Conjuring Evil – The Political Dangers of Mixing PR and Possession


‘…for the myth to have real weight, it must rest on popular belief. To put it differently: once cannot simply project a myth to the outside even by the powerful modern material means; such an image will have no force unless it is already believed. The myth is contagious because beliefs are contagious.”

– Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, p. 247 (Vintage Books ed., 1973)



Ritual Romanum (Photo: Anthony Burgess Foundation)

Exorcism is in the news again with Father Gary Thomas, an exorcist assigned to the Archidocese of San Jose, bringing the 1st Amendment right to free speech to bear on the realm of spiritual warfare during a PR campaign highlighting the Archdiocese support of newly elected U.S. Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Addressing this in a recent piece for The Global Catholic Review I outline some of the difficulties that arise when PR overshadows the delicate personal and spiritual vocation of the exorcist – as well as some of the difficulties that emerge due to the close relationship between exorcism and conjuration. These may seem like minor points – but the use of ‘spiritual warfare’ by political elements within the faith traditions cannot be overlooked – especially in the networked media environment of today’s world.

Read More: The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

Careless skepticism in the popular media obscures the raw power encapsulated within the mytho-poetic imagination of the human organism.  The ability to harness this power drives the missionary expansion of certain politicized sects within the larger faith traditions – it also empowers the demagogues of our contemporary age as they hijack popular mythology to the bitter ends of subversive statecraft.

1-i4bt7VGYEYIxcEEYhUxgNgOver the past few decades exorcism and spiritual warfare have become surprising additions to the global political scene with charismatic practices being adopted as a means of myth building within the ecumenical body of politicized Christianity.

Figures like the late C. Peter Wagner, whose focus on world missions at the Fuller Theological Seminar lead to the growth of the ‘New Apostolic Reformation‘ movement, have developed a strange and starkly effective theoretical structure for ‘strategic spiritual warfare,‘ mixing insights from warfighting doctrine, intelligence tradecraft, obscure, often heretical writings from various historical sects of Christianity, and a vision of the world as a cosmic battle ground for unseen forces.

Seeing no difference in effective military technique and effective spiritual warfare – since they are all actions on the continuum of the divine plan – these groups have taken what was a quiet tool of the ‘Church Militant‘ and blended it with the kind of weaponized cultural systems that Marshall Mcluhan warned of in the 1970’s when he said:

“World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” *

This now entrenched brand of Christian occultism exists across the ecumenical spectrum, and has drifted far afield from whatever roots it might have in traditional practice. While contemporary examples of publicized ‘exorcism’ bear a cursory resemblance to folk practices, they are more deeply informed by high level university studies in behavior and psychophysiological indicators such as those conducted by the Center for Biopsychosocial Research at Fuller Theological Seminary.

This understanding also includes how the reception of these practices and anecdotal accounts of their efficacy will play out within the increasingly networked global media environment. In order to cast out demons one has to have demons to cast out, or at least have a group of people who believe that there are demons to cast out. This is where the neutrality of the marketplace provides one of the more interesting tools for social engineering.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.27.59 AM.pngPerhaps the most ironic detail in all of this is that for years conservative Christians have leveled charges at competing ideological groups for initiating the same practices in the marketplace.

Evangelical author Tim Lahaye, best known for his rapture ready Left Behind series, seems to be looking in a mirror when he writes in his book, The Battle for the Mind (coincidentally the same title as the psychologist William Sargant’s book on induced trauma and behavioral change):

Many years ago, my mother, along with others of her generation, used to lament the rapid decline of morality in America. She considered the natural descent of fallen, secular man an irreversible trend. No doubt she echoed the feeling of most active Christians of her time.

What her generation did not realize was that the majority of Americans were not really that immoral by nature, but were being led down the path of moral degeneracy by the humanist social planners who dominated our society. *

While these Christian writers are fond of telling you that Satan’s target is your mind, they are not so open about the fact that they have the same goal in mind. Utilizing a potent mix of applied psychology, behavioral economics, technological proficiency and a bit of archetypal mythology, they’ve been able to create and enchanted imaginal landscape in which to pursue their goal of bringing heaven down to earth.

Today the ubiquity of advanced communication technology, centralized distribution throughout a distributed international market, and the growing interdependence of the global economy make such influence important to understand more clearly. While we shouldn’t fall into a lazy paranoia over the potential of choice architecture to irrationalize society when misapplied by eager exorcists and overreaching evangelists, it is necessary to see that these dominion minded ministers are working hard to bring their politically virulent concept of supernatural living into consumer’s living rooms and lives, and with their religious ideology at the fore, they may not be too careful with the consequences.

For more on the strange culture of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ see:

Satan’s Target: You Mind – Supernatural Living in the American Marketplace

Or head over to The Global Catholic Review for: 

The Exorcist vs. Witches – Battling for the Soul of Justic Brett Kavanaugh (The Global Catholic Review)

* Mcluhan, Marshall, Culture is Our Business, p. 60 (McGraw-Hill, 1970)

   LaHaye, Tim, The Battle for the Mind, Power Books (1980)

Special thanks to Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, for the invitation to continue my exploration of global exorcism culture with a contribution to The Global Catholic Review!