Dear Father Angelo,
I have recently been to the Holy Land, where I have seen two people who were possessed by the devil (at least, they seemed to be). I have asked myself a few questions. We Christians are lucky because we have exorcists. But what about people who belong to other cultures and religions? Do they have this kind of problems? If so, how do they deal with the devil’s action?
Thank you very much for your explanations, which I highly appreciate.
1. Outside of Christianity people try to defend themselves from the devil’s influence or from possession through magic and superstition. In the first place, through magic. In antiquity, royal courts were teeming with sorcerers, as shown in Exodus when Moses was presented before the Pharaoh (chapter 7).
Plutarch’s Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans also reveals how strong was the presence of magicians in the ancient world.
2. Magicians claimed they had the power to summon spirits. These spirits — that we can identify as demons — were divided into two categories: good spirits and evil spirits.
In Graeco-Roman antiquity this distinction between good and evil spirits was widely acknowledged. Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei serves as evidence of this, as it reports that good demons were considered mediators between man and God.
Saint Augustine also explains how advocates of this theory accounted for it:
They say that no god has intercourse with men. They who believe these things have thought it unbecoming that men should have intercourse with the gods, and the gods with men, but a befitting thing that the demons should have intercourse with both gods and men, presenting to the gods the petitions of men and conveying to men what the gods have granted; so that a chaste man, and one who is a stranger to the crimes of the magic arts, must use as patrons, through whom the gods may be induced to hear him, demons who love these crimes (Translator’s Note: cf. M. Dods (edited and translated by), The Works of Aurelius Augustine, bishop of Hippo, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1913, vol. i: The City of God, v. I, book viii, chapter 18, p. 332).
But Saint Augustine states that this idea is absurd:
Most admirable holiness of God, which has no intercourse with a supplicating man, and yet has intercourse with an arrogant demon! Which has no intercourse with a penitent man, and yet has intercourse with a deceiving demon! Which has no intercourse with a man fleeing for refuge to the divine nature, and yet has intercourse with a demon feigning divinity! which has no intercourse with a man seeking pardon, and yet has intercourse with a demon persuading to wickedness! (Ibid., chapter 20, p. 335).
3. After all, this attitude is still predominant among magicians who maintain they cast away evil spirits through the mediation of good ones. For these people is still true what Saint Paul said in his days, that is that whoever serves the idols, serves the demons:
So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, I mean that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons (Cf. 1Cor. 10, 19–20).
As a matter of facts, the demons are always enemies to man, even when they pretend to be his friends. But «no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light» (2Cor. 11,14).
4.Outside of Christianity this attitude is prevalent and many people seek contacts with magicians and sorcerers to cast spells or to foil them. Outside of Christianity there is an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and pessimism. It is just the opposite of Christian faith, which teaches that whoever lives in grace has God in his heart and scares all the demons. Those who live this way bear witness to Saint James’s words: «so submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you» (Jm. 4,7).
5. Besides magic, in the extra-Christian world many people resort to superstitious practices to protect themselves from the so-called “evil eye”, that is the evil influence purportedly exerted by some people to objects or to other people.
It is important to remember that superstitious practices somehow pay homage to entities other than God, and depend on them. Therefore, those who carry out superstitious practices put themselves under the devil’s influence, although unwittingly. This is the reason why they are strictly forbidden in the Sacred Scripture.
6. We should give heartfelt thanks to God for being Christians and to own God through sanctifying grace in our hearts. Thus, we are liberated from a world of fears and evil influences that cannot do us any harm, provided we do not voluntarily leave ourselves open to our enemy (i.e. provided we do not sin, translator’s note).
I am glad to remind what the Holy Spirit said through David: «You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you» (Psalm 91, 5–7). And: «no evil [David is clearly referring only to the harms caused by our enemy, Father Angelo’s note] will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent, for He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down» (Ibid., verses 10–13).
I wish you all the best, I entrust you to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by: Alessandra
Verified by: Michele