Been thinking about this subject off an on for a while, but it's especially been at the forefront of my mind for the last few days since watching the new movie Paranormal Activity.
It occurs to me that maybe we put too much emphasis on whether a haunting is "caused" by a ghost or a demon. There's usually a lot more anxiety if it's determined there may be a demonic presence. Really, in many ways I think that extra anxiety is pointless. What does it matter? The effect, danger level and often the treatment is all the same.
Fundamentally does it matter if your arm is being torn off by a mountain lion or a bear? The real issue is the fact that you're being mauled. You need the mauling to stop. Once a harmful/malicious intent has been proven by the spirit does it really matter what it's genealogy is? Does it matter if Hitler is german or polish? He's still Hitler right?
What's in a name?
One can argue that demons are more powerful and therefore more dangerous... To some degree I can see that point, really depending on how you define "demon". I know many christians that would say any/all spirits we encounter are demons and still others that would say any spirit that's not a ghost (disincarnate, or spirit of a now deceased but once living human) is a ghost. Technically I would personally say to be qualified as a demon by the standards of most mainstream christianity the spirit would have to have been born/created as an angel and then been cast out with Lucifer assuming you're down with that mythology. And, like it or not, christianity is a mythology just like any other religion. It just happens to be the dominant mythology of the day.
That doesn't account for a myriad of spirits with different origins according to other mythologies / religions. Nature based religions like my own and many other religions on the planet recognize a whole legion of spirits that have absolutely nothing to do with angels/demons in the classic christian sense.
It eventually all boils down to is this thought again... you're being mauled. You've got a hostile spirit harassing / doing harm to you and yours. Does it matter if the entity can present an ID card and pedigree as to what it really is and where it really came from? No... not at that point in time it doesn't. Your main focus is dealing with the entity.
Now, someone at some point is going to argue this, "Yes, it's important to know what it is because if it's this kind of spirit you're supposed to do this and if it's that kind of spirit you're supposed to do that....". That's a valid argument. Really it is, but not for the reasons you might think. and I'll get to that in a moment, but first we have to go somewhere else to lead up to that.
What's the treatment?
In my experience both academically and with hands-on trial and error in these situations I can tell you this. A buddist family doing a spiritual cleansing or a native american family doing their ritual or charismatic christians doing their thing all have 1 thing in common. It works. No matter what the origin of religion / mythology if the people participating believe in the event believe it will be effective, eventually it will be. I have no way of proving this to you though other than to submit that this is my own experience and from what I've seen this is true. I could illustrate further why I believe this to be true but ultimately it would get us away from the topic at hand and this is all theoretical metaphysics anyway. Very little of anything in this arena can be "proven" in the traditional sense of the word.
The statement still stands though for the sake of argument that most means of exorcising / cleansing will be effective so long as the participants and the family/people involved have faith. This works for ghosts and demons alike as far as I can tell. I say this because i have yet to have a spirit walk up to me and produce official state / otherworld issued identification cards stating they are indeed a ghost or demon. All I can tell you is I've encounter many spirits in many haunting situations and so long as the correct methodology is imposed by people of faith that results will be achieved from what I've seen.
That, again, leads me to the statement that if the treatment is the same for both then why draw the distinction between ghost/demon?
Here is the only scenario I can see where it would make a difference. I said earlier I'd get to this and here it is. It comes down to motivation. What is the motivation of the spirit? If the spirit is acting up / lashing out because it's angry about something within your control to fix then perhaps a compromise can be reached. The spirit of some old lady is scaring the crap out of you because a piece of her favorite jewelry ended up in your hands and she wants it to go somewhere else? Well, if you can find out what they want done with it and do it maybe it'll resolve the conflict. There are any number of situations where some kind of action can be taken to resolve the conflict behind why the spirit is upset. Stop renovating the house the spirit loves. Deliver a message that they need delivered, etc.. That may in itself resolve the haunting.
The above scenario is for a spirit that wants something you can do. Something that's within your power to help with. What about a scenario where the spirit just wants to torment or demoralize as is the case with demons in christian mythology? Or even the spirit of some ghosts that's so enraged that they just want to lash out at anyone and everyone? No amount of communication in those situations will be helpful. The spirit in that scenario has no motivation at all to resolve the conflict.
That's not to say trying to communicate is bad, but it has it's risks and in the end may resolve the situation, may further complication the situation or make may it generally worse depending on the motivation of the spirit involved. I may be in your best interest to try and communicate just to see if you can figure out the motivation, but...
Here's the catch.... If you're not a psychic medium and don't have access to one you trust then how in the world are you going to get that information? How are you going to open a dialog with the spirit? In many cases you simply can't. You could go the ouja board route, but honestly I don't endorse that. If you really don't have much expertise in these issues and you happen to be dealing with a wolf in sheep's clothing situation where a really really negative spirit is pretending to be nice opening further communication with it can be disastrous.
Here's something else to chew on, especially from the perspective of the christians. If you do open a dialog the spirit may not be telling the truth. There's nothing at all in the rule book stating that the spirits can't mislead you. What if the spirit tells you or the psychic that it's actually the ghost of a lost little girl just looking for a family to live with. You might then be tempted to tell the spirit it can stay so long as it behaves. But, in reality the spirit is a big nasty wolf hell bent on causing chaos in your family. If you invite it to stay you're only going to allow it to root deeper into the situation which will make it that much more difficult to remove later.
Your best and safest course of action is commence some sort of exorcism / cleansing ritual yourself or to get the assistance of clergy / experts that know what they're doing. If it's a negative spirit and they know what they're doing you will likely see results. It may take time and things may get much more intense before they get better, but eventually you'll likely see positive results.
You do the heavy lifting
As a general note though, I strongly recommend to most of the people I've worked with in these situations that they themselves take responsibility for whatever cleansing / exorcism ritual they decide to go with under the GUIDANCE of someone who can advise them. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you're having a long drawn out spiritual battle with some entity in your house and you have to continually call Father Frank from the church down the street at 3am because there's a bowl of butterscotch pudding floating through the living room again. You want to take charge of your situation. Most likely it's your house, your family and your life that's being messed with. An outsider to the situation will not have nearly the emotional investment and eventually faith needed to deal with the situation at hand.
I say this from personal experience. I've tried to be the "call me day or night anytime you need me to come over" consultant and you know what, they will call you day or night. They (clients) will become dependent on you. They begin to see in you their salvation and they expect YOU to handle the situation when in fact what needs to be happening is they need to take control of their own lives and deal with the situation themselves. You have to tech them to fish, not bring fish to them at 3am. They're the ones that have to keep up the sometimes daily exercises / prayers / chicken foot shaking that is required to drive out a negative entity.
What's really happening in a cleansing / exorcism
I believe this is what's really going on in these situations. The folks conducting the rituals / prayers / blessings or whatever are anchoring massive amounts of positive energy to the location / people involved. This makes any negatively oriented entities very uncomfortable. You keep anchoring more and more positive energy to the place where the negative entity decides to hang out and eventually they'll find some place else to hang out. It becomes a contest of wills, and sometimes a violent contest. A negative spirit / entity that's been picking on a family for a while and calling the shots is likely to get madder than a hornets nest when you start poking him with a stick trying to get him him/her/it out. Hence the, "it's liable to get worse before it gets better" scenario.
Even in the case of a catholic exorcism where (in theory) you're driving out a fallen angel from a human body it doesn't work the way most folks think of it. It's not like you do the ritual and then it's over. Anyone who's done more than 5 minutes of serious research into exorcisms the way the catholics do it will know that an exorcism can go on for days or weeks or months. The priests are not doing the ritual just once, they're doing it over and over and over again. If it were just a simple matter of saying the ritual once and the demon/spirit had to obey then no ritual would take more than 10 minutes, just enough time to recite the prayer.
No, that is not the case. These are long drawn out ordeals where the priests are invoking powerful symbols of positive spiritual energy and beating the demon over the head with it over and over and over again until at some point the demon decides it's not worth the fight anymore and leaves. Did you catch that... The demon DECIDES it's not worth the fight anymore. It's their choice to leave or not. If you make them uncomfortable enough they'll leave. Even in christian mythology when Christ himself cast out demons there was supposedly a dialogged involved that suggested the demons would voluntarily leave (very quickly though) simply because they wanted no part of messing with Christ. If I was a demon come face to face with someone as obviously spiritually awake / alive as christ I don't think i'd want to slug it out with him either. Again though, this seems to imply choice on the part of the demon.
Eventually if you keep chugging away and make the situation so incredibly uncomfortable for the entity they will eventually go away. Well, that's how we hope it works out. Other possible outcomes are in the realm of possibility, but we'll get into that in a bit.
Why should you take any haunting seriously?
The fool that first said ghosts can't hurt you is a greater fool than the fool that followed the first fool. All you have to do is apply a little common sense. Any spirit that is capable of moving objects and/or touching you or effecting the environment is potentially dangerous. A ghost that can move a child's teddy bear from one side of the room to another is just as capable or any number of things like... floating a knife above you in your sleep, turning on/off a stove, placing a flammable or explosive object on top of said stove. I recently watched video documentation of an entity putting a box of bullets on top of a stove burner. If that's not dangerous I don't know what is.
I don't think anyone would disagree that whatever type of entity you classify as a demon can be dangerous, but there is nothing in the world stopping a normal every day ghost from being dangerous as well. It all boils down to their motivation. If they want to kill you in your sleep they can. The fact that you woke up this morning to be able to read this article is a testament to the fact that you probably dont have to worry about that. That doesn't, however, mean that the entity isn't or can't at some point become dangerous.
So, we've established that both ghosts and demons can be dangerous and that the treatment is ultimately the same. Why bother with making the distinction at all? The only thing you're going to do is freak people out using the D word. A negative haunting is dangerous no matter what type of entity is causing it. If the entity has proven itself to be malicious or negative then the clear course of action is the same no matter the origin of the spirit.
James S. -
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference
And that has made all the difference