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I Saw Satan Fall

by Benedict Heron OSB

Part 3

Chapter 4: The New Age Movement
and Alternative Therapies

The New Age Movement is not an organisation with a registered membership. It is a loose collection of individuals and groups who tend to share certain basic beliefs and practices. There are recognised centres, like the Findhom Foundation in Scotland, and recognised leaders, for example, Alice Bailey. But not everyone in the NAM would fully agree with everything that normally goes under that name.

The NAM is spreading and attracting many people, especially the young. Having started mainly in the U.S.A., it is increasingly an international movement. They see themselves as the people of the future, destined to take over the whole world. Many idealists are attracted to the movement because of its special concern for the environment and ecology - people may join "
to save the planet" - and because of its belief in a one-world government to bring peace to mankind. The NAM would not normally describe itself as a religion - it would claim to embody the good elements in every religion. They see themselves as the true spiritual way for the future, and because of this claim they attract some people who are disillusioned with the materialism of much modem life.

Some Catholics and other Christians are trying to combine the New Age and Christianity. Certainly Christians can share with the NAM such things as a concern for the environment and for peace. But there are a number of important elements in the NAIvI which are diametrically opposed to orthodox Christianity, and it is most important that Christians should be aware of these differences. There is a real danger of a woolly fuzziness which ends by sacrificing important elements of the Christian gospel.

Let us look at some of the elements of the NAM which are clearly not compatible with orthodox Christianity.

1. Astrology. The Age of Aquanus

Astrology plays an important part for many in the NAM. The New Age which we are entering into is the astrological era of Aquarius. About every 2100 years a different sign of the Zodiac is said to be in the ascendancy. The period from 2200 B.C. to the year 100 B.C. was said to be the Age of Aries - symbolised by the Pam - the time of Abraham and the Fatherhood of God. Then, coinciding with the Incarnation, came the Age of Pisces - symbolised by the Fish - an age centred on Jesus the Son. Now we are approaching the year 2000 AD., which sees the dawning of the Age of Aquarius - symbolized by the Water Carrier - the age of the Spirit and liberated mankind.

So we are said to be moving into a new dispensation, rather like the New Testament period is for a Christian a different dispensation from the Old Testament period. It is not just a matter of a new historical era like, for example, the end of the Middle Ages. We are, it is claimed, moving into a very different period of human existence.

2. Jesus Is not the Unique Saviour

It may have been all right to think of Jesus as the unique Saviour of mankind - which of course all orthodox Christians do - during the age of Pisces, but that no longer goes in the age of Aquarius. Jesus, like Buddha, is esteemed as one of the great teachers of mankind, but not the unique mediator between God and humankind. Moreover, many people in the NAM believe that a new Messiah wifi be born for the Age of Aquarius.

In NAM writings you will sometimes find references to Christ, but their Christ may not be the historical Jesus. An Anglican priest very drawn to the NAM complains in his book of "
those churches which substitute a Jesus personality cult for the New Testament experience of the indwelling Christ, and who like Mary Magdalen need to let Jesus go in order to acquire that greater vision to which he is the supreme pointer." I have to admit that I find such statements very worrying. God forbid that Christians should ever give up their "Jesus personality cult" and "let Jesus go,"

3. Pantheism

Another difficulty for an orthodox Christian is the bluning of the distinction between the Creator and the creation in the direction of pantheism. Our planet is seen as a living organism, Gala. As one writer put it: "We now recognise the Earth as a single self-creating being that came alive in its whirling dance through space." This living earth, Gala, is a kind of goddess. (I am all in favour of Christians giving greater prominence to the feminine element in religion and society but the NAM seem sometimes to believe not in the equality of the sexes but in the superiority of the female sex.)

4. Reincarnation

Belief in reincarnation is very widespread among those in the NAM. And this is clearly a major difference between orthodox Christianity and the NAM. Is our present life on this earth a unique happening - "It is appointed for mortals to die once, arid after that the judgement" (Hebrews 9:27) - or is this one of many lives, perhaps hundreds and thousands? In the latter case, perhaps it does not matter much if we make a mess of things in this life, because there will be many other opportunities of putting things right.

Not a few people are being upset by New Age teaching on reincarnation. A woman came to me in great distress because she had been told by a New Age medium that she was a reincarnation of St. Teresa of Avila and of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that she herself was going to be one of the major guru healers in the world, A widely recognised New Age leader had corrected the reincarnation of Mary message to a "
partial reincarnation of Mary" - whatever that may be supposed to mean. The woman who came to me was profoundly upset by all this; and it took quite a time to calm her down. (Now, thank God, she has cut all links with the NAM and is a devout practicing Anglican.)

A man of 75 living in a seaside town was very upset when informed by a NAM medium that his mother was now reincarnated and that if he met someone in the local town who attracted him, that was his mother.

It has been pointed out that very frequently people were said to have been outstanding personalities or to have occupied important positions in previous incarnations. It seems that mediums are more likely to reveal that you had been royalty, or an aristocrat, or an Egyptian Priestess, or an important composer, than that you had been a tin miner in Cornwall. Glory from the past can help to relieve present drabness!

New Age healers can, so they claim, help people to get in touch with their past lives experiences and this can, they say, be very important for healing present difficulties and for growth in this life. I even heard of one person with an international ministry who specialized in this method of healing. A Catholic man came to me to ask what he should do because his osteopath, whom he had found helpful, was now talking to him about the influence of his past incarnations on his present health problems. I suggested that he should look for an osteopath who was not into reincarnation.

As can be imagined, attributing past incarnations to oneself (or other people) provides a most fertile soil for fantasy. And this fantasy is increased considerably because the past incarnations can have been on other planets and galaxies. Someone can think, as one New Age leader did, that they were sent from another, more advanced, galaxy to help this earth to move into the New Age of Aquarius. The following quotation from a New Age paper gives some idea of what we are dealing with: "
The predictions of ascension have come mainly from an organisation called the Great White Brotherhood, operating from the fifth dimension. Many members of the Great White Brotherhood have taken repeated incarnations on Earth as leaders, teachers, and healers and are known amongst their peers by different names to those by which they were known on Earth. The most notable amongst them, Sananda, came as Jesus the Christ. Kuthumi had more than one incarnation. He walked the earth as Pythagoras, John the Divine, and Francis of Assisi".

5. Spiritualism - Channelling

Spiritualism, which they usually refer to as channelling, is very widespread in the NAM. For example, the actress Shirley McLaine and a popular New Age channeller, J.Z. Knight, both claim that a 35,000 year old warrior called Ramtha communicates through them. Channelling, being a medium, in the NAM is not regarded as something just for a few people. Everyone is encouraged to learn to be a channeller, though some people will be specially gifted in his field.

For many in the NAM, channelling also provides a link between ourselves and the hundreds or thousands of UFOs which are, it is claimed, involved in helping our earth to move into the New Age of Aquarius. In Some cases, higher entities, claiming to be extraterrestrials, are said to pass on information from UFOs to the earth. "
Flying saucers come mainly from Mars and Venus as per direct orders from Interplanetary Parliament. The seat of Interplanetary Parliament is Saturn." In all this there is much human fantasising; and doubtless, not infrequently, demonic intervention.

6. Witchcraft and Paganism

In 1991 the NAM put on a series of TV Channel Four programmes and produced the book,
The New Age. An Anthology of Essential Writings, edited by William Bloom (a Channel Four book). One of the contributors was Starhawk, described as "a white witch and the most influential New Age exponent on the religion and techniques of the Goddess and Wiccan" ('Wiccan' is an old English word for witchcraft). In her chapter Starhawk commends the values of witchcraft, for example: "Witchcraft offers the model of a religion of poetry, not theology".

So witchcraft is regarded as all right by many in the NAM. And linked with this is the attempt to revive Paganism and affirm the pre-Christian religions. Hence their special interest in places like Stonehenge, and the recommendation to practice magic. All this, needless to say, can easily open people up to demonic forces, as explained earlier in this book.

7. Psychic Knowledge, Healing, and Power.

It is part of New Age teaching that ordinary people can develop psychic gifts of knowledge, healing, and power over other people. Indeed, people should be encouraged and trained to develop these powers. And linked with this are the courses laid on to make business men and others more successful, like the Silva Mind Control courses. Some American firms expect their executives to follow such courses.

When people try to develop psychic knowledge and powers for worldly and selfish reasons, then the devil can very easily enter in. The promises of the NAM can seem very attractive, but it can easily all end in disaster.

Many New Age people are practitioners or supporters of the various alternative therapies or complimentary therapies which are increasingly attracting people today - therapies like osteopathy, acupuncture, reflexology, aroma-therapy, and homeopathy. As a result of this New Age involvement in these therapies, some Christians are simply describing these therapies as '
New Age' - this being understood as a condemnation. I think it is a great mistake simply to identify these therapies with the NAM. There are many good Christians who practice one or other of these therapies who would never in any way accept the New Age beliefs which I have mentioned above under six headings. So it is a very grave injustice to describe a Christian osteopath or acupuncturist or reflexologist as a New Ager. I met a very devout young Catholic woman who trained as a homeopathic therapist after her mother had been significantly helped by homeopathy. This fervent Catholic was understandably hurt when she met Christians who regarded what she was doing as New Age and demonic.

I myself seek healing through Christian prayer ministry and through the medical profession. I do not go to practitioners of alternative therapies. But I am particularly fortunate in being able to receive ministry from many Christians in the healing ministry of prayer. I would have no objection in principle to receiving ministry from, say, a Christian osteopath or acupuncturist. The priest who is probably the best-known Catholic exorcist in the world, because of his exceptionally powerful gift of casting out devils, told me that he had received acupuncture treatment from a good Christian. I know several very discerning Catholics in the healing and deliverance ministry who seek healing from practitioners of the alternative therapies. I know a priest truly gifted in healing and deliverance who told me of two Catholics professionally involved in acupuncture who send him some of their clients for prayer ministry - and he is quite happy with the ministry of the acupuncturists. I have talked with two prayerful Catholic religious sisters who are trained as reflexologists, and I have no reason to feel unhappy about their therapy. (They also both pray for the healing of their clients.)

Does all this mean that I am happy for anyone to go to any of the practitioners of the alternative therapies? Definitely, No! Those Christians who warn us about certain dangers here have their reasons. Some things like spiritualist healing are always wrong. But therapies like acupuncture or osteopathy can be all right if the therapist is a sound person. If the therapist is a good Christian or a person of moral and spiritual integrity, then the therapy could be helpful. But if the therapist is into the occult or witchcraft, then the client could pick up negative spiritual influences from the therapist, could indeed pick up demonic forces, even if at another level they had received some healing. And we must face the fact that there are not a few alternative therapists who are involved in the occult or witchcraft.

So we have to discern not only about the soundness of the therapy, but also and often especially, about the therapist. Is he or she a good Christian or a person of spiritual and moral integrity? Is he or she open to or involved in the occult or witchcraft? Discernment of this kind is not always easy. We have to rely both on prayer and the recommendations of sound people. It might be simpler if we could say that this therapy is always O.K. or never O.K. But the reality of life is often more complex. If we say that the therapy is always O.K., then some people may pick up evil influences from unsound therapists. If we say that the therapy is never O.K., then some people may fail to receive the healing God wanted them to receive from that therapy. (I know a Catholic man who had a very painful sickness of the neck. Because of the pain he had to give up his work. He spent much time - and much of his savings - seeking healing from the medical profession and from Christians involved in the healing ministry of prayer, both Catholics and Evangelicals. All apparently to no avail. Finally he tried Shiatsu therapy, a sort of Japanese physiotherapy, and this resulted in a big reduction in the pain, so that he can now work again as a university lecturer: and his spiritual life has, I think, also benefited from the relief of pain. If he had been told that all Shiatsu was evil and that as a Christian he should have nothing to do with it, then he might well still be in his great pain.)

The differing attitude of Christians towards the alternative therapies can be affected by divergent theologies. Catholics and Evangelicals agree that no one is saved except by Jesus: "
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). However, Catholics, and many other Christians, believe that Jesus is saving many good people who do not call themselves Christians - indeed, who may never have even heard of the name of Jesus, while some Evangelicals believe that only people with an explicit conscious faith in Jesus are on the way of salvation. Catholics believe that God is at work in religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while some Evangelicals believe that these religions are simply of the devil. Catholics believe that God is at work in many other areas of life which are not explicitly Christian, while some evangelicals would seem to deny this.
What has this to do with the alternative therapies? Some Evangelicals would say that those therapies which came from pagan religious backgrounds or simply non-Christian backgrounds, must be demonic because of the source from which they come. Thus acupuncture must be demonic because it comes from a demonic Chinese pagan background. Catholics would believe than since God is at work in Chinese religion, then he can also be at work in acupuncture. though the acupuncture may sometimes have to be purified or cleansed from some of its pagan associations.

The inter-faith dialogue is another area where there can be disagreements. While insisting strongly on Jesus as the unique Saviour of the human race, the Catholic Church believes in dialoguing and cooperating with religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. At Assisi, Pope John Paul II asked leaders of other religions to pray for peace with him, each in their own way. Some Evangelicals regarded this as trying to co-operate with the devil.

The Catholic attitude is seen in the following two quotations, one from Vatican II and one from Pope John Paul II:

"Different religions have tried to respond to mankind's search for the ultimate explanation of creation and the meaning of man's journey through life. The Catholic Church accepts the truth and goodness found in these religions and she sees reflections there of the truth of Christ, whom she proclaims as 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life'. She wishes to do everything possible to cooperate with other believers in preserving all that is good in their religions and cultures, stressing the things that are held in common and helping all people to live as brothers and sisters." (Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, nn.l-3)

"The Catholic Church is endeavouring to engage in friendly dialogue with all the great religions that have guided mankind throughout history. This we shall continue to do, so that our mutual understanding and collaboration may increase, and so that the spiritual and moral values we uphold may continue to offer wisdom and inner strength to the men and women of our time." (Pope John Paul II, Seoul, 6th May 1984)

Some of the Evangelicals with whom I would disagree about alternative therapies and inter-faith dialogue are very wonderful Christians, great evangelists, and have very powerful healing ministries. I thank God for them and for their ministries, but I know where I, as a Catholic, disagree with them. Apart from the difference mentioned above, if they tell me that I should not ask Our Lady to pray for me, I do not follow them. I thank God for their great love for Jesus, which is central, but I continue also to ask Our Lady to pray for me.

I think that some Catholics can be so impressed by the evangelism and healing ministry of certain Evangelicals that they are over-influenced by some of these Evangelicals' ideas - ideas which are not fully Catholic. So that these Catholics can start condemning, for example, all alternative therapies and all inter-faith dialogue as being demonic.

Catholics, however, can also be put off all inter-faith dialogue because not a few Christians, including some Catholics, who are enthusiastic for or support the interfaith dialogue do in fact exaggerate and compromise with important Christian truths. For example, one Catholic priest wrote in a book: "
Since living beings are not static but always moving through cycles of birth, growth, maturity, and in the case of human beings re-birth (my emphasis), change is a fundamental quality of life". He also wrote: "The other indication that the New Age of Consciousness is coming to fruition in our time, comes from the field of astrology. This accounts for the fact that the emerging New Age is often referred to as the Age of Aquarius". There is a considerable amount of Hindu influence in the NAM and Hindus, of course, believe in reincczrnation and astrology. But these are not permissible options for orthodox Christians.

Here is a final quotation from this priest: "
Before 6th August 1945 we had understood God to be the sole creotor and sustainer of human life and implicit in that was the belief that he was the sole terminator of life as a whole. We have now assumed this power for ourselves. We co-create with God by allowing life to continue. We now share the mastery over the life of our World with God. God is no long 'Almighty God'. God can no longer be understood as being externally related to the world as the power that totally controls it". So the "We believe in one God, the Father, the Alzflighiy, maker of heaven and earth" of the Creed has disappeared.

No wonder that some Christians feel that if this is the result of inter-faith dialogue, then they want to have nothing to do with it. However, alongside an irresponsible inter-faith dialogue there is a responsible one, such as that conducted by the Vatican. I would urge Catholics and other Christians not to turn away horn this kind of authentic dialogue and co-operation On account of the irresponsible one.

There are also questions of pastoral prudence and wisdom when it comes to inter-faith dialogue and cooperation. It is one thing for a committed Christian With a firm faith to study other religions and dialogue With them - that can be a very good thing. It is something else for a Christian with a wobbly faith to do
so - and there are many Christians in this country whose faith is very wobbly when it comes to things like believing that Jesus is the only Saviour. For such Christians inter-faith dialogue and gatherings can easily become the road to becoming, say, a Buddhist. Now I am not sending to hell every baptised Christian who becomes a Buddhist! But I would think that every believing Christian should be unhappy when Christians become Buddhists. For believing Christians, Christianity and Buddhism are not two equal religions. Christ is the unique Saviour of the world, Buddha is not. It is very easy for some inter-faith language and practice to give the impression that we all regard one religion as good as another. I think that inter-faith dialogue and co-operation require a pastoral prudence and wisdom which they do not always receive.

Pope John Paul II, who was such a strong opponent of communism, has pointed out that not everything in communism was evil. Similarly, not everything in the NAM is evil. It has been necessary in this chapter to state clearly the elements in the NAM which are mistaken or wrong. But everything in the NAM is not evil.

I think that their concern for the environment and for ecologically 'saving the planet' are the most important positive elements. And many Christians could sometimes learn from the example of the NAM in this field. New Age people tend to be kind to animals. They are often wise on the subject of diet - which does not mean that we all have to become vegetarians. They also often adopt a helpful holistic approach to health. Some Christians find New Age music helpful and something for which they can thank God. And New Age people do not fall into the pitfalls of a narrow nationalism, which has caused so many wars. So all is not negative in the NAM, and we can appreciate and thank God for the positive elements.

There is in our Christian tradition an authentic strand which is very appreciative of the beauty of nature and is deeply aware of God's presence in nature. It is also strongly conscious of our links with the natural world. St. Francis of Assisi is an outstanding example of this spiritual strand, with his love for animals and nature. In his Canticle of Brother Sun, he writes of Sisters Moon and Stars, of Brothers Wind and Air, of Sister Water, of Brother Fire, of Sister Earth our Mother, and of Sister Death. Many saints, for example St. Hildegard, were very aware of the presence of God in the natural beauty of the world. A good number of the psalms and canticles call upon the natural world to praise God. for example, in Psalm 148 we read: '
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fuluiling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds .... Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted, his glory is above earth and heaven." I myself find the beauty of flowers and nature a great help to prayer. I think that if we developed more this strand of Christian spirituality, then fewer Christians would feel drawn to the NAM.

There is a book which I would strongly recommend people interested in the NAM to read:
Inside the New Age Nightmare, by Randall N. Baer (Huntingdon House, U.S.A.). The author was fully involved in the NAM for 15 years, and had become a well-known leader and author in the movement in the U.S.A. Then he had a vision of "demons filled with the power of Satan", and this led to a profound conversion to Christianity, helped by the tele-evangelists. He now spends his life trying to convert New Agers to Christianity.

In his book he shows how sincere he was in his New Age beliefs until he had the vision of demons. He really did believe in the New Age fantasies, including the belief that he himself originally came from another galaxy. Looking back he sees himself as having been deceived by the devil. I would agree with him that there is much demonic deception in the New Age. However, I cannot say that I share his conviction that the New Age is soon to usher in the final Antichrist prior to the Second Coming of Jesus.

It seems to me that in the subjects treated in this chapter, Christians need to seek a balanced middle road. Some Christians see no harm in the NAM, others see nothing but the devil in it. Some Christians see no danger in alternative therapies whoever the therapist is, others regard them all as totally demonic. Some Christians happily embrace every form of inter-faith activity. others refuse all co-operation with other religions. And the excesses in one direction tend to re-inforce the excesses in the other. Let us seek to be balanced in our understanding and activity. Having said that, however, I think that every convinced Christian should deeply regret the spreading of the NAM, a movement which in so many ways is contrary to the Christian Gospel.
I would especially ask those Catholics who are aware of the demonic dangers not to exaggerate. If they do they will cause other Catholics simply to dismiss them as having been brain-washed by extreme Evangelicals, with the result that these other Catholics will not listen to the true warnings they need to hear from them. For example, if many Catholics are told by you that anyone who has been to any osteopath or homeopathic practitioner needs to be exorcised then, especially if they have been helped by an osteopath or homeopathy, they will regard you as a nut case and not listen to your warning that therapy from someone involved in the occult or a witch can be dangerous.

In the whole subject of this chapter - indeed of this book - we very much need to be led by the light of the Holy Spirit. None of us has all the answers about everything. May I suggest that the reader now pauses for a time of prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking that he or she be enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five: Countering the Attacks of the Devil

1. Concentrating on Jesus and on Holiness

The best way in general for a Christian to fight against the attacks and work of the devil is not to think about him too much, but to concentrate on Jesus and on living by the grace of God a positive Christian life. As we seek to grow in faith, hope, love, and humility; as we seek to grow in holiness, then we shall by so doing be defending ourselves against the attacks of the devil. It is Jesus not the devil who must occupy our thoughts; it is the love of Jesus, not our concern for the devil which must motivate and inspire our lives.

We should know that the devil and demons exist; we should know which are the paths they are trying to lead us down; we should learn to recognise their presence and their attacks both on ourselves and others; we should know how to counter their attacks and their work; but our habitual focus should be very much on Jesus and the things of Jesus.

2. The Importance of Prayer and the Sacraments

Developing a deep life of prayer is very important for our spiritual warfare. A Christian with a weak life of prayer cannot expect to be able to cope with the "
wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). A serious life of prayer means giving enough time to it; it means prayerfully reading the Bible. It means for Catholics as far as we can making good use of the sacraments, especially of the Holy Eucharist. Receiving Our Lord daily, or as frequently as possible, in communion, can be a wonderful protection against demonic attacks. And there is still a place for praying before the Blessed Sacrament. We should not under-estimate the power of Jesus in the Eucharist to protect, to heal, and to liberate. Going to confession helps many Catholics in their spiritual warfare. The comparative neglect of this sacrament by many Catholics is something to be regretted. flegular confession can help to keep the enemy out.

3. Praise

The release of praise in a Christian's life can be very important for spiritual warfare. The devil hates people praising God, praising Jesus. The praise of Jesus can sometimes be enough to drive demonic forces from a person or from a place - this has been the experience of the Charismatic Renewal. Sometimes also people are healed through the prayer of intense praise. (The devil can play his part in causing not only spiritual and emotional sickness, but also physical sickness.) So become more and more a man or woman of praise if you want to keep the devil away.

4 Repentance

Growth in repentance can be very important for spiritual warfare. When we humble ourselves in repentance, the devil can find he has lost his foothold. His flaming darts cannot strike home when someone is humble and repentant. Our pride gives him the opportunity of causing trouble.

We all need to grow in repentance every day. Original sin goes deep in each one of us. As the years go by, I become more aware of areas of my life where repentance is needed. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us a greater spirit of repentance, to show us what are the things we need to repent of. As we grow in repentance and humility we will find that we are increasingly protected from the attacks of the devil.

5. Deliberate Sin

Deliberate, repeated sin which is not repented of, gives demons the opportunity to get a grip on people. Thus deliberate and repeated seriously excessive drinking will allow an evil spirit of alcoholic addition to enter, and deliberate and repeated turning to pornography will allow an evil spirit of lust to get in. Other examples could be given which would let in evil spirits of pride, anger, violence, suicide, blasphemy, jealousy, homosexuality, lesbianism, greed, fear, and laziness - and the list could be extended.

6. The Devil and Demons

Should we think in terms of attacks by the devil or by more than one demon? Certainly the New Testament speaks of more than one demon: the devil or Satan being the leader. Is it right to give them names, such as those mentioned above? Many experienced exorcists seem to find some naming helpful. However, this naming can be exaggerated, as also the number of demons claimed to have been cast out of a person. Yet we remember that in the New Testament seven demons were said to have been cast out of Mary Magdalene
(Mark 16:9), and in Mark chapter 5 the reply to the question of Jesus was: "My name is Legion; for we are many" (verse 9). The New Testament also mentions "unclean" spirits (e.g. Luke 9:42 and 11:24) and a "spirit of infirmity" (Luke 13:11), as also "a demon that was mute" (Luke 11:14). Then there is the evil spirit who "goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first" (Luke 11:26). However, I would not wish to be too dogmatic about names and numbers of demons. The basic truth is that the devil and his demons exist and that they attack human beings.

7. Prayer to Our Lady

Many Catholics have found that prayer to Our Lady has been very effective against demonic forces. The devil seems particularly to attack some people when they are dying, and the custom of saying the Hail Mary will mean that we have especially asked her to pray for us "
at the hour of our death". (Incidentally, I sometimes wonder whether it would not be better to change the prayer to "the time of our death", for the period of dying can be a very long hour, indeed extending for many days. "Time of our death" would cover the relevant period, whether it was shorter or longer.) Not a few people find it helpful to say the Rosary when they feel under demonic attack. Although Jesus should always have very much the first place in our prayers, we will be wise not to forget his mother. Catholics who more or less miss out on prayer to Mary are neglecting a powerful source of help.

8. Holy Scripture

The use of passages or phrases from the Bible can be a great help in spiritual warfare, for the Word of God in Holy Scripture has a special power of its own. For example, at a time when we feel that we are under special demonic attack, we can read the psalm: "
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (psalm 23/22). Or we may prefer the Compline psalm 91/90. where we say: "For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.... You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in the darkness."

We may find it helpful to call out with the tax collector: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"
(Luke 18:13). Or to say with Our Lady: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Other helpful New Testament texts may be Matthew 10:29, about "the hairs of your head", and Matthew 11:28, which starts with: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."

9. The Our Father

The Our Father, the prayer which Jesus himself taught us, is of course suitable for all occasions. The habit of saying it slowly and prayerfully can be a great blessing. The last line is particularly applicable to spiritual warfare: "
but rescue us from the evil one", as the N.R.S.V. translates it. Some translations just have "evil", but it seems that the early Christians understood "evil one" there. In any case, "evil" includes demonic evil.

10. The Good Angels

As suggested earlier in this book, we should not neglect the role of the good angels in spiritual warfare. According to Catholic tradition, we each have a guardian angel at our side to help us and protect us. This is indeed a wonderful gift, and it is a pity that Christians do not reflect more on this. Just think about it! You have always with you an angel sent by God to help and protect you. The angel is there when you are awake and when you are sleeping. He is at your side when danger arises - spiritual danger, physical danger, danger from illness. He is with you helping when you are doing or seeking to do something important for God's kingdom. He is next to you when you are being good and when you are sinning.

So ought we not to be thanking him and asking for his protection much more than we normally do? For decades I had the habit of saying a short prayer at night - if I had not fallen asleep first - to ask my guardian angel for his protection. But it was a very short prayer, said without much sense of conviction. In recent times the reality and presence of my guardian angel has increasingly meant more to me. So I not only ask him for his protection - and with greater confidence now - but I also thank him. How ungrateful I have been in not thanking him in the past! It is only when, by the grace of God, we get to heaven that we shall learn how much our guardian angel has done for us during our life, how many scrapes he has saved us from. And nowadays I not only pray to my guardian angel at night, but on other occasions, for instance if I set out on a journey or have to minister to a disturbed person. Indeed, I find myself sometimes just chatting to my guardian angel!

Let us not forget the words of
psalm 9 1/90: "For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone."

I may add that I also say daily the following payer to St. Michael, which we used to say after every Mass:
"Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust down to hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the nun of souls. Amen." I know well not a few Catholics who find it helpful to say this prayer daily, and especially when the situation is or might be dangerous.

11. Christian Community

If in our spiritual warfare we seek the support of angels and saints, we should also seek help from living people, especially other Christians. We are members of the Body of Christ and we journey towards heaven not as isolated people but as members of the Christian family. When climbers are in dangerous situations they are often linked to each other by a rope, so that if one falls the others can hold him or her up. So it should be with Christians. Faced with the dangers of life we need to be roped to others, so that if we fall the others can hold us up; so that if one person is being strongly attacked by the devil other members of the Christian family are there to support.

I think that one of the weaknesses of much parish life is that many parishioners are far too isolated; that they do not have adequate support from other Christians; that there is a lack of community. One of the advantages of living in a monastery is that one has the loving and caring support of other brethren. The charismatic prayer group and other similar groups help to provide loving fellowship, which is a great help for Christians in their spiritual warfare. For me it has been a wonderful experience to be upheld by the loving prayers and help of so many brothers and sisters in the Charismatic Renewal, not least in my healing ministry and in the writing of this book.

The clergy of course have a special role in building community; in helping Christians in their needs. However, it should not all be left to the clergy, who in any case are far too few in number to be able to cope with all the needy people. Every Christian is called to support other people in their Christian walk, and this includes the countering of demonic attacks.

12. Spiritual Counsellors

I think every Christian should if possible have a spiritual counsellor - I prefer this word counsellor to director, for director sounds rather authoritarian, and in one sense only the Holy Spirit should be our director.

The spiritual counsellor can be important from the point of view of spiritual warfare. The devil is very cunning and subtle in the ways he tempts and attacks us, and he sometimes disguises himself as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). We can easily be deceived. If we are in the habit of revealing everything - including the most humiliating and shameful actions and temptations - to a spiritual counsellor, then the devil is less likely to be able to deceive us. A wise and prayerful spiritual counsellor will sometimes be able to see things more objectively than we can. The spiritual counsellor does not have to be a priest - most priests simply have not the time for much ministry of this kind. In any case, some lay people are more gifted in this ministry than many priests - think of a St. Catherine of Siena.

13. The Armour of God

An increasing number of Christians, especially in the Charismatic Renewal, are finding it helpful in their spiritual warfare to put on the armour of God. This practice is based on the passage in Ephesians chapter 6 quoted earlier. There St. Paul tells Christians to "take up the whole armour of God" (verse 13), and he then proceeds to mention the various pieces of armour, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes to proclaim the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. (I personally put on the armour of God every morning and night, and occasionally before situations which may be especially difficult. But it is important not to do it too often - that would be concentrating too much on the dangers, and the enemy, and not trusting Jesus enough.)

There is no one formula for putting on the armour of God, indeed I think the prayers should be to some extent adapted to the needs of each person. The formula produced below has been found helpful by some people. Things like anger, unforgiveness, lust, jealousy, should be slipped in if they are proving difficult. It is customary to make the appropriate physical gestures as the prayers are said, for example, placing the hands on the head when putting on the helmet of salvation.


1. I place upon my HEAD the HELMET OF SALVATION as a protection against all thinking,speaking, seeing, hearing, feeling, which is not of you.

2. I place upon my CHEST the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS as a protection against all unrighteous thoughts, all fear and anxiety, all sickness and all harm to the body.

3. I place round my WAIST the GIRDLE OF TRUTH that I may be truthful at every level of my being.

4. I place on my FEET the SANDALS OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE that I may be the messenger of your GOOD NEWS to others.

5. I take in my LEFT HAND the SHIELD OF FAITH with which to quench all the flaming darts of the enemy.

6. I take in my RIGHT HAND the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT with which to attack the strongholds of the enemy.

(Ephesians 6:11-17)

14. The Sign of the Cross

Traditionally. Catholics are accustomed to making the sign of the Cross, especially perhaps in times of danger. When we make the sign of the Cross we are thinking both of the Blessed Trinity and of the Cross of Jesus. We can call on Jesus to protect us by the power of his Cross.

It should be added that exorcists often make the sign of the Cross over people when they are seeking to deliver them from evil spirits. And people and objects are blessed by maldng the sign of the Cross over them.

15. Holy Water, Crucifixes, Holy Pictures, Medals

Sacramentals have their place in aiding us in our spiritual warfare. I think it is a pity that more Catholics do not make use of Holy Water, which traditionally was used for protection against demonic forces. It is surely good to have crucifixes in evidence in a home, and I personally like always to have a crucifix with me. Again, the crucifix is traditionally linked with spiritual warfare. In solemn exorcism, the exorcist makes use of the crucifix.

Icons, pictures, and statues of the saints - and especially of Our Lady - can be an inspiration in the Christian life and a real help in spiritual warfare. When I was ill recently a Divine Mercy picture of Jesus and an icon of Our Lady were a very real help to me. Holy pictures and crucifixes can aid us in concentrating our thoughts on the things of God when the enemy is attacking us.

Then there are holy medals and scapulars, and the practice of lighting candles. Again, many Catholics find them to be truly helpful. The blessing for the medal of St. Benedict includes the prayer: "
O almighty God, giver of all good things, we humbly beseech you that through the intercession of St. Benedict you would pour forth your blessing upon these medals so that all who shall wear them and earnestly strive to perform good works, may deserve to obtain health of soul and body, the grace of increasing holiness, and that they may strive by the help of your mercy to escape all the snares and deceits of the devil, and thus be able to appear holy and stainless in your sight. Amen."


At the end of this chapter two warnings are necessary. First, we are protected from the attacks of the devil and misfortunes, not by a relic, a crucifix, a holy picture, a medal, a scapular, a particular prayer, but by Jesus himself. He may choose to work through an angel or in answer to the prayers of his mother or the Saints, or through pious objects, but it is Jesus himself Who saves and protects. There can be a danger of Superstition as also of a magic mentality if we put our trust in holy things rather than in the Holy One.

The second warning is that there can be a danger of some Catholics getting smothered by a multitude of private devotions. special prayers, novenas, holy pictures, scapulars. medals and such things, so that the centrality of the Mass and the basic simplicity of the spiritual life become obscured. And we should remember that we shall not be protected from the attacks of the devil because of the vast number of pious objects around us, or because of endless private devotions We need to be discerning in our use of holy objects and holy practices. However, I think far more Catholics are now in danger of neglecting these things than of Overdoing them.

Finally, may I invite the reader at the end of this chapter to spend some time in silent prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what, if anything, God wants you to do about the things mentioned in this chapter. Maybe you are already doing all that God is asking of you. Fine. But there may be some things God wants you to take note of; there may be some suggestions in this chapter which are for you.

Come Holy Spirit!

Chapter 6: Rebuking Evil Spirits and Offensive Spiritual Warfare

"He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them" (Mark 6:7).

And these signs will accompany those who believe; by using my name they will cast out demons" (Mark 16:17).

The Catholic Church - and other churches also - has always had a ministry of casting out demons, in accordance with the words of Jesus quoted above. Indeed for many centuries there was a special office of exorcist to which people were ordained.
According to the present discipline of the Catholic Church, solemn exorcism of the possessed is reserved to priests who have received permission from the bishop for this ministry and there should be cooperation with the medical profession if possible
(Canon 1172). However, lesser forms of deliverance Prayer are permitted to Catholics, indeed we all pray for deliverance whenever we say the Our Father: "But deliver us from evil". (The new Catholic Catechism comments: "In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God" (2851).)

So an ordinary Catholic may not perform solemn exorcisms of the possessed; may not directly. command an evil spirit in the name of Jesus to leave a possessed person (imprecatory prayer). Nor may they command an evil spirit in a possessed person to reveal its name. However, an ordinary Catholic may ask Jesus to deliver someone from the devil or an evil spirit of, say, anger, lust, or fear. But such a prayer should not normally be said aloud in the presence of the person except after prayerful discernment, for obviously it could easily frighten and upset some people and do more harm than good. Father James McManus CSSR in his very excellent book, Healing in the Spirit - Inner Healing and Deliverance in Today's Church (DLT), rightly underlines the usefulness of silent prayers of exorcism and deliverance (page 114). Silent prayers have the advantage of not frightening people, either the needy person or others present. However, there obviously remains a place for a deliverance prayer spoken aloud - Jesus to our knowledge did not exorcise people silently, and the official Roman Ritual assumes that the exorcism prayers will normally be said aloud. If someone is feeling that they are being tormented by evil spirits, then they will usually be very glad to hear someone praying aloud against the evil spirits.

When praying in someone's presence for their deliverance from evil spirits it would be good to proceed in the following way:

1. Start with the prayer of praise, and intermingle praise with the rest of the prayer. Praising Jesus is powerful.

2. Pray for the protection of everyone present. For example, one could pray: "
Jesus, through your precious Blood, protect John and all of us present from all harm, evil, and attacks of the devil. Amen." One could also ask Our Lady, the saints, and the angels to protect with their prayer all present. The prayer to Holy Michael, Archangel, would be appropriate.

3. Ask Jesus to bind any evil spirits in the person who is being payed for. For example: "
Jesus, please bind any evil spirits in John." Or, "Jesus, please bind any evil spirit of fear or anger in John." (Exorcists have often found from experience that if they first 'bind' an evil spirit in the name of Jesus, then it will frequently be easier afterwards to cast out.)

4. Then ask Jesus to cast out any evil spirits from the person in question. For example, "
Jesus, please cast out any evil spirits in John and command them not to return." Or, "Jesus, please cast out any evil spirit of fear in John and command it not to return."

5. Pray for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, for the departure of evil spirits can leave a vacuum, and one does not want them to return. For example: "
Jesus, Please fill John's whole being with your Holy Spirit, so that there is room in John for nothing which is not of you."

However, it needs to be said that cases of real possession should be referred to the Bishop or to an official exorcist. We also need to remember that while asking Jesus to liberate people from evil spirits of things like fear, depression, and infirmity is not normally dangerous, dealing with evil spirits of things like Satanism, witchcraft, and violence can be very dangerous. In this whole ministry people should know their limitations and not take on too much. It is better to remain on the side of caution. Praying deprecatory prayer asking Jesus to cast out an evil1 spirit may not be against the present discipline of the Church, but it could often be very unwise.

Catholics can also rebuke the devil or demons if they feel that they themselves are being tempted or attacked by them. Thus Catholics who felt that they~ were being attacked could pray aloud, for example: "
Devil (or evil spirit of anger, or lust, or fear, on witchcraft), in the name of Jesus Christ I bind you, I command you to leave me and to go to Jesus." Or a shorter prayer could be used, for example: "Devil, in the name of Jesus I command you to be gone!" Or they may prefer to use a deprecatory prayer, for I example: "Jesus, please bind this evil spirit of hate I and command it to leave me and not return". Or they may prefer simply to pray: "Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner". The important thing is to pray as the Holy Spirit guides.

Not only people, but also places may be in need of a deliverance prayer of one kind or another. Not so infrequently people will complain that their home or part of their home or some other building seems to be disturbed in one way or another. It may be that a ghost is seen from time to time. It may be that footsteps are heard or the sound of knocking, when no human person was there. Perhaps there is a special coldness in part of the house which cannot be explained naturally. There may be unpleasant smells which cannot be accounted for. Quite often there will be inexplicable interference with electrical equipment. Also, things may move around in a room: f or instance a woman told me that she would find articles like tea towels on top of a kitchen cabinet, when no member of the family or anyone else had put them there. A priest told me that once when he was blessing a home, a stationary golf ball suddenly and inexplicably shot across the room. Some of this may be referred to as poltergeist phenomena.

Disturbances like these may be due to various causes. Perhaps someone who had lived and died in the house is not at peace - the appearances or activity of a ghost could be a call for help, a call for prayer for the repose of their soul. Perhaps the troubles are due to the fact that someone living in the house, or who had lived in the house, is or was involved in some form of occult activity, for example spiritualism, witchcraft, or playing with ouija boards. Perhaps the disturbances are linked with acute personal tensions in one or more of the occupants of the house, especially adolescents.

Obviously in cases like these there is a special need to turn to prayer. Some years ago another priest, a religious sister, and I, were called in by the authorities Of another diocese to help with a large public building Where strange things were happening, and this was Causing real problems. The caretaker would not go round the top corridor to turn off the lights in the evening on his own, because once he had seen a ghost there, and he had also once felt pushed from behind. In the office of the main administrator a picture kept falling off a wall in an inexplicable way and it would be found on the floor in the middle of the room. There was a very unpleasant smell in the room at times, which building experts could not explain and the room was sometimes very cold in an inexplicable way. The cleaning woman and others did not like going into the room. There was a third place in the building where strange things were happening: I forget what. We celebrated a requiem Mass in the administrator's office for the repose of the soul of anyone not at peace connected with the building. (The fairly new building had been built on an ancient grave yard.) We went round the parts of the building where strange things had been, happening, casting out any evil spirits which may have been there, asking Jesus to fill the place with his healing presence, and continuing to pray for the repose of any departed people not at peace. We learned from the bishop a few years later that there had been no further problems with the building since our visit.

On another occasion three of us went to a very old rural house in the same diocese. The lady who lived there was frequently - about once a week - seeing a ghost appear in the living room, The ghost had the appearance of a man with a sad face, dressed in a style of clothing of some centuries ago. When th ghost appeared the dog would be upset. The ghost would disappear up by the wall next to the chimney., There were also two rooms in the house which felt exceptionally cold, and indeed the whole house had a rather unpleasant atmosphere.

We celebrated a requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of the ghost and of any other departed person not at peace who was linked with the house. We also went round blessing the whole house with holy water and casting out any evil spirits or forces which may have been present in the house. Three months later the lady of the house told me that there had been no more appearances of the ghost, that the cold places in the house were considerably less cold, and that the whole atmosphere of the house felt better.

I think it is reasonable to believe that in this last case, the appearances of the ghost were a call for help, and that after the Mass he was at peace and there was no reason to go on appearing. There were probably also, in my opinion, negative influences connected with evil spirits in the house, and the Mass together with the rebuking of evil spirits could have chased them away - the past cold areas probably pointed to the presence of evil spirits.

In the first case of the large public building, the requiem Mass may well have helped one or more departed souls and the casting out of evil spirits was probably also needed. I think that quite often we shall never know for certain whether disturbances were caused by departed souls or evil spirits or both. If, however, peace is restored to the building and to the people who live there, then our mission has been accomplished whether or not we ever know what had been causing the disturbance. (Our mission may also have included ministering to the needs of the living.) I think that what has been written above underlines the rightness of praying for homes and buildings, of getting a priest to come and bless them, and if possible to have a Mass celebrated there, These are good things to do whether or not there have been signs of disturbance in the house or building. In a house or building there can be a bad spiritual atmosphere, a neutral one, or a good one. Obviously, we should seek to have as good a spiritual atmosphere as possible. The spiritual tone of the people who now live in a building is normally the main creator of spiritual atmospheres, good or bad. But influences from the past can play their part, and sometimes very much so.

It should be added that some people are much more sensitive than others when it comes to being aware of the spiritual atmosphere of a place. I do not consider myself to be especially sensitive in this held, so I find it helpful when ministering in the ways described in this chapter to have with me someone more sensitive than myself. Some sensitive people will feel immediately that things are all right or not all right. in this house or this room. However, judgements of that kind are never infallible. So it can sometimes be wise if possible to get another person gifted in this way to confirm the discernment. And we also need to use our Christian common sense in these matters.

(Readers who are interested in reading further in this field should see the two books of Dr. Kenneth McAll, an Anglican psychiatrist: Healing the Family Tree (Sheldon Press) and Healing the Haunted (Darley Anderson). Although Catholics may not agree with all the ideas of Kenneth McAll, I think he has been a key pioneer to whom we are greatly indebted.)

Our spiritual warfare should not only be defensive, but also offensive. As Derek Prince writes: "
As long as Satan keeps the church on the defensive, his kingdom will never be overthrown. Therefore, we have an absolute obligation to move out from the defensive and from mere sell-protection to an attack position" - Spiritual Warfare, page 98, (Derek Prince Ministries -International). And on page 99: "Jesus pictures the church on the offensive, attacking the gates of Satan. Jesus promises that Satan's gates will not hold out against the church and that Satan will not be able to keep the church out".

Whenever Christians pray authentically for peace and justice in the world, for the conversion of their country, for an end to abortions or drug addiction, for the feeding of the hungry, for the protection of the environment, for the saving of the crumbling marriage of their daughter, for the healing of their husband's alcoholism, then they are involved in spiritual warfare, whether they think in terms of spiritual warfare or not. Thus every prayerful celebration of Mass and every devout recitation of the Divine Office or the rosary is Part of the spiritual battle.

However, sometimes Christians can feel called to engage in offensive spiritual warfare in a very conscious way. In the early seventies there was a Catholic Charismatic prayer group meeting weekly in the Soho area of London, which area especially during those years was known as a centre of sexual immorality. The prayer group felt called in a special Way to pray against the immorality in the district.

Myles Dempsey, the leader of the group, who later founded the Prince of Peace Community, tells how during the prayer meetings some of its members would, in pairs, for a short time walk around the area, praying before immoral establishments. One evening they found that a new immoral establishment had been opened in the premises opposite the building where the prayer group met. Myles felt inspired to pray: "Let the fire of your Spirit fall on these premises". Later that night the premises were destroyed by fire - but no one was hurt. Co-incidence? I do not think so. Soon after that the whole Soho area was largely cleaned up by the police, and I do not doubt that the prayers of the prayer group played a real part in that.

It seems that it is especially evangelical Christians who have been active in this kind of spiritual warfare. For example, they organised days of prayer in the Westminster area of London, where most of the centres of government are situated. About fifty Christians in twos or threes would go and pray before the main centres of power and influence, praising God, rebuking the devil, and asking Jesus to take control of all that happened in the buildings. Similarly, in the London borough of Barnet fasting intercessors went in palrs round the borough, praising God, proclaiming the victory of Jesus, reading the scriptures, rebuking the devil, and interceding. In the above examples the intercession was not done in a way that would attract attention. But there have also been an increasing number of public marches for Jesus in recent years, and these certainly are consciously involved in spiritual warfare.

Catholics would, I think, sometimes find it helpful to be more aware of the spiritual warfare element in their intercessions. For example, Catholic parents whose teenage children have gone or are going off the rails, may find it helpful to know that they are not only praying against human sinfulness and weakness, but that they need also to pray about evil spirits, perhaps of alcoholism, drugs, lust, or the occult. They could pray normally in their son's absence, "
Jesus, please bind any evil spirit of drug addiction troubling our son John, and command it to leave him." However, not everyone would feel at home praying in that sort of way. Pray as the Holy Spirit leads. Going to Mass and offering up their communion for their son or saying the rosary for his intention may be all that is being asked of some people.

I think that parish intercessions could also sometimes be more aware of the spiritual warfare aspect, and there could perhaps be a broadening of the intentions. We are used to praying for the sick, the homeless, and the unemployed in the district - and that is very important. But perhaps we could sometimes pray also, as happens in prayer groups, against the influence of the occult, witchcraft, and Satanism in the district, especially if there had been troublesome signs of these things. For instance, if there is talk of establishing an occult shop in the area - and one such shop not long ago publicly boasted of its courses on Satanism - then surely that is an intention Which could be mentioned in the Sunday Masses. And if such a shop is already established, then perhaps the parish could go on the offensive, and pray and work for its removal.

I think that the Christian life becomes more exciting when we take the offensive. Perhaps the words of the old hymn may encourage us:

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before!
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle
See, His banners go!

Copyright © 1997 Benedict M. Heron OSB

This Version: 24th October 2001


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