CSFF Blog Tour – Darkness Follows, Day 2

I find it interesting that this month’s CSFF feature, Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso (Realms), brought to my mind a tough question, one that is sensitive by nature and often isn’t discussed. Interesting because the last two Realms books, The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell and The Resurrection by Mike Duran had similar effects.

In Darkness Follows, the issue is a little convoluted. I’m referring to mental disorders/demon oppression or possession. I separated the two with a slash simply because those who believe in demon oppression and possession struggle knowing where mental disorders leave off and demon activity takes over.

Of course there was a period of time when the common understanding of all mental disorders related to demonic spiritual forces. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction: in western culture few people give credence to demon possession, and mental disorders are understood as biological issues or perhaps psychological ones, but never spiritual.

In Darkness Follows Mike Dellosso seems to be exploring both mental disorders and spiritual activity simultaneously. In his story it is nearly impossible to know where one stops and the other starts.

For clarification, there is also clear, tangible angelic spiritual activity. It’s the dark that is left more murky and tangled with the physical.

* * * Spoiler Alert Warning: of necessity some spoilers may be included in this discussion. * * *

First the clear physical exploration of mental disorder. One of the minor characters was experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s. The protagonist was recovering from a closed brain injury due to a twenty-foot fall. His brother had suffered from an undiagnosed mental disorder manifesting as escalating violence. The antagonist suffered the effects of brain altering experimentation. The protagonist’s father, also a minor character, exhibited signs of confusion and memory loss — perhaps the result of an earlier injury.

Coupled with these physical or “explained” mental disorders was the “darkness” that inhabited the original journal writer, Samuel Whiting (a 19th century Civil War officer who seemed to be “channeling” his thoughts to the protagonist who wrote them down), and also the protagonist, Sam Travis (who at one point tries to commit suicide).

Several actions sprang from this darkness — actions paralleled by demon possession recorded in Scripture: violence against others, violence against self, isolation from other people.

      * * * End Spoiler Alert * * *

So the questions are these: where does mental illness end and demon activity begin? and can a Christian be demon possessed?

The second question is actually something that I think has a Biblical answer. No, Christians cannot be demon possessed. Second Cor. 6:14, in a different context, indicates there is no partnership between light and dark. First John 1:6 says we’re lying if we say we have fellowship with God and “yet walk in darkness.” First John 5:18 says of one born of God, “the evil one does not touch him.”

Jesus, of course, made a case for the impossibility of someone casting out demons by the power of the devil. By implication, I conclude that God has power over demons, not the reverse. The logical conclusion, then, is that the Holy Spirit in a person’s life does not “share,” nor will He be cowered into a corner while a legion takes over.

But can darkness influence a Christian — demonic darkness? I don’t know how far Satan or his forces can go. I do know I Peter 5:8-9 says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” Because this passage ties in with brethren suffering in the world, it seems to me that Satan may have power over our circumstances, much the way Joseph’s brothers had power over his circumstances. In the end, what they meant for evil, God meant for good.

Nevertheless, we are to resist. This action, I take to be spiritual, in which we utilize the armor of God — the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the shoes of the gospel of peace.

As to the first question — where does a mental disorder stop and demon activity begin … well, that’s one I’d like someone else to answer for me.

I know there will be lots (maybe most) taking the humanistic view that there are only biological causes for mental disorders. I just don’t see why a spiritual force, if it has any power at all, couldn’t have an effect on someone’s brain. In other words, scientists are perfectly right to say this chemical imbalance has that affect on a person. But why couldn’t the root of the chemical imbalance be in the spiritual activity of a demon?

I suppose in the end, we can’t know. One thing is clear, however: we are to resist the devil and when we do, he will flee. We are to draw near to God, and He will draw near to us.

Christ resisted all the temptations Satan threw at Him over a period of forty days — right after His baptism. Interesting how a spiritual high point can be followed by such an intense spiritual attack. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.


  1. Becky,
    I Sam. 16 may support your conclusion: But why couldn’t the root of the chemical imbalance be in the spiritual activity of a demon?

    14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.   15 And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.   16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on a harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.

    Saul’s physical/mental trouble (caused by the evil spirit) was relieved by the pleasant sound of brain-altering harp music. So, yes, the evil spirit’s influence was subdued.


  2. Great post, Becky. The issues you brought up were ones I wrestled with while writing the book. I agree wholeheartedly that Christians cannot be possessed demons. We are the temple of God and evil has no place in God’s house. The second issue, like you pointed out is less black and white. Is it possible that demonic influence causes mental disorders? Of course it is. But where one stops and the other starts is another question and I think can’t truly be known unless a close examination of the individual is taken. I would imagine with much prayer and probing it might be determined from where the disorder is originating.

    Thanks for your reviews and thoughts, though. Good stuff, indeed. I’m glad the story gave you something to think about.


  3. Well, doctors can’t really measure the chemicals in a brain. When they say they are imbalanced, they just mean they will play with different drugs and see what works to calm a person down. Maybe the chemicals are imbalanced and maybe not. I’m not saying they aren’t. Just pointing out that we often believe that doctors know things because they state things as fact instead of theory.

    I have a brother who is schizophrenic who in Bible times would have been labeled demon possessed, I’m sure. But then people with lazy eyes were often thought to be “tetched” by the devil, I believe. I don’t know whether my brother is sick or demon possessed. All I know is that he needs deliverance from something.

    God knows. So I pray.

    The doctors, of course, have not healed him–have not balanced the chemicals in his brain. They’ve harmed his liver greatly with all their chemicals. But they’ve kept him sedated enough that he’s manageable most of the time. It’s a horrible way to live. The chemicals are no different than the chains that held the demoniac at Gadarenes. They are not an attempt to heal, but to contain and control.


  4. There’s a good reference somewhere online about what happens when certain brain chemicals in the body are low. The one about low serotonin is particularly poignant because I read it and say “yep, yep, yep”. I’ve had all the symptoms, from mildly low serotonin to extremely low.

    I dropped to extremely low post partum and because I was so low, I was easily spiked, so I went up and down the serotonin spectrum very rapidly and disturbingly so. It’s not cool. Anyone who says low serotonin isn’t the cause of depression, or who says depression is 75% within the sufferers control has NEVER experienced chemical depression. If/when they ever do, they will surely change their tune.

    I’ve learned that low serotonin can be caused by a variety of factors, many of which ARE in my control. Prayer, stress reduction, healthy eating, exercise, proper sleep all promote healthy levels…go figure…doesn’t the Bible say our body is a temple and should be treated as such? When we don’t treat it as such (meaning we sin against the body) our defenses are lowered…our healthy feel-good chemicals are depleted… So it’s a combination I think. Lowered chemicals = weakened defenses = more likely to come under demon oppression. And that’s EXACTLY what it feels like. Someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on with the chemicals in their brain may say they feel and “evil” presence.

    Last thing. I’ve come to think of our brain chemicals as a tuner…like the kind on a radio that lets you flip through stations. When brain chemicals are optimal, we tune in clearly to God’s requency. When they’re out of whack…well, at best we get static, at worst, who knows what we end up hearing. It’s not scientific, but I think there may be some truth to it.


  5. “frequency” 🙂


  6. Bob, thanks for the example you gave from Scripture. That certainly does seem like it fits. We know that Saul was at least oppressed by an evil spirit, but something physical that initiated an emotional response (David’s music) gave him some measure of control. Really interesting.

    I’ve looked at the New Testament primarily as I was reading through the Gospels, for info on demon activity. This is really helpful.



  7. Mike, the story gave me lots to think about, no doubt. You are a fine writer and I truly hope those who love this kind of story find you and your books.



  8. Sally, the little bit I’ve read does sound like doctors are judging low or high levels of brain chemicals based on symptoms. And even if their observation is accurate, my question is, Are the levels low (or high) because of depression, for example, or is depression a result of the low levels?

    It seems to me we are making a lot of assumptions and in the process leaving out the spiritual component altogether.

    Jessica, I think this fits in with your comment too. I’m wondering how you judged your serotonin levels — was it entirely based on symptoms?

    Again, I’m not in anyway trying to discount the physical effects that may stem from brain chemistry that is “abnormal.” I know people used to think epilepsy was a result of demon possession, and that’s not so. Too many fine Christians have suffered from the disease, and there’s a clear genetic component.

    Again, in looking at Scripture, I see that there were some demon possessed people who were mute. But so was John the Baptist’s father, for a time. In other words, there isn’t some 1 to 1 correspondence with symptoms and demonic activity, of that we can be sure.

    I do think, Sally, you’ve made an interesting argument, though, that the drugs are used to control symptoms much the way the chains were used to control the violent demonics. It seems to me, one way or the other, our role is to pray. God can heal and God can save. Prayer, then, should be our first line of defense and our first recourse to deal with problems.

    Thanks for the input all. Interesting discussion.



  9. […] darkness in fiction once again, but after looking around the blog tour I decided to switch topics. Becky LuElla Miller and Thomas Clayton Booher both offered interesting thoughts about what, exactly, afflicted Sam […]


  10. True, God can heal. I’ve found his way of doing so sometimes is to tap one on the shoulder and say, work with me. Prayer alone won’t fix it. But I believe him when he says ask, seek, knock and the answer will be given, he means it. He’s given me answers to the seemingly impossible questions. The ones doctors could not answer. I’ve discovered healing despite them.

    Funny, I was told by doctors my low serotonin levels were genetic, and wasn’t given much hope except to take drugs for the rest of my life. I refused to believe it and searched for many years. Finally came to a site called radiantrecovery.com which is a food program originally created to help alcoholics quit drinking. But it’s applicable to anyone who has addiction problems. My addiction was refined sugar, I just didn’t know it until my 20’s, because, well, certainly no doctor ever told me that table sugar could act as a drug in certain people’s bodies. Anyway, I believe that was the root cause of my imbalance, where it started, and I’ve spent a decade learning how to eat how God truly intended–something this junk food laden culture does not teach.

    And, yes, there is a way to indirectly test neurotransmitters. It’s a urine test which determines how much of the neurotransmitter has broken down. From that they can gauge what your levels might be and determine whether you fall in low, normal, or high range. It’s not exact, but it gives a rough idea, especially if the test is administered many times over a period. Then you can compare symptoms based on the test. And you can have some validation that it’s not just “in your head.”

    I had it done before delivery of my first son, and again after. My levels had dropped significantly after. I wasn’t anywhere near the “healthy range” even though I was on an SSRI…which, in “normal” people would have raised their reading to an above normal theraputic range.

    I’m so used to it, I’m to the point where I can acknowledge the symptoms, and just go on despite it, because it’s like any disease…you learn to manage. That being said, with the Radiant Recovery program, I know I will reach a point of healing eventually. God offers hope. Sometimes we just have to do the leg work.


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