There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance. ~Socrates
Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life? Why do you ask me about the good? There is only one who is good. ~Matthew 19:17
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist. ~Charles Baudelaire
I heard someone say once that he can understand disbelief in God, but he was utterly perplexed that anyone could doubt the existence of the devil. If we use commonly understood contemporary meanings of the words in the first above quote, Socrates gets it about one third right. One must cling feverishly to an abstraction to believe that ignorance is the only evil. And, I would speculate that, one must nurture deep faith in gnosticism to believe that knowledge is the only good. Or, even that knowledge is always good. To know, for instance, how it feels to commit cold blooded murder is surely knowledge of a sort. Such knowledge, just as surely, is not good.
Abstraction is a very valuable tool. But it is rarely a substitute for experience. So, I would like to share an experience that goes deeper than the brief generalizations I’ve scribbled above.
What follows is my testimony of the events I witnessed on a Monday. I began composing these recollections on the following Saturday. I regret that I allowed as much time to pass as I did, since the clarity of event details fade so quickly with time. With the Lord’s grace, I recount here parts of the what I saw and heard, that He allowed me to recall.
On Sunday night I traveled with two companions for three hours, to the Eisenhower Holiday Inn in Alexandria, Virginia. About two weeks prior I had recruited a woman, I’ll refer to as Angela, for a mission of mercy. We would both accompany another woman, I’ll refer to as Priscilla, to Alexandria. There, Mrs. Stella Davis would intercede in a deliverance that Priscilla very much needed. Priscilla had committed to travel alone to Alexandria by train after Mrs. Davis extended the invitation to her, in the first week of October. I did not think Priscilla would make it on her own, but it was vital that she was committed to getting there. Once I saw that commitment, I felt I had a green light to offer assistance. I was nearly certain that with Angela’s help I could get her to Alexandria and back safely. My companions names have been changed in this account because they both prefer to remain anonymous.
None of us slept very well Sunday night. We met with Mrs. Davis after morning Mass at St. Louis Church. It was the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. After Mass, I waved to Stella and she waved us out of the church to meet Lynn, her companion, Lynn’s husband, who’s name I cannot recall. Angela, Priscilla and I accompanied Stella and Lynn to the adoration chapel across the parking lot from the church. As Priscilla entered the chapel she weakened, approached the monstrance, and fell to her knees in sighs as tears fell from her eyes. I watched closely. If ever I witnessed a humbled and contrite heart it was in that moment. After a few minutes Priscilla got up from her knees and sat herself down in one of the chairs in the front row of the Adoration chapel. Then, after I had time for a little less than one rosary, Stella directed us out of the chapel. Stella led the way in her car. We followed Stella, in my car. Lynn followed us, in her car, so we would not get lost. We arrived at Stella’s house. Angela and I followed Stella and Priscilla inside as Stella held Priscilla’s hand. Priscilla showed signs of great trepidation.
Angela and myself were directed to the back of the house through the kitchen where there was a chapel with about fifty folding chairs. I don’t believe that the Blessed Sacrament was present in the chapel, but there was an altar with about a nine inch tall crucifix standing on top of the altar. Sacramentals, statues and sacred images were all around the chapel. As we watched Stella guide Priscilla into the chapel she directed Priscilla to stand in front of a full length tapestry of a Divine Mercy image on the left side wall of the chapel. “Stand right there,” She said this quietly and firmly. Angela and I stood opposite, close to the right side of the chapel toward the back about ten to fifteen feet behind Priscilla.
A sound emerged from Priscilla’s mouth, “Hisshhhhh,” like a snake. A voice spoke. It had all the tonal qualities of Priscilla’s voice and the same accent. But I am certain that the words did not come from her. That is, it was a demon that began to speak. “You can’t have her she’s mine!” It was screaming, “I took her. You gave her two deformed children. I got in through yoga. She is a looser. She can’t do anything right. I’m gonna take her to hell and while she is here I’m gonna make sure she has hell on earth. You cannot take her from me. She’ s mine. You’ll never get rid of me and even if you do I’ll get back in.”
Stella calmly began using the mist spray bottle of Holy water, spraying around Priscilla and then around the room. I began praying in the spirit. As the demon continued I began, what I believe was, a reprimand of the unclean spirit. My voice got louder. I was consciously raising my voice as its voice got louder. And the demon stopped speaking briefly. Priscilla held the sides of her head with both hands sat down bending forward. I lowered my voice, continuing to pray in the spirit.
The demon began to speak again. This time it was uttering the same hate as before with increasingly profane language. “She’s a f–king loser. I took her family away from her. I took her job away from her when she was about to get it back. I put the anxiety into her so she could not go and she ran away to the chapel. She thinks she can get away at the chapel. But she has to leave. I’m in control now. She has George, but I have more. You will never make me leave. I’ll get to her through her kids.” It said a great many very poisonous things. It might be good that I can’t remember them all.
I raised my voice again, louder this time. My prayer tongues vocabulary was more varied than I remember it ever had before been. I don’t know what I said, but I know it was angry, because I was angry. Looking back, I still sometimes wonder if I was speaking evil. My anger, and words were directed strictly at the demon spirit. I prefer to think it was the kind of anger that drives money changers out of the temple (I hope I’m right about that.) I shouted the demon into silence a few more times before I realized that I would run out of voice before it would. At that point I began repetitive prayers in the spirit, sometimes singing a kind of chant, sometimes without melody.
Stella silenced the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. She never raised her voice. She spoke calmly, but firmly as if she had done this a thousand times (I suspect she has.) It quieted for a time but then began again. Stella silenced the spirit again laying her hand on Priscilla’s head. Stella then used her right index finger to push in the center of Priscilla’s forehead. Priscilla laid back on the chair row. Her feet were still on the floor. I think it was the third row from the front.
Somewhere in the process, (I forget the exact chronology,) I remember hearing what I believe was a kind of mocking cry for help and pity. At first I thought it was Priscilla emerging and calling for help. But, then something ‘off’ in the words convinced me it was not Priscilla. Another time it implied by what it said that it was getting weaker. Demons are known better for clever deception than they are for getting tired, so taking anything it said at face value would have been dangerous. A cloistered Carmelite once cautioned me “Never dialog with the devil.”
Each time the spirit began to speak, Stella would quiet it with a word. She then directed three of us onlookers to pray the Mercy Chaplet. Stella, Angela, myself, and another man, I think his name was Frank, took turns leading each decade of the Chaplet. As we prayed, Lynn walked around to each of us anointing our foreheads with oil while reciting a protection prayer to prevent the spirit from entering any of us.
After the Chaplet was complete, Stella instructed an assistant, (I think another assistant had arrived,) regarding what support must be called in. The assistant suggested a man’s name. Stella replied, “No, I don’t want him here for this.” It was a bit like she was assembling a battle group for a war campaign. Looking back, I suspect that Stella had determined that she was going to need more help than she originally expected. It was the kind of moment when a fisherman realizes that, because the size of the shark he is hunting, he will need a bigger boat. Stella then asked us to move out of the room. I wanted to stay, but I thought it wisest to obey Stella’s instructions quickly and without question. I remember smiling at her and saying, “You’re the boss.” She just looked at me very calmly and stoically and said nothing. She followed me out of the chapel into the kitchen. She said to me, “I usually do this here in the kitchen, so everyone else can pray in the chapel, but she’s (Priscilla) resting in the chapel now and I don’t want to move her.
By now there were a lot more people in the house. About ten of us crammed into the study. We prayed the Mercy Chaplet continuously for two hours taking turns at leading. Some decades we would sing, others we would not. In between decades there was often a lull of silence in the study waiting for someone to start the next decade. During that silence we could hear the screams of Priscilla’s voice coming from the chapel. We recited a fair number of Chaplet decades in two hours, We encountered a fair number of lulls, and we heard more than a few very loud screams.
Then it was over. I thought I heard Stella call for Peter. Then I was sure I heard someone else call for Peter. I got up from the foot stool I had been using as a chair, put my rosary in my pocket and I walked in to the chapel. Priscilla was there looking like she just ran a marathon, and very nervous and stuttering. Stella told me, “It’s gone.” She said, “It was legion. That means there were many of them.” Priscilla asked, “are you sure it is gone?” Stella said, “yes.” Priscilla repeated,“I feel like it is still in me.” Another woman said, “You just had surgery. You will need some time to recover.” Stella handed me an envelope with the following writing on the front and back. Someone was writing words down during the extraction process, as each individual demon is identified, to keep track of the progress(I don’t know who.)
Each entry on the envelope identifies a separate demon. Suicide shows up twice. I think that might mean it was one of the stronger ones because two attempts were made to cast it out. Or, maybe there were two ‘suicide’ spirits. The ones that are crossed off were cast out. The ones that were not crossed out remained. It is no surprise that Stella needed to stop. In a later email she told me that she had stopped because she was too tired to continue. Priscilla’s recollection of the process was spotty. I was not eyewitness to the worst of it. I only heard the screams. She remembered Stella’s expression of concern about how difficult a time they faced ahead of them at the beginning. Priscilla remembered saying, “If it is that bad maybe we need to get a priest.” Of course, then one of her spirit attackers, probably one masquerading as “regret” suddenly became very active (I think that implies that the demon would attack any expression seeking assistance of a priest.)
Priscilla recounted her memory of a proxy. That proxy was necessary because she was not strong enough to endure the full violence of the extraction. I’m told that the proxy acts as a conduit for the extraction like the herd of swine in chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel, except that the human proxy does not meet with the sad ending of the creatures that Saint Mark describes. Apparently, Priscilla’s proxy did a lot of vomiting. Priscilla expressed anxiety and worry about that during our lunch conversation afterward (the writing above shows that anxiety and worry were among the dark spirits remaining). Priscilla’s proxy had done this kind of thing before and will do it again. Acting as a Deliverance-Proxy requires a very special ministry calling. Priscilla mentioned, also at lunch, that she had the same urge to hiss as she entered the adoration chapel as she did in front of the Divine Mercy tapestry. The difference was the proximity of the Blessed Sacrament gave her the strength to control it.
Composition and revisions of this account have taken me some time. Priscilla is today, almost one month after the event, still shaken but able to sleep about four hours a night. That is not great, but it is an improvement. If circumstances had prevented our journey that day, I suspect that it would not have ended well for Priscilla. I asked her about a week after the deliverance if her children noticed anything different about her. She laughed. Her son pointed out that her dog comfortably rested at her feet again. It seems that before the deliverance, the dog had developed a practice of resting on the floor on the other side of the room with one eye always on Priscilla. Now the dog was comfortable sitting on the couch with her.
I emailed a something like a status report to Mrs. Davis after a week as she had requested. She replied stating that it was a “possession and nothing more.” I asked her if she meant, “oppression and nothing more.” She did not answer that question in my email. But she did answer Priscilla, “yes it was a possession.” I was at a loss to explain what she could mean by something more than possession. What would something more than possession be? One possible answer is subjugation. Another thing worse would be if an associated diabolical curse was still in place. These phenomena are described in Stella’s book, “Spiritual Warfare: Lessons on Deliverance from Spiritual Bondage to Freedom in Christ.” Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s, “An Exorcist Tells His Story”, is another excellent source.
A number of things trouble me about this experience. Yoga was probably the ‘open door’ that made the possession possible. Though it was not a sufficient condition for the possession, but a necessary one. If it were a sufficient condition then every student of Yoga would be possessed (Strong evidence contradicts that possibility.) I’m at a profound loss as to how the demon-cadre was able to survive multiple exposures to the sacraments. I’m troubled also by how well the demon-cadre masqueraded as simple emotional distress to most outside observers. Only Priscilla knew how noxious the invading spirits were. Apparently, even Mrs. Davis did not immediately discern the full extant of the forces arrayed against Priscilla. This seems to have been kind of ‘stealth-possession.’ One that could easily have been confused with mental illness. It leaves me concerned that there is more of this kind of thing going on in the general population that anyone in the Church establishment realizes.
I was cautioned by my confessor in no uncertain terms against trying to deal with anything like this on my own. So, I have no intention of entering into “adventures” in this area. Any access to a Church-Instituted exorcist must be proceeded by a psychiatric evaluation. I believe that if that had happened with Priscilla, she would have been given two Prozacs and told to call back in the morning. So, if I am correct, a great many souls are in this predicament with no clear path to get out of it. The Church is concerned with legal liabilities. The violence of the extraction has been known to cause the death of the afflicted victim. When the family of the victim considers all these phenomena nothing more than superstitious hokum, the lawyer is the first recourse. The prudence of the Church in legal domains hinders help to the afflicted in the spiritual domain. Most priests will tell practicing Catholics that there is nothing wrong with yoga. But, there are many credible stories which document yoga as a pathway. What might be termed a dearth of good sense regarding pagan idolatry, has left a target rich environment for the kind of entities that once found a home in Priscilla. A primary motivation for documenting this is so that more people are informed. In spite of the likelihood that these recollections will be characterized, by many, as the ranting of a superstitious lunatic, I believe this experience should not be left undocumented.
At least since Socrates, the characterization of ignorance as the only real evil has thrived in Western Civilization. A more subtle characterization comes from Hannah Arendt, who says the only evil is hypocrisy. I have no doubt that many gifted thinkers have filled a great many books with grand arguments to support similar propositions. Great thinkers can do great things and make great contributions to how we approach life. They are hard to argue with, but they are quite frequently and quite extraordinarily, wrong. This experience has, permanently and severely, attenuated my inclinations to regard the devil only as an abstraction. I am uncertain about many things, even about some details of what I saw and heard on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. But, about the existence of evil which transcends knowledge, ignorance, and reason itself, I will not again harbor doubt any time soon.