A novel by Anthony Burgess
In 2004 when I became a baptized Catholic, I had befriended a priest from my local parish. He was a gentle man with a real depth and a genuine appreciation for a good laugh. In truth, he was one of the funniest guys I knew. One day, after Mass, I decided to have breakfast with him in the rectory, and we talked about everything and anything but nothing in particular. Out of the blue, I started talking about a movie that I had seen the previous night, and I lamented that I wanted my two hours back. Interested, he inquired about the movie. I told him that it wasn’t in the theaters, but that I was with a group of friends and we had watched it on rental. It was a B rated flick and it wasn’t even worth a serious discussion. Yet, in his priestly kindness, and I’ll say, feigned interest, he pressed me further. I told him that the premise involved a haunted sculpture and a demon. I rolled my eyes and was even embarrassed to be telling this to a learned priest. I laughed and called the whole thing stupid. However, my priest-friend’s demeanor immediately changed the moment I said the word demon. It was quite disconcerting, because his light hearted joviality became suddenly intensely serious. He immediately told me of an experience that he had had some months before with a person who he claimed was possessed, that the person, whose name he of course kept private, could not utter the name of Jesus Christ. With that said, this individual had other aspects about him, that were, I guess you could say, less than beautiful. He said that it was absolutely disturbing and that he was truly unnerved by the whole experience and that it was not a matter to be taken lightly. He then went on to politely admonish my hard-bitten cynicism. It was a brief five to seven minute discourse, but the severity of the subject matter had certainly opened my thinking to the minutest possibility of his words. Up to this point, I still do believe in the vital importance of science, reason and logic when it comes to matters of things that go bump in the night. But what jarred me most, however, was not the subject matter. Rather, it was the person, my priest-friend who was at the helm of the conversation. For me, he was the epitome of logic, reason and skepticism, in essence, a pure example of intellectualism. And it was he who was spouting this mumbo-jumbo. That is what threw me off kilter. He was correcting my air of indifference and validating something that I had easily glossed over as primitive and psychosomatic. The subject matter was obviously too turgid to be continued and we moved forward talking about other things. Yet, it was an episode that never left me.
Not long ago, I was gifted with The Demonologist by a friend, who, knowing my faith, thought I would find the book interesting. At first, I expected it to be fluff, but when I started reading it, my attitude slowly started to change, primarily because the work was written with a certain measure of literary skill and seriousness, which, astonished me, considering the kind of book that it was. The tone and assorted case citations were not bombastic nor did it involve people who were all for over-the-top theatrics. Quite the contrary, the cases, which at first seem explainable, are assiduously taken apart and analyzed. Then, when all the elements of the psychological and practical have been stripped away and the unknown paranormal happenings continue to fester, the case(s) gets whittled down to some truly unpleasant assessments; normally a case will start in an offhand and almost insignificant manner, and then, over a certain period of time, the happening feeds on itself until it no longer appears offhand and insignificant. And there are some doozies that are mentioned in the book. Read the chapter A Family Under Attack and of course Annabelle to get a glimpse of the aforementioned. While there was still a certain restraint that I had with my belief while reading this book, it did harken me back to 2004 with that brief exchange that I had with my priest-friend. So, I read The Demonologist with open-minded seriousness and not as a book of entertainment. When I switched my thinking, that made this reading rather disturbing. Much of the ‘haunting‘ occurrences cited in The Demonologist, ironically, seem to have come about, because the people who called the Warrens, have, in some inexplicable way, brought it about themselves by dabbling with Ouija Boards, occult related practices and conjuring books, etc. There is a whole do-not-do laundry list that people have ignored, and through that ignorance and arrogance, made their lives quite difficult to contend with. When at a loss with what to do, the Warrens and a plethora of legit clergy are brought into the situation, only, however if it is so warranted. It was the clergy component that gave some real credence to this book as a whole. I do not doubt that the paranormal exists, as there are many well known universities with paranormal psychology departments and research groups in their curriculum offering, most notably Duke University, the University of Arizona and the University of Edinburgh, just to name a few. But this book was well written and not exactly what I expected. It was an eye-opening work that did not ‘push’ you to believe one way or the other. It was just a work of recounted personal recollections followed with advise attached to those remembrances. Generally, a good book.
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