Spiritual possession is the concept that gods, daemons, demons, animas, or other disincarnate entities may temporarily take control of a human body, resulting in noticeable changes in behaviour. The concept of spiritual possession exists in many contemporary religions and can also be seen in the mythology and folklore of many cultures.
While not all belief systems consider spirits to be purely good or evil, the term demonic possession is commonly used when the spirit is perceived as malignant (a demon), whereas incorporation or channelling may be used in the case of benign spirits. Other terms applied to spiritual possession include drawing down the moon, assuming the god form, invocation, being ridden, being tied down, Get Happy, Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Channelling is the claimed receipt of information or commands by a person functioning as a medium or channel for a spirit or other source. This often involves a séance. Some forms of channelling appear to involve spiritual possession, as the medium’s voice or body may appear to be under the direct control of the channelled spiritual being, but some maintain that channelling and possession are distinct.
The concept is quite old and widespread in the history of religion. The concept was popularised in the West by Helena Blavatsky the founder of theosophy. The claim is also made by many other Spiritualist religions, such as Kardecism.
According to the religious scholar Wouter J. Hanegraaff, the difference between channelling and spiritism is that the first conveys extensive philosophical and religious messages and belief systems, not just short messages from the deceased or other entities.
Demonic possession is a form of spiritual possession; specifically, one or more demons are said to enter a living or dead human or animal body or an object with the intention of using it for a purpose, normally evil but sometimes instead as a punishment or test. This term is more commonly applied to the possession of living persons. It is said by several spiritual belief systems that demonic possession can be “cured” by an exorcism that enables the exorcist to expel the demon or demons from the possessed subject or object.
Many religions contain some concepts of demons and demon possession, but the details vary considerably. Many mainstream Christian churches, particularly in Western society, reject the concept entirely, instead supporting the mainstream scientific position that supposed demon possessions are in fact a symptom of mental illness. Churches that accept demonic possession still may agree that many apparent cases may actually stem from natural causes.