At the threshold of
Teachings of the Orthodox Church concerning Evil Spirits and
God's Judgment over Them.
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Introduction. Holy Scripture on evil spirits. New Testament Scriptures on evil spirits. Possession and demonic influence. The nets of the evil one. The enticement of the occult. Means of guarding against evil spirits. Troparion to the life-giving Cross. Prayer to the Holy Cross. Psalm 90 (91). Prayer against demonic snares. The kingdom of satan at the threshold of fiery gehenna. Conclusion.
Prayer by a priest for a home troubled by evil spirits. Prayer of interdiction of St. Basil the Great that is read by a priest over one suffering from demons.
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15).
Aman living only according to material interests and physical sensations does not reflect on such "abstract" questions as the existence of God, the existence of a spiritual world with good and evil spirits, and life beyond the grave. He is completely overwhelmed by his daily cares. But suddenly something unexpected shocks him, and he begins to feel the need to think about his life and to see the goal of his existence. And here, when he begins to reflect on the moral and spiritual side of life, he quickly becomes convinced that science, in which he had such faith before, is completely powerless to help him sort out these most essential and vital questions.
If religious feelings have not been completely killed in him, he will feel a necessity to turn to God; he will begin to pray and read the Holy Scriptures. And if this is not just a fleeting and superficial inclination but a serious break in his life, a true desire to become better, then God will begin to renew his heart and open new horizons to his internal gaze. This man will begin to clearly feel the guiding hand of God, His nearness, and His Fatherly love. He will begin to understand that the world has a much wider and richer content than it appeared to have before. He will begin to distinguish good from evil with greater perception; he will begin to recognize that there is a spiritual world and unseen beings which have an influence on his life, some in a good and others in an ugly direction, and that, besides God, there exist angels and demons. This awareness of the spiritual world is interesting and important. But from what source does a person come to know of it? The literature on this subject is very extensive, contradictory, and full of inventions and fantasies. However, the teaching of Holy Scripture on this theme, although very brief, is clear and exact. Holy Scripture teaches that there exist angels of light and goodness and that every Christian has a guardian angel. (A separate booklet in this series is devoted to angels.)
Scripture also teaches that there are demons. It and our own experience serve to convince us that demons truly exist and represent not an apparent but a real and continuous danger to us all. As in human society, in which normal and well-meaning people exist side-by-side with every sort of criminal, degenerate, psychopath, and sadist, so also in the spiritual world, along with angels of light and goodness there exist the "scum" of that world — the devil and his demons. As in our world, in which no one is born a criminal, sadist, or libertine, but becomes one as a consequence of his improper and sinful activities, so also in the unseen world, every creature was initially good and well-intentioned, but a few of them, having chosen a bad path, degenerated and became consciously evil. As a consequence of their offensive actions, their angelic intelligence became dimmed, and they became evil, impulsive, and unscrupulous. They find pleasure in that which causes suffering to others and sows any kind of evil.
In this booklet we will introduce the reader to the Orthodox teaching on fallen angels, explain the goal they are pursuing and what their methods of tempting people and sowing evil are, and we will explain how to protect yourself from their intrigues. A special section is dedicated to the theme of modern occultism and demonism, which are captivating human society more widely and more deeply. Observing with anxiety the successes of modern "dark spirituality," the prophecy of the Scriptures comes to mind: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil has come down unto you, full of great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). But it is comforting that the same success of the prince of darkness foreshadows his complete defeat and punishment, at which time our Lord Jesus Christ will again come to earth, surrounded by the angels and the saints. Then "Rejoice … thou heaven and ye holy apostles … for God hath avenged you … the devil who had deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 18:20, 20:10). After the defeat of the powers of the kingdom of the nether regions, there will come a new phase of being, and the righteous, having overcome the temptation of the spiritual seducer, will be made bright like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
Holy Scripture on evil spirits.
The Holy Scriptures teach that besides the visible, material world there exists a vast and varied spiritual world. This world is so different from ours and so much richer that we cannot completely understand its state; we cannot even satisfactorily imagine it. Nevertheless, regardless of the existing separation, the spiritual and physical worlds interact with one another in known ways.
The spiritual world falls into two different and even contradictory spheres of being. One of these is called Heaven — this is the kingdom of light in which God reveals His glory to the blessed spirits. It is inhabited by angels and the souls of the righteous. The other sphere — this is hell — is the kingdom of darkness and the place of suffering, in which are tormented the demons and the souls of unrepentant sinners.
The demons, like the angels, are not self-existent. Although they are immortal, they are not eternal. Only God alone is eternal. Long before the foundation of our physical world, God created the spiritual world and inhabited it with angels, intelligent and kind creatures that He endowed with intelligence, free will, and different capabilities similar but more perfect than ours.
At a certain point in its existence, obviously before the foundation of our own material world, a tragedy occurred in the angelic world. A certain part of the angels, headed by Lucifer — one of the angels closest to God — abandoned its obedience to the Creator and initiated a rebellion. The Apostle John the Theologian describes the event in this way: "And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And the great dragon was cast out — that serpent of old called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:7-9). The Lord Jesus Christ refers to this incident only briefly, saying that He "beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). The Apostles Peter and Jude mention this occurrence also very briefly, communicating only that a few of the angels did not preserve their worthiness but left the abode appointed to them. For this, they were bound with the chains of eternal darkness in the expectation of the final judgment of God over them (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6).
Note: At a first reading of the text quoted just above, the reader might think that the war in the angelic world occurred when the earth already existed. However, it should be taken into account that in not a few instances the book of Revelations unifies in one vision several events connected with one another not chronologically but conceptually. It is thought that this apocalyptic picture does not indicate that the world already existed when the devil fell away from God but that a war which the devil now prosecutes against us on earth actually began in Heaven and that he lost that war just as he loses the present war when the Lord comes and completes His judgment upon him.
From a comparison of different passages of Holy Scripture, it is gathered that the reason for the fall of Lucifer was his pride (Sirach 10:15, 1 Tim. 3:16). The prophet Isaiah colorfully illustrates the arrogance of Lucifer when he depicts him in the form of a pagan ruler: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15). This picture by Isaiah is supplemented by the prophet Ezekiel, painting Lucifer in the form of a proud, tyrannical king: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering: the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of thy taborets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth, and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness. I will cast thee to the ground; I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee" (Ezekiel 28:12-17).
So, one of the highest angels, a bearer of the divine light, fell by pride away from the Source of Light and became darkness and a sower of gloom. He wanted to be equal to his Creator, to carry off His glory and might, but he only revealed his pettiness and ingratitude. Being powerless to give others anything truly of value, he made the lie his most important instrument of seduction because it was as if the lie had become his essence. Everything that he says, does, and promises are most impudent lies, though at times cleverly clothed in the toga of genuineness. Because he continuously lies, Holy Scripture named him Satan, which in Hebrew means slanderer. In Greek this corresponds to devil. Others of his names, such as serpent, dragon, Beelzebub, Belial, prince of darkness, prince of demons, adversary, prince of this world, enemy of the human race, liar, and so forth, show his ferocity and the destructiveness of his activities. The Scriptures call the angels that followed him demons, devils, and unclean or evil spirits.
Having lost access to Heaven, the devil concentrated all his attention on Adam and Eve, who were created clean and innocent. The third chapter of the book of Genesis brings out the details of the temptation of the first human beings. Thinking that Eve appears to be more pliant than Adam, the devil addresses himself to her with this evil question: "Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?" (Gen. 3:1). Eve, not noticing the wickedness in the question, explains to the tempter what is permitted and what is forbidden. Finding Eve to be naive and talkative, the devil begins to win her over explaining that God does not want them to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil out of selfishness, because if they did eat of the tree they would become like gods themselves and understand all secret things. Having persuaded Eve to break God's commandment, with her help he also seduces Adam. So with the deadly poison of sin, the devil strikes at human nature. Pointing at this tragic moment in the life of our ancestors, the Savior calls the devil "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).
Having sinned, Adam and Eve were deprived of the joy of communion with God and the possibility of living in Eden. The balance between the spiritual and physical forces in them was broken, and they became morally weak and inclined to sin. Having become sinners, they lost their access to the tree of life and they became mortal. The author of the book of the Wisdom of Solomon sees in the devil the first cause of all the unhappiness of mankind: "For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24).
Having struck at naive humanity with his deadly sting, the serpent celebrated. But the Lord foretold to him that the war begun by him had not ended but had just begun and that he, the tempter of the woman, would suffer a blow from her Descendent: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15). This notable prophecy made in the distant history of humanity became a reality a war between the spirit-seducer and human beings seeking God. In the narrowest sense, this prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ, having suffered on the Cross (having endured the bruise of his heel), smashed the head of the old dragon. Then on the Cross the Lord "having despoiled principalities and powers (the kingdom of darkness), he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). In a wider sense, this prophecy is also fulfilled in the life of every Christian when he, armed with the strength of Christ, repulses the tempter (Luke 10:19), although he, like Christ, sometimes also undergoes physical sufferings. The earliest narrations of the Old Testament speak little about the devil. Nevertheless, they continually describe him as the evil seducer and sower of every iniquity. So, for example, the devil inflicted the righteous Job with terrible puss-forming sores from head to foot (Job 2:7), and he seized King Saul and tortured him (1 Samuel [1 Kings LXX] 16:14-15). The devil inspired in David the vain thought to conduct a census of his people (1 Chr. 21:1). The demon Asmodeus killed the husbands of Sara, the daughter of Raguel (Tobit 3:8). Also in the book of Kings (1 Kings [3 Kings LXX] 22:19-23) and in the book of the prophet Zecharaiah (Zech. 3:1-2), the evil spirit is described with these very affinities of envy, cunning, and wickedness.
Taking into account the natural religiousness of humanity, the devil tries to pervert this religiousness, steering it in the direction of superstition and fanaticism. For this he taught humanity to deify all possible kinds of false gods — forces of nature, stars and planets, legendary heroes, animals, prodigies, and all that was able to agitate the imagination of primitive man. The gentiles, muddled by superstitions, did not understand that by deifying different objects they gladdened the demons, who took these reverences as pertaining to themselves (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20).
New Testament Scriptures on evil spirits.
The proliferation of idol worship and all kinds of superstition near the time of the birth of Christ was a boon to the already widespread dominance of evil spirits in human society. An outward indication of this dominance was the presence of a great quantity of the possessed; that is, people in the hold of evil spirits. Coming into our world with compassion for humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ began by first freeing people from the domination of the devil (Matt. 4:24, 8:16, 9:32-34; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:41, 8:2, 11:4). Some of the more realistically depicted incidents are the healing of the possessed youth (Matt. 17:14-21), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mark 7:24-29), and the two possessed Gadarenes (Matt. 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-19). In the last incident it is worth noting that not one but a whole legion of demons (i.e., a great number of them) became established in a man.
A thorough reading of the Gospel stories about the healing of the possessed inclines one toward the belief that what is being talked about is not epilepsy or another neurological illness but the exorcism of invisible, though very real, deliberately evil creatures that get pleasure from torturing others.
In order to expose all the ferocious savagery of the demons in front of the doubting, the Lord once permitted the demons to migrate from a man into a herd of swine that was grazing nearby. And there in front of the eyes of the astonished crowd, this large herd of crazed swine charged off a cliff, throwing itself into the sea where it drowned (Mark 5:13). And this fact alone, of the instantaneous transmigration of spirits from one creature into others, completely excludes any normal psychic illnesses. Reading the Gospels and other accounts about the exorcism of spirits reveals a whole series of definite symptoms of possession. First, the possessed show a specific negative reaction to all that is holy and divine. At the sight of Christ, for example, the possessed began to writhe with convulsions. There are examples of demons, having become established in some unfortunate person, recognizing Christ as the Son of God and with the mouth of the possessed begging Christ to wait awhile before punishing them, by not sending them straight away into the abyss (Matt. 8:29, Mark 5:7). Moreover, the voices of the possessed would have unnatural, inhuman qualities. It was clear to the spectators that it was not the person there before them speaking, but someone else speaking through him. Finally, immediately after the departure of the demon, those who had been possessed became normal people, and all signs of the demonic possession would disappear without a trace. You can also observe these specific signs of possession in contemporary victims. If skeptics do not want to believe in miracles, then let them at least conclude that there really exists a spiritual world if only from the behavior of the possession. We will return to the theme of possession later.
Now we will delve into the subject of the expulsion of demons by the Apostles. In preparing the disciples for the coming mission of preaching throughout the world, the Lord entrusted them, among other things, with the power and authority to continue freeing people from the domination of the devil. He began sending them two by two into the cities and villages, giving them power to drive out the unclean spirits (Matt. 10:1, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1). The Apostles did not expect the unclean spirits to submissively obey their word, and so, having returned from their first evangelical journey, they told the Savior with joy: "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name" (Luke 10:17). After this, the Lord, in a still more explicit way, confirmed that He was assigning them to drive away every unclean power belonging to the other world: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). Before His Ascension into Heaven the Lord foretold that the breaking of diabolic power would be a distinctive sign of the Church: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils …" (Mark 16:17).
And in reality, the preaching of the Gospel was invariably accompanied by the expulsion of unclean spirits. From the book of Acts of the holy Apostles are several accounts of the healing of the possessed by the Apostle Peter (Acts 5:16), then by the Apostle Philip when "unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed with them" (Acts 8:7), and later by the Apostle Paul, who expelled a spirit of divination from a young woman (Acts 16:16-18). Moreover, the blessing of God acted so abundantly in those times that when, for example, personal things that belong to the Apostle Paul were laid on the possessed, the demons went out of them (Acts 19:12).
Since Apostolic times, prayers of exorcism of demons have been an indispensable part of the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism. Nevertheless, although the Lord Jesus Christ defeated the prince of darkness and took from him every power over people and gave to the Church great power for the fight against him and his unclean spirits, it is necessary to understand that right up to the Last Judgment by God, unclean spirits will represent for each one of us a large and continual danger. For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ also taught us to continually ask God: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." The Apostle Peter calls to each Christian: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Being cast down from Heaven, the devil and his demons concentrated their activity in an area close to us — the so-called "aerial realm." The devil considers people who are opposed to the Christian faith or live a sinful life to be his subjects, and he uses them for his fight with the Church. In the words of the Apostle, these people live "according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). Now let us examine in more detail how the devil acts among people and what methods he uses. In part, we will speak of possession and about the methods of enslavement of people through occultism and magic.
Possession and demonic influence.
Holy Scripture distinguishes between possession and demonic influence, just as both are differentiated from mental and neurologic illness (Matt. 4:24, 9:32; Mark 1:34; Luke 7:21, 8:2). Because of the especially complicated nature of humanity, an exact explanation of the essence of possession is difficult. It is clear, however, that it is distinct from simple demonic influence, by which a spirit of darkness tries to incline the will of a person to sin. In that condition a person maintains sovereignty over his acts, and one who encounters temptation can expel it by prayer. Possession is also distinct from that demonic influence by which the devil takes control of one's reason and will.
Evidently, by possession an evil spirit gains power over the nerves that provide motor-control of an organism, as if inserting itself between the body and soul, so that a person loses control over his movements and actions. However, it follows that with possession an evil spirit does not have full control over the spiritual faculties of the possessed: those faculties only appear to be unable to reveal themselves. The soul remains able to think and feel on its own, but it is completely powerless to control bodily functions.
Imagine that the soul is like a pianist and the body is like a piano. One may, then, compare the evil spirit to a malicious gorilla that has climbed between the pianist and his instrument and crazily pounds the keys. Not having control over their own bodies, the possessed appear to be the victims of the evil spirit who enthralled them, and, therefore, the possessed appear not to be responsible for their acts. They are the slaves of the evil spirit.
Possession may take different external forms. Sometimes the possessed storm about and pulverize everything nearby, bringing terror to those around them. In this form they occasionally display inhuman strength, as, for example, the possessed Gadarene, who broke whatever chains were used to try to fetter him (Mark 5:4). And they cause physical harm to themselves, like the youth who threw himself into fire or water at the new moon (Matt. 17:15). But occasionally possession displays itself in a quieter form, when people lose for a time their natural abilities. So, for example, the Gospels tell of the possessed mute who began to speak normally again as soon as the Lord freed him of a demon. Or there is the example of the deformed woman who was able to straighten herself after the Lord freed her from a devil. This unfortunate person lived with a bent-over posture for eighteen years (Luke 13:11).
In some instances the possessed display clairvoyance and the ability to prophesy. So, for example, there is the well-known instance in the book of Acts of the young woman fortuneteller, a servant who earned a good income for her masters by telling the future to people. When the Apostle Paul expelled the demon from her, she lost this ability (Luke 16:16-19). Although possession began to disappear with the spreading of the Christian faith, nevertheless it exists even today.
What leads to possession, and who gives the right to an evil spirit to gain control of a person and to torture him? According to the opinion of Prof. Kurt Koch, a German pastor who spent forty years of his life on the problem of possession and wrote a series of serious studies on that theme, in all the instances known to him the reason for possession was a fascination with the occult: either the person himself was involved with the occult at some time in his life, or he turned to servants of the occult for help of some kind, or someone in his family had earlier been involved with the occult. By the occult we mean such activities as the calling of spirits, spiritualism, fortune-telling and going to fortune-tellers, yoga, extrasensory perception, psychic healing, white and black magic, and, in general, activities in which a person turns toward the servants of fallen spirits (even though not consciously). In this way people involved with the occult put in danger not only themselves but also their children and grandchildren.
In our time, a time of turning away from Christianity and of increasing fascination with the occult, a greater and greater quantity of people begin to fall under the power of evil spirits. It is true that psychiatrists are embarassed to recognize the existence of evil spirits, and, as a rule, they put cases of possession into one or another of the categories of natural psychological illness. But the believing Christian must understand that no kind of medicine and psychotherapy are able to expel evil spirits. Here the power of God is essential.
Distinctive symptoms of possession that distinguish it from natural psychological disorders are described here below (Kurt E. Koch, Demonology Past and Present, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973, pp. 31-52.):
The Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples powerful means for the expulsion of demons; however, not everyone should undertake this task. From the New Testament there is revealed one striking fact in relation to evil spirits, namely that they absolutely are not able to withstand the name of Christ: the Lord Jesus Christ has a complete and irresistible power over them. During the earthly life of the Lord, His Apostles noted that a certain person had expelled demons by the name of Christ. Confused, they told Jesus about this and asked His permission to forbid that man to use His name. But the Lord answered them: "Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50). Evidently, this unknown man truly believed in Christ, although he held himself aloof.
However, it is dangerous for an ordinary person to enter into battle with the unclean spirits, even having the weapon of the name of Christ. The book of Acts tells of the tremendous impression produced on everyone by the accomplishment of miracles by the Apostles and, in part, by the expulsion of demons. And so, the sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva, themselves not Christian but performing exocisms for the sake of profit, wanted to try a new method, the one that the Apostles used: they started to call on the name of Christ to drive out the demon from some possessed person. Suddenly the possessed said to them: "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" And here he threw himself at the exorcists, and having overpowered them, he brought such force to bear on them that they ran from the house naked and unmercifully beaten (Acts 19:14-17).
Thus, one can see that it is necessary to call on the name of Christ with great faith and reverence - for the sake of someone's salvation and not for some practical goal or from vanity. In such a situation it is especially important to oneself to be defended by the strength of Christ that comes from a Christian way of life. In general, the matter of the expulsion of demons is best of all left to people empowered for this by the Church — priests, bishops, and spiritual elders. Any personal enthusiam and daring in this matter are extraordinarily dangerous. The devil is a very dangerous and crafty enemy. A person presumptuously entering into open battle with him can pay very dearly for his thoughtlessness.
Demonic influence is distinguished from possession in that in the case of demonic influence the devil seizes the very reason and will of a person. In the case of possession the devil enslaves a person's body, but his reason and will remain relatively free, although weakened. Of course the devil is not able to enslave our reason and will coercively. He achieves this subjugation gradually, to the degree that the person himself falls under the devil's influence through his own aversion to God or through a sinful life.
An example of this diabolic, demonic influence can be seen in the traitor Judas. The words of the Gospel, "Then entered Satan into Judas" (Luke 22:3), speak not about the possession of the disciple-traitor but about the enslavement of his will. Initially, Judas subscribed to the kind and unselfish motives of the Apostles. But in a short time he cooled toward Christ and became disenchanted with the usefulness of his mission. So that his efforts would not completely go to waste, he began to secretly reward himself from the general cashbox, to which kind people had contributed for the needs of the Apostles and for aid for the poor. He himself did not notice how the devil gradually darkened his consciousness and began to direct his will. Finally, at the Last Supper the devil completely conquered the unfortunate disciple and pulled him first to vile betrayal and then to suicide.
We see another example of demonic influence in the Jewish leaders and scribes who were antagonistic toward Christ. They disputed and rejected all that He said, and they censured and ridiculed all that was greatest and most noble that He did. These proud men did not see how the devil controlled their consciousness and will in order to hinder the salvation of mankind. And this is the reason the Lord said to them: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (John 8:44). Over the period of the history of the Church, there have been many similar antagonists to God, especially in the days of the Revolution in much-suffering Russia.
People under demonic influence are not simply people ignorant in a religious sense or ordinary sinners; these are people "In whom the god of this world hath blinded their minds" (2 Cor. 4:4) and whom he uses in the fight against God. The possessed are the pitiable victims of the evil one; those under demonic influence are his active servants.
The nets of the evil one.
"Woe to the world because of offenses!" said the Lord, and added, "For offenses must come" (Matt. 18:7). "Must," evidently for our spiritual growth. The Lord does not want us to be self-confident, unconcerned and weakened. He explained the problem of temptations in the parable of the weeds. The Sower (the Lord) sowed the wheat (goodness) in His field (among people), and His foe (the devil) sowed tares (temptations) among the good seeds. When the servants (angels) spotted the tares, they asked permission from the Master to weed them out. He did not permit this, saying: "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest" (i.e., until the Judgment). Only then "will the angels gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:24-42). In other words, a premature estrangement from temptations will harm the spiritual development of mankind.
Just as the fight for survival leads to the development of more perfect and enduring types of fauna and flora in the physical world, the same fight with temptations leads to the formation of more steadfast and virtuous souls. Just as ores of precious metal are tested by fire, and a student by examination, so in the same way the future citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven undergoes temptations (1 Peter 1:7).
It follows then, that the limited activity of the evil tempter enters into God's plans and is allowed by Him. However, God does not allow him to rule. The devil cannot ruin anyone exept those who voluntarily submit themselves to him.
The Apostles taught Christians not to despair during their trials, but to see in them a positive side. The Apostle Paul wrote thus: "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13). In the same manner the Apostle James wrote: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). In addition to which, God "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you will be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
For what reason did the once pure angel close to God begin to occupy himself with such an abasing and dirty deed as the temptation of mankind? Some are of the opinion that it gives him sadistic pleasure to torture and bring others to perdition. This is true, but there is also another more important reason. Let us remember that the Daystar (the devil) separated himself from God due to pride, wanting to be equal to the Creator in glory and power. Having suffered defeat in Heaven, he now concentrated all his attention on mankind, wanting to subject and enslave to himself the majority of mankind. However, he cannot reach this goal as long as people carry within themselves a single grain of goodness imparted to them by the Creator. Therefore, in order to possess anyone, the devil must first of all mutilate and cripple him morally. The devil attains this with the help of sin. By tempting mankind for some many thousands of years, the devil has perfected himself in this art. Here are some of his main techniques:
In order for man to subject himself willingly to temptation, it is necessary that he consider it as his own decision: then he himself will eagerly strive to seek that which he considers important for his happiness and prosperity. That is why it is imperative for the devil to hide his actions by giving the impression that he does not exist. The devil carefully analyzes a person's character, his inclinations and weaknesses, and adapts his temptations to external factors and circumstances.
The following tale from the book of the Acts of the Apostles illustrates the method of temptation. The first Christians lived jointly and harmoniously, so much so, that everything was communal. Those who were well-to-do sold their holdings in order to help their needy colleagues. Due to such a sincere brotherly love no one was needy, and Christians were considered by strangers as an example for the whole community. A certain Ananaias, being a wealthy man and fearing being called greedy, decided to sell his holdings and offer the proceeds for communal needs. In order not to become totally impoverished, he and his wife Sapphira agreed to give the Apostles only a part of the proceeds, leaving the rest for "a rainy day." As a matter of fact, it was their right to decide how to disperse their property. The deceit consisted in the fact that they wanted to portray themselves as being totally unselfish. When Ananaias gave the Apostle Peter a part of his money while proudly exclaiming that he was donating all his possessions, the Apostle, by revelation from above, learned that Ananaias was deceiving him and said: "Ananaias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?" (Acts 5:1-11). Upon hearing these words, Ananaias was struck dead.
The above story illustrates how cleverly the devil played upon Ananaias's cowardliness and vanity. Although Ananaias was attached to his property, he was not against being known as a generous donor. So the devil suggests to him a genial compromise, a way to save his property and at the same time evoke a general gratitude. If Ananaias would have truthfully admitted that he was donating only a part of his money, it would not have been considered reprehensible. However, because of vanity, he lied. He could deceive people but not God, because the Lord promised a great reward to those who will disperse their property to the needy and will follow Him, taking up the cross of poverty.
Gradualness is another tool which is successfully used by the temptor. Sensing the natural distaste toward vice by the yet undefiled man, the devil accustoms him to sin in small doses. At first, he suggests to a person to allow "a little" indulgence to himself for the sake of some gain or pleasure. And the devil calms the person with the thought that it is a single deviation from the norm and that having received his wish he will remain an honest and a virtuous man, as he had been. If the person succumbs to the temptation, the devil will then offer him another similar but a more weighty sin — again under the guise of a "small" deviation from the norm. "You shall repent later," the seducer calms him. Thus, by degrees, that man subjects himself to temptations; he sinks deeper and deeper in the mire of sin. Finally, the sinner loses all his strength for confrontation and becomes an unwilling slave to his passions and the products of the Prince of Darkness.
Let us illustrate this with the following example. Let us surmise that unexpectedly a person finds a wallet lying in his path. Opening it, he finds a sum of money together with the identity of the owner. His first thought is to return it right away. But here the temptor nears his ear and whispers that it is more logical to profit from the find: "Providence has sent you this money in time of need. There is no theft here because the money lay for all to see and another could have picked it up." At this point conscience steps in and admonishes that to appropriate another's property illegally is a sin and an effort must be made to find the owner. Here the devil disputes the admonitions of conscience and "logically" proves to the person that, to the contrary, everything is as it should be: you did not pick his pocket, and what’s found is yours. Should the person listen to his conscience and return what he found, he will experience an inner satisfaction that he acted honorably and did not take advantage of another's misfortune. Should he succumb to temptation, the devil will then push him toward other more dishonorable acts, endeavoring to make him a deceiver, thief, and extortionist.
The devil's method of progression can be especially well seen in the example of Judas — one of the twelve Apostles. Judas, having the position of treasurer, was in charge of the coffer into which people placed alms for the needs of the Apostles and for distribution to the poor. Dealing with money is always a motive for temptation, and as we see from the Gospels, Judas succumbed to it. He began by "borrowing" a little from the common coffer for personal needs. Having pity on the sinner, the Lord tried delicately to enlighten Judas; however, without success. Imperceptibly to himself, Judas became a thief. Finally the passion for gain so overwhelmed him that for thirty pieces of silver he sold out his Teacher. In this manner the devil mastered one of the closest disciples of Christ and led him to that terrible sin and suicide.
Not having direct access to man's will, the devil attempts to direct it through thoughts and feelings which in their own turn depend on outward senses. That is why the devil strives very hard to present something enticing to our attention and vision. The devil possesses man's will and enslaves him at the same rate that man subjects himself to sinful thoughts and feelings.
The devil checks our inconsistency. He knows that in principle any man, even though he overcame temptation a thousand times before, can always succumb to sin in a moment of weakness or imprudence. That is why he pesters man to his dying day. Having sustained failure in successive attempts at temptation, he stubbornly awaits another opportunity in which he can again try to incline man to sin. Being an experienced psychologist, the devil knows that man is vulnerable in times of stress and sorrow. Sometimes he waits until man simply weakens and becomes less vigilant and careful. At that moment the devil materializes and suddenly crashes down on man, pushing him toward that sin to which he is most susceptible.
It is due namely to the devil's perseverance that he was able to tempt the greatest righteous man of Old Testament times, King David. David, having surmounted many obstacles and trials in life, finally ascended to the throne of Israel. His foes vanished, wars came to an end, there ensued times of great prosperity, and David became weakened. And so, stepping out one night on the rampart of his house, he saw in the neighboring house a beautiful woman bathing in the fountain. He wanted to know who she was. It turned out that she, Bathsheba, was the wife of one of the senior officers in his army. The friendship with the beautiful neighbor turned into longing, and the king sinned. Bathsheba became with child from that unlawful alliance which according to Jewish law was punishable by stoning. Wishing to save her from a scandalous and torturous death, David immediately recalled her husband from his campaign in order to give him an opportunity to be with Bathsheba and thus give him cause to think that she became with child by him. For some reason Bathsheba's husband did not wish to stay with her and soon returned to his unit, which was besieging some enemy town. The problem seemed unsolvable, and so the devil imparted to David the following cunning plan: to send Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, into the most dangerous situation of battle, in order to have him slain by a foe’s hand. In fact, Uriah was soon killed in the fray, and then David did in a short time marry his widow and hide in this way the sin of adultery. Besides, the devil had so thoroughly clouded David's reason that the latter lost all ability to understand the terror of his double crime. Only later, when the Prophet Nathan by means of an allegory brought the king to judge himself, did David understand what he had done. In agony he fell to his knees and openly repented (2 Sam. 12). He could never forgive himself that sin and repented it all his life, composing a prayer of deep penitence (Psalm 51), which to this day troubles the hearts of repentant sinners. Thus the merciful Lord rescued from the devil's nets his fallen righteous one.
By this and similar occurrences the Lord teaches us not to be self-confident: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). If the devil in his boundless impudence dared to tempt even the Saviour (Matt. 4: 3-10), then who is free from his underhanded dealings? That is why in warning us the Lord teaches: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
The devil's main method, which saturates all his actions and essence, is lies — everywhere and always lies — the most heinous and shameless, although often capably directed toward grains of truth for greater plausibility. The Lord characterized him thus: "for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
The devil tries to corrupt everything to such an extent that it becomes mind- boggling. He presents the least failure as a major, irreparable tragedy, and a meaningless pleasure or a temporary gain as being the most important, almost as if it were the main aim in life. In pushing us to sin, he calms us with the thought that it is a natural and forgivable weakness. And when a person does sin, then the devil throws him into depression, and admonishes him that he has angered the Creator forever and that therefore it is fruitless to repent. The devil persuades any one who is devoted to some passion that they are too weak to try to reform. And those leading a pious life the devil tries to incline towards pride. He can even appear to a person in the guise of an angel of light or as Christ Himself, so that the latter should think of himself as being better than others: "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). In the lives of the saints one can find many tales in which with similar visions he tempted zealots.
With an unquenchable thirst for power, the devil spares neither his time nor his effort to turn any natural weakness in man into an untamable and revolting passion. He wants man to totally defile himself and become baser than an animal. Only then, through sin, does the devil gain control over man and make him his captive.
But thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, this control by the devil is not lasting, and his iron chains are weaker than a cobweb. It is enough for the sinner to address God in his repentance, and all the control of the devil over him falls apart as a house of cards. "For thus did the Son of God come, to destroy the acts of the devil" (1 John 3:8). The Lord is, namely, the All-powerful, who bound the strong one and plundered his house (Matt. 12:29).
Therefore, let us hurry to our Saviour for help and protection from the sly serpent. With a strong faith and a virtuous life we shall rise up against the fallen soul, and he, as it was promised, will flee from us! (James 4:7). Amen.
The enticement of the occult.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1).
Just as a child reaches for its mother for help, so does man instinctively reach toward God — especially during the trying moments in life. In God he sees his Heavenly Father, who wishes him well and who can even perform the impossible. The Lord Jesus Christ promised: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). God answers him who asks for something really necessary, such as: strengthening of faith, learning how to pray, attainment of the Holy Spirit, physical recovery, help in work, improvement of family ties, children's welfare, etc. God accepts pleas from all who address Him with sincere faith and hope.
Besides the fact that prayer attracts God's help to us, it is also remarkable in that it assists in man's inner growth. This is because prayer is not a monologue but a conversation in which God illuminates with the Holy Spirit the soul of the one who prays to Him. Illuminating man's inner being, God teaches him to seek not only that which is material and temporal but alsoprimarily that which is everlasting and truly precious. Man, while conversing with God in prayer, realizes that God is the highest and mightiest Being, who must be worshipped with reverence and love, who may not be manipulated as some blind force. Thus, sincere prayers that come as a result of various deeply felt personal needs, help in the moral improvement and inner growth of man and lead him toward the highest blessing — the Kingdom of Heaven.
In full contrast to such steadfast devotion, founded on faith and obedience to God, there emerges an unhealthy "black spirituality" of the occult. Here also there is an element of the supernatural and a search for help, but it is sought not from the Creator but from some dubious spirits or from some mysterious nonmaterial forces. If a steadfast faith in God ennobles man, then an unhealthy faith in the occult cripples him spiritually. This unhealthy faith is directed toward all that is earthly, trivial, and sinful. The purpose of this preoccupation with the occult is strictly utilitarian: to find out secrets, to attain worldly acclaim, to win someone's love, to strengthen one's health, to draw up bioenergy in order to enhance one's potential, to take revenge on an enemy, or simply to "play" with the mysterious. Many are drawn by the fact that all this is attainable without any physical strain or the breaking of civil laws.
If turning to God awakens man's conscience and rouses him to repentance and reform, occult knowledge, in contrast, does not bind him with any moral obligations: just take and enjoy! The main attraction for the occult seems to be in the apparent freedom from any moral obligations. As we shall see later, the spirits of the nether world are anything but unselfish, and sooner or later man will pay dearly for any services rendered by them. It is only at first that everything seems rewarding and easy.
Occultism is as old as mankind. In Paradise the tasting of the forbidden fruit was man's first attempt at receiving extraordinary knowledge and talents by means of the occult (see Genesis ch. 3). Sorcerers, shamans, spiritualists, and so forth have always existed, although covertly in most societies. Significantly, our era is witnessing a much increased popularization and passion for various forms of the occult, confirmed by a whole series of serious contemporary investigations. The booklets The Facts on the Occult and The Facts on Spirit Guides by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1991) gathered together information from many such studies in the United States referred to and quoted here and provide further details on some of the topics discussed below.
Thus, Mircea Eliade, a well-known scholar, remarks in his book Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions: "As a historian of religions, I cannot fail but be impressed by the amazing popularity of witchcraft in modern Western culture and its subcultures. However, the contemporary interest in witchcraft is only part and parcel of a larger trend, namely, the vogue of the occult and the esoteric" (The University Press, Chicago, 1976). Under the influence of the present day belief system known as the "New Age," thousands of people in the United States profess themselves to be "channelers" (mediums) and "psychics." Millions turn to them for counsel and services while being captivated by their writings. Some of these channelers are well known in artistic and entertainment circles. In Europe, Canada, Brazil, Russia, and elsewhere, there is also a noticeable increase in the interest in the nether-world. Occult ideas have even begun to infiltrate serious sciences like psychology, medicine, philosophy, and archeology. Pseudo-Christian sects spread ancient occult ideas disguised in pseudoscientific and Christian terminology. The New Age sections in many bookstores are larger than those devoted to Christianity.
Dr. Walter R. Martin, an eminent expert on cults in America, confirms that at least sixty percent of Americans observe occult practices or profess an interest in the occult in one form or another. There exist at least 3,000 occult books and magazines, and even traditional magazines that, though having no real interest in this area, nevertheless print articles regarding occult ideas, astrological signs, curing by means of crystals, and so on. In Russia as well, the passion with the occult is taking on epidemic proportions. These sad facts point to a socio-spiritual degeneration and are an indication of the nearing of the Second Coming of Christ (1 Tim. 4:1).
The word occultism is derived from the Latin occultus, meaning something hidden and inaccessible to most. In the sphere of the occult are included various unexplainable phenomena and acts which set into motion mysterious non-physical forces. Preoccupation with the occult strives for the following goals: 1) to acquire knowledge inaccessible through normal physical means, 2) to make contact with souls or supernatural forces, and 3) to learn how to manipulate these spirits or forces. The following is a partial summary of occult teachings and occupations: fortune telling, astrology, chiromancy (palmistry), chimerology (hallucinations), theosophy (based on the society of Elena Blavatskaya), kabbala, anthroposophy, spiritualism, astral travels (also known as astral projection or out-of-body travel), several varieties of mysticism, transcendental meditation, mediumism or channeling, yoga, telesthetic (unconventional) healing, healing by biofeedback, ritualistic coding, shamanism, sorcery, and all forms of white and black magic.
Presently, great popularity is being gained by the essentially occult New Age movement, which has incorporated into itself many of the more ancient occult teachings. In addition, a number of contemporary sects and cults have either originated through the influence of the spirits or carry within themselves elements of the occult and make use of occult practices. Among them we should count: the Anthroposophical Society, the American Meditation Society, the Baha’i Faith, the Children of God (Family of Love), Christian Science, the Church of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), the Eckankar movement, the Universal Society of Hare Krishnas, the Rosicrucian Fellowship, the Self-Realization Fellowship, the Spiritualists National Movement, the Theosophical Society, the Transcendental Meditation movement, the Unification Church, the Vedanta Society, the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Zen Buddhism — to name just a few.
What motivates the enlightened people of the 20th century to turn toward such unscientific and doubtful occupations as the summoning of spirits? The answer is that science and materialism alone cannot satisfy all the questions posed by modern man. Something in each of us thirsts and seeks after higher, spiritual answers to the principal questions, such as: what do we live for? Are there other worlds and other more complex forms of existence? What awaits us after death? Are there nonphysical forces which can help us to overcome the laws of physics and attain lasting happiness? And so people living in ignorance or simply ignoring Christian teachings turn to the esoteric.
These esoteric cults claim that they know the answers to the fundamental questions of existence and can open the paths to nonphysical forces. But their answers are false and the methods disastrous. The most frightening thing is the fact that they smother the fear of God in man and the sense of responsibility for his acts. The fallen spirits joyously tell the novice occultist that there is no judgment by God or everlasting torment, but on the contrary, that everything in the afterlife is easy and pleasant. So enrich yourself with knowledge and absorb the power given you. Truly, sometimes as a result of occult practices a person may develop unusual capabilities: telepathy, clairvoyance, the ability to heal by "biofeedback," the ability to move objects without touching them (telekinesis), etc. However, as we shall see, these capabilities are not self-developed in man, but come to him through the assistance of the unclean spirits, and that is the reason they are so menacing and harmful. True, in order not to scare off a naive novice, demons cleverly conceal their presence and present themselves as harmless roving spirits or as impersonal nonphysical energy, spread out in the cosmos or hidden within man himself. Now we shall examine and answer these claims of the occultists.
a) The nature of occult spirits
Communication with the spirits is realized either through spiritualism or through mediums. The history of invoking spirits (spiritualism) goes back to antiquity. It is mentioned in the Bible as being a sinful practice forbidden by God: "Regard not those who have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:31). "And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits and after wizards to go a whoring after them, I will even set My face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people" (Lev. 20:6). "A man also or woman who hath a familiar spirit, or who is a wizard, shall surely be put to death. They shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them" (Lev. 20:27).
During a spiritualistic seance, the spirit emanates either in the form of a ghost or through its reaction on various objects, such as by moving a plate, rapping on a table, or moving a pointer (Ouija board). In mediumistic seances, the medium in a state of trance gives up his body to the control of the spirit, which in turn enters the individual, takes possession of his organs and performs through him various actions and makes various predictions or revelations. The New Age in particular is popularizing this second form of communication with the spirits (or "forces"), referring to it as channeling (from "channel," to conduct or guide). In some instances, as the medium (channeler) goes into a trance, his facial muscles and lips begin to twitch unwillingly. When the spirit totally possesses the medium, the rhythm of his respiration changes, as does his facial expression, to the extent that the medium sometimes becomes totally unrecognizable. The voice changes as well; for example, a feminine voice may become deep and masculine. Coming out of the trance, the medium cannot remember what took place or what he said in his mediumistic state. At first the spirit cannot enter the medium without his consent, and it is necessary that the medium himself invite the spirit. However, after repeated mediumistic seances, possession by the spirit can happen involuntarily, in a spontaneous manner, with the medium becoming subject to the spirit.
It is obvious that among spiritualists and mediums there exist charlatans, although there also exist a great number who are quite accomplished and who truly communicate with beings of the nether world and receive from them information and abilities unavailable to others. A large number of ordinary channelers and spiritualists are unaware how crafty and dangerous those beings are in whom they place their confidence. These are far from harmless, roving spirits or impersonal forces of nature. On the contrary, there is consistent evidence from many accomplished mediums and shamans that the spirits with whom they deal consciously attempt to deceive them. They pretended to be benevolent in order to more easily possess and harm them. Furthermore, as Satprem, a student of the occult and of the Hindu guru (teacher) Sri Aurobindo, wrote: "The spirits can take any form they wish" (Satprem, Sri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness, NY, Harper and Row, 1974).
Robert Monroe vividly described an event in which, during one of his "astral" travels, he was viciously attacked by two evil spirits. At one point in the fray, he panicked and desperately attempted to remove himself from the torment. As he looked at them, they instantaneously turned into the images of his two daughters, attempting to throw him off balance emotionally in his fight against them. "The moment I realized the trick, the two no longer appeared to be my daughters… However I got the impression that they were both amused, as if there was nothing I could do to harm them. By this time I was sobbing for help" (Journeys out of the Body, Garden City, NY, Anchor Books, 1973).
The noted medium Emanuel Swedenborg, who had dedicated himself to communication with spirits and who was acclaimed by many as an expert in questions regarding the occult, attests to the fact that spirits with whom spiritualists and mediums deal are so cunning and lying that it is impossible for anyone appealing to them to establish their true personality and intentions. These spirits are excellent actors masquerading under the guise of dead souls. Swedenborg warns novice occultists with the following words: "When the spirits begin to speak with a man, he ought to be aware that he believes nothing whatever from them; for they say almost anything. Things are fabricated by them, and they lie … They would tell so many lies and indeed with solemn affirmation … if a man listens and believes they press on, and deceive, and seduce in many ways ... Let men beware therefore and not believe an iota of what they say" (A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, NY, Swedenborg Foundation, 1977).
We hear the same affirmation from Uri Geller, known for his ability to twist spoons and knives by means of telepathy. He and his mentor, parapsychologist Andrija Puharich, MD, often experienced uneasy feelings in their dealings with spirits, noting a somewhat odd and suspicious behavior in themselves. Both occultists were convinced repeatedly that the spirits conducted themselves ambiguously, as though toying with them (Andrija Puharich, Uri, NY, Bantam, 1975). Similar uneasy feelings have been experienced by other accomplished spiritualists and mediums.
Consequently, if the spirits in touch with an occultist lie, is it not clear they are not good angels and servants of God? Neither could they be souls of the dead, since, according to Sacred Scripture, souls are not allowed to roam the world freely. On the contrary, after a person's death, God assigns his soul to a specific place, heaven or hell, in which the soul must reside until the Great Judgment Day: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). Therefore, if the spirits of the occultists are not angels nor are they the souls of the departed, then, as the last alternative, they are spirits subject to the one about whom the Savior said that "he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44) — that is, of satan. It follows, therefore, that spiritualists and channelers who rely on the spirits of the nether world place themselves and others in great danger (as will be explained later). It is difficult to understand how people who would never trust a stranger so naively place themselves under the control of nether world beings, about whom they know nothing, and who are professional liars.
b) Is spiritual energy impersonal?
Let us now examine a second popular opinion, that through some occult practices one can activate the nonphysical energy which is either spread throughout the cosmos or is hidden in one’s self. This opinion is especially enticing to the contemporary skeptic, who acknowledges neither God nor the spiritual world. He gets excited that through his wish alone he can put in motion a powerful nonmaterial energy and force it to work for him. In anticipation of the existence of impersonal nonphysical forces, there has arisen a series of contemporary occult theories saturated with quasi-scientific terminology which are offered to the reader in the form of practical recipes for all occasions in life.
The great success of these occult ideas is due to the fact that the people who are seeking are spiritually uneducated and yet seem somehow to discover a new world where everything that until then was mysterious and impossible suddenly becomes understandable and attainable. There is nothing to be afraid of and no one before whom to tremble — everything is simple and able to be realized by him who has learned to manipulate nonphysical forces.
Note: A special danger to spiritual health is represented by that school of the occult which advises a method for opening the fountain of energy within man himself. According to this teaching, every person, having adapted to himself a specific technique, can develop in himself great receptivity to the outer and inner world, to save and reestablish health in himself and others, to learn how to be connected up to any information, to open the third eye, to perform astral travels, to learn to unveil his chakras (a Sanskrit word relating to the energy centers of the human auric (atmospheric) field corresponding to the human endocrine system). Having opened the chakra with the help of special methods in order to free psychic energies that offer boundless possibilities, the claim is that a person can be placed on a par with the gods — possessing clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, and so forth. Nevertheless, the masters themselves in this field warn that the opening of the bio-forces in oneself bears serious consequences. A detailed examination of this topic goes beyond the scope of this article. We shall indicate only that people who are occupied in opening the chakras within themselves sometimes irreparably damage their psyche.
Curiously enough, the very spirits which operate "in the wings" of contemporary quasi-scientific, occult experiments, are never insulted by the fact that channelers ignore their labors and silence their merits. On the contrary, the spirits willingly hide behind faceless nonphysical forces, since in this manner they can attain their primary goal: enslavement. And they are very successful in this, since their own prince, the devil, is a many faced and deceptive demagogue. To a person with intellectual inquiries he says: "I shall give you supernatural knowledge," and to a person with mystical tendencies: "I shall open up to you the mysteries of existence." To the person who thirsts for authority, he promises fame and power; to the person who is seeking worldly happiness, he promises all the blessings of life; and to the unbeliever he shouts: "I don't exist. I am a fiction!"
Therefore, having enticed a person with what he treasures most, the devil takes him further and further from God, until he is dropped into the bottomless pit. Thanks to his ability to adapt himself to the thoughts of a person, the devil has been able to deceive modern man with ancient, occult, fairy tales set in quasi-scientific terminology. Thus, even in our time there has arisen a branch of science, parapsychology, which studies and tries to scientifically explain the ancient practices of shamans and mediums.
However, there remains the main question: does there exist a nonphysical, morally impersonal energy, and if so, what is its nature? In order to answer these question, one must take into consideration that any energy or force, either material or spiritual, is intimately related to the source that generates it. Thus for instance, no physical energy or field (electromagnetic or gravitational, for example) exists "by itself" but emanates from definite atomic or subatomic particles. And since these physical particles are impersonal, the forces which emanate from them are also impersonal and therefore are morally neutral. Similarly, spiritual energy and spiritual forces do not exist "on their own" but emanate from spiritual beings. And since the spiritual beings (angels, people, demons) are individuals, the energy emanating from them is, it follows, colored by their moral state — good or bad. Experienced psychics understand this very well and therefore try to guard themselves against moral infection.
In the world we live in there is black and white, and there are shades of gray, as well; there is light and darkness, and there is twilight, as well. However, at each point in empty space there is no twilight, only total light or total darkness. Similarly, in the world of spirits there is no morally undefined state. Spirits (in contrast to people) are simple beings: they can be either totally good (angels), or totally evil (demons). Accordingly, in the spirit world there exist only two states: paradise or hell. There is no intermediate, neutral state. Having understood this, we must agree that the force (energy) emanating from God and the angels is always benevolent and draws toward good, but the force (energy) emanating from the demons is always evil and pushes toward evil. Having two thousand years of spiritual experience the Orthodox Church has established this fact quite unambiguously. The force emanating from God, or rather "non-created Godly energy" (in the words of St. Gregory Palamas) enlightens and enlivens the soul. "Lord, it is good for us to be here" cried the disciples, when on Mount Tabor the divine light enlightened them (Mt. 17:1-13).
However, people are much more complicated than simple spirits (angels and demons). That is why people can pass some of the time in a morally undefined state and are capable of wavering between good and evil. Due to the fact that in man there is a moral uncertainty and an inconsistency, the good and evil in him most of the time neutralize each other, leaving his spiritual energy weak and ineffective in comparison to the energy of simple spirits. This is similar, for instance, to the charge balance of a chemical compound that comes about from the sharing of electrons between positively and negatively charged molecules. In the spiritual world, there do not exist any morally neutral, nonphysical forces, because they always emanate from morally definite beings, angels or demons. Therefore, every time a person comes in contact with energy that is being exuded by these beings, he will experience a pull either toward good or evil.
Note: Of course, the fountainhead of all types of energy is God, who is good. However, the fallen angels have polluted the energy they have received, as well as all other gifts given to them by the Creator.
Consequently, the occultists are mistaken regarding the neutrality and safety of the nonphysical force. Since neither God nor His angels allow themselves to be manipulated, the demons are the ones who come willingly to the service of the occultists. Therefore, they dispense to the occultists the needed energy. But they do not do this unselfishly. On the contrary, they loan their energy with the purpose of receiving it back with a good return. Sorcerers, witches, satanists and many accomplished occultists are well aware of this but keep it in secret. Let us examine some remarks from a few specialists.
Professor Michael Harner has been a visiting professor at both Columbia University and Yale and teaches anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York. He authored the book The Way of the Shaman (NY, Bantam, 1986). His research in the field of occultism brought him to the conviction that the basic fountain of shamanistic energy emanates from the world of spirits. "Without a guiding spirit it is virtually impossible to be a shaman, for the shaman must have this strong, basic power source …"
Some Hindu and Buddhist gurus (teachers) openly acknowledge that their energy comes from the world of spirits. Idries Shah remarks, for example, that "Gurus on their own do not possess extraordinary spiritual power. They receive it from the spirits. To the gurus belongs solely the ability of concentration" (Oriental Magic, NY, E.P. Dutton, 1973). In the book The Adventures into the Psychic, Jess Stearn, a long time investigator of parapsychological manifestations, makes the following observation: "Almost without exception all of the great mediums … felt that they were instruments of a higher power which flowed through them. They did not presume to have the power themselves" (NY, Signet, 1982).
However much the occultists may want to be praised for their overwhelming capabilities, they are nevertheless obliged to acknowledge that in reality spirits from the other side work through them. For instance, referring to the parapsychological investigation by Lawrence LeShah, who studied a series of Western and Eastern psychic healers, Charles Panati writes the following: "But if the healers he studies had one thing in common, it was that they all felt that they did not perform the healing themselves; a 'spirit' did it working through them. They felt they were merely passive agents... All the healers he studied slipped into altered states of consciousness in order to heal" (Supersenses, Garden City, NY, Anchor/Doubleday, 1976).
One of the most concise reports regarding the question of psychic healing can be found in the collection called Healers and the Healing Process. In a ten-year investigation in which many specialists participated, it was found that "Any study of healers immediately brings the investigator face to face with the concept that spirit intelligences (variously referred to as guides, controls, or protectors) are working through the minds of healers to supply information of which the healer himself has no conscious knowledge" (Wheaton, IL, Theosophical Quest, 1977). This investigation also concluded that abnormal healing is more widespread in countries where spiritualism and belief in spirits is popular.
Consequently it has been established that regardless of the terminology used, occultists enter into contact with real fallen spirits who supply them with knowledge and nonphysical energy.
c) The fruits of occult practices
We have already discussed the proposition that these spirits are neither angels nor the souls of the dead, but are rather demons. The consequences brought about through association with these spirits will convincingly show them to be demons. This is the most fail-safe method of investigating spirit apparitions, to which the Savior Himself pointed in saying: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matt. 7:16-17). Here, then, the many cited facts from those who occupied themselves with occult convinces us of the following: a) that the spirits prod people who deal with them into all possible kinds of sins and crimes and b) that they damage their health and cripple their lives.
It is established that those involved in occult activities sooner or later begin to manifest psychic or psychological abnormalities; many fall into depression or are driven to alcohol and narcotic abuse. M. Lamar Keene spent thirteen years among professional mediums. In his public confession he wrote that all the mediums he knew, either personally or through others, ended their lives tragically. The Fox sisters, for example, ended their lives as hopeless drunkards. William Slade, who was famous for reading minds, became mad and died in a Michigan insane asylum. The medium Margery died as a hopeless drunkard. Wherever he looked, the same picture presented itself: mediums invariably ended their pitiful existence with an even more pitiful death. He was totally crushed by the whole mediumistic syndrome — by the deceit, commonplace depravity, thoughtless drunkenness, and narcotic dependency (The Psychic Mafia).
Besides all else, by disclosing their evil and sadistic nature, the spirits torture in various ways those whom they help. They do this slyly, in order not to frighten their prey ahead of time — slowly and shrewdly they increase the suffering. A person practicing the occult begins to experience a higher state of nervousness and physical indisposition, becomes subject to incomprehensible damage and various unpleasantries, at times experiencing unfounded terror, and begins to consider suicide. When he finally realizes that it is the spirits who are directing all these misfortunes against him, he attempts to rid himself of them and stop his occult activity. It is then that the spirits double their rage and smother him in a sea of greater misfortunes in order to frighten him and force him to return to them. By tightening and loosening the reins, they gradually enslave the occultist completely and in the end destroy him.
This observation is substantiated by Dr. Nandor Fodor, the author of the well-documented Encyclopedia of Psychic Science: "Curiously enough, mediumism, if suppressed, will manifest in symptoms of disease … Once the practices are accepted, the disease disappears" (Secaucus, NJ, Citadel, 1974). The renowned psychic Edgar Cayce is a clear illustration of this. Joseph Millard writes that in fact he was a pitiful marionette of the forces of the other side (Edgar Cayce: Mystery Man of Miracles, Greenwich, CT, Faucett, 1967). An earlier medium, Raphael Gasson, wrote the following from personal experience: "Many have suffered greatly because they started investigating into this thing [mediumism], and have eventually been brought to distraction when they have attempted to free themselves from it. Homes have been broken up, suicide and lunacy have afflicted those who were once in it, and have dared to seek deliverance from its power. Those who have found that deliverance, give thanks to God for His grace and mercy" (The Challenging Counterfeit, Plainfield, NJ, Logos, 1966).
Spiritist and guru Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual counselor at the United Nations, comments that many sorcerers and others having dealings with spirits were strangled or otherwise killed. He was personally familiar with several such occurrences (Astrology, the Supernatural and Beyond, Jamaica, NY, Angi Press, 1973). Professor Koch, who dedicated so many years to the study of abnormal apparitions, confirms that among those who occupy themselves with the occult there exist a high percent of suicides, tragic injuries and madness. He and many other specialists in the field of parapsychology affirm that extended preoccupation with the occult invariably ruins the physical well-being of a person, as if a certain inner vampire were sucking the strength of the occultist.
People fall into the snares of the occult because they fail to see the danger. At first everything seems pleasant and easy. Malachi Martin in his book Hostage to the Devil describes the fate of a certain "Carl," an accredited psychologist with a degree in physics and a keen interest in religion and parapsychology. Carl amazed his friends with his preternatural psychic abilities. Following his "calling," he seriously studied teachings regarding reincarnation and astral travel. Progressively, as he comprehended these occult sciences, more and more horizons were opened to him. Carl was both knowledgeable and careful. He was convinced that his research would be of benefit to science and mankind. Having received a professorship at a Midwestern university in the United States, he continued to experiment in the area of parapsychological and mystic manifestations. However, he slowly began to notice some negative changes in his character and mood. Later he began to be troubled by a feeling of distrust and even fear toward the spirits with whom he was interacting. And so Carl came to the conclusion that it was imperative to change the fundamental method of his research and to repudiate his original theses. At this time he became paralyzed and, falling into an incoherent state, he was taken to a hospital. After some eleven months of intensive therapy and exorcism, accompanied by prayers from family and friends, Carl recuperated. After leaving the hospital, he renounced all that he had attained in the area of parapsychology and discovered the mystery of his illness, that he had vaingloriously and freely given himself up to an evil spirit. Although the spirit came to him under the guise of perfecting him, and helping him to help others, he knew all the time that in reality the spirit was evil.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that so many have suffered from their activities in the occult and that there are so many documented facts relating to the danger of occultism, a multitude of people continue to hold on to the myth that the occult is inoffensive charlatanism or an innocent pastime or even a positive spiritual quest. It is none of the three. The opinion that besides the "dangerous" form there exists a "benign" form of occultism is also false. Some hope that with proper precaution one can derive some benefit from the occult. Unfortunately, all data point to the fact that in any form of occult activity something negative and destructive "adheres" to the person, from which he cannot rid himself without help from above. This being from the nether world begins to manipulate the person's fate and pushes him deeper and deeper into the occult quagmire.
It's like the contraction of AIDS. This virus, once it enters the system, "tricks" the healthy cells into believing that it is a "good" entity, so the cells let down their defenses and "accept" the invader. Only when it is inside is the virus discovered to be a "Trojan horse," an invading parasite which begins the process of destroying its host. Of course, the infected one can live a normal life for several years and may not even suspect that his days are numbered. Only in the final stages of this illness does the existence of this total destruction become evident. However, it is then too late! The occult will kill spiritually just as effectively as AIDS will kill physically.
There is another factor which, although extremely important, is not mentioned in the scientific studies of the occult. It is the vile theomachistic (God-fighting) nature of occult spirits: an unexplainable aversion to God and all other holy things experienced by a person after having received from the occultists any form of "help." To a person of faith, a sudden change in his spiritual frame of mind is especially perceptible. After he receives help from either a practitioner of ESP or an occultist, he loses the desire to pray, read the Holy Scripture, go to church, take Communion, seek the help and advice of the clergy, and so on. This aversion is generally in proportion to the energy received through occult measures. Repeated transactions with the occult put a person in a theomachistic (God-fighting) frame of mind.
Prof. Koch tells of the following event. In a certain Thai village there lived a Christian native who was an active member of his church. After hurting his hand, there developed on it a pus filled wound. In that tropical climate the infection started to spread very quickly, and soon thereafter a part of the hand became covered with a near black lesion. However, since the nearest doctor was quite far, this Christian tried to cure his hand with home remedies. Finally, when the gangrene reached almost to the shoulder, he went to the doctor and was told amputation of the hand was imperative; otherwise he would die from the gangrene. In a panic the Thai exclaimed, "What will I do with only one hand? Who will do my planting and gathering of rice?" Being seized with great agitation, he suddenly remembered an old Hindu who treated people with some kind of mysterious power. Even though he knew that Christians should not turn to sorcerers, his desperate situation pushed him to go to the Hindu for help. It seems that this Hindu was far from being a charlatan, and his magical powers accomplished the impossible. The puss-filled inflammation was checked, and the hand was saved. Soon after receiving help from the sorcerer, the villager stopped going to church and returned to the pagan faith of his ancestors. Thus, for his hand he paid with his soul (Occult Bondage and Deliverance, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1970).
Further on, Prof. Koch states that the most powerful sorcerer that he ever met was an Eskimo shaman, Alualuk. His occult powers were so strong that he even resurrected several dead pagans, one of whom lived another ten years after his return to life. However, this same shaman, having been enlightened by a certain preacher, began to believe in Christ and was baptized, after which he lost all his powers. When Koch became interested in the power with which he performed his miracles, the once-practicing shaman stated categorically: "Demonic of course!", adding that his power did not extend to practicing and believing Christians.
In our time the danger of occult participation has increased greatly because very often it presents itself as a religious and even Christian activity. Traditionally, occultism has not covered up its antichristian bent. Today, from practicing psychics and other occultists, you can even hear suggestions such as to go and be baptized, spend some time in church, receive Communion, and drink some holy water. Some of those psychics even call upon the name of God during their seances, read prayers, and make the sign of the cross, thus giving the impression that God's power works through them. This is all a terrible hoax! All forms of the occult, regardless of the cover up, remain, by their very nature, irreligious.
Truly, all the basic indications of the occult present in contemporary, "Christianized" extrasensory seances are that these are attempts to manipulate the supernatural powers for the sake of covetous gains. Religion demands submission to the Creator, faith, repentance, moral improvement, aspiration toward heaven and a selfless service toward good. In the occult, the object is to absorb a "bright energy," to achieve worldly success, to gain knowledge of mysteries, and so forth. All this is without moral obligations to God. A person who is pursuing the occult is not seeking Christ when he goes to church, but a bioenergy. While gazing at the icons, he does not see God, but rather a fountain of nutrition. He selfishly stretches out his hands toward holy items in order to "recharge" himself for his unholy deeds, with which to mock the greatness of the Creator.
What do these psychics say about themselves? Let us turn to the statement of Uri Tarasov entitled "I am a sorcerer of the fourth generation." In answer to the question of a correspondent who wrote, "I gathered that you performed sorcery over a patient with [a bone disease] with the help of your biofeedback, manual therapeutics, and psychotherapy. This is well known. We are acquainted with some representatives of holistic medicine. Are you one of these characters? Then whence is the sorcery?" Tarasov replied, "The answer is in your question. Why do I not call myself a psychic? Because a psychic achieves primarily a tenth of what a mediocre slight-of-hand sorcerer has mastered. The same can be said of hypnotists, warlocks, psychotherapists. Each of these capabilities… is only the tip of the iceberg." This was said with the utmost frankness. This is the "tip of the iceberg" whose foundation descends into the nether regions.
Because of the God-fighting nature of all types of occult practices, Sacred Scripture strictly forbids participation in them. We present here a few examples. "There shall not be found among you any one who maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or who useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all who do these things are an abomination unto the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God" (Deut. 18:10-13). "If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spoke unto thee, saying, `Let us go after other gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them,' thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is proving you to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. . . that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God" (Deut. 13:1-5).
Therefore, while a healthy religious life enlightens and morally ennobles one, unhealthy pseudo-religious occult activity morally cripples and destroys him. All forms of the occult without fail lead to interaction with fallen souls. Even though at first these occupations bring success in one's affairs and create an impression that they open before one unlimited possibilities, in the final summation one has to pay dearly for favors received from fallen souls. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
Means of guarding against evil spirits.
It is difficult for a person to imagine how cruel and crafty the fallen spirits are, how tireless and inventive in their temptation of a man and in the sowing of every evil. But in this they are not able to arbitrarily cause evil to someone to the degree to which he is under the protection of the Almighty. Only when a person distances himself from God by a sinful way of life and plunges into the darkness of disbelief and the passions, does he fall into the sphere of influence of the fallen spirits, which enslave him. The unbelieving and sinners - this is that material, that army, which the devil uses for the spreading of temptations and evil in human society and maintaining his kingdom of darkness. His kingdom, similar to a raging sea, surrounds us on all sides and threatens our salvation.
In opposition to this, the Lord Jesus Christ created His Kingdom of light on earth - the Church, in which a believer finds a quiet island, a reliable refuge and defence from the evil spirits. In reality, one's very entry into the Church at the time of the Mystery of Baptism is already accompanied by special prayers of exorcism read by the priest over the person prepared for baptism: "Thou who in verity existeth, O Lord the Master … Do Thou, the same Lord, delivering also this Thy creature from the bondage of the enemy … receive him into Thy Heavenly Kingdom … Yoke unto his life a radiant Angel, who shall deliver him from every snare of the adversary, from encounter with evil, from the demon of the noonday, and from evil vision. Expel from him every evil and impure spirit which hideth and maketh its lair in his heart - the spirit of error, the spirit of guile, the spirit of idolatry and every concupiscence, the spirit of deceit and of every uncleanness, which operateth through the prompting of the devil. And make Thy servant a reason-endowed sheep of the holy flock of Thy Christ, an honourable member of Thy Church, a consecrated vessel, a child of the light, and an heir of Thy Kingdom "
Then, with immersion three times in water, the newly baptized is cleansed of the dirt of sin that gave the devil access to him and is clothed in the grace of God, like a vestment of light that covers him on all sides (1 Peter 2:9, Col. 1:12-13). From this moment, in a figurative likeness of the Savior, the new member of the Church enters into the enclosure of the flock, which He, the Good Shepherd, vigilantly protects from marauding wolves — the devil and other fallen spirits. The Savior said of this: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:1-16, 28). Therefore, all that is necessary to one who has been baptized is to remain in the protection of the Lord. That is to run from sin and to preserve the received grace of the Holy Spirit.
But the devil, having lost access to the new member of the Church, begins to look around for new means by which to influence him again. He tries to achieve this by his usual weapon - by temptations. Of course a Christian receives from God all the necessary means to repulse temptations, but if he grows weak and begins to live a carnal life, if he sins, then the devil again gains entry to him and begins to enslave him with still greater cruelty. About this, our Lord Jesus Christ said: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and put in order. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Matt. 12:43-45). Warning about this danger, Holy Scripture calls us to be vigilant: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). The Apostle Paul teaches that a Christian should consider himself a soldier of Christ, finding himself in the middle of a battle. "My brothers," he calls, "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:10-13).
The Lord Jesus Christ armed us with a number of means by which we attract to us the grace of God and repulse the evil spirits. To these belong, first of all, prayer and calling on the name of Christ. We are taught to ask our Heavenly Father daily: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Many prayers, as, for example, the morning and evening prayers in our prayerbooks, ask for protection from the snares of the devil. At the end of this chapter, the reader will find a few special prayers against evil spirits. About the strength of His name, the Lord said: "In My Name shall they cast out devils" (Mark 16:17). Holy Scripture and the lives of the saints bring forth countless numbers of examples of the efficacy of the name of Christ in the expulsion of demons.
The experience of the Church over many centuries confirms that the demons are not able to withstand representations of the Cross and the sign of the Cross. These are for them like fire for insects. The Venerable Nikitas Stithatos says, on this theme, that the demons often disturb our spiritual organs of perception and rob us of our sleep, but a courageous soul can destroy their specters and put them to flight by making one life-creating sign of the Cross and appealing to the name of Christ (The Philokalia, vol. IV of the English edition, On the Practice of Virtues, text 97). And in a similar way St. John Chrysostom explains that it is not simply with fingers that one should make the sign of the Cross but with a heartfelt disposition and complete faith and that if one makes the sign of the Cross in that way, not a single unclean spirit can come close, seeing that sword by which he was injured and received a mortal wound. If we with trembling look at their places of punishment, we can imagine how terrified the demons are on seeing that weapon by which Christ destroyed all their power and cut off the head of the serpent. When the Cross is before us, the demons are not terrible and not dangerous (Homilies on the Gospels, part 2). The custom of wearing a cross next to the skin was adopted by Christians in the most ancient times.
Also, it is important to bless one's residence. Sometimes a home into which we have moved might have been defiled by the earlier occupants if they lived sinfully, blasphemed, enjoyed wild music and improper films, or were involved with the occult. Occasionally, evil spirits settle in living quarters in which murder or suicide occurred. In order to purify one's residence, it should be sprinkled with holy water during the reading of the appropriate prayers (see below), or, still better, a priest should be invited to bless it.
In general it is necessary to remember that sin attracts the demons. If, having sinned, we do not repent with all our heart, then this gives the demons entry to us. A sinful condition is like a tunnel through which they penetrate to our subconscious and affect us. Therefore, in order to be delivered from their influence, we must cleanse ourselves with sincere repentance and confession, after which we must with reverence take Holy Communion. Then, coming into us, the Lord, like an all-consuming fire, destroys any filth and cuts off access to us from the side of the spirits of darkness. It's good to train ourselves to commune regularly, at least once a month. Then we will continually carry within ourselves the fire of the grace of God. Christians of the early centuries took Communion every Sunday.
It is necessary to look at all these means that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us for salvation and for the attraction of His grace not as magic formulas but as conductors of God's mercy, given to us for the strengthening of faith and for confirming us in a virtuous life.
Here are a few prayers against the unclean spirits.
Troparion to the life-giving Cross.
OLord save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory over all enemies to Orthodox Christians and protect Thy people by Thy Cross.
Prayer to the Holy Cross.
Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee from His presence. As smoke vanishes, let them vanish; and as wax melts from the presence of fire, so let demons perish from the presence of those who love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Hail, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, his venerable Cross, for driving away all enemies. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me, with our Holy Lady, the Virgin Mother of God, and with all the Saints throughout the ages. Amen.
He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High shall abide in the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say unto the Lord: `Thou art my helper and my refuge. He is my God, and I will hope in Him.’ For He shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters and from every troubling word. With His shoulders will He overshadow thee, and under His wings shalt thou have hope. With a shield will His truth encompass thee; thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the thing that walketh in darkness, nor for the mishap and demon of noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but unto thee shall it not come nigh. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and thou shalt see the reward of sinners. For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; no evils shall come nigh thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. `For he hath set his hope on Me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known My name. He shall cry unto Me, and I will hearken unto him. I am with him in affliction, and I will rescue him and glorify him. With length of days will I satisfy him, and I will show him My salvation.’
Prayer against demonic snares.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, having struck down the ancient serpent and bound him in Tartarus by bonds of darkness, protect me from his snares. Through the prayers of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, of the holy Archangel Michael and all the Heavenly hosts, of the holy Prophet and Baptist John, of the holy Evangelist John the Theologian, of the holy Martyr Cyprian and the Martyr Justinia, of St. Nicholas the wonderworker, of St. Nikita of Novgorod, of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the wonderworker … and of all the saints, by the power of the life-giving Cross and by the intercession of my Guardian Angel, deliver me from evil spirits, from cunning people, from sorcery, curses, the evil eye, and from any slanders of the enemy. By Thine almighty power preserve me from evil, so that I, enlightened by Thy light, may safely reach the quiet anchorage of the Heavenly Kingdom and there eternally thank Thee, my Savior, together with Thine unoriginate Father and Thy Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit. Amen.
Further below, the reader will find two more exorcising prayers that a priest reads on particular occasions.
The kingdom of satan at the
threshold of fiery gehenna.
Holy Scripture predicts that before the end of the world there will be an extraordinary increase of the activity of fallen spirits. In these times many people, having lost faith, will begin to be attracted to the occult and to serve demons openly. Pitying the people who are perishing, the Lord will try to bring sinners to understanding by different disasters, but the majority of them will become as if blind and deaf, and "neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (Rev. 9:21).
This will be the time in which satan, being held back until then by the power of the risen Christ, will receive for a short time a certain freedom to seduce people who have turned away from God. The book of Revelation (ch. 20) designates the whole period of time from the resurrection of Christ until the end of the world symbolically as a thousand years. In a prophetic vision the Apostle John saw "an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season … And shall go out to deceive the nations …" (Rev. 20:1-3, 8). According to the Holy Fathers, the binding of the dragon refers to the moment of the resurrection of Christ, at which satan lost his earlier power over sinners, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and found himself to be restricted, "bound" in his activity in the world. "A thousand years" embraces the whole period from the resurrection of Christ until that time before the end of the world in which satan, using the departure of people from faith, again receives mastery over them - but for a very short time. Then, in agreement with the figurative vision of the book of Revelation, satan's spirits somehow fill the atmosphere itself that people breathe, as if they were hellish locusts infesting human society on all sides: "and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke out of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power …And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit [the devil], whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon (the destroyer) …Woe to the inhabitors of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 9:2-3, 11; 12:12).
Hurrying to ruin the maximum quantity of people, the devil gives over his power to the antichrist (a world ruler and enemy of Christ), "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thes. 2:9). His main assistant, the false prophet, will seduce people by various specious miracles, and "he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Rev. 13:13). These will be, of course, not true miracles, but different improved tricks, accomplished with the help of unclean spirits (Rev. 16:14).
These will be times of exceptionally severe persecution of believers. Because of unbelief and the depravity of mankind, the antichrist will be allowed "to make war with the saints [the believers in Christ], and to overcome them" (Rev. 13:7). But this will be only an external and apparent success. The Church itself will remain steadfast, as the Lord promised: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). At the time of the antichrist, the Church will only go underground.
But the very success of the devil in these times will presage his forthcoming and final destruction. Finally the old prophecy will be fulfilled: "In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea" (Isa. 27:1). St. John the Theologian, the scrutinizer of prophecy, saw in his prophetic vision, how "the beast was taken [the antichrist] and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him …These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone …After which …the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 19:20, 20:10).
Such a total and all-shattering end of the self-exalted Daystar, of the spirits who became apostates with him and of all their dark kingdom! With their precipitation into Gehenna will end all seductions, violence, lies and every evil in the world, and eternal blessedness of the saved will begin. This joyous time approaches, but we should be especially vigilant in our devotion to Christ and urge ourselves to burn with faith, so as not to prove to be enticed away by the flood of temptations that satan will direct against humanity on the eve of his complete defeat. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev. 3:21).
And so, the devil and the demons are manifest as real and not imaginary beings that present to us a great and continuous danger. Although they do not have sovereignty over those believing in Christ, they use the sinfulness of people to enslave them and to push them into various wrongful acts. Therefore, it is necessary for all of us to beware of sins and to try to live a pious and holy life. We must remember that the fallen spirits are very skilled in the seduction of people and possess a huge amount of experience. All their time and powers are directed at leading us away from the Lord and ruining us. The Lord limits their activity and defends us from their snares. However, He allows them to tempt us for the sake of our spiritual good, so that we do not get lazy but live vigilantly and grow spiritually.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave us powerful means for the repulsion of evil spirits: His Name, prayer, the Cross, holy water, and, especially, Holy Communion. Let us use these means and live for that which is good until we reach the quiet anchorage of the Heavenly Kingdom! Amen.
Prayer by a priest for a home troubled by evil spirits.
O Lord God of our salvation, Son of the Living God, Who is borne by the Cherubim, being above all dominions, principalities, authorities and powers: You are great and fearsome to all around You. You are the One Who set the heavens like a vault and made the earth in Your might; Who directs the universe in Your wisdom. When earthquakes occur under heaven from the foundations, its pillars are unshaken. You speak and the sun does not shine. You sealed the stars. You forbad the seas and dried them up. Authorities and dominions hide from Your wrath, and the rock trembles before You.
You obliterated the gates of brass and demolished the bars of iron. You bound the Mighty One and smashed his vessels. By Your Cross You cast down tyrants and drew in the Serpent with the hook of Your humanity. Having cast him down, You bound him with hooks in the gloom of Tartarus.
As the same Lord, the Hope of those who place their confirmation on You, and the Wall of might for those whose expectation is in You, anathematize, drive away and transform all diabolical actions and all satanic indictments, all slanders of the Adversary, and of the powers lying under this roof. Free those bearing the Sign which is awesome against demons: the Cross of Your victory, and calling upon Your gracious Name, from possession by him and from those wandering about under this roof.
Yea, Lord, You drove away legions of demons, and the demons and unclean spirits by which the deaf and dumb were held. These You commanded to depart and not to return again. You have consumed all the armies of our invisible enemies, and have made wise the faithful who have known You. For You said, "Behold, I give you power to trample underfoot snakes and scorpions, and all the power of enemies" (Luke 10:19).
Preserve, O Master, all who live in the house from all harm and every temptation from below, delivering them from fear of the feeble one and the arrows that fly by day, from things proceeding from the darkness and attacks by demons at midday. Let Your servants and Your children, delighting in Your help, and preserved by armies of angels, faithfully sing with one accord: "The Lord is my Helper and I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" and again, "I will fear no evil, for You are with me."
As You are my Confirmation, O God, Mighty Master, Prince of Peace, and Father of the age to come, for Your kingdom is an eternal Kingdom, to you alone is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer of interdiction of St. Basil the Great
that is read by a priest over one suffering from demons.
O God of gods and Lord of lords, Creator of the fiery ranks, and Fashioner of the fleshless powers, the Artisan of heavenly things and those under the heavens, Whom no man has seen, nor is able to see, Whom all creation fears: Into the dark depths of Hell You hurled the commander who had become proud, and who, because of his disobedient service, was cast down from the height to earth, as well as the angels that fell away with him, all having become evil demons. Grant that this my exorcism being performed in Your awesome name, be terrible to the Master of evil and to all his minions who had fallen with him from the height of brightness. Drive him into banishment, commanding him to depart hence, so that no harm might be worked against Your sealed Image. And, as You have commanded, let those who are sealed receive the strength to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all power of the Enemy. For manifested, hymned, and glorified with fear, by everything that has breath is Your most holy Name: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and into ages of ages. Amen.
Missionary Leaflet # E 62
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran