Monday 22 June 2015

Brief Thoughts On The Occult

The occult is, I think, attracting and dissuading many young people from the Faith. It is full of  mystery, ritual and the promise of power, which the youth -and older folk- find attractive. (Perhaps it would have helped our young people avoid the occult had we kept a liturgy full of ritual and mystery as in the Extra-ordinary Form).

The first thing to be clear about is what we mean by the ‘occult’. The word ‘occult’ comes from the Latin word occultus, which simply means ‘hidden’, and while it is most often applied to the world of the wicked spirits, it is applicable to all forms of trusting in or calling upon unseen powers and forces, the demons hiding their evil works under seemingly innocent activities and attractive, pleasurable pursuits. (This necessary to them because if the activities were obvious ways of inviting hell into our lives we would not do them (if sin was not attractive and pleasurable we would not do it). Thus, the most important thing to remember about the occult is that it hides itself under attractive and pleasurable activities  so that are fooled into an attachment to hell.

Unfortunately most people today do not take the destructive influence of the occult seriously; with the result that the occult shows up in fashions (where skulls and cross bones are common); in hard rock music) where it glorifies sex, violence and drug abuse); in board games and even in TV in serials abut the ‘living dead’ (vampires, zombies, etc). These fashions, films, music and such insidiously remove from folk any awareness of the dangers of the occult by making it ‘entertainment’. One young man telling me he got the idea of praying to the devil from his rock music and TV programmes, and continued because the devil always answered prayers and God did not. I pointed out that this is because the devil, like the child molester, gives us whatever pleases us so as to have us get into us into his car with him, whereas God will say ‘no’ to some of our requests because He knows they are not good for us in the long run. (The bad parent gives his diabetic child sweets/candies when the long-term effects are dangerous and fatal; God is the good parent who says ‘no’ to what is haermful, even though it is pleasurable).

The fundamental problem with all aspects of the occult being that it draws upon or trusts in powers other than the providence of God, it inevitably opens the door to wicked spirits; to powers opposed to God. We cannot afford to open such doors. Should we do so we fall into sin, and sin deprives us of salvation. We can include in our list of dangerous entertainments and hobbies such things as hard rock music, occult films, amulets, good luck charms, fortune telling, crystal-power and spiritualism, as well as overt things such as witchcraft, devil-worship and superstition. All of these are a trusting in )or a calling upon) powers other than God and His Divine providence; they constitute and an idolatry that breaks the very first commandment.

Some aspects of the occult (of seeking power and knowledge outside of God) that many folk do not recognise to be the occult are the following. Note as we look at these that we are not saying all those who promote such things are bad people with bad intentions, but that the things they are promoting militate against the soul’s salvation.

Ouija boards seek to contact the dead and the spiritual world. We do not know what kind of spirit we are conjuring up here, so it is as dangerous to the soul as eating things we have never seen before is dangerous to the body. Spiritualism holds the same desire to contact dead, but through living persons (mediums). The trouble with both Ouija and spiritualism is two-fold: first, we should not drag the dead from their rest; they should be left to rest in peace, not conjured for our own ends. (If the dead wished to come to us they would do so of their own free will, not wait to be conjured up). Second, since all knowledge is available to all spirits (being unlimited by the physical brain) it is easy for a wicked spirit to know the secrets of the dead we seek to contact and impersonate them so as to give us advice that in the long run, causes us to make bad choices and fall away from God and salvation.

Fortune telling and horoscopes embody the desire to know the future and control it. Both fortune telling and horoscopes usurp the place of God in our lives, and are thus sinful. We cannot regard these as “just fun”, because they embody the grave danger of abandoning God’s providence for other powers. It is like having fun by playing with traffic. What is ‘dangerous fun’ is not good.

Superstition is not a direct dabbling with occult powers as are Spiritualism, Ouija boards, fortune telling etc. Nevertheless, superstition rests on an assumption that unseen powers are directing our lives other than the providence of God. Superstition is thus sinful because it is an insult to God: it assumes He is forced to change His plans simply because we have crossed someone on the stairs, broken a mirror or placed new shoes on a table.

Lucky charms are seen by most people as harmless, but the reality is that they seek to draw upon a power (‘(luck’) that is not of God and is opposed to trust in His providence, as such their use is offensive to God, and sinful.

Reiki, while not usually seen as the occult, nevertheless is akin to occult practice since it seeks to tap into “unseen universal life energy” in order to provide for one’s health. Some forms of Reiki claim to work with angels as vibrations of the Divine, but this has the additional problem of leading to angel-worship.

Inviting occult powers into our lives by Ouija boards, spiritualism, fortune telling etc, may well lead to such spirits taking control of our lives. Possession (as seen in the film ‘The Exorcist’) is rare, but the more folk who dabble in what we may call ‘heavy’ occult practices such as Ouija boards, spiritualism, witchcraft etc) the more widespread possession will become. Exorcism by the Church is rare, since the Church will not perform one unless the person has had a full psychiatric assessment and is shown to have more going on that is apparent in pure psychiatric disorder. The sound reason for this is that engaging in exorcism when the person is ill rather than genuinely possessed would only compound the illness and make the situation worse.

Psychiatric illness is often entangled with a person’s religious belief and as such, religion is often seen as the cause of the illness. Yet it is just as possible that the personality fixates upon religious ideas once their illness arises, rather than religion being the cause of the illness. To say the cause is religion rather than say that religion has been caught up in the illness strikes one as prejudice; a pre-judgment about religion that can block scientific assessment of the cause and treatment of the illness. It is true however, that in some cases psychiatric illness can follow dabbling in the occult. Not because the devil seeks to make us ill, but because the person becomes obsessed with the search for power and answers. The devil, in fact, has no desire to make us ill and no use for such illness; his desire is to make us sin since illness cannot keep us out of heaven but sin does, and it is keeping us out of heaven that is the devil’s goal.

What is more common than Possession is that the devil giving us an obsession: he gets us obsessed with good things that can distract us from God, and because the things we are obsessed with are good, we are blinded to the problem. Yes, even good things such as healthy hobbies (football, swimming, dancing) and such good things as socialising, work, home improvements etc, can become over-important to us; so much so that we put them before our obligations to God (Sunday Mass, prayer and charitable works). In such cases, the devil’s work is done without ‘possession’: he has distracted us from our obligations to God and thus placed us in sin. Indeed, obsessions with good things are more his method than possession, because possession does not cut us off from God and heaven whereas obsessions do (this is because possession is not willed/chosen by the soul but forced upon it, whereas obsessions are freely chosen goods that we have placed before God, which is sinful).  If the devil wants to deprive us of heaven, it is by making us obsessed with good things that he achieves this, not possession.

Fundamentally, the Church’s attitude to seeking out occult powers (by Ouija boards, consulting spiritualists etc) or trusting in hidden powers (horoscopes, lucky charms, superstitions etc) is that such things are always gravely wrong. Remember: mankind is in a Spiritual War: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world and its darkness; against spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph.6v12) Dabbling with the occult or becoming obsessed with the good things of this world runs contrary to our eternal salvation. How then, are we to deal with the occult?

First things First: How Can We Know we have a soul [to be saved]? We can know we have a soul because our thoughts cannot be seen, touched, or measured with a ruler, yet they are real -and must come from some part of us that cannot be seen, touched, or measured with a ruler yet is equally real. That part is our soul (our spirit). Since God is the Supreme Spirit, pictures of God as an old man in the sky are ridiculous; they are absurd, and give a very wrong impression of God.

How can we know there is a Supreme Spirit (whom we call God?) We can know there is a Supreme Spirit (God) by logic. This is not easy to understand, but we can simplify it like this: we have existence, but are not existence itself; we have life, but we are not life itself. We cannot say “I am existence; I am life”, because life and existence are something we have, not something we are. Now, since it is the very nature of existence to exist, and in the very nature of life to be alive, there must be a single, “living existence” from whom all life and existence comes (nothing can have tyow starting points so existence and life must exist as a single unit). That living existence is what we call ‘God’. “May the force be with you” is almost akin to what Catholics mean by “The Lord be with you” -only we know “the force” to be a Person: God; the mind behind the mathematical underpinnings of the universe.

What are wicked spirits? How and why do they tempt us away from God? Wicked spirits are angels who refused to obey God; they originally receive their existence  from Him,  as all angels do,  but have chosen to be wicked. They tempt us to live immoral lives (deceitful, lustful and violent lives) by making the pleasures of life attractive, and the cares of life so important to us that we give up on God and religion. Why they do this is simple:  they want to take us from the hand of God our Father to prevent us getting what they threw away: Heaven.

Are ‘Ghosts’ wicked spirits?  No; ghosts are human souls which are not at rest; souls who are in purgatory (the purifying state prior to entering heaven); souls who are either still too attached to the things of this world or souls who have not made recompense for their sins. As such, they are not yet able to enter God’s presence and Heaven.

In what ways can the evil spirits get at us? They can get at us by giving us an obsession that distracts our attention from God They can also attack us by oppression, which is where they harass us to get us to lose confidence in God (obsession and losing confidence in God by oppression, are the only way they can get us into a sinful state). Possession (which is very rare and usually happens to those who get involved with devil worship) is where they take us over. Deliverance frees us from obsession and oppression, while Exorcism (very rare and done only by priests with specific permission from the Bishop) frees us from possession.

What can we do to keep evil spirits at bay? Here is some basic advice.
1.     First, Do not be afraid. God is the Supreme Spirit who has overcome all the evil angels who rejected Him. If we are close to God we have already overcome them.
2.     Live good lives –ungodly lives are an alliance with ungodly spirits
3.     Pray and go regularly to Confession & Holy Communion
4.     Have your home blest by a Catholic priest, and keep Holy Water in your home to re-sprinkle it now and again to build the blessings it holds
5.     Wear a blest medal (blessings attach to the medal, so the blessings go where the medal goes)
6.     Ask your Guardian Angel for his help on a daily basis
7.     Say the Rosary and Prayer to St Michael the Archangel every day
8.     DO NOT engage in conversation with evil spirits: talking builds an alliance.) Rather, in virtue of your baptism inot Jesus Christ, order the spirit to be gone in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Remember: “Have no fear little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom” (LK.12v32).

Catechism of the catholic Church:
#2116: “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead, or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time and history...”

#2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling...e.g., when one attributes an importance in some magical way to certain practices [crossing a person on stairs, new shoes on a table etc] otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance [quite[ apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is also to fall into superstition.

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