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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

[Someone I know] has been dedicated to following the mystical path to Christ (we are both Catholic) for several years. To put it simply, he has sacrificed his life for this in ways I’ve only read about in books of saints. It seems he has made much advancement. . . . he has many spiritual experiences both in the sense of locutions and physical phenomenon—from both sides. He swears to me, though, now he has accidentally opened/gone into a “box” inside and has a battle going on with not only demons, but he speaks with Lucifer himself. He receives/communicates with Our Lady, Christ and the good angels as well. Much consolation is offered but they want him to continue to fight his way out. . . . but the last thing he was told is that he is in fact possessed by 12 demons (it began as 7). They (both sides) keep referring to a box he has gone into where he should not have gone. . . . he’s falling apart. . . .

Outline of the Answer
• On Whose Authority?
• The Dilemma
• Warning Signs of Fraud
• The Final Irony

 
As a first principle, it’s important to understand that whenever someone claims to receive private mystical revelations, no other person has the authority to say either that these revelations are genuine or that they are not genuine. For example, I myself cannot just contact Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin and ask them if they are really speaking with someone; nor can I simply declare that someone who claims to be receiving revelations is really suffering from a delusional disorder. After all, how can any psychologist really know that someone isn’t communicating with demons or angels?

  

Note that in the case of alleged public revelations, a bishop must investigate; although he cannot say conclusively that the revelations really are genuine, he will declare either that the revelations are worthy of belief or that they are not worthy of belief.

  

 
The Dilemma

So, in regard to this person, there is a dilemma. Is this a genuine mystic experiencing demonic attacks? Or did something that started out simply as well-meaning prayer and sacrifice become a psychiatric delusion due to, say, the sin of pride? Or, has this person, because of a spiritual hunger to be “special” enough to receive mystical revelations, perpetrated a fraud, thus opening the door to the devil and demons, and leading to his possession?

  

Note that no one can be possessed who does not “open the door” to demons first. Possession is always the sign of some sin, somewhere.

  

I recommend, therefore, that you contact not just any priest but an exorcist.[1] It’s a little known fact, but every diocese is supposed to have an official exorcist on staff.[2] So locate the exorcist in your diocese and speak with him about this person. Let the exorcist, who has the grace, the training, and the authority to make an assessment, determine if this person has the genuine signs of possession. If so, the exorcist will do what is necessary to help.[3]

 
Warning Signs of Fraud

Below are a few “red flags” that often point to alleged revelations being fraudulent. Note that “fraudulent” can mean either deliberately created for attention or unconsciously created—i.e., delusional.

1.

Has this person been an enthusiast of other alleged apparitions, such as Medjugorje? The point here is that some persons, under the influence of unapproved mystical phenomena, will, in an unconscious attempt to feel special, unwittingly fabricate “revelations” of their own.

2.

Does this person have any reason for intense anger at his father, such as for being abusive or authoritarian? The point here is that unconscious anger at a father can manifest psychologically as a delusion of persecution—that is, the person believes he is being persecuted by others but is really being persecuted by his own guilt about his anger at his father. Ironically, the feeling of being persecuted allows the person to believe he is “special,” in compensation for the humiliation caused by the father’s abuse.

3.

Does this person speak openly to others about his experiences? The point here is that genuine private revelations should, as an act of humility, be kept private. The urge to tell others about the experiences points to the sin of pride.

4.

Is this person fighting this battle alone, rather than under the guidance of a spiritual director? The point here is that “maverick mystics” can get themselves into a whole lot of psychological trouble.

 
The Final Irony

The final irony is that, as I said above, a fraudulent mystic—especially because of the unconscious anger and desire for revenge underlying the need to be seen as special, along with the pride of wanting to believe that he is special—could be vulnerable to real demonic influence.

 

 

  

A HERMIT  had a gift from God to cast out evil spirits. One time he asked to learn what they feared most and what compelled them to flee.

  

     “Perhaps it is fasting?” he asked one of them.

     “We,” the evil spirit replied, “neither ever eat nor ever drink.”

     “Sleepless vigils, then?”

     “We do not sleep at all.”

     “Flight from the world?”

     “Supposedly an important thing. But we spend the greater part of our time wandering around the deserts.”

     “I implore you to confess what it is that can subdue you,” insisted the elder.

     The evil spirit, compelled by a supernatural force, was pressed to answer: “Humility—which we can never overcome.”

The Ancient Fathers of the Desert: Section 1
V. Rev. Chrysostomos, trans.

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. Sadly, I have heard of cases where persons suffering from demonic influence have gone to a priest to request a referral to an exorcist only to be told, “You don’t need an exorcism. Just frequent the Sacraments and you will be fine.” Well, to me, that attitude is a dereliction of priestly duty. I personally have seen many persons who frequented the Sacraments daily and still have had multiple demons cast from them once they finally got to see a competent exorcist.

2. The key words here are “supposed to”. In about 2003 the Vatican requested that every American diocese have an officially-appointed exorcist. Not every bishop has complied, however, and not every officially-appointed exorcist has training and experience in performing exorcisms. If the bishop of your diocese believes that demons are just a figment of medieval imagination, you will have to go to another diocese to find an exorcist who is competent to help you.

3. He may request some sort of psychological assessment to determine whether the symptoms could be the result of a psychiatric disorder. Nevertheless, demonic influence often accompanies a psychiatric disorder, so psychiatric symptoms should not be a reason to refuse deliverance prayer or an exorcism.

 


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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.