Fascinations and Trappings of the Occult

Most people are unaware of the ways in which the occult and New Age Movement have permeated our society, mainly due to the creeping atheism, amorality, and lack of belief in hell, evil or the devil himself.  We live in a cultural milieu that is rife with an overindulgent fascination with zombies, vampires, witches and warlock, yet this same society tends to find all things holy, peaceful and Godly rather boring and dull.  As Halloween nears, we will see an increase in the fascination of cults and the occult, of dabbling in the dark arts and black magic.  These are alluring, because they are forbidden, appeal to our fallen nature, and jolt us out of our lukewarm routines.  We somehow become awake and vigilant when we are scared, and let’s face it: some of us enjoy the thrill of fear.  Yet the powers of darkness are ones in which God has explicitly warned us to avoid for the good of our souls.           

I speak boldly and zealously about this topic, because it is one in which I have personal experience.  I attended Catholic school through eighth grade, and it was while I was in junior high that I was lured by a morbid curiosity for all things supernatural – but not what was exclusive to sanctity and holiness.  I wanted to delve into the abyss of the unknown, to witness levitation and be given the “gift” of clairvoyance.  I wanted a medium to heal my past and a psychic to foretell my future.  I looked at astrology as “science.”  I justified the Ouija board and other “party” games as being harmless fun, but I always – always – went home afterward and continued to dabble.  My fascination with the spirit world intensified as I read books about spooks, ghosts, and hauntings.  It was a secret life in which darkness abided, but I viewed it as a form of light – enlightenment.

The more I experienced, the more I craved another experience; it was a spiraling into a diabolical realm of which I had somehow become unaware.  But when the spiritual “happenings” crept in my life – slowly at first, then more vehemently and overtly – I wondered if I had been duped into the world’s view of spirituality rather than the true spirituality of a personal God alone.  To illustrate some examples, I experienced diabolical nightmares on a regular basis, and over time these were accompanied by my bed shaking violently.  My brother was terrorized in his bedroom by being levitated, as was my father.  Every member of my family heard footsteps in the house when no one was home, doors slamming upstairs, and voices calling each person’s name.  When I saw how my family was suffering, shame swept over me, and I confessed to my parents what I had been doing while at friend’s houses for sleepovers.  In turn, they encouraged me to actually go to Confession and renounce this evil; what a novel idea!  I obeyed and discovered the portal to authentic healing and holiness rather than the macabre fascination with the unknown.

In Scripture, we learn that God is a jealous God, and these Old Testament verses always left me scratching my head in bewilderment.  How could God Himself be jealous?  It seemed a contradiction and confounding: God reveals that jealousy is a sin when we read the New Testament, yet in the Old Testament, He claims to be jealous Himself!  What a double standard, I assumed in my own arrogance.  But over time, I saw that God’s jealousy is that He loves us and wants us only for His own.  He wants nothing else to consume our lives – no worldly enticements, no false ideologies or heretical philosophies, not even human affection.  He wants to consume our hearts fully so that we may truly understand the fullness of Truth and the beauty of His unconditional and unwavering Love.

When we seek answers to life’s mysteries in ways that are clearly forbidden in Scripture, we not only disobey God’s commandments, but we also sin against His Love.  Deuteronomy 18:10 & 11 states thus:  “Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead.”  We test God and we tempt Him when we, in our pride, determine that healing can occur by speaking to the dead or hope in knowing the events of our future or even in predicting our personalities or other people’s personalities through astrological signs and daily readings.  All of these things turn us away from God.  These days, they are wrapped in the form of “white magic” or “centering prayers.”  They are presented as prophesies or predictions.  But in the end, they all originate from the same source: the devil, the adversary, our ultimate enemy.

Today I clearly recognize the permeations of the occult in modern culture and society, though often they are cleverly and stealthily disguised in Christian or even Catholic outer-garments; perhaps this is due to my extensive devouring of research on the subject from an authentically Catholic perspective while I was in my young adult years.  I wish I had known the truth about dabbling “for fun” in party games that actually and literally do open a portal to evil.  There are many people in our modern culture who have opened this portal and are completely unaware of it.  Sadly, there are many Catholics who have been led astray by New Age thinking and practices, such as the Centering Prayer and Yoga.  I realize there are myriad arguments in favor of these practices, but when consulting Church experts who are seeking holiness in their lives, it is evident that many of the aspects of our modern culture that we readily accept are actually deeply flawed and even infested with heresies of all sorts.

My husband and I gave a presentation on this topic to our parish youth group a couple of years ago.  We discussed violent video games, such as Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto that have occult references; we brought to light the overt Gnostic references in Lady Gaga’s music and videos; and, yes, we even dared to speak against Harry Potter.  Naturally, as we suspected, hands shot up in the air and questions, accusations and all sorts of defenses spilled forth from the mouths of adolescents.

Sadly, we all have come to accept, in some form or another, the steady infiltration of evil in our culture over time.  The shock value of media that exists today would have left our grandparents falling out of their chairs due to heart attacks in their day.  The truth us, unless we separate ourselves from modern culture – even for a short time – we don’t realize its impact on our personal desensitization to clear-cut morality.

My challenge to the reader is this: Are you open enough to discover the truth about how the occult may be visible in your home or life, perhaps in the presence of movies, video games, and all sorts of pop culture?  Are you willing to seek the truth, the often difficult truth that is required in order to see the clear influence of the occult in our families?  “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you (Matthew 6:33).”

image: A Medieval depiction of a demon from the Sacra di San Michele (St. Michael Abbey), Torino, Italy / Shutterstock

By

Jeannie Ewing believes the world focuses too much on superficial happiness and then crumbles when sorrow strikes.  Because life is about more than what makes us feel fuzzy inside, she writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief.  Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers and is the author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to TriumphJeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and dozens of other radio shows and podcasts For more information, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com. Follow Jeannie on social media:  Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+ | Pinterest

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  • Claire

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It is sad how some of these things have permeated Catholic parishes. One parish in my area offered a Centering Prayer workshop several years ago, and another hosted a Reiki practitioner. Even among faithful Catholics there is debate about things like yoga and Harry Potter. Personally, I prefer not to take the risk if there’s any chance of an occult portal. Which reminds me, I need to check with my son’s school to see whether they ever present yoga to the kids…

  • Kat

    The Centering Prayer is a Christian practice…not New Age. You are calling a method of Christian Contemplative prayer a dangerous practice. Honestly, do more research before you write an article and mislead others. I was in the occult for 13 years before returning to the Church (THANK GOD) and I rarely seen the subject done justice…those involved in the occult are real people searching for answers in all the wrong places. While pride is a huge factor (as it was for me), it isn’t pride alone that drives others to seek for spirituality in a black hole.

    But yes- Centering Prayer is Christian, not New Age. Check it out: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/history-centering-prayer
    Wikipedia even states that it’s similar to Lectio Divina, and I can tell you by experience that it is. And that it is not occult. I think I’d know after 13 years of pretty much the opposite.

  • LP

    If you need “Centering Prayer”, go to Mass!!!

  • Frank

    I find it interesting how much discussion and disagreement yoga and Harry Potter (in particular) stir up. I do not practice yoga (although I do some “yoga-ish” stretching), and have not read Harry Potter (no interest). I wonder — are we making too much of this? I honestly don’t know. But, I do understand the concerns.
    Re Centering Prayer — again, not a practitioner (unless the Rosary is considered such!). Can some one succinctly tell explain to me what the dangers are here? I know several parishes / Catholic groups that offer it, and think that there are books written by religious / priests (Fr. Keating, among them) that one would expect to be orthodox and in communion with the Magisterium.
    I will do some searching on my own, but any tips on resources would be appreciated.

  • Frank

    I also find it interesting that at the bottom of this page, there is a drawing of a women in a lotus pose, obviously meditating / practicing yoga… maybe our Catholic websites need to think about who and what is advertised / shown on their sites?

  • Michael J. Lichens

    Thanks for your comment. If it is at the bottom of our page, those ads are based on your web history, usually. I am indeed working on getting more control over that ad space. If you find the ad offensive, by all means email me at editor@catholicexchange.com and I will get right on that.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  • Anonymous

    What is there about yoga that is bad? Please explain, as on to me it seems like it is just a form of calming exercise.

  • kierzek

    Pope Benedict speaks against Harry Potter: “It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect (children) and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it (the Faith) could properly grow and mature”“Yoga is by its very nature a Hindu religious practice. Yoga is not primarily about limbering up the body; it is about using physical means to achieve a spiritual end. So the question of separating the physical from the spiritual in Yoga is really a contradiction in terms.“Read more at http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/03/25/can-catholics-do-yoga/#0t79vT3Q4KjP34Yx.99

  • kierzek

    Centering prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relationalway, as someone apart from oneself. Rev. John D. Dreher – The Danger of Centering Prayer – catholicculture.org

  • Yes, Disney is very much occult-friendly. I am just wary of some of their promotion of sorcery.

  • Please see the Women of Grace series entitled “Learn to Discern: Is it Catholic or New Age?” There is a booklet specifically addressing yoga. You can find the series here:https://shop.womenofgrace.com/product/181/

  • Angeline

    Then please explain the phenomena of spiritual avarice and spiritual pride (two things St John of the Cross – a DOCTOR of the Church – remarks about in his writings) that permeates the practice of “Centering Prayer”, while informing me if it involves a particular “emptying of the mind” (which DOES indesputably bring very big spiritual dangers).
    But out of special concern… Why is Wikipedia being consulted as if it is an authority of Christianity and the Christian Perspective, especially for “comparative”ness? Christ gave Teaching authority to the Pope and Bishops (I’ll Papa at the top) and the Magisterium and Tradition of the Catholic Church. Not individual self-exaltation (the “spiritual pride” of experience – the mother of all illusion), and not through cyberspace (cyberspace was not given infallibility, certainly Wikipedia is included in that).
    I will pray for your continued healing, and hope you would be so gracious to pray for mine as well. God bless and keep you. 🙂

  • Please refer to the Women of Grace “Learn to Discern” study series entitled “Is it Christian or New Age.” Here is the booklet pertaining to centering prayer: https://shop.womenofgrace.com/product/180/

  • I beg to differ, Kat. Please refer to the “Learn to Discern” study series sponsored by Women of Grace of EWTN. See link here: https://shop.womenofgrace.com/product/180/

  • katwomansz

    I’m being shown an ad for shoes that I have not had to buy for years. Ads these days scan your history for clues. It just helps them make money to host the site.

  • Frank

    So maybe the fact that most of my web history will show CE and other Catholic sites leads to a “meditation” ad?

  • PC

    Seeking God by spiritually “emptying” oneself and “accepting” everything sounds like a recipe for spiritual disaster, akin to dismantling defenses and allowing anything in.

    Rather, calling on Jesus and allowing ourselves to be immersed in Him is what we are truly looking for…we can go beyond having a relationship to having our hearts be in complete union with His…to where there is no concept of us apart from Him…this is what He calls us to.

    Yet, this is what He gives us in the Eucharist. In Holy Communion we receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and can be truly united in Him.

    If we strive to stay in union with Him, through the Eucharist, Confession and Adoration, we can more easily accept everything that happens in life, trusting that it is part of His Divine Will.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    It wouldn’t be the strangest thing, but it’s still odd and I’ll be working with our folks to get it corrected. It might also show the ad because the system reads “yoga” and “meditation” but no further context. It’s supposed to “targeted” ads and it normally isn’t an issue, but we do want to keep it Catholic so it’s my goal to have that corrected by the end of the week. Pardon me for the annoyances in the meantime.

  • kierzek

    Disney has become a cesspool of toxic waste.

  • kierzek

    Amen!

  • Blobee

    Yoga postures are prayer poses to various Hindu gods. When you perform the poses, you are spiritually praying to these gods. These gods are not gods, but rather, demons.

  • Moe

    Um Yoga isn’t Catholic? It’s stretching and breathing?

  • From a psychological standpoint‚ there is this school of yoga called Kundalini‚ which is quite dangerous in that it induces a plethora of psychological disorders‚ from simple neurosis to acute psychosis‚ after the so-called ‘awakening’ regardless of a possession of a weak nervous constitution.

  • Oppression_fails

    News flash…it’s 2014. Levitating, bed shaking? Haha. Come on people.

  • Rachel

    Can you please comment on the tv show The Walking Dead….its about zombies

  • emd04

    My question would be how is Harry Potter different from Lord of the Rings (wizards), the Narnia series (magic, witches, magicians), fairy tales involving witches and sorcery….I never see this addressed, I just see the “Harry Potter is bad.” Well, OK, but what about the other stuff?

  • Michelle Marie Allen

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    “Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21

    I have always thought this meant that God dwells within man. That to find God was not to look outside yourself but within.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    “Be still and see that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

    Again, the message is the same here too… be silent and learn to hear God.

    I do NOT advocate “New Age” mystical teachings !

    What I do see in these passages from a Catholic version of the Bible, is that prayer and quiet contemplation(meditation) on the Mysteries of God is not the same as New Age thoughts and actions.

    If you are saying that people who practice some New Age teachings which stress self-centered thoughts which acknowledges not the Christian God understood as The Holy Trinity but only see themselves as gods themselves, I concur 100% with your conclusion.

  • PalaceGuard

    If you consider zombies as being a mockery of the Resurrection, I think you will see the problem with such shows. Additionally, if you believe, as the Creed says, in “the Lord, the Giver of life”, and reflect on what “power” would sustain such creatures (as well as the ever-popular vampire), then the wisest thing would be to avoid entertainment of that sort.

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