The Devil Inside: Ysamur Flores Talks Demonic Possession and Exorcism
A chilling new tale of demonic possession and exorcism, The Devil Inside, was released in theaters this past Friday, January 6th. Combining the styles of the classic that started it all, The Exorcist, with the new-age documentary-style thriller, Paranormal Activity, The Devil Inside tells the story of a young woman who travels to Rome and back to find out why her mother murdered three people during her exorcism in 1989.
Ysamur Flores, a paranormal expert, shares his thoughts on possession and exorcism. With Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA, he explains the premise of the movie and the fight that is fought between good and evil every day.
AG: Hello, Mr. Flores, it’s so nice to meet you!
YF: Hi, how are you doing? Happy New Year!
AG: Happy New Year to you, too, how are you?
YF: I’m doing fine, doing fine.
AG: Well I guess we can get started with you telling me a little bit about your field of study. I see you have a Master’s and a Doctorate in Folklore and Mythology. What drew you to this specific subject?
YF: It’s a long story, but basically because I was interested in different cultures and beliefs. I was originally teaching in Puerto Rico, I had a Master’s degree in education, and, you know, Spanish culture is very rich in folk traditions. It was just a logical move for me to move from education into folklore and mythology. I decided to get a Master’s in Folklore and Mythology, specializing in religion and a Ph.D. specializing in African-based religions. So that’s the whole journey.
AG: Since you specialized in religion, what can you tell me about demonic possession and exorcism, which this movie obviously is based on?
YF: Well, the first thing we need to be aware of is that the devil as a figure is a Judo-Christian phenomenon. There are many religions around the world that don’t even have a demon to begin with, but this one is based on a very old Judo-Christian tradition, the existence of the devil, the existence of a rebel angel out to get humanity and to destroy the rule of Heaven, and to create as much havoc as possible. So, of course, because of that, many Christian scriptures state that he has been given free range to act in this world. In many ways, he is assuming the role of the accuser. In Judaic tradition, the devil played the role of accuser. His role was to prove you really meant what you said, if you really loved God, if you were really a good person, a righteous person. Eventually he became a rebel angel who wants to establish his throne above the most high. That prompted his fall, and because of that, he is on earth trying to defeat humanity. Now, he has a whole bag of tricks to do that, and possession is just one of the tricks that he can use to bring about the fall of humanity. The idea was that an evil spirit can enter the body and make the person do things that would violate every conceivable holy tradition there is in the world, placing that person on the opposite side of goodness, on the opposite side of God. That’s why the whole dichotomy between light and darkness is established. This has been displayed throughout history in many different arenas.
AG: Have you personally ever witnessed a possession or an exorcism?
YF: There is possession, and there is demonic possession. There are religions who believe that spirits can possess the body and manifest, and after all, in the Christian church, the Holy Spirit can take possession of people. There is possession in that good spirits can enter the body and do healing, and there are evil spirits that do the same thing except that they just want to ruin everything and destroy the person and everything about them. So yes, I have witnessed that, and I have witnessed people expelling demons. If you walk into any Pentecostal church, you will see that happening probably every Sunday. I mean, it’s very much part of the Pentecostal belief. However, it is not a new thing. The church has been at war with demons since the beginning. The thing right now is that Pope Benedict, our current pope, has ordered the establishment, in 2007, of what’s been called “Exorcism Squads.” He has ordered bishops to find priests who are knowledgeable in exorcism, because in the Catholic church, exorcisms cannot be done by just anyone. The priest needs to be prepared and approach the bishop to conduct an exorcism.
AG: What can you tell us about exorcisms, about expelling demonic spirits, and what can we expect from that process in the film?
YF: The first thing that needs to be done is for the evil spirit to identify itself, to identify that yes, indeed, the spirit is in the body and it is not going to relinquish it. Usually the spirit will come out at the exorcism, the battle royale. Then, the exorcist needs to establish a process in which he will guide that spirit and rebuke him in the name of God and everything that needs to be done to get the spirit to abandon that body. Sometimes, it can take more than one session to expel spirits, and remember that after all, even in the Bible, Jesus performed exorcism and it is said that he expelled seven evil spirits from the body of Mary Magdalene. Also he rebuked some spirits, that he caused them jump into a group of pigs, and then they jumped off a cliff. Exorcism is very well-documented. There are all kinds of prayers, all kinds of paraphernalia that need to take place and be present for the exorcist to take that spirit, remove it from the body, and then the person who has been possessed needs to establish a friendship with God again, in order to become once again holy and prevent it from happening again. They must avoid going back to the same practices or behavior that provoked the intrusion of the evil spirit. This is not new. In the 17th century, there was a very famous case in which a monastery, of all places, a monastery, which is supposed to be a very holy place, the whole monastery became possessed by the devil. It was a scandal, because everything that was not supposed to be taking place in the monastery was indeed taking place, and the devil just made his headquarters there. That tells you that there is no place safe from the devil. No one is safe, unless you walk the straight and narrow. That’s what the whole thing is about. Even if you walk the straight and narrow, though, you’re still a target, because that’s exactly the person that you want, the person that is blameless. For example, we have the temptations of St. Anthony. He is one of the early Christian fathers that went to the desert to pray and to do penance and be closer to God, and the devil just made him ground zero for the attacks. St. Anthony was assailed by every demon in the book trying to break his belief in God. There are many cases that are very well-documented. Just because you are a good person does not mean you are out of the reach of the devil. What you have to do is be a good person, but be aware that just because you are a good, decent person it doesn’t mean you are immune to the devil’s attacks. What the church is saying is a very Latin expression, “Extra iglesia nuna salus,” which means, “Out of the church comes salvation.” So, technically speaking, you have to take refuge in the church to prevent the presence of the devil. Just stay aware that being a good person doesn’t keep you free of the devil’s presence. It is often told in the Christian tradition that the devil even tried to tempt Jesus, so come on. You know what I mean?
AG: So there’s no distinguishing between a good person and a bad person when it comes to demonic possession? Everyone is up for grabs?
YF: Absolutely! The only difference is that if you are a good person, a decent person, a righteous person, at least you have the help of the angels that can help you fight a good battle. You just have to be very careful, because Christ comes before the fall. You can think, “I’m so cool, I’m collected, I’m just so above the devil,” you’re already there. (laughs) When you let Christ in, you open a big door.
AG: I noticed in another interview that you said the devil doesn’t come to earth, that he’s here on earth. What do you have to say about that? Growing up Catholic, I heard the stories of him being a fallen angel many times, but for people who aren’t Christian, who aren’t religious, what can you explain to them about that?
YF: Well, let’s start with the concept of the Christian tradition that the devil owns the world. God gave the world to the devil to try and take it apart, so he is in the world. He is the master of deception. He can turn into an angel of light, so not everything ugly and horrendous is devilish. He can be a gorgeous thing, so you have to be very careful. The devil is always here on earth. He used to reside in Heaven until he was kicked out and thrown down onto Earth. That is why the Book of Revelations is so adamant when it says that the devil will stalk the earth and he will roam free and will be an evil and nasty thing until the great battle, in which he will then be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Then, to add insult to injury, he will be released again. The devil is the master of the earth. He’s going to try to create as much damage as possible to tear humanity away from the Creator, away from the good. Now, I did say that there are some religions that don’t have a devil, who don’t have a hell, because it just doesn’t make any sense, but these religions do acknowledge the existence of evil. They are aware that evil exists, but evil is our creation, we are the ones who create evil. We are the ones who create all this mess, and then we have to fix it. You see, the good thing about the devil, if there’s any good thing about him, is that you can always blame him, like, “The devil made me do it.” At least you are responsible, but misery loves company! You know what I mean?
AG: Definitely. Well thank you so much for your time, this was very interesting!
YF: It’s always my pleasure! Goodbye!