"War on the Saints" by Jessie Penn-Lewis

CHAPTER 7: Ground and Symptoms of Possession

Jessie Penn LewisIn Column 2 of the summary given on page 102, the various ways in which ground is given for the deception and possession of evil spirits are briefly summarized. Communication is possible with the believer without ground being given, but evil spirits can never interfere with the faculties of brain or body, unless sufficient ground for possession has been obtained by them. Satan had power to communicate with Christ in the wilderness, for the Devil spoke to Him, and Christ replied, yet the Lord Himself said later on (John 14: 30) that although the prince of this world came to Him; he could find nothing in Him for his working.

The devil also communicated with Eve in a state of innocence. It is therefore no proof of ground, or sin in mind or life, that Satan is able to communicate with believers. But there is a certain class of "communication" which cannot be carried on without ground having been given.

There is a difference, also, between "communication" and "communion"--communication is with the mind, as evil spirits suggest thoughts to it, but they have "communion" with the man through the senses, as these respond to "feelings" given by them to the senses. Delicious, lulling, exquisite sensations in the body, arising from spiritual causes, may always be attributed to deceiving spirits, for they feed the sensuous,note 1 and nothing that comes from God in purity does this; nor does He in any degree by His manifestations, minister to a self-indulgent, self-satisfied, sensuous condition of the mind, or body of His redeemed ones; but on the contrary, the operations of God in man, are directed to the elimination of all that feeds the senses, and the invigoration of spirit, soul and body, for the keenest activities of life.

The satiety of the senses, however, caused by evil spirits, sooner or later changes in manifestation, and the true character of the source stands revealed when irritable and disagreeable feelings take the place of the soothing influences hitherto given, to the horror of the one who had reveled in the exquisite "waves" of peace, thought to have come from God, and who is now convinced that he has lost God's presence and power.note 2 Where the disagreeable takes place now, may have been the place where an agreeable manifestation occurred in the past.


In the list of various ways by which ground is given to evil spirits, the first is by means of suggestions or thoughts admitted to the mind. Thoughts manifestly from Satan every believer rejects at once, when he becomes conscious of them; but thousands of "thoughts" come without any volition of the person, for few understand control of the mind, and how to "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10: 5). One of the symptoms of demon possession is absolute inability, even after volition, to change the course of thinking, or subject of thought, for the mind appears stiff and laborious in action. The man cannot let a specific thought go from his mind, even after he wills to.

The chief faculty open to the access of deceiving spirits is the mind, especially before the believer apprehends the need of a "renewed mind" (Eph. 4: 23), and realizes that his mind can be open to, and used by evil spirits, notwithstanding the Divine operation of God in the innermost shrine of his being. Also before he realizes what he has admitted as ground for evil spirits in his past life, for all the "thoughts" inserted by the god of this world blinding the mind (2 Cor. 4: 4; Ephes. 2: 2), form material for his later working; such as "thoughts" lodged there unconsciously, perhaps years before; mental conceptions admitted without examination; floating ideas which have drifted into the ground of the mind, the believer knows not whence; a sentence in a paper, a word dropped in his hearing; the flotsam and jetsam of the mental world, leaving unthought of effect upon him, colouring Scripture, and placing the mind almost at the mercy of any suggestion of evil spirits, under certain conditions, later on.


To detect the working of evil spirits upon the mind, let the believer note the way in which his "thoughts" come. If the mind is working easily, quietly, in normal action in the duty of the moment, and sudden "flashes," "suggestions," or apparent "thoughts" arise, not in sequence, or in orderly connection with the work he has in hand, then the enemy may be counterfeiting the operation of the person's own mind, and trying to insert his suggestions into it as if they were the outcome of the man's own thinking; for when he is in the process of thinking, the lying spirits seek to inject some thought, suggestion or feeling-- the first into the mind, and the last into the spirit.

The danger at this point is for the believer to be ensnared by the simultaneous working of his own mind, and the presentation to the mind of the evil spirit's "pictures" or visions, which he thinks come from his own "imagination";note 3 or very subtly refined suggestions which have no appearance of being supernatural, or even distinct from the person at all. Many think all that is "supernatural" is of necessity strikingly marvelous, and awesome, whereas the enemy's working is very ordinary--so ordinary that he is unrecognized, and the operations of the supernatural appear so "natural," that they are not looked upon as supernatural. The Scripture statement of "the whole world lying in the evil one" is so true, that his speakings and workings are accepted and followed and yielded to, as the "ordinary" things of life, and as the ordinary operations of the mental faculties. The kingdom of darkness is near and "natural" to all the world under the rule of the prince of darkness.


It is best to be suspicious of the abnormal in every shape and form. God does not interfere with the natural operations of the faculties. A sudden stoppage of thought, or sequence in the action of the mind, in thought or memory, as well as acute loss of the use of either, may indicate the interference of evil spirits. The spirits of evil, in possession of some faculty of the mind, can either hold it, or suddenly release it for action--this holding or releasing power explaining much that is unaccountable in suddenness of action, or "change of mind" which, like much else, is left in obscurity as "unexplainable." "I can" one moment, then "I cannot" the next, generally being put down to an "erratic temperament," or other causes. The believer, however, may be unable to act, because of the interruption, or interference of the enemy, but he really has the ability for action, if the faculties were free.

Others whose lives are spent in the bondage of a "spirit of infirmity," are only conscious of a sense of inability, they are always "too tired," and have "no spirit," "no energy" for the ordinary demands of life, yet with no disease, or reasonable physical ground for their chronic inertness and feebleness. A sudden inability to listen, described as "absent-mindedness" or "preoccupation," when the person is compelled to follow some "thought" suggested, or picture presented to the mind, or to follow the words of another, are all indications of the interference of evil spirits--the compulsions especially being a mark of their workings--when the person is in a normal condition of health, and the brain is not diseased.

For instance, in spiritual meetings, when people seem hardly able to listen to a vital truth, how many recognize the work of the prince of the power of the air taking away the Word (Matt. 13: 19), by the suggestion of other things, not appropriate to the moment, and by the mind being unable to follow the speaker's words, and to grasp and apprehend? Streams of "texts,"note 4 also, pouring through the mind, apart from concentration, and the volitional action of the mind, may overpower all that the speaker is saying, and "Carry away" the hearer into far away thoughts, and "day-dreams," which appear so beautiful and "divine," yet after the "meeting" is over, have no solid result in practical life. Any admittance of these sudden suggestions, or passing thoughts, means ground given to the enemy.


The Deceiver has two ways of putting thoughts into the mind: (1) By direct communication to the mind, and (2) indirect, by attacks on the spirit, causing undesirable feelings there, such as impatience through the attacks, which produce impatient thoughts in the mind, followed by impatient words. The believer has a sense of being hindered persistently by some unseen obstacle, for the evil spirit beings suggest a certain action to him, and then when he attempts it, he is hindered, causing in him a sense of irritation for which he cannot account. Nothing he does seems to "go right," and his life seems made up of "pin-prick" troubles, too much for him to bear, causing a sense of moroseness and discontent which grows upon him in spite of himself.

Feverish activity which accomplishes nothing is manifested occasionally, or else perpetual occupation which gives no moment of rest; difficulty with work in the day time; "dreams" at night,note 5 with no sense of rest or leisure at any time; suffering, confusion, difficulty of action, embarrassment, perplexity, all emanating directly, maliciously, and deliberately from evil spirits, unrecognized by the man.

Believers whose circumstances, and environment, should give them every cause for a glad and quiet mind, are harassed with terrible anxiety, and they are rarely free from troubled thoughts. The mind over-estimates everything, because the imagination and mental faculties are in bondage; ant-hills appear as mountains to them. Everything is exaggerated, so that they shrink from seeing others, as conversation is terribly difficult. They imagine they are only "thinking" in an ordinary sense, but it is not I "thinking" when a thing grips the mind, but when the mind grips the thing. Their "thinking" goes beyond the line of pure mental action.


Herein lies the real cause of depression as experienced by many believers, apart from purely physical conditions. The victim of depression and melancholia has admitted thoughts suggested by the deceiving spirits, until the mind is unable to shake them off, or else the enemy has obtained such a footing, that he holds the mental faculties in a grip of passivity, so that they cannot act. He feels as though they were in a vice, or weighted with some heavy pressure which obscures all light, and prevents him grasping the facts around him, or using his reason at all. The malignant powers of darkness ofttimes succeed in keeping those who have given them opportunity to get them into their grip under the most harassing clouds and shadows. They rejoice over their own wicked deeds, and love to bind their victims, and keep them in bondage.

This is truly the "oppression" of the enemy (Ps. 42: 9), and is the outcome of the earlier stages of the attacks of deceiving spirits upon the mind, which could have been quenched had they been dealt with at the beginning.

That the enemy takes advantage of any mental feebleness, or overstrain, or disease, is, of course, to be recognized; but in persons of normal health, with no disease of the mind, inherited or induced, much of the "depression" may be attributed to the inroads of the enemy, through ground given unconsciously at some previous time. The cause of "brain-fag" too, needs to be examined in this light, lest many attribute to natural causes what may have been supernaturally brought about.


Wrong conceptionsnote 6 of spiritual things give ground to evil spirits, and these conceptions the adversary skillfully cultivates ready for use on later occasions. Imaginations as to how God works in Revival power, and in "Pentecostal" measure, is specially a fruitful ground for evil spirits, i.e., a conception that God moves a meeting, and sways it as the wind sways the corn; and that God moves on the physical man, rather than from the centre of man's spirit only. These imaginations prepare the believer for Satan's deceptions in these very forms.

This entry of "thoughts" from any quarter comes from the deeper cause of a passivity of the mind which, as we have pointed out in Chapter 4, is the main object of the adversary to produce, ere he can succeed in his effort to obtain control of the believer's will. The Lord's words in Matthew 13: 23, that the good ground hearer is "he that heareth the word and understandeth it," show that the mind is the vehicle through which the truth of God reaches men to win their affections, and bring back the will into intelligent and loyal co-operation with God. In like manner the mind is the hindrance to Satan's carrying out his schemes to win back control of the believer. For the success of his plans, the enemy knows that the mind must be lulled into inactionnote 7 and disuse by some means or other, either by stratagem or attack. The arch-deceiver is well aware that any "teaching" of deceiving spirits accompanied by supernatural signs, may be received by the believer if his mind is lulled into passivity so that he does not question, or intelligently reason, what the teachings are, or what they involve in their ultimate issue.


Passivity of bodynote 8 is the next stage in the development of passivity of the whole being, and is the ultimate consequence of passivity of the mind, for the mind dulled by passivity takes away alert action from the physical frame. The "dreamy," passive mind is seen in a dreamy walk and a lethargy of action in every department of the human frame. All this is deepening ground for deceiving spirits. The faculties are unused, there is lack of mental control, a lack of reasoning power, a ceasing to use the judgment, followed eventually by a disinclination to use the will. The believer slowly loses power of decision,note 9 he becomes more and more tossed about by letting everything in his environment decide for him, and sometimes thinking and believing it is God choosing and deciding for him by "Providences"; he therefore does not choose or decide for himself, but passively drifts, and accepts the choice or decision made for him by "circumstances"; or else he is full of impulses, with no central poise of any kind.

But God does not choose instead of the man,note 10 otherwise he would become a machine; neither does he decide in his stead. He chooses an eternal inheritance for him, but even this choice of God for the man cannot be fulfilled apart from the believer's intelligent co-operation.


Therefore the passive yielding to environment and what the man sometimes calls "Providence," really means letting evil spirits decide for him, for they are the world rulers of this darkness, and readily seize the opportunity of playing upon his passive will, and thus he is deceived by them and thinks that he is yielding to the will of God.

In this way good men have become victims of others' sin, fearing to "resist evil" lest they disobey the commands of God, not intelligently understanding that they therefore fail to co-operate with God in fighting against sin (Heb. 12: 4; 1 Tim. 5: 20), and conquering the spirit of the age in their environment. God has given man a will, and a deciding voice; and all the purpose of His working in man, is to restore that once enslaved will to its throne of intelligent volition, in the choosing of right instead of wrong, and God instead of Satan. But Satan's entire purpose is to drag back the will into captivity-- and thus the man himself--so that he becomes a passive, though unconscious slavenote 11 to the world-rulers of the darkness around him, and hence subject to Satan, the god of this world, ruling through his hierarchy of evil powers.

The actions of the believer thus re-captured by Satan, through his emissaries of evil spirits, are the outcome of the subtle and unknown control of the adversary and the actions again give more ground to the enemy. Words are spoken, and deeds are done, almost blindly, either by impulse, or in the confusion of sudden revulsion of feeling; and often without the man intelligently apprehending the consequences of words or deeds. Old habits which ceased to be manifested, show themselves again, and sins which were once conquered, re-assert their power.


Where evil spirits enter is the subject of the third column, and the list is very brief, since the widest ramifications of their workings in man can be covered by the words spirit, soul and body, for they bury themselves in the very structure of the human frame, some acting directly upon the organs or appetites of the body, others upon the mind or intellect, sensibilities, emotions and affections, and others more immediately upon the spirit.note 12 In the body they specially locate themselves in the spinal column, nervous system, and deepest nerve centres, through which they control the whole being; from the ganglionic nerve centre located in the bowels, the emotional sensibilities, and all organs affected by them, to the cerebral nerve centre in the head, the eyes, ears, neck, jaws, tongue, muscles of the face, and delicate nerve tissues of the brain.

They may obtain access gradually and insidiously, as already shown, but there are instances where they make a sudden assault, so as to rush the victim into involuntary surrender.note 13


When evil spirits have gained entry to the believer through the ground given to them, as already described, the symptoms of their presence are recognizable according to the degree of the possession and the place wherein they are located, whether deep in the innermost structure of the person, or in the mind and faculties which are more visibly affected by them.

Many of the symptoms have already been touched upon in previous chapters, especially in "Passivity as the chief basis of Possession" (4), and "Counterfeits of the Divine" (6) in spiritual experiences, and need not be recapitulated.

Here we need but sum up some of the characteristics of acute and fully developed possession in mind and body, when the passive surrender to deceiving spirits is very complete, and the whole of the outer man is open to their use in every part of his being. It must, however, be clearly understood, that (1) all the symptoms may be present in a very slight degree, so as to be almost indistinguishable from entirely natural causes; (2) they may be only manifested in the part of the human frame wherein the intruders are located; or (3) they may come into existence, and pass away through various causes, WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGEnote 14 of the victim.


When the possession is very pronounced, these intruders entirely dominate the outer man, using, or interfering with the vocal organs, the tongue, jaws, eyes, ears, smell, taste, muscles, the hands and feet, sometimes with uncontrollable and unconscious movements.note 15 They interfere with the head, and move it at their will, and with the five senses of the body, because they are the avenues of knowledge to the mind. They seek to dull and check the acute use of the senses, so that they may have more opportunity to control their victim, and when they do this, there is more or less difficulty in all the operations of the senses and faculties.note 16


When evil spirits affect the vocal organs, they may interfere with all the vocal operations in audible reading, speaking, singing, or praying. In speaking, the enunciation may be heavy or blurred, slow or quick; the words may appear to run one into another, the pronunciation variable, and the accents, or emphasis, wrong, for emphasis in speech which is not the result of the mind controlling any emphasis, may be the effect of possession.

The supernatural power affecting the passive mind mixes up, so to speak, the words in the mind, and then in the speech; prevents the mind grasping thoughts, and causes the memory to fail in action. Words come to the mind, and do not remain long enough for speech; or, on the other hand, torrents of "thoughts" come, which "rush" the vocal organs into action beyond control. It is then easier to speak than to listen to another speaking. The tongue acts independently of the mind or will. Words are spoken unthought of by the mind, or intended by the will; sometimes the exact opposite to what was in the mind and intention, which astonish the speaker when he is afterwards reminded of what he has said.


Much that has been called "garrulity," "talkativeness," and irresponsible use of the tongue among Christians, may be attributed to the cause here named; for many whose tongues are uncontrollable in gossip, slander and backbiting, are sincerely unconscious of what they do, or if they are conscious, are quite unable to control or check their grievous, irresponsible talking. Evil spirits may "possess" them only in the organs of speech, or practically have control of the tongue through the CHANNEL OF A PASSIVE MIND.

This may be the case in platform speakers, who have a voluminous flow of words which pour through the lips, or else a rapid rushing speech, or in staccato form, without any concentration or true action of the mind.note 17 Pulpit preaching is even possible in this way, evil spirits being unaffected by "preaching" which does not proclaim the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and is not in the power of the Holy Ghost.


The voice of a man is more easily affected by supernatural power than many have thought. When evil spirits touch the man's spirit, it may be sometimes recognized by a harsh, metallic sound in the voice, or a hoarse and rough thickness; or these same effects may be noticed in an atmosphere which is very thickly charged by the powers of darkness; showing their effect upon the delicate vocal chords.note 18

In the interference with, or use of the vocal organs and voice, may be placed the counterfeit "gift of tongues," or the exquisite singing which has been termed the "heavenly music," because of its manifest supernatural source, and its being beyond the singer's own natural power.

In pronounced demon possession, evil spirits may affect the voice in an apparently natural way, which is put down to natural causes. For instance, in singing, the man may be doing so with power, and with clear, and bell-like enunciation, but soon there comes weakness in the muscles of the throat, a dry cough, and tears in the eyes, and the singing ceases. The concentration of the eyes upon the music book grows weaker, a sense of heaviness comes on neck and spine; the playing goes on, but heedless, spiritless, dejected and heavy, the singer turns away, putting it all down to "difficulty of breathing," and physical impediment, when it has been entirely a manifestation of the evil spirits in possession.


In interference with the head, the jaws can be moved by the spirits of evil, and the nerves of the face manipulated in the production of smiles, which appear at unsuitable moments, manifestly apart from the cognizance of the person. Of such a nature is the mechanical smile, when the facial muscles seem made of elastic, or a stiffening of countenance which makes the face appear hard or cruel, dried up and withered, or painfully miserable.

Demon possession does affect the face, and cause expressions upon it which may be opposed to the true character of the person. Other effects upon the face produced by the controlling spirits may be repellent or beautiful, and appear natural and physical; such as a blushing red, impure look, or an angelic look of heavenly beauty, with exquisite smiles, and light as of glory, which may suddenly change into a stern unbending look, with lips set and brow furrowed, or into a dark cloud as of sudden storm and tempest.

In the drainage of vitality, caused by the grip of the spirits of evil, the temples may be sunken, and the hair become prematurely gray. In a sudden manifestation of the intruders, the nostrils may become tightened, the scent deadened, and the breathing gasping and short, with choking, suffocating feelings, and noises in the head.


No part of the nerves in the head are more affected than those of the eyes, for there can come about a passivity of the eyes, which permits them to be moved by evil spirits, and forced to see visible objects apart from the use of the volition. In reading, the eyes can be moved to see the printed words, and rapidly skim the pages of matter, without any of it entering the mind, and making any impression upon the memory. It is important, in connection with the use of the eyes, to notice whether mental action always governs their movements, or whether they look at objects independently of the intelligent volition;note 19 for evil spirit interference is most marked when the eyes roam about whilst the man is speaking to another person, or gaze upward or downward, or in any direction without any cause, ofttimes in a most unseemly or discourteous manner.

Particularly is the use of the eyes by evil spirits manifested in a set or fixed gaze upon various things, or upon the faces of others, the latter is especially dangerous, when the person is compelled by this fixity of gaze to take, unknowingly, a mediumistic attitude to another. Any persistent drawing of the eyes to another's face should be instantly resisted.

Especially in meetings where supernatural powers are manifestly present, a "fixed gaze" in listening to a speaker should be avoided, if it has the effect of causing non-action of the mind and a dazed condition, as it opens the listener to the workings of evil spirits through his passivity. In the same way, speakers in such gatherings should take care lest the spirits of evil find opportunity to use their eyes in fixity of concentration upon the people, to sway them by power and thus hinder the intelligent opening of their minds to the words that are being spoken.note 20


In acute demon possession, the eyes are affected very markedly. They are forced to see evil things, and bad things, so much so that they affect the person, and make him fidgety and complaining; the eyes cannot look straight in another's face, nor, indeed, look at anything without an "attack" of some kind, produced by the spirits of evil. These attacks may cause the person to look guilty in the eyes of others, when there is no ground for doing so.

There are two kinds of concentration: (1) Physical, through the eyes, and (2) mental, by the mental vision. The man himself is only acting in any action of the body, when concentration of mind and will is at the back of his every action. Visions may be physical, mental or spiritual.note 21 In the physical vision the eyes are needed; in the mental, the eyes of the mind; and in the spiritual the inward vision of the spiritual man.

When evil spirits control the physical eyes, visions of supernatural, and natural beings, and things, appear before them, and in ordinary matters of life things appear different from what they really are.note 22 The man receives impressions of things contrary to reality, such as the panel of a door appearing like a cross, lights in the sky in various figures, etc. The man declares he "sees" these things, but he does not know that evil spirits can present them to his vision.

The eyesight of necessity is affected by this manipulation of the eyes, and there are general feelings of weakness. Things look misty and blurred, and undefined. There may be short-sightedness, and inability to concentrate on any small object; concentration of the eyes is painful and difficult, the man complains of the light, tiredness of the eyes, and dark spots appear before them, either stable or moving, near or far; symptoms which might be looked upon as purely physical if it were not for the supernatural element accompanying them.


In interference with the ears, entire deafness may be caused by an evil spirit locating in the nerves of the ear, or there may be degrees of interference with the hearing, such as the loss of words, so that in listening there are moments when sentences, or words, are not heard at all; or there is a failure to grasp clearly what others say because the person hears partly what the speaker says, and partly what the evil spirit inserts, or suggests to the mind, hence "misunderstandings" of given instructions, or the clearly expressed language of others. This also causes an indisposition to listen to others speaking, and a restless impatience which cannot wait for them to complete their sentences, or communications, because the intruders are thrusting in their own suggestions to the mind, and claiming attention to their speaking. The believer has a sense of double listening, so to speak, which is an interior and exterior listening at one and the same time. That is, he may be trying to "listen" to feelings and movements withinnote 23 whilst listening to the voices of others outside. This causes difficulty in listening to music, speaking, and reading aloud. There is also a deadness to exterior sounds, because of a buzzing in the ears,note 24 and the sound in the ears is stronger than the sound outside, with the effect of an apparent absent-mindedness. The man needs to be released from listening to the supernatural speaking within himself, before he is free to listen to that which is external.

Evil spirits interfering with the sensory nerves of the ears, render exterior sounds acute in forced consciousness of them, producing confusion and irritation; the exaggerated sense of sound rendering concentration difficult.

They also make strange sounds by interference with the sensory nerves, the man declaring that he heard voices, thunder, rustling as of a dress, etc., which no one around him hears.


This persistent "buzz" in the ears, makes the victim pre-occupied, and almost unconsciously shake his head, as if shaking off something which is annoying him. It is so distracting that he is obliged to speak aloud to himself to make an impression on his own mind: he must read aloud in order to take in the sense of what he may be reading, or speak aloud to apprehend his own speech, because of the confusion caused in his mind by the inward "buzz" of the persecuting spirits. Because of this confusion, also, fresh ground is given to the powers of darkness, for deeper possession through the distraction caused by their interference.

The cause of this is, that, unknowingly, the believer has lent his ears to evil spirits, listening to their words and suggestions, often because he believed he was listening to God, or listening to himself. This comes particularly when there has grown a habit of listening for an inner voice;note 25 or an alert inside "listening" which in time enables the evil spirit to dull the outer ear, and acute attention to outer communications; or a "listening" inwardly to "feelings," sensations, movements,note 26 "drawings," whilst at the same time listening for voices, texts, and messages from without.


The speaking of evil spirits may be described somewhat as follows:

(1) It is not like the vocal speaking of a human being, which must always be stronger than the speaking of spirits, because spirits have no force of breath; therefore if a man speaks aloud, he can always drown the speaking of evil spirits. On the same principle a man can also drown the voice of the Holy Spirit, because He is Spirit and His speaking is always in the spirit, or through conscience.

(2) It resembles more the "thinking" of a person, or the speaking in oneself, when the words are not uttered through the lips.note 27 When evil spirits are speaking to the inner ear, it seems like a ceaseless buzz of inner words, apparently belonging to the person himself yet not from his mind, nor the result of mental action, nor from his will, nor even expressing his own personal ideas or desires.

When this "buzz" of objectionable, or annoying, or irresponsible words are thus, in an indefinite way, claiming the inner attention of the man, and he has outer claims to deal with, he is liable to speak aloud with a strong voice, so as to overpower or dull the inner clamour, without being conscious that he is raising his voice, or why he is doing so.


Unknowingly the man is making an impression on his own mind, through his own ear, by using a loud voice; otherwise his dulled mind would not be able to take in, or retain what he is saying; or get the impression into his mind.

The believer may not be conscious of the inner "buzz" of the evil spirits' words, and not conscious that his voice is raised to express his own thoughts in audible speech, or know why he finds himself obliged to speak to get clear in his own thinking. Unconsciousness is a symptom of the depth of the evil spirit's possession, and unconsciousness of facts concerning himself, is as detrimental to the person, as attempts of strangers to enter a house would be to a householder who is oblivious to all sounds.

Consciousnessnote 28 of all things connected with the inner life and environment is as keenly needed by the believer, and should be cultivated by him, as consciousness of all exterior matters connected with the duties of life. Unconsciousness by men of how they themselves act and speak, think or appear, in oblivion to all that is patent to others,note 29 or, on the other hand, an "unconscious" self-consciousness, or ultra- consciousness of the actions of self, may all be results of the work of deceiving spirits.

Some symptoms of thus having listened to supernatural voices, may be described as:

(1) Difficulty in listening to others; (2) Face "screwed up" in difficulty, of grasping what is said; (3) A sense of dullness or heaviness in the ear or ears.

The distinction between deafness through the interference of evil spirits with the ears, and that which is the result of physical causes, depends upon whether the person has other symptoms of evil spirit possession, or whether he is in a normally "natural" condition.


There are other varied symptoms showing disturbance of the entire systemnote 30 of the man when dominated by evil spirits in possession. In affecting the muscles, hands and fingers or feet, the nerves are held, and these act without control of the mind or will, sometimes in convulsive action, or in twitches, and prostration, or else in the paradox of being muscularly weak and strong consecutively, and in rapid succession. There are many accidents through possession, which are called "the visitation of God," "slips of the hand," unaccountable "failures of the mind," which are left unexplained, but these "happenings" are not really "accidents"--they are the carrying out of the real designs of unseen spirit beings malignantly concerned in the world of men.

The insidious spirits have prepared for this manipulation, or interference with the person by their slow dulling of the mind; the weakening of the reasoning powers, which prevents him seeing the outcome of a certain step or action; the disuse of the judgment; the imperceptible loss of decision, and independent action of the will, so that it "snaps," so to speak, at a critical moment, with fatal results; for without this passivity of mind and will, the emissaries of Satan cannot have the full control of the body which they so keenly desire.

In affecting the body,note 31 the spirits of evil also interfere with all the functions at various times, and in various degrees, such as in eating and drinking, and the swallowing of food. The mastication of food, the saliva, the phlegm, the breath and breathing, physical weakness or strength, stiffness of limbs, heaviness, heat and cold, agreeable or disagreeable feelings, sleeplessness, dreams,note 32 restlessness at night, all can be irritated, produced or exaggerated by the presence and will of evil spirits.


How evil spirits can manipulate the body through the nervous system,note 33 we find clearly defined in the Scriptures; but we never find a single instance of the Holy Spirit working in the same way. Not once in the Acts of the Apostles do we find "twitchings," "writhing," convulsions, or other effects of supernatural power on the human frame, recorded as results of being filled with the Holy Spirit. But we do read that evil spirits can convulse the body, tear it, bruise it (Luke 9: 39), cause it to pine away (Mark 9: 18), or give it strength (Mark 5: 4); they can make the man cry out suddenly with a loud cry (Luke 9: 39), or make him dumb, gnash his teeth, roll on the ground, cast him into the fire to burn him, or water to drown him (Matt. 17: 15).

In this acute form the symptoms of demon possession and insanity are almost indistinguishable. The difference lies in the fact that in pure demon possession the mind is not impaired, although it may be passive, or suspended in action, but in insanity the evil spirit takes advantage of a physical condition, "Insane" people are more "sane" than sane people think they are, and there is more truth in what they say than is believed. What they "see" is not always delusion, but the actual doings of evil spirits.

It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between

  1. Pure insanity,
  2. Pure "possession,"
  3. Insanity and possession.

Before declaring a person insane, from physical and natural causes, the physician should find out if there be any supernatural cause. Insanity may be caused by natural derangement,note 34 and by supernatural interferences of evil powers. True insanity can also be the result of possession, and be (humanly) irrecoverable.

In short, under the power of a lying spirit, the man loses control of his body, and is, for the time being, when the intruder manifests himself, irresponsible for his actions.

The spirits in possession of the body vary in character, and in manifestation, as much as when in possession of the mind, or spirit, in spiritual manifestations. Some are malignant, and some are milder in their actions, such as the "spirit of infirmity" or powerlessness described in Luke 13: 11, or the blind and dumb spirit in Matt. 12: 22. These Scriptures show there were cases of possession which looked like cases for healing, but the Lord's words and action proved that the woman who was bent for eighteen years, did not require healing, but deliverance.note 35 The bending of the back is one of the symptoms of demon possession, when the body is deeply affected.


Another manifestation of evil spirits may be described as prophetic ecstasy, or "inspiration." Such was manifested in the girl with a "spirit of divination," which Paul cast out (Acts 16: 16-18). The danger of this kind of spirit is that the manifestations are more like those of the Holy Spirit,note 36 than when in the nervous system, or bodily frame. To distinguish between the two in the Corinthian Church was the object of the Apostle writing the 12th and 14th chapters of the first Corinthians: "Concerning the 'inspired'. . . I would not have you ignorant," he wrote, as he proceeded to show them how to detect the difference between the manifestations of deceiving spirits in demoniacal 'inspiration' or ecstasy, and the true inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God in one believer being in harmony with the manifestation of His power in others, and the demoniacal spirit producing "schism" or "mutiny" of the members of Christ's Body one against the other. The Holy Spirit causing interdependence, and honour of His workings in the one and in the other; the demoniacal spirit causing lawlessness, and confusion. "Harmony" and "confusion" being respectively the hall-mark of the supernatural power being from God or Satan in the assembly of God's people.


The excuses of the evil spirit to cover the ground held opens again a wide field of consideration. Once the ground is taken, and the mind is dulled from its power of critical discrimination, the lying spirit is apt in suggesting "excuses"note 37 to the believer to cover his location, and the ground he holds. The list of varied explanations is given in Column 4. If the mind labours in action, "it is natural" or "it is heredity," he suggests. Where the whole nervous system is involved, "it is disease" or "it is purely physical." "It is fatigue," or it is "spiritual." There may be, and there generally is, some basis for the "excuse," for the deceivers are keenly clever in working along-side natural conditions, either in circumstances, temperament or disturbance of the bodily functions, i.e., the attack may be in the natural and physical realm, but not from it as the source. They like to have, and watch for, some physical or mental ailment to serve as the cover, or "excuse" for their manifestation.

They attack a person because they are in possession, but make him think and believe it to be an indirect attack, i.e., through another person. The blame is placed on the man himself or someone else, or on anything but the true cause, so that the intruder may not be discovered and expelled. It is therefore important that all "excuses" should be examined, i.e., the "reasons" for such and such an unexplainable manifestation. The causes should always be gone into, for by believing a wrong interpretationnote 38 of the manifestation, more ground is given to the lying spirits. The believer may be refusing ground on the one band, and giving new ground on the other, unless he examines all the suggestions which come to his mind concerning his condition.

The following tables show the stages of the advance in possession, and how wrong interpretation gives new ground:

(1) Ground followed by
(2) Possession, manifested by--
(3) for example, "Twitching of nerves"--then the evil spirits give
(4) Wrong interpretation of the cause of this twitching, which, if accepted by the believer, admits new lies from them, and gives more ground.


Four sequences should be noted in this connection:

(1) Ground because of (a) ignorance, resulting in (b) deception;
(2) Followed by possession, because of ground;
(3) Manifestation because of possession;
(4) Danger of wrong interpretation of manifestation.


Deceiving spirits also persistently endeavour to keep the believer occupied with something else to fill up the mind, so that he may not discover his own need of deliverance. Workers are almost obsessed with the thought of "Revival," or the "need of others," whilst blind to their own condition. Devotion, singing, preaching, worship--all rightful things--may so possess the mind as to close it to all personal knowledge of the need of deliverance from the adversary's deception.

The effect on the believer of evil spirit possession, we have already dealt with, in the aspect of mental and bodily inertness. To this we add, general weakness of the whole man, spiritual, mental and physical. He becomes erratic in temperament, spasmodic in study, wavering in allegiance, and undecided in action; easily moved by (1) impulses, i.e., a sharp movement forward without volition; or (2) repulsion without reason, i.e., a sharp movement backward apart from volition.


The life becomes increasingly full of contradictions. The man seems strong and yet is weak, he is stoical and yet seeks love; he is spasmodic in his actions, erratic and dogmatic in his beliefs, and utterly illogical in his reasonings. All these symptoms may be visible or invisible, and manifested at different intervals, and in different degrees, concurrently or consecutively.

After a time the believer may become conscious of his condition, and then he has a painful shrinking lest these symptoms should be read by others, and thus cause attacks upon him. When they do become too manifest to be hidden or ignored, then he is often said to be suffering from a "nerve breakdown," for the symptoms coincide with all the characteristics of neurasthenia, and can only be distinguished from it by an examination into past spiritual experiences, and the discovery of the working of supernatural powers.

Should the apparent "neurasthenia" be really the possession of evil spirits, no prolonged rest or natural means will set the person free, although such means may give the body a renewing which will enable the victim to face the spiritual truth in due time.

This growing weakness of the circumference also weakens the spiritual life, by preventing its growth into vigorous manhood in Christ; for the inner spiritual man needs the outer man for expression, and development. But in possession through deceptionnote 39 the mind is too passive to act, and express the inner life--the expression of the face is passive and dull, the eyes are dreamy and slow. In brief, the outer man becomes a "prison," so to speak, of the spirit life at the centre within.

Another very manifest effect is that as time goes on, the man lives more in the body than in the soul and spirit, the lawful appetites reassert controlnote 40 and the spirit-life is more unrecognized and less followed,note 41 whilst variations and inconsistencies in life, in state, in actions, all show increasingly the marks of "possession."


A very little consideration of the characteristics of those drawn into abnormal supernatural experiences, will bear out this diagnosis. The invariable effect upon such believers is the weakening of the mental force, the reasoning and judging power; a weakening in moral force and will and ofttimes; a haunting sense of fear--fear of the future, fear of persons so that they cannot bear to hear them spoken of, or to speak to them; and a gradual general weakening of the physical frame. In time there comes an involuntary effect upon the nervous system, and there is impatience--manifestly "nervous" and not moral--and restlessness, and often an involuntary twitching action of the nerves.note 42

In the moral realm comes an attitude of infallibility, positive assertion and unteachableness, with loss of the real power of choice, and personal control of mind, speech, manner, and actions--for persons thus "possessed" cannot choose or act, because they shall not; and they have acutely a sense that they "don't know what to do," on account of the evil spirit's hold of them.note 43


The effect of evil spirit possession as listed in Column 6 has already been more or less indicated in the preceding columns, and it is only necessary to compare Column 4 and 6 for their further summing up.note 44

The subtilty of the deception has been that in multitudes of cases, all these "symptoms" are thought to be physically or morally the outcome of the individual personality, i.e., the "temperament" of the person, which must be borne with until released from the body of clay in the grave! "Self," they declare, is their trouble, which no acceptance of the Fulness of the Spirit, nor light upon identification with Christ, has altered. Wandering of mind in prayer, restlessness, talkativeness, or extreme reserve; and many other hindering troubles in the outer man remain, and are tolerated, or grieved over, without hope of change.

But how different the outlook, when much that troubles them is attributed to the true cause. "An enemy hath done this!" In many it is not "self" after all, but ground unwittingly given to deceiving spirits, who could be dislodged by the knowledge of the truth, and by refusal of ground.

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