It’s frequently observed that the devil’s best trick is persuading us he doesn’t exist.
One of the clearest demonstrations of this truth is the way people often try to reinterpret scriptural accounts of Jesus’s confrontations with demons, such as those in our recent Gospel readings at Mass.
“Folks in Bible times didn’t understand disease,” people will say. “These weren’t literal demons. They were merely symptoms of conditions like epilepsy or mental illness. But since those who recorded the incidents didn’t have our modern scientific frame of reference, they could only describe them in demonic terms.”
The problem with trying to interpret Scripture from a purely clinical point of view, however, is that it ignores the spiritual dimension of life. It glosses over the reality of supernatural evil.
Supernatural evil is real. The traditional prayer to St. Michael speaks of Satan and his minions prowling about the world “seeking the ruin of souls.” And that’s a good description of the threat we face.
Just as there is a heavenly realm, populated by the angels and saints, so too there is the domain of Satan and
his demons. They hate God, and they hate His creation. Which is to say, they hate us, on whom they seek to wreak havoc, and distort the image and likeness of God in which we’re made. They do this through both direct attack and indirect influence.
But so successful is the devil’s deception that skepticism about spiritual matters has become the dominant outlook. Even those who sense the reality of a dimension beyond the material world tend to be wary of revealing their feelings on the subject.
That’s why special recognition is due Dr. Richard Gallagher, a practicing psychiatrist and medical school professor who has written a well-documented book titled Demonic Foes. Dr. Gallagher has put his professional reputation on the line to share his 25 years of experience working with patients who undergo possession or diabolic attack, or who are beset by various kinds of paranormal phenomena.
Over that time Dr. Gallagher has observed an increase in such occurrences, which in an interview with Esquire Magazine, he attributed to a falling away from traditional religious faith.
“When people give up a mainstream or more orthodox type of religion, they generally develop some kind of substitute belief system,” he told interviewer Adrienne Westenfeld. “That often involves ideas about …