated.

No, getting them nice and crispy without overcooking them is the real challenge.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:45 PM on March 16, 2010


De devil is in de tails. De crispy, tasty tails.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:50 PM on March 16, 2010


I'm pleased that people still take this sort of backwards-assed superstitious nonsense seriously...


And by pleased, I mean face-palmingly mortified.
posted by stenseng at 4:41 PM on March 16, 2010


This topic makes my head spin. (Get it?)

As a formerly brainwashed believer in these invisible gremlins, I really feel sorry for those who buy into it, and their children. I had a lot of childhood fears of dark hooded beings, flitting about my house and trying to enter my soul. These fears remained into adulthood until I became un-converted. I was so relieved that they didn't exist.
posted by TreeHugger at 5:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know people who've seen them, and I've been around quiet exorcisms and seen some things. It's real.

But it ain't like the movies unless you ain't doing it right.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:24 PM on March 16, 2010


Ha cha!
posted by everichon at 5:31 PM on March 16, 2010


Casting out critters is not all that complicated.literally believe in the existence of malevolent supernatural forces conspiring to trick human beings into committing evil acts and you have the gall to refer to them like some goddamn pest control expert trying to act all nonchalant in front of the housewife? Stop dressing this nonsense up in the folksy rhetoric, please. You believe that the voices some people hear are attached to real beings whose sole purpose is to fuck with us for incredibly high - indeed eternal - stakes so start acting like you take this garbage seriously. Because if you do, well. And if you don't, you're just trolling.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:14 PM on March 16, 2010


A ha! Formatting demon strikes again. Better call a sexorcist.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:15 PM on March 16, 2010


Grew up in a Pentecostal church, everything but the snakes, and there were rumors about them.

Here's what an exorcism is like: Take a PSD vet and play gunfire sounds at 130db while showing scenes of civilians being killed on a 50" plasma three feet from his eyes.

Some kind of authentic (for certain values of authentic) reaction? Sure. A completely induced and unforgivable experience? Most certainly.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


and I've been around quiet exorcisms and seen some things. It's real.

Please take pictures next time.
posted by gtr at 6:48 PM on March 16, 2010


I've seen some things, too.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:53 PM on March 16, 2010


I've been to gatherings of hippies in San Francisco and have watched the figures in the pencil sketches on the wall dance in the dim light. It's real.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2010


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.

Like attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. And this one time, I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.

Those things were real, but lost in time, like tears... in rain.
posted by quin at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


One might mention that "The Devil lives in the Vatican" — says the the Pope's Chief Exorcist.

If that isn't something that should call the faithful to action, I dunno what is. I mean, shit, freakin' Satan is living inside the Vatican compound? Excuse my language, but Holy Fuck!, shouldn't we be tossing a nuke at it or something like that?

Can the Devil even be nuked? Garlic, we should drop all the world's supply of garlic on Vatican City. Nope, that's Vampires. Damn. How the heck do you get rid of the Anti-Christ?

Note: The Pope is not the anti-Christ; it would be far too d-uh obvious.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm seeing things right now. A laptop, a kitchen counter, a loaf of bread...
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:30 PM on March 16, 2010


Satan is living inside the Vatican compound?

Look, I'm just middle management. I mean, I'm a bit above an imp, but I'm not anywhere near the Arches, if you know what I'm saying, so I don't have the full story. But from what I hear, the Big Horned Guy, actually moved to the Florida Keys a few years ago. I guess he spent a lot of time in Miami in the '80s, and just sort of lost his taste for all of it, so he just kept heading South.

As the story goes, he kinda wanders around in novelty t-shirts, knee length shorts and sandals, and charters snorkel tours of the reefs. (He calls the boat 'Crossing Styx'.. like that is clever or something... I figure people assume he's an old rock drummer,)

It sorta makes sense if you think about it, I mean, you can only be the villain for so long before you get, I don't know, tired of everyone looking to take you down.

Word on the street suggests that he has absolutely killer weed. But don't tell anyone I said anything. He's gone casual, but I don't want him reminded of his old days...
posted by quin at 9:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jimmy Buffet is the Devil? Hell's bells, but I like listening to him sometimes! What a dastardly demon!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2010


Please take pictures next time.

Dude, privacy issues! HIPPA on steroids, even.

I know you were joking, and the majority here think this is nuts....but the universe is a wild and wooly place, and the material dimension is just part of it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:54 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I used to work with a cook who used to work with Jimmy Buffett. Unless he's changed his mind about his old pal, he might agree with you.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:54 PM on March 16, 2010


There certainly are demons, if you just believe it enough! That's why there's Clozapine® It's your handy exorcism in a convenient tablet!

Those who believe the Dog tells them what to do will need Enipazolc®
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 PM on March 16, 2010


No, it's that we don't lie all the time that confuses some people.

Or do we?


Epimenides the demon tells me that demons are always liars. He has surely told the truth.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


but the universe is a wild and wooly place

Yeah, 6000 years worth of wild wooliness. Spare me.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:04 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Protestant angle on exorcism is even more interesting and troubling, but I thought the hierarchy/authority issues in the Catholic Church made this more interesting. Widespread charismatic beliefs about casting out demons wouldn't be all that surprising, but I get the feeling that the Church is uncomfortable talking about supernatural intervention in day to day life, without being able to downplay it too much... In the link to the Inquisition's document above, Ratzinger is obviously trying to circumscribe and control something that is perceived as dangerous...

Seeing this in-fighting between The Master and the Student here (Amorth & Fortea, respectively) and the allegations of Demonic influence being made by the Official legitimate authority on these issues within the hierarchy, makes the whole thing seem like a strange, dramatic serious conflict... but it's all over a problem that seems pretty absurd to me, personally. (I'm already doomed, though, so I probably live in a state of perpetual demonic influence as far as an insider would be concerned)

I agree that believers should take it very seriously, though... this is not just some wingnut making conspiracy claims. Even if it sounds ridiculous to them too, I think that coming to grips with the Church's official position on this stuff would be important.
posted by ServSci at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2010


....Actually....

In doing that research, we found something fairly interesting. For the most part, most of the Catholic Church proper really doesn't talk too much about exorcism. Yeah, there's a rite for it, and yeah, they do it, but:

1. You gotta prove that you went to a doctor and a psychiatrist first. You gotta really, really prove that there isn't a more logical explanation for what you're claiming is possession. I found that there are actually four very, very specific conditions a "possession case" has to meet before the church will do an exorcism -- 1) being able to speak a language the person hasn't ever heard before, 2) knowing about things that were "distant or hidden" (i.e., you're in Topeka, but you know in detail what someone in Tibet is doing), 3) you have knowledge about future events (i.e., you make a detailed statement about something that's going to happen tomorrow, and it's 100% right), and 4) superhuman strength. If you don't meet those rules, well....then it ain't possession, and an exorcism won't work.

2. They don't like talking about it in the "we did X number of exorcisms behold our awesome power" sense. It's more of an "...okay, yeah, it happens. But it's a really, really rare situation, we wish we didn't have to, but all we know is that this has worked in the past."

Our research team had a conversation with a priest at Fordham who'd been a consultant for the first Exorcist movie, and his take seemed to be pretty much that well, there are some unexplained phenomena that seem to be alleviated by exorcisms (he won me over when he then quoted Hamlet -- "after all, 'there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...'"). But when one of our research team -- a guy who was very, very "omigod the Devil exists and this is real and it's scary" in his beliefs -- excitedly asked him that "Father, do you think that maybe the reason people aren't believing as much in the Devil any more is because the Devil is making it LOOK like he doesn't exist?" The priest looked at him very, very dubiously and said, "uh...no, I....I think that may be a bit far-fetched." I could tell he was just barely trying to restrain his "dude, you're nuts" reaction.

The denominations we found who seemed to do the most exorcisms and find more cases of "possession" were the charismatic Protestant faiths. And, studying a lot of the cases of "home exorcisms gone wrong", you 'll find more often that it's a charismatic group involved.

But this was in 1998. In more recent years I'm seeing more cases of the RCC going a bit more "public" with exorcisms, but I'm seeing this as more of a sign of a bit of a schism within the church itself. There are some conservative Catholics who are still unhappy about Vatican II -- in fact, Pope Benedict's election is related to that very schism. I think the more conservative factions are the same ones that are a bit more willing to be vocal about exorcism -- along with preserving many of the more restrictive rules in Catholic dogma, and ALSO wanting to go back to a Latin Mass and turning back the clock on other Vatican II things. They thought JP II went a bit too far.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


...And I should probably say something about this:

Okay. My research partner and I found a fairly even set of stats -- we looked at how in the past, cases of mental illness, from epilepsy to schizophrenia, were mistaken for possession. We also looked at how the power of suggestion could possibly be influencing a lot of possession cases, and how these advances in medical science and better understanding of the human brain have cut down on the perceived "need" for exorcisms.

And yet - we kept coming back to those four specific conditions the RCC placed on exorcism cases. We simply could not find any other scientific explanation for those specific four things. So we ended up taking a sort of "Agent Scully" approach to it -- we didn't (and I still won't) definitively say that demons exist. I still don't. However, perhaps there is a very specific kind of mental illness -- my partner and I referred to it amongst ourselves as "Psychosis X" -- that we do not know a more effective treatment for, or more details about. But, for whatever reason, the process of going through an exorcism cures most of the sufferers. Even if it's just because of the power of suggestion, it works, and it's the best treatment we got, so...there it is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do like the seriousness with which the Catholic Church screens folks, altho I think their criteria is a bit too strict. But it is extreme wisdom to screen for mental illness or other medical issues first, because they definitely are two different things. In my circles, we simply jokingly say that if a pill works, it's not a demon (because unfortunately there are those who don't believe in medication for mental illness, and want to see the proverbial demon behind every bush.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:24 AM on March 17, 2010


I do like the seriousness with which the Catholic Church screens folks, altho I think their criteria is a bit too strict.

Definitely too strict - and heavy with the stereotyping, too. Not all demons are multilingual fortune tellers, you know. Most of us are pretty... slow, truth be told. That's why we're demons instead of, say, architects. Limited prospects. That's also why we're so hard to get rid of, though. Most people don't recognize gullibility as our handiwork, although it's arguably our greatest export. Do what you know, right? It's the secret behind every great success story.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:27 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not all demons are multilingual fortune tellers,

This made me laugh.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2010


Good. Not trying to take any shots. I'm just the court jester.



(in Hell)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2010


The demons you really need to look out for are those sent by Screwtape. They show themselves as virtuous people, people of faith. But they preach a gospel that is distorted, turning the words of Christ on their head.

It is my belief that we have a good many Screwtape-supported “Christians” in our midst, and that they are largely responsible for the push against gay marriage, against safe abortions, and against the separation of church and state. Some of them hang out here on MeFi.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You mean 5800 years, Joe.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:41 PM on March 17, 2010


FFF: Efforts have lately been concentrated on the Texas Bored of Education
posted by Goofyy at 11:34 PM on March 17, 2010


Not all demons are multilingual fortune tellers, you know.

EmpressCallipygos's post is a little misleading as I understand it. I don't think all four conditions (remote knowledge, future knowledge, unknown language, strength), are required for an exorcism, but that each is believed to provide evidence for demonic activity.
posted by Jahaza at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2010


I don't think all four conditions (remote knowledge, future knowledge, unknown language, strength), are required for an exorcism, but that each is believed to provide evidence for demonic activity.

...To clarify: those four conditions are things the Roman Catholic Church says are necessary to perform an exorcism themselves. Other denominations may do different things.

And according to my research, yes, the Roman Catholic Rite does require all four things -- or, at least, they did as of 1998. I have, however, recently read that things changed a little in 1999, but I admit I didn't read further to explore how.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on March 18, 2010


Hit post too soon, sorry -- ultimately, though, the point I wanted to make is that the RCC doesn't wear its demon-huntin' on its sleeve, and is pretty particular about it being a last resort and that you gotta make fordamnsure that it ain't a medical problem first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on March 18, 2010


Here's the relevant excerpt from the Roman Ritual (in Fr. Weller's translation):
3. Especially, [a priest who intends to perform an exorcism] should not believe too readily that a person is possessed by an evil spirit; but he ought to ascertain the signs by which a person possessed can be distinguished from one who is suffering from some illness, especially one of a psychological nature. Signs of possession may be the following: ability to speak with some facility in a strange tongue or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition; and various other indications which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence.
So, while these are recognized signs, they're not an exhaustive list nor checklist of conditions neccesary before an exorcism can be carried out.

I've left aside, as you did, whether these conditions were changed in 1998, by De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam as I don't have access to a translation of that text.
posted by Jahaza at 3:16 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am going to become a Potatoist.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 PM on March 18, 2010


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