Do you worry that when people who have responsibility problems read about possession they will start blaming the Devil for their own irresponsible behavior?
Somebody through pure carelessness might think, "Peck says that the Devil is real and therefore the Devil made me do it," without reading the book or knowing anything more. But I don't feel I can be responsible for people using my work sloppily or inaccurately.
The key issue, and what attracted me to Malachi Martin's work on possession, was that he said that his cases became possessed for a reason: People cooperate in their own possession, and that means that they have a considerable degree of responsibility for it.
Shortly after People of the Lie was published, I was contacted by a lawyer from Chicago about a client he had who was guilty of murder and who he thought might be possessed. He asked if I would come out to Chicago at top dollar and interview his client to find out whether he was possessed. I said I would be happy to do that, but that he ought to realize that even if I found the patient was possessed, that wouldn't make him not guilty of the murder. This element of cooperation means that he would still have responsibility for being possessed. As soon as I told that lawyer that I wouldn't be able to testify that his client had no responsibility because he was possessed, he was no longer interested.
If a person has to cooperate to become possessed, what is the role of that person in the exorcism? What degree of will is involved, and how does that compare to the role of the exorcist and the role of Christ in exorcism?
There are four exorcists. The most important, the one that determines whether exorcism succeeds or not, is the patient himself or herself. Their choice is crucial in the expulsion. The second most important exorcist in the room is Christ or God. Third is the team. I don't think it can be done without a community. The exorcist, although essential, is the least important element. This is why I delighted to find out that in the Middle Ages exorcists used to be referred to as a minor order, that their role was really less important than that of parish priest.
And then the role of the exorcist of himself or herself?
Well I don't want to denigrate it. It can be tremendous. There's a lot of work involved in getting a team together and seeing that things are done right. And there are sacrifices the exorcist must make. And as I said in People of the Lie, it can be a heroic role. But the number one hero is the patient. There's just no doubt about that.
How does the possessed person's will get strengthened to the point where the person can exercise that will?
In ordinary psychotherapy, we talk about the "therapeutic alliance." With the therapist as an ally, the patient can become strong enough to be able to look at things in himself or herself or deal with things that he or she ordinarily would not be able to deal with.
In my experience, an exorcism is a paradoxical affair. On the one hand, six or seven people are ganging up on one. But on the other hand, it's six or seven people who are allied with that part of the person that wants to be free, that wants the truth. You've got a lot of power allied with the patient's motivation for freedom and truth.
So you're suggesting that something like the therapeutic alliance is formed with the team, with the exorcist, and with God.
Yes, very, very definitively.
Where should we focus our greatest fear of evil, on the Devil or on the evil in human hearts?
On the evil in human hearts. Given the dynamics of narcissism and laziness, I suspect most people don't need Satan to recruit them to evil. They're quite capable of recruiting themselves.
I honestly do not know how powerful Satan is. You know, the Devil's greatest strength is to make people not believe in it. But in an exorcism, the Devil does make itself manifest so that people can and do take it seriously. It's a big mistake for the Devil ever to get involved in exorcism. And it does so only because of its own arrogance and pride.
In many ways I think we've got things exactly wrong. The predominant view in our culture is that this is a naturally good world that has somehow become contaminated by evil.
It's much more likely, I think, that this is a naturally evil world which has somehow mysteriously been contaminated by goodness. And that the good bugs are growing and that indeed Satan is being defeated.
You know, we look at young children, and we rejoice in their smooth skin and spontaneity, but they're also all born liars, cheats, thieves, and manipulators. And it's hardly remarkable that many of them grow up to be adult liars, cheats, thieves, and manipulators. What's much more difficult to explain is why some of them grow up to be honest, God-fearing people. Saint Paul talked about "the mystery of iniquity," and this is all very mysterious stuff. Evil is a great mystery. But it pales, as far as I'm concerned, before the mystery of goodness, which is the even greater mystery.
Yes, I've come very firmly to believe in the Devil, but what its power is I don't know. And I don't think we'll begin to know until this stuff is researched scientifically. It is my great cry that this should happen. But it's not going to happen until there's a revolution within both science and religion. I've tried for years to get established an Institute for the Scientific Study of Deliverance. Deliverance ranging all the way from healing prayer to full-scale exorcism. And I've gotten absolutely nowhere.
We must also begin to look scientifically at evil in groups. Evil is a large power, particularly in institutions. And Paul said that Satan was the ruler of this world through principalities and powers. I think that his vision of the world was rather painful and unpleasant, but it seems the way we function.
Malachi Martin was a controversial figure, and you relied on him an awful lot. Yet you repeatedly talk about him lying to you. How did you know when to trust him and when not to? Was it intuition?
I think it was. In that first case, I was flying on some kind of an intuitive level and thank God for the Holy Spirit. I was really blessed. But my experience with Malachi was that when it came to what really counted, he was invariably truthful and correct. I must have gotten his advice on that case 30 different times. And he batted a thousand. He wasn't wrong once. He didn't miss. And although he lied to manipulate me into doing the exorcism, my expectations were utterly unrealistic. And he was, in fact, extremely supportive and loving during it.
That doesn't excuse all of the things he did in his earlier life. One of the books I read, of course was Robert Blair Kaiser's Clerical Error. About a third of it is about Malachi. He was a colorful guy.
A friend of mine read your book on golf, and I read your book on exorcism. The books are very different in their spiritual tone. In Glimpses of the Devil, you rely on orthodox Christian teaching. But my friend said that the golf book felt almost New Agey to him.
Well, the books are on very different subjects, but I'm not happy with being classified as New Agey, nor would I have been when I wrote the book.
In the golf book I talk about other religions a little bit, about paradox, and about mysticism in general, which is not a specifically Christian phenomenon. I was a mystic before I was a Christian. I was born mystic. And the final thing that was involved in my conversion was reading Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism. That was the first time I really became aware of the extraordinary richness of Christian mysticism. After that I started thinking that maybe I ought to get baptized.
I still dragged my feet for three years. My baptism was a kind of death for me, and nobody likes to die. I used every rationalization in the book. And the best one was that I couldn't decide whether I was going to be baptized as an Orthodox or a Roman Catholic or an Episcopalian or Presbyterian or American Baptist or Southern Baptist. That complex denominational decision was obviously going to take me 25 or 30 years of research to figure out, but I realized that was a cop-outthat baptism is not a denominational celebration.
If you'd asked me if I'd ever become middle-of-the-road anything, I would have thought no, I never would have. But then I became very much a middle-of-the-road Christian. The people who don't like me, are the ones at the fringes. Fundamentalists don't like me. But neither do the serious immanentists that deny the transcendent aspect of God, nor the serious transcendentalists who deny the imminent aspect of God. God is full of paradox. Mysticism is full of paradox. But God resides both inside of us in that still small voice and simultaneously outside of us in all of his or her transcendent magnificent otherness.
Among other things, the New Age movement totally fails to deal with evil. The three monkeys might be the symbol for the New Age movement.
And its bible is A Course in Miracles. There is some absolutely superb Christian psychiatry in it, but it's also channeled material that has two strikes against it right away. A Course in Miracles denies the reality of evil. And in a sense, good and evil are the ultimate paradox. People have a great deal of trouble with paradox. And they don't like to deal with evil.