I made myself comfortable on our weathered couch as the older two girls settled in with a bedtime story. This much-anticipated book weighed heavily in my hands: a good sign, I thought. I’m not sure what I expected when I opened its pages, but usually I have few expectations of memoirs. I know people tell their stories, and I, the reader, may or may not see ways their lives intersect with mine.
This time, however, I was a bit surprised and very disappointed. The author, a woman who wrote she had been “raised Catholic,” peppered in her pages about energy healing for her preschool-aged son, reading horoscopes, having her future read by a psychic at the age of ten (!), and that if there was a personal God, He must certainly be a she and not necessarily a benevolent deity.
If you don’t see anything errant in the above paragraph, it’s time for an education. I don’t mean that sarcastically, but what concerns me both as a Catholic and a writer is that so many devout Christians are falling into New Age traps — with the belief that they can “baptize” such practices as yoga or Centering prayer (the latter of which is not really prayer but the emptying of the mind as based in Eastern meditation practices).
How do we guard ourselves against what appears to be good but is, in fact, dangerous and detrimental to our spiritual welfare? Subsequently, how do we arm ourselves against inevitable attack, both from those opposed to our Catholic profession of faith and from the adversary himself?
These are valid questions that cannot be fully explored in a short article. My best effort is to offer you some basic points that will get you started, but believe me, it’s complicated. The deeper your spiritual growth, the more subtle the attacks.
Custody of the Mind
Spiritual attack always begins in the mind, which is why it is very important to pray — often — to our guardian angels to protect our thoughts and imaginations. Once an unholy thought or image enters, if it seems harmless enough, we are likely to entertain it. And then the cascade begins: one small point of entry becomes a gateway for blatant evil to enter.
Guard yourself by practicing custody of the mind. This means fill your mind with what is genuinely good, beautiful, and true. However cliched the saying “garbage in, garbage out” is, it’s true: what we surround and immerse ourselves with and in directly influences what we believe, accept, and eventually become.
Satan also likes to attack our emotions, which is also part of diabolic obsession. Obsession affects both the mind and heart, to the point where you may move beyond simple temptations and are drawn to participate in an alternative type of therapy (such as acupuncture), because you are so desperate for pain relief.
It’s not easy to define the New Age practices, because many of them have been integrated into our parishes. Centering prayer is one such example, as is yoga. These are very, very commonplace and are overlooked, tolerated, or outright accepted. People get angry when one disputes these, among others, because they may have personally reaped the “benefits” of these practices.
Generally speaking, steer clear of the following: psychics, seances, seers, faith “healers,” Eastern meditation, Reiki, qi gong, astrology (including horoscopes), palm readers, Tarot cards, acupuncture, Ayurveda, the Enneagram, anything occult, Wicca/witchcraft.
Giving Up Unhealthy Curiosity
Scripture warns us against the above, and the reason is simple: we are turning away from God and truth. It’s against the first of the Ten Commandments, as well, because a) we’re putting faith in something other than God and b) we are making an idol out of something that leads us away from truth.
The Catechism explains it thus: When we seek out alternative spiritual remedies, practices, or healings, what we are doing is “concealing a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone” (2116). Further, “a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it” (2115).
I wrote about my personal experience dabbling in the occult five years ago on Catholic Exchange. More youth are being lured into the occult and New Age, precisely because they are curious about themselves, the future, and anything esoteric. It’s harder to follow an unknown path and accept the mysteries of life than to pursue enticing visions into the future and discover hidden codes and meanings that act like clues to life’s trajectory.
Spiritual growth and maturity involve a turning over of all unhealthy curiosity and desire for certainty to God, who alone knows the plans He has in store for us — for a future full of hope (see Jeremiah 29:11). This surrender to Divine Providence means we understand and accept that God is active in every aspect of our lives — past, present, and future — and we needn’t fear whatever may or may not be in store.
When we spend more time in authentic conversation with God through Christian meditation and contemplation, we are no longer pining for answers. Instead, we are satisfied with God alone, who fills us with His presence and love.