Speaking to families at St. Anne Parish in Pleasant Prairie on Friday, Oct. 29, Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, Ph. L., S.T.L., discussed his latest book, “The Trouble with Magic – Our failed search for more and Christ’s fulfillment of our desires.” He wrote this book following a series of talks on magic he gave to about 450 exorcists in Czestochowa several years ago.
An expert in demonology, and full-time spiritual consultant for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Fr. Ermatinger is the author of 12 books on Patristics, Carmelite spirituality, dogma and philosophy.
“In the early Church, all they dealt with was magic, which is why there would be a series of exorcisms that would lead up to baptism because of all the pagan baggage carried within them,” he said. “Psalm 95:5 says, ‘All of the gods of pagans are demons, but the Lord made the heavens,’ and the gods of the Aztecs, gods of the druids and the gods of the Romans are all demons. There is nothing neutral about them.”
Because Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and sinned in the Garden of Eden, their fall is the beginning of explaining why we are the way we are — original sin.
“To deny original sin is to fall into superstition,” Fr. Ermatinger said. “Superstition is to expect a divine event for a less than divine cause. For example, ‘eat this fruit, and you will be like God.’ No, fruit can’t make you God.”
He explained that Satan was trying to convey God’s insecurities, that if Adam and Eve ate of the fruit that he also ate, they would be like him.
“He was just like you, got to where he is, and is afraid you will become his equal, and that is the dirty little secret,” Fr. Ermatinger said. “That is at the core of this temptation.”
Fr. Ermatinger explained that the temptation to our first parents from Satan was not the blatant denial of the existence of God, but it was to acquire some of the attributes of God, namely knowledge and power by external means.
“This is the long-term result in a mentality of recourse to magic in our first parents’ progeny,” he said. “These are the seeds of superstition and magic in the original fall.”
Because of original sin, Fr. Ermatinger explained that fragmentation began as sin fragments us. Sin is idolatry, and there is an inevitable self-imposed fragmentation resulting from every sin, causing a faithful bleed — original sin results in four wounds.
“A darkened intellect. The brightest and smartest human beings on the planet right now are nothing compared to the intellect Adam and Eve had. There is no comparison,” he said. “Another wound is disordered passions; we become mortal and have a proclivity to malice.”
The wounds open the temptation to worry and the desire to manipulate things, which is why it’s common to see the prevalence of psychic reading shops along the highway. These places offer a form of divination; other more common forms include astrology, palm reading, card reading and spiritism.
“Divination is trying to have access to extraordinary knowledge through superhuman beings — things like Ouija boards, tarot cards and horoscopes. I have eight pages in the appendix of common forms of divination throughout history,” Fr. Ermatinger said. “Every generation of culture in every age has had recourse to use material objects to achieve knowledge beyond human nature. These are offensive to our Lord and go against the First Commandment. There is an existential fear at the root of it that results in brokenness and estrangement from our Lord.”
Fr. Ermatinger discussed sin as worshipping false gods, such as the idolatry of pornography. He described a man with an extreme addiction to pornography for many years, spending several hours of day watching pornographic films. He wanted to quit but felt he unable to do so.
“I had him begin with lectio divina and had him meditate on Scripture, beginning with 10 minutes a day and on up to an hour,” he said. “He had one fall and no more after that. All of his passions became ordered toward the Passion of the Christ.”
Stating that we all have a body and a soul designed for true worship revealed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Fr. Ermatinger added that there is a corruption of so-called spirituality and pseudo religions designed to make us feel good, such as yoga, reiki, centering prayer and transcendental meditation.
“These things do damage to your soul,” he said. “Yoga is Hinduism, and you can’t separate the two. Compare this to Hindus doing 40 hours of Adoration and Stations of the Cross, but they don’t believe in Christ. They don’t understand why Catholics do yoga. Yoga is false worship. There are 5,000 Hindu gods, and they are demons. Those poses are a sort of corporal body language communication with a demon that corresponds to that pose.”
He added that mind emptying is a dangerous practice that can allow the demonic to enter. Jesus gave us the intellectual truth and explained that God appeared in the form of Jesus Christ in the image and likeness of the Father.
“You don’t get beyond Christ to get to something else,” Fr. Ermatinger said. “He is the fullness of Revelation. Some may feel good with yoga, but you might also feel good being drugged. Stretching is fine without falling into pagan worship. When we die, yoga won’t save us. Our Lord will through baptism, the Bread of Life; the Lord comes to rescue us from all the wounds of original sin and has a solution that far exceeds what the devil or the world can offer us.”