Updated: Sep 19, 2022
["Archangel Michael and the Rebel Angels," Cavalier d'Arpino, c. 1592-1593]
A priest came up to me and, looking a little nervous, said, "When I am with people who are into the occult, I can feel an evil presence. In bad places, I sense the presence of demons. It's a sickening feeling, especially in my stomach and head. What is wrong with me? Am I possessed?" I asked, "How long have you had these sensations?" The priest responded, "Ever since childhood, but they are clearer and stronger now."
In recent weeks, several people have told me that they have similar spiritual experiences and they wonder if they need an exorcism. They are often quite worried and frightened. They think, "What is wrong with me that I sense the presence of evil and demons?"
We have found that a sensitivity to spiritual realities, especially the presence of evil and demons, can come from four possible sources:
1. It can be a natural charism which the person can use for good or ill. These can run in families. Some people come from a long line of witches or mediums and they use their natural spiritual insights to practice divination, something forbidden by the Bible and our faith. Others use these charisms in accord with God's plan and can do good for others.
2. It can be the result of a special Divine gift. Some people are acutely aware of the presence of demons, and sometimes angels, because God has given them a special grace to do so. They are expected to use this gift to help others. They can be a wonderful help in the deliverance ministry.
3. It can be the result of a demonic presence in the person's life. Being possessed can open an occult third eye and it makes them conscious of the preternatural world. Possessed people are aware of demons through the melding of the demonic and their own human consciousness. Or the person may be deceived by demons into thinking that demonic insinuations into the person's mind are from God.
4. For more than a few, it can be simply a product of their over-active imagination. They often describe fanciful perceptions which are not typical of the angelic world. Their "gift" may actually be the result of a kind of spiritual narcissism.
I had a chat with the priest and it did not seem that he had a demonic presence acting in him. Moreover, he was living a virtuous life and was a solid priest. So I said to him, "While we have chatted only a short while, my impression is that you may have a graced spiritual sensitivity, which is a good thing. If you can find a knowledgeable spiritual director to assist you, this sensitivity of yours may be developed and assist you in your priestly ministry." He was relieved and went away in peace.
As the Scriptures advise us: "Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1Jn 4:1).