Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Living Americans

by Malachi Martin
Reviewed date: 2018 Dec 21
568 pages
cover art

Martin is both candid and coy. When the possessed speak, Malachi faithfully reproduces their obscenities, crude outbursts, and their vulgarity--and they do have vulgar, foul things to say. This is not a book for the squeamish. But on the next page, when recounting the actions of the subjects, he suddenly becomes coy and speaks of their sins in circumlocutions, euphemisms, and vague hints.

Martin also has a conversation with another priest where they discuss sex. It's bizarre, over-the-top, theologically ludicrous. To hear them talk one would think sex is a kind of powerful magic, or perhaps a piece of God himself. Maybe asking the clergy to take lifelong vows of celibacy was unwise.

Martin doesn't waste time showing example of demon oppression or demonization. The five examples he recounts are cases of full-on complete possession. The demon takes over.

The biggest problem I see is that Martin sets this up as a cosmic duel, the exorcist against the demon. It's a personal struggle and it relies on the exorcist's efforts, the strength of his will, the purity of his character, his wisdom and his doggedness and his unwillingness to retreat or give up. Nobody can help the exorcist--once he begins an exorcism, he must complete it himself. It may take hours, but more likely days or weeks. If he loses concentration, gets sidetracked, or slips up for even a moment, he loses. The demon can win. If he fails to drive out the demon--or even if he does--the epic confrontation can wound his soul. Most of the exorcists Martin introduces eventually die from the after-effects of the exorcisms they perform.

Oh, sure, Martin gives lip service to God in all this. It's God's power that allows the exorcist to drive out the demon. But fundamentally, this is (according to how Martin presents it) a confrontation between a man (the exorcist) and a demon. It's heroic, epic, titanic. A spiritual duel. A heavenly contest of wills. The exorcist risks his life and his very soul. How very poetic.

Poetic--but biblical?

Not from what I read. There's too much of man in Martin's depiction of exorcism. Not enough God.

But Father Malachi Martin has a way with words. This is the only book I've ever read that scared me enough that I quit. I didn't finish it.

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