Many years ago I was brought face to face with the reality of malign spiritual activity and the terrifying prospect of a person being demon possessed. I realise for many readers the expression ‘demon possessed’ is an archaic phrase that belongs to a bygone age and has been usurped in this century by the psychoanalysts couch and an array of behaviour altering psychiatric medication. The notion of the existence of a personal Devil and his following of spiritual entities called demons sounds more medieval than modern and yet in spite of all our social and medical advances the problem of evil and its embodiment in individuals persists. In the situation I was involved with a young woman was at the centre of dark and terrifying forces that seemed to defy the usual parameters of what would be called ‘mental illness’. She became increasingly agitated and bizarre in her actions as these malign entities appeared to subsume her personality and take over , culminating in an epic display of ‘possession’ accompanied by guttural cries denigrating Jesus and His work and the speaking of strange languages. That chilling experience left many convinced that the Devil is real and sometimes can in extreme cases ‘possess’ a person through his demonic spirits.
Over the years I have never encountered another case like this but from reading eyewitness reports have learned that while these are rare they are not unheard of. Of course Jesus in His earthly life constantly confronted the Devil as a personal being most notably after His 40 day fast in the wilderness, and when He commanded the spirits possessing a man to go into a herd of pigs ! Apart from these spectacular appearances by the Evil one, the day to day activity of Satan is cloaked by deceit and subterfuge leading Bob Dylan to wryly comment in one of his songs, “ Sometimes Satan comes as a Man of Peace” In the uncertain times we are living in many are turning to alternative ‘spiritual’ practitioners to seek guidance and reassurance as the old certainties of religion and economic growth are tumbling. So called psychics are one growth area in this field and can trace their lineage back through history with Michel de Nostradame being perhaps the most notable. They purport to be in contact with ‘spirit guides’ who reveal to them secrets of the future hidden from mere mortals.
Understandably at a time of domestic breakdown and with such an indeterminate future ahead many are now dialling ‘psychic phone lines’ or making appointments with these self-styled seers to gain some solace and comfort about what the future may hold. Some psychics are little more than acute observers of the human condition dressed up in the spiritual razzmatazz and can tell a lot about someone by simply picking up on the mood or disposition of their clients and spin it out to create the impression of other-world insights. Still others practise what is called a ‘cold reading’, a psychic deception where a subject is asked general questions and using the answers to narrow down the information to specifics to convince the participant that the psychic has received information from the ‘other side’. The third category of psychics are seriously dangerous as they do contact ‘spirits’ who can reveal accurate information about the future, but the real question is from what source does the ‘genuine’ psychic draw their knowledge ? The Bible strongly condemns any involvement with psychics, mediums or the occult, “ Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.” ( Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)
Psychics and clairvoyants have now become part of the popular culture with exposure in magazines and TV shows depicting the practise as normal and perfectly acceptable to the modern mind. Earlier I wrote of my own dramatic experience with the occult in the manifestation of a young woman who appeared to be possessed by spirits, and later discovered that in her case youthful experimentation with the Ouija board at school may have been the entry point through which these malign demons gained entry to her life. The apparently innocuous experiment using the Ouija board had a repercussion in her life that was not anticipated as she had not been fully informed about what was really at stake. Similarly many who seek out the services of psychics or New Age healers are inviting forces into their lives that are not sourced in God but come from the realm of Satan’s kingdom and are hell bent on doing us harm. The Apostle Paul became involved with a girl who had become entangled with the demonic, “ Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.” ( Acts 16:16-18 )
Don’t be deceived even in the spiritual realm all that glitters is not gold and everything should be tested against the only revelatory book we have from God our Creator, the Bible. He made us and knows us intimately and knows what will do us good and those things that will do us harm. The problem with all occultic activity is that its true source is veiled and the Scriptures tackles this head on, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” ( 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 ). At a time when the consumer is demanding more and more information about the foods they eat, ingredients, traceability etc., it is even more important that we exercise caution about the plethora of alternative spiritual practises now available and inform ourselves about ‘spiritual tracability’. Its one thing to know that the Sunday roast comes from John Murphys herd in County Limerick but quite another as to where that psychic or medium is drawing their power from. Our dietary transparency might be important to our ongoing health and wellbeing but discerning the true spirit behind psychics, spiritual healers etc,. is a matter of our spiritual life and death.