Saturday, May 17, 2014

The ghost of Father Karras

Earlier this week, I was a substitute teacher for one of the teachers at Flagstaff High School, and provided assistance for three of her classes the day that I was there.

The most interesting class of the day was the first hour class, which was working on a budget plan related to their choice of careers. Future career choices included auto mechanic, fire fighter, Navy SWAT team, animal care, carpenter, and psychiatrist. The most intriguing career choice, however, was one that you don’t run across very often.


As it turns out, there is a school in Denver, Colorado called the International School of Exorcism, and it was founded by noted cult and occult expert Bob Larson in 2012. In the last 30 years, Mr. Larson has performed more than 20,000 exorcisms, which would likely make him the number one exorcism expert in the world. In a nod to the electronic world, Mr. Larson recently has been offering exorcisms by Skype, and the suggested cost of a one hour exorcism is $295.

For most of us, our exposure to exorcism is due to the 1973 movie, The Exorcist, which was actually based on a true story, the 1949 exorcism case of a boy in Maryland named Roland Doe. Roland Doe, as you might suspect, was the pseudonym assigned by the Catholic church in order to protect the privacy of the family involved. The movie was extremely successful commercially, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, It eventually became one of the highest grossing films of all time, grossing over $441 million worldwide.

In the movie, the team of Father Lankester Merrin and Father Damien Karras are assigned to perform an exorcism on young Regan Burstyn (Linda Blair) , who looks more than a little scary in the movie.

Ultimately, Father Karras is forced to perform the exorcism alone, after the demon possessing the young girl manages to kill the elderly Father Merrin (played by Max von Sydow). Many people consider The Exodus to be the scariest movie off all time, and if you view the 5 minute clip posted below, I think that you’ll agree with that assessment:

how does she get her head to move like that?

The ritual of exorcism has been practiced for more than 2000 years, and it’s not limited to the ritual performed by members of the Catholic Church. Exorcisms have also been performed by Hindus, Muslims, and Jews, and the act of exorcism is mentioned in the Dead Sea scrolls, which go back as far as 400 B.C..

In general, the scientific community does not recognize possession as a valid psychiatric or medical condition, but there ARE those in the scientific community (notably Psychiatrist . M. Scott Peck) who believe otherwise. During the early years of the 20th Century, lobotomies (including surgery with an ice pick) were performed to rid the patient of what was considered to be a mental illness, but the practice of performing lobotomies has largely disappeared throughout most of the world.

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the occult, which caused the Vatican to offer a course in Satanism and exorcism starting in 2005. Dan Brown may be partially to blame, since The DaVinci Code has sold more than 80,000,000 copies since its release in 2003.

Satanism has become mainstream enough that a Harvard University student club recently announced plans to host a Satanic Black Mass on May 12th. Due to public outrage, and condemnation by the Archdiocese of Boston and the University’s President, the event was cancelled before it could occur.

I’m not a believer in giving people advice on their career choice, especially in view of the fact that most people will have more than one career in their lifetime (I’ve had 5, so far), but I’d likely recommend something other than being an exorcist.

For those who are still considering the career, they may wish to follow in the footsteps of Washington Post columnist Anthony Faiola, who recently traveled to the Vatican to witness an exorcism being performed by the Catholic Church’s best known exorcist, an 89 year old priest named Father Gabriele Amorth.

If they are still interested after that, my advice would be to feel free to move forward.

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