NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - A psychiatric advisor to exorcists wants science to admit the existence of the supernatural.
Doctor Richard Gallagher is a board-certified psychiatrist and professor at New York Medical College who has been working with priests for 25 years. He has interviewed thousands of people thought to have been possessed, confirming hundreds of actual demonic possessions.
"We all have to be open to considering something more here," he said. Gallagher says he believes in science and uses "the results of scientific studies every day," explaining, "I just have had a rare window, a rare opportunity to study these things a little more rigorously than most doctors would have."
Gallagher, who is Catholic, is also an advisor for the International Association of Exorcists. He is publishing a book, Demonic Foes, A Psychiatrist Investigates Demonic Possession in the Modern United States, about his experiences. In an interview in May, he said he was first approached by a priest who wanted his opinion about a woman who claimed she was being beaten up by demons.
He said he was asked to determine if she had a psychiatric condition, was a victim of physical abuse or if it was her imagination. He concluded she was "completely sane" and that it "didn't seem to be explainable on the basis of any medical or psychiatric pathology."
"I felt that she was being attacked because, in fact, she was a very holy person," he said.
Making the case for demonic possession requires moral certitude, with there are "strict criteria" for determining it.
"The essence of a possession is a person going into a trance and a demonic-sounding voice coming out of them, attacking the people, attacking religion, usually using very crude and violent language like, 'Leave her alone. She's ours.' This type of thing," he said.
Superhuman strength, speaking ancient languages and knowing the secrets of people that are not otherwise knowable are also signs of possession. Gallagher said he personally experienced a patient who knew personal information about him. A woman he interviewed, who ended up being possessed, knew his mother died of ovarian cancer — something no one else could have known.
Gallagher was called in by two leading U.S. exorcists to consult on a case of demonic possession they described as one of the most severe cases they had ever seen. The woman agreed to allow her case to be publicized under the condition that her name was changed. She is referred to as "Julia."
"She was a satanist, a self-professed high priestess of a satanic cult," Gallagher said. He told of the time he was on the phone with the exorcist and heard the same demonic voice with Julia say, "She's ours, leave her alone." When Gallagher asked the priest if he heard the voice, the priest said, "Yeah, the evil spirit can even interrupt our phone conversation."
He said he found it was "pretty creepy, but also pretty remarkable."
He said Julia worshipped Satan and had paranormal abilities that she attributed directly to him.
"I don't see how people can believe in a good God," he recounts her as saying. "But Satan, I know He gives me favors."
The night before Gallagher was to interview Julia, he said his two cats erupted into a fight at 3 a.m. "The first thing out of her mouth was 'So Dr. Gallagher, how did you like the cats last night?'" he remarked. "I even have a letter from her to a priest that says 'we raised a little hell in Dr. Gallagher's house last night.'"
Gallagher said demonic possession doesn't happen "out of the blue."
"There is always pretty much an explanation," he said. "They have turned to evil in a very explicit way."
He said, in Julia's case, she had turned to Satanism. Despite multiple attempts at an exorcism, Julia remained possessed because she remained in the satanic cult and continued to worship Satan, Gallagher explained.
"Critics often ask for a ludicrous level of 'proof,'" he said. "In my experience, many critics have never seen a genuine case. They've never even spoken to an official exorcist."
Many in the mental health field are more open to a "healthy spirituality" than they have been in the past.
"We have, I think, moved past an era heavily influenced by Freud's atheism where psychiatry is actually hostile to religion and spirituality," Gallagher said.
"They're very, very smart," he went on. "The intelligence level of a fallen angel, which is what I call them, is far superior to human beings, which is why they denigrate human beings. They sometimes call us 'monkeys.'"