Dr. M. Scott Peck, best selling author, famous psychiatrist and spiritual expert, has written a new book called Glimpses of the Devil, narrating his experiences of conducting two exorcisms in the 80s. I have been a fan of Peck’s for years, and enjoyed most of his previous works including People of the Lie, which I cited frequently in my analysis of the Peterson case. Most of us are familiar with the William Peter Blatty novel and movie, The Exorcist, which was loosely based on actual cases of demonic possession of two adolescent boys, but I don’t know anyone who has ever really heard of an exorcism. I was surprised at the subject matter, because the suspension of the average reader’s disbelief in supernatural evil (or reliance on faith) seemed quite high for a sophisticated and skeptical audience. However, Peck’s account of the diagnosis and treatment of the patients he believed were possessed was utterly convincing.
In both cases, Peck claims that Satan itself was among the myriad of demons residing in the bodies of his two patients. Why Satan would bring out the proverbial big guns for two young women with no apparent personal power or influence remains a mystery. After treating a number of mental illnesses and behavior disorders, Peck believes that demonic possession is more common than we realize, and is often misdiagnosed in patients as a multiple personality disorder. In ancient times, mental illnesses, epilepsy, and behavior disorders often were assumed to be caused by possession of demons, and Jesus performed a number of exorcisms, according to the New Testament. Did demonic possession become extinct? Or is it merely universally untreated?
The Catholic Church has strict criteria for defining demonic possession with which Peck deviates in his diagnoses. Peck discovers several similar symptoms in his cases that he believes are as authentic as the more extreme events where the victim may manifest levitation, speaking in tongues, telekinesis, and physical aversion to sacred symbols. In Peck’s cases, the patients transform into an inhuman entity: one began to resemble a snake, and the other a kind of evil imp. Both women had naturally stretched facial skin, like a bad face-lift; and when Peck called forth the demons (through hypnosis or a formal rite), the demons discussed things or used phraseology or expressions that the victims could not know. Both women were described as “potentially holy” and “a threat to the forces of darkness.”