When psychiatrist and bestselling author Scott Peck published People of the Lie in 1983, I took special notice. His brief account of exorcisms in one chapter was consistent with my observations of two attempts to exorcise demons that plagued a woman I had been counseling. So I was also primed to read Peck's newest book, Glimpses of the Devil, in which he speaks in-depth for the first time about two cases of possession and exorcism. Indeed, he claims this is the first account of possession and exorcism written by a medical scientist.

The Serpent

Peck's book is a good read. Though he tells his tales in the measured tones appropriate to his role as a scientist, the material is replete with novelistic drama and paranormal perceptions.

"Beccah's head … started to move back and forth in a strange weaving pattern that looked remarkably like that of a cobra," Peck writes about one case. Suddenly, "Beccah's curled body sprang toward me, its mouth flared open." As the team tried to restrain Beccah from biting Peck, the "seemingly sickly" patient "had close to superhuman strength and fought against us with amazing violence." Though he knew intellectually that they were looking at a human being, he writes, "our intuitive minds were so powerfully affected that what we saw was a snake."

Nevertheless, he downplays paranormal phenomena. Peck criticizes the Roman Catholic Church's formal screening criteria for exorcisms because they focus too tightly on supernatural signs. Though strange things happened during Peck's exorcisms, what tipped him off to the patients' possession were subtle aspects of their behavior that could not be accounted for by standard psychological mechanisms.

Throughout Glimpses of the Devil, Peck treats Satan with ...

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