A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Return of Revenge of the Ghost Entry

Some of you may recall a series I started about ghosts some time ago. At that time, I fully intended to conclude my series with a discussion of the different reasons there might be for human spirits to come to or linger around earth after death. However, I've decided not to do that, at least not as planned. My original plan was simply to share a list from Peter Kreeft's Angels (And Demons): What do we really know about them? On closer thought, this seemed unwise for three reasons. To-wit:

1) This might constitute plagiarism. I should encourage people to buy the book.

2) Even if it's not theft of someone else's intellectual property, it's silly to spend a post just repeating another author's words. I should just encourage people to get the facts from the book directly.

3) I never finished reading the book anyway, so it's hardly fair to report from it.

I think you'll find that last point to be conclusive. I certainly did. But lest you think that I've gotten lazy in my reading, I want to report on a book which I did finish. (It helped that this book was 99 pages shorter than Kreeft's book. [Did I mention that Kreeft's book is only 148 pages long?]) The book which I did manage to read is Begone, Satan! If you click on the link to the left, you'll see that this book is published not by the conservative but sane Ignatius Press, which published the Kreeft book in question, but by the slightly fanatical and decidedly old-fashioned TAN books. If you are familiar with the world of Catholic publishing, that should give you a hint as to what kind of book this is.

To be fair, I want to make clear that I do very much appreciate the work TAN books does in reprinting some of the classic books of Catholic theology and devotion. Begone, Satan!, however, is not one of those classics. It is badly organized, written in a bizarre overly-pious dialect which sounds as if it came from the eighteenth century (sorry Tulip!), and it leaves unexplained a number of the events it describes.

One the strangest facts of this exorcism was that the woman in question was possessed by the spirit of her dead father, Jacob. That's right, her father possessed her. How can this be? Human beings can't become demons, and only demons possess people. . . right?

Since the book in question was from the 1930s, I thought perhaps an older resource might help me understand it. I turned to the trusty Catholic Encyclopedia in hopes that it would help me solve this dilemma. It did not. I did learn that the word "devil" is actually a synonym for "demon," not just the title of the leader of the demons. And, according to the entry on devils, "it is clearly taught that the Devil and the other demons are spiritual or angelic creatures created by God in a state of innocence, and that they became evil by their own act." So one can't describe a human soul as being literally either a demon or a devil: both terms refer to fallen angels.

My hopes that other articles might clarify the matter were in vain. The article on Exorcism states that "Exorcism is (1) the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice; " but it doesn't mention whether the evil spirits are always demonic in nature. I did, however, learn a cool new word: "energumen." It means someone possessed by an evil spirit. Use that word well!

So, I leave you with this mystery: is it in fact possible for a human being to be possessed by the spirit of a deceased human being? This may in fact be a Catholic tradition, but if so, I've only heard of it recently. Perhaps one of my readers will know more?


Anonymous Becky said...

Tan publishes weird stuff. I have certainly never heard of anything like this. I don't trust many of their books.

10:57 PM  

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