Why Not New Age, Occult, Satanism?

What is wrong with the New Age movement?

It is based on monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is God). The Church has always taught that both of these beliefs are wrong because they contradict the Christian teaching that God holds everything in existence, but that everything is not God. All of God's creation receives existence from God so God is necessarily distinct from His creation but He is not apart from it. God cannot be identical with what is limited so He cannot be equal to His creation. I know I'm not God because I know I am less than He is. The problem with New Age thinking is that everything becomes God: the chair you're sitting on, your pen, and, of course, you! Hence, the New Age is really the oldest error, namely: pride. Satan offered the very same error to Adam and Eve when he 'promised' that they would be equivalent to God if they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:5). New Age also, therefore, denies key Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

What does the Bible have to say about occult powers, psychics and witches?

Recourse to psychics and witches breaks the first commandment: "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have any other gods before me." When asked what was the greatest commandment, our Lord Jesus Christ, repeating the precept found in Deuteronomy, said, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all of your strength" (Matthew 22:37). While God can choose to reveal the future to His prophets or saints, we as individuals must always have trust in His divine providence. St. Paul reminds us "We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His decree" (Romans 8:28). While we may have that passing curiosity of what will happen in the future, we anchor our lives in the Lord, trusting in His love and care. To try to discover the future through palm reading, tarot cards, or some other form of fortune-telling, or to try to control the future through black magic, witchcraft or sorcery violates the first commandment. Sacred Scripture has many condemnations of these activities: In the Old Testament we find, "Whoever sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord alone shall be doomed" (Exodus 22:19), and 'Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord…" (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). The New Testament also addresses this issue: St. Paul condemned sorcery (Galatians 5:19). In Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul rebuked Elymas, the magician, calling him "son of Satan and enemy of all that is right" (Acts 13:8ff), and St. Peter rebuked Simon Magus, a magician, who wanted to buy the powers of the Holy Spirit to make himself more powerful (Acts 8:9ff). In the Book of Revelation, Jesus declared, "As for the cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshipers and deceivers of every sort " their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulfur " the second death" (Revelation 21:8). [NB 'occult' means hidden, it refers to various forms of magic].

What does the Church say about horoscopes, astrology, palm reading and magic?

Sections 2116 and 2117 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are very clear on these subjects.

2116- 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 honour, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 " 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. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism (chanelling) often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it.

What about witchcraft?

Particular concern must be given to witchcraft, which involves both unraveling the future as well as trying to control the future. Popular television shows may have lightheartedly built a story around witches and witchcraft. Nevertheless, witchcraft involves producing certain effects which are beyond one's natural powers through the assistance of powers (the occult) other than those of God. Commonly, witchcraft involves a pact with the Devil or at least some imploring of evil spirits for assistance. The annals of witchcraft include rites to awaken the dead, arouse passion in a person, and bring disaster or even death upon an enemy.

What about Yoga, Zen and Transcendental Meditation (TM)?

Fr Gabriel Amorth (chief exorcist of Rome) says that Yoga, Zen and Transcendental Meditation are all practices based on reincarnation, or other doctrines that are unacceptable to Christians (p.54). The 1984 Pastoral statement of Cardinal Sin of Manila, states that TM is not acceptable because it is based on pantheism and so denies Christian truth. In 1989 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope John Paul II, recognised that some use eastern methods solely as a psycho-physical preparation for a truly Christian contemplation, but it cautioned that this approach is not without dangers. Pope John Paul himself said that people today have accepted 'rather uncritically' eastern forms of meditation. The Pope calls on Catholics to first know their own very rich Christian heritage (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.90). Colin B. Donovan STL of ewtn.com FAITH forum says that centering-prayer that is not centred on Christ is apt to empty the mind and so leave it open to the Devil to fill the void (accessed on 02-20-1998). Instead, Donovan recommends the Jesus prayer: a simple discipline of repeating the holy name 'Jesus' (or a line such as: 'Jesus, have mercy on me a poor sinner'), rather than using a mantra that, in TM, one must keep secret, the meaning of which you are not permitted to know.

What about Satanism?

Satanism, in particular, gives homage to the Prince of Darkness, and even celebrates a "Black Mass," which parodies the Catholic Mass but commits sacrilegious and blasphemous actions.

What about white magic?

Even if one talks of "white magic" or "white witchcraft," the practitioner is invoking powers not of God in ways outside those of prescribed religion. Fr Amorth says that there are no such things as "white" and "black" magic; there is only black magic. Every form of magic is practised with recourse to Satan, whether the practitioners know it or not.

Is Satan as powerful as God?

No. God is the Creator of everything, including Lucifer. Lucifer abused his own free-will and revolted against God. Satan's power is limited, God's power is limitless.

How can we protect ourselves from Satan's influence?

A former victim of Satanic possession has this to say about immunity to Satan: 'Years ago, before all my sufferings, I went to Confession and received Communion. Since I was not suffering, I did not realise that these practices were a form of immunisation from evil. Now I know it, and I invite everyone, but above all the lukewarm, to believe that God is truly present at the door of the Confessional and in that Host we so often take so casually. I also want to invite the sceptics to believe before "someone" helps you against your will' (Amorth, p.108). A useful prayer against demonic influence (inspired by the late great Fulton J. Sheen) is Jesus' Precious Blood, Mercy. Mary, Help. Also: pray the Rosary (St. Padre Pio called it the weapon against Satan and he said that only the proud and the arrogant refuse the Rosary); wear a blessed object: crucifix, scapular, miraculous medal (St. Maximilian Kolbe called the miraculous medal the 'silver bullet'). And if all this sounds a bit too militant, we need only consult St. Paul who confirms that our ultimate adversary is none other than Satan and that we are, in fact, at war " spiritually (Eph 6:11-14).

Fr.W. Saunders, 1997, Arlington Catholic Herald; Msgr P.J. Elliott, Seances, Spirits and the New Age; Fr. M. Pacwa, Catholics and the New Age Movement and How to Evangelise the New Age Movement; Fr. G. Amorth, An Exorcist Tells His Story; Sec 12 of LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1989); ewtn.com/library; Sheehan, Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine; See also the Vatican Statement on New Age, 2003

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.