Q: I have just finished reading two books about Christian ascetics whose major activities seemed to be “fighting the demons” and being frightened or tormented by evil spirits throughout their lives. Does this really happen to those who try to attain higher consciousness and know God? Even yogis?
Everything that happens to us externally is a matter of karma, the result of past life action. Everything that arises from within us is a manifestation of samskaras, habit patterns and impressions (including memories) from past lives. So everything in our life comes from, and in one sense is a continuation and reaction of/to, our past deeds and mental states.
Therefore the yogi must from the very first realize that whatever happens inwardly or outwardly is a result of his own previous deeds and thoughts. He must understand that his inner and outer life is a revealing of himself, hopefully leading to the revelation of his Self.
There is a Chinese proverb: “When mean-spirited people live behind a door, mean-spirited people come to that door.” The entire universe is a field of vibrating energy, and that energy is magnetic–it tends to gather around itself energies of like character. Our inner and outer experience is determined by our present vibration.
As Yogananda’s greatest disciple, Sister Gyanamata said: “Your own will always come to you. Indeed, you cannot have anything but your own.” This is a fundamental principle that is wise to keep in mind. It means that when something is said or done to us it is an echo of our own speech and action. We say and do it to ourselves. This is very bitter for the ego to face, but unless we do we will never understand anything about our life. It is all karma, and it is our karma.
Now we should consider what could bring about encounters with evil spirits.
The first cause of such encounters is karma. Those (including yogis) who created karma with evil spirits in past lives by intentionally contacting them in some manner, by practicing witchcraft or magic, or by having it done for them, certainly may encounter evil spirits, but can easily deal with the situation as I outline later.
A great deal of demonic attack by evil spirits is caused by the very nature of a person’s religion. For example, if much of their beliefs are false such as eternal hell and damnation (especially for others not part of their religion or sect), and they denounce beliefs that are true such as reincarnation, karma, evolution of consciousness and the ultimate salvation of all sentient beings, then they are vulnerable to such misfortune.
For Jesus said to such religionists: “Ye are of your father the devil,… for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). So a religion that propagates lies is of Satan. Lies have a negative, destructive vibrations even if they are declared to be theological truth–and even if those who speak them are sincere in their belief.
Therefore a religion that is a mixture of truth and lies and therefore propagates lies will naturally be in tune with evil, including evil spirits. What other “spiritual” experience would its adherents have but demonic contact? Sincerity in believing lies does not shield you from their negative effects.
Jesus said: “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,… According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 8:13; 9:29). If you keep thinking that you deserve to go to hell, the messengers of hell will come to help you get there! The mind and emotion are powerful magnets. If someone thinks of evil spirits and either fears or hates them, he attracts them to himself and by his own will makes himself vulnerable to them.
Sri Ramakrishna once told a young man who was a spiritualist medium: “My boy, if you think of ghosts you will become a ghost. If you think of God you will become god. Which do you prefer?”
The Lord Jesus also said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). So those who dwell on evil and evil spirits do so because they have an affinity, even a liking, for evil and evil beings. Those obsessed with sin, damnation and demons have made their choice and will get it. And those who know that God Is All and the destiny of all sentient beings is conscious oneness with God will attain that.
“If ye then be risen with Christ,… your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). If a religion is truly of God, then practice of that religion will protect from and banish such spirits.
Saint James, the Son of Thunder, wrote: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”(James 4:7-8), not: “He will come back again and again and beat and torment you.” And he told the way to be safe and free from evil: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7-8). In Saint Mark’s Gospel (4:10) he tells us that when Satan tempted Jesus, all Jesus had to do was to tell him to get out, and out he got! This is true Christianity. Anything else is blasphemous superstition and evil which naturally attracts demons and demonic people.
Obviously some religions such as voodoo and black magic invoke evil spirits intentionally, but the worship of ignorant religion can unintentionally do the same. The liturgical worship of exoteric Christians draws to them invasion of evil spirits, for the worship itself goes on and on about sin and sinfulness and unworthiness for salvation.
Such “affirmations” must bear fruit. This is especially true of Lent which emphasizes sin and penance, judgment and hell and God’s “righteous wrath.” Accounts through the centuries tell (brag?) about how during Lent demons manifest much more, and how possessed people become more actively so.
On the other hand, the Lenten season of esoteric Christians is a true preparation for Easter, and the days become brighter and brighter until they are prepared to consciously participate in the Resurrection. I have seen this contrast for decades.
“Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). If you “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (I John 1:7), you will be in the light. But if “the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). This is how you discern whether you are really “in the light” or not.
If demons flock around, you are in the dark and likely to stay that way if your religion is so oriented. When you are in a place where pigs are rooting all around, you are in a sty. Where there are no pigs at all, you are not in a sty. The dwellers in the religious sties rationalize that the demons are roused against and jealous of them because they are following the truth, and those who are not bothered by demons are in league with them, and that is why they leave them alone. Not true.
When the mind is dark and clouded and inclined toward that cloudy darkness, then it becomes itself demonic and the person becomes also a demon in human form. I well remember a spiritual director saying to me about a man who had abandoned spiritual life: “He was never bothered by demons. He was his own demon.” Just as I have read and heard ridiculous “enlightenment” experiences that came solely from the deluded minds of the narrators, in the same way I have read and heard “demonic attack” experiences that also came from the same source: a distorted and deluded mind.
We all have subconscious minds, and those minds can hold much negativity and foolishness from previous lives. Just as hypochondriacs conjure up illnesses for themselves, the negativity of our subconscious can project all sorts of imaginations and even hallucinations. If we realize this, then dealing with them will not be difficult, even if tedious. This can be the case with beginning yogis, since there may be a good deal of negative karmas and energies that must be cleared away before the yoga life can really be lived.
One of my closest yogi friends one day saw the decaying face of a corpse in meditation. Overcome by terror, she stopped meditating. From then on, every time she sat for meditation the horrid face would appear along with paralyzing fear. Instead of going to an experienced yogi for advice (she knew several), she went to a psychiatrist who convinced her that yoga meditation was bad for her, and for all non-orientals. So she stopped meditation and ended her spiritual quest.
Recently I read a rather lengthy book in which the author recounts his “warfare” with demons. If he had understood about reincarnation, and how we all have had many lives filled with evil deeds and thoughts much of which remain buried in our subconscious, he would have known that the temptations and attacks came from his own mind, that the apparitions of demons and various threatening phenomena came right out of himself.
He was his own demon. Some of the things he told were so obviously from his mind and not from any other source that it would have been amusing in a child. But in a man it was tragic. And he is teaching others to follow him in the same path. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Next: Demons and Dunces, Part 2: Deluded Asceticism and Dispelling Evil
- Deliverance From Gods and Demons
- Devas and Demons Seeking the Self
- The Divine and the Demonic: Negativity from the Gita View