On spirit possession and mental imbalances

The seemingly impenetrable material world which we behold before our eyes is actually encased in the subtler worlds of the vital, the mind and other higher transcendental worlds right upto the highest triune world known as Sachchidananda (i.e. Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).   The vital worlds are inhabited by vital beings, which can be benevolent or malevolent.  The malevolent beings, which are keen on extending their influence in the larger Universe, can at times possess and victimize feeble or depraved human beings.   These are some observations made by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on this theme.

Question: When a being is possessed by a hostile force, what becomes of his psychic ?

Mother: It depends on the degree of the possession. Usually it is something progressive. First there is an influence under which one comes, and comes in a fragmentary way, not even totally in his being, but in certain parts and for a time. This is the first stage. The second: the influence becomes permanent and there is one part of the being which deteriorates, which is constantly under this influence and expresses it. After this, the being which has cast this influence tries to enter that part. Then, usually, this produces a conflict, a kind of inner battle. People have fits, sometimes even nervous morbid fits. In trying to resist, the two parts of the being come constantly into conflict, and this produces great imbalance, even physical imbalance. But if one doesn’t know how to resist and doesn’t succeed in shaking off the hold, then gradually the being that has seized upon a part of the person acts like an octopus and spreads its tentacles like that, slowly and everywhere; and finally it is a total possession.

At the moment of the total possession, either the possessed person becomes completely unbalanced or he becomes a kind of monster and his psychic being leaves him.  These cases are extremely rare, fortunately. Usually, in the human being the psychic is strong enough to be able to resist, and the most frequent case is that of constant conflict between the two parts, until the psychic being, if it is strong enough and knows how to lean on a greater strength than its own, is capable of rejecting this influence and freeing itself. It is only in an extreme case of a total possession that the psychic being goes away. But these are extremely rare cases, extremely rare.  It sometimes happens that a child is still-born, that is, just at the moment of birth it dies or a few minutes later, or an hour or two later, you see, just at that time. In these cases it happens that it is the psychic being which has decided not to use this body. But if, for example, the doctor who is looking after the case is a clever man or the nurse a clever person and they can bring back life into the body by artificial respiration or such means, most often it is a hostile being which gets hold of this body.  There have been cases like that, children who seemed to be dead, that is, the psychic being had left the body, and before it had died completely, a vital being had entered and taken its place. Such cases have been known. And these beings are demons. In life they become veritable demons. There are not many of them.

There are beings of the vital, but of a higher kind, emanations of Asuras, for example, who have decided for one reason or another that they would try to be converted, not to be antidivine, and manage to enter into relation with the Divine. They know that the best way is to identify themselves with a human body in order to be under the control of a psychic being. And they incarnate in human bodies, but not with the intention of driving out the psychic being, on the contrary, to try to submit to the influence of the psychic being and be converted by it. These cases also are not frequent, but still they have been known, and in these cases these human beings are gifted with very exceptional capacities, but usually they also have very exceptional difficulties, because the power which has incarnated in them is one which was, at least, if it is not still so, a hostile power; and, you see, it is difficult to get rid of all these movements of revolt immediately; sometimes it takes a whole lifetime to succeed in doing it.  Some of these asuric beings have tried to convert themselves and not succeeded. They ought to have left the body they had chosen, because they could not convert themselves. It was too difficult a task for them, it demanded too great an effort. But all these cases about which I have just spoken to you are very rare ones, you see.We can’t say that such things happen and are met with at every turn: a gentleman who is the incarnation of an adverse force or another who is possessed. Such cases are very rare, very rare.

But the case of an influence—being under an influence and expressing it—this, unfortunately, is very frequent, especially with people who undertake yoga without being sufficiently purified beforehand, or otherwise with egoistic intentions; to people who begin to do yoga for reasons of ambition or vanity it happens very often that they put themselves under the influence of certain adverse forces.

And there are also many people who are under certain influences in a way… how to put it?… one can’t call it accidental, but… for example, there are psychic beings who choose a certain environment to incarnate in because they think that there they will have the experiences they want, and owing to some circumstances in this environment there is a hostile influence at work; so the body they put on is to a certain extent under this hostile influence and they have to fight against that terribly all their life.  They can at a particular moment, as I said—if they know how to rely on greater forces than their own—they can conquer and gain a great victory. It is a great victory to get rid of the influence of an adverse force. It is truly a victory which goes beyond the individual’s own person and has a repercussion on the whole terrestrial state. Each victory gained like this by an individual over a hostile force influencing him, is a long step forward to the day when the earth will be completely free of the presence of hostile forces. It represents a great progress for the earth[1].

Question: Is mental imbalance due to the same cause?

Mother: Very often, but not always. Mental imbalance can be due to many different causes. One of them may be simply a physical structure which is defective, a cerebral insufficiency. Now, one may say that this cerebral insufficiency is probably the expression of an inner vital imbalance. But in the case of cerebral insufficiency it is usually hereditary or organic, still… that is, something produced at the time of conception. So one can’t say that it is due to an additional influence: it was an influence which acted before birth, and the one who suffers from this mental imbalance is not necessarily under a direct adverse influence. It can be a consequence of malformation.

Now, when people are divided in their mind, and in one part of their mind aspire for the truth and transformation and in another don’t want them, and not only resist but revolt— which happens often—this indeed creates a terrible inner cerebral struggle, first mental and then cerebral, and this may bring about a serious mental imbalance.

There are cases in which it is precisely the opening to a suggestion, an adverse influence, an opening which is the result of a wrong movement—a movement of revolt or of hatred or of violent desire. One can, in a wrong movement, open oneself —in a rage, for example—one can open to an adverse force and bring in an influence which could end up by a possession.

At the beginning these things are relatively easy to cure if there is a conscious part of the being and a very strong will to get rid of this bad movement and this influence. One succeeds easily enough, relatively speaking, if the aspiration is sincere; but if one looks on the thing with complacency and tells oneself, “Ah, it is like that, it can’t be otherwise”, then this becomes dangerous. One must not tolerate the enemy in the place. As soon as one notices his presence, one must throw him out very far, as far as one can, pitilessly [1]

Richard Mansfield in Dr Jekyll and My Hyde. circa 1895. Click image for source

Another discussion on the topic of vital beings, possession and mental illness:

Question: Have these vital beings a psychic being?

Mother: No, I said that the first thing they have to do to incarnate is to drive away the psychic being of the person whom they possess.  That may happen from the very birth. There are children who are almost stillborn; they are taken to be dead and suddenly they revive—this means that a vital being has incarnated in them. I have known such cases. This may happen also in the course of an illness: someone is very ill and gradually he begins to lose contact with the psychic being, then, in a swoon or some other similar state, he cuts the contact entirely and the vital being rushes into the body. I have known cases of this kind also. Or it may be a slow action: the vital being enters into the atmosphere of the person, goes on influencing him and finally brings about illness, attacks, especially mental illness; then a time comes when the connection with the psychic being is entirely cut and the vital being takes possession of the body. There are cases of people falling very ill and coming out of the illness altogether different from what they were. Very often it is this that happens [2].

Question: Are mentally deranged people possessed?

Mother: Yes, unless there is a physical lesion, a defect in the formation or an accident, a congestion. In all other cases it is always a possession. The proof of it is that if a person is brought to you who is altogether mentally deranged, if he has a lesion, he cannot be cured, while if there is no physical lesion, if it is a possession, then one can cure him. Unfortunately these things happen only to people who like them; there must be in the being much ambition, vanity, combined with much stupidity and a terrible pride—it is on such things that those beings play.  I have known cases like that, of persons who were partially possessed, and I succeeded in freeing them from the beings who possessed them. Naturally they felt some relief, a kind of ease for a time, but it did not last long; almost immediately it wore off and they thought: “Now I have become quite an ordinary creature, whereas before I was an exceptional being!” They used to feel within them an exceptional power, even if it was a power to do evil, and they were satisfied with it. So what did they do? They called back with all their force the power they had lost! Of course, the being that had been destroyed could not come back, but as these beings exist in thousands it was replaced by another. I have seen this happen three times consecutively in a case, so much so that in the end I had to tell the person: “I am tired, get rid of it yourself, I am no longer interested!”

Question: In these cases what happens to the psychic being?

Mother: Generally, it goes away.

I must tell you that the beings of the vital world are immortal – they cannot die. They can be destroyed, but it is only the pure spiritual force which can destroy them. For example, in a vital battle (there are people who have a vital fighting power), the experience is always the same: if you fight in the vital world with a vital being, you can crush it, kill it, but it will be reborn always – always they form themselves again. I think herein lies the origin of the legends of hydras or monsters with many heads.

There is only one force in the world which can destroy them categorically, that is, without any chance of return, and it is a force which belongs to the supreme creative Power. It is a force that comes from beyond the supramental world – it is not at the disposal of everybody. It is a luminous force, of a dazzling whiteness, so brilliant that if ordinary eyes looked at it, they would turn blind. A being of the vital world has just to be touched by this light to get dissolved immediately – it is liquefied, like those slugs which melt in water if a little salt is put on them [2].

Word of caution: These are general remarks.  Please do not automatically assume in the absence of any original occult insight or psychiatric consultation that someone who matches the circumstances described above is possessed! 


  1. Collected Works of the Mother.  vol. 6, pp 434-437.
  2. Collected Works of the Mother.  vol.4, pp 184-187

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19 thoughts on “On spirit possession and mental imbalances

  1. Sandeep Post author

    Schizophrenics have a weakened sense of body ownership

    A study using a procedure called the rubber hand illusion has found striking new evidence that people experiencing schizophrenia have a weakened sense of body ownership and has produced the first case of a spontaneous, out-of-body experience in the laboratory.

    These findings suggest that movement therapy, which trains people to be focused and centered on their own bodies, including some forms of yoga and dance, could be helpful for many of the 2.2 million people in the United States who suffer from this mental disorder.

    ….According to the researchers, the finding that schizophrenia patients are more susceptible to the rubber hand illusion suggests that they have a more flexible body representation and weakened sense of self compared to healthy people.

    ”What’s so interesting about Professor Park’s study is that they have found that the sense of bodily ownership does not diminish among patients with schizophrenia, but it can be extended to other objects more easily,” observed David Gray, Mellon assistant professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt, who is an expert on the philosophy of the mind. He did not participate in the study but is familiar with it. “Much of the literature concerning agency and ownership in schizophrenia focuses on the sense of lost agency over one’s own movements: But, in these cases, the sense of ownership is neither diminished nor extended.”

    Source: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/10/body-mind-schizophrenia/

    RM had his first out-of-body experience at the age of 16. Now, at the age of 55, he has had more than he can count. They usually happen just before he falls asleep; for ten minutes, he feels like he is floating above his body, looking down on himself. If the same thing happens when he’s awake, it’s a far less tranquil story. The sense of displacement is stronger – his real body feels like a marionette, while he feels like a puppeteer. His feelings of elevation soon change into religious delusions, in which he imagines himself talking to angels and demons. Psychotic episodes follow. After four or five days, RM is hospitalised.

    This has happened between 15 to 20 times, ever since RM was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 23. He hears voices, and he suffers from hallucinations and delusions. Despite these problems, he managed to hold down a job as a reporter until 2002 and more recently, he has been working in restaurants and volunteering as an archivist. Then, about a year ago, he took part in a study that seems to have changed his life.

    For around a decade, RM has taken part in several studies designed by Sohee Park, a neuroscientist from Vanderbilt University who works on schizophrenia…

    After the experiment, RM wanted to know more, so Thakkar plied him with information and journal articles about out-of-body experiences. He learned that the phenomenon had a name. He learned that scientists could willingly duplicate the effect in a lab. He learned that they had identified parts of the brain that are associated with the experiences. The information was revelatory. “He gained a psychological cause for this apparently supernatural phenomenon,” says Park, “and he has used this knowledge to control his symptoms.” Since then, RM hasn’t had a psychotic episode.

    ….A year on, his diagnosis is unchanged, he still gets out-of-body experiences, and he still hears voices. But gone are the days when his experiences would require a stay in a hospital. He is now hoping to establish himself as a freelance writer, and he’s even had a paper on religion accepted in a peer-reviewed academic journal. For him, knowledge has proven to be a potent treatment. “We check up with him regularly and he’s been doing really well,“ says Park.

    Source: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/02/16/man-with-schizophrenia-has-out-of-body-experience-in-lab-gains-knowledge-controls-his-psychosis-2/

  2. ipi

    Diary of a High-Functioning Person with Schizophrenia

    Legal scholar Elyn Saks talks about her struggles with, and surprising triumphs over, mental illness

    SAKS: Except for my first two years at Oxford, and intermittently when in a serious episode, I have always been able to work. Indeed, work is, for me, the last thing to go. I think I have always sensed that keeping active intellectually is a big support and a big source of well-being. Indeed, I really noticed how important work is to my stability when it became clear that the worst part of each day was always the evening—the time I didn’t have the structure of work to contain me and help keep my thoughts organized.

    COOK: What do you wish the public knew about schizophrenia?

    SAKS: I think there are a lot of myths about schizophrenia. What I most wish the public knew is that, at bottom, we are really just like you: we want, in the words of Sigmund Freud, “to love and to work.” There are myths out there that we can’t do this, but they are just that: myths. Mental health professionals should stop immediately telling patient to drastically lower their expectations. With proper resources and proper care, people can live up to their potential. Finally, it is a myth that people with schizophrenia are more dangerous than the general public. The people really to fear are substance abusers, a diagnosis far more highly correlated with violence than mental illness.


    Famous People and Schizophrenia

    There are relatively few famous people with schizophrenia because schizophrenia is a brain disorder that typically strikes people when they are quite young – age 17 to 28. People this age typically are too young to be famous, they are just starting out their professional lives after completing high school or college.

    A recent Nobel Laureate in Economics, John Forbes Nash Jr., has a lifetime history of Schizophrenia but is now doing very well, as has been well documented in the book “A Beautiful Mind” and the academy award-winning movie of the same name.

    Many “historical diagnoses” are frequently not entirely certain — a “good guess” for schizophrenia includes Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln. Following is a list of famous people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, or are highly suspected of suffering (or who had suffered) from schizophrenia.


  3. Sandeep Post author

    What does it feel like to have schizophrenia? This is a simulation video of the world as seen from the eyes of a schizophrenic.

  4. Pingback: Isaac Newton, mind-reading and the scholar-gypsy | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  5. mike

    This just illustrates how important it is to avoid psychiatrists and their insane labelling system.
    Quite often they slap the ‘Schizoid’ label on patients that they can’t diagnose because it’s the most popular – manic-depression might have overtaken that now.
    l’m inclined to believe The Mother when She says most mental patients are possessed. But you could never convince 99% of the medical fraternity about.

    ““He gained a psychological cause for this apparently supernatural phenomenon,” says Park, “and he has used this knowledge to control his symptoms.” Since then, RM hasn’t had a psychotic episode”

    Yes, exactly. Gaining true knowledge of his condition changed his world-view [and eradicated all that psychiatric nonsense]. Sri Aurobindo said many years ago,when the psychology etc was all the rage, that it was just scratching the surface. lt’s still not much better today. A lot of psychiatry today is dependent on psychotropic drugs [which is probably contributing mor to psychotic illness than curing it]. A large majority of psychiatrist are highly dependent on the DSM as well – a huge ever-increasing text book for psychiatrists which labels many normal human problems as mental illnesses.
    Be very wary of psychiatrists and their ilk.

    Of course, there are a few more enlightened ppl in the world of psychiatry like RD Laing:

    “He also challenged psychiatric diagnosis itself, arguing that diagnosis of a mental disorder contradicted accepted medical procedure: diagnosis was made on the basis of behavior or conduct, and examination and ancillary tests that traditionally precede the diagnosis of viable pathologies (like broken bones or pneumonia) occurred after the diagnosis of mental disorder (if at all). Hence, according to Laing, psychiatry was founded on a false epistemology: illness diagnosed by conduct, but treated biologically. Laing maintained that schizophrenia was “a theory not a fact”; he believed the models of genetically inherited schizophrenia being promoted by biologically based psychiatry were not accepted by leading medical geneticists.[14] He rejected the “medical model of mental illness”; according to Laing diagnosis of mental illness did not follow a traditional medical model; and this led him to question the use of medication such as antipsychotics by psychiatry.”

    “Unfortunately these things happen only to people who like them; there must be in the being much ambition, vanity, combined with much stupidity and a terrible pride—it is on such things that those beings play.”

    That must inlude 90% of the population of the planet who are possessed – have to agree with Buddah on that one LOL.

    “But all these cases about which I have just spoken to you are very rare ones, you see.We can’t say that such things happen and are met with at every turn: a gentleman who is the incarnation of an adverse force or another who is possessed. Such cases are very rare, very rare.”

    Not if you listen to the catholic church unfortunately.

  6. Sandeep Post author

    Mother says above “Mental imbalance can be due to many different causes. One of them may be simply a physical structure which is defective, a cerebral insufficiency. Now, one may say that this cerebral insufficiency is probably the expression of an inner vital imbalance. But in the case of cerebral insufficiency it is usually hereditary or organic, still… that is, something produced at the time of conception.”

    In this context, see this article

    New research provides the strongest evidence to date that psychopathy is linked to specific structural abnormalities in the brain. The study, led by researchers at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) is the first to confirm that psychopathy is a distinct neuro-developmental sub-group of anti-social personality disorder (ASPD).


    Dr Nigel Blackwood from the IoP at King’s and lead author of the study says: ‘Using MRI scans we found that psychopaths had structural brain abnormalities in key areas of their ‘social brains’ compared to those who just had ASPD. This adds to behavioural and developmental evidence that psychopathy is an important subgroup of ASPD with a different neurobiological basis and different treatment needs’

  7. mike

    Yes, it’s interesting, because we were discussing this last week [l think] in another thread.
    lt looks like you’ve found some recent confirmation to prove that the true psychopath is born with a frontal lobe deformity. At least that’s the area most experts have suggested [from scans etc, l suppose] which ties in with the lack of empathy, conscience etc… that these ppl have.
    So, on top of hundreds of thousands of psychopaths we also have vital beings stealing bodies as well. lt’s easy to see how the world is controlled by the wrong people.

  8. Pingback: Mental awareness in comatose patients and sleeping newborn infants | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  9. Sandeep Post author

    In this entry from the Agenda, the Mother says some cases of misdiagnosed madness are actually due to intermingling of dream consciousness and waking consciousness which occurs when people wake up from sleep but continue to talk of things which exist in some subtle physical world.

    It was during the afternoon rest (I don’t sleep at all in the afternoon, but just enter the inner consciousness), and I had decided beforehand that I would “wake up,” that is, get up, at such and such a time. When the time came, I was still very much in my action and it went on, the state of consciousness went on with open eyes; and in that state of consciousness there was … (I can’t say “I” because it’s not the same “I,” you understand; at such times I am many people), but the “I” of that time was in the habit (not here materially but “up there”) of wearing a gold watch (gesture to the wrist) and had forgotten to put that watch on; and it looked and noticed it: “Ah, I forgot to put my watch on, what’s happened to it? Why did I forget?” Like that. So then, when I woke up (I don’t wear any watch here, as you know), when I came back, the two consciousnesses were simultaneous, and I said aloud, “Where is my watch? I forgot to put my watch on.” And it’s only when I had said that (laughing) that I realized! So it left me thinking, I studied carefully, looked carefully, and clearly saw that at that moment the two consciousnesses were absolutely (Mother closely superposes her two hands), but absolutely simultaneous.

    It’s very interesting. Oh, all kinds of problems have been solved with that experience. For instance, the problem of many people who are called mad, and who are simply in that subtle consciousness (same superposed gesture): at certain times it prevails, which makes them say things that are meaningless here but have a very clear meaning over there, and so the consciousness is like this (superposed gesture, almost merged). That accounts for many cases of so-called madness. Certain cases of apparent insincerity are also like that, because the consciousness sees clearly in that region, and that region is so close that you can give things the same names (they seem to have the same shapes or very similar ones), but it’s not what is conventionally called here “tangible reality”: materially, outwardly, things aren’t exactly like that. And so, there are cases of so-called insincerity that are simply too close a mingling of the two consciousnesses – too close for an active discernment.

    Oh, a whole region has been clarified, and not only clarified but with the key to the cure or the transformation. From the psychological, internal point of view, a huge amount of things has been explained – a huge amount. Which considerably brings down the number of cases of real mental derangement and cases of real lies, that is, the cases when one deliberately and consciously says the contrary of what is – that mustn’t be as frequent as we think. Many people say incorrect things like that (floating, dangling gesture), but they have perceptions in another world than the purely material world, with too close a mingling and without enough discernment to be aware of the mingling…. Sri Aurobindo used to say that real bad will, real hostility and real falsehood are rare enough cases (“real” in the sense of absolute in themselves, and conscious, deliberate – deliberate, absolute, conscious); that’s rare. And that, he said, is what is described as hostile beings. But all the rest is a sort of illusion of the consciousness, consciousnesses that interfere with each other (Mother intertwines the fingers of her two hands to and fro), but without a precise discernment between the different consciousnesses, which are like this (same gesture), intermingled, each going in and out of the other.

    (Mothers Agenda, August 30, 1967)

  10. mike

    This is a strange contradiction or mis-translation perhaps. l can’t understand why Mother would say this after all Her experiences with the Theon’s and her occult travels to other worlds on a daily basis.

    “As for Théon, he insisted a lot on adverse forces, while Sri Aurobindo didn’t talk about them. So when I came here I asked him, “But do hostile beings and adverse forces exist?” He said to me, “Yes, they do exist, but in order to master them it’s easier to regard them as being outside, rather than inside as a part of your nature.” He on his part insisted on the One: everything is the One distorted to a greater or lesser extent, even the “adverse” forces”

    She even said Madame Theon lost an eye in a battle with them.
    What could She mean? ls She talking from a Higher Spiritual standpoint?

  11. mike

    l think l see what M is getting at from the quote at the top of that conversation:

    “It occurred apropos of a young disciple who did not understand how everything – impulsions, desires, etc. – could come from “outside,” from universal Nature, while Sri Aurobindo other
    wise declares, “I become what I see in myself.”

    l think She was wondering if these forces had an objective reality and existence; and SA confirmed that.

  12. mike

    Thanks for the update sandeep. l didn’t realise before how many new letters have been added to these volumes!


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