by Joe Meineke
Associate Director, St. Padre Pio Center for Deliverance Counseling
Demons rarely manifest themselves as they truly are. Their hatred, rage, and desire for the eternal damnation of souls are hidden behind subtle and carefully chosen disguises. Scarcely would anyone follow these creatures if they dared to manifest themselves honestly.
Demons have an extensive knowledge, relatively speaking, of human nature and the psychology of man. Demons can size up an individual and can determine a customized plan of destruction for that individual or group of individuals. Demons are cunning and have the wisdom of the ages at their disposal. Demons draw upon their vast knowledge of what works and what does not work in leading souls to Hell. With their superior intellect, their knowledge of man, their burning desire to keep man from the vision of God and their millennia of experience in doing just that, demons are a foe that must be dealt with deadly seriousness.
Our enemy is powerful and not to be taken lightly. God, however, is infinitely greater in power than Satan and his minions can ever hope to be. To lose sight of this fact is to fall into one of Satan’s favorite traps. We must always be on guard to not give demons more credit than they are due or to have an unhealthy and inappropriate fear of them – we cannot and must not give demons the fear and respect due to God alone. Rest assured that God has given his holy angels “charge over us lest we dash our foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-13). God’s angels watch over us and defend us against the enemy’s attacks. Therefore, if we have “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-12), we have nothing to fear.
When we talk about the subject of demons posing as human spirits, either in a haunted house or in communications through an Ouija board, a medium, or whatever other means of channeling, contacting, or interacting with them, we can summarize their reasons for their ruses as follows, dividing up the sections into the methods of the demons and their goals:
- Demons masquerade as human spirits to hide their true identity
- Demons masquerade as human spirits to appear harmless or benign to their subjects
- Demons often describe themselves as a young person who died a horrible and tragic death
- Demons entice their subjects to probe deeper and ask questions relating to hidden knowledge
- Demons pose as human spirits to develop the trust of their subjects and to foster a personal relationship, or bond, with them
- To gain entry through the invitation of their subject
- To propagate the spread of errors and to entice others to do the same
- To lead people away from sound doctrine
- To cause suffering
- Their ultimate goal: The damnation of souls
We will now look at each of these points in detail:
1. Demons masquerade as human spirits to hide their true identity
There is no mistaking the reason for this deception – if demons were to reveal themselves in all their wickedness, scarcely would there be one who would willingly follow them into eternal destruction. Tragically, some poor souls willingly accept and embrace the demonic. Although some people are overt devotees of the Evil One and may actually worship demons (called demonolatry), most people fall under the devil’s spell through much more subtle forms of deception and trickery.
It should be mentioned that even practitioners of demonolatry are misled in their perceptions of the nature of demons. Most believe, errantly, that by worshiping demons they will gain power in Hell such as having dominion over other souls and even other demons. They mistakenly believe that there will be pleasure in Hell, that Hell is a place of sinful delights. This could not be further from the truth – it is a demonic lie, a deception that demonolaters believe in. Satan has lied to them and they believe him. Their love of the pleasures of sin won them over to the dark side by accepting the demonic whisperings in their ears. St. Timothy the Apostle warned of this when he wrote, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). I would venture to say that there are no more than a handful of individuals in today’s unbelieving world who know the true nature of demons and know the eternal punishment that awaits those who would reject Christ and follow the devil.
Apart from the case of the demonolater, we have the dabblers and the curious. We have the teenage boys and girls who, often with their parent’s permission, buy the dangerous “game” we know as the Ouija board. After all, it is just a game, right? How bad can it be since it is sold in nearly every toy store in the land? Those with experience in the realm of deliverance counseling, exorcism and paranormal investigations resoundingly agree in the danger posed by use of the Ouija board. In fact, the Ouija board is probably the number one cause of infestation and oppression (stages 3 and 4 in the Seven Stages of Spiritual Disintegration), and violent hauntings. This “game” does not only draw the fascination of youth, it serves as hope to the lonely old widow who desperately longs to speak to her deceased spouse. It also is alluring to the very young who may have just learned to read and who found the board in the stack of games in the closet. Incidentally, it was this “game” that led to the making of the movie “The Exorcist”. The child was possessed as a result of using the Ouija board. This movie was based on a true story. In fact, some of the demonic sounds were taken directly from the audio recordings that were captured during the real exorcism (let me say here that Hollywood did add their special twists to this true story (e.g., the priest did not invite the demon to possess him nor did he jump out the window, for example).
Apart from the Ouija Board, we also have cases of hauntings where the haunting spirit (a demon) poses as a human ghost. On the surface there appears nothing malevolent whatsoever. Lurking beneath, however, and often using preternatural powers to entice the already curious onlookers to further curiosity, there lies the demon that longs to take ground from us, to gain a better foothold in our lives. Once the demon has tempted the curious with the insatiable desire to find out more about the afterlife, and in particular the spirit that haunts the home, it has set the stage for the next act: Committing of the sin of communicating with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:11).
2. Demons masquerade as human spirits to appear harmless or benign to their subjects
Demons would have us believe that there is no such thing as demons or that “sure, we exist, but if you would just take the time to get to know us and understand us, you would see that we are not bad.” (Yes, I have heard some promote this theory). Some demons pose as “elders”, as “spirit guides” or as “ascended masters” (there are no such things) and appear on the surface to have a genuine concern for the evolution and betterment of mankind. Several books are still on the market, and no doubt more will follow, written by these accursed spirits. This type of deception is commonly found in the New Age movement.
It is human nature to want to know the things of the spiritual realm. Unfortunately, these days, many regard as little more than fairy tails the Divine Truths that have been revealed by God. The spiritual aridity that exists in our world because of modernism, radical feminism, the New Age and secular humanism has made these “doctrines of demons” seem very appealing. Surely, the following scripture passage is being fulfilled in our times: “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
This delusion can extend into innumerable areas of life, some of which have already been mentioned. In particular, however, and as it relates to the topic at hand, we are seeing a resurgence in the number of individuals who believe in the channeling of human spirits and who listen to the guidance of “ascended masters”. Many in our time have departed from sound doctrine and now accept the theories and doctrines that come straight from the depths of Hell.
For the New Age, the camouflage comes in the form of Spirit Guides and Ascended Masters. These guides and teachers are perfectly suited to the task, are they not? After all, the New Ager simply seeks enlightenment and self-godhood. How convenient that there are spirits who are willing to help them do just that. Here we see a good illustration of the point I made earlier; namely, the customized plan of destruction for those in the New Age who want so badly to believe that they can become gods.
For the Demonolater (one who worships demons), demons appear as powerful and misunderstood forces that can be cooperated with and placated, even befriended. In so doing, they are led to believe that they will reign in Hell with them and will have a host of people weaker than themselves who will be their subjects.
For the dabbler in séances and the Ouija board, demons appear as human spirits. The story is nearly always along the same lines, and I am sure that you have heard at least one of them at some point in your life: 1) the “person” was a young male or female, or 2) the “person” died a tragic death. Again, we see in this the demon’s customized plan for this particular occult practice.
Whatever the case and individual circumstances, demons try to appear (at least initially) as harmless human spirits or as helpful guides. Depending on the individual or group of individuals, and depending on the motives or methods of contact, there are usually always telltale signs, or signatures, that give them away.
3. Demons often describe themselves as a young person who died a horrible and tragic death
The psychology involved in this method is quite effective for it caters to and takes advantage of the God given qualities of compassion and empathy (Satan uses all available tactics in this war, including taking advantage of the good qualities of humans). Remember St. Peter who, although he thought he was doing the right thing when he responded to Jesus’ prediction of his death and suffering at the hands of the Jewish leaders, said, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matthew 16:22) and Jesus, far from falling for the ruse, rebukes the unwitting Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). So we can see that Satan can and does use elements of our God-given good nature to lure us into error.
Nowhere is this truth more plainly illustrated than in the above scripture passages. It is also illustrated in the use of the Ouija board. This infernal device is perhaps one of the leading causes of serious demonization to this day. It is largely so because it is sold under the seemingly harmless rubrics of a game. A game it is not. It is a very dangerous instrument and has absolutely no place in our society.
The following is a typical Ouija board session (although this “session” is purely fictitious, it very closely follows a pattern that practitioners and dabblers frequently encounter). The communications are nearly always choppy and composed of incomplete sentences, sometimes making no sense at all:
Q: “What is your name?”
Board: “My name is Robby”
Q: “How old are you Robby?”
Q: “How did you die?”
Board: “Wild dogs”
Q: “Wow… You were killed by wild dogs?”
Board “Yes. I am sad.”
Q: “Why are you sad?”
Board: “miss mom”
Q: “You miss your mother?”
Board: “They tore my throat”
Q: “Who? The dogs?”
Board: “Yes. Help me. It hurts.”
Q: “How can we help you? What can we do?”
Board: “Help hurts help hurts burn”
Q: “What can we do for you? How can we help?”
Here the session ends. Contact is lost and the participants are left with a bag of emotions and conclusions that they now have to deal with. At this point, those participating in the session are usually hooked. They are excited at their paranormal experience and the fact, if this is their first session, that the board actually works. They most assuredly want to talk to Robbie again and are ready, in whatever way possible, to help him. And the game goes on. Day after day, week after week, the participants are drawn deeper and deeper into this bizarre and intriguing world until it is too late. The demon now has sufficient ground to take things to the next level, which brings us to our next section.
4. Demons entice their subjects to probe deeper and ask questions relating to hidden knowledge
I can summarize this section in one word: Sin. To bring a person to Sin is the goal of demons when they cause their subjects to probe deeper. It is through sin that one removes himself further from the Kingdom of God and deeper into the Kingdom of Satan. The more one lives in the kingdom of the enemy, the more one becomes his slave. The more we sin, the deeper we fall into the abyss of bondage. Therefore, demons make it their particular goal to gain as much ground here as they possibly can. The more ground they can claim, the more they can exercise control over the lives of those whom they are trying to destroy.
It is appropriate here to speak briefly on the subject of “ground being claimed by Satan”. Frequently in spiritual warfare prayers, a statement reclaiming ground taken by Satan is made. This is for good reason. Although we can find forgiveness and reconciliation with God, it is not necessarily the case that a person will have regained the ground given over to Satan through their sinful behavior. What people need to realize here is that this ground needs to be reclaimed. It is analogous to winning a battle; gaining rights to the land that was fought for, but letting the enemy remain to occupy the land. (See Prayer After Confession To Re-Claim Ground Taken By Satan in our Spiritual Warfare Library to be said after going to Confession)
There is a certain level of temptation and demonic prompting that takes place at these initial levels of contact. The demons know that there are certain things that need to take place before they can have the greater holds that they desire. And so, the battle for ground begins. The subjects are tempted to ask about when they will die, what it is like in the afterlife, what it feels like to die, whom they will marry or when they will get married. They will be prompted through the whisperings of the demon, and often enough through natural curiosity, to ask about their relationships with their spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, friends and acquaintances. Sometimes they will even go so far as to ask the demon to do certain things for them. This is perhaps the most dangerous for it is, in a sense, a prayer request to the enemy. The demons love it when this happens. There is no faster way for them to gain ground than when they are used as intercessors to accomplish a task.
5. Demons pose as human spirits to develop the trust of their subjects and to foster a personal relationship, or bond, with them
This phenomenon is not only rooted in the psychology of man(as mention in item 3 above); it also enters into the spiritual realm. When demons have gained sufficient hold of their subjects, they are able to exercise more control in enticing them further commit further sin. An example of this is illustrated in the following case:
Karen was a successful businessperson who had found great success in the occult practice of using a pendulum. Her contact with the spirit world started off as communication with what called itself a deceased child. This child was able to answer questions, provide guidance and quickly became a companion that Karen began to rely on and look forward to talking to.
It wasn’t that long before things started to change. Her once good “friend” began to become lewd and vulgar. When Karen would rebuke the “child” it would sometimes apologize and straighten up for a while, only to return to the vulgarity later on and always worse than it had done previously.
The contact went on for quite some time before things went from what Karen would call “normal” to bad. The first thing that started to happen to her was the nightmares. These were always violent and contained what she referred to as simply “monsters” chasing, catching and torturing her. Often she would wake up with bruises, soreness, and unexplained markings. Then came the external manifestations in her house – she heard scratching sounds, growling (Karen did not own any dogs), and strange rapping’s. Occasionally voices, screams and footsteps were heard throughout the house, and occasionally objects would move around through some invisible agent. Also, at night her bed would “vibrate” and shake as if by some invisible force and Karen would occasionally see dark shadowy forms at varying times and locations in her house.
Karen, although terrified at the events going on around her, was still drawn to the pendulum. She had an insatiable desire to communicate with this entity that she now knew was not a child. She would sometimes follow through on this desire to communicate with this spiritual being to find out if there was some way that she could make it stop doing what it was doing in her house; always to no avail. In fact, things afterwards would get even worse.
You may be asking yourself the same question that I asked when I heard about this case. In fact, I had the opportunity to ask her first hand why she, with all of these terrible things going on in and around her, would possibly want to continue using the pendulum. Her answer was that there was a desire, almost a hunger, which enticed her to continue the communication. It was a temptation that she could not explain, but it was as real as anything was, and often times she simply did not seem to have the willpower to resist.
In this case, we can see the classic example of how demons gain entry, take ground and ultimately cause suffering. The bond that Karen developed with this demon was not a purely psychological one, although psychology was certainly involved. Rather, this case illustrates the phenomenon of the diabolical bond that can develop as a result of committing occult sin. This particular case ended in Karen becoming possessed, and to this day I do not know if she was delivered from the demon.
1. To gain entry through the invitation of their subject or through sufficient rights gained by the actions of their subjects
Often this is referred to as “Opening doorways”. This can result in varying levels of demonization depending on the nature of the invitation. These levels of demonization can range from the nearly impossible to detect (without the aid of the Holy Spirit) to generational curses, to violent hauntings to oppression and even to full-blown possession.(Bro. Ignatius Mary, an experienced deliverance counselor, identifies seven levels of possible “demonization”: Seven Stages of Spiritual Disintegration.)
Our deliberate actions, even actions that are not occult related, can cause doorways to be opened. Demonization can be the result of sexual sin, theft, lying, and a plethora of other sins. As they relate to the subject of occult practices, however, the levels of demonization tend to be far more serious. Occult demons, as deliverance counselors commonly refer to them, are some of the more powerful and difficult demons to get rid of. These types of demons usually gain entry through the Ouija board, séances, Satanism, Freemasonry, Native American Shamanism, Santeria, New Age practices and Wicca. Although the demonic aspects of some of these practices can remain hidden throughout the entire lifetime of the practitioner (Wicca, New Age, Shamanism, Freemasonry), they are present nonetheless and are perhaps far more dangerous to the souls of the practitioners than any other form of false religion. In cases such as these, the demons can scarcely operate in a manner other than a continuation of the deception without running the risk of exposing themselves and loosing the souls of those who deny Christ and His Gospel.
Occasionally demons gain entry through the actions of others via curses and sinful behaviors. There are cases of generational curses and hauntings that were the results of sinful actions of ancestors. These ancestral sins can cause generation after generation to suffer in many different forms (violent hauntings, curses, physical ailments, emotional and psychological problems – although we must be careful on that last one. Psychological problems are not to be confused with demonization. This has to be determined by professional counselors and prayerful discernment).
In addition to ancestral sin, cases of violent hauntings in a home have been documented were the cause appeared to be the seriously sinful actions of the prior residents. Homes that were previously owned by Adulterers, or homes that have had murders committed in them, rapes, etc., can and sometimes do have demonic attachments. Many times these demons have to start over, so to speak, with the new residents and will take on the appearance of a human spirit to start the cycle of gaining ground through sin. Other times it simply does not seem to matter, and for some reason they can skip the human ghost ruse and go straight to the violent haunting. There are many reasons for this, but a discussion would go beyond the scope of this essay.
2. To propagate the spread of errors and to entice others to do the same
Violent hauntings and demonic apparitions aside for a moment, we are now going to turn our attention to the spreading of errors through the false teachings of demons and their disciples, the New Agers and Wiccans.
My first encounter with these demonic doctrines occurred at the age of around 14. Like many youths, I was fascinated with ESP, telekinesis, ghosts and poltergeists and read just about anything I could get my hands on. When I learned of the book called, “Seth Speaks”, I was immediately drawn by curiosity. Seth, I had learned, was a channeled spirit who spoke through a medium. Like most channeled spirits, Seth had a teaching for mankind who, through no fault of their own, were burdened with this whole notion of good and doing the right thing. You see, according to Seth, mankind suffers from a misconception of what the afterlife is. There is no Heaven and there is no Hell. There are only masters who guide us in our next life and who are there to help us break free from these archetypes that were taught us in Sunday School and by our unknowing parents, teachers, Priests, Ministers, etc. However, not to worry – Those unenlightened people would learn in time. In the meantime, there would be a privileged few who would be given the knowledge that Seth had to offer. These enlightened souls would help others to learn the truths of the afterlife and would actually be in a higher plain of existence than those who were not chosen to have this higher knowledge.
These doctrines of demons are quite popular these days and are gaining much momentum in the form of new recruits and followers. Meanwhile, we religious folk who hold fast to the teaching of the Gospel are viewed more and more as an impediment to the evolution of enlightened society. Indeed, some hold the notion that we Christians should be terminated for the betterment of the global consciousness; that once we are gotten rid of, mankind can proceed to evolve into gods. And, they say, there is nothing wrong with this because the Christians will simply be reincarnated as lower (less evolved) beings and will eventually chuck the whole notion of God once we too have learned what the afterlife is truly like, and once we learn that we, not God, are god.
3. To lead people away from sound doctrine
What is sound doctrine? Sound doctrine is, was, and will be for all eternity, that which we have received from Jesus Christ our Lord through His Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:4). Anything else is simply not sound, for the only truths that we know are those that have been revealed by God.
We are witnessing in our time a profound infusion of demonic philosophies into the consciousness of our nation and our world. These philosophies are quite successful in negating, in the minds and hearts of many, the absolute truths that have been revealed by God.
I do not intend to delve much deeper into this subject because Brother Ignatius Mary has already done this task. His essay titled, “The Three Secret Strategies of Satan” is an in-depth look into the enemy’s tactics. I strongly recommend that you take the time to read this essay prayerfully and thoughtfully.
4. To cause suffering
This section could also have the title, “Because it is their nature”. Although I have not addressed it thus far, sometimes it is dangerous to wrestle with trying to figure out why demons do what they do. The actions of demons are often without meaning and have no purpose. For instance, in the case of a violent haunting, one who finds their bed consistently shaking at night may ask the question, “is this to keep me from sleep?” or, “Did I commit some sin in this bed that gives the demon a right to do this?” These types of questions are useless, for even if we know the answers (stressing again that often there are no answers) the methods for dealing with the problem remain the same. Therefore, the real issue here is not “what is the reason”. Rather, it is “What are we going to do about it?”
I can in all truthfulness that I myself have given into the temptation to try to figure out the motives for the actions of the demonic. I can therefore say with some authority that it is at best unproductive. At worst, you will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out a puzzle that cannot be solved. Rather than simply saying, “For no reason at all”, I think that we can safely say that it is simply their nature to cause suffering in any possible way. If shaking someone’s bed causes fear (a form of suffering and torment), then this will be an action that demons will perform because it is their nature to do so.
Although demons delight in causing human suffering and make it their particular goal to do just that, normally they do so behind the scenes. It is unusual for one’s home to be infested with physical manifestations of the demonic. The primary battle is for the mind. If demons can gain control of a persons mind, they cannot only cause temporal suffering (which as I mentioned before they delight in immensely), but they can also cause their ultimate particular goal. Namely, through the mind, they gain the soul. In this realm of spiritual warfare, we find poor souls who are addicted to sex, drugs and pornography. Here we find hearts filled with hatred, unforgiveness and thoughts of malice towards their fellow man. We find rapists, murderers, adulterers and fornicators. The list goes on.
Here lies the true battle. It is far less dangerous, although much more frightening, to deal with external manifestations of the demonic. The true danger lies in the day-to-day interactions with demons of which we are often not even aware. My sincere hope is that mankind wake up to the reality of this unseen battle, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, we are not fighting flesh and blood. Either we are fighting demons with the power of God or we are being defeated by them. Either way, the battle is real. Either way, the stakes are eternal.
5. Their ultimate goal: The damnation of souls
Brothers and sisters, make no mistake about it: Although demons delight in causing temporal suffering, there is no greater satanic rejoicing in Hell when another soul joins the ranks of the damned. This is the ultimate goal.
I leave you with this sobering vision of Hell:
Saint Teresa had seen the place that was prepared for her in Hell, and the remembrance gave her strength to bear the severest trials. This is how she speaks, in the 32nd chapter of her autobiography:
“Being one day in prayer, in an instant I found myself, without knowing how, carried body and soul into Hell. I understood that God wished to make me see the place I should have occupied had I not changed my life. No words can give the least idea of such suffering – it is beyond comprehension. I felt in my soul a devouring fire, and my body was, at the same time, a prey to intolerable pains. I had endured cruel sufferings during my lifetime, but all I had suffered was nothing when compared to what I experienced then. What filled up the measure was the prospect that they should be unending and unalleviated. The tortures of the body, however cruel they might have been, were nothing in their turn beside the anguish of the soul.
While I felt myself burned, as if hacked into a thousand pieces, I was suffering all the agonies of death, all the horrors of despair. There was not a particle of hope, of consolation, in this frightening sojourn. There was a pestiferous odor, by which one was continually suffocated. There was no light, only darkness of the sombrest hue; and yet, Oh prodigy! though there was no light shining, whatever is most distressing to the sight is seen.
In short, all I had heard said of the pains of Hell, all I had read of it in books was nothing beside the reality. There was the same difference as between a lifeless portrait and a living person. Ah! The hottest fire in the world is such a trifling thing! It is like a painted fire compared to that fire that burns the damned in Hell.
Almost ten years have passed since that vision, and I am still seized with such fright in describing it that my blood is frozen in my veins. Amid trials and sufferings I call up this remembrance, and it gives me strength to bear all.”
— Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J., The Dogma of Hell: Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History (Charlotte, NC: Tan Books and Publishers, 2010), 97.