21 September 2008

My Occult Past (such as it was...)

What I want to do with this post is point out an ancient theme in the life of the Church that shadows her ministry of teaching the apostolic faith. To do this, I want to tell a bit of my story (a VERY small bit) as a kind of witness to what happens when we give ourselves over to the relativism of the zeitgeist. My goal here is not to denounce or condemn but to inform and caution. This post is written specifically for Christians who are either dabbling in New Agey ideas and practices or those thinking of doing so. This post is not intended to persuade those who have left the Church for various occult practices to return to the Church. Nor am I offering here a systematic philosophical critique of occultism/ne-paganism. I am writing as a Christian priest for Christians who are tempted by a darker side. . .

Was I involved in the occult? Yes. How much so? More than most, not as much as some. Basically, I was an observer and a sympathizer but never a practitioner; that is, I was an avid reader of occult books and an eager audience for occult ideas, but I was never initiated into any occult group nor have I ever really participated in any occult ritual. At most, I can be faulted for attending a few Wiccan Circles at Halloween and invoking angels as a kind of magical power. The worst thing I ever did was become an expert Tarot card reader.

My interest in the occult was always a conscious rejection of Christ. During my years of occult interest I was an Episcopalian, mostly fallen away, but nonetheless fully aware of my baptismal duties and readily admitted to communion in the Church as a confirmed member. Nothing in my family background or schooling or childhood would have predicted an interest in the occult.

My earliest memories of the occult revolve around an near obsession with the TV shows Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Nothing exactly dark and loathsome there. However, the idea that it was possible for me as a human to manipulate matter with my will alone was very, very compelling. Now, I never believed that the kind of magic done on those shows was really possible. But they stoked my imagination and lead me to further studies.

As a teenager I played with a Ouija Board with one of my friends. We did all the things that kids do to scare themselves—looked for ghosts, chanted “Bloody Mary” in front of the mirror, etc. My first inkling that this sort of thing might be dangerous came when I read a second-hand book on demonology. Is this stuff really, really real? This book scared me just enough to push me into a deeper curiosity and further research. By this time I had been introduced to the Catholic Church on a class trip to Mexico. All of the sacramental elements of the Church were on full-display in the Mexican Baroque churches we visited, especially the National Cathedral. Our Lady of Guadalupe grabbed me in Mexico City, and I had a profound conversion experience at 17, feeling powerfully the call to be a priest. Never having been to Mass or confession or anything else remotely Catholic, this experience of being called to priesthood was confusing and scary.

I decided to become Catholic. My parents objected, though not very strenuously. I became an Episcopalian simply because the Catholic Church in my university town looked like a Quaker meeting house—brick box, no sacramentals, glass doors. Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church at the time (early ‘80’s) was slavishly following the zeitgeist and slowly abandoning its apostolic heritage. With the irregular ordination of women into the priesthood (something I fully supported) and the revision of the 1928 Prayer Book (again, fully supported), the Episcopal Church became a church given over to restrained liturgical experimentation and utilitarian morality. I was enthralled to modern philosophy and postmodern critical theory (feminism, Marxism) and the Episcopal Church gave me nothing solid to hang on to during this bumpy time. It was easy to stay in the Church and worship the zeitgeist. So I did.

The one occult practice that I became very good at was Tarot card reading. It was something of a game for me at first. I would bring my deck to a party and sit in the corner doing card readings for my friends and colleagues. As I did it more and more, it became more and more necessary for me to do it. Two events lead me to see the danger of the practice. One of my Episcopalian friends asked me if I could do a reading through her for her brother; in other words, she wanted me to read her brother’s future without him present. I agreed. I didn’t know her brother. Didn’t know she had a brother. So, I read the cards. What the cards said was exactly on target. Her teenage brother was having an affair with a married woman and the husband knew. Her brother was in danger of being seriously injured or killed. My friend was so horrified that I knew this through the cards that she stopped speaking to me for months. Another incident happened while I was at a party. One of my married friends was having an affair with a married man. I knew this and thought nothing of it. When I read her cards, they told me that she and her fellow adulterer were going to get married. But before this happened her husband would die. She was freaked out to say the least. What I didn’t know at the time was that wedding plans were underway and that her husband was indeed dying. These two incidents caused me to put the cards away. I haven’t touched them since.

Another frightening incident occurred years later when I was at my lowest. While working in a psych hospital in the last 90’s I had two radically different spiritual influences in my life: a Wiccan roommate and a charismatic Protestant supervisor. My life was in shambles. Emotionally and spiritually, I was a disaster. Clutching at any and every spiritual fashion that Barnes & Noble put on its “spirituality” shelf, I drifted from Wiccanism, Druidism, angelism, various kinds of divination, esoteric Christianity, anything but the Real Thing offered through Christ.

During a particularly low period, I came home one evening from work and my Wiccan roommate began to question me about my spiritual life. This was very odd because he was always “open to the diversity” of all spiritualities and encouraged my exploration. When I remarked that his questions were annoying and inappropriate, he told me that earlier that evening he came out of the bathroom and saw a dark cloud hovering outside my bedroom door. The cloud moved away from my door and toward him. He said that he cast a “banishing spell” on the cloud several times and it drifted away outside the house. I was incredulous, of course. He was worried nonetheless and “blessed” the house with salt and incense, etc. Whatever, I thought.

The next morning, I went to my second job and my supervisor (the charismatic woman) pulled me into her office and started pelting me with questions about my spiritual life. Déjà vu. I answered very vaguely, not wanting to know of my interest in the occult. She grew frustrated and blurted out that I was under attack by demonic forces. This woman is insane! Then she told me that she and her prayer group were engaged in spiritual warfare against dark forces trying to influence the local population, and that I was a central target. Needless to say, I was more than a little dubious. She told me that during their prayer group she had a clear mental picture of me being attacked by a black cloud in my home. I asked her when this happened. She said: yesterday, Sunday. The same day my roommate saw the cloud outside my door. I became so rattled that I had to leave.

About a year later I left the Episcopal Church and became a Catholic. After a failed attempt to join what I now know is a dissident Catholic religious order, I moved home and continued working in a psych hospital. There I injured my back and got a staph infection from a patient in the injured disc. I spent two months in indescribable agony. Finally, my doctors discovered the internal staph infection (something rare I’m told) and they began treatment. For seven weeks I administered I.V. antibiotics through a PIC line inserted in my arm and running internally to my heart. It took almost seven months for me to recover fully. My infectious disease doctor told me that I was very lucky to be alive after going more than two months with an internal staph infection! Apparently, staph destroys heart valves. Anyway, during those two months I was completely dependent on my parents for everything—feeding me, dressing me, putting me to bed—I was nearly paralyzed by the pain. The humility of that experience returned me to a desire for Christ and his Church. That’s another story.

I joined the Dominicans in 1999. Being on the inside of the Church as a religious has opened my eyes to a number of problems that I recognize from my days as a fan of the occult. Everywhere, I see religious, priests, the laity giving themselves over to radical feminism and Earth worship; theologians preaching Gnostic doctrines like pantheism and pagan mythologies; the profession of various kinds of utilitarian-situational ethics in the public square; Catholics teaching pro-choice, sexual libertinism; various kinds of syncretistic liturgical theology (a dash of Hinduism here, a pinch of Native American religion there, some Wiccan rituals as decoration); but the final straw for me was then and is now the prominence of “social analysis” in among the “peace and justice” crowd in the Church, an analysis that was nothing more than Marxism in vestments. I should know. I was professed Marxist for years and I am very familiar with the primary and secondary literature. There is also a superficial interest in postmodern philosophy and critical theory that informs some of the biblical research and instruction in the Church’s seminaries. Again, one of my areas in my doctoral studies was postmodern theory. I know what I see. And I know from personal experience what it does to one’s allegiance to the possibility of knowing and acting on objective truth.

Now, I have to say here something that some of my readers won’t like every much. There is nothing wrong on the face of it with being required to read texts that oppose the Catholic faith. I taught an entire seminar on post-metaphysical theologies using thinkers who would never darken the door of a church much less a Catholic Church. Categorically, I am NOT opposed to the academic pursuit of truth. What bothers me is that this stuff is often taught uncritically and presented as compatible with the Catholic faith. There is a difference between reading texts that oppose or deny the truths of the faith in order to “know the enemy” and combat him and being required to read these texts as a replacement for the faith. I firmly believe that most of those who read and believe these texts understand themselves to be believing Catholics in good standing with the Church. I’m not suggesting some evil conspiracy. Like me years before, they have been lead down a primrose path into a garbage heap. And frankly, I have done a poor job of challenging these tendencies, preferring stubborn resistance and polemic to good old-fashioned Dominican disputation. My unease is wholly my own creation.

Then I was despondent that I had left my postmodernist occult life behind only to find it again in the Church. As I grow in the faith, I see less and less of this sort of thing among my immediate peers (professors, younger priests, religious, and laity) but more and more in the Church at large (diocesan chanceries, retreat centers, etc.). We have all seen the websites of religious orders and dioceses that feature one sort of New Age-Gnostic practice or another. It’s out there in the Church as it has always been. But that it has always been there is no reason not to call it by name. For those Christians interested in mediation, bodily prayer, ritual, esoteric philosophy, mystical theology, revelation, and the holiness of the feminine, you won’t find a deeper treasure box than the Church. Keeping in mind the questions I presented in the post on New Agey Catholicism, it is entirely possible to live a good Christian life thoroughly steeped in the mystery of God’s love and in His “hiddenness.” If you choose to spend your time denouncing The Rules or finding loopholes in the rules, then I would suggest that you are as legalistic as the hierarchs you denounce. It takes a lawyer to challenge a law-giver head-on and find the way out of a merely legalistic attempt to control.

My goal here is not to point fingers or denounce but rather to give those who think they need help the help they need to avoid these pitfalls. I tell my story as a way of saying, “I’ve been there.” You may see “demons” as nothing more than the dark side of human consciousness or as truly fallen angels. Fine. Regardless, we are tempted by something or someone to deny the truths of the faith and to seek after our own divinity without the help of our divine Creator. This was Adam and Eve’s mistake. Don’t make it yourself.


45 comments:

  1. If I may ask, why don't you become an exorcist? Seriously.

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  2. Well, for one thing, I am no where near holy enough for that job! But...ya never know.

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Anonymous11:44 AM

    After reading this, I feel a need to contact you personally with some private information. How might I do this? I looked for your email address and did not find it.


    This has always seemed impt to me but now it seems all the more pressing.

    Many thanks,

    Michelle [a pseudonynm]

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  5. Excellent, thank you, Father. This kind of personal background will be very valuable in your cause for canonization. :)

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  6. Thank you so much, Fr. Philip, for sharing your story. I know that it took courage for you to tell us these things.

    I found the recounting of your Tarot card readings very compelling. I think many people believe we should avoid readers, fortune-tellers, "healers" and things of that sort because they are dupes and fakes. But as we see in Acts 16 and in your story, these things are not always fake. However, they are always dangerous.

    Thanks again for sharing. I'm sure your story will help many.

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  7. Anonymous1:11 PM

    I left a message earlier.

    No need to contact me. I'll find a local priest.

    Please simply pray for me.

    I know about the things you addressed.

    Pray that I may be forgiven. And forgive me. I have been less than kind to you with "comments."

    I know better and should act accordingly.

    Please forgive me. I ask this.

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  8. Jennifer1:48 PM

    Thank you for this post. I think Catholics need to hear more that "playing around" with things like the Ouiji board, tarot cards, fortune tellers, etc. is playing with the devil. It's not worth opening that door to evil to see if you can look into your future. A really good post; I have only been following your blog for a little while and hadn't heard how you came to be Catholic, so I liked that as well. Please keep up all the good posts, I truly appreciate them.

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  9. There's a great need for at least the practice of simple, (permitted always) exorcisms, on persons, places, and things, which was more previously understood as part of the proper duties of a regular priest.

    Please pray these prayers often everywhere, and consider using old rite prayers for some blessings that contain simple exorcisms.

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  10. "Michelle,"

    You may contact me at ppowell(at)udallas(dot)com.

    Thank you all for the kind encouragement and please keep me in prayer!

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  11. "Michelle,"

    You may contact me at ppowell(at)udallas(dot)com.

    Thank you all for the kind encouragement and please keep me in prayer!

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  12. Thank you for this, Fr. Philip. I was raised quite far outside of Christianity, growing up, and spent most of my youth in various levels of involvement with the occult.

    It wasn't until I went to university that I even heard the Gospel. After some extremely dark days in my life, I was overjoyed, if terrified, of the freedom that Christ offered. I was horrified by the RCIA program at my parish; it was something that could have been taken from some of the fluffier Wiccan rituals some of my friends practiced. My sponsor called me legalistic for opposing the use of divination methods, like tarot card readings. I very nearly walked away from the Church after that.

    That was in 2004, and I still struggle with some of the things I see. Just as I still struggle sometimes with the post-modern philosophy, nihilism and radical skepticism I picked up during my studies - it can be very troubling to see Catholics embrace these ideologies. Anyway, I am overjoyed, particularly a priest, denounce these strange philosophies and occultic practices as the dangers they are. Such things are anything but harmless.

    Thank you! The Church needs people like you! You can, of course, be assured of my prayers.

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  13. "Fr. Philip Powell, OP said...

    Well, for one thing, I am no where near holy enough for that job! But...ya never know.

    Fr. Philip, OP
    6:37 PM "

    That humility is probably the biggest qualification for that job!

    Thank you for the wonderful story. As an adult convert I also understand a lot of what you are writing about.

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  14. Thank for you Father for this excellent post. I'm sure it will benefit many, myself included. It's reminded me that many of these dark forces are real. I've been involved with occult things for years also, so it's inspiring to hear your story.

    Also, thank you for the post on the New Age.

    Many blessings to you --

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  15. What a powerful story! I'll certainly say a prayer of thanksgiving that you had such a conversion the next time I'm in church.

    I used to play Dungeons and Dragons when I was in high school, being a total nerd. I always played "good" characters, but after a series of nightmares, I decided to quit. I had a particular nightmare related to ESP and other psychic nonsense that freaked me out for weeks.

    It wasn't until years later that I realized what a risk I was taking. I thank God still that the poorly formed conscience that I had at the time was still enough to keep me out of danger.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Fr. Philip, thank you for writing this, and being so candid about your experience. This will serve the Church, and honestly, I think it will save people. Blessings on your ministry....

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  17. If the "udallas" address above doesn't work, try: neripowell(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Fr. Philip

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  18. Anonymous12:14 AM

    Dear Fr. Philip.

    Your post is a tremendous act of self-disclosure in the futherance of the mission of the Church (which has been and will alwys be, evangelism). Thank you.

    fra. Gerald Mendoza, OP

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  19. Wow father, I did not know alot of this even though I heard your D&D story. That is a heck of a history to come from and make me appreciate you more now that you are a priest with so much experience.

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  20. Oh Father! One of the biggest threats to us is that we presume to tell the Church who they are, rather than accepting the Church telling us who WE are! There is so much darkness in the world; thank you for being a light that helps lead the way. I'm glad I found your blog!! How your coming home must have delighted Heaven!

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  21. Thank you for sharing this, Father; however, please do not, in any way, seek to become an exorcist. If the Church calls you, well, that is another matter.

    For anyone who wonders why I write the above, I would suggest that you read Malachi Martin's "Hostage to the Devil."

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  22. SteveB2:27 PM

    Hi Fr,

    Thankyou for writing this post. I used to be involved in these same sort of things and I can remember the huge disappointment I felt when I went to a Catholic retreat house and found myself being enthusiastically fed all of the same old pabulum I could get at any Wiccan or Magickal conference.

    I remember asking the organisers why they though I needed to join the Church to learn about these things. They looked a little embarrassed for a while and then changed the subject.

    Luckily now I've found a parish that's loyal to the teachings of the Church and can answer that question!

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  23. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Greetings, Father.

    Thank you for your post! I agree with you on the dangers of the occult and have seen some interesting and rather scary unnatural things myself. I have a general question for you that I wonder if you could answer for the benefit of many people.
    Some of my family members seem to think that because the church has recognized mystics in the past and because the famous John Edwards means no harm and prays the Rosary before every "reading" that he is being used by God to help people. I have serious doubts because some of what he presents seems to fly in the face of good Catholic theology (for example, people on the "other side" who are not in hell, but have participated in multiple marriages, etc) Do you have some type of litmus test to tease out the validity of these types of "seers"?

    Thanks and God Bless,

    Betty

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  24. Betty, who do they think he's talking to? Catholic teaching is clear: once we are dead we are one of three places: heaven, hell, purgatory. Also, since you and I must have both body and soul to be you and me after death, the "people" he's contacting aren't the people these folks are looking to talk to. IOW, he's not talking to dead relatives. 'Nuff said.

    Fr. Philip, OP

    P.S. I suspect that if the Devil can quote scripture, he can probably "pray" the rosary. Let's be fooled by pious theatre.

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  25. Thank you for this post Father.

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  26. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this. Honestly, just by reading this I feel more secure in my faith. Recently I've been confused, not in a cognitive way, but rather in a spiritual way, and sadly, I was confused by a Catholic religious sister. All I can say is that it's not very good for a religious sister to confuse a young adult such as myself.
    But your words shed much light into my conscience, and I really do feel better after having read what you wrote.

    From my own extremely brief and mild encounter with New Age stuff, I can say that I can relate to what you are saying in the smallest way. I now know just how very evil New Age stuff is and whenever I get the appropriate chance, I tell those who need to hear my story.
    I thank you for telling yours.

    God bless.

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  27. Anonymous12:19 AM

    I suppose it begs the question: Why did you find yourself attracted to the occult? You say nothing in your childhood would have leant you toward it, but, I imagine something did...

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  28. Father,

    What do you think of what's called Traditional Astrology? That was the starting point for my journey back to the Church. Do you know anything about it? What I mean by traditional astrology is the astrology that was practiced in the Christian West from circa 1200 to 1700. Most of the works are in Latin and have not been translated, though the most popular book is William Lily's book Christian Astrology. A very popular contemporary writer would be John Frawley, who converted to Catholicism as part of his astrological work.

    I have two views on traditional astrology. One is that I would categorically defend it from being called "new age." It's medieval. It was taught as part of the Christian curriculum of the old great medieval universities. Anyone in the traditional astrology movement will tell you that they really hate the new age movement, which they see as superficial, pagan, weak and undisciplined.

    On the other hand, I have a lot of the same unease about astrology that many of the medieval writers had. Their unease was not that astrology was false, but that by knowing the future, a person would not learn to trust in God's providence.

    And that is why I found myself not doing astrology anymore once I came back to the Church. I didn't swear off it. I grew away from it. I lost interest in it because I feel secure about my future, no matter what that might be. When something good happens to be I say the "Glory be to the Father..." When something bad happens to be I say "Glory be to the Father..."

    But I still don't have a deep problem with doing traditional horary astrology. When it works, which it does a lot, I see it as the workings of God's Providence. I just don't do it that much, maybe once or twice a year.

    Any thoughts?

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  29. Out, you answered your own question! Anything that prompts us to trust less in the Lord's providence has to be a bad thing. As I said in a post above...just b/c some practice or another was done in the Church's past doesn't make it OK for us now. Will Catholics centuries from now look back at some of the cached websites from some of these New Age religious sister and argue that worshipping Earth is OK b/c they used to do back then?

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  31. Fr. Greg,

    Have no fear that I would seek out a ministry in exorcism...the thought has occured to me on occasion given my occult background and my work in psychiatric care. However, the level of holiness required for the job seems way, way, way out of reach for me right now. I can hear the Devil now upon receiving the news that his old friend Philip Powell has become an exorcist, "That one! Easy-cheesy. Send a novice-tempter to put him out of business..." OY!

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  32. Fr. Philip,

    As you say, I answered my own question in that my growing trust in God's Providence has caused my interest in traditional astrology to wane. But I can't say that it has ceased entirely. On the other hand, I really spend no time, zero reading about it, while all of my reading now is either the Bible, the catechism, or books by the saints or Benedict XVI.

    Even while I was practicing traditional astrology, I saw that most of the other people involved in it were flakes or worse. Most people ask a question that life itself will answer is a few days. A common one would, "Will I get the job I just interviewed for?", or, "Will this guy I met like me?" I can't count how many times these romantic questions came from married women who wanted to know if their relationship with their married boyfriend would turn out well. Do you need astrology to tell you that answer?

    But there were other situations where there was no clear answer, and some direction could help. A common one was whether a person should accept a given job offer, or whether they should move to a new city. Another situation involved finding lost objects.

    Another set of questions involved health and issues of life and death. On three occasions I did charts for people who were sick where the charts indicated that death was near.

    What I came away with was not doubts about God's Providence, but a confirmation of that same Providence in that both the creation - the position of the planets - and our own lives are ordered together.

    Do you know anything about traditional astrology? It's as different from modern astrology as new age gibberish is from St. Augustine. Also, St. Albertus Magnus was an astrologer and wrote many books about it.

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  33. Father,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. The children and I will remember you in prayer tomorrow.

    My eldest has been considering the University of Dallas. Anything you can say to sway us in that direction?

    Thanks and God bless,
    the Mom

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  34. Dear Father,

    I too am a former occultist, and like you, I had a "gift" for Tarot. I was more ambitious than that, however, always seeking ways of bending the world and other people to my will. The only thing that ever made me uneasy was trying to communicate with the dead, although after losing someone very dear to me, I desperately tried to do that as well.

    I almost wish I'd had the kind of frightening and jarring experiences you describe. I didn't. Rather, my life was in a very slow decay. Things always seemed to be going well, and I always fancied myself quite happy and successful, but inside I was rotting out and sinking deeper and deeper into darkness.

    Financially and emotionally, I finally hit rock bottom, and cracked open just enough to let God in. I was "forced" to go live with my parents again, and experiencing their love and comfort started to remind me of what true happiness was. Later, I met a wonderful man who brought me even greater happiness. Although he was wasn't raised in the Church, he was a very good and upright man. He inspired me so much. I reconnected with nature and my own status as a creature (not a god).

    Just as I was close to getting married and starting a family, my fiance died. That actually thrust me back into a full relationship with God and back to the Church--when I had everything torn from me, then I finally realized that God was there, and I instinctively turned to the Church for help. But for about the first 9 months, I kept falling back into my old ways--partly out of trying to cling to my dead fiance, and partly because Satan was tearing me to shreds! Boy was he furious!

    But God's grace was far too strong, and I kept turning back to the Church; I also got some good grief counseling and medical care. The following Lent, I drew a line and said, "It's all or nothing. Either I'm going to be completely devoted to God and the Church, or not at all. I'm not just going to pretend or go about it half-heartedly." And the rest is history! I'm a Dominican too, now! :D

    Sorry to take so much space, but after reading your story, I couldn't help but share some of mine! Thank you!

    God be with you,
    Heather

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  35. Mom, U.D. is still very solid. There's some rumblings about the changes in the Core that some feel weaken the school's vital focus on the western tradition. Right now there's a quiet back and forth going on about the school's overall identity: some would like to see U.D. become more like a typical state university, appealing to the broadest possible population. Others want to keep U.D. as the niche draw that it is now.

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  36. Mom, U.D. is still very solid. There's some rumblings about the changes in the Core that some feel weaken the school's vital focus on the western tradition. Right now there's a quiet back and forth going on about the school's overall identity: some would like to see U.D. become more like a typical state university, appealing to the broadest possible population. Others want to keep U.D. as the niche draw that it is now.

    Fr. Philip, OP

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  37. Dear Father Philip, Your wonderful personal story reminds me of that of (another) favourite Dominican (tertiary) of mine: Blessed Bartolo Longo. Ordained a priest of Satan and a practicing spiritualist, he was converted and brought to the heights of holiness by Our Lady's Rosary. He founded the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompei.

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  38. Some friends once persuaded me to play glassy glassy (like a ouija board, but with makeshift equipment). I was sceptical, not to say scornful, but went along with it. Then, in spite of my scepticism, I felt myself being drawn in. It could easily become an addiction. I kept away from it thereafter.

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  39. Anonymous1:31 AM

    A comment re Traditional Astrology. I don't know how relevant this is and readers should get the book I mention below and read for themselves in case I have misinterpreted the author. But here goes.

    There is a book by a Protestant Charles Strohmer called "What your horoscope doesn't tell you." Although Catholics should realise he comes from a Protestant position and should bear that in mind when reading what he says on the Bible, nevertheless he is an ex-astrologer and has some arguments that believers in traditional or any other kind of astrology should read. He argues basically, if I interpret him correctly, that:

    1. Astrology is based on pagan mythology. E.G. the qualities assigned to the planets Mars and Venus are based on the traditional attributes of the gods Mars and Venus in mythology not on proper scientific principles.
    2. There are various scientific problems with astrology.
    3. Nevertheless it sometimes happens that you get very accurate readings that cannot be explained by chance. Strohmer explains this by saying that an evil intelligence is using the system to communicate: if I understand him correctly the system has various ambiguities and while the astrologer is thinking which of the meanings to choose in an ambiguous case, the devil can "nudge" his mind in the correct direction. Thus a scientifically nonsensical system can still yield results through demonic interference.

    Strohmer if I interpret him correctly views the interfering force as evil because it lies about itself: it lets the astrologer think he is NOT really receiving spirit communications but getting his information another way.

    Strohmer's model can also be applied to Tarot: for example if you look at the Death card and ask "does it mean "Death" or "A new beginning" " then while you are trying to decide, the devil can nudge your mind to the interpretation that fits your client's situation best.

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  40. Anon.,

    You are right about the influence of evil in occult practices, even apparently benign ones like astrology. Many, many times my Tarot card readings were frightfully accurate. I usually did my readings at grad student parties where we did some heavy drinking. As the night progressed, my readings became increasingly accurate; that is, as I moved closer to intoxication, whatever was feeding me information took more and more control. Looking back on those days, I can see now how I was allowing Something Other than my own skills at interpreting texts influence the readings...in fact, Something Else was using my God-given gifts at textual interpretation to spin some big lies and bring people a relationship with the occult.

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  41. Excellent post Father. Your story provides a great power of example.

    My only acquaintance with tarot happened when I took my son from another marriage to Salem, Massachusetts over Halloween weekend. Boy, do the weirdos come flocking out of the woodwork then!

    Feeling it was utter BS, I had my son go to a reader who predicted several items for his immediate future. I demolished them easily once we left.

    Then over the course of a year every single one came to pass.

    Nowadays I don't play with that stuff, I won't even read my horoscop in the local paper.

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  42. Subvet,

    No astrology! It's a gateway practice to less savor stuff.

    My Tarot readings were always pretty accurate...sometimes frightfully so.

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  43. Father, I was intending to look for reasons why someone who was willing to actually, in reality, state, in writing, that they believe, and dedicate their works to Jesus, when I got an email with a link to your/this webpage. THANK YOU! Yesterday I wrote my own article (2500 words), entitled "Catholic Occultic Tricks, or, Why Catholics Are More Devout" because too many of my "friends" were espousing neo-pagan, medieval, theoretical-only, religious perspective. If you can use what I wrote at http://www.steve-stollenwerk.com/catholic-occultic-tricks.htm , please do ! Thanks again for your interesing essay here. Yours in Faith, dedicated to Jesus, as a Catholic and available to God where he may call me to go, I am, Steve Stollenwerk

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  44. “Hello! I want to let you know about an awesome group called “Kepha, the Brotherhood of the Iron Will.” Kepha is a growing brotherhood of Catholic fathers and sons in seven states that are faithful to the Holy Father. We promote the Culture of Life through monthly retreats and shared daily prayers and provoke each other to Heaven according to our motto, "Dynamic Orthodoxy, Infectious Joy."

    Kepha is a high-octane Catholicism rejecting spiritual laziness and moral compromise. We are under the patronage of our "BIG 3": St. John Bosco, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Kepha members agree to live by 5 commitments : Apologetics, Brotherhood, Charity, Mortification and Prayer.

    Kepha is a non-profit organization with chapters in Texas and Louisiana. If you know of any men who are looking for an excellent way to strengthen their relationships with their sons, then please tell them about Kepha.
    You can find out more information on our web site at www.kepharocks.org
    We look forward to hearing from you.
    God bless you!
    Corey Harned

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  45. Anonymous10:20 PM

    but the final straw for me was then and is now the prominence of “social analysis” in among the “peace and justice” crowd in the Church, an analysis that was nothing more than Marxism in vestments.

    Too true.

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