Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Age Alternative Therapies and Medicine: A Need For Discernment

A photo of New Age alternative medicines and therapies.
New Age Therapy and Medicine: Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Today's post introduces a new book on the dangers of the New Age entitled, Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture: A Comprehensive Guide to Discernment written by Moira Noonan and Anne Feaster, and published by the Ave Maria Centre of Peace.

The book title does justice to its content as it truly is a comprehensive guide to discernment. It also serves as a key resource for anyone seeking clarity and understanding about the dangers of the New Age, and its deceptive belief systems and practices.

Detailing many aspects of the New Age, this book cites heavily from the Vatican document, Jesus Christ The Bearer Of The Water Of Life, a Christian reflection on the New Age, released in 2003, as a response to the New Age phenomenon. Whether you are new to the dangers of the New Age or if you are somewhat well read on the subject matter, this book is a perfect addition for those seeking to further their understanding, and bring awareness to others.

If today's post is the first time you have been alerted to concerns raised about the New Age, may I suggest you read my initial post on the New Age, The New Age: A Basic Introduction.

With fourteen chapters totalling almost three hundred pages, this book covers a variety of topics on the New Age including: the heresies that form the historical basis of New Age thinking; the false philosophies that underlie its belief systems; a comparison between Christian contemplation and Eastern meditation; the truth behind alternative healing therapies and medicines; how popular culture, media and the youth have become the doorways to the occult; dedicated chapters for discernment of spirits; an explanation on demonology and deliverance; spiritual warfare; and a "Q and A" chapter of questions posed by readers.

The Endnotes are an impressive twenty pages that are sure to satisfy any reader's intrigue and desire for further reading. Included are several well known sources: Exorcists Father Jeremy Davies and Father Gabriele Amorth, Pope Leo XIII, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Monsignor Milivoj Bolobanić, Archbishop Norberto Rivera, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Father Mitch Pacwa, Michael D. O'Brien, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, LifesiteNews and Catholic News Agency just to name a few.

In addition there is an extensive Glossary providing a much needed, quick reference for what is sure to be for many, an unfamiliar listing of New Age terms, beliefs, and practices. Add to this Appendix A, the complete document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for evaluating Reiki entitled, Guidelines For Evaluating Reiki As An Alternative Therapy.  Appendix B contains three pages of scriptural passages.

In my view, the publication of this book has been long overdue and will certainly make for a welcome addition to your reading on the New Age phenomenon.

Due to the volume and density of information contained in this book, and for the sake of brevity, I have decided to focus today's post on chapter seven Alternative Holistic Healing Therapies Affecting Mind, Body and Soul, which specifically deals with the many New Age alternative therapies and medicine. It is an especially important chapter given the fact that it is through the medical field and the health/fitness industry that the New Age has established a domain for alternative healing practices. The result for many has been the following of false prophets, an acceptance of alternative belief systems and practices, and the reception of counterfeit healing and treatments

Today's focus also coincides with concerns stemming from my observations during many of my daily walks in which I have discovered several New Age practices within my local community such asacupuncture, chiropractic, holistic and preventive medicine, homeopathy, reiki, qigong, iridology, Traditional Chinese Medicine or "TCM" and yoga. This list is by no means an exhaustive one as Noonan and Feaster point out in chapter seven, there are many different types of therapies and medicine that fall into the alternative medicine category: 
The domain of alternative medicine is extensive because of the numerous types of therapies offered: homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbalism, applied kinesiology, reflexology and aromatherapy, bio-energy therapy, reiki, touch for health and therapeutic touch all fall under the heading of alternative therapies, with the list continually growing. Although the origin of each therapy may differ, they are all categorized under holistic health... (101)
Should you endeavour to do likewise and discover if the New Age has infiltrated your community, be on guard against the euphemistic titles and deceptive descriptions such as: oasis, sanctuary, wellness, mind body and spirit, holistic therapies, remedies, weight loss, massage therapy, natural and herbal, preventative and alternative medicine.

If there is a treatment that you are unfamiliar with, do not assume it to be acceptable. This has been the mistake of many, failing to question the validity of these treatments and their origin. Also be cognizant of where such "services" are provided, which is typically within trusted medical centers, and health and fitness locations. Be prudent, hold off and do the research. Do not be anaesthetized by the pleasant setting, and encouraged by others who seem to readily accept New Age practices.

So what does the concerned Catholic do in trying to discern what therapies and medicine are acceptable, and which are not. In addition to rooting your effort in prayer and fasting, seeking the truth is essential. This last inclusion of "seeking the truth" may seem rather obvious, but with so much information out there, it really is a necessary reminder for all of us.

What this entails is accessing the right sources such as the aforementioned Vatican document, books such as the one that I am blogging about today, scripture, and Church teaching which can be found in the Catechism of The Catholic Church.

In Noonan and Feaster's book, chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, they provide information to help the discerning Catholic recognize which therapies and medicine fall under the New Age. For your immediate reference, I have included the four "common characteristics" to help you identify what are New Age holistic health practices:
  1. Altered States of Consciousness: Used by a vast number of practices, including: therapeutic touch, psychic diagnosis, dream work, crystal healing and higher mind healing. 
  2. Maya: A concept that claims that illness is just an illusion and proper healing can be induced through thinking, meditation, visualization or positive affirmation.
  3. A Magical Worldview/Divination: With this belief, the practitioner uses psychic powers to diagnose, predict or forecast alleged illnesses.
  4. Life Energies: The New Age model of holistic health is based primarily on its conception of energy and not matter. Illness is not seen as primarily a physical problem, but rather as an imbalance of energy in the body or as a by-product of unenlightened consciousness.
To clarify, "altered states of consciousness or "ASCs" are abnormal mental states that aim to create a void in the practitioner's mind typically characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will. It is through ASCs that practitioners are brought to an encounter with the demonic.

Further in chapter seven under the subheading, Alternative Medicine, the authors recommend applying the following principles to acquire the truth about any New Age treatment: 
  • Determine if the practice is inherently unbiblical. Does it involve immorality, idolatry, demonic forces, mediums or Eastern mysticism? Better to continue to be physically sick than to become spiritually diseased (Deut 18:10-13)
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview, does it really work? Be a pragmatist. Don't just accept stories and testimonies which do not prove anything by themselves. Controlled studies are the best means of determining the effectiveness of any therapy.
  • If acceptable in a Biblical worldview and scientifically feasible, make sure that the practitioner does not influence you with a false spirituality or a mystical worldview. 

Having identified the problems with New Age alternative therapies and medicine, what then is to be understood about authentic healing? The authors provide guidelines in chapter seven under the subheading, Guidelines for Authentic HealingThe point to remember about authentic healing is this: it is a matter of divine grace, a gift from God!

Healing by divine grace is never achieved by employing techniques or through some ritual; nor, should it be considered and associated in any way with an "energy" or "power" to be harnessed, handed down, manipulated or used at human disposal.

Healing by divine grace comes in the form of the sacraments and prayer. The authors specifically note: the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick; the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession); intercessory prayer of the faithful; and the charism of healing that is bestowed upon individuals. These healing gifts are freely available given to the Church for its benefit. Those individuals who possess the charism of healing do so as a matter of being instruments of the Holy Spirit. All this is in stark contrast to the New Age, which seeks to obtain healing apart from God; a false and counterfeit healing whose source is the demonic.

Proper Catholic discernment tells us that under no circumstances even for the purpose of achieving "better health" are we to have recourse to the demonic. The Catechism of The Catholic Church makes this very clear:
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity (2117)
The spiritual perils of New Age therapies and medicines are also revealed by the fact that they are both scientifically unproven and questionable. That being the case, to rely on them is a matter of superstition which reveals the New Age's anti-Christian approach as Noonan and Feaster point out: 
If a medicine, or any healing system, cannot be explained and proven effective by the most reliable method of science available, then relying on it could very well be a form of superstition. Trusting in an illogical type of medicine or device for healing would be no different than believing in superstitious practices such as carrying objects for good luck. To do so is to act contrary to the virtue of religion. (111) 
To further your awareness and understanding of what therapies and medicines are considered to be New Age, below is a list that Noonan and Feaster have compiled in chapter seven, under the subheading, Alternative Therapies at a Glance. The authors have also categorized the following practices as: "scientifically questionable (SC); scientifically unproven (SU); and/or energy healing (E)" (114):

  • Acupressure (SQ, E), Acupuncture (SQ, SU, E), Allergy Elimination Techniques (SQ, SU, E), Applied Kinesiology (SQ, SU, E), Aromatherapy (sometimes SQ, SU), Astrology and Horoscope Readings (SQ, SU), Aura Healing and Aura Soma color therapies (E), Ayurvedic Medicine (SU, E)
  • Bach Flower remedies (SQ, E), Body, mind and spirit healing and workshops (SQ, E), Bio-energetic healing (mystical energy) (E), Biofeedback (can be SU, E)
  • Chakra Balancing and Healing (E), Chelation Therapy (can be used but SQ), Chiropractic (can be E, can be SQ, can be SU), Colonics (can be SQ), Colour Therapy Healing (E), Cosmic and Vortex Healing (E), CranioSacral Therapy (SQ, can be E), Crystal Healing (E)
  • Eckankar Soul Travel (E), Edgar Cayce Methods of Psychic Healing (SU, E), Energy Balancing and Energy Healing (E), Energy Medicine (SQ, E)
  • Feng Shui (art of energy displacement) (E)
  • Herbalism (SQ, E), Homeopathy (SQ, SU, E), Hot Stone Massage (SQ, SU, E)
  • I Ching (Chinese fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Iridology (SQ)
  • Live Blood Analysis (Nutritional Blood Analysis) (SU, SQ)
  • Magnet Therapy (SU, sometimes E)
  • Naturopathy (SQ, SU, E), Nine Star Ki (fortune telling) (SQ, SU), Numerology & Charts (divination) (SQ, SU)
  • Palm Reading/Angel Readings (SQ, SU)
  • Pendulums, Dowsing, Consultancy and Healing (E), pH Balancing (SU), Polarity Therapy (chakras and energies) (E)
  • Power Bands/Energy Bracelets/Q-Ray/Ion Bracelets (SU, SQ, E), Psychic Healing and Psychic Readings (Psychic surgery) (SU, E), Psychics, Mediums, Clairvoyants (SU, E)
  • Qigong (SU, E)
  • Reflexology (SQ, E), Reiki (SU, E)
  • Self-Hypnosis and Hypnotic Regression (SQ, SU), Shamanic Healing and Work (E), Sway Testing (SQ, SU, E)
  • The Healing Code (SQ, E), Therapeutic Touch (energy channeling) (SQ, E), Traditional Chinese Medicine (SQ, SU, E)
  • Visualization or Guided Imagery (can be SQ, SU; and sometimes E)
  • Yoga meditation (Yogic Hindu Spirituality) (E)

Some practices are more dangerous than others, such as reiki which I have written about in my previous post, The Dangers And Deception Of Reiki: A Counterfeit To Christian Healing.

The one common thread running throughout all these New Age alternative treatments and practices is a departure from faith in God. Whether someone does this knowingly or unknowingly, what is at the core of New Age practices is an alternative to God's authority. This is simply an extension of the New Age itself, an alternative thinking, and very different world view to Christianity. For further details on the New Age world view, in addition to my aforementioned basic introduction to the New Age, may I also recommend two of my posts: The New Age: Further Aspects and The New Age: The Human Person, God and The World.

We all want to be in good health, and have it abundantly. We can seek healing for our ailments properly, and avoid the New Age deception of its counterfeit healing as this post has detailed. Our decisions should respect God's authority, and reflect a personal trust in His will for our lives. So many want to bypass God's authority, and seek immediate healing remedies. Such decisions are contrary to God's law as the First Commandment tells us, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." Any therapy or medicine that is either scientifically unproven or questionable or "energy healing" should be removed from consideration, and never accepted as a treatment. Avoid anything that involves the occult, magic or superstition, and has roots in pagan religions. Noonan and Feaster also point out that seeking good health with the use of conventional medicine is also part of an authentic approach to healing, one that cooperates with divine grace.

I would like to conclude with Father Jeremy Davie's warning regarding New Age alternative therapies and medicine. Father Jeremy Davies is an exorcist for London's Westminster Archdiocese and a co-founder, together with Father Gabriele Amorth, of The International Association of Exorcists. Noonan and Feaster have included his expert advice which I consider essential to spotlight the dangers of the demonic element of New Age practices:
Beware of seeking help from anyone except Christ and the Catholic Church. On the physical side of things, accept, as a general rule, your doctor's advice. Don't answer advertisements of healers or physics or spiritualists, don't go to sects or cults, don't be tempted by universal energies or eastern religions or magic cures or alternative therapies or self-realization courses or psychological breakthroughs--most of them are demonic and will one make your worse. (113)
May God guide you in your discernment, protect you in your quest for the truth and grant you an abundance of good health.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Deception And Dangers Of Reiki: A Counterfeit To Christian Healing

Reiki body treatment

Today's post continues with my series of posts on the New Age, and is the second post based on Brother Max Sculley's book, Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki: A Guide For Christians, a book that I had introduced in February of this year with a blog post of the same title.

Of these three New Age practices, I decided to write about Reiki because of the ease with which people are deceived, and the widespread usage that has made Reiki a global phenomenon. If this blog post is the first time you have been alerted to the problem of the New Age, and are concerned about these practices, may I suggest you read my initial post on the New Age, The New Age: A Basic Introduction.

As to why Brother Max has included Reiki with Yoga and Tai-Chi, he explains that an enormous amount of people are flocking to these New Age practicesAt the advanced level, practitioners can acquire occult powers and even supposed divinization. At the heart of these three belief systems is the worship of an impersonal god which is so vastly different from the personal God of Christianity.

Reiki, like Yoga and Tai-Chi involves techniques aimed at producing "altered states of consciousness." These altered states of consciousness or "ASCs" are abnormal mental states created by a variety of techniques, and are at the core of New Age spirituality. Brother Max notes that "...[S]uch states are generally characterized by a significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will." (8) This is in sharp contrast to genuine Christian mystical experiences such as visions, ecstasies or prophetic revelations, which are not generated by techniques, but occur spontaneously and unbidden by the direct action of the Holy Spirit.

If you are new to Reiki, you might be asking yourself what exactly is Reiki? Reiki is an ancient healing art, whose origins date back to a Japanese man, Mikao Usui, who discovered Reiki in 1899. Bother Max explains that most Reiki people regard Reiki as "The Source," much in the same way as Christians look to Christ. Reiki translated means universal divine source which Br. Max notes seems to stem from or at a minimum has some connection to Mikao Usui's religion of Shingon Buddhism's, whose supreme god is referred to as Universal Divine Energy.

In essence, Reiki is a counterfeit healing to the genuine Christian healing available through prayer, the Sacraments and Healing Mass. The source of Reiki's healing is not from God, but that of the demonic. Involvement in Reiki leads practitioners away from faith in God's healing, and into the realm of the demonic, deceived by a host of concepts such as: maintaining and increasing good health, growing in self love, improving one's emotional life, relaxing more deeply, experiencing harmony and joy, and nurturing one's own spiritual life by making contact with the "higher self (the divine self)."

The ultimate source is not implicitly understood by the recipient nor explicitly communicated by the giver, and as such, many enter into an encounter with the demonic unknowingly, attributing the experience to the host of deceptive concepts. Brother Max expands on this point by stating that:
The practice of Reiki generally leads to the acquiring of certain supernatural powers which are demonic in origin. Because its practitioners cover or cloud the true nature of this system, and because it does not have the usual trappings of a formalised religion, I refer to Reiki as a crypto-religion which nestles comfortably into New Age. (116)
Reiki essentially involves the laying of hands over a person either as a "head or body treatment," and is supposed to bring "wholeness" to both the recipient and the giver. The treatment is supposed to provide the recipient with a feeling of peace and deep relaxation restoring the "natural balance of the body." The treatment is supposed to last for approximately sixty-to-ninety minutes and is usually accompanied by quiet soft music, burning of incense and subdued lighting. All that is required to benefit from Reiki is for the recipient to be open, and willing to receive the "energy." 

The Reiki that we have available here in Canada, and in much of the Western world is a "non-religious" form developed by Mikao Usui for non-Buddhists. It involves the use of four symbols: Power, Mental Emotional, Long Distance and Master, all of which are considered the means to making contact with the "source" of Reiki. These symbols are connected with Reiki's three levels of initiation, which involve the process of acquiring the "power." Unlike Yoga and Tai-Chi, very little is explained about this process and therefore, very little is required of practitioners.

To illustrate the deception and dangers of Reiki, in his chapter entitled, Reiki Wreckage, Brother Max provides case examples of people who were involved in Reiki, and how it negatively impacted their lives. Under the chapter subheading of Counterfeit Healing, Br. Max details the experience of Ruth, a married woman with a family of three young children whose initiation into Reiki led her away from her Catholic faith, and into encounters with the demonic, disguised in the different levels of Reiki initiation and through contact with other "Reiki people." Ruth's whirlwind of demonic deception eventually ended by divine intervention. Through God's love and mercy, Ruth was brought to a new point of conversion in her Catholic faith journey, in which she renounced Reiki and all New Age practices, and embraced Jesus Christ as her Saviour and Redeemer.

Ruth's initial exposure to Reiki was an informal one, a workshop in the home of a Reiki Master, a beautiful 40 year old woman with a warm presence. Ruth along with seven others were to be initiated into Level One, and at a later date, Level Two. Level One involved the Reiki Master placing invisible symbols upon everyone, and each person was exposed to their so called "energy centers" or "chakras" in the human body. Ruth admits that never was Jesus mentioned at these sessions. 

Level Two involved the reception of another invisible symbol, the Long Distance Symbol, where Ruth and others received the "power" to give Reiki to others at a far distance, and receive feedback from others who were willing to receive the "power." The demonic element of Reiki is revealed in the following segment of Ruth's testimony:
As we continued we were told that there were spirits attached to Reiki and that you could call on them and receive your own personal spirit (your Reiki spirit) to help you with the person you were working on. With the help of my Reiki spirit, I could sometimes actually see into the body and see the problem, and at other times I would know what was emotionally wrong with the person. Through my spirit, I developed a real clairvoyance... (134)
The spirits Ruth refers to are demonic spirits. Proper Catholic discernment tells us that inspirations, and gifts from the spiritual realm are either from the Holy Spirit or evil spirits. The latter is the case with Ruth's above noted testimony. This is further understood by the actual gift Ruth received, clairvoyance, which is not a gift from the Holy Spirit, and contrary to God's Holy Law, You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me, as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the section Divination and Magic:  
All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. (2116)
Ruth even confirms this herself when she notes that, she met so many people in Reiki who were involved in New Age practices, such as: crystal healing, Tarot Cards, astrology, Past Life Regression Therapy, clairvoyance, aura drawings and healing. 

Further on in Ruth's testimony, she continues to provide a first hand account of the deceptive and dangerous aspects of Reiki when describing her attendance at a monthly Reiki meditative meeting:
...This group had requested me to channel messages from the spirit world for them. It was like a being a medium at a séance. As these were all Masters, I felt very privileged to be asked. One day I channelled this being called Qwan Yin. As she entered me, my whole body shook. It was a strange phenomenon. It took a lot out of me. She was some divine goddess and I don't remember what she said.I really never remembered what these spirits said through me, but all of the Masters wanted more of this goddess so I channeled her quite a lot. I realised after a while that this sort of thing was not good for my body. So, since I was regularly in contact with my spirit-guide, I received instructions from it no to do this anymore. In fact, I was told not to channel any other spirits except one called Shannon... (135)
The above quote clearly shows that Ruth was in contact with the demonic. With all the New Age practices that she was involved in, such an account is not shocking by any means, nor is her admission of "doing a weekend of Astral Travelling" and a week of Past Life Regression therapy, both of which are New Age practices.

One day the Reiki deception all came to an end when one of Ruth's friends informed her that Reiki was not from God. At first, she was devastated by the statement, but she decided to think about it. Taking the matter to prayer began the process of her release from the clutches of the demonic. Ruth even admits that the release did not happen as it would normally have because although she was praying at Church, she was still involved in Reiki. Ruth stated, "...That's not a good mix." (137)

Eventually, Ruth completely gave up Reiki, and disposed of all her New Age material. Upon a visit to a Church of another Christian denomination, and talking about Reiki with one individual, that individual simply responded with one explosive word, "Counterfeit." Ruth states that she knew instantly that Reiki was a counterfeit to Christian healing, and decided to arrange a meeting with the pastor at this Church where she renounced: Reiki and all its allied psychic powers, spiritualism, astral travel, clairvoyance, and belief in past lives and reincarnation. The group from this Church prayed over her, and asked God to deliver her from all spiritual bondage. Ruth reasserted her belief that Jesus Christ was her Saviour, unique Lord and she surrendered her life to Him.

Ruth concluded that she returned to the Catholic Church, and as a proper form of healing, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and confessed all of her involvement in Reiki. In the process, she felt as if a great burden had been lifted due in part to the compassion and understanding of the Confessor. As an end result, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Ruth had many scars removed from the hurts received throughout her life. She began to smile again in her life, and praised God for her journey. By providing her testimony, it is Ruth's hope that others would also benefit from her life experiences, and come to recognize the deception and dangers associated with Reiki, and all New Age practices.

Brother Max's book is a timely publication, a warning to fellow Catholics and Christians alike of the deception and dangers of Reiki, and other New Age practices. As he noted in the Preface, the Catholic Church has remained largely silent about the New Age phenomenon, citing the example of the Vatican's 2003 publication of, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, a commentary on New Age that evoked little response from local Church leaders in regard to these practices. I certainly agree with his conclusion that rightly or wrongly, some may interpret such silence as assent.

My blog post today, together with all my posts labelled "New Age" hopes to help remedy some of the silence from the Church. In addition to the Vatican document on the New Age, I would also like to encourage visitors to my blog to read a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditationissued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on October 15, 1989. I have already blogged about this document with a post of the same title. This document is an essential inclusion for anyone seeking to understand what the Catholic faith teaches about meditation. So important is this document that it was included and referred to in the Foreword of Br. Max's book by Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney.

May Jesus and Mary guide you in your quest for the truth and understanding of the New Age, and the deception and dangers associated with these practices.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Beware The Night: Cases Of Demonic Investigation By Demonologist and Former New York Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie

A photo montage of demonologist Ralph Sarchie, incense, and St. Benedict Medals.
Demonologist and former New York City Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie

Beware The Night, a book about a former New York Police Sergeant Ralph Sarchie from the forty sixth precinct in the South Bronx who moonlighted as a demonic investigator, is a first hand look into the world of the demonic influence in today's modern society.

Sarchie includes several cases in this book in which he candidly describes the process of his investigation and his findings, providing the reader with an insight as to how demonic enters into peoples' lives. The details of each case—what Sarchie refers to as "the work"—reveal not only the very negative consequences of dabbling in the occult, but the lack of public awareness and understanding of its many dangers.

This book is a testimonial of one man's quest to help deliver people from the clutches of the demonic and serves as a key learning resource for anyone seeking an understanding of this subject matter and how to prevent such influences from coming into your life.

The occult dangers are very real and Sarchie cites many different occult elements that were used by the demonic to entice people and lead them to a life of terror including: ouija board, tarot cards, seances, witchcraft rituals, Palo Mayombe "religion" (black magic), crystalmancy (divination), curses, enneagram and Santeria. As Sarchie notes, the ultimate goal of demonic harassment is always demonic possession, but in some of the cases Sarchie and his team arrived on the scene before the worst case scenario occurred. If during his investigations he discovered that a person was possessed, Sarchie would submit the case to a member of the Catholic clergy to perform an exorcism, in which he would assist.

With the cases of demonic possession, Sarchie enlisted the help of two individuals in particular, Bishop Robert F. McKenna, O.P. who wrote the Foreword to Beware The Night and Jesuit and Exorcist, Father Malachi Martin, whose book on demonic possession, Hostage To The Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans, was read by Sarchie and helped him to better understand the "the work."

Many of the cases in Sarchie's book were harassment of a lesser degree in the form of demonic infestation and/or oppression. Rooted in prayer and fasting, armed with St. Benedict Medals, exorcised or blessed salt, incense and holy water, relics including a splinter of the True Cross, Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer and crucifixes, Sarchie, his partner on the police force Joe Forrester and their team of investigative assistants would go off into the spiritual battle zone and engage in combat with the demonic.

Sarchie's involvement in "the work" also reveals to the reader something about the man himself, a person who sincerely wanted to help deliver people from the clutches of the demonic. As a Roman Catholic whose devotion to Our Blessed Mother was expressed in part with his daily recitation of the Rosary, Sarchie prayed for each case. Sarchie never charged anyone for his services and he would make every effort to avail himself to those who called him to investigate, helping as many people as he possibly could. Sarchie was also prudent as he never went on a case without getting all the facts first and then praying on the matter. Sarchie's investigative work during his own personal time is a great example of faith put into action. To quote scripture, "What good is a faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:17) 

Sarchie's life example is something we all can learn from, not only with respect to the dangers of the occult, but how we too can put faith into action. Clearly not everyone is called to investigate demonic influences, but we can ask ourselves, what are we doing with our God given gifts to better the community we live in and help others in the spirit of charity and brotherly love. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarchie has been doing his part, which continues to this day. As I read each case, coupled with Sarchie's frank descriptions about some of his thoughts and struggles, it became abundantly clear that no one can go through all that "the work" entails without your heart and mind being in the right place. Make no mistake as Sarchie notes, this type of work requires a great deal of faith in God.

An image of Ralph Sarchie's book, Beware The Night
Sarchie's book, Beware The Night
Beware The Night includes many cases and some fit into the expected scenarios as to why demonic activity occurs such as: a Satanist renting a basement apartment, someone dabbling in the occult or a teenager that played the ouija board. Sarchie notes that demonic harassment can happen by accident or by design. Some people do not take the occult seriously and think the ouija board is just a game or have no qualms about using tarot cards, attending a seance or performing witchcraft rituals. There are some that know exactly what all these and other occult elements are all about and try to tame the demonic for their own purposes. Of all his cases, I found two to be most intriguing. 

The first case was classified by Sarchie as being in the "innocent victim category" which he detailed in the chapter, The House By The Graveyard. The other case was one of a curse disguised as a religious object, as detailed in the chapter Dabblers In The Damned. In explaining these cases, Sarchie also elaborates on some aspects of demonology helping the reader to understand why these events occurred.

This first of the two intriguing cases, The House By The Graveyard, did not constitute the worst case scenario of demonic possession, but one of a lesser degree of harassment, demonic infestation. Infestation is the demonic presence in a physical location, such as a house, apartment, office, warehouse or any enclosed area. Sarchie describes infestation as follows:
...where the serpents from Hell worm their way into people's lives with small, malicious acts designed to create doubt and fear, an emotion dark forces draw energy from. The demonic will announce themselves in a subtle way. Your phone may ring three times, with unnaturally short or long rings. When you pick it up, you may be greeted by unearthly growling, strange noises, static, or no sound at all. Just then there will be three knocks at the door, but no one is there when you open it. Or you may hear far more disturbing sounds: someone whispering your name when you're alone in the house, heavy breathing in your may feel someone tap you on the shoulder or have your hair pulled, and turn around and find an empty room...Certain areas of your home may develop cold spots that won't go away no matter how much you turn up the heat or may have sudden, drastic changes of temperature, as if something just sucked all the warmth from the room. You may hear footsteps walking around in empty parts of the house or the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the floor. When you look to see the cause of the sound, nothing is out of place. Or you may be all snug in your bed, drifting off to sleep, when you hear a tapping or scratching noise coming from the walls or under the bed. Try as you might, you can't find the source of the noise. Suddenly you may get the unmistakable feeling of being watched, a sensation that makes your skin crawl. A certain room may become hostile to all who enter, even pets may refuse to go into the room, no matter how much they are coaxed. Lights may abruptly turn off, leaving you in darkness, only to blaze on in the middle of the night, jolting you from sleep...Objects may develop a will of their own, moving around the house no matter how many times you put them back...(70-71)
This case involved incidents where scratching noises were heard from a ceiling and heavy footsteps inside the house, which occurred at 3:00am, which as Sarchie explains is the "witching hour," the prime time for demonic activity. Sarchie elaborates on this as the demonic effort to do things in three, to show contempt for the Holy Trinity.

None of the residents from this house by the graveyard, did anything to invite the demonic into the home. As Sarchie points out in the investigation, the home was probably once occupied by a wicked person whose spirit lingered there. It is something he suspected upon discovering from one of the tenants that the landlady refused to go into the house when coming to pick up mail, always remaining on the street. From this Sarchie explains that, "the laws of the spirit world is, "like attracts like," a place haunted by an evil ghost (the spirit of a departed person) can become a magnet for demonic forces as well.

To rid the home of the demon, Sarchie and his team took hold of the aforementioned standard spiritual weapons and began to cleanse the home. The strategy in this case was to burn incense, sprinkle holy water and salt and recite Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer simultaneously at all three levels of the house, so as to deprive the demon of any place to go. The strategy worked and it was confirmed that the demon had departed. It was a successful end to horrific nightmare.

The other intriguing case was one of a curse placed upon a religious object. At first read, that may sound somewhat strange. You might be asking yourself how is that even possible. Sarchie explains:
Curses are typically used to exact revenge. Some magicians attach their evil spells to physical objects that carry the malevolent intention into the victim's home. These are called "contact objects." Just as a religious medal blessed by a priest has a positive charge of holiness and protection, objects cursed by a sorcerer have the opposite effect. They are repositories for negative energy that acts as a catalyst for demonic infestation. Some particularly fiendish occultists spread evils by making seemingly religious objects, such as ceramics or pictures with a Christian motif, then adding something extra: a curse. These artworks are then sold at craft shows to spread the germs of evil to the pious, unsuspecting people who buy them. (172)
Just so there is no misunderstanding, "contact objects" are not previously blessed objects. Any object that is blessed can not be used as a "contact object."

This case involved a teacher who bought a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a local fair. The painting was cursed and when the demonic activity began to occur, Sarchie and his partner Joe Forrester were called in. Joe noticed something odd about the painting. Although it was strikingly beautiful, missing from the painting were Our Lady's feet, which is included in the actual painting depicting Our Lady trampling on a two-horned devil. This omission revealed the diabolic intent of its creation. Upon the discovery of the curse, the room temperature dropped a good twenty five degrees, indicative of a demonic presence. After Sarchie recited Pope Leo XIII's Minor Exorcism Prayer, the room temperature came back to normal, indicating the demonic presence had departed.

There is a lot to learn on the dangers of the occult, which I suspect will become increasingly necessary in today's secular world where faith has declined sharply coupled with an increase in people dabbling in the occult. With many occult elements already apart of mainstream culture here in North America, Beware The Night is a book for anyone who is serious about understanding the subject matter and a great resource on how to protect yourself from such influences coming into your life.

An end note to today's post. I had originally read this book approximately fourteen years ago. My second reading was prompted by the July'2014 movie release of Deliver Us From Evil, which is based on Beware The Night. During its July theatre run here in Toronto, I was unavailable to blog about it as I was on pilgrimage in Medjugorje. Upon noticing of Deliver Us From Evil's October release on my local cable provider's "On Demand" listing, I decided that I was not going to let the opportunity to blog about it pass me by again. To prepare for today's post, in addition to rereading Beware The Night, I also viewed Deliver Us From Evil. I hope today's post will encourage you to do likewise.

God bless Ralph Sarchie, all those involved in and connected to "the work" and anyone that endeavours to better their understanding of the demonic.