Sunday, October 12, 2008

Anneliese Michel

I like to blog.  I used to have trouble sleeping some times because my mind would start racing. Blogging helps me to process things and get things off my mind.

Here's the deal, I've got something on my mind.  I've blogged before about my fascination and yet dismissive attitude about the paranormal. But lately I'm a little freaked out.
Ever since I saw The Ring I was freaked out by scary movies.
Maybe since becoming a father or just getting older I have an increased empathetic response to 
characters in movies.  Suspension of disbelief has never been a issue with me, I've always had an active imagination and tendency to really put myself into a movie, so maybe that's it.
This weekend I saw The Exorcism of Emily Rose.  It was a little disturbing.  I understood that it was based on a true story.  I figured the girl was mentally ill.  There was a history of mental illness in her family, some of her 'attacks' seemed like epileptic seizures, and he may have suffered from some kind of schizophrenia as well.  Combine that with Catholic guilt and superstition and you have a pretty good explanation.  
On a side note, in some African religions (like Yoruba) possession is not a bad thing.  The gods are largely morally neutral and even if you are possessed by a god that happens to be in a bad mood that day, it is still a good thing that you were blessed by his presence.  It is also important to note that most of these 'possessions' are nothing more that stimulated states of altered consciousness that can be scientifically duplicated.

However...

Some of the things didn't add up.  She had 'exposure' to the study of foreign language.  I've studied foreign languages.  It doesn't make sense to me that someone would be able to converse, curse and blaspheme in six different languages from an 'exposure' to these languages.  I'm sure that the first thing Catholic kids do when they study dead languages is share how to drop the f-bomb in greek, hebrew, aramaic, and latin.  But, that's not really the same thing. 

The prosecution said that the girl was able to emit two voices at once because humans actually have two sets of vocal chords and that some tibetan monks are able to master the skill of making their second vocal chords make sounds...
hmm...
some monks.... master... make a sound.
I'm not sure about that either.

Now, I've read a bit about demonology.  I've studied Goetic and Solominic keys.  I know about the power of spirt naming and recognizing subduing counter parts.  So when the demons identified themselves as Judas, Nero, Hitler, and a few other notorious humans, then I pretty quickly dismissed this case as just some crazy girl.
But, according to the tradition, when called out, demons will never give you a straight answer.
So not much help there.

Mental illness isn't contagious.  Many people surrounding the case experienced unsettling phenomenon that were reported by the girl when she first began having problems.  
I've seen a lot of scary behavior from mentally ill people, but... not like this.  And then there is the whole super strength/contortion/scaring animals thing.  I don't know what to make of that.

Okay, so here it is.  Photos of the real girl, Germany 1976, and actual recordings from the exorcism.  
WARNING, IF YOU ARE EASILY FREAKED OUT OR HAVE LITTLE KIDS AROUND, THEN DON'T CLICK THIS LINK

I tend to keep my theology minimalist, practical and rational.
Every time I look at the facts it seems pretty straight forward, a sad case where a girl needlessly suffered and died because of ignorance and superstition.
But it's just freaky enough that if causes me to doubt my beliefs.
I try to seek out things that challenge my world view.  And as I've said before, I try to moderate my convictions by remembering that every time I have ever been wrong, I thought I was right.  I have a hard time fitting something messy like demons or possession into my neat modern and civilized theology, and I have to admit... I fear the unknown. 

***my apologies, I was recently corrected that Michel did not say that she was possessed by Hitler, Nero, and Judas, but that 'he who dwells within' was also 'within' Hitler, Nero, and Judas.

She did say that she was possessed by Bilial, who actually is one of the the traditionally named demons.

sorry bout that


*** also, since I am a liberal protestant, I was recently refered to the book People of the Lie by Scott Peck, a spiritual/rationalist psychologist that wrote on the 'Question of existential evil'.

3 comments:

Don't be Swindle! said...

my apologies, I was recently corrected that Michel did not say that she was possessed by Hitler, Nero, and Judas, but that 'he who dwells within' was also 'within' Hitler, Nero, and Judas.

She did say that she was possessed by Bilial, who actually is one of the the traditionally named demons.

sorry bout that

paingel said...

The Ring freaked you out? You shouldn't admit that out loud.

I did enjoy reading this post. I've accepted my simple mindedness.

Don't be Swindle! said...

lol, fair enough :)