In the 43 years since the making of The Exorcist, director William Friedkin says psychiatrists are much more open to the possibility of demonic possession – and many are completely baffled by the phenomenon.
The Catholic Herald is reporting on a film Friedkin was permitted to produce during an authentic exorcism performed by the late exorcist of Rome, Father Gabriele Amorth. According to an article by Vanity Fair, Friedkin took this film and showed it to several experts in neuroscience and psychiatry such as Dr Jeffrey Lieberman, director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Dr Roberto Lewis-Fernández, president-elect of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry.
Dr Lieberman described his own first-hand experience with a similar case that left him “completely freaked out” in which “somehow, like in The Exorcist, we were the enemy. This was basically a battle between the doctors and whatever it was that afflicted the individual.”
When he was asked whether he could rule out demonic possession, Lieberman said, “No. There’s no way I could explain what happened.”
Friedkin showed the film to two leading neurosurgeons, Dr Itzhak Fried and Dr Neil Martin, chief of neurosurgery at the UCLA Medical Centre.
Dr. Fried believed that what he saw on the film was “authentic.”
Dr. Martin said it was absolutely amazing. “There’s a major force at work within her somehow. This goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced—that’s for certain.”
Friedkin admitted to being surprised by the doctors’ responses. “I had expected they would quickly dismiss Rosa’s [the woman being exorcised] symptoms as madness or unintentional fraud or suggest that she might be cured by brain surgery. They did not.”
Neither doctor was willing to say the case was a definite possession but they both admitted to being completely baffled by what they saw.
The Vanity Fair article (linked to this blog) is lengthy but a fascinating read!