What if I told you that one of the most recognized saints in the Catholic church believed not just in God, but in the presence of evil spirits.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, in 1540. Known for their missionary work, the Jesuits are still active today and include 12,000 priests. The current pope, Pope Francis, is a Jesuit.
Late in his life, Ignatius collected his thoughts in a book titled Spiritual Exercises. I previously wrote about his guidance on making important life decisions. What I didn’t write about was Ignatius’s grave concerns about “evil spirits” which he talked about at length.
In a chapter titled Rules for Discernment of Spirits: How the Good Spirit and Evil Spirit Operate, Ignatius refers to evil spirits as “the enemy” in battle with “God and his angels.” The hard part, according to Ignatius, can be separating good from evil, because the evil spirit often acts as a trickster. It may disguise itself as a good intention, playing to the ego. He writes that:
It is characteristic of the evil angel, who takes on the appearance of an angel of light, to enter by going along the same way as the devout soul. He brings good and holy thoughts attractive to such an upright soul and then strives little by little to get his own way, by enticing the soul over to his own hidden deceits and evil intentions.
Ignatius warns us that we must pay close attention to our thoughts, to see if we are being guided by a “good angel” or “something evil or diverting.” He warns, in this edited passage:
If it weakens, disquiets, or disturbs the soul, by robbing it of peace, tranquility, and quiet…this is a clear sign that this is coming from the evil spirit. When the enemy has been perceived and recognized by his serpent’s tail…examine the thoughts which the evil spirit brought to the soul…the evil spirit endeavors to bring the soul down.
The enemy is “recognized by his serpent’s tail?” It’s almost as if Ignatius could see the evil spirits he was warning against, and as the following story will show you, perhaps he could.
Do evil spirits still exist today? A modern-day exorcist says yes.
In Los Angeles, there is a woman named R.H. Stavis who writes about her work exorcising evil spirits, or what she calls entities. Though she has seen ghosts and spirits since childhood, she didn’t become an exorcist until a friend was possessed by an evil spirit. She taught herself the craft and today has a long list of clients, which have included famous rock stars, actors and actresses.
In her book Sister of Darkness, The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist, Stavis tells us that possessions happen to “totally, normal sane individuals” that are experiencing high levels of “fear, depression, anxiety or other negative energies and emotions.” It’s during these times, entities can move in and possess a person, “feeding off their very being.” Once they’re attached, they don’t want to leave and must be forced to leave their human hosts.
Just like some people can see auras around people, Stavis can see entities. She has put them into different categories according to their appearance and the power they possess. The more common entities look like black wisps of smoke and are often associated with depression, while the more powerful entities are often tied to traumatic events and appear as large and skeleton-like wraiths.Stavis believes entities are a “by-product of our topsy-turvy, high-pressure lives.” That, and the fact we are out of touch with what she alternately refers to as Spirit or Source, the life force that some people (including me) call God. She says that “Spirit is the foundation of everything we are; it’s where each and every one of us comes from and where we’ll return when we die.”
To do her exorcisms, Stavis goes to Source/Spirit/God for strength and guidance. She gets assistance from a variety of “Higher Beings” that emanate from Spirit depending on the specific case, including angels, wise Master Teachers, even the client’s own deceased relatives. Occasionally, “traditional religious figures arise from Spirit, sometimes even Jesus shows up.”
Sound crazy? There’s a long tradition of exorcisms in mainstream religions.
By definition, exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or spiritual entities. It has been practiced in the Catholic Church for centuries, the best-known example is probably the case featured in the 1973 movie The Exorcist, which was based on a true story. It is also practiced in Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Taoism.
In Stavis’ exorcism practice, she consults first with Spirit before doing anything, receiving guidance before the exorcism begins. To protect herself from negative energy, she burns a special combination of herbs and oils tailored to each situation, and use crystals, candles and stones. All while operating at what she refers to as “a higher frequency” that puts her in touch with the Higher Beings that assist her in removing the entity.
In Sister of Darkness, The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist, Stavis also advises us how we can keep the “dark energy” of the entities at bay. It involves staying engaged with the spiritual side of our lives, through things like meditation, expressing gratitude and “communing with the Source,” which I read as anything that connects you with God, including prayer. These are all activities you may already engage in as part of your regular spiritual practice.
Still think this is nuts? Let’s close with some thoughts from Eckhart Tolle.
While St. Ignatius referred to evil spirits directly and Stavis talks of entities, compare this to what noted spiritual writer Eckhart Tolle refers to as “the pain body.” There is eerily similar language used by Tolle, in that he sees the pain body as being comprised of “negative energy” and refers to this energy as an “invisible entity.” Here are two passages from his best-selling book The Power of Now cobbled together, some final food for thought:
This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. If you look on it as aninvisible entity in its own right, you are getting quite close to the truth. It’s the emotional pain-body…the pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, “become you,” and live through you. It needs to get its “food” through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy.