The first evangelical exorcism I personally attended took place in the cozy basement lounge of a snowbound seminary in the Midwest. Excluding myself, six people were present for the occasion: three female divinity students who had previously undergone deliverance themselves and were now hoping to learn more about the procedure from a pastoral counseling standpoint; a young man from Montreal named Jean-Guy, who was the subject of the evening's session, and Jean-Guy's wife, Sheila, both of whom were also divinity students; and a fifty-five-year-old theology professor named Dr. Donald Graves.
The session opened with some hymn-singing and Bible-reading, and then Dr. Graves asked Jean-Guy to discuss as frankly as possible why he thought he might be demonized. Jean-Guy, trim and handsome and soft-spoken, said that he had converted to evangelical Christianity just two years earlier through a chance encounter with Sheila, who had been visiting Montreal with a church group. After getting married, the couple decided to attend seminary together, but for several months now Jean-Guy had been experiencing difficulty fully committing his life to Christ. He sometimes felt there was something inside him holding him back. At the same time, he had also been experiencing periodic anger and resentment toward Sheila. He would sometimes yell at her when things didn't run smoothly in their student apartment or when he was struggling with an overdue course paper. It was after one of his more recent outbursts of temper that Sheila suggested he might need deliverance.
Dr. Graves told Jean-Guy that we were now ready for the testing, or diagnostic, phase of the procedure. Lowering his head, he prayed that God would permit Jean-Guy to serve as a reporter or voice box for any evil spirits that might be residing in him.
Dr. Graves: I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, any spirits in Jean-Guy, identify yourselves.
Dr. Graves: By the authority of the Lord Jesus, identify yourselves.
Dr. Graves: Clare. Is that the name of an evil spirit? Truth before God.
Dr. Graves: Are there any others?
Jean-Guy: Yes. Pom.
Dr. Graves: Pom, are you an evil spirit? Tell me, truth before God.
Dr. Graves: Clare, when did you enter Jean-Guy? I command you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, tell me.
Jean-Guy: When he was fifteen years old.
Dr. Graves: Fifteen years old? You entered him then? Tell me, truth before God.
Dr. Graves: Who is it?
Dr. Graves: Clare, truth before God, what hold do you have over Jean-Guy?
Jean-Guy: I provide him comfort.
Dr. Graves: But hasn't Jean-Guy been renouncing you?
Jean-Guy: He's too weak. I'm still here in him.
Dr. Graves: What other hold do you have over Jean-Guy?
Dr. Graves: Clare, are there any other spirits with you?
At this point Jean-Guy (or Clare) identified four additional evil spirits that had entered Jean-Guy at various stages of his life. Dr. Graves calmly interrogated each one ("Truth before God; by the authority of Jesus Christ"), trying to get a fix on their distinctive missions and rankings. The spirits generally responded in Jean-Guy's natural voice, though sometimes their timbre shifted somewhat, becoming slightly higher.
Dr. Graves called for a short break and invited everyone to help themselves to hot chocolate, cookies, and potato chips. He told me that he personally prefers a low-key approach to deliverance.
"A lot of evangelicals go in for a blast-'em method, but I don't think this really works," he said. "You have to take your time and find the grounds for why the demons are there. You have to eliminate these grounds, the hold they have on the person, before you can cast them out. Otherwise they'll stay. This is the case even for someone such as Jean-Guy, who seems definitely to be demonized, but not to a very great extent-about a two, I'd say, on a demonization scale of ten."
I asked Jean-Guy how he was feeling. He said that so far he'd found the process "physically and spiritually exhausting." He added that he was fully aware of the spirits speaking through him, and that they tended to communicate "in broken phrases and verbal gestures."