Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy and Personal Experiences


( The case of the possessed Gadarene man )

By Michael Houlis, Theologian

Source:  https://www.oodegr.com/oode/asynithista/pn_empeiries/gadarinoi_1.htm



Throughout the New Testament it can be seen clearly that Jesus not only taught people and called them towards love, repentance, peace and justice, but that He also revealed with His life and His miracles the truths of God’s new world - which He Himself had inaugurated. He also fought the battle head-on against the old world, and confronted the unjust structures and principles, the insidious interests and the hypocrisy of the people of His time. Not only with them, of course, but also with the God-opposing forces of evil spirits, whose authority He finally defeated with his sacrifice on Golgotha ​​and His Resurrection from the dead. After all, “…for this was the Son of Man revealed: to abolish the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3,8).

One such example of healing and liberation of a person subjected to Satan is the incident with the demon-possessed young man of Gadara (the Gadarene youth), which is quoted immediately below. But it is necessary to mention that before performing the miracle, Christ had calmed the stormy sea (evidencing His authority over nature) and had also resurrected the daughter of Jairus (evidencing His authority over death, as He is the Leader of life). With the present incident (which of course is not the only one in the Gospels) He evidences that He has dominance over the kingdom of demons, thus proving He is undeniably the true God.

The Gadarene (or Gergesene) incident was as follows:

When Jesus happened to visit the city of Gadara (or Gergesa) by boat, He was met by a man (in Matth. 8:28 two men are mentioned) possessed by an unclean spirit and who dwelled inside tombs (which at the time were carved out in caves). Even chains could not hold him, because he had often snapped them and loosened himself from his bonds, and no-one had the strength to subdue him. Day and night he wandered around the tombs and the mountains screaming out loud and wounding himself on the sharp rocks...  When he spotted Jesus (the unique physician of souls and bodies) coming from afar, he ran towards Him and prostrated himself to worship Him, but a loud cry came forth from within him by the demon, saying: “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you to God, don't torture me.' This was because Christ had said to him: “Get out, you unclean spirit, from this man!”. Then Jesus demanded: “What is your name?”' And the demon inside the man replied: “They call me ‘Legion’, because we are many…”  (a Legion was a military body of about 6,000 infantry and 300 cavalry).

So they begged Jesus persistently to not send them out of the land (or into the abyss, according to Luke 8:31).  But there happened to be a large herd of pigs grazing on the nearby mountain slopes, so the evil spirits begged Him with the following request: “Send us to the pigs and allow us to enter them.” Christ allowed them to do so (thus evidencing the power of God and the truth of His word), because He had felt compassion for that unfortunate man. Indeed, the legion of demons rushed into the herd of pigs, which then rushed towards the cliff and fell into the sea. The herd of pigs numbered about two thousand – all of which drowned in the sea.  (Symbolically, to the Jews, the sea represented the forces of chaos and destruction.) 

After this shocking phenomenon, the swineherds went off to the locals - both to those in the city and in the fields - and announced what had transpired. The inhabitants went there to find out what had happened. They approached Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, now seated calmly, clothed and cognizant, and they were overcome with fear.  They immediately began to beg Jesus to leave, beyond their borders (more afraid of undergoing worse evils, yet also remaining in their faithlessness, by not believing in Him).   When Christ boarded the ship to go to Capernaum, the former demoniac begged to go with Him (He was dazzled by Christ’s grandeur, but he also remained afraid that he would again find himself in the same evil situation). However, Jesus did not agree to this request; instead, He instructed the man: “Go to your home and your kin and announce to them what the Lord has done to you in showing His mercy”' And the blessed man left and began to preach in Decapolis what Jesus had done for him and everyone marveled [see Mark. 5,1-20 and 9,14-29/ Matt. 8,28-34 and 16-17/ Luke 8,26-39 and 9,37-42].

From the aforementioned text, quoted with minor variations by Matthew, Mark and Luke, the following truths are extracted:

It is clearly obvious in the Tradition of the Church and in the New Testament:

(a) that there exists an invisible spiritual world - holy and satanic, angels and demons - of which the Church has had experience throughout time, especially the ascetics, the monks, but also those who strive to apply God's will to their lives and surroundings, and

(b) that even demons submit to Christ as to an almighty God. The Devil appears very early in the Holy Bible, from the fall of the first-fashioned couple, as having entered human history and striving to destroy man with every possible manner, 'like a roaring lion' (1 Pet. 5,8).

In the same manner that an open wound without care and antibiotics becomes infected, likewise the first couple left their minds and hearts exposed to the influence of evil, causing them to succumb to the snares of the antichrist spirit. This particular passage proves that demons do indeed have a personal consciousness and will - and are not just a mental construct that implies something evil. The 'devil' is called so because he slanders and vilifies the acts of people before God; furthermore, the word 'satan' in Hebrew implies the one who opposes and resists the plans of God - the adversary and the opposer. In addition to Judaism and Christianity, Satan is presented under various names;  in Buddhism and Islam as moving viciously and insidiously against good and embodying absolute evil.

The demonically possessed are not psychopaths.  Demonic possession is one thing, and madness, schizophrenia or any other kind of illness is another thing. In the New Testament such situations are clearly distinguished, so that we have no right to accuse the era of Jesus of being in ignorance. We will mention only two examples, according to Mark 1,32 & 1,34, where the following are said:

32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick AND those who were demon-possessed33 And the whole city had gathered together at the door. 34 And He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and He also cast out many demons; and He also obstructed the demons from speaking, for they knew He was the Christ.”

As we can see, the demons mentioned in the Gospels can converse with Christ, they can be extracted from people, and they also acknowledge Christ as God - in fact they “believe and tremble”, according to the Apostle Jacob (James), but they do not produce any fruits of repentance because they have become fixed in evil : 

“19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not earn the righteousness of God. (James 1:19).

Elsewhere in the Bible they approach and venerate Jesus, they recognize that He has authority over them and they plead for the revoking of their punishment (see e.g. Luke 8:28, Mark 5:6, Matth. 8:29, Matth.8:31). All these are personal reactions that cannot be attributed to the usual forms of mental illness. In many cases, the possessed persons have revealed to bystanders certain secret personal acts they have committed, names of third parties and their personal information, etc. - phenomena that cannot be interpreted through common sense or only biologically. According to the consensus of the saints and the Fathers of the Church, the worst form of tyranny is that of the devil over man, which of course has gradations and can be observed in different forms, such as the instances of pride, irreverence, wickedness, enslavement to passions, heresy, faithlessness, idolatry, etc.

In our country, unfortunately thousands of sorcerers, mediums and visionaries who are working and “helping” unsuspecting fellow-humans – either as individuals or in the form of a society – are operatives of supernatural evil forces (unless they are deceitful scammers of their clients) and they corrupt souls. Unfortunately, the evil spirit camouflages itself and presents its achievements in our modern age with a seemingly scientific guise and as an externalization of the supposed inner powers that exist within us but are inert. Marching along with them in the same spirit, the occultist New Age tries to convince people, naturally through delusional teachings, that we are all (interim sleeping) gods on earth and that miracles and change in our lives can be achieved, by invoking conscious energy forces, to which they give names, such as: 'the great ones of old', 'entities' with specific names (whose channels they are eventually rendered), 'angels' (hence modern spiritualist angelology), 'reiki power' etc. All of these are just camouflaged teachings of contemporary sorcery.  In fact, the Apostle Paul reveals (but Athanasius the Great also mentions that it happened in the life of Anthony the Great), that demons can also appear as angels of light in order to mislead many (2 Cor. 11:14). The popular saying 'all that glitters is not gold' has exactly the same meaning in secular matters.

The young man of the gospel narrative, enslaved as he was to the devil, suffered from anti-sociality, aggression, internal splitting and conflicts, destructive drive, lack of personal cohesion, loneliness and isolation, given that passions in Orthodox psychotherapy are the perversion of mental forces and an escalating inertia towards the "likeness" (= the path to theosis-union with God). These are the consequences of evil inside man, which also seep into the environment in the form of suffering, disease, hunger, hatred, war, terrorism, anarchy, rape, suicide, etc., as they have their origin not in God, but in the wicked invisible spiritual world.  Christ offers victory over the dark and inhuman powers and the possibility of inner cohesion, freedom and personal worthiness, through His Grace, the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church - especially Confession and Holy Communion - love and Christian ascesis (humility, fasting, prayer, religious worship, vigils, etc.), without which, and without the observance of Christ's commandments, everything only seems to be achievable magically, that is, without our synergy (collaboration).  Moreover, according to the Lord's words, "this 'genus' of demons can only be expelled 'by prayer and fasting'" (Matthew 14:21).

Faith in Christ - or faithlessness - is a personal choice by people, because there are also people who, albeit witnessing miracles in their lives and around them, do not wish to know Christ and meet Him on a spiritual level.  Also, many of them are not moved by the serious problems of their fellow human beings, but live only for their own interests. In our above example, they are represented by the ingrate Gadarenes, who, instead of thanking the Lord (and repenting) for redeeming a fellow citizen - and ridding them of a public danger as was the demon-possessed man – they sent away and scorned Christ en masse, probably because He was also hurting their financial interests – that is, the swine trade which was forbidden to the Jews during that time.  Christ then departed very discreetly, faithfully observing people’s free will to choose the course of their life.

The former devil-servant and now a Christ-servant named Christodoulos (which implies a truly free person in Christ) and a sober young man, became a town crier proclaiming the wonders of God to his neighbors and the surrounding villages (and to the Gentiles of course), as instructed by the Lord. The healed and Grace-filled man - having found hid old, normal self - now exudes Grace and a divine calmness, and is no longer a danger to others. After all, Christ also uses as His collaborators people who are faithful to His will. This is indicative of the fact that we too have a duty to become town criers of God's love - and His apostles, in words and in deeds, personalizing the importance of each case and acting with discernment and meekness.

Wherever hatred, destruction, aggressiveness, injustice and strife prevail, and love, freedom and peace flee, there also is where the devil reigns, as Christ is being persecuted.

Wherever God retreats (when He is consciously denied by people, as He does not force anyone's will), there evil gains ground as a presence .

Just as darkness does not exist by itself but is actually the absence of light, so evil materializes when good is absent.  On the contrary, Christian life is characterized by unity, philanthropy, reconciliation, love, sanctification. This is the environment in which God reposes and Christians are characterized as His children.

Christ, finally, is the liberator of souls and bodies. Conflict with the evil spirit ended, with the resurrected God-Man as victor. Christ came 'to put an end to the works of the devil' (I John 3:8) and human nature was redeemed, with His incarnation as the beginning of salvation.  

However, for the worthiness of the human person, a daily struggle is demanded. The inner and outer change of the formerly demon-possessed person underlines that in God’s new world, which is already taking place en route and heading towards the future, every form of evil will recede.

The Church is Christ’s corpus/body 'extending throughout the ages' (St. Augustine). It is the psychosomatic heavenly Inn - an infirmary for souls and bodies, according to the patristic interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable.

Only in there will man find true and eternal repose, with evil being persecuted and the soul at peace, since the Church communicates not only lovingly and fraternally with fellow human beings, but also through the ecclesiastic Mysteries together with the saints and the angels of God.






§ Wikipedia, entry “Devil”

§ Logos and Existence', Kon/nos Grigoriadis, vol. A, ed. B, ed. The Transfiguration of the Savior, Ath. 2001

§ 'Jesus Christ, the New World of God and Us', published by Patakis, 2004

§ 'Orthodox Messages', Stavros Fotiou, published by Grigoris, Ath. 2000

§ 'Christ and the new world of God', Nikolaos Neurakis, Ath. 1989

§ 'Christ and the new world of God', Savvas Agouridis-Socrates Nikas, OEDB, Ath. 1993

§  «Ôhe four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles», by Timotheus Kilifis, Vol.Á´, 4th ed., Athens 1999

§  «The Gospel of Matthew», Nicjolas Sotiropoulos, O STAVROS publications, Athens. 1981




Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 29-8-2005.

Last update:  12-7-2023.