Here’s a funny one. Hilarious, in fact.
Even within the Church of England, the idea of possession raises eyebrows. “The number of metaphysical assumptions it makes is quite incredible. It means there are such things as non-human evil spirits that can take possession of a human being and require to be told to go somewhere else by a greater power,” says Canon Michael Perry, who holds a doctorate in deliverance and edits the Christian Parapsychologist.
“Some Christians believe it happens frequently – they see demons under every rug and will perform exorcisms at the drop of a hat. My view is possession is very rare.”
You have to admit. That’s not bad. ‘The number of metaphysical assumptions it makes is quite incredible.’ Well, yeah. That’s fair to say. The idea of possession does make quite a few metaphysical assumptions. Well done for pointing that out – er, Canon. Wait. Who? ‘Canon Michael Perry, who holds a doctorate in deliverance and edits the Christian Parapsychologist.’ Canon? Well but if you’re a canon don’t you make some metaphysical assumptions yourself? Is it just that you don’t hold quite as many? Is that why your eyebrows are up because other people make more? So what’s the right number then? And another question – what’s a doctorate in deliverance when it’s at home? And an even more penetrating question – what the hell is Christian parapsychology? Let me rephrase that. What is parapsychology? Now – what is Christian parapsychology? Don’t the, um, sets of ideas indicated by both of those words imply a good few metaphysical assumptions? Correct me if I’m wrong.
‘It means there are such things as non-human evil spirits that can take possession of a human being and require to be told to go somewhere else by a greater power.’ Ooooh – yes, it does. A pretty outlandish thing to believe, isn’t it! And if you see such things under every rug – well, that’s more outlandish still. Or is it. Is it really a question of quantity? Is it soft-headed to think there are 14,286 in the room but quite sane and rational to think there is 1? Is that how it works? On one side of the stage, rugs and hats and loonies who think non-human evil spirits are as common as dust mites. On the other side of the stage, dignified scholarly chaps with advanced degrees who think they are scarcer than that – much scarcer than that – really, very scarce – as scarce as, oh, say, a parking space in Chelsea. You hardly ever ever ever encounter them. But then one day…