MICHELLE REMEMBERS is the log of a 14-month pschoanalysis of a 27-year-old woman. Michelle Smith, released from the hospital after suffering a miscarriage, searches deep in her psyche for the explanation of her extreme anxiety and relives, with Dr. Lawrence Pazder's constant support, a horrifying sequence of experiences apparently recalled from her life 22 years earlier; she adopts during these memories the demeanor and voice of a 5-year-old girl. Michelle's recollections are of gruesome atrocities she suffered at the hands of a group of maniacal Satanists, who used her in their rituals, one of which is designed to invoke the presence of Satan, and of Christ and His mother. Because the patient and her doctor interpret these events as amysterious subconscious struggle between superhuman forces of good and evil, and because they see a poignant significance in them, they present their findings to their biship and to a cardinal in Rome, who are studying the case. Now Smith and Pazder have published the story of her battle.
Although valuable as documentary, as William Blatty's The Exorcist was, Michelle Remembers is more subjective and slower moving. The drama of her struggle is very deep, but the story is not as dramatic as Blatty's book was. It would not, for example, lend itself to the screen as The Exorcist did; a visual presentation of Michelle's reveries would be as sensationally sordid as Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon. It lacks the humanity -- and the pathos -- of Blatty's work on a similar theme because, although the characters involved may be real, the story seems to carry us into an unreal world of mind and fiction rather than one of characters with whom we can empathize.
Perhaps the principal reason for the reader being left wondering whether he is in a world of fantasy or of reality is that the events deal with the imaginative world of black magic, which does, nonethless, involve real people. In The Black Arts Richard Cavendish gives some good psychological insight:
"Black magic is rooted in the darkest levels of the mind, and this is a large part of its attraction, but it is much more than a product of the love of evil or a liking for mysterious mumbo-jumbo. It is a titanic attempt to exalt the stature of man, to put man in the place which religious thought reserves for God. In spite of its crudities and squalors this gives it a certain magnificence."
To my experience there are two distinctly different types of Satanism in the world today, the one relatively benign and other totally malignant. Once I had some correspondence with one of the "prelates" of the Church of Satan, Anton Szander La Vey. From his letters it evolved that his brand of Satanism is just another form of hedonism, Since man ought to satisfy his natural instincts, this thinking goes, and God and religion have been used as vehicles of repression in society, Satan is symbolically worshipped as the antithesis of God and religion, representing satisfaction with impunity of our natural desires and passions. The malevolent sort of Satanism addressed in Michelle Remebers , on the other hand, is black magic and worships the pure spirit, Satan, for the power and pleasure which he can deliver in this life.
Undoubtedly the question which most readers will want answered is whether there exist personified forces of evil -- a Devil and Demons. It seems quite clear that the authors hope to provide evidence confirming the existence of such personal forces. The uncertainty surrounding Michell's remembering, however, dims the intensity of the evidence. One is left to wonder whether Michelle is reliving her own past -- that she actually was used in Satanic rituals at age five -- or whether she has read about Satanism and witchcraft and is now fabricating a rather implausible story in order to satisfy some unfulfilled needs and desires. Perhaps, from a psychological standpoint, there is evidence to support the reality of her experience. During one session Michelle tells Dr. Pazder that she is terrified by her visions, and says, "If you didn't believe me, I'd be crazy." Dr. Pazder responds that he does believe her, and adds in support of his belief:
"You're describing [your experiences] with what we call a visually eidetic memory. You seem to see things you are describing, in detail. I hear you describe what you see, and I don't hear it as a hallucination. It is too organized. Too long-term. It fits into the pattern of your life too well. You haven't been psychotic at any time. You aren't delusional -- you don't believe in any of this happening in the here and now. You go back and forth to it. It doesn't grab you unexpectedly. You are struggling to work with what you remember. That's very different from a person who is delusional."
Depending on whether your vision of human existence is religious or positivistic, you will see the facts in different ways. If it is the former, you will see a direct confrontation of the powers of good and evil on the battleground of an individual soul. If it is the latter, you will attempt to decipher the devious efforts of the psyche to protect itself from destructive imbalance by penetration into the murky, and sometimes unfathomable, depths of the soul. It is questionable whether these differences in vision will -- or can -- be resolved, at least in this life.
One thing to which I can bear witness is that the atrocities associated with perhaps the most infamous modern practitioner of Satanism, La Voisin (Catherine Deshayes), in France at the end of the 17th century, are not anomalies in the modern world. Because of my work in the field of demonology I have been called on by vice squads and other law-enforcement agencies to help explain certain unusual circumstances involving apparent ritual desecrations. Meetings of witches' covens, human and animal sacrifices, and sexual orgies, as well as black masses and other Satanic rituals, are known to occur in our modern western world. It is interesting that, in Satanic tradition, Victoria, British Columbia, the location of Michelle Remembers , is a prominent center of the Church of Satan. It is not impossible that Michelle was a victim of atrocities 22 years ago.