I have just been reading the Telegraph obituary of Dorothy Maclean, co-founder of the New Age Findhorn Community. I suspect that the obituarist who wrote it took a scarcely concealed ironic pleasure in his task. Maclean, who has died aged 100, joined forces with a couple called Eileen and Peter Caddy and moved to Findhorn on the Moray Firth in 1962. Eileen Caddy had already made contact with a “mother ship from Venus”; and her husband had cut down trees “to create a landing site for the spacecraft”, while Dorothy discovered “she was able to make contact with vegetable spirits called devas.” It seems the deva of the garden pea promised help “instructing them not to be too hard on the slugs.”
By the late 1960s their fledgling community had expanded, growing gradually to include about 300 members, some of them celebrities. In 1971, Eileen Caddy, who was “guided by her inner voice, came to believe that children would no longer be conceived through sex but through the power of enlightened thought and spirit.” Her husband, unhappy with this unusual theory, eventually left her. Indeed, the amorous activities of the early members of the Findhorn Community – but not Dorothy – remind one of the Bloomsbury Group, with the added patina of a highly eccentric “spirituality”.
Why do I mention this lady and her friends? Because I have been reading The Devil is Afraid of Me by Fr Marcello Stanzione (Sophia Institute Press), which is an anthology of the writings of, and interviews with, the late Fr Gabriele Amorth, described with some justification as “the world’s most famous exorcist.” Fr Amorth, an Italian priest born in 1925, ordained in 1954 and who died in 2016 aged 91, wrote numerous books on exorcism to persuade a disbelieving readership, including sceptical or ignorant Catholics, of the reality of Satan and the appalling power he sometimes has over the lives of people – occasionally good people whom he wants to corrupt but more often those who dabble in the occult, in magic, in superstitious practices – and the New Age.
It is wrongly thought that New Age practices are merely pagan and therefore harmless. Fr Amorth makes it very clear in one interview in the book that the words of Christ, “Who is not with me is against me” clearly mean “Who is not with me is with Satan”, as Satan is unarguably against Christ. “There are no half measures”, the exorcist states.
Fr Stanzione, a Pauline priest as was Fr Amorth, adds his own enlightening commentary in each chapter, reminding us that the New Age, sects, occultism and Eastern religions, which have all flourished in our times, are ways that open the naïve and unwary to diabolic interventions. He points out that Padre Pio, whom Fr Amorth knew well for 26 years and whose help he sometimes sought in his work as an exorcist, did not always liberate people from satanic possession, suggesting “It was not yet time, evidently. God has His plans for people”.
He adds that exorcism can only liberate those possessed in some form, with their cooperation. “You cannot do an exorcism against the will of the person”. He explains that sometimes there are impediments to grace, such as the patient’s insincerity, their unwillingness to change a sinful lifestyle, to breaking off sinful friendships and “rooted vices.”
The final chapter, “Devotion to Our Lady” is worth pondering. Both Fr Amorth and Stanzione had a great devotion to her Immaculate Heart and consecrated themselves to it. Tellingly, a demon was once asked why he was so terrified of Our Lady. He responded, “Because she is the most humble of all and I am the most proud, because she is the most obedient and I am the most rebellious (towards God) and because she is the most pure and I am the vilest.” We might mock the strange notions and beliefs of those who practise New Age “spirituality” such as the late Dorothy Maclean; but really we should constantly pray to Our Lady on behalf of those deluded by the temptation of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” and for those in the grip of self-destructive vices.
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