[This blog was updated in February, 2020]
ST asks: “Are pagan gods really demons? And if so, how do we know this?”
Great question, and one that has enormous bearing on anyone who thinks “dabbling” in New Age and neopagan practices is just a bunch of harmless fun.
First of all, pagan gods aren't demons - they're simply nonexistent. There's no such thing as the Sun God, Mithra, Isis, etc. But what happens is demons often hide behind these names and respond when the god is invoked.
This was the view of Tertullian (160-229), who is known as the "founder of western theology" who believed that because pagan gods were supposedly deified human beings, they weren't real. Instead, their names and images "were employed by unclean spirits, fallen angels, demons of pagan philosophical tradition, in order to take honor upon themselves and from God."
The early Church father, Justin Martyr, also believed that heathen gods were wicked demons who led men astray.
These beliefs weren't just made up. They come straight from Scripture. Consider the warning given by St. Paul to the Corinthians, telling them that when they sacrifice to idols, “they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.” (1 Cor 10: 20-22)
This is a strong admonition, and one that should be taken very seriously by anyone involved in New Age or neopagan practices because of the ramifications it can have upon a person’s spiritual health.
For instance, we know from the legendary yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar, in his book Light on Yoga, that “Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras or Incarnations of Divine Power.” So when we bow and bend ourselves into yoga positions, we could be bowing and bending to demons.
We also know from practitioners of transcendental meditation that the mantras used in this and similar eastern meditation techniques are often the names of Hindu gods. So when we chant our mantra, we could be chanting to demons.
Goddess worship, which is integral to the practice of Wicca/Witchcraft, is another area where false gods such as Sophia, and a variety of female gods from the Greek pantheon such as Isis, Athena, and Artemis are making a comeback among the general population. When we worship these goddesses, we are worshiping demons.
“Energy healers” introduce us to the most popular of all New Age gods - a “universal life force energy” to whom we go for healing and well-being. This too, is demonic.
The human potential movement, which involves all kinds of self-help programs such as Landmark and books such as The Secret, lure us into worshiping another false god - the “self.” Nothing is more associated with the devil than pride - so when we worship ourselves, or consider ourselves to be divine, we are worshiping Lucifer, the originator of this false teaching.
Astrologers who apply all kinds of divine powers to planetary bodies are also worshiping false gods or demons.
Another major stream feeding into the New Age movement is neopaganism, which is loaded with false gods, from the idols of the eco-spirituality movement with its “green religions” that encourage worship of Gaia (Mother Earth) and PAN, to those who engage in shamanism and neoDruidism. These gods are all demons.
Even though most U.S. Catholics are not well catechized, we’re not that naive, which is why Satan knows better than to try to lure us into worshiping him by doing the obvious - such as erecting a molten calf. Most of us would balk at this. So what does he do? He disguises it. Yoga is “just exercise.” Reiki’s “spirit guided energy force” can be the Holy Spirit if we want it to be. Worshiping Gaia is just respecting the environment.
Or he convinces us that we’re all “gods” worthy of worship through the specious arguments of self-help gurus like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra.
This is why Scripture is loaded with so many warnings about false teachings/teachers, it would be impossible to list them all.
But it also tells us how to deal with these spiritual counterfeits. Test the spirits!
“Do not trust every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. . . . We belong to God and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.”
Applying this simple rule eliminates most New Age programs because a core belief of the New Age is that Jesus is either just another prophet alongside Moses and Mohammed, or that he is some kind of reincarnated avatar sent to earth to give us advanced spiritual revelations from the “hierarchy” of the heavens. The New Age philosophy accepts Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Jesus, and many others as ‘Christ’. Some New Agers refer to Christ as a “Christ spirit” or even the Cosmic Christ concept of former priest Matthew Fox who preaches that Christ is a pre-Christian archetype of God who is present in every creature. Others present a distorted Jesus who does not conform to the authentic Gospel, such as A Course in Miracles and Neale Donald Walsh’s Conversations with God.
This rule also applies to the various neopagan movements with their variety of gods such as the polytheistic Hinduism, healing methods that involve invoking a “universal life force energy” for health and well-being, and/or self help programs that elevate the self to a god-like status that belongs to no one other than Jesus Christ.
I have found in my many years of studying the New Age that one does not need an advanced degree in theology to discern good from evil. One needs only Scripture, the Catechism, and a daily prayer life that keeps them in constant touch with the One True God.