Ordinarily, I would never dream of rewriting a book review several years after composing the original, but in this case I’m making an exception, for two reasons: (1) My metaphysical beliefs have changed drastically in the interim. I was Christian when I penned the original; now I’m, well, an individualist, sceptic, and psychic dabbler. (2) At almost 10,000 views currently, this is the most popular review on my site, which lends it some importance in my eyes.
There are those who believe in God and those who don’t. Generally, theists are comfortable accepting the idea of supernatural occurances, while athiests balk at the notion. But there are also those theists who say they believe in God, but get uncomfortable or embarrassed at the mention of anything remotely paranormal. These people require the Flood to be rendered as a myth or explained by meteorological means. Likewise with the fire that rained from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. To them the idea of demons as actual beings is preposterous. This category of Christian probably comes about as a result of pressure from the intellectual atheist majority, and as a vain attempt at keeping some degree of credibility in their eyes. The thing is, if a person believes in God, it is perfectly logical to grant God permission to bend or break the laws of the universe that he set in motion. And if we already accept the existence of a being who lives beyond what we can see and touch, it’s hardly inconceivable that there are other entities in existence outside our perception of what consistutes reality: angels and demons, for instance.
I wrote the above paragraph because what this book is essentially trying to do is raise awareness of a perceived crisis in the Church. This general lack of belief in the supernatural side of Christianity means that exorcisms are rarely performed today, despite the fact that the Bible clearly depicts Jesus and his disciples freeing demon-possessed people. My interest in reading about demons was not for personal amusement, but because the Bible says so little about them.
Contrary to such films as The Exorcist, real demons apparently do not talk much. It is, after all, to their advantage to remain undetected. Other topics, such as demon oppression, witchcraft, curses, etc., are also covered in the book. Amorth’s account of his experiences with demons are fascinating, and are presented in a completely non-sensationalist manner. The book is written not for the titillation of the public, but as a wake-up call to fellow priests. Amorth maintains that there are many people out there who are needlessly suffering, people who have gone from doctor to doctor on a fruitless search for a physical cure to a spiritual ailment. The author is also careful not to downplay the arena of medicine, and he stresses the importance of being able to differentiate demon-possession from genuine mental disorders.
All that being said, when I read about a woman coughing up razor blades, I have a hard time taking this book seriously. Even if I accepted that there was a literal devil who had the power to bend the laws of physics, I can’t help thinking how weird it is that a person should vomit up an object that is man-made in a factory using a great deal of human skill. I ask myself, “Did the blades have ‘Gillette’ or ‘Wilkinson’s Sword’ printed on them?” Even giving credence to the supernatural, would the supernatural really manifest itself like this? It just starts to sound more than a little thin, and has the hallmarks of stage magic.
Amorth seems to be a well-meaning guy, but I have serious reservations about his experiences. I want to think the best of him, but whether he is knowingly telling lies or foolishly misinterpreting his experiences, either way he is reinforcing a false sense of reality to the public. There is simply no evidence of a hidden demonic realm seeking to get its claws into the material world. A thorough study of Satan in the Bible reveals the character to be a changing myth, from an angel in God’s employ (Book of Job) to God’s arch-nemesis (Book of Revelation). The literature of the Church of Satan denies the existence of demons. And my own personal psychic dabbling has never put me in harm’s way. Meanwhile, quacks like TV exorcist Bob Larson continue to prey upon a credulous public.
My original review of this book concluded with these words: “My gut reaction is that this is an honest book written from the direct experience of a level-headed Christian. It should not be placed on bookshelves among all the hauntings and UFO accounts and other sensationalist ‘true’ stories written for profit.” I can no longer, in good conscience, stand by my original endorsement. As far as real demon possession is concerned, I would have to see it to believe it.