Saturday, May 8, 2010

Diabolic Influence

At a time when people are fascinated by the supernatural and paranormal, Fr Pat Collins CM, a lecturer in spirituality at All Hallows Dublin, shares his experience in this area, and gives some practical advice.

Earlier in the year I participated in three television programmes to do with the supernatural and the paranormal, which included the issue of disturbed houses and exorcism. They in turn generated a great deal of media interest. During one hectic fortnight I was interviewed by three T.V. stations, 20 radio stations and six or seven newspapers. I suspect that all this curiosity about the supernatural is due to the fact that nowadays an increasing number of people adopt a this-woridly rather than an otherworldly point of view. What's real to them are, here and now, tangible things that can be understood in a scientific way. However, the spiritual realm has an uncanny ability of unexpectedly intruding itself into our materialistic world by means of such things as poltergeist activity, ghostly presences, and demonic infestation of places and people.

"Strange phenomena in homes"

For many years now I have lectured and written about spirituality and the psychology of religion, both of which deal with the supernatural realm. As a result, I have received phone calls from people all over Ireland who were frightened because of strange phenomena in their homes, ranging from objects moving, to electrical appliances going on and off. Some of them had been so terrified by what was happening that they fled from their homes. Others, suspected that either they themselves, or someone they loved was under the influence of an evil spirit. In desperation they asked me to help. Usually I encouraged them to talk to their local clergy. However, most of them responded by saying that they had already done so, but the priests they had spoken to had either dismissed their stories in a sceptical manner, offered ineffective prayers or admitted that they were not competent to help.

"Ordinary explanations"

My heart goes out to victims of house disturbances. As a result of study, reflection and prayer I have become clearer, over the years, about what might be involved in these cases. Quite often disturbances in a house will have a perfectly ordinary explanation such as noisy pipes, creaking floorboards and electrical faults. I visited a widow's home some time ago. She was frightened and felt there was some sort of evil spirit active in her upstairs rooms. Quite frankly, when I chatted with her, I felt that her overheated imagination was interpreting every little sound as evidence of an alien presence. I reassured her, said a prayer for peace of mind, and as far as I know she has had no more trouble.

"Paranormal influences"

In other cases, things like nises and movement of objects are probably due to paranormal influences such as psycho-kinesis. In other words they are natural but, as yet, not well understood. For example, poltergeist activity is often associated with the presence of a young woman who may have a good deal of suppressed sexual energy. I know one family where strange sounds were at their worst when a particular daughter, of about twenty, was having her period. When she left the house the poltergeist activity ended. By the way, the noises didn't frighten the young woman at all.


There is circumstantial evidence which indicates that the spirits of the un-quiet dead sometimes remain in contact with a house. It would appear that when a person dies, his or her soul may be reluctant to leave its familiar, earthly surroundings. In my experience such spirits often seem to have suffered some kind of injustice or trauma in that location. For example, I visited one house where the whimper of a baby was often heard. Then by chance the family learned that a baby had been abused in the house, years before they bought it. One can pray in such a place, urging the restless soul to move on to meet with a loving and merciful God.

"Evil spirits"

Over the years I have also come to recognize that some houses are disturbed by the presence of some kind of evil spirit. There are tell-tale signs of negative infestations, such as inexplicable coldness, a bad smell, objects disappearing from sight, and damage to sacred objects such as a crucifix. As a recent "Would You Believe " programme indicated, I dealt with a such case in Northern Ireland, where it was claimed that holy water boiled, a prayer to Michael the Archangel spontaneously went on fire, and a crucifix, rosary and other religious objects were flung on the floor. Following careful diagnosis, Church of Ireland canon. Billy Lendrum and myself said a cleansing prayer. Thank God it was effective. The couple moved back into their home and have had no problems since.

While the clergy should help people with house disturbances, the scriptures clearly indicate, that exorcism of people is a priority. Christians distinguish between obsession and possession by evil spirits. When people are obsessed, they suffer from a sort of spiritual neurosis where only part of their personality is subject to demonic influence. As I know from experience, obsessed people need a simple exorcism which can be prayed by any faith-filled believer. For instance, I can remember praying, a number of years ago, for a twelve year old girl who had been involved in the occult. I asked the Spirit of God to free her from a morbid spirit of divination. Thankfully, it was effective and she experienced inner peace from then onwards.


When people are possessed, they suffer from a form of spiritual psychosis because the devil seems to take over their entire personalities. As a result they can have extraordinary physical strength which is inconsistent with their age or state of health, and also an ability to speak unknown languages and to discern hidden and distant things. I have never met a possessed person in over 30 years. The vast majority of the bizarre behaviours I have come across can be explained in medical and psychiatric ways e.g. schizophrenia or Tourette's syndrome. Truly possessed people need solemn exorcism by a priest who has been officially appointed, for that purpose, by the bishop.

As you can see from these brief examples, disturbances of places and people can be due to a number of causes. Those who want to deal with them effectively need to be familiar with psychology, the paranormal, the notion of the restless dead, and the possibility of infestation by evil. Not all priests or lay people would be expected to know about such things, any more than all doctors would be expected to know all about rare diseases. Good doctors refer difficult medical cases to specialists. Surely, priests and others should be able to refer difficult cases to diocesan specialists. The the Catholic Church needs to appoint exorcists who have been trained to deal, not only with disturbed buildings but also with people who are oppressed by evil.

Source: Good News

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