Many people outside the esoteric world do not know the name of W.E. Butler. The author of several books on the occult, Butler is probably best known as having been the first director of studies for Servants of the Light (SOL), a “modern day Western Mystery School which teaches the esoteric sciences through correspondence” (from the Servants of the Light website). Butler was a student of the better known Dion Fortune (Violet Firth) and spent over 50 years studying and teaching the esoteric sciences as well as serving as a priest in the Liberal Catholic Church. Like Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, who succeeded him as director of studies for SOL, Butler is known for his direct style, lucid explanations and wit.
I am currently re-reading one of his classic books, Lords of Light: The Path of Initiation in the Western Mysteries, where I found a discussion of exorcism that I think might be interesting to my readers. This book is actually a series of lectures given by Butler to a magical group that he worked with very late in his life. In the text, Butler says:
If anyone asks you to exorcise something or some place, don’t rush in too quickly. Find out what kind of job you are up against. I suppose I’ve carried out five hundred or so exorcisms, but I’ve never taken them on lightheartedly. These powers – powers of darkness, if you like – are very real and they can affect you disastrously. It’s all very well to say, “Now I know how to do this,” and, in all the glory of your ignorance, you begin exorcising something that has a lot of teeth to it. And when you get bitten, you don’t like it at all . . . “
Butler goes on to describe a case of exorcism that backfired and then says, “Don’t forget this: Good intentions pave the way to Hell; in themselves, they do not protect you from trouble”. Finally, Butler returns to the topic in the question and answer section of the chapter and makes the strong point that only a person who can confidently get out of their own way and allow the power of the Divine to flow through them should even attempt an exorcism. All this from a man who, by his own account, performed over 500 exorcisms of one type or the other (not necessarily “demons”) in his life.
If I had to boil Butler’s advice down to a single word, it would have to be humility. And this is not a trait that I see a lot of in the paranormal community. What I see is people who, with considerable hubris, put themselves out there as “demonologists” able to help people with negative entities of all sorts. I have to ask, for myself and for all the folks out there who need help, what makes these people think they are qualified to deal with a negative spiritual manifestation? What education do they have for this type of work? How did they get called into the work? In the cases of people who appear to be working within a religious tradition, who ordained them and to what level? In the case of alleged magical practitioners/occult experts, what group or individual did they study with, for how long and to what level of initiation? In both cases, who did they apprentice with to learn exorcism?
Sadly, the answer to most of these questions is that the person read some books, perhaps talked to some people, maybe “apprenticed” with some other unqualified demonologist and then hung out their shingle so that they could get some of the attention too. Somehow or the other, being a demonologist has become “hip”. I am sure that there are a lot of cultural reasons for this but, frankly, I don’t care. What I do care about is that, more and more ill prepared people are attempting exorcism when they haven’t even the discernment to tell what sort of entity they are dealing with.
Exorcism of any type is not simple wand waving. You do not simply say the words and make everything better. You have to have a good feel for what you are dealing with and not simply assume that any hostile being is a demon. When you walk onto a negative entity’s home ground, you need to have the attitude of a sport fisherman – you are going to hook something big and it is going to put up a fight. You had better be in it for the long haul because, unlike fishing, if the line breaks the fish is going to come after you with everything he’s got. As Butler says above, “when you get bitten, you -won’t- like it at all . . . ” From my perspective, getting bitten can mean anything from physical injury to the incursion that some call possession.
My point here is straightforward. Some people truly are called to this type of work and, with the proper training they can be a great help to those who are afflicted. If you truly feel that you have the calling to work in this type of scenario, then ask yourself one question: why? If it has anything to do with the cool factor or the attention you might garner or the books you might be able to write, you are going to get yourself or someone else hurt. If, like the famous Lakota medicine man Frank Fools Crow, you want to develop yourself into an “eagle bone whistle”, an instrument through which the Divine (in whatever way you see it) can work in these situations, then ask the Divine within you to bring you to a teacher. And may the Light go with you.