Chapter 7

Demonic Attacks on People

This subject is one of the most controversial of all in the psychic field, as well as being fraught with great fear and illusion. Therefore it is very useful to confront the matter directly and see what it contains and how we may deal with it. The first principle to note is that demonic attacks are very unusual in healthy conditions, by which I mean among people whose lives are relatively wholesome. This does not mean that they should have attained sanctity, but simply that their way of life contains elements of the Ten Commandments and even a few precepts from the Sermon on the Mount. They will fall from grace repeatedly, but will acknowledge their backsliding to God, asking in deep prayer not only for forgiveness but also for the strength to resist the assaults of the evil one more successfully in the future. The strength makes us increasingly resistant to the assaults of the evil one, who can conveniently be called the angel of darkness, or the devil. It is when we fall away completely from the spiritual practice of prayer and especially from the presence of God that we are vulnerable to the attack of the forces of darkness.

Most people would not even entertain the possibility of a demonic assault, so antagonistic is this approach to current thinking. This is no great misfortune, for the whole subject of demonic attack moves dangerously into the fields of superstition, fanaticism and sheer terror, so that our normal thinking processes - which even at their most inadequate are vital for our worldly activities day by day - can be easily eclipsed. It is for this reason that the subject should be addressed with some degree of responsibility, remembering that God is the Creator and ultimate protector of all his creation. People who have strong psychic sensitivity are open to emotional and deeply personal facets of the personalities of other people that are hidden from the great majority of the population. It is this aspect of hiddenness that is termed "the occult", and its deliberate investigation cannot be approved under any circumstances, because no matter what the practitioner may believe, such work is performed out of a curiosity that has its end in personal gain. And how easily we delude ourselves when we are fulfilling our own desires, especially when there is an attractive prize at the end which we may or may not share with others, but always remain in charge of operations! This is typically the temptation of the devil.

I should make it clear at once that this decidedly sweeping condemnation does not include genuinely scientific workers involved in parapsychological research. They should exhibit an integrity common to all research workers, and their aim, like that of all dedicated scientists, is the advancement of knowledge. In fact, parapsychological research has to date had a distinctly negative flavour, because psychical phenomena cannot be summoned to order and therefore compared experimentally. The nearest we can come to accepting the reality of psychical phenomena - to demonstrate that they are not merely coincidences occurring sporadically during a period of time - is to note that similar phenomena are reported continually in the lives of many different types of people. In other words, such proof as is available about the reality of the psychic dimension is not repeatable and therefore not reliable in scientific terms. What proof is available comes rather from the realm of personal experience and could be called phenomenological.

If, for instance, a group of people has repeated experiences of telepathy, precognition or clairvoyance (such as seeing a ghost), which they know to be accurately reported, there comes a time when the matter cannot be dismissed merely as meaningless coincidence. This is the usual explanation for all anomalous phenomena by agnostic observers, but it needs in some way to be put into a larger framework of reality, even if at present we are still groping for that framework. It would certainly appear that the psychic field transcends the boundaries of rationality, and it could well be that a different type of experimentation will need to be devised to establish its reality in a broader context and to test and measure its own capacity.

None of this disturbs me, for as William Wordsworth wrote in his sonnet, "The River Dudden", no. 34 "After-thought": "And if, as toward the silent tomb we go, Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower, We feel that we are greater than we know". Words like these of sheer beauty, and music and visual art of a similar beauty, move me far beyond the limits of my customary rationality, so that I find myself in a realm where I find no difficulty in accepting both the existence of the paranormal realm and the eternal presence of God. In fact neither the paranormal nor the spiritual dimensions of reality can be "proved" except by personal experience and the effect it has on the person's attitude to the great things of life, namely: our relationships with other people; integrity in monetary and other material dealings; generosity in spirit; and a willingness to sacrifice ourselves unhesitatingly for the sake of less fortunate brethren (who, as the parable of the good Samaritan points out, include everybody).

When the psychic sense acts in close collaboration with the spiritual dimension, it is greatly magnified, revealing the glory of the whole world. The Spirit of God sheds its light over the entire creation, thereby illuminating all that is hidden and occult. It is this type of psychism that is greatly to be sought, and has been the preserve of such great Christian saints as Teresa of Avila and Seraphim of Sarov. The more usual, mundane type of psychism that is associated especially with spiritualistic mediums is considerably less edifying. Some of the "messages" come from indeterminate sources often purporting to have an exalted authority, while others may be demonic spirits impersonating the living dead. It is, of course, possible that some of the "spirits" are really aspects of a surviving personality or even a total entity growing in the afterlife. The one aspect of by far the majority of spiritualistic communications is not their manifest demonic character so much as their almost unbearably repetitive triviality. The same conclusion comes to me as I read accounts of reincarnation as elicited by hypnotherapeutic techniques. Clearly if we are ever to know about the situation of the living dead, we will need to transcend the limitations of our own personality, with its typically selfish desire for reassurance that we at least are destined for immortality. It is no wonder that the Bible proscribes all occult practices. If we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness - which means setting our minds on God's kingdom and his justice before everything else - all the rest, including reassurances about the after-life, will come to us as well (Matthew 6.33).

The test of a well-lived life on earth is our list of priorities. Those who devote much of their attention to the life beyond death, apart from specialist parapsychologists, show a distorted view of human priorities. If we cannot live our present lives satisfactorily in terms primarily of human relationships, it is vain indeed and almost terrifying at its worst to ponder over what may happen to us when we die. As mentioned in chapter 3, we make our future lives both here and in the life beyond death according to our present behaviour and our relationships with those who inhabit the world with us. The two sources from which psychic attacks on humans arise are hate-filled people and demonic entities which, in all probability, are the same as the angels of darkness that are recognized in all the world's religious cultures. In fact the ultimate agent of such an attack is always a demonic entity whether or not it works through the agency of a human intermediary. In this respect it is useful to consider the meaning and depth of hatred. It is a state of such emotional intensity that the normal intellectual capacity is completely overwhelmed by a negative, destructive power which, if unchecked, could destroy not only the person who is the object of the attack but also the one from whom the emotional discharge proceeds. Our own century has seen far too many examples of this mutually destructive tendency to require any further description.

But where does this destructive emanation arise? It comes from the combined forces of darkness that dominate the world, rather like the collective unconscious described by C. G. Jung. This darkness has a psychic origin, and its nature and purpose is essentially destructive. It works towards the destruction of all creation; its own will, which is limited in power and extent, is mastered by the human element. Here the will is much more potent, but the character considerably less vindictive. The combination of a malicious person and a demonic entity empowered by a dynamic will is a fearsome force to confront. On its own the emotional disturbance merely makes the individual feel discontented and out of harmony with the world around them. If they have good self control, which is the most important quality of a properly acting will, the emotional effect will be recognized for what it is, and its charge used positively for work of a constructive nature. A good example of this "sublimation" could lie in concerning oneself with the welfare of especially deprived individuals, provided this concern was not merely a mask behind which one may spread hatred against a particular class or group in the society in which one was working. In this respect the truly free will is the active manifestation of the true self, or soul, in the world at large. It is free inasmuch as it is attached neither to its own emotional needs of recognition by other people (to say nothing of material substance like food or possessions) nor paralysed by fear of rejection by its peers if they move in a different direction from its own way.

The evil that emanates from a destructive person is based on their attitudes, which are potentiated by demonic activity arising from psychic sources. Of the two negative powers, the perverted human will acting from a malicious personality is the more powerful. The demonic component is by contrast less strong, not because of its relative benignity but through its poor driving force: It is therefore always inadequate simply to blame a human crime or misdemeanour on to demonic activity. It is the human weakness that allows the demonic agent to produce its own baleful effects.

The destructive effect of a psychically evil or negative person affects the entire atmosphere of a place with a feeling of foreboding, that something very unpleasant is present and liable to strike at any moment. The usual physical signs of psychic attack may sometimes appear, but these are merely superficial events compared to the fear felt deeply in the soul. Sometimes the feeling of psychic malaise gradually lessens and the individual returns slowly to normal, but on other occasions the feeling of despair persists and can be the precursor of a mounting depression. The most unpleasant attack that can be mounted by a viciously motivated human under demonic influence is the effective curse, also called a malediction or an imprecation. This dramatic utterance may be a cry of fury in a situation where the person believes that they have been the victim of dishonesty perpetrated by an evilly motivated individual. The emotional response, which is a combination of fear and indignation, leaves them in turn particularly open to their own fear and indignation, and the result may be a terrified person who bears a grudge against a particular individual, or a racial or national group.

An outstanding group that is especially noteworthy in this respect are the gypsies. They are members of a wandering race (called by themselves Romany) of Hindu origin with dark skin and hair, living by basket making, horse-dealing and notably fortune-telling, and speaking a much corrupted Hindi. Their paranormal powers are well known, and when people purchase their wares they are assured of good fortune. But, on the other hand, if no money is forthcoming, a curse may be laid on the head of an ungenerous person, and I have no doubt that on occasions misfortune, often associated with ill health, has followed such a curse, sometimes lasting for a considerable period afterwards.

This consideration gives rise to a number of problems. When a curse is laid, how much is its effect purely psychological? The power of "suggestion" - which is really imagination (and as such is used widely by those who advertise their wares in the media of mass communication) - is enormous. The terrible effects of propaganda in our own hyper-civilized century speak volumes about the poor capacity of perception among those who are schooled in one way of thought to the exclusion of a broader background of experience. If a curse is laid upon the average person, its effects are bound to remain in the mind for some considerable time. Indeed, if the matter is dismissed too easily and rapidly, the superficiality of the mental and emotional processes are demonstrated, and this is not necessarily a good thing. No one is the object of a curse who has not aroused the burning hatred of the person who has uttered it. The individual should turn the matter over in their mind to see whether there is any attitude within themselves, to say nothing of any culpable action performed, that has occasioned this emotional outburst in the other party. It is clear that I regard most of the psychological damage effected by a curse to be at least primarily psychological, but where there is great hatred of a persistent character that has an inwardly murderous intent, I would see the person as being obsessed, or infested, by a demonic spirit of high potency that was using the person's psychic energy for highly destructive purposes. The matter as always is one of the will; if the individual's will is strong and free it will be able to withstand even the most vicious curse imaginable, but if there is no capacity to choose for oneself, one is all too easily liable to be taken over by an assembly of destructive agents from outside if the conditions are right for their emergence, and these may show themselves as a curse. Some people who are both powerful psychically and destructive emotionally can intentionally or even unintentionally lay a curse on some article of considerable sentimental or intrinsic value.

This thought reminds one of the teaching of some among the charismatic movement, which tends to sense the devil at work wherever things do not proceed as they would have them go. At present this type of religion is extremely powerful because its phenomena attract a wide sweep of people with such proceedings as healing "miracles", speaking in tongues, collapsing on to the ground followed by a sense of deep peace and renewal, and the discernment of spirits. The discernment is closely related to the prior prejudice of the person. Thus the type of individual who is dedicated to a highly respected religious group is bound to be suspicious of all psychic communication, and quite rightly so from their point of view; the truth is completely contained in the precepts of their special faith, and anything outside its parameters is undesirable. People who are converted to a highly charismatic faith are strongly advised to destroy all objects claimed to lie under a curse, and I have known of a number of very painful incidents in which the misled victim of one of these fanatical groups, which I personally would have no compunction in describing as evil, has been prevailed on to sacrifice valuable property to the point of embracing severe poverty. The reason why I describe many such groups as frankly evil is because they are controlled by a master figure or figures that interfere with the lives of lesser members of the group to the extent that their own will is impugned. The freedom of the will is God's greatest gift to us, for we cannot even accept his love without choice and commitment. When a person leaves such a group in a brainwashed condition, they cease, at least temporarily, to be full humans.

It is interesting that the other powerful group that tend to see, from time to time, curses around special objects, are the spiritualists. When one considers how diametrically opposed the ultra-religionists are from the spiritualists, one can only wonder how they have this quirk in perception in common. But there is a world of difference in attitude between the two. The religious group are motivated by fear (even if they stress that Jesus has attained the victory), which in its turn leads to hatred. This is the reverse statement of 1 John 4.18, which we have mentioned on a number of occasions, that perfect love banishes fear. By contrast spiritualism, for all its failings and illusions, is not demon-infested, even if practitioners can play unwisely with evil material and cause considerable damage. It is for this reason that I warn everyone against "dabbling" in the occult, which includes the ouija board as well as spiritualistic seances. One never knows what one is dealing with, and the devil always has work for idle hands. It should be noted that "charismatic" phenomena are manifestations of psychic power. This applies to the miracles of Jesus and the various Christian saints no less than to various psychic agencies, like, for instance, spiritualists and other practitioners of the occult. It is the character of the individual practitioner that tells us whether their employment of their psychic powers is selfish or altruistic. A healing ministry such as that of Jesus or one of the world's many saints (not necessarily Christian in name, but always Christian in self less love and dedication to the highest that we humans can grasp) is a tribute to the psychic faculty at its highest.

It is when this faculty is misused to boost the personality or wealth of the practitioner or to denigrate all other ways to God except their own, that the psychic path becomes dangerous. One notorious way is that of "black magic", in which the practitioner uses their power for purely selfish means, in the course of which anyone who gets in their way is summarily removed. Magic itself is best understood as the employment of psychic powers for purely selfish motives. It is called "white" if the intentions of the practitioner are well meant, or beneficial for another person, but the more one thinks about the matter, the less proper does it seem to interfere with either the workings of nature or the benefit of a fellow human until or unless one's assistance is actively sought. I therefore have no sympathy for practitioners of magic, who, by the way, are not to be confused with stage performers. These merely use sleight of hand to entertain and bewilder audiences who meet in places of relaxation. The physical phenomena of mediumship such as materializations (the conjuring up of objects out of nothing, a particular phenomenon well described in India) need expert gifts of parapsychology to separate them from stage sleight of hand.

The whole field of psychism, and especially its alleged physical manifestations, is a paradise for the gullible individual, but the specialist usually needs little investigation to assure themself of charlatanism on the one hand or simply poor observation on the other. In parapsychological research it is well known that a psychic person performs better before a sympathetic investigator or group than in front of those who are naturally dismissive of the whole subject and automatically hostile to the individual. To me this stresses the close affinity of emotion and the psychic sense. In an aesthetic event like a concert, in which the psychic element is much less obvious, the performers are much more at their ease and play more satisfactorily if the audience is well disposed to them because of their love of music. The standard of performance is considerably lower if the audience is basically uninterested, and is wishing to leave the concert hall as soon as possible, perhaps to attend what they regard as more important events.

In my own experience, demonic attacks are liable to afflict three types of people: those who traffic unwisely in psychic matters, notably trying to make contact with the dead; those who use psychic means to predict the future or to do anything else for personal gain; and those who are afflicted with a malicious hatred against another person or group of people. If one is unwise enough to attempt to hurt another person psychically or by a curse, one thing is certain: the injury or curse is visited tenfold (metaphorically speaking) on a vicious or mentally disordered person. There is no mystery in this statement. Emotionally and spiritually whole people can reflect psychic ill will rather like a wall resists any missile hurled against it. Is it advisable to consult "clairvoyants", people who are claimed to have precognitive powers? I personally cannot recommend such a course even if these claims are true. I believe God always leaves the choice to us, and that all things work together to good for those who love God (Romans 8.28).

The matter is stated rather nicely in Ecclesiastes 11.1-6,

Send your grain across the seas, and in time you will get a return. Divide your merchandise among seven or perhaps eight ventures, since you do not know what disasters are in store for the world. If the clouds are heavy with rain, they will shed it on the earth; whether a tree falls south or north, it must lie as it falls. He who keeps watching the wind will never sow, and he who keeps his eye on the clouds will never reap. As you do not know how a pregnant woman comes to have a body and a living spirit in her womb, so you do not know the work of God, the maker of all things. In the morning sow your seed in good time, and do not let your hands slack off until evening, for you do not know whether this or that sowing will be successful, or whether both alike will do well.

I would go even further in saying that most precognitive statements are unpleasant if they are factually true. They warn of imminent death or larger disasters of one type or another. It is very common for a "sensitive" to claim to have had a premonition of a train or aircraft disaster which has resulted in a frightful toll of casualties. When the matter is investigated impartially it is usually found that the warning was vague and coloured by prejudice.

Demonic attacks on humans may show the character of obsession, or infestation, and the much rarer but far more dangerous possession, but clinical depression is nearly always of a psychological origin. In the obsessive state, the demonic agent is in close communication with the human, but has not overwhelmed or "taken over" its personality. There demonic infestation is associated with depression, a slackening of religious belief, and a general malaise that infects all aspects of life. The arts, media of mass communication, and even the sweet savour of food are deadened of all living interest. In fact, the afflicted person feels close to death, and the depression may on occasion almost make suicide appear a justifiable option. Once the demonic spirit is sent away from its present place of residence to the care and love of God, the mental and psychological condition of the afflicted person quite rapidly returns to normal. The way these symptoms differ from those of spiritual dryness is distinguished by their response to deliverance.

The important aspect of all deliverance work is to send the invading spirit back to God's care and not leave it unprotected in the general environment, where it can do great harm. I do not believe that either obsessing or possessing spirits are necessarily evil. They are always misplaced, and this is how they produce their baneful effects. If the spirit is intrinsically evil, it is obvious that its effects will be especially unpleasant on the afflicted person.

This is seen most dramatically in the rare state of true demonic possession. Here the personality is completely eclipsed by the spirit, and now it shows itself in a most alarmingly vicious way. The human victim behaves blasphemously, rejecting all traces of any previous faith and sneering at anyone who still holds on to it. There is preternatural strength, especially when they are in the process of being exorcized, and if nobody else is present to protect the exorcist during the grim procedure, they may be severely mauled.

Therefore in any "major exorcism" it is most important that the minister be protected physically as well as spiritually by the prayers of the faithful, which are always essential in the ministry of deliverance. This is not a work of virtuoso psychic brilliance but of a group of devout Christians working together under the leadership of Christ.

Another phenomenon that is well recognized in people who are demonically possessed is a hyperacuteness of psychic awareness; they tend especially to exhibit clairvoyance. They may be able to recognize a person coming to visit them for the first time. Their manifestation is complete in its form even when they show themselves fully for the first time to be demonic spirits. One remembers the account of Jesus exorcizing demonic spirits from two possessed men inhabiting the territory of the Gadarenes. These spirits recognized Christ at once as the Son of God, and asked whether he had come to torture them before their time, requesting that if he is to drive them out, they may be sent into a herd of pigs. This dramatic narrative occurs in Matthew 8.28-34, and also in Mark 5.1-20 and Luke 8.26-39, in which latter two only one possessed man appears and the territory is that of the Gerasenes.

One might say in passing that incarcerating demonic spirits in an earthly domain can only be recommended as a transient place of rest (and safety for the rest of us). I would expect that those "unclean spirits" were soon sent on to the full caring love of the Father. The removal of demonic spirits is an integral part of the healing ministry, because they transmit psychic debility which weakens the entire human organism. When Jesus performed a work of deliverance not only did he release the spirit from bondage to evil humans so that it could pursue its proper work as assigned to it by God; but he also removed a source of imprisonment from humans so that they could be free to realize their potential as sons of God, in imitation of the Son of God who shows us all the full meaning of wholeness, which is the end of the healing ministry. A demonic spirit is primarily alone, but can express its malevolence by being manifest, for example, in human company rather than by staying aloof.

Two Johannine statements attributed to Christ illustrate this full healing ministry: "If you stand by my teaching, you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8.31-2), and "I have come that they may have life, and may have it in all its fullness" (John 10.10). It is bondage to our lower nature, the repository of all that is selfish and unclean in us, that not only imprisons us by its own action, but also lays us open to demonic attack. Understanding this important truth and acting upon it will set us free in the way that Jesus indicates both by his teaching and in his life. Life and truth are inextricably bound together, and the uniting agents are love and courage. The love will make us open to all varieties of people so that we may serve them without preference. Courage makes us able to renounce all that is personally dear to us to the glory of all living creatures. In another famous statement of Jesus there is a union of life and freedom, love and truth. "There is no greater love than this, that someone should lay down his life for his friends" (John 15.13).

We judge ourselves and are judged by others on our sequence of priorities. On what do we place the highest value in our life? Is it material security, the recognition of other people, the fulfilment of our native potentialities, or our prestige and significance in society generally? None of these is to be dismissed as merely trivial, for while we are living in the world we are bound to respond to its scale of values for our own education as well as to be of assistance to other people. Indeed, the more we understand what life is teaching us, the more do our own learning and the ability to help other people come together. The psychic realm plays an essential part in this education process, for when we are surrounded by spiritual entities of indifferent character, the more are we challenged to use our own powers of discernment and to rely less on the opinions of other people, especially on matters of a moral nature.

The evil aspects of demonic attack wreak their worst effects by breaking our own spirit, so that we become like whimpering children. We have to learn to overcome this innate weakness, this cowardly response that prevents us becoming full humans of the type promised by Jesus in John 10.10. If our trust is firmly rooted in Christ, our true representative of the Father in the world, we can, through no effort of our own, move beyond fear to a living faith that shows us eternity in a single glimpse. The nature of eternity is always love, in which there is no place for fear of any kind. Now at last our relationships with a vast variety of living beings, no longer restricted to the human species, can be consolidated, so that we cease to be childishly masterful and destructive, but become constructive and compassionate initiators of a new order of creation under the aegis of God. This is the way of love in everyday life and in the living world of universal harmony.

Chapter 8
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