Stories of spiritual attacks

May 17, 2007 | Conversion | 11 comments

For whatever reason, I keep being drawn back to this subject lately. The more I think about it, the more I realize it’s one are of spirituality that I haven’t put much thought at all into, and that I should perhaps consider more.

After I wrote this post a couple weeks ago I came across a variety of other posts on the subject that I found interesting and helpful (and creepy). Since the topic seemed to strike a chord with many of you, I thought I’d do a roundup of recent blog coverage of the subject:

Mary Meets Dolly: Rebecca, a molecular biologist, talks about how she’d never given much thought to the subject until she felt intensely attacked after she started speaking out about stem cell research and cloning.

The Recovering Dissident Catholic: Cathy_of_Alex talks about a disturbing visitation she experienced while dabbling in New Age practices.

Adoro te Devote: Adoro recounts a chilling story of what sorts of things can happen when you dabble in the occult — in particular, the very disturbed people that will come into your life.

Perfect Work: Jennifer talks about her seven miscarriages and the misdiagnosed medical condition that probably caused them. Was it a series of terribly untimely medical mistakes or a spiritual attack? …Is there a difference?

Steppin’ Heavenward: Renee, mother of nine children (three adopted from Ethiopia), talks of how she felt most attacked when she was in the process of adopting her children.

The Walled Garden: Coffee Wife talks about some very creepy occurrences in her house. And though she doesn’t specifically discuss it in her post about spiritual attacks, I have to wonder if she’s being attacked in more ways than just through her physical surroundings: read this post and see what you think.

Wife of an Addict: This whole blog is the chronicle of one, long spiritual attack. The wife of a recovering sex addict humbly shares the agony she’s experienced and her efforts to put her life and her marriage back on track. This post is an example of how she resists the temptation to let anger and despair overcome her by showing love and charity to others. [Warning: the blog sometimes deals with adult subject matter.]

Causa Nostrae Laetitiae: Leticia tells her story and makes the point that even people who are raised in devoutly Catholic homes can fall into fascination with the occult if they’re not keenly on the lookout for such dangers.

– And, of course, the comments to my posts on the subject here and here and very interesting and worth reading.

This whole topic has given me a lot to think about. Thank you to all the bloggers and commentors who’ve been so open with their experiences on this subject. It’s not really accepted in our culture to talk about this sort of thing, and I think many of us are worried about being written off as superstitious or silly so we hesitate to bring it up. Yet I think that in order to truly grow in faith we need to be aware that there are evil forces as well as good forces at work in our world.

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I was discussing this with the monsignor at my church last week and he was pretty dismissive of these things as being the work of the devil. He said he believes the devil prefers to attack us in much more subtle ways; that these really blatant attacks are just too obvious and simplistic. His comments reminded me of what Albert Brooks’ character said to Holly Hunter’s character in the movie “Broadcast News”; it was something along the lines of “If the devil is with us now he won’t be in costume with horns and a pointy tail; he’ll be attractive, well-groomed and well-dressed. He’ll be nice and polite and helpful, and bit by bit, he’ll lower our standards until there’s nothing left of us. And he’ll be so nice and attractive the whole time he’s doing it that we’ll keep thinking he’s this great guy.”

    Something to think about.

  2. Jennifer F.

    Anon –

    That is clearly one way it works. It is probably his most effective method in our society. However, having experienced something like this at certain points in my life, I am certain that these types of stories listed here are certainly ways that the devil operates.

    Of course I have no way of knowing for certain if every single account here really is the work of evil forces. But I have been in situations and around people where the feeling of suffocating darkness was palpable. As with many matters of faith, you can’t prove it on paper or really even describe it in a way that a skeptic would believe it, but when you live through it it becomes pretty clear what’s going on. You just know.

    Your monsignor’s point is a good one, though, and something we should keep in mind.

  3. melanieb

    Anon.

    So what is the monsignor’s explanation for these kinds of experiences? Are they supposed to be mental illness, the product of an overactive imagination, mass psychosis?

    To dismiss blatant attacks as “too obvious” seems foolhardy. The devil uses whatever tools he can get his hands on, whatever he thinks will work. Just because subtlety is his preferred MO, doesn’t mean he can’t be blatant. And evil is very often obvious and simplistic.

    In C.S. Lewis’ novel Perelandra, the demon at one point resorts to the very childish tactic of merely calling out the protagonist’s name over and over again. Evil can be very simple and obvious, especially when confronting a person who does not deny the existence of evil. In such cases there may be an attempt to overwhelm the person and make them doubt God’s ability to protect them. Also, when people have been dabbling with the occult, as is the case in many of these stories, they are inviting a more obvious and blatant appearance of evil.

  4. Anonymous

    Jen and Melanie:

    Msgr. did believe that the devil can seed our mind with doubts and fears, but that we are largely responsible for how we respond to them. Msgr. has an extensive background in counseling (and a grad psych degree) and feels that mental health issues can often go hand in hand with feeling “attacked”. In some cases it is also a convenient way to absolve oneself of certain responsibilities.

    I’ve had plenty of weird things happen to me and some extremely spooky dreams, but I don’t automatically believe the devil is out to get me every time something bad happens. I don’t doubt the experiences people posting here claim to have had, but some cautionary skepticism isn’t a bad thing.

  5. Jennifer F.

    I don’t automatically believe the devil is out to get me every time something bad happens.

    Of course. But you’re not implying that I and the other bloggers here do that either, right? I’m sure that the other people who wrote these posts have had plenty of other scary dreams or bad weeks or whatever. They’ve singled out these events as probable spiritual attacks because of the circumstances surrounding them (e.g. conversion, dabbling in the occult), and/or that out-of-the-ordinary feeling that comes with it.

  6. Anonymous

    No Jennifer, I’m not implying that at all, but I do think that overactive imaginations and sometimes a need for attention or a convenient excuse can play a role in these things (as Msgr. said). I don’t doubt that anyone who posted about their experiences here believes that they were attacked, but that doesn’t mean that they were. Imagination is an extremely powerful thing.

  7. Sarah

    Jen,

    I just wanted to thank you so very much for linking to my blog, especially to that particular post. It is one that has special meaning to me.

    Yes, Satan is very real, as are the third of the angels that he has at his disposal to wreck and ravage our lives. This war is not against flesh and blood, but it is a war none the less. It’s better to acknowledge your enemy than to fight blindly, don’t you think?

    Thank you for “attacking” this subject!

    God Bless,

    Sarah (thewifeofanaddict)

  8. Melanie

    Anon.

    if you’re determined to be a skeptic, you’ll be a skeptic and nothing anyone can say will convince you otherwise. However, you are making assertions without evidence. You claim that most people have overactive imaginations yet you have no knowledge of the people involved other than reading their stories here.

    One thing I noticed in almost all the stories, however, is that the person telling the story states outright that they do not tend to have an overactive imagination, they do tend to be skeptical about such things, they know there are rational explanations for illness etc., but that this particular experience had a different feel to it.

    So in essence, you are implying that people are liars or delusional. A healthy skepticism is good and I tend to be pretty skeptical about matters of spiritual attack. But at the same time I think that an overly skeptical attitude can make one vulnerable too, if it means that you lower your defenses and are not on guard against the very real forces of evil that are out there and wish us harm.

  9. Leticia

    Thank you for the link, this sharing of spiritual attacks has been so enlightening. Thanks for doing a round up of the posts, I’ll wager there are more out there!
    Did you know that there is a movie in the works based on CSLewis’ book, “The Screwtape Letters”?
    Very timely, I’d say!

  10. Kevin

    The devil wants to rebel against and hurt God, but is incapable of a direct attack against Him. So, he tries to hurt God in the only way he can – convince those whom God loves to reject Him. And so, the devil works incessantly to try to make us do that. And most of the time, those subtle ways that anonymous’s monsignor mentioned work, and we can hardly even notice that we’re being led astray.

    It’s when we’re making a sincere effort to be holy, and are open to the help of God’s grace that the devil gets frustrated. That is what I think the spiritual attacks you are talking about are: the devil is getting desperate, and is “upping the ante,” so to speak.

    A more spiritually mature Christian than I am, then, would actually welcome these attacks, as frightening as they are, as a sign that they’re on the right track.

    But they scare the willies out of me.

    Kevin

  11. Deirdre Niatopsky

    So I may not be a great Christian. I however believe that my current physical ailments are that of a spiritual attack. I was in another state and got involved with the wrong people, i kept trying to get back to God and i started getting physically sick. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I went to doctors (3-4)and each one tried to tell me i either had bronchitis or allergies. I was tested for allergies they found nothing…and the bronchitis medicine didn’t work. This problem lasted from June 2011-Feb 2012. One Saturday I recommitted my life to God and all the physical ailments went away, until recently when I started no trusting God again and they came back. This is crazy.

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