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Let's say that one day scientists discover proof of demonic possession when scanning the minds of patients with unexplained mental illness.

My goal is to write a realistic scenario using current-day medical knowledge to immerse the readers in the story, making it seem like such a thing as demonic possession might be possible when examined by doctors and scientists. For example, something like alien hand syndrome where the body is controlled without the will of the person who it belongs to.

The question: How might scientists and doctors explain and discover a demonic possession if it had to follow the laws of the universe I.e physics, thermodynamics etc.

  • For the purposes of the story, it is to be assumed that any supernatural forces are bound by the laws of the universe.
  • By "scanning" I mean examining the patient's brain with MRI and CT scanning machines or other medical means of observing the structure, chemistry, and patterns of the brain.

Edit: it has come to my attention that supernatural is not the best word to use, so since this would be explaining a supernatural event, the means by which this possession take place are grounded in the the known laws of the universe that we have discovered up to this point, as such a realistic pseudo scientific answer is basically what I would be looking for

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    $\begingroup$ Supernatural is defined as "(of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature." (Google) Therefore, if they were bound by the laws of the universe they would become natural. I think you need explain this further, possibly specify how the forces are bound/limited. $\endgroup$ – MB123 Feb 28 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ Are you looking for realistic and pseudo-scientific explanations for demonic possession like events? $\endgroup$ – MB123 Feb 28 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ It is not clear what you are asking for here. For your question to be valid here, you need to ask a single well defined question that has a specific correct answer. $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Feb 28 at 19:06
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You could also borrow a page from David Langford, and have the "demon" be memetic. It's not strictly scientific (the brain is a lot more flexible), but imagine a thought process/algorithm that is perfectly formed to seize and exercise mental structures to the exclusion of everything else.

If our "software" can run on our brains, it's not inconceivable that something else could as well - presumably something fairly sophisticated, since we'd long since have developed immunity to more common memetic hazards.

The "demon", then, is an algorithm that starts small and builds itself through repeated exposure to inputs that it directs its "host" to view/listen to/perceive until it bootstraps itself into consciousness on the shared neural substrate. (Alternately, you could call it a daemon.)

The FMRI suggested in another answer could be the means by which this possession is discovered, as a large section of the brain could be showing unusually high levels of activity even when the host is sedated, as the algorithm is seizing control of more substrate on which to run.

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You could riff on the existing technology of functional mri. fMRI can match a given activity with a given area of the brain. General areas of the brain responsive for this or that activity are known, but there is variance among individuals. Mapping these areas helps a surgeon avoid important areas when removing a tumor as in these images.

https://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-fMRI_DTI.HTM fmri

You could have someone suspected of having a tumor undergo a near future fMRI and find something unsuspected. A sentient demon might lay low when it chose to, and so maybe you could have something like an ambulatory fMRI which is supposed to localize the brain source of a seizure which happens intermittently. Maybe the possession episodes were thought to be seizures? Seizures can be pretty weird.

Once the unsuspected findings have been documented, coordination with colleagues around the world allows them to induce that external forces (a demon?) are involved in controlling or influencing an individual.

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Follow the lead of many many Science Fiction movies, TV shows, and books that create aliens or fantasy creatures as real beings and give them the ability to "possess" human beings and control their minds or bodies.

"These very real beings are what humans thought were demons" is a pretty common trope. Look at the TV series Babylon 5 where the two higher level races turn out to be "angels" and "demons" (though not quite in the ways the viewer thinks). When these beings reveal themselves, each person sees a culturally appropriate version (humans see traditional angels, for example).

So many shows have beings who take over a human's mind (either shared with them or a complete takeover) that I couldn't even list them all.

Go ahead, create your alien or fantasy creature and give it all the properties you want. Make sure it's been on Earth for at least 10,000 years and that it is often referred to as a demon.

That is what the doctors will discover.

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