PREFACE by Reverend John Nicola
The problem to which this book addresses itself is one which, although it is as old as mankind, needs to be brought to the attention of thoughtful readers today.
All civilizations have expressed some sense of insecurity and fear over the spotty but recurring reports of phenomena that leave men feeling victimized by hostile beings with superhuman powers. Human beings in different societies have responded to such challenges in various ways. Words, gestures, and amulets or other objects have been ritually employed in response to demonic attacks; this was as true of the ancient Semitic civilizations like the Babylonians and their fear of demons as it is of present Christian rites of exorcism.
In our modern Western world, there are three main stances which, in various combinations, characterize the multitude of attitudes individuals assume toward reports of siege by mysterious powers. The first, the scientific, views the world–and perhaps the universe- as governed by unvarying laws that have been discovered, or at least are discoverable, by scientific investigation. Diametrically opposed to this is a stance that seems to deplore, if not ignore, the findings of science seeing empirical reality as shallow and meaningless; it focuses instead on unseen spiritual realities, and may be characterized as superstitious.
The third stance contains something of each of the other two. While adhering to science as a method, it broadens the vistas of positive science, incorporating spiritual dimensions of reality through theological and philosophical considerations. This we may call the religious stance.
One certainty is that the phenomena reported in this book do happen-and to ordinary people and families who are neither exhibitionists nor attention seekers. Often the response of the positive scientist is to deny the reality of reported data and to refuse even to examine the evidence; here, it appears, we are dealing with a prejudice. On the other hand, those scientists who credit the evidence and apply scientific methodology to attempting an explanation generally restrict the possibilities to science as it is known today, or presume that projected findings of empirical science will one day explain the phenomena. This is one reasonable and integral approach.
Superstitious people seize on psychic phenomena as justification for a sometimes unreasonable approach to life.
Interjecting irrational fears and senseless preconceived notions or explanations into situations like the Amityville case Jay Anson describes here simply increases the suffering of those involved. The prejudice thus exhibited is clear.
Needless to say, incorporated in a religiously oriented person’s point of view are the data of revelation. Since revelation presumes communication from God, and in turn presumes the existence of God and His interest in human affairs, we can see that here, too, a prejudice is implied-to wit, the prejudice of faith.
The balanced person of faith will admire and accept the findings of modern science but conclude that, even projecting future developments, it is myopic to think that nature does not reveal a depth of reality beyond the empirical realm of natural science. As is the case with an open minded scientist, a sensible believer may also accept an integrated approach to psychic phenomena. Thus we observe that whatever stance an individual adopts, it will rest on certain prejudices that cannot be proven to the satisfaction of those who choose to adopt a different construction. When psychic phenomena occur in the life of a family, and that family looks for help, its members may be repelled equally by the naYvete of the superstitious, the uncertainty of those who profess belief in the supernatural but seem ashamed and confused at their own beliefs, and by the haughty pride of the positive scientist asserting with certainty things contradictory to one’s own experience. Unfortunately, this complex web of ignorance, bias, and fear causes a great deal of suffering for the unsuspecting family suddenly tossed into an upsetting and frightening situation. It is just such a case to which Jay Anson addresses himself.
If the story were fiction, it would easily be dismissed as irrelevant. It is, however, a documentary told by the family and the priest who actually experienced what is reported; and as such, the tale must give us pause for thought.
Those of us who have been involved in psychic investigations can verify the fact that the case is not atypical. Because of the uncertainties connected with the paranormal, I, as a believer in science and in religion, would be remiss not to warn readers against the dangers both of an arrogance that professes a grasp of the unknown and of a bravado that boasts of a control of the transcendent.
The wise man knows that he does not know and the prudent man respects what he does not control.