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Have Nothing to Do With The Dragon, Part I – New Age Practices 

By Deacon Derrick Johnson
Permanent Deacon at Assumption Parish in Welby

As the “spiritual but not religious” cohort of our society continues to grow, there has been an alarming rise of interest in new age spirituality and the occult, especially among young people. No matter how innocuous or silly these practices may seem, make no mistake: they are dangerous. Catholics are called to be vigilant and understand that such practices are not to be meddled in, as they can be avenues for Satan and other dark spiritual forces to come and wreak havoc on souls. This series of articles will address some of these practices and how we as Catholics ought to respond. Click here to read Part 2.

When I was a child, my mother would tell me stories of the occult and black magic practitioners in her native country of Vietnam. I remember hearing stories of people her family knew who were desperate for healing or wanted a particular outcome for something in their life going to someone that claimed to provide a service for the right price. While the stories had different details, she was clear: these things never ended well, and evil was always evil, no matter what the intended outcome. 

I didn’t give these stories much thought until before my ordination, when I noticed the growing trend of mainstream Satanism and the occult becoming more prevalent around me. In the years that I have been a deacon, I have noticed that this trend is growing, even within our parishes and our families. To say that times have changed in the last 20 or so years is an understatement. The thought of a product, music group or even a practice believed to bring about healing being tied to Satan was scandalous in my school aged years, but today, New Age, Wicca and unvarnished Satanism can be found in places we all live, work and play. This trend is rarely spoken of. Ignoring it or remaining ignorant will only allow it to potentially enter our lives or that of our families and friends; first perhaps in seemingly innocuous ways, but later with potentially dangerous and disastrous results. 

What is the occult and why is it dangerous? 

Occultism is generally understood to be an attempt to secretly control or bid assistance from elements of the universe or forces outside of God to achieve an end.  Examples of this can be Witchcraft, magic, fortunetellers, soothsayers, psychics, tarot card readers, crystals, energies, Satanic rituals, and pagan religious rituals (i.e., sage, harmful psychedelics, seances, etc.). 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states partly in paragraph 2117: 

“All practices of magic or sorcery by which one attempts to tame occult powers, as to place them at one’s service and have supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it.” 

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Entering these practices, even with good intentions, takes us away from following God and the life he wills for us by leaving and pursuing by ourselves, a means to gain control in a God-like way. In straying away from the sacraments, prayer and rightly ordered personal sacrifice to God alone, we turn our back on God and open ourselves to evil influences in our lives and those around us. Plainly put, entering these practices is a doorway for Satan and his demonic minions to gain a foothold in us. If it is not “of God”, then what else can it be? 

New Age 

The basic premise of this movement is the false assertion that God is an impersonal energy in the universe and that all is tied into this energy. There are many ways this spirituality has gained a foothold in our culture. Today there are many stores that specialize in these practices. While they may seem noncontroversial or even peaceful and positive, we Catholics must see these for the evil that they are and protect ourselves and our friends and family from them. 

Often, New Age practices offer perceived healing by driving out “bad energy” and surrounding ourselves with “good” or “positive energy.” Words like energy, vibes, aura, karma, and the like are used to describe these spiritual forces. Rather than referring to God, we hear the idea of the power of or the “will” of the universe asserting itself in our life. Different practices attempt to tame “energy” with various methods of contact, which can include entering trance-like states and using elements like crystals and their associated “energies.” There has been an increase in the wearing of different rocks and crystals on the body in the hopes of harnessing their perceived energy and spiritual power. These and other practices like them are all part of the New Age movement. Though they may seem harmless, when one’s intent is to find power through something that is not the one, true, and triune God, it reveals an openness in our heart and mind to powers that are not God.  

When looking for physical healing from pain or after an injury, rather than utilizing traditional physical therapy, “Reiki Therapy” is often turned to gain healing calling on “energy forces.” Acupuncture that attempts to access one’s “qi” or “chi” energy points are also examples of New Age therapies (it should be noted that some forms of acupuncture or dry needling do not involve a spiritual element and are not intended to be included here). Meditation practices and exercises that seek to empty the mind/self and allow various energies and spirits to enter us must also be avoided. Practices that seek to connect us to anything other than the Trinitarian Godhead are not of our faith and violate the First Commandment.

Psychics and Mediums 

In the Old Testament, we see King Saul invoke a medium and conjure Samuel with terrible results. God had commanded that these mediums be driven from the land and the Jewish law forbade one from using such practices. We have not changed much. I remember ads when I was a child which offered call-in services to tell your fortune. One simply needs to drive around Denver to see countless little houses with psychics that offer their services. These places offer to tell you about your future, contact the dead or predict the future via tarot readings, palm readings, conjurings, seances or crystal balls. They also offer to cast spells and to pronounce curses on one’s behalf.  

These mediums invoke demons to help them guess the future and invite these demons into your life as you ask for their help. Any attempt to use these services is evil. Catholics are called to invoke God and God alone to help us. In times of need, we must pray to God. We can also ask Saints in heaven who know and love us to offer supplication and intercession. Ultimately, we must submit ourselves to the will of God and trust in his love for us. 

The Catholic Response 

New Age practices are troublesome because they take the form of a perceived good and lure the faithful away from God and towards control of energy and the like to find healing and wellbeing. This is a great trap, and we must be aware of this so that we can see it for the lie that it is. Pretty crystals, seemingly innocuous cards with strange images and mysterious characters that are presented as a help to our desperation and problems are in fact carefully laid traps for us to turn away from God and to give control to Satan.  

If we have ever turned to these occultist methods we must now reject them all and repent by going to sacramental confession. The right Catholic response to worry, adversity and tribulation is to cling to Jesus. Times of trial are like a mirror that reveal our poverty to us and they are opportunities to realize our dependence on God and God alone. There is no hope or healing in anything or anyone else. Our hope, the only hope of all of humanity, is objectively in one place: the Triune Godhead.  

In part two of this article, I will focus on Satanism and its prevalence in common places of society and related pagan practices.

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