Spirit Attachment and Health

By Alan Lindsay Sanderson MD, psychiatrist and Founder of the Spirit Release Foundation

The belief that the dead may return to trouble the living goes back to antiquity and it remains widespread in non-western cultures. In the west it continues in Christian teaching. The New Testament abounds with accounts of Jesus casting out devils and unclean spirits. Exorcism, as still used by the Christian churches, ritualises this practice. But expelling the attached entity in this way is an adversarial procedure, far removed from contemporary spirit release, which aims to help both host and entity.Spirit release developed from spiritualism in the second half of the 19th century. The writings of Allan Kardec, a prominent French scholar, who compiled The Spirits Book (1857) and The Book of Mediums (1874) both still in print, have been influential, leading to the development of the Spiritist movement, world wide, with many adherents, especially in Brazil.An American psychiatrist, Carl Wickland, and his wife, Anna, a spirit medium, were the pioneers of depossession, as it was then called, in North America. His classic, Thirty Years Among the Dead , first published in 1924, tells how static electricity was applied to the patientís head and back, in order to drive out possessing spirits. The spirits then entered Anna, through whom they spoke with Carl, who persuaded them to leave. This was an effective, but dangerous, procedure. Mrs Wickland ended her life in a mental hospital.Little more was written on the subject of possession until Edith Fioreís The Unquiet Dead (1987), which describes her use of hypnosis in the treatment of possessed patients. Fiore had earlier written about past lives, and her work came from this perspective. She has had a big influence, most notably on William Baldwin, who has taken things further, particularly in categorising the different human and non-human entities and in developing protocols for clinical use. His book, Spirit Releasement Therapy – A Technique Manual (1992) is essential reading for anyone entering the field. The practice of spirit release is expanding rapidly in the materially-developed world. There are two professional organisations in the USA, based on the Baldwin model, one in Australia, see www.clairvision.org, another in Continental Europe, based upon channelled teaching by Carl Nowotny (1996) and two in the United Kingdom.

The secular approach to spirit release, increasingly practised in North America and the U.K., derives, not from religious belief, but from a pragmatic approach to therapy. There are two main approaches, the Intuitive, requiring psychic awareness in the practitioner, and the Interactive, in which the patient, in an altered state of consciousness, becomes self-aware. The first scarcely involves the patient; the second requires dialogue between patient and practitioner. The Intuitive in particular, has many varieties and is sometimes used at a distance. Each approach has its strengths. The Interactive method has the advantage that it fully involves the patient and the session can be recorded.In the UK, The Spirit Release Foundation www.spiritrelease.com (originally the British Association for Spirit Release) was founded in August 1999. The SRF has around 160 members, many of them practitioners. It organizes conferences, workshops and a training course, leading to accreditation as Spirit Release Therapist.

Alternation between embodiment on earth and timeless, more or less blissful existence in the spirit world, preparing for reincarnation, is the essential pattern. At death the spirit usually passes to the Light, the white brilliance seen in a near-death experience. However, it does not invariably reach the Light. It may be confused, even to the point of not knowing that the body has died. Ignorance or fear of punishment may cause it to be diverted. Sometimes the spirit remains earthbound in a familiar place, when it may appear as a ghost (see Terry and Natalia O’Sullivan, Soul Rescuers (1999)). Spirits, not uncommonly, attach to other embodied persons, often relatives or friends. Spirits may stay behind with the clear intention of attachment, perhaps out of concern for a relative, or to satisfy an addiction, even for revenge. Family sex abusers seem commonly to attach to their victims. Suicidal persons may have with them spirits which encourage suicide.

Vulnerability to spirit attachment varies according to predisposition, health and circumstances. The condition of the aura is an important factor. It has been postulated that people whose auras vibrate at high frequency are impervious to spirits of a lower frequency. Illness, injury, drugs, emotional disturbance and the presence of attached spirits may all impair resistance. Cases have been described in which organ transplant recipients appear to have received the spirit of the donor (Sylvia, 1997). Certain individuals seem to attract spirits, often from those who, during life, had a similar problem. For instance, those that have suffered sexual abuse may be drawn together. In other cases attachment may appear to be purely accidental, as in a case when a spirit, reliving the time immediately after his death, attempted to chat up a girl in a club. When she made no response, he exclaimed, angrily, “She’s ignoring me, the cow!” Then, with amazement, “Oh, I’m in her!” Karmic and past life factors may be involved.

Spirit attachment can affect people in many ways, either mildly or profoundly. Here are some of the commonest:

1. Unexplained fatigue.
2. Unexplained depression
3. Sudden changes in mood.
4. Hearing a voice.
5. Addictions of all sorts.
6. Uncharacteristic changes in personality or behaviour.
7. Anomalous sexual behaviour.
8. Unexplained somatic symptoms.It is important to note that there are many other causes of the above symptoms. Hearing voices is the symptom most suggestive of spirit attachment. However, this may also be due to other factors, notably to a more or less autonomous part of the personality, such as a child part, or to a spirit guide. Abusive voices featuring foul language are characteristic of lower spirits, whereas helpful spirits, such as those reported by Ghandi, Luther, Joan of Arc and others who have played a distinguished part in history, are attributed to spirit guides or to a divine source. Spirit guides do not attach to the aura and leach energy, as do the entities that affect human health. Such higher beings are essential allies in guiding souls to the Light and in healing the effects of spirit attachment. It seems likely that they play a covert role in many healing processes. Angels and spirit guides do not readily communicate during therapy, but they may sometimes do so, when asked. Such cases have been well described by Petrak (1996).

The effects of spirit attachment may be so slight as to be imperceptible or so great as to cause incapacity. In the great majority of cases, attached spirits have no executive power. They may influence feelings and perceptions, but do not displace the host from environmental awareness or from control of body movement, except rarely, for brief periods, as during fugue states and the ìblackoutsî experienced by alcoholics. Only a tiny minority show the switching of identity and memory gaps characteristic of multiple personality. It is not clear why spirit attachment should vary so much in its expression. There is also an enormous variability in peopleís psychic sensitivity and it seems likely that these variables are connected. Hallucinatory experiences vary greatly. Some patients, much troubled by spirits, rarely hear voices; others, less disturbed in thought and behaviour, hear them often.Attached spirits do not have the ability to help the host, except in rare instances. Not infrequently they seem bent on causing trouble. Even well-intentioned spirits often bring their own emotional problems, addictions or physical symptoms.Most attached spirits are unable to leave without assistance, though occasionally they come and go at will. It is important that a spirit from the Light helps them to find the way; otherwise, they may return to the host or attach to another person. Sometimes an apparently earthbound spirit may be correct in protesting that its body lives. Soul fragments of living people may attach to others and have a controlling effect. Not uncommonly, parents affect their children in this way, apparently without conscious awareness.In addition, there are non-human entities, both positive and negative. The latter may attach to human souls, in or out of the body, and cause troublesome effects. People may also be subject to psychic attack, in the form of spells or curses, or they may be subject to pacts, which they have made in this or in a previous life. These are real phenomena, which must be combated with appropriate measures. Negative thought forms may cause difficulties. They may appear as images symbolising fear, anger, destructiveness and other negative forces. Ireland-Frey (1999) has an approach to thought forms that I find particularly helpful. She uses the Baldwin approach of negotiation. Healing and angelic help are often effective.Superior spirits, unlike earthbound souls and other lower entities, do not attach to the aura and leach energy. Such higher beings are essential allies in guiding souls to the Light and in healing the effects of spirit attachment. It seems likely that they play a covert role in many healing processes. Angels and spirit guides do not readily communicate during therapy, but they may sometimes do so, when asked. Such cases have been well described by Petrak (1996). It is important to note that lower entities can mimic spirit guides, and may use this method to gain influence and control.

Spirit attachment is not a recognised psychiatric diagnosis. For this there are two reasons:

1. Current systems of psychiatric classification are symptomatological, not aetiological. The term spirit attachment would not be consistent with such a classification.

2. Spirits have no place in the materialistic paradigm of contemporary science.

Of the conditions which are confused with spirit attachment, by far the most important is multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, as it has been renamed, in the belief that we understand the psychopathology. I prefer the term, multiple identity, which does not imply such knowledge. These cases are rare and extremely complex. The essential features are:

1. A history of childhood abuse, leading to the presence of distressed child personalities.

2. Two or more adult personalities, which take turns in claiming executive control.

Since these personalities usually have awareness only of their own periods of control, the patient lives a chaotic life. The nature of these adult identities remains open to dispute. The conventional view is that the patient creates them as a way of handling overwhelming distress. A frequent feature is the presence of an Inner Self-helper, which has a truly beneficial effect. One of my patients had an ISH who would tip me off when she was admitted in a suicidal state, for instance, ìSheís got some razor blades hidden in her shoe.î

An important differential diagnosis is schizophrenia. It is probable that many of the voices heard by schizophrenic patients are due to attached spirits. It does not follow that attached spirits cause the condition, for they may be able to enter because of the patientís illness. On the other hand, I think it probable that cases diagnosed as schizophrenic, on the basis of voices alone, start with spirit attachment.


Those gifted with clairvoyance may be able to see attached spirits. To others a number of techniques are available for identifying and typing attached spirits:

1. Direct communication between spirit and therapist, via the patientís voice. This is achieved with the patient in trance, induced either by hypnosis or by following an image or feeling.

2. The therapist works indirectly. To achieve this, therapists may work in pairs, the scanner in an altered state, the facilitator directing the session. The scanner projects part of her consciousness to the patient, who may be at any distance and does not have to be aware of the procedure. After obtaining permission from the patientís higher self, the scanner makes contact with any attached spirits, which are then able to communicate through her voice, with the facilitator. Some therapists work individually, sometimes making use of a pendulum to communicate. This method has the disadvantage that responses are limited to ìYesî or ìNoî, but, when used over a specially-drawn chart, may give detailed information.

3. Regressing the patient to a previous life may inadvertently reach an attached spirit. This becomes apparent when the presumed past-life personality fails to go into the Light, as expected. The therapist then asks, ìWhen did you join xxxx?î Of course, it could be that the patientís soul from a past life attached itself, for a while, to another person. There are many possibilities.

Of the first two methods described, direct work has the advantage that the patient is consciously engaged in the procedure, a desirable state when important changes are undertaken. However it depends upon her acting as her own scanner, a role for which she is not invariably well-suited. The indirect approach has obvious benefits in treating children or others unable to co-operate, and it has the further advantage that an experienced scanner may pick up things of which the patient is ignorant.

With this technique, distance is immaterial, as is the patientís state of conscious awareness. Therapists should obtain permission from the patientís higher self when doing such work. When working directly with the patient, uncovering techniques may be employed to check for spirits:

1. The Use of Finger Signals. This is often helpful, since, with the patient in a relaxed state, these are produced unconsciously. Asking, ìIs anybody with xxxx?î may bring a positive response, which can be followed with a request to use the patientís voice for detailed information. A negative response should be followed by, ìIs anyone hiding?î Any finger movement in response to this question suggests an entity. A ìNoî answer can be followed by, ìSubconscious mind, did the No come from you?î Engaging a Voice. If the patient hears a voice, it is usually appropriate to engage the voice directly. ìWhat is your name? Are you part of xxxx, or someone else? Did you ever have a human, physical body of your own? What effect have you had on xxxx? Why are you here?î etc. The patientís voice may change markedly when an entity is communicating. Occasionally a patient will speak a language unlearned and not consciously known to the patient. This is known as xenoglossy and has been reported in detail by Stevenson (1984), both in hypnosis and in normal consciousness. Body Scan. The patient visualises light filling the body and then focuses on any shadowy areas or abnormal sensations. The therapist encourages communication. “If that dark area were to make a sound, what would it be? What has the heavy sensation in the back got to say?”2. Mirror Scan. Have the patient imagine standing in front of a full-length mirror. Another figure or some unexplained bodily feature will be indicative of spirit attachment.

Having established contact with the earthbound spirit, it is necessary to persuade it to leave. Should there be any reluctance on the part of the patient, host and entity are told that both are being harmed by the attachment, and the matter must be resolved. Should an earthbound spirit be unwilling to leave, several possibilities will have to be considered. The spirit may feel that its presence is necessary to the host, or it may be out to harm, even to kill the host. If discussion fails to mend the situation, it may be that the reluctant spirit is itself the victim of spirit parasitism. Sometimes the entity does not see the Light, or the Light is only dim. This suggests fragmentation. In such a case it is necessary to locate the missing part in order to resolve matters. The entity is encouraged to take with it any other attached spirits. The spirit of a loved one or a spirit guide from the Light is called for. It is necessary to check that these rescuers are indeed who they claim to be.When the last entity appears to have left, one asks for healing spirits from the Light to remove any residue of thought or feeling, which the foreign entities may have left behind. They must then fill with light the spaces where the entities were. The patient finally performs the Sealing Light meditation, filling the body with golden-white light, which extends an arm’s length beyond the body. Patients are advised to regard themselves as convalescent, to lead a quiet life for a few days and to be prepared for changes in behaviour. They should also do the Sealing Light meditation several times daily.Spirit release may also be achieved through healing. This has the advantage that it occurs in a very gentle way, usually without the patient’s awareness. A problem here is that the spirit may not be adequately taken care of; it may even attach to the healer. This underlines the great need for all therapists in this or related fields to have adequate protection (see later). The environment, both human and physical, in which the affected person lives, needs also to be considered in the treatment plan. Other family members may require treatment or the house may need to be cleansed of spirit infestation. Sometimes a portal, allowing spirit entry from another dimension, needs to be closed. The therapist faced with such situations will need to have heightened psychic awareness. Finally, it is essential that the patient’s way of life be examined. Gains will be compromised if the patient leads a life of emotional or material exploitation of others or is seriously addicted.

Over the years, I have used spirit release therapy in hundreds of cases. While it can bring dramatic benefit, it is important to make clear at the outset that spirit release is only one aspect of the treatment process, and is rarely sufficient in isolation. To treat schizophrenia with this technique is a major undertaking, since the patient will almost certainly lack the ego strength and clear boundaries necessary for successful treatment. Another problem with schizophrenic patients is that of trust, for they find it very difficult to trust a new therapist, especially one who proposes a spiritual treatment, when for years they have been told that they have a purely biochemical disorder. Shakuntala Modi, author of Remarkable Healings (1997) reports a successful case, in which treatment was first given indirectly, through a relative who attended with the patient. Spirit release has been used successfully in the treatment of sexual deviation. Barlow, Abel & Blanchard (1977) reported the case of a 20-year-old male who had had a strong female orientation from 4 years of age. After careful assessment, he was accepted for a gender reassignment operation. He was on the point of being admitted to hospital when, to please a friend, he underwent an exorcism. This transformed him. He lost all his female behavioural characteristics and no longer wanted the operation. The change had been maintained 2 years later. Fiore has successfully treated a similar case; this can be viewed on Fiore case After only 30 minutes, a female spirit left. The man’s sexual orientation instantly returned to normal and was maintained over a 5-year follow-up.I have had some failures, especially in the severely mentally-ill, but the great majority of my patients have improved. It is important to stress that, even after spirit release, there is often a need for other treatments, such as soul retrieval, regression and counselling. It is rare for a patient’s condition to be made worse following spirit release therapy. However, when anxiety is a prominent feature, it is necessary to proceed with special care. It is important to distinguish between the fear of the patient, secondary to existential concerns and the fear of an attached spirit, worried about being removed by the therapist.How can we prove that the beneficial effect of treatment comes from the release of spirits? There is no proof, nor, in the nature of things, can there be. Even detailed verification of information provided by spirits about their bodily lives will not convince the doubters. But because the treatment works, we can claim clinical validity, a concept useful in research.

The psyche has its own immune system – integrity. If you have integrity, wholeness of the psyche and personal well-being, then all the little things which might attach to you don’t grab hold, just as the physical body fends off attacks every day. Even so, it is wise for those who practise spiritual therapies to take precautions. Many protective techniques are in use (Hall, 2001). These include awareness of subtle energy, cleansing the aura, protective visualisation and grounding. Crystals, essences and herbs are widely used. Some people are especially open to spirit interference. They need to avoid any psychic activity. Even something as seemingly harmless as a Tarot reading has been known to induce a wandering spirit to latch on to an individual who is psychically open. Such people and all therapists would do well to arrange a regular scan by a psychic sensitive, in the same way as one might arrange a routine medical check.

Case histories, however dramatic, will never convince the doubters. We need clinical trials. It is necessary to study conditions of long-standing, which do not respond to any known treatment. Persistent auditory hallucinations, transsexualism and paedophilia are examples. How does one go about it? One needs good experimental design, time, money and determination. These are not enough in themselves. Colleagues are understandably wary of getting involved in such “spooky” research. Without their co-operation, where will the research subjects come from? If one succeeds at that hurdle, how would any conventionally oriented ethical committee, conceivably approve? Even then, what reputable journal will publish the results? Fortunately, the climate is changing. The Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists www.rcpsych.ac.uk/college/sig/spirit formed in 1999, has a membership of 675. Under its aegis, research, though not yet research on spirit release, is under way. Prospects are improving steadily.

Things are moving. The increasing practice of spirit release and the appearance of books and specialised journals on a wide range of spiritually based therapies augers well for the future. Associations in the USA, Brazil where there are 12,000 Spiritist centres and many Spiritist hospitals, Australia, Continental Europe and Great Britain are in good shape, with training programmes and conferences. There is tremendous energy in this area and we seem to be moving on a tide of planetary changes in human consciousness.It seems fitting to conclude with a verse by Carl Wickland, inscribed in a presentation copy of his book, Thirty Years Among the Dead.Truth wears no mask, Bows at no human shrine,Seeks neither place nor applause;She only asks a hearing.


Baldwin,W.J. (1992) Spirit Releasement Therapy – A Technique Manual ISBN #1-88-265800-0
Barlow,D.,Abel,G.& Blanchard,E.(1977). Gender identity change in a transsexual: an exorcism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 387-395.
Fiore,E. (1987) The Unquiet Dead ISBN 0-345-35083-9
Hall,J. (2001) Way of Psychic Protection ISBN 0 00 711021 9
Hickman,I.(1994) Remote Depossession ISBN 0-915689-08-1
Ireland-Frey (1999) Freeing the Captives ISBN 1-57174-136-4
Kardec, A (1996) The Book of Mediums ISBN 0-87728-382-6
Modi,S. (1997) Remarkable Healings ISBN 1 57174079 1
Nowotny,K. (1996) Messages from a Doctor in the Fourth Dimension. Six volumes in slim paperback. Vol. 1 ISBN 1 874514 21 6
O’Sullivan,T&N. (1999) Soul Rescuers ISBN 0 7225 3859 6 Thorsons.
Petrak,J. (1996) Angels, Guides and other Spirits ISBN 0-9633177-1-7
Sanderson,A.(1998) Spirit releasement therapy in a case featuring depression and panic attacks. European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 4, 196-205
Stevenson, I (1984) Unlearned Language: New Studies in Xenoglossy. The University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0-8139-0994-5
Sylvia,C., with Novak,W.(1997) A Change of Heart. ISBN 0-316-88348-4
Wickland,C.A. (1974) Thirty Years Among the Dead ISBN 0-87877-025-9 Spirit Release Foundation: www.spiritrelease.com

• • •

Enquiries about the SRF should go to Frida Maria Myrtles,fridamaria@php.blueyonder.co.uk†

Alan Sanderson, MD, can be reached at 2 Caroline Close, London W2 4RWEmail: dralan.sanderson@btinternet.com
Leaders in the “Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists” have been directly involved with the “Spirit Release Foundation”. However, they are two distinct groups.

• • •

This article was first published in October, 2003
Copyright © Spirit Release Foundation