As some of you know, I recently finished reading up a few books on demonology, and I was quite surprised to understand that this supposedly antiquated office of the Catholic Church is alive and kicking, and even thriving in some parts of the world, particularly in Rome where priests practically have “drop-in” exorcism clinics. After reading “The Rite” by Matt Baglio, it would seem that there’s even a demand for priests to learn the rites of exorcism, especially in the United States.
If Christian demographics are anything to go by, the Catholic Church has been losing members for years now for many reasons. The church cover-up of sexually abusive priests no doubt has something to do with it as well as their positions on abortion, their views on homosexuality, the role of women in the church and the fact that, for whatever reason, traditional Catholic doctrine just does not resonate anymore to many people.
“The Rite” cites that according to the church, there has been a steady increase of reported cases of demonic possession, demonic infestation and demonic oppression mostly because what the church considers to be the occult, is now so widespread and accessible to all. But what I found surprising was what precisely the Church defines as “occult”. It is not just their traditional targets like Satanism, Freemasonry, witchcraft, Wicca, shamanism and pagan religions, but it also includes New Age ideas, yoga (!), Harry Potter, astrology, Reiki, good luck charms and amulets, all of which was news to me.
Intrigued, I wanted to find out more but didn’t have the faintest clue on how to get some answers given that I’m not even Christian, let alone Catholic and normally the names of exorcist priests are only known by the bishop and that requests for exorcism usually go through that channel. I looked up the International Association of Exorcists in Rome and they graciously referred me to a local priest who shall remain anonymous and for the purposes of this post, I will name Fr.Henry.
Here’s our discussion:
FH: Fr. Henry
EER: Earth Energy Reader
EER: Fr. Henry, let’s say I’m someone who doesn’t believe in demons, does not practice the occult arts, not particularly religious in any way but do consider myself spiritual in that I believe there is a deeper more real spiritual reality underlying this physical one, I might visit a website or two to cast my horoscope, I go to yoga at my local YMCA three times a week, would I be someone vulnerable to possession?
FH: It would depend on the circumstances but yes.
EER: How so?
FH: Well, let’s deconstruct all those items you mentioned.
EER: OK, how could yoga be considered occult? It’s a serious spiritual practice for many people in this world and has helped many change their lives for the better. For millions more, they do it as a way to relax or a form of fitness and there is nothing spiritual in it for them or for those who offer it at exclusive health spas and gyms.
FH: First I would ask, are they chanting mantras?
EER: Not all yoga studios do. Why is that important?
FH: Because with mantras, you are creating a vibrational field around you by chanting them. It operates on principles of magnetism. When you do that, how do you know what sort of thing you’re attracting to yourself? Can you tell? Can you be certain? What sort of environment is it?
EER: Many yoga studios are very relaxed and are filled primarily with women but I have been to studios where everyone is hot and sweaty and it can be a sexually charged or suggestive atmosphere and the women outnumber the men 8:1. Is that what you mean?
FH: Yes, exactly.
EER: But what about the people who are just doing it for fitness reasons, no chanting, no reading Hindu scripture, like when it’s offered at the local gym? People go to the gym to sweat and for fitness, say for aerobics classes. How is that any different?
FH: Ah, see people might be thinking they’re doing yoga, especially here in the West, for “fitness reasons”. But those postures were not initially developed for “fitness reasons” in India, they were developed to attract certain qualities and induce certain states of mind. By doing them, you’re inadvertently playing with magnetism again and by doing so, how do you know for sure “what” you’re attracting to yourself?
EER: I never thought about it in that way before. What about if someone gives me a good luck charm bracelet? Why would the Catholic Church take a dim view of something that harmless?
FH: See this pencil on my desk?
FH: Say someone gave it to me as a souvenir good-luck present from Cuba. And I accept it and here it is, sitting on my desk. How do know that they did not consecrate to the devil before they gave it to me? And they just gave it to me saying it’s a “good luck charm”? And if it was consecrated beforehand to a darker entity whether it is a pagan god or the devil, by allowing that object to sit on my desk, that is basically an opening, a door or gateway, if you will for the demonic to enter my home or place of work.
EER: Really? But you can argue about that for just about anything then. Gifts, food, clothing?
FH: Yes, absolutely and we do. We don’t think that there’s a demon lurking beneath each chair. However, we would caution about accepting gifts or amulets that are supposed to be for “good luck”, ingesting food and drink given to you by someone who practices the occult, wearing clothing given to you as a gift because “this color will bring you luck”. If any of these things have been consecrated to the occult beforehand and you have no knowledge of it, that’s an opening for the demonic to literally walk right into your life.
EER: Fr. Henry, there’s a lot of people I know who do practice things like astrology, Reiki and Wicca and do it to help other people and come from a place of genuine service. I suppose you can almost say it’s a form of white magic. They would be as repelled as you are to things like Satanism. Don’t their good intentions count for something?
FH: The Church’s position is that white magic and black magic are playing with the same force, the same origin, only their intentions differ.
EER: How is that any different from sincere prayer?
FH: Prayer, which invokes the Lord, belongs to the Lord. Prayer which invokes another spirit, even if the intention is pure, is invoking that spirit. Again, how do you know that prayer is going where you want it to go? Is it being directed to the entity you called up and not another? For us Catholics, the only no-fail, mistake-proof way of getting prayers heard is to direct it to the Lord, Jesus.
(at this point I wanted to bring up Catholics praying to specific saints and the Virgin Mary but I felt the discussion would then just go off into theology and I wanted to stay on-topic).
EER: Why are astrology and Harry Potter books considered so dangerous in the Vatican’s view?
FH: Astrology works to predict things, like tarot cards and the Ouija Board. When you ask these things questions and you receive a reply in the cards or by looking at charts, who or what answered your question? Do you know for sure? Are you sure of their intentions towards you? The future is not ours to know, we can only go into it with faith.
EER: And Harry Potter?
FH: (laughing) The books themselves are charming and harmless, but it’s the ideas they might implant in children about casting spells and making the black arts seem glamorous and powerful. You have read CS Lewis’ books?
EER: Yes, the Chronicles of Narnia are among my favorites, and wasn’t CS Lewis a Christian apologist himself?
FH: Yes, he was. You must have read “The Silver Chair”?
EER: Yes, I did.
FH: Do you remember how the boy and girl got back into Narnia?
EER: Aslan, the Lion called them back.
FH: Yes, he did but before that?
EER: No, I don’t remember.
FH: The girl suggested drawing a circle in the ground with symbols and invoking Aslan. The boy dismissed the suggestion because it implied that by doing that ceremony you could somehow control the will of Aslan. In the same way, playing around with ceremonies implies that you can somehow control the will of God, and it doesn’t work like that. That’s why the Vatican takes a hard position around the Harry Potter books, it doesn’t help anyone for children to think they can do that.
EER: I have been involved with Native ceremonies for years, and they have always called up the Great Creator. Why is that any different that calling up the Lord? Isn’t it just a difference in wording?
FH: Because we call upon Jesus Christ, we view Him as the only way.
(by now I know if I push this, it will go into nothing but theological differences and those arguments never go anywhere and decide to leave it at that).
EER: Thank you Father Henry, I have to admit, I learned quite a number of new things today and you’ve given me plenty to think about. If I have any more questions, can I contact you?
FH: Yes of course, thank you and God bless.