According to an experienced exorcist.
The Devil ordinarily has a share in all human sins but in some, it is relatively small, so that his rule in such cases can be described as more or less indirect. At the other extreme, there are sins which have a special affinity with him:
1. Rebellion Against God
Including blasphemy, atheism; attacks on Christ, on His divinity, His resurrection, His word, His saving power; attacks on the Church, on her authority and unity, on the Sacraments.
2. Sins Against the Light
When grace is given and there is no response; when grace is received and then there is unfaithfulness. The New Testament is full of warnings, e.g. Matthew 11:20-24; 12:31-32, 43-45; Luke 9:62; Hebrews 6:4-8; Apocalypse 2:5.
3. The ‘Natural Religions’
Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Animism, the gods and goddesses of Egypt and Canaan and Ancient Greece, the druidism of Ancient Britain and so on. The Church has always recognised that there is a good side to these pagan religions but that there is also an idolatrous demonic side – for they are simply the kind of religion that fallen man naturally makes for himself, but they make claims to teach the way to God.
4. Occult Practices/Sorcery
These are the experiential resources, the signs and wonders, of paganism – seeking spiritual help in ways that are forbidden by God – they receive help of a kind but fall into the power of their helpers.
Occult practices fall into three groups: magic; divination/fortune-telling; and spiritism/spiritualism. All these occult practices are direct invitations to the Devil which he readily accepts. In corrupting and destroying millions of young people in our time they are closely related to drugs, demonic music and pornography. They all involve an abandonment of the self-control with which human beings are entrusted.
The thin edge of the wedge (soft drugs, yoga for relaxation, horoscopes just for fun and so on) is more dangerous than the thick end, because more deceptive – an evil spirit tries to make his entry as unobtrusively as possible. Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (e.g. reiki), any courses that promise the peace that Christ promises (e.g. enneagrams), or any alternative therapy with its roots in Eastern religion (e.g. acupuncture).
5. New Revelations
Christ, God the Son, is the total revelation of God to man. Since the age of the Apostles there is development of doctrine but no new public revelation. However, ‘false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect’ (Matthew 24:24). Among these are Mohammed (Islam); Joseph Smith (the Mormons); and countless other heretical prophets and false messiahs, founders of sects and promoters of cults, all leading their followers to a demonic bondage of conscience.
Pride is the specific trait of Satan. There are two kinds of Satanism: ‘occultic’, in which Satan is worshipped as a person; and what is said to be even more terrible and certainly is even more deceived, ‘rationalist’, in which Satan is regarded as an impersonal force or symbol and the glory belongs to the Satanists. How close to rationalist Satanism, without realising it, is atheistic scientism. Another form of pride is the cult of emperor-worship and the megalomania of the Herods and Hitlers of every age; but those who have no such earthly power are not immune.
Our human nature is made in the image of God and the spirits who hate God seek to pervert our nature. Who else but the god of this world has blinded humanists from seeing the dehumanising effects of contraception and abortion and IVF, of homosexual ‘marriages’, of human cloning and human-animal hybrids and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research? Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits (1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
Other Causes of Demonic Influence
- These include severe shock or trauma; the abandonment or abuse of a child; some violence or violation, as in rape or war; and the effects of curses/spells/voodoo. The extent of demonic intrusion depends not only upon the strength of the attack but also on that of the person’s defences, spiritual, moral and constitutional – and: ‘God protects us more than we know’ (Max Picard). It is partly through our reason that he protects us and so both drugs and psychosis can provide an opening for the demonic.
- Original sin itself is a form of demonic bondage; and bad things handed down in a family, such as alcoholism, divorce and suicide, are like original sin. In addition to the genetic and environmental causes, there can be a demonic element. We normally have free will to receive or reject divine grace, to receive or reject the malign inheritance, so it is the predisposition that is free from personal sin but not its perpetuation.
- When someone is spiritually advancing, either in his union with Christ or in his Christian work, the Devil has to come out of hiding to defend his territory. St Peter in his first Letter (4:12-5:11) speaks of this time of testing, of purifying the heart, of spiritual warfare, of offering up our suffering in union with the sacrifice of Christ. It is inseparable from conversion and discipleship and apostolic work. Attacks, therefore, come, as they did to Christ, especially at times of decision, of receiving a new Sacrament or beginning a new state of life. Great indeed is our need to prepare and warn and pray for our children receiving first Holy Communion and Confirmation, for our penitents in the Confessional, for our couples being married and bringing their infants for Baptism, for our converts and novices and seminarians – otherwise we will lose a great many for reasons that seem mysterious. Victory depends on making no bargain with the Devil, no compromise of our faith in Christ and his word and his Church. For over 20 years a catechist in Ghana instructed countless converts from animism. After their reception into the Church, they all had to undergo a hard time of counter-attacks, mainly interior, from the water spirits and household gods and other pagan demons. Only two had given in and gone back to the false peace of paganism. All the others, after, on average, about a year, had come through to the peace of Christ. In the manifold sufferings which God allows Satan to inflict on Christians, Christ himself is our prototype, ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2): in the Temptations which immediately followed his Baptism (Matthew 4:1-11); in the trials of his ministry (Luke 22:28-32); and in his Passion (Matthew 26:30-27:50).
This blog is extracted and abridged from our book Exorcism, written by Fr Jeremy Davies and available as an audiobook. Both secularism and superstition have popularised some very distorted ideas about exorcism. This ebook, written by an experienced exorcist, looks at its origin in the Gospels and its practice in the Church today.
Learn more about exorcism and the causes of demonic influence by listening to our audiobook Exorcism today for free.