Exorcism

(In Cecile Ernst book on exorcism she) states emphatically that she herself does not “believe” in devils and demons.  She stresses especially the strong craving for recognition that psychically ill persons have and interprets their statements as hysterical confabulations they use in order to attract the interest of those around them.   The extravagant theatrical display of exorcistic rites has a positive effect only because it panders to this hysterical need of the patient for attention and recognition.  To me this interpretation seems to oversimplify the facts of the matter quite considerably.  We have seen that demons are often regarded as desiring ceremonial honors.  When a person who is psychically ill wishes to attract the interest of other people to himself, this desire, in my opinion, belongs more to the complex and not always so much to the patient’s ego.  Dr. Ernst holds the patient categorically responsible for his behaviour.  But in my opinion, the patient’s responsibility is only conditional.  In this connection the explanation given in an old text on exorcism from Stans (1729) seems worthy of note.  This text emphasizes that a man can be possessed by “devils” when he has surrendered to sinful feelings such as wrath, envy, hatred, lechery, and faintheartedness.  This seems to me to be a closer approximation to the true state of affairs: The ego is responsible only to a certain extent for the effect a person has on his environment – namely, for what Jung called the personal shadow of the individual, but not for archetypal psychic factors.  Ignoring one’s own shadow, though, is often very much like opening a door through which these powers can break in.  The question of moral responsibility is therefore extremely subtle and requires different judgments from case to case.  P&R 116

… “an archetype in its quiescent, unprojected state has no exactly determinable forms only in projection.”  The demons, accordingly, are archetypal formations that appear in the field of human projections.  P&R 116