What is the consensus today regarding dybbuks, demons and possession? Do we attribute these things to mental illness or do we acknowledge their existence?

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    What makes you think there is consensus today?
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2016 at 21:24
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    There is definitely not a consensus today. It's more like a dichotomy, with no middle ground. But the work "dybbuk" is a very recent term, so it's hard to acknowledge the "existence" of a recent term without discussing whether it refers to an older more original term, or if it's a new category altogether.
    – Aaron
    Feb 17, 2016 at 21:26
  • observation. The phenomenologic dibbuk, is not particularly a jewish Culture-Bound Syndrome. The samd thing exist in many cultures, The ethnopsychiatry knows this. Schizophrenia or Dissociative States are the main diagnostics that the Psychiatric Diagnostic Phenomenologic can offer. The Dibbuk is admitted in a world where indifferently jews and not jews understand psychic life events and the psychiatric phenomenology through a kind of possession. Up to day this attitude to regard psychiatric illness as Dibbuk when the patient is not issued from a such cultural world is absurd.
    – kouty
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:11
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/45048/…
    – ray
    Feb 22, 2016 at 6:09

2 Answers 2


In practice nowadays in Israel, Gedoley Hador encourage people to consult a psychiatrist. In most cases, antipsychotic treatments are successful.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, almost in all cases, the patients fulfill criteria of schizophrenia. Below, I will paste some sentences from the DSM 5, the last version. One of the key features that define the psychotic disorders is delusions.

Delusions may be called bizarre or non-bizarre. One of the critera which characterizes a delusion as bizarre is: clearly implausible or not understandable to same-culture peers and does not derive from ordinary life experience.

Another key feature is hallucinations. They are perception-like experiences that occur without an external stimulus. Auditory hallucinations are the most common in schizophrenia and related disorders. Auditory hallucinations are usually experienced as voices, whether familiar or unfamiliar, that are perceived as distinct from the individual's own thoughts.

Culture-Related Diagnostic Issues: In some cultures, visual or auditory hallucinations with religious content (e.g., hearing G_d's voice) are a normal part of the religious experience. (Among Orthodox Jews this is not the case.)

Cultural Formulation.

Culture-Bound Syndromes. (from Synopsis of Psychiatry. Kaplan & Zadock, eleventh edition). The dichotomy between syndromes that are "culture-free", emerging from Euro-American and European societies, and those that are "culture-bound" emerging from everywhere else, is of course patently false.

Possession Syndrome is described in almost all countries around the world.

Nowadays, almost all Orthodox Jews are wholly congruent with the Euro-American and European cultures. The dibbuk is not culture-bound at all. The Rabbis and pseudo-rabbis that practice exorcism with big rewards for their magic services are either impostors or odd people. Almost always, the patients will come to psychiatrists.

In ancient times and other cultures, possession syndrome was perhaps another phenomenon. Ethno-psychiatry is very interesting. We can see many case reports in Africa before 40-50 years ago. In Israel, Arab villages and Ethiopian migrants provide possession syndromes that are culture-bound.


Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, a close talmid of the Chafetz Chaim, supposedly was involved with a dybuk. The Artscroll biography of him says he would repeat the story every Purim. See here.

This is also recorded in the book Lev Eliyahu compiled by Rabbi Shalom Shwadron (Sefer Bereishis, pp. 28-31). See here for a translation.

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    @mevaqesh Rabbi Wasserman acknowledges their existence along with Rabbi Elyah Lopian, both great leaders. and we find no big gedolim arguing with them on this
    – ray
    Feb 19, 2016 at 5:58
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    Accepting the accuracy of the story, R. Wasserman was born over 130 years ago. He lived in Lithuania and Latvia; hardy a bastion of intellectual development, even for that century. That hardly seems to prove the "consensus today"
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 19, 2016 at 6:16
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    R. Lopian was also born 130 years ago in Poland. He seems to provide little evidence of what "we attribute these things to".
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 19, 2016 at 6:17
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    re " we find no big gedolim": This comment combines two fallacies:the true Scotsman fallacy, and argument from ignorance.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 19, 2016 at 6:21
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    This methodology would preclude the existence of demons, flying purple people eaters, Crumple-Horned Snorckacks, and an infinite amount of other creatures that could exist. To reiterate, your answer is not wrong since it promotes an unscientific belief; it is flawed since it does not seem to address the question of the OP.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 22, 2016 at 5:13

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