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Nathan’s Story

The cross of St. Benedict, exorcist (serav/Shutterstock [1])

I’ve had these two stories open on my browser for a few days now. I’m going to go ahead and post them as a preface for something very strange.

The first one is about a rash of cattle mutilations out in rural Arizona: [2]

A cow and a bull were both killed overnight. An ear cut off. A section of hide detached. The scrotum and penis carefully removed. The vaginal cavity gone. The blood drained.

No discernible tracks were found near the carcasses, which were lying near an infrequently traveled road. Little blood was found on the ground and the cow was wedged up into a tree as if trying to escape from something.

In his decades of living in the scrubby pinyon-juniper forests north of Williams, the 66-year-old Mahan has raised horses and small herds of cattle and seen animals killed by predators such as mountain lions and coyotes. He has witnessed scavengers such as ravens and vultures picking at carrion, but never has he witnessed the deliberate dismemberment he saw last week.

“For people to come out and purposely kill and mutilate an animal for their own pleasure is just unreal. It’s sickening,” he said as he tucked his weather-beaten hands into his well-worn pockets.

The state inspector who is investigating this said this isn’t random:

“The people who are doing this, I would say are professionals,” he said. “They know what they are doing.”

The second item is this description of a new show coming up this month on Netflix, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a darker take on the Archie comics teenage witch character. Excerpt from a feature story about it:

The series, which stars Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) as the titular orphaned daughter of a warlock and a human, begins with Sabrina Spellman’s 16th birthday on the horizon, a milestone for witch-kind in which, like a demonic bat mitzvah, every witch or warlock must participate in a ritual that includes signing your name in blood in Satan’s autograph book and subsequently going off to what is essentially Hogwarts from Hell. For Sabrina, however, the choice becomes a dilemma: she’s half mortal, too, and while her father was a powerful, respected warlock in their world, she’s not sure whether her dead parents even wanted her to sign up to do the devil’s bidding.

The new teaser certainly drives home the fact that this darker redo of the cheerful ‘90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch is coming from the makers of Riverdale: the dark streets, old-timey cars, and trio of cool girls in matching outfits (in Riverdale, it’s Josie and the Pussycats; here, it’s a clique known as the Weird Sisters [3]) all keep it in the same universe as the hit CW show. But now, Beelzebub is here in the seven-foot-tall-angry-goat flesh, and, thankfully, animatronic Salem has been replaced by an actual cat. Hail Satan.

OK. The mainstreaming of Satanism in pop culture — whether you believe that this has to do with spiritual realities, or is merely symbolic, it is undeniably culturally significant. The Guardian, being The Guardian, suspects that this new wave of pop-occultism — of which Sabrina is only one example, is a manifestation of the political [4]:

Harkness agrees that witchcraft can offer a sense of control in a world that seems to be spiralling beyond our grasp. “When there is social, political and cultural turmoil and the world feels like a very unstable place, people want a sense of control and normalcy again,” she says.

Spellbound [5], an exhibition about witchcraft, opened last month at Oxford’s Ashmolean museum. Among the exhibits is The Discovery of Witches, a 1647 work by the notorious “Witchfinder General” [6] Matthew Hopkins, which inspired the title of Harkness’s novel.

More:

But, for Christina Oakley Harrington, a practising witch and the founder of Treadwell’s [7], one of the UK’s leading occult bookshops, witchcraft is a feminist issue.

“These films are an answer to what is happening in society,” she says. “As the world of Instagram has shown, young women are speaking out with autonomy more than ever, embracing feminism.

“It makes perfect sense to find role models: none is more apt than the witch. The witch is the disobedient woman, the ‘bad’ woman. Her ethics are her own, not society’s and as a creature on the edges of society, she sees injustices that others don’t care about. I am struck by how much today’s teen witches are activists for not only feminism but for the ending of animal cruelty, racism, homelessness.

“When you break society’s conforming rules, as young women are, you are punished. The witch is an icon to help young women be strong in the face of the pushback they get every day. So for me, these new shows are heartening – yes, even the horror films.”

Well. I agree with Harrington that the occult boom is a sign of the times. What it signifies is another matter, I’d say.

Now, that’s a set-up for me to tell you about a strange telephone call I received yesterday. I’ve hesitated about whether or not to blog about it. The caller, an old friend from whom I hadn’t heard in a decade or so, gave me permission to blog about it as long as I kept names and identifying details out of the story. He said others may draw hope from it. He wasn’t exactly sure why he felt the urge to call me about the matter, but he did.

Background: “Nathan,” as I’ll call my friend, is a devout Catholic who lives in a major US city, and who works in a sophisticated professional milieu. He is in early middle age, and a husband and father. He and his family go to mass daily, and confession weekly.

Nathan started his story with a jaw-dropping line: “For the past year, my wife has been under the care of an exorcist.”

I don’t Nathan’s wife as well as I know him, but I can tell you that she is worldly and sophisticated, even as she is devout. She is one of the last people you would imagine having a problem like this.

Nathan told me the story of how things came to this point. I won’t give you too many details, out of an abundance of caution. It turns out that his wife had an eating disorder as a teenager, and tried to kill herself twice back then. Now, in the middle of her life, depression returned, but with certain strange characteristics that seemed … off. She began to despise religious things, in an inexplicable way. When she went to a “healing mass,” there was a manifestation that indicated something dark and alien was at work in her.

Catholic exorcists today work in a professional way, ruling out all other medical possibilities to explain the behavior before they start. The exorcism of Nathan’s wife has not been a single event, but has required multiple sessions, which are still going on (Father Gabriele Amorth, the late chief exorcist of Rome, has explained in his books how this works.) Nathan has been part of the rituals.

He told me that eight different spirits have manifested themselves through his wife. He’s been at this long enough now to discern which one is which. They revealed through the rituals that they entered into his wife’s family through her grandfather, who was involved with the occult in a ritualistic way. Nathan said that depending on which evil spirit manifests in a particular moment, his wife’s face contorts into expressions that he has never seen in her, despite their nearly two decades of marriage.

Mind you, Nathan is one of  the least woo-woo friends I have. Again, he works as what you might call a “symbolic analyst” in a very worldly occupation, and lives in one of the biggest and most secular cities in America. He’s been a faithful Catholic for as long as I’ve known him, but not especially interested in that mystical side of the faith.

“Once you’ve seen reality through the eyes of spiritual warfare,” he told me yesterday, “you can’t go back. It’s everywhere.”

He told me other detailed stories, including accounts of bizarre, poltergeisty things happening in their apartment, and his wife being unable to stand the presence of blessed objects (a classic sign of possession). Again, readers: if you knew these people, Nathan and his wife, you would be even more shocked by all this than you are now. This is the kind of family that takes European vacations, and lives a sophisticated cosmopolitan life. And yet this horror has overtaken them. The wife goes through periods in which she hears foul blasphemies, and feels compelled to commit suicide. In the exorcism sessions, Nathan says the demons, under compulsion from the exorcist, speak of these things — in particular, how they intend to destroy Nathan’s wife, and her family life.

When will she be free of them? The exorcist can’t say. The fight continues, in regular sessions. In our long phone conversation yesterday, Nathan says that this ordeal has taught him about the power of prayer, and of the Church’s weapons against these things. He knows that his wife is not his enemy, despite the things that sometimes come out of her mouth, and he is resolved to hold firm to fight for her, through his prayers, and to help her be free of these malicious intelligent spirits. He recommends this lecture by Father Chad Ripperger, a Catholic exorcist.  [8] This is the reality Nathan and his wife have been living for the past year.

Nathan, the sort of man who would have been played by Jimmy Stewart or Jack Lemmon in a 1950s movie, told me that having entered into this world, he has learned that more and more ordinary people like him and his wife are turning to exorcists. He has come to see that the demonic attacks on marriage and family are increasing — and he wants people to know that there is hope. But laying claim to that hope requires recognizing the nature of the battle.

I don’t know how I would do if I were in a situation in which I would be lying in bed at night, and my wife blurted out, “I hate you!” and then started growling in an otherworldly voice. That’s Nathan’s reality now. He is not afraid. He has to play his part in rescuing his tormented wife (who, I should say, fully consents to the exorcism; she wants to be free of this too).

Take this as you will. Laugh at it if you want to. I don’t laugh at it; I have had too much personal experience in this area to dismiss it. There will be some of you who read this who find in Nathan’s story something you need. I hope at least some of you recognize in this account a warning never, ever to dabble in this stuff. There is no such thing as innocent involvement with it. This past summer I watched a local friend who had been briefly free of it surrender to it again in a particularly tragic way. It’s not a joke. It’s not a game.

What Nathan’s wife is going through now is like what director William Friedkin — a non-Christian — witnessed and filmed in his recent documentary, The Devil And Father Amorth. (Friedkin, of course, directed the feature film The Exorcist.) The trailer for the documentary is below. Here is his chilling 2016 Vanity Fair account of the experience. [9] Excerpt:

Rosa’s body began to throb, and she cried out, before falling back into a trance. Father Amorth placed his right hand over her heart. “INFER TIBI LIBERA.” (Set yourself free.)

She lost consciousness. “TIME SATANA INIMICI FIDEM.” (Be afraid of Satan and the enemies of faith.)

Without warning, Rosa began to thrash violently. The five male helpers had all they could do to hold her down. A foam formed at her lips.

“RECEDE IN NOMINI PATRIS!” (Leave in the name of the Father.) Rosa’s features slowly altered into a mask of despair, as her body continued to writhe. She was trying to rise and, clearly, to attack.

“SANCTISSIMO DOMINE MIGRA.” (Let him go, O God Almighty.) Rosa did not speak or understand Latin, but she thrust forward and screamed in Father Amorth’s face: “MAI!!” (Never!!)

A low buzzing sound began, like a swarm of bees, as the others in the room prayed quietly. “SPIRITO DEL SIGNORE. SPIRITO, SPIRITO SANCTO SANCTISSIMA TRINITA.” (God’s spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity. . . . Look after Rosa, O Lord, destroy this evil force so that Rosa might be well and do good for others. Keep evil away from her.)

Then Father Amorth called out the satanic cults, the superstition, the black magic that had possessed her. She reacted, growling, and screamed “MAAAAAAIIIIII!!!” The scream filled the room.

Another voice from deep within her shouted in his face: “DON’T TOUCH HER! DON’T EVER TOUCH HER!!” Her eyes were still closed. Father Amorth yelled, “CEDE! CEDE!” (Surrender!)

She reacted violently: “IO SONO SATANA.” (I am Satan.)

Here is a part of the story in which Friedkin interviews Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute:

LIEBERMAN: I’ve never believed in ghosts or that stuff, but I’ve had a couple of cases, one in particular that really just gave me pause. This was a young girl, in her 20s, from a Catholic family in Brooklyn, and she was referred to me with schizophrenia, and she definitely had bizarre and psychotic-like behavior, disorganized thinking, disturbed attention, hallucinations, but it wasn’t classic schizophrenic phenomenology. And she responded to nothing,” he added with emphasis. “Usually you get some response. But there was no response. We started to do family therapy. All of a sudden, some strange things started happening, accidents, hearing things. I wasn’t thinking anything of it, but this unfolded over months. One night, I went to see her and then conferred with a colleague, and afterwards I went home, and there was a kind of a blue light in the house, and all of a sudden I had this piercing pain in my head, and I called my colleague, and she had the same thing, and this was really weird. The girl’s family was prone to superstition, and they may have mentioned demon possession or something like that, but I obviously didn’t believe it, but when this happened I just got completely freaked out. It wasn’t a psychiatric disorder—you want to call it a spiritual possession, but somehow, like in The Exorcist, we were the enemy. This was basically a battle between the doctors and whatever it was that afflicted the individual.

ME: Do you completely disregard the idea of possession?

LIEBERMAN: No. There was no way I could explain what happened. Intellectually, I might have said it’s possible, but this was an example that added credence.

Read the whole thing. [9]

Here is the trailer:

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126 Comments To "Nathan’s Story"

#1 Comment By JCM On October 3, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

What bothers most is to read that there are people who mutilate poor animals for no discernible reason other than their undefined, evil intent. That is satanic enough, regardless of the motivation. I hope law enforcement is looking into this “phenomenon” that I was happily unaware of until now.

#2 Comment By Franklin Evans On October 3, 2018 @ 1:09 pm

My first thought was let Rod do the “talking” here. He and I are in very close agreement on core principles in this context.

Then I made the mistake of reading some comments. They are sincerely composed and posted, I have no doubt. They are, however, in need of some corrections.

Item: As Siarlys pointed out, the Christian theography (well, okay, demonology) is based on the retreading, rebranding and sometimes renaming of deities in competing or conquered religions. That’s okay. Christianity is in no way the first religion to do any of that. It’s just the one we have now. The ancient Pagans did it. Indeed, they did it so effectively their very same practices and sometimes wording was used by the early Christian empire. Blood sacrifice and cannibalism, egregious sexual perversions, self-mutilation, the list goes on for how Christians propagandized (and still do) against other religions, but the chronology is clear: the Romans used that against the Christians first.

In the end, the personal integrity, health and safety of the individual is the paramount consideration. You want to blame dabbling and simple curiosity for spiritual peril and injury, go right ahead, but abandon it if it impedes the road back to health. I can write a few hundred words about blaming Pagans, etc., and how it is based on ignorance and fueled by fear. I can skip all of that.

There is no safety. There is no preparation, prevention or simple remedy. There is the basic recognition that our spiritual experience can overlap our physical reality. It is never just Light and Love, the core fallacy of many New Age “philosophies”. It comes down to balance. Life happens.

If there’s no true safety, it comes down to a choice. Either choice is valid. It all depends on the various secondary considerations, but my caution I hope is clear: blaming is the easy way to say you are helpless. Take the steps to not be helpless.

Avoidance: This is valid because chances are the vast majority of people simply won’t encounter the more intense or egregious forms of spiritual violence. The drawback is being essentially unprepared if it does happen. Your recourse is to seek the advice and help of someone who is knowledgeable, someone you can trust. Catholic exorcists are from my view and experience the most trustworthy humans I’ve every encountered.

Familiarity: This is valid because forewarned is forearmed. The drawback is in believing that preparation means successfully fighting back on the first go-round. Your recourse is the same as in avoidance. Know your limitations, and seek help.

It’s difficult to avoid a lecturing tone here. I do regret if that is a detriment to some. I care about your spiritual health, I really do. I’ve witnessed the beauty, majesty and power of Christian faith. I am also a non-believer. Parse that as you will, but Pagans have fundamental agreements with Christians. Ignorance and fear are enemies to both groups. The historic Roman vs. Christian, then Christian vs. Pagan dynamics live today simultaneously. Both are based on ignorance and fear.

#3 Comment By Lisa On October 3, 2018 @ 1:56 pm

About twenty years ago, when I was in my mid thirties, I started to become seriously disillusioned with Christianity and investigated Witchcraft or Wicca as it is commonly known. One thing that most Wiccans stress is that they don’t even believe in the existence of Satan much less worship him. They view Wicca as a pre Christian religion that existed long before the concept of Satan had been developed. So this TV show is not presenting Wicca as it is normally practiced – which is not surprising.

I personally never could buy in to Wicca, but it was/is much more empowering for women than all of the Abrahamic faiths.

#4 Comment By Kronsteen1963 On October 3, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

In the summer of 2000, my father-in law passed away. He was a devout Christian and spent the last 6 weeks of his life at his home under Hospice care. The day after we brought him home, he began to see things. He would look out his bedroom window and complain that he saw 3 men standing in his garden. They weren’t doing anything except staring at his house. We looked out the window and saw nothing. He insisted that they were there and asked us to chase them away because they frightened him.

Later that day, we had some friends over to his house to visit him. During dinner, he pointed towards a friend and asked, “Who is he? I don’t recognize him.” We replied, “That’s our friend Kyle, you know him.” He replied, “Yes, I know Kyle. But who is standing next to him?” There was no one there. We told Dad that we couldn’t see anyone. I asked Dad if this person frightened like the three in the garden. He replied, “No, he doesn’t frighten me at all.”

What did my father-in-law see? I’m sure rationalists have an easy explanation – a dying old man who is having hallucinations. But, he wasn’t drugged up or losing his mind. Until the last two weeks, he was a lucid as you or I, and we had numerous conversations about all sorts of issues.

As a Christian, I have my own ideas of what my father-in-law saw. I believe this stuff is real. The Bible says it is. Jesus, his disciples, and Paul all cast out demons. I fully understand why an atheist would think this is nonsense, but have a tough time understanding why a Christian would.

[NFR: It is common for people in the last days of life to see figures who are invisible to the rest of us — usually people they knew in life, who have since died. Talk to hospice nurses. It’s also in the literature. I don’t think there is necessarily anything sinister about this stuff. Though my father’s hospice nurse did tell me that once she had a patient who screamed in his final moments that demons were dragging him to Hell. It unnerved her. He was an Episcopal priest, she said. — RD]

#5 Comment By Houstonian On October 3, 2018 @ 2:07 pm

On Demonism.

WHAT STATS SHOW:

–A 2012 Pew survey showed 85% of those who considered themselves religiously unaffiliated, still believe in the spiritual or supernatural.

–A 2013 YouGov survey showed 57% of all Americans believe in the devil. 86% of born-again Christians believe in the devil and 72% of them believe someone can be possessed by an evil spirit.

–A 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found 57% of Americans believe someone can be possessed by a demon.

— Of Americans who believe in demonic possession the YouGov survey found that females (54%) were more likely to believe than males (49%).

— Republicans (54%) and Democrats (51%) were about equal. The South (59%) was more likely to believe than the Midwest (45%). Blacks (67%) and Hispanics (62%) were more likely to believe than Whites (47%).

WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS:

— The word “demon(s)” appears 77 times in the New Testament, being mentioned in 19 out of 27 books.
–Scripture confirms demons exist (Deut. 32:17, Ps. 106:37, Matt. 12:27).
–While God created everything (John 1:3), he did not create evil (James 1:13, 1 John 1:5, 1 Cor. 14:33.)
–Demons were cast out of heaven (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6).
–Satan is their leader (Matt 12:24).

All of our sicknesses, problems and accidents cannot be attributed to Satan and his demons, however, they are active in some problems.
–They can cause or exploit mental and physical illness (Mark 5:1-15, Luke 11:14).
–Demons have strength and knowledge (Mark 1:24, 9:17-27)
–Demons can possess a person (Matt 9:32-33, 12:22, 17:18, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 22:3),

They fear Jesus (Mark 1:25, 3:11-12, 9:25).
–but cannot indwell a true disciple of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13, Rom. 8:37, 1 John 2:13, 5:18, 1 Pet. 1:5, 2 Cor. 6:16).
— yet true Christians can be harassed and negatively impacted by demons (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15, 12:7, 1 Tim. 4:1-5, 1 John 4:1-3).
–still, we have been given the power to resist them (James 4:7).

#6 Comment By thomas tucker On October 3, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

@Rod- because, as the centuries have gone by, and scientific knowledge has increased, we’ve seen rational answers to more and more of the phenomena that we used to only be able to explain by supernatural intervention. With regard to your candle, I’ve seen a person pick a playing card, write on it, and then another person tear it up and burn it, then extract the exact same card out of his cellphone. Now, I can explain that as magic, or can I say that I just don’t know how he did the trick. The take away: don’t be so gullible.

#7 Comment By Big Dubya On October 3, 2018 @ 2:40 pm

“When will she be free of them? The exorcist can’t say.”

This is something I’ve long wondered about exorcisms: why do they take so long, and why is their efficacy uncertain? I am a believing Catholic, so I am not asking flippantly.

In the gospels, when Jesus commands evil spirits to exit a man, they seem to do so instantly, as in the case where they move to a herd of swine. This will sound naive coming from an outsider to the world of possession, but why is it not simply a matter of the priest (operating on Christ-given authority) giving a one-time command to an evil spirit to vacate a person, and the spirit immediately obeying?

Many years ago, I read Malachi Martin’s ‘Hostage to the Devil’, and he also described exorcisms as protracted affairs, often requiring multiple sessions. If he explained why, I don’t remember.

#8 Comment By Sykes Five On October 3, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

Wow, I did not know Sabrina the Teenage Witch was originally an Archie comics character. I had thought is was a kind of reimagining of Bewitched. I learn something new every day.

#9 Comment By charles cosimano On October 3, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

[NFR: Tell us more. — RD]

Do really want me to? You know the story.

[NFR: Maybe not. I’ll go back and re-read our correspondence. — RD]

#10 Comment By REJ On October 3, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

RD “How can you be sure that because things happen that you can’t explain, that there must be a materialist explanation for it that we haven’t yet found?”

I understand what you mean by this but I also think that at least some of what we believing Christians think of as supernatural may also have some material explanations we don’t yet understand as well. For instance, the Fatima miracle of the sun was probably a natural phenomenon but what was supernatural was that it’s occurrence was predicted. Many of the miracles performed by Jesus as a material human in our material world could also have simply been making use of scientific phenomena we don’t yet know about. The spiritual aspect was His being able to tap into that power. Our world is so darkened by sin and the ‘death’ it brings to our lives that we have no idea what might materially or scientifically manifest in a different world. I think sometimes that what Jesus said about faith moving mountains was literal and He said it was within human power to do so. I think there is a whole ‘scientific’ world we are as blind to today as the cave man was blind to DNA. But just because there may be a discoverable scientific reality behind the mystery doesn’t mean that God as Creator of All isn’t also real.

Regarding the question of lack of effectiveness of some exorcisms, it seems highly likely to me, given what we have learned about the incredible lack of faith and basic morality among so many of our bishops, that there are precious few bishops who have any idea which priests are/would be effective in that ministry and who to appoint. In fact, I’d be pretty unsurprised to find out that a goodly number of bishops don’t even believe in the devil.

#11 Comment By charles cosimano On October 3, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

[NFR: Maybe not. I’ll go back and re-read our correspondence. — RD]

It is when we first started directly corresponding I think.

#12 Comment By charles cosimano On October 3, 2018 @ 7:58 pm

JCM said, “I hope law enforcement is looking into this “phenomenon” that I was happily unaware of until now.”

This is a phenomenon that law enforcement has been looking into for 50 years with no result and the truth is the people doing the looking don’t want to find a result for the simple reasoning is that it is what it looks like, they don’t want to be on the receiving end themselves because is is obviously something a lot more dangerous and powerful than they are.

It ain’t adolescents and probably not human. The police would never know what hit them.

#13 Comment By James Kabala On October 3, 2018 @ 9:12 pm

Jefferson Smith: Actually, “demons are unreliable narrators” was how the Salem trials came to an end. They didn’t say that were no such things as witches, and certainly not there were no such things as demons, but that “spectral evidence” was not admissible.

Kronsteen1963: I don’t know what disease your father-in-law suffered from, but Parkinson’s sufferers apparently can have hallucinations while seeming otherwise mentally healthy (as I learned from this creepy ad – [10] – but also see the comments below where some disagree and claim that this is actually not common).

Count me as another one confused by the idea of being “under the care of an exorcist.” I was under the impression that these rituals were supposed to work perfectly the first time – that they were not supposed to be like regular prayers that God might choose not to answer for His own unknown purposes.

#14 Comment By Hound of Ulster On October 3, 2018 @ 9:28 pm

I think it is because of the Protestant Reformation.

I know, Protestants on this board, but hear me out on this.

Radical Reform Christianity, (Remember, this is the Christian tradition that American culture is rooted in) especially in it’s current phase of emphasis on material prosperity (Prosperity Gospel), male headship of families (complementarian theology), and, in it’s White suburbanite version, it’s commitment to a very materialistic and self-centered political and social culture (‘Moral Theurapeutic Deism’ as a term was first coined to describe the Jerry Falwell-era of the Christian Right in the 1980s, not the mushy mainline Left) is very anti-spiritual in the sense that it tends to, in it’s quest for pure belief, de-mystify the material world. No more liturgy, no more sacred spaces, no more sense of a connection between the spiritual and the material, and no more sacred time of feasts and fasts. Without these elements of Christianity as it would be recognized by the vast majority of Christians going back to Christ Himself, it becomes a very dry, very literalist, dour, hyper-masculine, hyper-rationalist (‘biblical inerrancy’ is as much a product of modernity and modern rationalism as de-mystified modernist readings of Scripture, and is also vaguely Islamic in it’s approach to Scripture) worldview, that offers nothing in the way of spiritual goods to anyone outside a small ‘charmed’ circle of wealthy, upwardly mobile, ‘white’ (but not always, see Creflo Dollar etc), suburban, already comfortable ‘elect’ men (again, not always, see Paula White etc), who want to be able to go to church on Sunday, (ask anybody who works as a restaurant server, and they will tell you that the worst tippers are these sorts of smug well-to-do materialist low-Church Protestants) and do whatever they want the other six days of the week. Is it any surprise that so many, seeing this very American diseased ‘Christianity’, look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment, even unto feeding at the demons’ table?

I am not surprised at all. I see it with my friends who a wide variety of pagans and wiccan types who partake of such demonic fare. Look at the alternatives that most of them would be familar with. It is a tragedy that they are both endangering themselves and those around them by seeking for the mystical in the worst possible places and with forces that are not to trifled with by any mortal person.

#15 Comment By Flavia On October 4, 2018 @ 12:05 am

I attended a conference led by Gerry Brashears, a professor at Western University in Portland. He is a leading expert in demon possession. For those who are interested in a Protestant perspective, he writes of three models and the arguments and advocates for each. The first one, the gospel encounter, is compelling.
[11]

I attended the conference with friends who went to Sri Lanka to rebuild after the tsunami and stayed 10 years ministering to the spiritual needs of the people. I leaned over to the wife and asked her if she would be willing to share stories of their encounters with the demonic. Her response: No, they’re too dark for an American audience.”

Demonic, in-your-face encounters are quite common in parts of the world where the supernatural is a part of daily life. In the west, we are so naive. Our Enemy covers his tracks here because it suits his purpose to do so.

[NFR: I started reading a book on deliverance by Neal Lozano last night, on the recommendation of a reader here. A friend in Baton Rouge had given it to me months ago, but I’d never gotten around to it. Lozano says that the word “possession,” and our Hollywood image of exorcism, actually makes it harder to discern the working of actual evil spirits in the lives of individuals. We assume that if it’s not Linda Blair levitating and puking, that it’s not really demonic, etc. — RD]

#16 Comment By Flavia On October 4, 2018 @ 12:59 am

Rod, after studying Gary Brashears’ three models more carefully, I’ve come to the conclusion that the third model seems most in keeping with scripture in regard to believers only. I don’t find evidence in the Bible where the Holy Spirit and a demonic spirit can occupy a believer simultaneously, but a believer can be demonized, according to this model.

Quoting from the article:

Model #3: Truth Encounter

Although demons have no authority over a believer, Christians can fall prey to deception and yield control to a demon. The truth that Christians were rescued out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of Christ and all sin has been forgiven at the Cross cancels all demonic rights over a believer.

Procedure:

*Talk with the person, not the demon
*Help the Christian personalize the truth of their identity in Christ and overcome the deceptions they have fallen prey to.
*Confess, forgive, renounce, recommit
Key Passages: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Colossians 1:12-14; 2:8-15

Argument: Satan seeks to control a believer’s behavior by taking control of his/her mind through deception, accusation and temptation. Believers must personalize the truth, resist satan and take every thought captive for Christ.

#17 Comment By Franklin Evans On October 4, 2018 @ 12:08 pm

Hound of Ulster,

You are one of my most respected fellow readers. This is a rare, possibly the very first, instance where I must correct you.

You wrote: I am not surprised at all. I see it with my friends who a wide variety of pagans and wiccan types who partake of such demonic fare. Look at the alternatives that most of them would be familiar with. It is a tragedy that they are both endangering themselves and those around them by seeking for the mystical in the worst possible places and with forces that are not to trifled with by any mortal person.

Maybe your phrasing is awkward. Maybe I’m missing your point from the rest of your post. I can only focus on one thing here, and I hope you will clarify and expand.

Modern Pagans (of whom Wiccans are a sub-group) worship and practice on the “front line”. We don’t have intermediaries even remotely similar to Christian clergy. We are all priests and priestesses in that sense, and the analogy is further falsified because our leaders advise and mentor. We do not ascribe to them the theological authority that Christians (and other monotheisms) ascribe to their clergy.

We do not trifle. We approach our deities with much more deep respect than you seem to acknowledge, because we are much more intimate with them than the vast majority of monotheists. Our practices are very much all about boundaries, which institutionalized religions take for granted. Churches and temples are 24-7 sacred spaces. We see deep meaning in that. We have no such spaces. We go about establishing a temporary sacred space for our worship, in strictly constructed ways. The Wiccan circle is not a symbol. It is a very real, very profound sacred space. The Wiccan pentacle, the five-pointed star within a circle, is a deeply meaningful symbol for us. When you see it inverted, single point down, you see a perversion of our beliefs, not a representation of it.

As you continue to use such rhetoric as “demonic fare”, I just ask that you consider the context in which you use it. Pagans are not demon worshippers or servants. We draw the same line you do between beneficent and malicious. Our believers span the same spectrum of human attributes that your believers span. We are not defined by the darker aspects of our beliefs any more than you are defined by the darker aspects of your beliefs.

#18 Comment By Christopher On October 4, 2018 @ 12:23 pm

NJC Oct. 2 10:46 said:

“Does the resurgence of [demonic] possession…in Catholic families all over the world suggest the lack of power of Catholic sacraments?”

Well, given the sins of child molestation, sodomy, and spiritual corruption apparently indulged in by members of the hierarchy, why shouldn’t we think so?

I know the Church teaches that the efficacy of a sacrament isn’t dependent on the personal holiness of the cleric administering it; but in the case of combating possession, how can such corruption help but impact the result?

What’s really scary is this: with demonic activity increasing, how many of our corrupt bishops are going to be willing to appoint (effective) exorcists at all?

How does the Church fight demons, when “the smoke of Satan” pervades the Church itself?

#19 Comment By thomas tucker On October 4, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

@Flavia: isn’t that something of a tautology? People see and experience demons in parts of the worlds where those people believe that demons are real and very active. Well, of course. The same is true of leprechauns!

#20 Comment By REJ On October 4, 2018 @ 3:11 pm

“Lozano says that the word “possession,” and our Hollywood image of exorcism, actually makes it harder to discern the working of actual evil spirits in the lives of individuals. We assume that if it’s not Linda Blair levitating and puking, that it’s not really demonic, etc. — RD]”

I think St. Ignatius Loyola’s ‘Discernment of Spirits’ is an excellent resource for learning about that.

#21 Comment By JonF On October 5, 2018 @ 10:09 am

I a leery of letting belief in demonic influences run to such excess that we ascribe all that is wrong in the world to them- and thereby exonerate ourselves. “The Devil made me do it” is a cop-out. (Hmm. Maybe I should ascribe Donald Trump and his support base to demonic forces?) The hard fact is that human beings, all on their own, are capable of enormous evils, and we must accommodate that fact in our theodicy, and morality. As I wrote above, the Devil is not a God and has no power over us that we do not wilfully give him.

#22 Comment By Franklin Evans On October 5, 2018 @ 12:17 pm

Is there a book in any version of the Bible which tells the story of the rebellion of the angels (led by Satan or whathaveyou), their defeat and casting out?

#23 Comment By Donald On October 5, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

“I’ve witnessed the beauty, majesty and power of Christian faith. I am also a non-believer. Parse that as you will, but Pagans have fundamental agreements with Christians.”

I didn’t see that coming. I saw the later post. I wonder who it is you are dealing with when you say you know these various deities. I occasionally read John Michael Greer’s blog and wonder the same thing there.

#24 Comment By Jefferson Smith On October 6, 2018 @ 12:49 pm

Is there a book in any version of the Bible which tells the story of the rebellion of the angels (led by Satan or whathaveyou), their defeat and casting out?

I believe most of that Christian demonology is post-biblical, a bunch of later elaborations (most famously, Milton’s Paradise Lost). There’s a climactic battle involving an “Antichrist” and other scary beings in Revelation, but that supposedly happens at the end of history, not the beginning.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On October 7, 2018 @ 11:18 am

Donald,

I’m not sure of your question, if there is one intended there. I’ll just settle on this part: I don’t “know” deities, any more than a Christian knows God (in any form). Those Pagans who are also deists (I’m not a deist, long explanation skipped) worship. They don’t represent, embody or claim divine sanction.

I know Greer only by extension from my knowing of and following OBOD. Druids are a bit odd to most of Pagandom, so non-Pagan readers should be immediately forgiven for finding him opaque (and applauded for actually understanding him even a little). It takes some significant background reading to understand why. They don’t claim to be reconstructing ancient Celtic religion, and they do resemble closely a cornerstone of ancient Celtic culture: they are sincerely adaptive. As an entertaining (if also in parts dryly academic), I recommend to you The Quest for Merlin by Nikolai Tolstoy (grandnephew of Leo).

#26 Comment By LFM On November 17, 2018 @ 1:33 pm

Some commentators here don’t appear to know that “witches” are not a phenomenon peculiar to Christianity. The idea of witches did not arise out of Christianity’s literal “demonization” of other faiths; it pre-existed Christianity. Witches in other faith traditions I’ve read of are always people, male or female, who have truck with the spirit world’s darker powers in order to work harm on their enemies or seek power for themselves, and to help others to do so who lack the skill or knowledge. Such witchcraft exists in opposition to phenomena like “witch doctors” (whose purpose was/is to drive witches away), faith healers, diviners, shamans, and whatever other forms of paganism there are out there. Their adherents have dealings with sub-lunary spiritual beings who may choose at times to become incarnate or to enter the bodies of human devotees, but only with their permission. These beings do not seek to injure humans although they may punish them for disrespect. The Yoruba pantheon shares some of these features; so too did that of the ancient Greeks in their earlier forms, and some forms of native North American paganism.

Where the confusion arose was that Christianity (and I say this as a conventional Catholic believer) came to lump all these kinds of belief and practice together as the worship of demons. They were wrong to do so, but not – I think – altogether wrong in advising us to avoid that sort of activity ourselves. It is not very safe for anyone, as C.S. Lewis points out in That Hideous Strength. I suspect one reason that Haiti has embraced the Pentecostal form of Christianity so heartily is that Pentecostals are not shy about saying they believe in demons and witchcraft, and driving them out.