If it Quacks like a duck: The discovery of demons by secular psychiatrists

If it Quacks like a duck:

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Fog of Battle:

Right at the start let me say that, for the Christian, talking about the demonic realm is both necessary, if one is true to the Gospel,[1] but difficult, due to multifaceted complications. As Christians, we are in a state of constant spiritual warfare against the demonic realm.  But as in most wars, there is a “fog of battle” in which our intelligence of the enemy is limited. Some Christian writers claim more than we can know about the demonic, as in the exact order of hierarchy and functions of the “thrones, principalities, powers, etc.” Especially difficult is the discernment and demarcation in individuals between psychological issues, chemical imbalances, etc., and demonic activity in and through a person. Actually, all three of these factors might operate in a person at the same time.

A major problem in the struggle against the demonic is that most pastors and ministers are poorly educated in the ministry of deliverance and exorcism. More precisely, many ministers have been mis-educated in this field via the theology of cessationism which limits the miraculous, including the healing ministry and exorcisms, to Biblical times. This is sadly true not only of liberal denominations which write off the demonic as mythical tales or psychological disturbances, but of many conservative, Bible-believing groups such as the Southern Baptists. Exorcism and its allied gift, the “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor 12:10) as teachable and usable subjects are simply avoided in practically all seminaries.  Exceptions are the Pentecostal/charismatic seminaries and some Catholic and Anglican seminaries.

Learning about the Demonic:

I first encountered the demonic from my sojourn into the occult and New Age groups in the 1970s. That experience taught me that the spiritual word was real – an important lesson for someone coming out of several years as an atheist. Providentially, I recalled some of my earlier religious instructions as a Catholic, which taught that spiritual phenomenon was real but could be from God and his agents, or Satan and his agents. That base line of discernment made me a pest to my New Age colleagues as I kept on asking,” How do you know this experience is from God?”

Their inability to give an adequate answer drove me to examine some of the works of traditional Catholic discernment that I had heard about in my years in Catholic schools.[2]  From reading some of these works I realized that the New Age was a reincarnation (pun intended) of the old Gnosticism and was laced with serious demonic infestation. I noted this especially in the sexual license that New Agers took. This was the 1970s, when traditional Christian values had not yet collapsed in the general society. I also discerned a lack of real agape, i.e., sacrificial love that I had experienced from the nuns and Christian brothers who had taught me as part of my Catholic education.[3]

As I exited the New Age environment I determined to do a book on the demonic and the ministry of exorcism. I had reentered the Catholic Church via a Catholic charismatic prayer group, and from them discovered the literature of Pentecostal and charismatic writers such as Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Agnes Sanford and others. I determined to do a book comparing Pentecostal, Catholic and Evangelical traditions of exorcism and deliverance. In fact, “strait away” as the Gospel of Mark says, I ministered several deliverance/exorcisms. That was how the Lord demonstrated to me that what I was reading was real – not mythology nor psychological neurosis. But I wisely postponed writing the book, waiting for further spiritual maturity and experience. This was 40 years ago, and it is still to be written. I am not sure I am called to do it, as there are now many excellent works on exorcism, but the research I did was immensely useful to me in many ways, as in the years I spent at pastor to a Hispanic congregation in Smyrna, Georgia, where occult curnaderos were on the periphery of the community.

At the time of my initial research I came across Wilson Van Dusen’s book, the Natural Depth of Man. Van Dusan was a psychiatrist in the California mental health system who treated many schizophrenics. He came to understand that many of these patients were assaulted by voices and entities that closely resemble the biblically described “demons.” Further, effective treatment required that the patient resist the voices’ suggestions to do immoral acts such as lying, stealing, or self-mutilation.  Even more revealing, Bible reading by the patient was especially helpful in subduing the voices.[4] Wow! Did you hear a quacking?

Unfortunately, Van Dusen was into Swedenborgism, a spiritualist cult, and he used its doctrines as the interpretive theology of his findings. I imagine he consulted with Protestant theologians or local pastors who could tell him nothing about the demonic spirits or about the ministry of exorcism, so he stuck with Swedenborgism. But his core insights into the negative and demonic nature of the “voices” are valid and especially useful to Christian ministers and mental health professionals.

Just after reading the Van Dusen book I saw the very fine movie, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (1977). It was based on the autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenburg of the same name. The movie showed a young woman driven and harassed by “fantasy beings” – just as described in the Van Dusen work. “Blau,” the young woman, was tormented by a tribe from the “Kingdom of Yi” that dwelt in her mind. Originally they were inviting and friendly, but then rapidly turned negative. They tried to get Blau to injure herself and commit suicide as part of an initiation ceremony into the tribe. The psychiatrist at the treatment center was able to help Blau somewhat, but at the end of the movie the voices ominously whisper to her, “We will never leave you!” Well yes, there was no one who knew how to do an exorcism on her.

A test case:

A few months after this, a woman I knew was institutionalized for several days for severe depression, and then released with a medication regimen. She had been hearing nagging, negative voices that told her she was worthless, etc., and should commit suicide. After her release a prayer partner and I did a deliverance on her. In ten minutes, we challenged the assaulting voices/demons and cast them out. She never had further problems of this nature.

That was over three decades ago. Since then the secular psychiatric literature on schizophrenic voices/entities has increased greatly. An excellent review article on the literature and current practice of treating the  voices/entities was done by T.M Luhrmann, “Living With Voices.”[5] Luhrmann reports that many psychiatrists still treat schizophrenia exclusively as a chemical disorder of the brain, and try to medicate it to submission – but result in never really curing it. Many others have learned to treat the voices as if they were real entities. (Quack quack…) They encourage the patients to ‘negotiate’ with the voices and come to some sort of understanding and livable arrangement so that the harassment ceases.

The central case study that Luhrmann cited to demonstrate the negotiation technique was of “Hans,” a German patient from a nominal Christian household. Luhrmann reports:


Hans used to be overwhelmed by the voices. He heard them for hours, yelling at him, cursing him, telling him he should be dragged off into the forest and tortured and left to die. The most difficult things to grasp about the voices people with psychotic illness hear are how loud and insistent they are, and how hard it is to function in a world where no one else can hear them. It’s not like wearing an iPod. It’s like being surrounded by a gang of bullies. You feel horrible, crazy, because the voices are real to no one else, yet also strangely special and they wrap you like a cocoon.[6]

The psychiatrist first treated him with medication, which made him sleep much and gain weight, but he was no better in his waking period as the voices continued to harass him. But then Hans joined a new patient support group in the psychiatric center which was using negotiation technique with their voices. Han’s voices declared they would cease harassing him if he became a student of Buddhism for four hours a day. He negotiated it down to only one hour, and achieved relative peace. He was able to discontinue all medication and function again in normal society.

Success! But wait. Do you hear a quack? What is missing is spiritual discernment. The voices could have been totally dismissed from the Hans’ environment with deliverance prayer, or his own persistent Bible reading and prayers as Van Dusen had discovered decades earlier. In Hans’ case the demons were apparently satisfied that they were making Hans into a Buddhist, and he would thus be shut off from the Bible and the saving grace of salvation, and true healing in Jesus Christ.

A bold article: The quacks come from demons:

In 2014 an article appeared in the academic Journal of Religion and Health which affirmed that the, “Auditory hallucinations … may be a result of the presence of more than one demon in the body.” [7]  The author, Imak M Kemal, a Turkish psychiatrist, related that several schizophrenic patients he treated were healed by a local faith healer, and that this type of healing should be further investigated.

One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.[8]

The article caused an uproar in the psychiatric establishment. Several articles  vehemently contested Dr. Kemal’s findings via indignation and name calling. The author of one such the article, Luke Malone, whose training is in journalism, made multiple dismissive remarks around the argument that science and modern psychology has disproven the reality of demons. Further, he suggested that the Journal of Religion and Health should be censured for even running such an article.[9]

But in reality, Malone was only repeating a profound confusion that is common among many people. That is, that the philosophical assumption of a “physical material only” universe is “science.”  Thus the demonic cannot exist, nor should an experiment be designed to see if that is true.  Actually, since the seminal work of Karl R. Popper, it is clear that science is philosophically neutral, and true science pertains to the methodology of knowledge gathering, testing and verification.[10] Modern science, coming out of the 18th and 19th Centuries did indeed have many scientists who believed that there was no spiritual component to the universe, but also some like Newton and Einstein who believed in God and a spiritual component to the universe.[11]

Testing for demons:

I suppose it is true that demons can’t be directly tested for. That is, they cannot be put in a cage or made to run a maze like mice.[12] Rather, their presence and activity can only be indirectly observed, as in the immediate behavior changes that happen to a person who has been liberated of oppressing demons. But science has often progressed without direct observation of the studied item. For example, particle science, the description of sub-atomic particles, developed without ever directly seeing the particles that were discovered. It was done in a cloud chamber of super-saturated vapor, as targets of specific elements were bombarded by particles. The cloud chamber showed patterns of vapor trails that could be measured, and conclusions about the inferred particles drawn. Note, the particles were never seen, only the results of their passage through a specialized environment. By analogy, I do not believe demons will ever be directly detected by scientific instrumentation, but the evidence of their presence could be inferred by changes in patients’ behavior. A cruder analogy, one can tell a fox has been in the hen house by the paw prints and dead and missing chickens – no one saw the fox.

But there is another issue in regard to demons and schizophrenia. Most psychologists and psychiatrists believe that schizophrenia is caused by chemical and physical disturbances of the brain.  Indeed, brain scans have found significant differences between the brains of normal persons and schizophrenics.[13] But here again there is a hidden materialist assumption, as well as the logical fallacy of assumed causality. When two things occur, one does not necessarily cause the other. A famous case of this was the law suit brought against Corning for supplying material to make breast implants. Some woman with these implants developed breast cancer, and claimed that the implants caused the cancer. Statistical evidence showed that woman with implants did not develop cancer at a higher rate than those without implants. Although some did, as in any group of women (i.e. women who eat carrots). But the lawyers were so cleaver and manipulative, and the cancerous women so piteous that the jury voted against Corning and made them pay a huge amount for damages.

Similarly, in the case of brain irregularities and schizophrenia, the presence of abnormal chemistry and structure of the schizophrenic’s brain does not mean those factors are the cause. In my hypothesis they are the signs of demonic presence.  That is, that demonic entrance into the person stopped normal brain development and caused various chemical imbalances.  The vector is: demon to brain, to abnormal brain. This of course could only be proven by large scale tests, including before and after scans of voice hearing schizophrenic patients who undergo deliverance prayer and the laying on of hands to restore normality to the brain. Such an experiment would be like examining the vapor trails of the cloud chamber. It would not show demons directly, but the “trails” of their destructiveness.

Lastly, I suppose most in the psychology and psychiatric professions will be offended by this blog posting. It suggests that their training, by avoiding considering the reality of the spiritual world, is inadequate. Indeed that is so. The good news is that incorporating prayer, including exorcism prayer, is not rocket science, and can be learned quickly as a supplement to their disciplined knowledge of the mind. The major obstacle is that of pride. A major profession cannot easily reverse itself regardless of the evidence or possible benefit to its clients. Thomas Kuhn, in his famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, demonstrated this quite well. Radical new discoveries have to seep in slowly with a few practitioners as the old guard dies out.[14]

But perhaps this will not take so long. Now we have parallel institutions that have an inherent interest in seeing if the demon/schizophrenic hypothesis is true: the medical insurance companies. The cost of an exorcism and the laying on of hands for healing by a ministry team is infinitesimally small in comparison to the institutionalization of schizophrenic patients.  Are there insurance executives out there who would be interested in furthering a protocol on this, and seeing if the quacking is indeed caused by demons.


[1] James Kallas, The Satanward View: A Study in Pauline theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966). I have found this work, now sadly out of print, to be the best discussion of the importance of Jesus’s ministry against the Kingdom of Darkness. To avoid the issue of the demonic it to short-change the Gospel, as indeed happened in liberal theology.

[2] Among the best of the discernment works that I read at the time was Augustine Poulain’s, Graces of Interior Prayer (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910) Modern editions available in print and on the web. Full text online:


The critically important part IV of Poulain’s Graces of Interior Prayer which studies the issue of discernment has been published separately as: Revelations and Visions. Trans. By Leonora L. Yorke Smith. New York Alba House, 1998.

[3] I talk about my excellent Catholic education in my work, Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2003 chapter 1). I owe a great debt of gratitude to the nuns and Christian brother and (some) Jesuits who molded my Christian faith. Of course, none of my teachers knew anything of the gifts of the Sprit, for I graduated from Fordham University before the Catholic charismatic renewal which began in 1967.

[4] Van Dusen, The Natural Depth of Man (New York: Harper & Row, 1972). A classic and still in print. Watch out for the spiritualist theology. See his spiritual autobiography in which he reveals that his paternal grandmother was a medium, Wilson Van Dusen, and David Rounds (Editor).  “The Universal Church and the Sacred Source,” Religion East & West, 5 Oct., 2005, 11-17.

[5] The American Scholar.  Posted June 1, 2012.


See also the very fine summary article on schizophrenic patients who hear voices by the New York psychiatrist, Paul Steinberg, “Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia,” New York Times, Dec. 25,2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/opinion/our-failed-approach-to-schizophrenia.html  Dr. Steinberg’s lament is that schizophrenic patients are released from hospitalization way too quickly, and the heavy medication masks that they are not healed. The costs of treating such patient is a major issue. (Note: exorcism of the harassing spirits cost very little. I would be happy to do it for a voluntary donation).

[6] Ibid.
[7] Imak M. Kemal, “Schizophrenia or Possession?” Journal of Religion and Health, 53 #3 (2014) 773-774.

[8] From the abstract of the Dr. Kemal’s article, available at: https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10943-012-9673-y

[9] Luke Malone, “Journal Under Fire for Linking Schizophrenia to Demonic Possession,”

Vocative. Posted Jun 18, 2014

http://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/schizophrenia-caused-demons-according-prominent-junk-scientist/   See also Russ Pomeroy, “Published Paper Blames Schizophrenia on Demons,” Real Clear Science. Posted June 17, 2014.


[10] Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London, Hutchinson, 1959) Often cited as “LSD.” This work is understandable only to those who are trained in mathematics or philosophy, as it contains many mathematical equations. For an explanation of Popper’s discovery in understandable English see his, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (New York: Harper & Row, 1960). I discuss Popper’s insights and their relevance to progress in theological knowledge in my work, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015).

[11] Neuton of course was heavy into theology and astrology, a fact embarrassing to secular scientists who claim him as the father fo modern science. See: Karl W. Giberson, “The Last Magician: Isaac Newton with Contradictions intact,” Books & Culture (Sept./Oct. 2016. Posted Aug. 18, 2016.  http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2016/sepoct/last-magician.html

[12] My suspicion is that we will never directly see demons with any scientific device, although some persons with discernment of spirits do seem to have that ability, but it is totally subjective.

[13] Psychiatric Advisor, “Brain Abnormalities in Patients With Schizophrenia Found.” Posted July 8, 2015.  http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/schizophrenia-and-psychoses/structural-brain-abnormalities-schizophrenia-respond-treatment/article/425215/

[14] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1992).










William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.


  • Reply November 8, 2019

    Varnel Watson

    thank you again William DeArteaga

  • Reply June 13, 2021

    Neil Steven Lawrence

    Psychiatry industry) are like the Jewish priest at the temple; they don’t want their “business” to be disrupted by Jesus!

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