The term demonology means “the study of demons” and therefore a demonologist is simply someone who studies demons. When people see or use the term demonologist they usually mean much more: a person in the lay community (not clergy) who has some specialized knowledge and approval to help people with demonic problems. The first person to use this title in the current generation of those interested in the paranormal was Ed Warren (John Zaffis’s uncle). Back then it wasn’t a popular topic in private or public forums, these days that has changed. Today demonology is becoming all the rage, possibly because it is regarded as more exciting, mysterious, and exclusive than merely “ghost hunting.”
Since demonology isn’t a regulated field, the title demonologist is usually self-appointed. Within the Catholic Church there are “Religious demonologists” who have a Ph.D. that specializes in the theology and knowledge of demons. These types of degrees are not available to the public and cannot be applied for from outside of the Church (to my knowledge). Other faiths have their own terms for powerful evil spirits, but the term “demon” usually refers to a Biblically defined evil spirit that exists in a Christian framework. The Catholic Church has been dealing with demons (and keeping records of what was learned) for about two thousand years, so they are very likely the most knowledgeable body on this topic. There are other terms and understandings for demons in other faiths, and those might also have a good body of knowledge and success in dealing with them, but that is not my focus here.
When people in the paranormal community (laity or clergy) claim to be demonologist we must first understand some things and then ask some questions. We should understand the following:
- Reading books does not make one a demonologist, much of the critical information is not in the public arena for good reason.
- Becoming knowledgeable in demonology takes years of mentorship under clergy (usually exorcists) and much personal experience.
- There is a charism of the Holy Spirit (a spiritual ability given by God) called discernment. Discernment is not psychic sensitivity but is a special ability to detect evil spirits and get information about situations and circumstances surrounding those spirits. Discernment is a necessary ability that one needs in order to work in demonology; otherwise you are blind and will be manipulated.
- If one moves beyond finding demons for the Church and into deliverance work (expelling demons from homes or objects) an additional body of training, mentorship, and permission from clergy is needed. It is not enough to learn prayers or have a copy of an exorcism ritual. Prayer isn’t magic: saying the words does not make it happen; God chooses whether to answer prayers. Generally we see God choosing to answer deliverance prayers made by those he called into that work.
- A demonologist usually finds demons, gives advice, and reports to specialist clergy. A demonologist doesn’t do exorcisms unless they are clergy and have permission from their Bishop (or if they are a Bishop themselves). Some demonologists are also trained in deliverance prayer and have been given permission to directly assist in cases, but this is rare.
When a person claims to be a demonologist one might ask the following:
- Ask what diocese or religious authority they work under. Ask for a contact at the Bishop’s office that can verify that they work under the obedience of the Church on demonic cases. (If one doesn’t work under exorcists and other specialist clergy they likely have not been mentored or approved to investigate demonic cases or say the prayers to resolve them.)
- If a person claims to have documents from a religious body giving them permission, or some title please request a method to verify this with the religious body. Anyone with such documents should have no problem allowing one to contact the Church and verify they are real.
- If a person claims to have been in the field for a long time or to have worked under someone known (John Zaffis is often cited), contact that person and ask if it’s true.
- If the person claims to be part of an official body related to demonology then contact that body and verify their claim.
Demonic cases are real and they often involve intense suffering and distress. Demonic cases are not thrilling or “cool,” they are horrific and involve an assault on people at all levels. Holding oneself out to assist families in these situations is a very serious matter. When someone claims to be a demonologist that is usually interpreted as meaning they have the knowledge, abilities, and contacts to help great suffering stop. Such a claim should not be made lightly, and we should not be afraid to ask what makes this person knowledgeable, able, and connected enough to help.
If one is seeking help for a potentially demonic problem there are some tips that might help.
Before contacting a Church or clergy, sit down and write out the following clearly:
- What concrete things have happened and who experienced them? What is the timeline for all of these events?
- What is the medical and psychological background of all of the people involved?
- What faith are all of the people involved and are they active in their Church?
- Have potential medical and psychological causes been ruled out? Write down contact information for appropriate professionals and provide copies of releases so those professionals can talk to the clergy.
When contacting a paranormal group or a demonologist, ask for references for that group and the names and contact information of the clergy they work with. Verify all of these before proceeding further.
Tell the whole truth about the situation and your behavior that could have contributed to the situation. It is very common that people withhold information out of embarrassment or fear of being judged. In order to assist you with a potentially demonic problem it is essential to tell the whole truth of the situation so appropriate steps can be taken and time is not wasted.
If the demonologist you are talking with uses methods from a non-Christian faith please be very cautious. Methods that use spirits to try and clear other spirits very often just make things worse. Methods based on the “power” of an individual (not relying on the authority of God) very often do not resolve anything as humans do not have any power oven fallen angels.
Demonology is not a form of paranormal investigation but a specialized religious ministry. Be cautious about whom you bring into your life to assist with these types of problems.