Most of what we know about demonic activity and possession comes from what is seen in mainstream media – think “The Exorcist”, “Poltergeist” and the like. But there is so much more to learn about the tricks of Satan and his devils than what is shown on the television. Father Gabriele Amorth’s new book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic explains how Satan actually works, and what his limitations are. Here are five facts from Father Amorth’s book about the reality of demonic activity.
1. Demons cannot read your thoughts
Demons may be spirits but they are incapable of reading minds. Rather, they rely on observing behaviors to gain insight into our thoughts and weaknesses. This actually hearkens to what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters: “Oh Wormwood, you fool!” The Holy Spirit can chase away these evil spirits, but only works within the confines of free will, so we have to be open to letting Him chase away the demons.
2. Exorcism is a sacramental
Sacramentals dispose us to receiving the grace of the sacraments, so it’s easy to see how exorcism fits into this– literally getting rid of evil that has taken over a person’s life and opening that person again to the grace of God. Only an exorcist can perform an exorcism, though, and each diocese has one priest exorcist. Interestingly, the Orthodox Church has many exorcists, as it has been peacefully reintroduced into Holy Orders, which has not been done in the Roman Church.
3. Haunted houses are actually a thing
They are called diabolical infestations and it’s demonic disturbances that act on houses, places, objects, or animals, rather than on people.
4. There are different levels of “possession”
Generally, when we think of demonic possession, we think of the full-on, head spinning, cuss word slinging, possibly vomiting possessions we see in the media. But this is only the most serious form of extraordinary action the devil takes and, to become possessed, a person must completely open himself to Satan and allow the evil one in. When possessed, Satan can make a person do and say as he wishes and the person has no control. Of note here, the devil cannot possess someone’s soul, only their body– unless the person consents to possession of the soul.
5. There are other ways Satan can exude extraordinary influence over a person
The next most serious form of extraordinary action Satan can take is called diabolical vexation- and this is the most numerous of cases- where Satan actually physically hurts a person (burns, broken bones, scratches) or causes horrible nightmares; a person opens himself to this through participation in things like seances or repeated, persistent, serious sins. The other way is called diabolical obsession which generally manifests as strong hallucinations where the person is no longer master of his thoughts; this can be manifest as hearing voices, seeing monstrous figures, or impulses to hurt oneself or others.
Demonic activity is nothing to shake a stick at. It is serious and hugely detrimental. In his book, Father Amorth does a wonderful job of stating the facts of demonic activity without scaring the reader and without making light of it. If you suspect you or someone you know needs help with demonic activity, call your diocese and ask for help and procedures!