The Science of Spirit Possession 2nd Revised edition by Dr. Terence Palmer (2014)
Reviewed by David Furlong
This book, based on Palmer’s Ph.D. thesis, is a scholarly and authoritative exploration into a little understood area of human experience. Palmer sets out his stall in the Introduction where he states:
‘The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief in academic circles and in the collective conscious of institutionalised mechanistic science, there is a scientific framework that can, and does, accommodate the phenomena of spirit possession in all forms and diversity’ (Palmer, 2014:39).
To accept the concept that individuals can be influenced and affected, both mentally and physically, by spirit entities, leading to psychological illness, first necessitates that there is adequate scientific evidence for the continuation of consciousness beyond the death of the physical body. To support his thesis Palmer draws heavily on the work of the now little known nineteenth century researcher, Frederic Myers (1843-1901), who was one of the founders for the Society for Psychical Research. ‘Myers’ primary objective was to pursue scientific evidence that Man has a soul and his conscious personality survives bodily death,’ states Palmer (2014:30). It is clear that Myers’ exploration into these fields was limited by the understanding of his time and, although his posthumous book Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903) was well received by some of his followers, his ideas on the unconscious or ‘subliminal’ self, gained no acceptance within psychology or the scientific establishment. Drawing on Myer’s concepts, Palmer brings us back to the central task of true scientific enquiry, which should be the open-minded exploration of all phenomena, of which perceived ‘spirit-possession’ is an example.
Utilising a wide variety of sources, both ancient and modern, Palmer lays the foundation for an understanding of ‘spirit possession’ that strongly supports the notions that separate disembodied spirit entities can access and influence the minds of individuals and, on occasions, take up residence within the psyche. This in turn can give rise to a range of psychological conditions such as schizophrenia, ‘hearing voices’ and similar mental health problems. We are informed how obvious cases of possession were tackled in past-times through traditional exorcisms and how modern spirit-release therapists now approach these situations through hypnotic regression techniques, where the intrusive entity or entities are communicated with, helped and then released. Palmer also suggests methodologies for further research into this field, which is sadly ignored by the medical establishment that broadly prefers to see such conditions as stemming from neurological disorders that can best be treated by medication.
Because the book sets out to challenge the current orthodox position on the causes of mental problems, which it does more than adequately, it is full of scientific terminology and jargon that make it a potentially difficult read for the lay person and this is my main criticism of this book. However, for those interested in, or working with mental and psychological health, where a possible cause could be spirit intrusion in one form or another, it should be a must to have on the bookshelf.
Director of the Spirit Release Forum and author of Illuminating the Shadow.