The exorcist’s shrink, and two other books

A quick review of today’s headlines is enough to pull the air out of your early-morning balloon: Loretta Lynch still has a job, Hillary’s compromised emails will remain protected for at least two more years, Trump is deciding between Newt and Christie – neither one excites my political inner being – for VP, and body parts are washing ashore at the Rio Olympics volleyball venue.

You can find all these items at this morning’s Memeorandum.

So, paradoxically, I found this item encouraging: As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. And, sometimes, demonic possession.

The psychiatrist, Richard Gallagher, describes his work,

For the past two-and-a-half decades and over several hundred consultations, I’ve helped clergy from multiple denominations and faiths to filter episodes of mental illness — which represent the overwhelming majority of cases — from, literally, the devil’s work. It’s an unlikely role for an academic physician, but I don’t see these two aspects of my career in conflict. The same habits that shape what I do as a professor and psychiatrist — open-mindedness, respect for evidence and compassion for suffering people — led me to aid in the work of discerning attacks by what I believe are evil spirits and, just as critically, differentiating these extremely rare events from medical conditions.

Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans? Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no, because of their frequent contact with patients who are deluded about demons, their general skepticism of the supernatural, and their commitment to employ only standard, peer-reviewed treatments that do not potentially mislead (a definite risk) or harm vulnerable patients. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained in no other way.

Gallagher, of course, has a book coming out soon.

The article’s comments section has the usual skeptics, believers, and deniers, as one would expect. Theology aside, I’m more inclined towards the physical/medical explanation than towards the metaphysical/supernatural, and couldn’t help but think of a couple of parodies [gross alert] of The Exorcist while reading it.

But what I found encouraging is, that, underlying the theme, is the lesson that, after all, science hasn’t figured all of it out yet.

And that, in itself, is what encourages us to continue to strive.


In other book news,

1. Don Surber emailed with the news that his book, Trump the Press: Don Surber’s take on how the pundits blew the 2016 Republican race, is out today.

  1. I’m working my way through Carlos Eire’s magnificent Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650, which I highly recommend. Don’t be intimidated by the sheer size (920 pages), it’s a great book.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S, and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.