. . wonder about evil. It would be easy to say the devil made me do
o begin to answer your question,
lets recognize that the word evil essentially has two
Evil as Something
In its most general sense,
evil refers to something that is harmful or destructive. This
meaning focuses on the effects of something, not its origin. Hence, we read
in Job, We accept good things from God, and should we not accept
evil? (Job 2:10). The meaning here is that God can subject us to unpleasant
trials, if He wants; as Job himself discovered, however, God does
evil things not to be arrogant or mean but to serve the greater
goodwhich, from our limited perspective,
we cannot easily see.
Evil as the Refusal
to Serve Gods Will
The second, more specificand
commonmeaning of evil refers to the refusal to serve
Gods will. This is what caused the fall of Lucifer, the angel of light,
who is now called Satan, or the devil. When he fell, many other
angels followed him. Together, all these fallen angels, now called demons,
with Satan as their commander, epitomize evil. Unwilling to submit
to Gods authority, evil makes self-interest, at the expense of others,
into its own god.
In its extreme,
this self-interest can be spoken of as wickednessthat is, something
harmful for its own sake, so as to exhibit cruel power. But it is just as
true, for example, to speak of those who follow lifestyles defiant of chastity
as being evil, for even though they may not have a conscious desire to harm
other individuals, they still do psychological and spiritual damage, and,
in it all, they defy the will of God.
Why Did God Make
Why did God create hell? Why
does God allow people to go to hell? Some people get stuck on such questions
and, lacking any real theological wisdom, they decide for themselves that
God is mean and arbitrary and that they want nothing to do with
The true answer to these questions,
though, is something of a surprise.
Consider that when God created
all things, He gave all creatures free will
so that they could participate in love. In other words,
those who cannot refuse to love arent really capable of
lovetheyre just robots. Real love, after all, is an act of will.
Without having free will, we could not love. So, in order to give all of
His creation the capacity to love, God gave all of His creation free
So, there was Lucifer, an angel
with free will. And somehow he decided that he did not want to serve God
but rather wanted to serve himself. Maybejust like many individuals
in the world todayhe thought something like, I resent the idea
of worshiping this God who created me. I want to be free to wield my power
for myself. I want to do what I want to do.
Now, God, in the fullness of
His love, did not get mad. Instead, He must have said something like,
All right. If you want to be your own king, I will give you a place
that you can have all for yourself in the company of those who choose to
follow you. So, God created hell and gave it to Satan with the
understanding that anyone who wants to reject love for the sake of self-interest
is free to go to hell.
The astonishing thing about this
transaction is that the creation of hell is an act of Gods
mercy, not an act of punishment. Because it is
absolutely too horrific to contemplate any place entirely separated from
Satan received from God a placehellthat still exists within
Gods love. The flames of hell are the flames of Gods love that
torment only those who have rejected love. So if you say, I
dont want anything to do with a god who would want anyone to suffer
in hell, you really dont understand anything about Gods
love. God does not want anyone to go to hell. Still, many persons, in their
free will, reject Gods love and send themselves to hell anyway.
Furthermore, not being entirely
excluded from creation, Satan and his demons have the power of influence
over souls in this world. Its perfectly fairSatan has the free
will to tempt us to join him in hell, and we have the free will to accept
his seduction or, through faith and
love, empowered by the
sacraments, to reject it. We even have the
power, given by Christ Himself to His priests, to cast out demons from all
or Mental Illness?
Many persons todayeven
priestspropagate the false idea that when Jesus cast out demons He
was really curing a mental illness. But the truth is, Jesus knew the difference
between a demon and a psychological or medical problem. How could the
LORD Himself not know His own creation?
Moreover, our failing to recognize
this difference between a demon and a mental illness has led to many tragic
In the times before modern science,
it was believed that all mental illness was the result of demonic possession,
and the mentally ill were often treated like animals simply because no one
knew what to do with them. Physicians lacked the medical knowledge of psychology,
and they lacked the faith to cast out demons, so they were essentially
In contrast, modern science sees
everything as a matter of brain chemistry, even to the point of ignoring
the psychology of the unconscious. Most modern physicians disavow all belief
in demons and wouldnt recognize one even if he spit in their
But, in all truth, there
are demons and there is mental illness, and it would
do us well to understand the difference between them.
To understand this difference,
it is important first to understand the unconscious.
A brilliant French psychoanalyst,
Jacques Lacan, has explained the technical
aspects of the
unconscious better than anyone. Lacan emphasized the
relation of language to unconscious functioning. Language, being metaphoric
and symbolic, is one stepone large stepremoved from
reality, and in the gap between the
symbolic and the
real is all the deception, lies, and fraud
of human social existence.
As humans, we cannot communicate
directly mind-to-mind or soul-to-soul. We have to rely on symbolic communication;
that is, language. Language, however, cannot express the fullness of reality; thus
much of our experience goes unspoken. No matter how much we say, and no matter how
eloquently we may say it, some aspect of our reality fails to get communicated. Although
it might seem, on the surface, that our lives are structured simply by conscious
thought and speech, we are actually more influenced by that gap between the real
and the symbolic—or, in other words, by what is “missing” from our lives simply
because we must filter all our raw experience (the real) through our
social dependence on the imperfection of language (the symbolic).
Therefore, the unconscious is a
side-effect, so to speak, of our separation from raw reality because our use of
language fails to adequately express our reality. Lacan saw clearly that, because
separation and lack lead to
desire, the unconscious is primarily governed by
“the desire of the Other”that is, by the social world (the “Other”) around
us that is lost in its incomplete expression of reality. Desire, then, could be
described as the unspokenand hiddenaspect of our speaking lives.
Hence the unconscious holds the
deepestand often, the most frightening and uglytruths about ourselves.
Thus many persons fear the unconscioussome persons are afraid of even the idea of
having an unconsciousbecause they fear truth
It’s similar to the
time at the beginning of modern medical science when some doctors refused to believe
that bacteria caused infections. Not being able to see with their own eyes any
evidence of the so-called “germs” a few other doctors were claiming to be the cause
infection, these men derisively dismissed the whole concept of bacterial
infectionand the need for sterile surgical environments.
Nevertheless, despite the many
misconceptions of the unconscious, let us be clear about what the unconscious is
is not, as Sigmund Freud believed, rooted in repressed infantile
sexuality. Instead, the unconscious has its basis in our social use of
is not something alien to ourselves.
is not, in itself, sinful.
is not, in itself, evil.
Because of our unconscious
functioning, however, we are vulnerable to being influenced by
to Evil through Psychological Defenses
You are vulnerable to the influence
of the devil and other demons in proportion to the extent that you are influenced
by unconscious psychological defenses. Thats
a powerful statement, so lets explain
defenses, like the psychological defenses of all of us, were created
in your childhood to protect your pride and ego in the face of
from the world. Unless these defenses are altered through deep personal
psychotherapy, however, they will
continue on into your adulthood, like sealed time capsules within your
unconscious mind, where they cause you, no matter how old you may be, to
act with the selfish desperation of a frightened and angry child.
For some individuals,
defensive functioning becomes the predominant aspect of their being; thus
they lack well-being and are said to suffer from mental
illness. Its an illness that must be cured not with medications
but by deciphering the psychological
meaning of those defenses.
Now, when you act with the selfish
desperation of a frightened and angry child, you are acting with a raw
self-interest that is very similar to the demonic refusal to serve God. In
this desperate state of mind you are thinking only of yourself; you arent
thinking clearly, and you certainly arent thinking about God, and so
you are vulnerable to falling under the influence of demons
Note that many
defenses are created specifically because of the intense emotional pain of
family dysfunction and hypocrisy. Quite commonly,
when a child is hurt and angry because of the failures
of his or her father, these defenses often seek
the unconscious satisfaction of undermining all paternal
authorityincluding the Church and, ultimately, God Himself.
Hatred and the Desire
The easiest opening that evil
can follow into your heart is the path opened by your psychological defenses
in the desire to get revenge for injuries inflicted on you. If the injury
came from God (as a rebuke or a spiritual lesson), you will resent God; that
resentment will breed anger, hatred, and a desire for revenge which will open
the door to the influence of demons, in spite of the opportunity for purification
God is giving you. If the injury came from others, you will resent them; that
resentment will breed anger, hatred, and a desire for revenge which will open
the door to the influence of demons; moreover, you will want to get revenge on
those who hurt you, and you will use the justification that The devil made
me do it!and most likely, because of spiritual
blindness, you will be angry with God as well.
Because this anger and desire for revenge
is not a feeling or emotion, and is often unconscious, rather than conscious, especially
in regard to childhood traumas, some persons might even say that because they live such
pious lives they are certain that they dont hate anyone and dont want revenge
on anyone. But unconsciously they are filled with angerand any of those behaviors
that the devil made me do are the evidence of UID, right along with
all those sins that keep getting repeated despite repeated
So, do you need
an exorcism? Well, maybe not. You can do quite
a bit to exorcise yourself simply by creating an environment
within your house that is boring to evil. Its like when
a neighbor always comes to your house and helps himself to the soda or beer
in your refrigerator. You can put an end to the mooching just by not keeping
soda or beer in the fridge.
regard to evil, dont keep
in your house. That is, purge from your house anything that breeds on the
desire to hurt or get even with others, such as social rudeness
and cursing; competitive sports; political arguing; and violent TV, movies,
and video games. Even though meanness, hostility, and triumph are accepted
hook, line, and sinker by our secular culture, they are just breeding grounds
for strife and hatred.
What Can You
Endeavor, therefore, to realize
that if you carry in your heart all sorts of
bitterness about past injuries and injustices, then,
when new trials afflict you, all that unconscious
bitterness in your heart will gush forth in anger
and revengealong with envy, rivalry, pride, and on and onand
you will fall right into all the snares of self-sabotage,
disobedience, and sin
that the devil has laid out for you.
On the other hand, if you decide
to purge your house of revenge, then follow it up with the
If you do all these things, then
you truly will be serving God from the depths of your heart, and, like an
alcoholic convicted of driving under the influence
of alcohol who finally accepted treatment in a rehabilitation program and
became clean and sober, you will no longer be Under the Influence of
Do not let the
sun go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on
Not everyone who is mentally
ill is under the influence of demons.
Not everyone who is under the
influence of (or even possessed by) demons is mentally ill.
Some individuals are both mentally
ill and under the influence of (or even possessed by) demons.
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1. See, for example, Saint Catherine of Genoa,
Treatise on Purgatory, Ch. IV: The punishment of the damned
is not, it is true, infinite in degree, for the all-lovely goodness of God
shines even into hell. He who dies in mortal sin merits infinite woe for
an infinite duration; but the mercy of God has made the time only infinite,
and mitigated the intensity of the pain. In justice, He might have inflicted
much greater punishment than He has done.
2. We are all constantly being assaulted
by others around us in their desires to get from us what will most
benefit their self-interests. And so the unconscious motive to satisfy
others will often conflict with our basic need for self-preservation. Moreover,
in addition to these social demands, the physical world around us often assaults
us through accidents and natural disasters. Therefore we all must deal with
constant emotional conflict or internal or external assaults
on our well-being.
Common ways of protecting ourselves emotionally
were called mechanisms by Sigmund Freud. When seen in pathological
settings, these mechanisms can technically be called defense mechanisms;
when seen in everyday life, they can be more properly called dynamic
mechanisms. Modern psychiatry, however, uses the term defense
mechanism in both pathological and everyday settings.
In contrast, Catholic theology teaches us to lay down
our weapons of self-protection and to trust entirely in God: Our help
is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth
3. As I use the term, under the influence of
demons can refer to a range of experiences from ordinary temptation to obsession,
oppression, infestation, and possession.
Temptation is simply an inclination to do something
harmful to oneself or to another.
Obsession is an intense fixation on particular thoughts
or ideas that are troubling to the person being affected.
Oppression refers to physical blows or infirmities
caused by demons.
Infestation refers to demonic activity in a particular
Possession refers to demonic control of a persons
Note that temptations are a general part of ordinary human
psychology, and that the term obsessions is not limited to the literature
of exorcism but is also used in psychiatric terminology.
Thus it can be problematic to judge where psychology ends and demonic influence begins.
For example, a psychologist must wonder whether a person is obsessed with particular
thoughts because of psychological defenses created in response to a childhood trauma
or whether the obsessions have a demonic originor whether they may be both.
Consequently, this nebulous distinction between the psychological
and the demonic illustrates the close connection between trauma and evil.
4. Keep in mind that the door to evil
influence is opened as much by self-hatred as by hatred for others.
5. Lust, too,
is a powerful attraction for demons. In fact all sinful passions that the Church
fathers have warned against open a person to demonic influence. Just keep in mind
that anger, which is not technically a passion (unlike wrath, which is anger
inflamed with defiant infuriation) is the psychological basis for all
the sinful passions. Why? Well, the desire to harm or
defile any aspect of Gods creation is a desire to harm Godand the
desire to harm God is what sin is all about.
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