Beyond Exorcism -
New Approaches to Entity Handling

by Christine Norstrand

Introduction

. . . and no two days are the same and no two voices are the same and one is a loose structure of many beings-- James Hillman

It's safe to come out from under the bed now. It's all been very hush-hush, this talk about spirits. It's been denounced as superstition and at the same time been the common thread that has held together such secret societies as the Order of the Golden Dawn. Let's take a look at what we already know about spirits and what can, and especially what should, be done about them.

Definition

I remember my first recognition of such things; Frank Zappa sang "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" in my head for an entire afternoon. Nothing could drive it away or replace it. Song circuits that play repeatedly are a common form of entity. What do we mean by entity? For the purposes of this article, I use entity to mean any mental or spiritual phenomena that seems to have a consciousness, a life of its own.

Nature of Entities

But what is it really? That's viewpoint-dependent. It may be a neural-synaptic misfire, a food allergy, a neurotransmitter or hormonal imbalance. Each analysis suggests a different method of address. From the muses who-inspired the ancients to the aborigines of Australia, every culture bears a rich legacy of myth and tales about fairies and magical creatures. Perhaps these are merely airy explanations where no empirical evidence suggests an explanation. Then again, so may be such phenomena as quarks. I have no evidence that the definition of entity used here is anything more than hypothetical, without empirical verification, yet it is one which I believe you will find incredibly workable.

Why Address Entities

In this article, I make use of the term viewing to talk about that activity that defines a session. I prefer the term viewing to traditional terms because it serves as a reminder that the person in front of us is causatively involved in a transformational process, not a subject upon whom we create intended effects. That process is independent of us yet we can, by directing the person's attention or by asking the correct question at the correct time, facilitate the person's transformation. I also value the term because it validates the viewer's power to responsibly examine and change her considerations about her current situation, and by so doing change her life and the world we live in.

The best reason to take up the subject of entities in viewing is that your viewer brings it up, often half-apologetically, as if she anticipates pushing the limits of your credulity. It certainly wouldn't be my entrance point in session discussions unless she brought it up. Suppose what's bothering your viewer is not resolving any other way? If your viewer complains about thoughts that don't seem to be her own, case manifestations that aren't hers, session agenda items resolve for her but seem to come back out of nowhere, and those scary creatures that just won't be ignored in the middle of the night, well, it might be time to take a closer look. However, the road isn't smooth. Our culture pathologizes experience whisper entity and a dissociative disorder lurks around the corner. Moreover, the accessibility of information and the dissemination of various sacred scriptures across the internet may have your viewer in a state of electrification on the subject.

She may have been told that she must first complete some predetermined agenda that is not her own it won't alleviate the problem and may effectively bypass her area of interest. If her area of interest is bypassed, she becomes less a causative participant in the session and more the effect of your decisions, which is not your intention. Moreover, you would have stirred up, by coming close to but not taking up, a hot subject.

So what will you do?

Resolving immediate upsets, worries, and transgressions may prove a workable first action but the question of whether the upset or worry being looked at belongs to the person or an entity is sure to come up. It may seem, as an overwhelmed viewer once told me, that everyone is yelling at once. In such a circumstance, unblocking procedures are likely to stir up more of what you're trying to calm down. Then there's the matter of botched prior handlings, both in and out of session. In fact, entities that have been previously addressed in an adversarial fashion or who have been invalidated and ignored are most likely to give your viewer trouble.

Specifically, entities can be wanted or unwanted. The traditional focus has been on unwanted entities and has assumed that all entities are unwanted and detrimental. Before we look at ways to resolve difficulties with unwanted entities, let's consider times when entities might be beneficial.

Too often, we take these benefits for granted. In his essay On the Prejudices of Philosophers, Nietzsche points out that I shall never tire of underlining a concise little fact which these superstitious people are loath to admit namely, that a thought comes when 'it' wants, not when 'I' want. The ancient Greeks believed that such inspirations came from muses, and sought to foster such relationships.

Magicians through the centuries have invoked the spirits, sometimes to do their bidding and sometimes to serve as inner guides to help them. The fairy godmother and guardian angel figures permeate the mythologies of many cultures. Again, whether or not this guide is merely an encysted phenomena (a case manifestation that has taken on a life of its own with its own boundaries of consciousness), for our purposes it exists as a separate entity or being. At the heart of many initiation rituals is the idea of getting in touch with one's spirit guide, who often makes itself known in some animal or natural form.

Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross all underwent lifechanging experiences which included the manifestation of entities in the forms of angels and demons. What is the difference between a religious experience and what is traditionally considered a schizophrenic episode? Both are major departures from common reality, are literal interpretations of a metaphysical reality that can't be verified or disproved. Saints and mystics have experienced angels and demons alike, and their experiences are central to many religions in many cultures. The experience has its own image, angel or demon; it takes on a form, a persona, and this we consider an entity. Such mystical experiences may be desirable.

However, it is unwanted entities or, more exactly, symptoms brought about by mishandled entities that are more likely to find their way to your door. By mishandled, I mean a consciousness has been falsely threatened as a lifeless object, a non-thing. This constitutes the greatest invalidation possible to any living thing. Case manifestations you may encounter include premonitions of impending and inevitable doom. Often this occurs because an antagonistic entity stirs up something in your viewer's personal history. Do difficulties appear to resolve and then reappear unresolved despite extensive work on her considerations and real world circumstances? Something is continuing to put the difficulties there there and it's not because your viewer's great aunt Lucy won't talk to her.

Entrance Points

There are two possible entrance points. Either your viewer needs cooling off handling herself, which does not address entities or sessions will consist of you coaching her to communicate and handle the entities of which she is aware. It is helpful to work with a good technical director when handling entities as it allows one to keep one's case assessment and facilitation tasks separate, avoiding the traditional pitfalls of projection and misidentification.

When you first meet the viewer, she may be continually talking about beings and spirits and such. Whether she is a high-level case or overwhelmed by her current environment, your initial steps will be the same: A monitored sequence of steps to alleviate physical body stresses that includes regular exercise, good food and supplements, even nutritional consultation, a thorough intake assessment of her current environment and relationships, and actions to resolve any threatening factors in her environment outlined and embarked upon. You know the drill. But then what?

Here your case assessment skills must be up to snuff. You assess her state of case of looking at how she is doing in real life. She may have taken on some big games, but how is she doing at it?

The first possibility to consider is that she is overwhelmed, always in a state of being stirred up, in which case you use everything in your bag of tricks to get her calmed down and oriented in her current environment. The theory and methods of that are the subject of a different article, but all of my experience as a facilitator and technical director points to look for the biggest thing in her environment that is keeping her stirred up unrealized chronic pain, dangerous threat in her surroundings, or drugs. It's never something small. It is always on the magnitude of an elephant in the living room. If entities are a hot item with her, look for that person in her environment who invalidates her reality and tells her there's no such thing.

The most important thing initially, no matter what her case condition, is that you do not interpret her reality for her. In this you differ from the most loyal friend and the most compassionate therapist, both of whom will question her assessment of reality and suggest other possible realities to her. A process is underway and your purpose is to facilitate that process. You suggest no other reality as more valid than hers. If you do not state, or even imply, that what she's telling you is unreal, she may stop asserting it long enough to change her mind. Changing her mind is what freedom is all about.

Methods

Exorcism A Limited Theory

Let's take another look at our working definition of entity any mental or spiritual phenomena that seems to have a consciousness, a life of its own. The difficulty immediately suggests itself: Exorcism tends to treat a consciousness as a thing, an object, without life. Yes, religious and therapeutic exorcisms are possible but they often occur by the power of force, for which we rightly anticipate an equal and opposite reaction. The consequences of that equal and opposite reaction can be devastating to the body. A particular entity may be so antagonistic to the viewer that an exorcism approach may appear to be the only one possible in her current state. She may be seriously ill, sleepless, in pain. Even so, care for the body, good food, and light communication and orientation processes should be the first steps taken. Then, with the viewer somewhat shored up, you can establish communication with the entity. If earlier failed session actions have your viewer in a state of denial about entities, you can still lightly unburden the traumatic mishandling through exploring methods that ask for thoughts, feelings, and considerations. As always, only take up mental phenomena that are real to your viewer, no matter how real they are to you.

Integration Assets and Liabilities

You take in the daimonic which would possess you if you didn't. The one way to get over daimonic possession is to possess it, by frankly confronting it, coming to terms with it, integrating it into the self-system. The process yields several benefits. It strengthens the self because it brings in which has been left out. It overcomes the "split" which has consisted of the paralyzing ambivalence in the self. And it renders the person more "human" by breaking down the self-righteousness and aloof detachment that are the usual defenses of the human being who denies the daimonic. (Rollo May, Psychotherapy and the Daimonic)

A more common method than exorcism is to try to integrate the entity, to dissolve the entity in the personality of the individual. Although such a Gestalt-esque approach has some workability, it shares with exorcism a tendency to treat the entity as a thing and presupposes a single acceptable configuration of personality: One personality, one body, one experience of reality. Aspects of the entity that are similar to those disowned by the viewer are examined. She may recognize or seek to develop those aspects in herself, if they are traits she wishes to cultivate. Or she may buy into a weakness or inability, misidentifying with character traits that may be aberrations.

End Points

Both the exorcism and integration method share this as the chief pitfall: When is the entity handlingcomplete? As one layer of the onion is peeled away, a new one is exposed until that moment of nothing is attained. But in life, you cannot walk down the street, engage in communication or relationship with anything or anyone without life taking a new form, a new consciousness in front of you be it a new country, a new company, the newborn babe next door, or an entity of the sort we are discussing here. Perhaps it possible to unravel the woof and warp of existence itself but such a metaphysic is certainly outside the scope of this article. On a smaller scale, your viewer will neither spend her life under a Bodhi tree nor dissolve into the oneness of the universe. Both the integration and exorcism approaches are workable, but limited. In my opinion, they are inherently flawed. Happily there is another approach.

Handling the Entity in Front of You

One outcome of a technological society, and its centers for religious technology, is the willingness to see other people and the world as things whose purpose is to satisfy one's own needs. Both the exorcism and integration approaches, carried to extremes, tend to reflect this world view. So too, does the propitiation of divine or natural forces to serve one's own purpose.

I would like to suggest another way: To treat each other being, including entities, as the sacred manifestations of life that they are. Not as the object of a method or a procedure but because they are worthy of respect for their own sakes. If exorcism is what that entity needs to freely live the life he desires, then that the method your viewer works with. The entity may just be starved for a little acknowledgement, a need that can be easily satisfied with a simple Thank you or even some flowers on the table. If the entity asks for integration, then that's the approach. But it may be neither. How do you know? You communicate; you ask it. The answer might appear as an idea that pops into your viewer's head, a dream, or a hunch. Whatever it is, listen to it.

A close friend claims he is part of a conscious matrix of beings that freely choose to co-act together. This is an unconventional approach but I see that the concept works for him and that he is free from much of the alienation and anxiety that plagues so many. It seems to me preferable to the annihilation of entities that bear no ill will.

Unresolved Issues

While I discourage entity handling as a routine point of case entrance, entity handling may resolve issues that resolve no other way. In such a case, it is essential to consult with the viewer physically present in front of you. She acts as co-facilitator in handling the entity with whom she has a relationship, even an unwanted relationship, as there are points of agreement that link the viewer to the entity. In fact, it is unnecessary to mention entities as such. Unresolved or recurring feelings that are unresponsive to traditional methods can be addressed by checking if the feeling or condition seems to be located to a particular part of the body and if so, having your viewer ask the questions of the body part.

Communication

Conscious communication with entities has much to recommend it. I hold that entities of the sort we are discussing here are connected to us by a harmonic of our own spiritual considerations and deepseated beliefs. If the entity is antagonistic or grief-stricken, might one not coach the viewer to find out its upset and communicate until it is resolved? It occasionally may be necessary to command an entity to depart against its will, overwhelming it with force. But as a general policy? Or to force another to subsume its identity in our own? When we've been involved in relationships where our identities were overwhelmed, did it work for us?

If our viewer favors communication and coexistence with her entities, how are we to go about it? The methods are many and as varied and unique as your viewer. Having her listen to her entities and acknowledge them is simple and yet may be the most effective thing you can do. Often there will be no need for more elaborate techniques or sophisticated approaches. Where more is required, an individual program of session actions can be tailored for the handling of each entity or class of entities. The usual end point of that program would be that the viewer and the entity reach an understanding. When that understanding is attained, the entity may leave on his own, agree to be integrated into the viewer's personality, or to take his place at the summit where his voice can be heard when your viewer makes her life decisions. His wisdom, experience, and viewpoint are available for the asking. The result is a true community of interest, where each voice is heard and respected. At best, in the words of Dr. Jonathan Young, the whole choir of my favorite entities agrees.

Suggested readings & other references:

Campbell, Joseph. An Open Life.

Campbell, Joseph. Myths to Live By.

Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality.

Gerbode, Frank. Beyond Psychology, An Introduction to Metapsychology .

Hannah, Barbara. Active Imagination, Encounters with the Soul .

Hillman, James. The Dream & the Underworld.

Hillman, James. The Soul's Code, In Search of Character and Calling.

Hillman, James. Kinds of Power.

Johnson, Robert. Inner Work.

Jung, Carl G. (ed.). Man and His Symbols.

Tillich, Paul. Theology of Culture.

Young, Jonathan. personal communication.

Young, Jonathan (ed.). Saga.

(published in International Viewpoints, Fall 1996)



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