Spiritual attacks: real or imaginary?

OK, I have a question I’d like to ask in light of some personal experiences that is probably going to leave some readers thinking that I’ve finally lost my last shred of sanity. 🙂 Nevertheless, I’m quite curious to hear others’ thoughts on this:

What do you think about the concept of spiritual attacks from the devil or demons or whatever it is that exists on the “other” side?

I had my first brush with this concept when I was a teenager and played around with some occult stuff, none of which I took seriously (I elaborate more on some of those experiences here). Yet almost immediately after that it was like a black cloud moved in over my life. I came into contact with people and experiences that could only be described as, well, evil. At the time I thought I was just having an incredibly bad run of luck, and perhaps that’s the case, but there was an unusual darkness to it all that makes me wonder, especially now that I believe that there is more to life than the material world, if it was not something more than just bad luck.

It wasn’t until recently that I was reminded of the concept of spiritual attacks again. We were at dinner with some devout Protestant friends of ours who came to faith after some rebellious years, and both of them commented that they felt very “attacked” right before and after they made their official proclamations of faith. They described having horrible, vivid nightmares and experiencing verbal (and in one case physical) attacks from people in their lives who had never showed that type of behavior before.

I expected my husband to be really skeptical of their stories, but he actually chimed in that he’s heard similar stories from enough friends over the years that he thinks there might be something to it.

So that brings us to Holy Thursday of this year. We had just moved into the new house and I was busy dealing with that and getting ready for Easter Vigil. As the day wore on I started feeling worse and worse, and I eventually fell into this horrible, angry mood that is very uncharacteristic for me. There was nothing in particular that set it off. I just felt so low and discouraged and hopeless — for no particular reason at all. It was when I heard myself mutter that I was so angry and frustrated that I should just forget about going to Easter Vigil that I thought, “What on earth is going on here?” It was like I was mentally under siege.

I prayed for St. Monica‘s intercession, ate a good meal and went to bed early and the whole thing ended as suddenly as it had started. I have bad days and bad moods like everyone else, but I almost never experience that level of depressed despair that I fell into that day. I think that it was most likely just a really bad mood brought on by the stress of moving with two little kids and company in town, but who knows. If the devil exists (which I firmly believe he does), I suppose it’s not that unlikely that he’d want to steer someone away from faith as much as possible.

So I’m interested to hear what you all think: do you believe in (or have you experienced) spiritual attacks? If so, do you think they’re rare or something that can and does happen regularly to people who dabble in the occult, are about to turn towards God, etc.?

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Comments

  1. marc says

    Well, let’s see.

    After being baptized, Jesus was immediately led out into the wilderness. There, he fasted for a pretty long time and was then tempted by Satan.

    Paul writes about the armor of God. He also write a fair amount concerning spiritual warfare.

    If we’re going to take the “good” (God and Jesus and such) we’re going to have the accept the “bad” as well. No where in the Bible are Satan and his demons identified as “metaphors for evil” or any other such nonsense. Instead, it’s made clear that they are indeed real and powerful and malevolent beings and that thanks to the fall, the devil actually has reign over the Earth.

    So yes, I’d say that spiritual attacks are very very real.

    I think it may have been CS Lewis who said “The most clever thing that the Devil ever did was to convince Man that he does not exist.”

    • brian mokgawa says

      i really like to testify that evil spirit does axceast because i wasn’t a christian before and i never had any challenges that i am having now. now i have nightmares dreaming weird spirit attacks that makes me to pray everyday. but i also have a quastion that how long does it takes for the attacks to be over because i now dreaming having sex and sometimes when i wake up in the morning iam wet in my touser and sometimes i dream something oppresing me very hard and not able to voise out or move and it strikes me almost every day and i dont know what to do plz plz somebody who got help please heip me.

      • Uzumma Oguguo says

        Brian, I have been through a similar thing but mine was real not a dream. I could not move or speak, all i could do was see with my eyes. It is the Devil trying to work on you. Just be yourself. If you pray often and say bible psalms against evil attacks,I am sure you will be fine. The Devil cannot hunt you until you give him a way to sail through. Just take my advise above and have a Priest or Pastor pray for you as well. I am sure this helps.

  2. Fr. D says

    At a talk about these matters, the priest giving the presentation prefaced his words thusly: “The things I’m going to talk about are real and they’re not funny.”

    Of course he was right on. Evil spirits are real and should not to be trifled with. Having a priest to bless your home should be at the top of the list when moving in.

  3. Milehimama says

    Of course they are real. The Church defines three different types of spiritual attack from Satan and his buddies:
    Opression, Obsession, and Possession.
    You know what possession is if you’ve seen the Exorcist. Obsession is when you are tormented from without – an evil spirit is “obsessed” with you. Oppression is more insidious – you feel a dark cloud over you, you feel oppressed.
    Check here for more reading:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04711a.htm

    Also check out “exorcism”, “demonology”, and other related entries. This is the Catholic Encyclopedia from 1913 and is very comprehensive!

    The Cure D’Ars (St. John Vianney) spent much of his life physically tormented by the devil. There’s a good book on the matter called “Evidence of Satan in the Modern World”

    Mama Says

  4. Christine says

    As the other commenters have said, spiritual attacks are VERY real. WE mustn’t blame everything on Satan, but we need to definitely recognize that he is there and attacks us. I have a good friend who says that whenever she gets stronger in her spiritual life – closer to God – she is attacked. I won’t get into the details, but let’s say that it is definitely something that she can recognize without problem.

    I also find that there are times when I am attacked spiritually, and I really think that the times when I am overcome with fear when Hubby is on the road are attacks like that. I say the Saint Michael prayer at these times, out loud and repeatedly if necessary, and beg God to strengthen my Guardian Angel. Another time that I’ve experienced attacks is during Mass. Since I certainly did not pay attention to keeping my mind pure when I was younger (ahem), there have been times when the most VILE things pop into my head without warning, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    I heard a program on St. Joseph Radio (EWTN) about spiritual attacks, and the host said that we have the power, through our Baptism, to bind and cast out demons. We can bind them at any time. We can cast them out (in the name of Jesus) from those who are under our spiritual authority (i.e. children and godchildren, and, I think, spouses). When we do so, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us first, and if we cast out, we should send them to the foot of the Cross, telling them to never return.

    Believe it or not, I have done this for my children when they are having nightmares, and it has worked well. I hate to think of demons attacking my poor children, but I know that they do so.

    Anyway, hopefully that isn’t TMI. 😉

  5. Peony Moss says

    Oh yes. I believe in spiritual attacks, and I believe that I have been spiritually attacked.

    I do not think such attacks are rare. But I think the devils rarely use the showy stuff. Why shout when whispering will do? And when they bring out the showy stuff they risk calling too much attention to their own existence.

    They attack us where — and when — we’re the weakest: when we’re looking away from truth to the occult; when our reason is clouded by illness or fatigue.

    I don’t remember where he writes this, but St Francis de Sales warns that when we make a serious effort to grow in our faith we should prepare for attacks from the devil.

  6. William Eunice says

    I certainly believe its real. I posted about a similar experience my wife and I had at Engaged Encounter of all places …

    My wife and I were the only non-Catholics in the Engaged Encounter. At the time we were Episcopalian (well I wasn’t yet). The priest who was going to marry us suggested that we make an Engaged Encounter weekend in the Lafayette diocese of the Catholic Church. We thought it was odd, but we went anyway. Overall, we had a very positive weekend. Engaged Encounter can be a very awesome experience but it depends on the angle that the presenters go at. Our couples focused on very important aspects of marriage and dared to include topics on contraception and cohabiation. Both of those sins eat away at marriage and are a prime underlying cause for future divorce (i.e. lack of trust and division of sex from marraige increasing the risk of behaviors leading to adultery) … Anyway, that weekend there was a time when all of the couples sat in the round and a couple of questions were asked. The questions were about cohabitation and sex before marriage. The responses included

    “I’ll call you a liar if you say that you are not sleeping together before you get married”
    “After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, I don’t see why getting married is any different”
    “We would be living together but my future father-in-law threatened to kill me if that happened”
    “The everyday difficulties of life require us to live in sin”
    and the gem of the evening.
    “We are all sinning and know it but we know Jesus is going to forgive us anyway so what is the point”

    During the airing of grievances against the Church, my wife and I distinctly feel a deep darkness fill the room. It felt like a giant python filling every gap in the room, constricting the air out of our lungs. It was clear to me that this spirit was one of destruction. I felt like there were people laughing at us for being the different ones. I was stunned and didn’t even know how to handle myself. I was being called a liar. My beliefs were being ridiculed.

    Fortunately the priest and the couples running the evening DID know how to handle it and they did combat such error with charity and with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I still felt more like we needed an exorcist in the room. All but two couples were living together out of 23 and not a single one seemed to show any remorse over the matter.

    Extraordinary conversion – hell comes at us in obvious and sometimes unexpected places

  7. Michelle says

    I highly recommend the book “An Exorcist Tells His Story” by Rev. Gabriele Amorth (Ignatius Press). Definitely those who have dabbled in occult are at a greater risk of attacks by the Devil. He includes prayers and other suggestions (like daily mass – all conversations come full circle?).

  8. lyrl says

    My mom tells me that when I was about five, we moved into a rental house that she believed had former occupants with unpleasant lives (urine-stained carpets were one of the things we found there). I was scared to go to bed because there were “monsters coming out of a hole in the wall”. She says she talked me through some mental imagery of closing the hole so the monsters could no longer come through. This had to be repeated for several nights, but I eventually stopped reporting such experiences.

    My mom believed that the unpleasantness of the former occupants had left negative energy in the house that I as a child was sensitive to. Not that the monsters were independent malevolent beings, but rather they were just reflections of the personalities of the people who had previously made that place their home. I haven’t ever experienced anything that caused me to question this belief.

    I do not believe in the Devil. I am agnostic, but the theistic side of me finds the Jewish view of everything coming from God – good and evil – to be much more compelling that a good God/bad Devil explanation of life’s events.

  9. Milehimama says

    But the devil DID come from God. Lucifer was one of God’s most beautiful and highest beings. He did it to himself.

  10. T.J. Mueller says

    Two excellent books on the subject are “People of the Lie” and “Glimpses of the Devil” both by M. Scott Peck. Dr Peck was a psychiatrist probably most famous for writing “The Road Less Traveled” During his career he performed an experiment where he sought out people who were supposedly possessed. His initial intent was to show that these people had standard psychiatric disorders.

    He finds a couple of cases he can’t explain and befriends Malachi Martin in a search for answers. He becomes involved in two exorcisms and documents them as a psychiatrist. His scientific approach leaves no doubt that the devil, possession, and spiritual attacks are real.

  11. november says

    jen,

    first off, thanks so much for your blog. i’ve been reading it for about a couple months now (yes, i’m a confessed lurker) and have been truly blessed and encouraged by your insights and genuine pursuit of Truth and Christ’s Church. i, like yourself, am converting to catholicism (from evangelical protestantism), however, because i started the rcia process late, i’ll be welcomed into the church at the end of the summer.

    about the topic, i can say from many experiences that satan is indeed alive and strong in the world. what does the bible say, “he roams the earth seeking whom he can devour.” i believe that wholeheartedly. i have to agree with the c.s. lewis/screwtape letters quote here.

    in the last few months, i really have been struggling with a particular area of my life. just two sundays ago, i thought i finally was seeing the light of day, but by tuesday, i was singing a different tune. the progress i thought i was having just seemed to do a 180 spin and everything appeared to be on its head. it was like a kick to the jugular (sp?), as i have called it. i was in serious emotional and spiritual pain from the experience and a friend reminded me that because i had seen some resolution to this matter, satan wouldn’t have it, so he did his best to stir the pot (and boy, did he ever!). thankfully, god has reminded me of his goodness and love and i’ve gathered my strength again.

    so, yes, satan is something else, but thank god that we know that he who lives within us is much stronger than he who lives in the world.

    all the best to you

    oh, yeah, people of the lie is an excellent read on the subject of evil. i’ve read it twice. and also one about demonic possession by malachi martin is good as well.

  12. Literacy-chic says

    Okay, so to answer your question with a question, are some people just more sensitive to these supernatural occurrences than others? I suspect that your occult experimentation left you open to such things. But while I have experienced the powerfully good spiritual experiences (on a couple of rare and precious occasions), I have not experienced these negative energies (and trust me, I do not miss them). But what does that mean, exactly? That people who do not experience this are less open to them? That they have not reached sufficient closeness to God for these spirits to take interest? There’s so much interesting stuff going on here that I hope someone (Jen?) proposes an answer!

  13. Jennifer says

    If it was CS Lewis, than it was ripped off by screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie who penned it in his Oscar winning script to the Usual Suspects, uttered so perfectly by Kevin Spacey: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

    Jen, I was the first to comment on your first Ouija post, so I must have read it before, but in my pre-labor insomniacal state it felt like the first time I read it when I linked through and I am indeed a more than a bit spooked!

    I actually believe that our miscarriages were a form of spiritual attack and never excluded the demonic as a possible explanation for why we endured what we had to endure. Another Engaged Encounter story—Jim and I attended an engaged encounter and it was there that Jim converted from scientific agnosticism to Catholicism and that we dedicated our marriage to greater faith.

    In light of that I believe that one of the themes cropping up here and in the previous post on the subject is that when you try to get closer to God it can leave you vulnerable to attack. Our marriage was most certainly under attack–but like some other incidents in my life, I am grateful and humbled by the way most of what I can look back on as attacks have ended up leading us directly to God.

    I am very what I call “hyper-somatic” as I have always had a physical sensitivity to my spiritual and emotional states and found that I could and often would be knocked down by odd illnesses and strange injuries. There are sometimes when I think God used these states in order to pull me closer to Him—and there are others when, in retrospect, I can tell that these physical break downs were directly connected to my straying from God. So maybe they could be defined as a demonic attack–but again they always end up returning me to God. (Please St. Michael, continue to be the safeguard for me and my family against the wickedness of the Devil.)

    Marc’s example also reminds me that I am subject to obsessions and perversions of thought while fasting and end up in confession more often when the fast is intense—fasting puts us in a weakened physical state that makes us more “open” to these types of things.

    The irony is that to be spiritually open to God one is also spiritually open to the Devil–which is why you see so many of the great saints tortured by demonic attack in this life.

    It is no coincidence, I think, that many of the fallen Catholics I know, (and once was myself), are VERY prone to new age spiritualism and spiritual charlatanism–there is something about divination, the spirit world, and the like that RESEMBLES Catholic ritual and practice and feels sacramental.

    I’m babbling but this is a great topic.

    I will say that when and if I do return to bed this evening I will likely have a crucifix with me.

    Why is it so dark and quiet after I read this?? Yikes.

  14. Anonymous says

    I read your thoughts on your ouji board experience. I once let my friend read my Tarot cards just as a joke. A few months later, I went to a Catholic conference. During the exposition of the Eucharist, I began speaking in tongues. I had spoken in tongues before when I didnt even believe that it was real and someone who I had never met actually came up to me afterwards and told me what I said. They talked about very specific things with names of people in my life that they had no way of knowing unless they really knew what I was saying. Not even I know what Im saying when Im speaking in tongues. Its just a state of deep prayer. Anyway, I was speaking in tongues at this conference and I felt such a burden. It wasnt like the other times. A friend who was praying next to me started going into a fit, sobbing uncontrollably. They carried her out and I followed, still speaking in tongues. They carried her into a room and I tried to follow, but a priest stopped me and looked deep into my eyes and said “Leave her” but I dont think he was talking to me. I felt like I wasnt in control of my own body. He took me outside and said “You can fight it. Go to the cross. Confess it.” I knew he was talking about the ouji board. I said “I dont even believe in it. We were just playing around.” He said “The devil doesnt play around.” I confessed it, received absolution, went inside and saw the Eucharist and just felt so free. It turns out that my friend had been planning on committed suicide and she heard me reciting the suicide note she had already written, but in tongues. I know all this sounds very surreal, but I did not believe it until I experienced it myself. When I do feel attacked, I pray the St. Michael prayer for protection against evil or the Rosary. Saint Padre Pio was always attacked by demons, physically as well as spiritually and he called his Rosary his weapon. The devil only has the power you give him. His weapon is intimidation and lies. He is a coward. Our battle against him was already won by Christ at the cross, we just have to live our lives in a way that accepts the victory in Christ’s name.

  15. beez says

    Why is it that so many people are willing to believe in God and not in Satan? There is a great line in the movie The Usual Suspects:

    The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

    Jen,

    Yes, I believe very strongly in spiritual attacks. I believe, as we draw closer to God, the attacks become more frequent, if not more overt. The thing Satan despises the most is that anyone will get to God, because he long since abandoned God and in his envy and jealousy he doesn’t want anyone else to make that journey!

  16. melanieb says

    Anonymous,

    What a great testimonial to the power of the Eucharist! Where there is darkness, it sheds light. Because of the power of Jesus both you and your friend were freed of the evil that had possessed you.

    I definitely believe that people are attacked, possessed, obsessed, oppressed by demonic influences. Two of the people who are closest to me have experienced such things.

    When my husband was studying theology at Steubenville, he had a “dream” of himself laying in bed and a creature standing over him. When he told the story to his roommate, the roommate interrupted him: did it have a doggish-piggish face? He’d had the same “dream”: he was asleep but awake and this creature was standing over him. It had horns like a longhorn and my husband says it felt malevolent but familiar. The roommate is now a priest, by the way.

    I also think that some people are more sensitive to such things than others. And there are some places too where such things are more likely to occur, places where bad things happened, maybe, I don’t know. I tend to be very skeptical about such things, but have come to believe because my sister is one of these sensitive people.

    When she was little my parents would find her fast asleep with her metal wall crucifix clasped tightly to her chest. She had such frightening nightmares that she’d go and sleep in the hall. To this day, she won’t sleep in the room that used to be her bedroom.

    She’s had experiences both asleep and awake. She woken from dreams of demonic attack and lit candles and opened her prayer book. But the sense of attack continued even after she woke. Once, when she woke in this way and was praying, she had the overpowering thought that it was all foolishness, that it wasn’t real. That God and the devil were nonsense and prayer was useless. She had the strongest urge to fling her Liturgy of the Hours across the room. But she fought that urge and kept praying and eventually the thoughts faded.

    At one period the dreams were so bad, I bought her St Therese and St Michael pillowcases and had our priest bless them.

    But what I wanted to say was that her sensitivity goes both ways, she’s also been very open to God’s presence and had dreams and visions that were clearly inspired by God, not the devil.

    Read about one of them here here.

    As far as the places go, some of what my sister has told me leads me to believe that places as well as people can be under demonic influence. Like Lyrl’s story about the house where bad things happened. There was one hotel we stayed at in Spokane. My sister brother and a friend were all staying in one room and none of them could sleep.Every time they began to drift off there was a deep sense of evil, bad dreams, etc. They all felt it and stayed awake all night. I don’t know what happened in that room, but I suspect it was something very evil.

    But I take comfort in knowing we can defend ourselves through prayer. If we ask him for help, God will never let us be overcome by evil powers.

    St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And may thou, o Prince of the Heavenly Host, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls.

  17. melanieb says

    Oh and I meant to add that I think there probably is some truth to what Jennifer suggested about connection with physical ailments. My sister has always had bizarre medical problems too and one of the demonic dreams and the vision of the Blessed mother came after she’s been suffering from a concussion.

    Literacy chic, I don’t know why some people are more sensitive or prone to attack. I think mystics, people who have visions from God do often experience demonic attacks. Reading lives of the saints shows that many of them had such experiences. But I don’t think the converse is necessarily true, that all people who have visions from God will be attacked.

    Or maybe it’s that not all attacks are obvious. Not all seem supernatural. Jennifer’s uncharacteristic angry mood could simply be explained away and assigned to natural causes. In fact, the most effective attacks are probably those we don’t realize are attacks. I suspect maybe attacks only become so blatant either when spirits get frustrated at our nearness to God or when we leave ourselves open to that kind of frontal assault.

  18. Jessica says

    To echo a previous poster: of course they’re real.

    My folks were missionaries in a small village in the subarctic, a village that actually had a witch doctor, and so my family got to face the reality of spiritual warfare. The scary part? Demons are real, and can do real harm. The triumphal, glorious part? None of them can withstand the name of Jesus Christ. Praying against demonic work in the name of Jesus, and having it be effective, was some of the most powerful evangelism the church up there offered.

    Partly because of where we were living and because of my parents’ vocation, I was taught at an early age to ask Jesus to bless whatever room I was sleeping in, and that I could, as a Christian, tell any harrassing spirit to leave in the name of the Lord Jesus. Because I was God’s child, and as such, had permission to use the authority of his name to protect myself.

    Again, like one of the previous posters, I was taught to tell anything evil “to leave and never return”, adding, “and go where Jesus sends you.”

    That’s a big point, I think. In our own power, we are no match for demonic attacks. But our Lord has conquered our enemies, and will stand with us against them.

    One final thing: it isn’t always true, but in a large part, overt demonic attacks tend to happen in places where people believe in demons. Where people believe in the supernatural, demons will be overt, out in the open, and terrorize that way. In places like the States, where rationalism rules, demons are more likely to “masquerade as angels of light”, and demonic attacks are more likely to be the sort of lying atmospheres that the previous poster described occurring at her engagement retreat. Either way, it is our job to pray, to run from temptation, and to take refuge always in Christ. He is victor over sin and death, and demons.

    peace of Christ to you,
    Jessica

  19. GLouise says

    Wow- I really like what Jessica had to say about this. I have heard other missionaries talk about open demonic attack as well. Here in the States and Western World, we don’t see this overt demonic activity, so we don’t think it is real.

    I also agree with another poster, that we probably don’t realize most of the “dark” attacks over here in the US, I think they are more subtle.

    Of course, and I hesitate to bring this up, does anyone else think that the Virginia Tech attacks were spurred on by demonic activity in Cho? It just seems too easy to blame it on mental illness alone.

  20. Jennifer says

    This has tripped off a discussion over at my blog, too–great topic.

    One of the commenters above stated that in places like the U.S. demons tend to come disguised as angels of light.

    Such resonance that struck with in me—it reminded me of the woman who wrote “A Course in Miracles”–she claimed that the book had been inspired by Jesus Christ, given to her almost as dictation. The book (which I read during my apostatic phase) seems to be all goodness and light. Read with a careful eye and a arsenal of sound theology, however, reveals some of the most common and perdominant heresies in the Christian world.

    Later it was revealed that the figure that came to this woman claiming to be Jesus Christ was, in fact, a demon and she was exorcised before her death–I believe it was actually EWTN’s Fr. Groeschel who performed the ritual but I can’t be certain.

    So many of the New Age’s most convincing and appealing charlatans claim to talk to angels, though clearly don’t subscribe to anything that could be remotely described as a Judeo-Christian belief system.

    What a powerful observation that is. Thanks to the commenter who made it.

  21. Jennifer F. says

    Thank you all for your comments. You’ve really got me thinking about this now!

    One thing I often think of on this subject was the crazy timing of the DVT/Factor II diagnosis back in June of last year (see the archives for more on that). I had just realized the truth of the Church teaching on contraception only a few days before the symptoms started. It was a huge test of faith and really, really made me put my money where my mouth was. Also, the constant pain made me grouchy and selfish, which was a big setback in my spiritual journey.

    As Jennifer notes in her recent post, these sorts of things can easily be explained only in terms of the physical, material world. But when you live through it you know it’s something more.

    Anyway, thanks for all the great comments!

  22. lyrl says

    But the devil DID come from God. Lucifer was one of God’s most beautiful and highest beings.

    That story originated in Paradise Lost by Milton. While many Christians take Milton’s story as true (it has a *very* sketchy basis in biblical text, and Milton believed the book was inspired by God), it is not part of the Jewish faith.

  23. lyrl says

    Many people have referred to attacks in dreams. This article says that 15-20% of the population suffers from sleep paralysis: dreaming that one is awake, paralyzed, and being threatened. (Not sure of the relevance of that, but though others might find it interesting that such statistics have been developed.)

  24. Christine says

    Lyrl,

    One thing you should know about the demons, though, is that they were created by God. They are angels, though bad ones, and that is why we must be so careful of them. They are so much smarter and stronger than we are, but we do have God on our side.

    Jen,

    I, too, once played with a Ouija board without realizing what it was. I do think it has left me much more open to such attacks, and there have been times when I absolutely have seen things upon awakening. One night, when I was pregnant with Big Girl and was clinging helplessly to God at all times, Hubby and I were staying overnight at his parents’ house. His father lay dying in the next room, and I woke up to see a man in the room. He was standing across the room near the door. I can see his face clearly in my mind and could describe him well enough for someone to make a police sketch of him. I startled because I thought it was someone in the family, but it wasn’t. As I realized it wasn’t, he suddenly walked QUICKLY across the room and reached out for me, as if to go to choke me. I SCREAMED, waking up everyone in the house but my father-in-law, who was probably a bit too sedated with the morphine to awaken.

    Jennifer, I swear someone was there. Even now, in broad daylight, I am terrified when I think about it. I’m positive I’ll be saying another Rosary and a Divine Mercy Chaplet before I go to bed tonight. (Hubby is on a business trip.)

    I really have been very prone to these things, which I’ve always figured were night terrors. I’m sure some of them are, but I’m also now convinced that some are not. And, you know what? Big Girl is very prone to night terrors, too.

    I think I need to go back to blessing her with holy water before she goes to sleep at night again, now that I think about it.

  25. Anonymous says

    This is making me re-think a dream I had the other night. In the dream I thought I was dead but wasn’t sure; it seemed like everyday life but for some reason I thought I must be in some sort of parallel universe for the deceased. At one point I was attending what I thought was Mass, but six men walked out to the altar, all wearing what looked like KKK outfits (pointy hats, face masks and all) but in black, not white. I remember asking someone standing next to me “What kind of Mass is this?” and the person shrugging. The church looked otherwise normal. I just wrote the whole thing off as one of those twisted things I couldn’t explain, but maybe there was more to it. Very spooky; glad I say a daily rosary and attend daily Mass!

  26. Jennifer says

    lyrl:

    With all due respect, I have to correct you.

    Milton draws upon Catholic tradition–he did not create the story ex nihilo.

    Catholic tradition and angelology in particular finds its roots in the Old Testament. See the book of Ezekiel and, of course, Genesis for the beginning of the story of Lucifer fallen and becoming Satan.

    The Septaguint is filled with references to the angelology Milton flushes out in his lush and inspired fiction.

  27. Amber says

    I’m going to echo just about everyone else here and say that they are definitely real, and I’ve experienced them myself. I also know people who have experienced very real and dramatic attacks. I’ll also echo what someone else said that when I’m drawing deeper in and closer to God, that’s when the attacks will sometimes ramp up.

    I feel like I’ve just gone though the worst one I’ve dealt with for awhile, but thankfully I think I’m about on the other side. I think the turning point was a dream I had the other night, where I dreamed my baby (not actually either of my children, but a future child as an infant) was stolen away and a supposedly kind-hearted person was showing me to where the baby had been stashed. I knew all along that this person was evil and was the one responsible. I followed anyways so that I could reclaim my baby (because this seemed the only way to find him again), then refused to listen when the evil one tried to continue his lies. I told him I knew he was trying to trap me into being thankful to him when he was the one who set up the whole situation. I then started reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over in my dream, and woke up saying the Lord’s Prayer. It was an intense experience. Ever since that dream two nights ago I have been sleeping normally and I feel like I’ve come back into the sunlight. Thanks be to God!

  28. melanieb says

    Jen,

    Now I seem to be finding references to demonic attacks everywhere! This is from the meditation of the day attached to the email I get of the daily mass readings:

    Saint Francis maintained: “My best defense against all the plots and tricks of the enemy is still the spirit of joy. The devil is never so happy as when he has succeeded in robbing one of God?s servants of the joy in his or her soul. The devil always has some dust on hold that he blows into someone’s conscience through a small basement window so as to make opaque what is pure. But in a heart that is filled with joy, he tries in vain to introduce his deadly poison. The demons can do nothing against a servant of Christ whom they find filled with holy gladness; whereas a dejected, morose and depressed soul easily lets itself be submerged in sorrow or captured by false pleasures.”

    That is why he himself always tried to keep his heart joyful, to preserve that oil of gladness with which his soul had been anointed (Ps 45:7). He took great care to avoid sorrow, the worst of illnesses, and when he felt that it was beginning to infiltrate his soul, he immediately had recourse to prayer. He said: “At the first sign of trouble, the servant of God must get up, begin to pray, and remain before the Father until the latter has caused him or her to retrieve the joy of the person who is saved.” (Ps 51:12)

    by Thomas de Celano (around 1190-1260), from a biography of St. Francis and St. Clare

    Also, two blog posts yesterday from Karen Hall. She links to some articles about spiritual warfare (I haven’t read them yet): here
    and here she writes about the supernatural component to the dismissive attitude towards Catholics and Catholic matters in Hollywood. Interesting reading.

  29. Seeker says

    I definitely believe in spiritual attacks. I especially believe that the devil gets annoyed when we do something good and often attacks us then. I particularly remember some years ago when I had sent in a testimony relating to somebody who may well be canonised one day. Immediately after doing this, I was subjected to a really big temptation – and I have always believed that the two events were connected.

    I was particularly interested in the mention of the great power against evil associated with the name of Jesus. Five years ago, just after I had been diagnosed as having cancer of the womb, my husband, daughter and I got lured into doing a reiki course by my husband’s sister who was a reiki practitioner. The idea was that we could all (including me) give me reiki to help heal the cancer. We didn’t know a lot about reiki and were obviously all under stress from my cancer diagnosis. My husband was worried about whether it was right, but failed to get any real advice from various priests he consulted – who either knew nothing about reiki, or just weren’t interested in knowing! So, we went ahead with the course.

    During the initiation, you have about three or four different stages during which some weird signs are traced over your head. My husband had a bad experience during one of these. He was saying the rosary (for protection, as he was still scared)and saw a horrific image of Jesus with blood pouring from his wounds. He actually cried out and went deathly pale but the guy doing the ceremony managed to calm him and the ceremony went on.

    When it was my turn to have the same thing done to me, I felt very calm and peaceful (I didn’t know exactly what had happened to my husband then and thought his reaction had just been a result of his nerves. The guy placed his hand on my head and was tracing the sign, or whatever it was…… and I felt nothing. Nevertheless, I decided to pray and – just as a safeguard, I suppose – I said ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’ in my head. I really had no belief at all that this would do anything…… however, I was immediately aware of something coming to an abrupt stop in my head. My only feeling was one of complete surprise – how can you feel something stop when you were not aware of anything happening in the first place? I remained feeling calm and peaceful though.

    After all the initiations were completed, we were all encouraged to start practising reiki. Everyone else (including my husband and daughter) was able to do this. There were signs that they were able to do it. But, with me, there was nothing. I honestly believe that I was never inititiated properly, simply because I said the name of Jesus three times.

    Within a few days of the ceremony, all three of us decided to reject reiki totally. We went to a prist who heard our confessions and anointed us with holy oils (similar to the sacrament of the sick). I believe we are all now totally free of whatever strange powers the reiki ceremony imparts. But, I will never forget the effect that just saying the name of Jesus three times had on me.

  30. melanieb says

    Lyrl,

    You are correct that it isn’t in the Old Testament, but the idea of fallen angels isn’t only Christian (and it certainly predates Milton). It may not be explicit in the Old Testament; but the idea of fallen angels is a part of Jewish rabbinic tradition. Stories of fallen angels exist in the Talmud.

    And as Jen said, the tradition of the devil as an apostate angel can be traced back to the early Church.

    Irenaeus writes:

    “The devil, however, since he is an apostate angel, is able, as he was in the beginning, to lead astray and to deceive the mind of man for the transgressing of God’s commands. Little by little he can darken the hearts of those who would try to serve him, to the point that, forgetting the true God, they adore him as if he were God” (Against Heresies 5:24:3 [inter A.D. 180-199]).

    Origen writes:

    “In regard to the devil and his angels and opposing powers, the ecclesiastical teaching maintains that these beings do indeed exist, but what they are or how they exist is not explained with sufficient clarity. This opinion, however, is held by most: that the devil was an angel and, having apostatized, he persuaded as many angels as possible to fall away with himself; and these, even to the present time, are called his angels” (The You are correct that it isn’t Biblical, but the idea of fallen angels isn’t only Christian (and it certainly predates Milton). It may not be explicit in the Old Testament; but the idea of fallen angels is a part of Jewish tradition. Stories of fallen angels exist in the Talmud.
    Fundamental Doctrines 1:Preface:6 [inter A.D. 220-230]).

  31. Jennifer says

    Melanie and L:

    Now you made me go and look this up. (Because you can’t hear the smile in my voice: I love that.)

    The reason that it is in Talmud and part of ancient Hebraic tradition is that it IS in the Old Testament and very explicit in Ezekiel 28 13-15:

    “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God . . . Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; . . . Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.”

    There are more oblique references throughout the Septaguinit, which is the Old Testament that Jesus would have read.

    Contrary to popular belief Catholic tradition is NOT just mythology and superstition prettied up to look like doctrine–it emerges from the fine Jewish tradition of scriptural scholarship that Jesus himself studied and taught.

    We are not as some of our Protestant brethren “sola scriptura” in custom or in practice BUT our traditions is not randomly drawn out of thin air (or popular novels)–we begin and end in scripture with a rich wealth of inspired tradition filling in the middle.

    Now CONTEMPORARY Judaism may not celebrate or honor the tradition of angelology it spawned but its traditional roots CERTAINLY embraced and engendered the tradition we now have come to consider almost exclusively Christian or Catholic.

    Love the Origen quote Melanie.

  32. lyrl says

    Thank you to everyone who has provided information about the history of belief in fallen angels. I was quite mistaken, and find the information other posters have found to be very interesting.

    While I’ve had limited exposure to the complex angelology of Judaism, I’m still not aware of any Jewish belief (either present or historical) in an equivalent to the Christian Devil.

  33. Jennifer says

    L:

    You are right to note that we have a more expanded understanding of Satan but he does appear in the Old Testament:

    The Book of Genesis
    The Book of Job
    Chronicles (he tempts David)
    And I think the book of Wisdom?

    Anyone else know any?

    So, again, our understanding of the Devil begins with Jewish scripture and tradition.

  34. Milehimama says

    The devil and his angels also appear in the NT:
    Matthew 25:41
    2 Peter 2:4
    2 Corinthians 11:14

    Also, a reading of the Book of Job shows that Satan is inferior to God – NOT a Manichean/duality.

    Mama Says

  35. Jay says

    Spiritual attacks are very very real. St John Vianney was attacked by the devil almost every night and it was witnessed by one of his parishioners whom he asked to stay with him for several nights to testify what was happening. I recommend one of the best book on the subject – “Spiritual theology” by Fr Jordan Aumann – which can be still bought on Amazon.com for a reasonable price although it is out of print for a long time. I also recommend regular confessions and regular receiving of Holy Communion. Also adoration of the Blessed Sacrament could be of tremendous help. In particular if you have been even remotely and – even only for ‘fun’ and not treating it seriously – in some kind of occult. Even if someone is foolishly superstitious and laughing at it – like disliking black cats etc- can open the door for evil one to oppress. If the symptoms will persist or increase you need to talk to your priest, the most holy the better. May God bless you and preserve you and yours and be persistent in your faith, whatever happens.

    PS I have a problem publishing this post! This is the third time I try.

  36. P says

    I can attest that the devil really seems to launch such attacks when a person is considering embarking on a new leg of the Spiritual Life.

    I am currently discerning a vocation to the priesthood. You can read about the struggles I am having at my blog, Light Inaccessible, where that is a frequent topic.

    But I am always comforted by the reminder that the grace we win through the Spiritual Combat shall bear a fruit far greater than anything we have suffered in our struggle.

    God bless,
    Paul

  37. Maureen says

    I realize it’s not a part of the current Jewish tally of scripture, but the Book of Tobit is certainly a Jewish book. 🙂

    Not much on Satan per se, but there’s the angel Raphael vs. a demon.

    And yeah, the whole thing with Michael vs Lucifer, war in heaven, and all that had already been developed pretty far in Jewish thought and legend before Jesus was born. (I think the Lilith thing, too.) It’s all pretty interesting stuff. Karen Armstrong wrote a book about it, even. I haven’t read it, though I’ve heard it’s not as rigorous or impartial as it could be; so you might want to look about and find something more scholarly (or with a big bibliography, anyway).

  38. Melanie says

    Lyrl,

    I suppose, in part it depends on what you mean by “the Christian devil”. How would you characterize the Christian figure? What criteria are you using as you peruse Jewish literature and traditions? Are we using the same definition here?

    In addition to the suggestions already made by other commenters, I would suggest a couple of other extra-Biblical sources to examine.

    Have you looked at some of the Jewish apocryphal literature?

    I think the Book of Enoch develops the idea of a spirit of evil who is a fallen angel. See the text here and a summary and background in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry here.

    Also in the Haggada , a collection of Jewish legends, there is a description of the fall of Satan here:

    “The extraordinary qualities with which Adam was blessed, physical and spiritual as well, aroused the envy of the angels.[…] In particular, Satan was jealous of the first man, and his evil thoughts finally led to his fall. After Adam had been endowed with a soul, God invited all the angels to come and pay him reverence and homage. Satan, the greatest of the angels in heaven, with twelve wings, instead of six like all the others, refused to pay heed to the behest of God, saying, “Thou didst create us angels from the splendor of the Shekinah, and now Thou dost command us to cast ourselves down before the creature which Thou didst fashion out of the dust of the ground!” God answered, “Yet this dust of the ground has more wisdom and understanding than thou.” Satan demanded a trial of wit with Adam, and God assented thereto.[…] Michael addressed Satan: “Give adoration to the image of God! But if thou doest it not, then the Lord God will break out in wrath against thee.” Satan replied: “If He breaks out in wrath against me, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High! “At once God flung Satan and his host out of heaven, down to the earth, and from that moment dates the enmity between Satan and man.'”

    It is true this collection was compiled in the 19th century, but it draws on many sources which are much older.

  39. Anonymous says

    Demons do exist and spiritual attacks happen. I would not have believed so two years ago. This was because I was under their sway. Let me say that for some time before my struggle my life was full of some unwholesome activities. I am in an on-going struggle with these evil ones. They whisper evil and have played tricks with my mind which have resembled some of the signs of insanity. I am moving away from them slowly but they are obsessed with me. I have felt my energy field moved and pushed aside. They are exactly as the ancient texts describe…..full of the lowest wants and desires and they seek to test me always by influencing my thoughts.

    I am getting better and can shut them out entirely but only with extreme effort and meditation. God is allowing me to move away from these….as I am accepting his goodness through Jesus Christ into my life. BE WARNED….HE (SATAN) EXISTS as do his minnions…..from one who did not believe and would have thought this to be craziness but two years ago…..I have had to be stronger than I thought possible. With GOD all things are possible and I fight on.

    I believe that Satan’s description is adversary in Hebrew…which is correct…. an adversary to man-kind truly.
    Trevor.

  40. Matt says

    Yeah, I have to agree that they are real. You see them throughout the Bible and if you ask enough people who are willing to be honest, you will find people who have dealt with them. It seems like today they are ignored or hidden in fear that people will think we are crazy. Many Christians will limit spiritual attacks to temptations or hinderences. But the evil one is capable of much more than that. I have experienced it in my life and so have some of my friends. It can be extremely terrifying, but we must keep in mind that Jesus gave us authority over them in His Name. We shouldn’t be boastful or arrogant about that, but confident that He protects His children and is stronger than the one who is in the world.

  41. Anonymous says

    I have been a Catholic for all of my life. It wasn’t untill I received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” via the laying of the hands that my life was one “battle after another.” I was visited by a person via astral projection (the second time within thirty years) who was either possessed or was a demon taking the form of a man. The devil(s)/Satan never quit–just recoup and replan their next strategy! Thank Jesus for such effective weapons as: The Holy Rosary, The Chaplet of the Holy Face of Jesus, pleading the blood of Jesus through prayers or the Chaplet of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus and the Chaplet of St. Michael (which from one of my past experiences, is very, very powerful! Please read some very effective books on Spiritual Warfare which can be found on some religious sites as: Spirit Daily, Ignatius Press, Angelus Press, Tan Books etc. “Greater Is He Who is in Me than He Who is
    in the World.” The name of Jesus is the “Best” “sword of the Spirit weapon” used against Satan!

  42. Anonymous says

    I have been a practicing Catholic for all of my life. It wasn’t until I received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” via the “laying of hands” the I have experienced one “encounter after another” with either the devil or those humans who do “his bidding.” I have experienced on two occasions a visitation from a “possessed” or “willing Satan server” in the form of “astral projection.” No, Satan doesn’t quit….he just temporarily retreats, regroups, and plots another effective strategy along with “spying missions” from his subordinates! Thank Jesus for such effective spiritual weapons as The Bible and the Word of the Lord, the most Holy Rosary, the Chaplet of the Holy Face of Jesus, prayers on the Precious Blood of Jesus or the Chaplet of the Precious Blood of Jesus and the BEST spiritual weapon is the Name of Jesus! “Greater IS HE WHO IS IN ME, THEN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD!

  43. Anonymous says

    I did a search looking for exactly this topic. I was violently attacked in 2006. I had been through more than a streak of bad luck. I was going through a divorce because of domestic violence. Some … would say God’s wrath… God is who pulled me out of my bathtub while I was sobbing because I could not get the banshi’s to stop screaming in my ears. That continued for months…. I am a very strong lady… and tired. My exhusband was a drug addict. My children were hurt… I had a few health problems that were undiagnosed. I knew enough about spirituality to know that this was not a mental health issue. I had been a medium for years. I did not dabble in the occult. I was simply born that way. This story is very long. It has been a very long journey but I’ve gotten through it with God’s grace. I had a series of visions. Visions of violence in my home. I wrote some prophecy and a warning about certain medications. It was the Lord’s way of working with me through grief and sending a message about Xanax, and Ativan. The next night I was physically attacked by no seeum’s. I was attacked by visions, and auditory noises. They were of someone breaking into my house. My senses were already heightened. I was taken for a ride of sorts. I was raped in my vehicle that evening. I was subjected to violent images of my murder (if they could do it) and my ex-husbands as well. I was not quite the same after that. I could not really tell anyone because of my custody case. I simply prayed… and God came to me. I have the gift of tongues… I had a heart attack within the next two months, and recovered. I was held up by angels… and healed. So God is watching out for us, and He will use any evil like this, which is despicable to Him, to strengthen His flock to ensure that they heal from these incidents that he can not explain while we are alive on this earth. So we can go on to continue with His work. My thoughts are – two years later – that God loves me (and you very much)… I must have a high calling… but I think my kids just needed me here for a time… He has worked many miracles in my life. My ex is clean and sober – and not quite the same…. so Thank you for having this topic. It is healing for me to share my story.

  44. Anonymous says

    There is a person who posted in 2007 about evil whisperings… I have experienced this since the attack, since writing prophecy… just remember if it makes sense… then do… because God will and HAS intervened on my behalf. I am happily ALMOST finished my degree. I am going to be very successful in this life… and so are you. You are not alone…. My post is the one above this about the rape… You can not prosecute someone who is already dead…. It was more than that… They sent extremely violent visions… but God would like us not to give this so much energy. He has the power to help us and has… Church is very important to me. It’s a place of community and healing. At this time, He would like us to concentrate on what others are saying to us…. My coming through such a violent attack created a PTSD type effect… because it was so scary… but what has happened on my behalf is that I healed some old issues of mine… relationship issues… perhaps we both have someone very special coming into our lives… God Bless you. Thank you for sharing this because I have thought I was alone.

  45. TaraS says

    Woah! I can suddenly see a massive blessing that was sent to me in the form of a nasty stomach flu. I've had this flu for a few days, and last night was going to start a BIG old prayer that my husband and two small kids didn't get it as well (it's so easy for kids to get dehydrated, and it's just the nastiest stomach flu). It suddenly occurred to me that I ought to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Teresa's intercession for my prayer (promising in my prayer that I would finally learn the Rosary prayers). This led to some insights I've been missing about the whole idea of intercession, which I just felt compelled to share. So I searched "intercession" on your blog, and Voila. This one popped up. VERY timely. I think I have been under a form of oppression attack for some time…about as long as my faith has been going through a very deep strengthening. Turns out I really need that Rosary! Also, I just Google and recited St Michael's prayer about 20 times, as the more I read, the more creeped and oppressed I felt.
    Praise God, and Hallelujah for the stomach flu!!

  46. Anna-Marie says

    I view spiritual attacks are completely imaginary. If they come on after dabbling in the occult or the “dark arts” that has less to do with demonic forces and more to do with the fact human beings are infinitely suggestible. Satan has better things to do with his time than bother 99% of Christians. He might attack presidents and kings. But he certainly wouldn’t bother plebs like you and me. In short, too many believers have overactive imaginations.