HE WAS a senior Philosophy student in the University back in the 80s when he began dabbling in New Age ideas and occult practices of the so-called Science of the Mind.

At night, the “spirits” started to harass him, choking and pinning him down to the point of pushing him toward death’s door.

“The devil figured out in my nightmares most of the time and the attack proved to be both physically and psychologically distressing that I was even rushed into the ICU,” Fr. Jose Francisco Syquia, a demonology expert, told the Varsitarian.

That harrowing experience made Syquia believe that the devil exists and it is out to hunt for souls. It opened him to a world of good and evil spirits which made him pursue the priesthood.

The Director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism, Syquia said that the devil manifests itself through temptation, obsession, oppression, and possession which can enable people to recognize its presence.

“We all undergo temptation. On the other hand, oppression is the lowest form of bondage while possession is the highest. In oppression, demons harass humans externally but in possession, the demon gains full control of the victim’s body by seizing its physical functions,” Syquia, a UST AB Philosophy graduate, said.

In the book The Devil…Alive and Active in our World, renowned Italian demonologist Fr. Corrado Balducci classified temptation and obsession as part of the devil’s ordinary diabolic activity, while oppression and possession compose its extra-ordinary powers.

Syquia noted that when the devil has already possessed the person’s body, it can now be considered in a “state of sleep” where its ability to govern its inherent human faculties becomes improbable.

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In some instances, the victim’s body, according to Balducci’s book, may experience various demonic afflictions like severe pains, slaps, punches, and scratches. Worse, the devil’s prey may encounter incidents of levitation (or the peculiar rising of a person at mid-air without physical support).

Other symptoms of spirit possession include: aversion to the sacred, being able to move objects without touching them (telekinesis), bodily contortions, speaking in unknown language, and displaying unlearned behavior and knowledge. Psychiatric illness can also be caused by possession.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Syquia revealed how his mentor, Fr. Gabriel Amorth, who went to a mental asylum as chief exorcist of the Vatican, healed a quarter of the inmates through prayers alone.


The opening

According to Syquia, the devil can present itself in many ways.

“The devil, being the prince of this world, never ceases to deceive man by exploiting the weakness of the flesh. Its true intention, however, is to separate you from the Cross of Salvation and by the time you drop your Cross, it can now easily impose its unholy will and pollute your spiritual life with material fancies and other vices,” he said.

Citing an example, Syquia mentioned the aswang (local witch), which, in its desire to empower itself, has made a pact with the devil through the practice of witchcraft. In return, the devil, upon rendering the aswang with its preternatural powers, begins to exercise its dominion over the souls of whosoever wants to undermine the Divine will.

“The trade-off is as good as saying, ‘I will be yours only if you will render me your powers.’ And when that happens, the devil will do the bidding for that person’s entire life for the advancement of its carnal goals,” Syquia added.

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In extreme cases, Syquia disclosed the possibility of multiple demonic possessions where more superior demons, assuming a hierarchy similar to that of the good angels, try to harass an individual with the other demons at its command.

“The fallen angels always look forward to complementing one another when it comes to assailing an individual. The more demons to infest a victim, the easier to steal its soul,” he said.

The exorcist’s duty then is to save the victim from the demons’ grasp, first by expelling the weakest among demonic aggressors before dealing with the strongest.

“It may take many co-exorcists to sustain very serious cases,” he added.

Addressing physical illness through mysticism can likewise lead to further demonic suffering than cure. Syquia said that rituals performed by the albularyo to summon entities of unknown origin as part of the healing process can be the devil’s ploy.

“Once we resort to this kind of treatment, the end result proves to be more dangerous because definitely the albularyo will call spirits that are demonic in nature,” Syquia said.

Moreover, Syquia asserted that elemental beings like duwende, kapre, and tikbalang are nowhere to be found in the league of good angels since Jesus never mentioned their existence in his discourses. Thus, the alleged entities in the elemental world are considered demons which assume different forms.

He insisted that angels and saints can only be called upon through prayers and not by any kind of ritual or spell.

“Magic is the language of the devil. To murmur prayers without faith and devotion is tantamount to performing a ritual devoid of its religious importance. Even prayers said for the sake of lip service alone cannot subdue demonic attacks.”

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Rather, Syquia noted that a prayer offered to the saints or to one’s guardian angel is the most effective way to overcome the devil’s advances.

In the end, Syquia explained that the exorcist is simply God’s agent on earth tasked to “liberate man from the clutches of Satan’s extra-ordinary activities” and that “true supernatural healing and deliverance can only be realized through Jesus.”

Although the devil has strong intellect and willpower not limited by space and time, God, as the omnipotent Creator, still maintains dominion over its actions.

“The fallen angels’ power is limited unless God allows it,” Syquia said.

When God consents for the devil to assail man as in the case of the Biblical Job, Syquia said that it is always for the greater good. Allowing the devil to succeed at times could be a mode of punishment or a means to abhor the results of a sinful lifestyle. Anthony Andrew G. Divinagracia

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