I had a long talk this week with someone dear to me. She rejoices that she has at last been delivered from a demon that has plagued her for a decade. I believe her. I've watched her shudder under the flail of its insistent, vilifying voice. I've prayed for her deliverance. Now it's gone and she feels gloriously free. I am grateful. And also worried.
I am worried because her deliverance came from sources I don't trust. That is, with guidance from her tarot practice and the assistance of psychedelic mushrooms, she was able to exorcise the demon herself. She anchored herself in her certainty that it did not belong and then she cast out everything inside her that wanted to harm her, and it left. It left her feeling powerful and invulnerable. She has come to the conclusion that her god, the being of infinite love who communicates to her through tarot and guides her path, is her own, eternal, beyond-time essence.
This does not fit with my understanding. So do I reject her experience of being healed?
That doesn't feel right either. And there are elements of her experience that do fit with my understanding. I have long believed that learning to exercise our agency is a foundational step in becoming freed from our demons. I have also assumed that priesthood power was required to eject them, but I'm realizing that belief is untenable. There are many, many others who perform exorcisms. If I decide that exorcisms I don't understand are not valid, then I'm making the same mistake as the scribes in Jesus' day:
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
And [Jesus] called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. (Mark 3:22-27)
The last verse in that quotation seems to suggest to me that, when a malignant spirit enters another's body, its first goal is to bind the owner of that body -- whether by fear, addiction or other means -- to persuade them that they are powerless to combat the intruder. It follows then, that if the owner of that body gets to a place where they can see through the lie, they are no longer bound and they can kick the intruder out.
This gives me the right to rejoice about a number of things:
First, that my loved one got to a place where she was willing to consider the possibility that she had a malignant hitch-hiker. This has not always been the case. There was a time when the idea that she was troubled by an evil spirit was offensive to her. I think it felt shameful, and that her sense of shame was entangled with her understanding of Judeo-Christian commandments. Is it possible that her walk away from the faith of her inheritance was part of her process for rejecting shame, claiming her agency, and becoming acquainted with her inner voice? I think it is exactly that, and that makes me feel hopeful.
Second, that she has been seeking spiritual guidance and weighing it against her internal sense of what is right and good.
Third, that she became able to discern that the inner voice that constantly attacked and berated her was not her own and had no right to be there.
And fourth, that she has claimed her agency to the point of being able to confront the inner malignancy and cast it out.
So, does all of this mean that my loved one's tarot practice and use of psychedelic mushrooms are good things? Is it possible that God can work through such means?
I'm inclined to believe that God is able to work through all sorts of flawed mediums. After all, He works through us. And since my loved one started using tarot, I've been praying for her protection and asking my Heavenly Father to please speak to her by way of that avenue.
Mormon taught, "all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil". He went on to describe how the devil "inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually" while "that which is of God...inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him". (Moroni 7:12-13).
Mormon goes on to warn, "take heed...that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil" (Moroni 7:14). He then gives a sure-fire indicator: "everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ" is of God. Meanwhile, that which is of the devil "persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God" (Moroni 7:16-17).
But what about those things that invite us to do good, without persuading to believe in Christ?
I'm inclined to believe that it's much more about direction than it is about the merits of the thing itself. The end goal is to come unto Christ. Acknowledged or not, He is the source of all that is good. So everything that brings us closer to an anchored and living faith in Him is good. And everything that takes us further away from Him is evil.
And yet, from a broader perspective, even a detour that leads us away might be good if its purpose is to get past an obstacle that stands between us and Him. Take, for example, the Fall. It was brought on by Satan's enticings and it was cataclysmic in that it shut Adam and Eve out of the presence of the Lord, introducing both spiritual and physical death into the world and providing an avenue for Satan to exercise dominion in the Earth. But it was also essential and good in that it allowed mankind to even be, providing for the mortal experience about which we had premortally shouted for joy.
What turns cataclysm into a blessing is Jesus Christ. His offering of Himself for our redemption undoes, for every soul who'll claim it, all the harm that Satan tries to exert. And the more I learn, the more I see Him eagerly offering grace in unexpected circumstances, reaching across the wilderness, bending the lost ones' winding path back toward a covenant relationship with Him.
The covenant path is a straight and narrow way, but many and varied are the winding roads He pulls toward Him, inviting their sojourners to enter in by the gate.
So I am going to rejoice at my loved one's deliverance and see it as evidence of God's grace in her life. I'm not going to allow myself to become overwrought by the perils I see ahead in her way. Instead, I'll trust in Jesus Christ and His continued grace. I'll speak as I feel prompted from a place of confidence instead of fear. And I will count on the promises He extends to the posterity of those who enter into and stay upon the covenant path.