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By Michael H. Brown

There are many spirits around us and perhaps they affect us in ways we seldom detect. Christ cast them out at every turn and mentioned not just "devils" but also "ghosts" and "unclean" spirits. Is there a difference?

Many are those who believe that in addition to Satan's minions, there are human spirits who are doing their purgatory on earth (St. Padre Pio spoke of this) or are earthbound due to obsession.

These spirits -- some deliverance experts maintain -- can likewise cause ill fortune, disruptions in our lives (especially with our emotions), and even illness (we note Christ casting out "unclean" spirits to heal). It raises a question: is an unclean spirit a demon, or a human soul that has not gone through purgatory (has not been cleansed)?

And if "spirits" linger behind -- or are in bondage here -- might they display the same negative characteristics that they did during life, including anger?

Skeptics argue that there is no Catholic teaching on this -- and they are right. There's a paucity of Church direction on it. Others proclaim it as superstition.

We can say that there often seems to be a supernatural dynamic interwoven in the course of daily life: good and negative, angels and demons -- and perhaps other forms of existence. We won't understand it all until we're on the other side of the veil (until then, much is speculation).

But according to a growing number of Christian deliverance experts, including Jan Reagor, of Montana, a Catholic who has long studied and worked with such cases (often with priests), there is a spiritual analogue to physical cleanliness and in fact she describes her ministry as "cleansing" homes, believing, as she does, that many different spiritual entities can interact with us and do on a constant basis.

If there is a "familiar" feeling to a spirit, says Jan, it is possibly a deceased family member, and if not that, someone who lived in the home or on the property or in the vicinity. She claims there are also "ancestral spirits" -- deceased family members who "can pass from generation to generation" and "affect mental illness and other such infirmities, and can bring a person curses and other problems which they encounter during their lifetimes. These spirits are identified by discernment and detection by getting a family history." She has written two manuals on the subject. Controversial stuff, but also fascinating -- and potentially beneficial.

Meanwhile, there are the  inhuman spirits (read: demons) and she says that they cause foul sulfur-like odors and dark red "orbs" and are "often described as blacker than black." These entities come through sinfulness, human faults, and in a special way through occult past-times such as witchcraft, psychic phenomena, Santeria, voodoo, Goth, palm reading, horoscopes, and the Ouija board (to name a few).

Reagor breaks them down even into sub-classes, naming "elemental spirits" as malicious entities that appear foul and beastlike and are on "assignment" from the evil one. Blessed oil, water, and salt are powerful against demons, she notes, while prayers and Masses for any deceased that may be earthbound (if we accept this premise) can solve a "haunted" situation. These spirits need our prayers and love to head for the Light and are dealt with, she and others maintain, differently than demons. The Eucharist and the "Jericho walk" are also said to reclaim land for God (that is, praying seven times around a property).

We have to be careful with these things. One caution: avoid being overly curious. Do not become immersed. Seek not to be a ghost-hunter. Keep away from practices that can bring more problems than they cure.

But realize too that there are spirits all around us.

How about music?

In our view, they can bring dark forces in the same way as the occult because in a way certain types of music are occult-like to begin with. Bands made up to look like demons or calling themselves things like Black Sabbath can bring in dark spirits just as choirs and holy music draw angels.

Draw down the angels! And remember that besides music, our sinfulness and even objects in the home can allow darkness to enter. It can be like germs -- a spiritual epidemic. What books, posters, paintings, tattoos, statues, antiques, videos, websites, TV programs, and magazines are in your home?

Intractable problems (such as arguments, divorce, loneliness, or inability to succeed) can be caused, at times, by a spirit or spirits around a person (spirits that seek to separate us).

"Earthbound spirits," says another from California who claims spiritual insight, are of a "lower vibration than spirits who have gone to God. Angels are of an extremely high vibration. They are much harder to see and have to make the intention to slow their vibration so that they may be visible. Ghosts attract things of extremely low vibration, such as demons (unholy angels). This is another explanation of why they must go -- even if they feel they are helping their loved ones, they are not -- it is very dangerous for them to hang out. Another reason is because they too can get manipulated by demons, just as we can. [Many] 'ghosts' become manipulated by the unholy angels and turn into manipulated ghosts. Make sure that the grandmother talking to your child is a spirit and not a ghost, no matter how friendly she is."

"Ghosts are humans who have died and not yet gone back to the Father. Manipulated ghosts have been attacked and have fallen prey to the manipulations of the unholy angels and become convinced that they are demons too. The unholy Angels twist the manipulated ghosts and use them against people like pawns, and this is why ghosts can become very destructive and evil, because they are tapping into this source. Remember these manipulated ghosts are at their core children of God, and they still have the chance to go back to the Father, to learn more about love and have more opportunity to share in his love. Manipulated ghosts need more assistance to return back home to the Father because they can no longer see themselves as once human, they see only the darkness and the manipulation fed to them. These are the ghosts that appear disfigured, distorted, a perversion of what they were. Anywhere there is a perversion of how something was intended to be, count on the fact that there is demonic influence present."

These things are deep.

Too deep? It is all stated for your own determination. We certainly respect skepticism.

And yet, we live at a time when many seem afflicted -- and in need of help that is not provided to us, despite the example (and instructions, see Matthew 10:8) of Jesus. We can be attacked while awake. We can be attacked at night. No need for paranoia. The need is to pray.

Many are the manifestations. Spirits can operate in both the natural and supernatural. Often, they attack during sleep. It is very important, therefore, to pray before we go to sleep, and immediately upon rising, so they can take no root. Wrote Brother Gabriel (Thomas) Ridenour of Caribou, Maine (concerning an article about terrifying, "freak" dreams, during which people feel paralyzed):

"I had it happen to me several times during my last year as a teacher in a Christian school in Kentucky some ten years ago. Each occurrence was a prelude to some attack in the natural realm. It was as if the devil was trying to make the point that if he couldn't scare me one way, he would try some other. Once it was followed by a wave of gossip and slander by some of the school parents. Another time as I was out on a prayer walk along an open stretch of country road late at night a pickup truck drove by at high speed and hit me square in the back with a half-full Coke bottle, only to turn around and come back at me head-on and hit me in the arm with another, which left me with a nasty bruise.

"Always as I lay 'paralyzed' I would try to call on the name of Jesus, but could only do so in my mind and with great difficulty. Then it would leave. Once as it was leaving I could hear a hideous laughter in my right ear. The windows were open and dogs began to bark one after another as the thing made its way through the neighborhood. If I had not experienced this myself, I would think anyone who said they had such an experience was crazy."

It is important to know that darkness exists and how it manifests but not to dwell on it -- which can give it more power. When we pray the Rosary, it is especially powerful. Evil usually dissipates instantly, when we call upon Mary. I especially recommend the Scriptural Rosary (which combines the power of the Bible with the grace of the Blessed Mother).

See it, purge it, and move on -- in faith. Fasting and reading the Bible are powerful at times of duress, which in the Name of Jesus must lift (whether that trial is eventual or immediate). Cast out, move on, and fill voids with the Holy Spirit.

There is no need to know all the alleged intricacies of spiritual workings, no need to search out every detail, just to know that when they negatively affect us, they ultimately are rooted in a force of darkness.

The antidote is the Light of Jesus.

Nothing dark -- no thing -- can stand before it.

[resources: spiritual warfare books, Scriptural Rosary, and Jan Reagor's handbook, "Prayers for deliverance and blessing for homes and other buildings," available at Alive in Jesus Healing Ministry, P.O. Box 73, Gt. Falls, MT 59403; for a brochure e-mail here or her website]

[Also: Michael H. Brown spiritual retreat and Mass, Minnesota and Retreat in New Jersey]

[see also: Video: reporter startled by 'ghost' and Blog: Obama threw fit over mother-in-law's 'witchcraft' in White House?]

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