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Exorcism on Channel 4

I recorded this TV documentary of an experiment in exorcism (24 February 2005) but only just got round to watching it. The outcome of the programme was pretty much as one would expect. The minister performing the exorcism seemed to have a good rapport with his subject and we saw a nicely staged bit of brief psychotherapy. The patient didn't seem to have much wrong with him to start wtih (in fact, had already been seen by two psychiatrists to exclude any mental disorder) and appeared much the same afterwards, though with some fairly leading questioning from the presenter of the programme he agreed that he felt relaxed.

The assembled "experts" included some believers and some skeptics. The skeptics mostly tiptoed around the question whether it was conceivable that there could be discarnate spirits, refusing to commit themselves. The religious members of the panel took varying positions, in most cases tending to prefer their own versions of exorcism from that on offer here. This was particularly true of the Muslim cleric and a Jewish lady with Kabbalistic leanings.

The scientific content of the programme, such as it was, came from EEG tracings taken during the procedure. The interpretation was predictably non-committal: there might have been some interesting changes at critical moment, or there might not, but in any case it was difficult to know what they meant.

My own reaction was in line with that of Dr Glen Wilson, who thought that the performance had a good deal of similarity to hypnosis, with both patient and exorcist following socially prescribed roles. In fact, both parties had previously been through procedures of this kind together on a number of occasions.

The Channel 4 site has some quite interesting links.

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