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