Demonic or Dementia
Dr. Michael L. Ford
D.Min. Christian Counseling
In the course of ministry I have seen people under demonic influence and those suffering with the onset of dementia. As a Christian Counselor I attended training sessions with both afflictions as their subject. Most in secular professions dealing with the mind do not believe in the demonic, much less demonic possession or oppression. But not all dismiss this out of hand. One psychiatrist I met does believe. He was convinced when a former client came back to see him. When she tried, with superhuman strength, to throw him out the window of his skyscraper office he was converted. He had not believed her some years earlier when she claimed she was being bothered by demonic forces, but thought her problems serious enough to require institutionalization for treatment. After several years she was pronounced cured. It was on the follow up visit that this cured woman tried to throw him out the window.
We know demonic beings have divisions of responsibility in their organization. Some are responsible for regions of the world. Others are involved in the events and machinations political. And there are evil beings whose focus is upon individuals. (Ephesians 6:12) Most people truly knowledgeable on the subject do not believe a Christian can be demonically possessed but they can be demonically oppressed. Possession enters into a person to control them. Oppression can involve discomfiture, influence and/or harassment from without. Sometimes mentally aberrant conditions can be misinterpreted as demonic. It is those who see every mental disorder as being demonic that hurt acceptance of the reality of fallen angels influence and hurt the cause of Christianity.
Both men and women are subject to demonic forces just as they are impacted by mental problems including those closely associated with aging such as dementia. There are situations that seem to appear in one sex more than the other in both areas as well. For instance men in particularly vulnerable physical circumstance are more likely to be bothered by a sexual demon which appears at those times in disguise. This being is called a succubus. The less common form that singles out women is called an incubus. It may well be some of the experiences of abductions by aliens are actually caused by such creatures since the abductee calling out for Jesus help ends the attempt. There is more to be said about the sexual factor that should be addressed in another paper.
Since problems of the mind so closely parallel those often seen coming from other worldly forces it is often difficult to determine what the actual condition is you are looking at. Sometimes medical testing can be helpful but this is not always available to the person seeking a correct diagnosis. Often times the person bringing a case to a counselor or pastor is not the subject of concern. There is one person I have been watching a number of years where this is the case. (Matthew 6:27) This woman is highly placed politically and since she was born in 1940 is of an age (74) where mental problems like dementia might appear. She was raised in a political family and moved from a party worker to an office holder in 1987. During her career, though she has claimed strong attachment to her Church affiliation, she has actively positioned herself in opposition to its teachings.
In August of 2012, I consulted with a well-known minister well familiar with demonism. This was caused by a claim she made that during a White House visit in a Bush administration she had found herself sitting at a table with a number of dead suffragettes occupying her seat with her. She named several including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and Sojourner Truth. These particular persons, when you know their history, may well have had demonic spirits within. It is not unusual for such beings to reveal themselves in the form of a person inhabited in the past. For instance a missionary to Africa told about being followed by the evil spirit that once inhabited a tribal witchdoctor he led to Christ. This spirit would keep showing up in a corner watching him preach in the form of the witchdoctor he once possessed.
The fact is she could have hallucinated or dreamed the White House occasion she spoke of. Even though she claimed “they” spoke in a way indicating awareness of where they were does not mean the experience was real. The belief in the experience could signal the onset of dementia. Also there is other evidences such as disjointed speech; loss of train of thought; confusion about facts; and lack of contact with reality. All of these can be connected with either affliction. Do you see how hard it can be to make a diagnosis?
The situation can be improved by contact with the individual instead of distant observation. One of the most powerful determinants in such a circumstance where the diagnosis is uncertain comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Very often a demoniac will have a very negative reaction to a Christian that is quite different from how a demented person might act as well. On one occasion I actually had a demon speak to me unbidden from within the person he inhabited. He tried to make accusation in order to cause me to falter in what I was about.
It is not surprising people in mental health fields do not recognize the demonic when they do not know the Lord as their Saviour. It is slightly more surprising when Christians in the field honestly do not believe without an unsettling event. But people often do not connect their Bible with the world around them. And others are simply ignorant of what the Scripture says. For those in the field that do believe I have a caution. Misdiagnosis in either direction is a grave disservice to the person suffering from either the demonic or dementia.