Encountering Satan, Demons, and Unclean Spirits – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 11:14-26

The drama of this Gospel story hinges on Jesus’ encounter with Satan, demons, and unclean spirits. In our own time and place, these “evil spiritual realities” are largely relegated to Hollywood and to children’s fantasy literature such as the Narnia Chronicles, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. We are products of the Enlightenment, so-called, a culture not schooled in the discernment of good and evil. And yet, you can hardly turn a page of the Bible without encountering the battleground of spiritual forces. Saint Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but… against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”[i]

The early experience of monasticism in the Egyptian desert gives repeated accounts of the monks being in constant battle between good and evil, and it is we who are being fought over. The fourth-century monk, Evagrius Ponticus, gave the warning: “Stay watchful of gluttony and desire,” he warned, “and the demons of irritation and fear as well. The noonday demon of laziness and sleep will come after lunch each day, and the demon of pride will sneak up only when you have vanquished the other demons.”[ii]

Ignatius of Loyola, the sixteenth century founder of the Jesuits, wrote considerably about good and evil spirits. Ignatius gives us two words that can help us sort life’s experiences: “consolation” and “desolation.”

  • “Consolation,” he says, is our response to life’s circumstances “through which the soul becomes inflamed with the love of its Creator and Lord.” Ignatius says that “consolation” leads to an increase of “hope, faith, and love, and interior joy and quieting peace.”
  • “Desolation,” Ignatius says, is the experience of agitation and temptation, without hope or love, where we feel slothful, tepid, sad, and separated from our Creator and Lord.

I find these two words – “consolation” and “desolation” – helpful words to keep in our soul’s vocabulary. And then to ask ourselves, as we navigate the day, from where is this coming: this impulse, this attraction or repulsion, this flirtation, this attachment, this unspeakable lure coming from?  And to where is it leading?  Between the forces of good and evil, it is we who are being fought over.

Where we can get in touch with the good and evil lures which are intended to co-opt our lives is the online marketing and news reports: the incessant, salaciously subtle, often invisible, repetitive, tracking, alluring tugs to hijack our attention, our desire, our resources, our integrity. It’s that kind of compromising power that Jesus, Saint Paul, the early monks were flagging about our interminable encounter with Satan, demons, and unclean spirits.. Our need, even more today, is to know our own vulnerabilities and to seek the power, protection, and light that Jesus promises us.


[i] Ephesians 6:12.

[ii] Evagrius Ponticus (c. 345-399).

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9 Comments

  1. Stephen Kim on November 1, 2023 at 01:29

    I stumbled across this quote from Hannah Arendt, where she’s referring to the trial of former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann:

    “Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet – and this is its horror – it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world.

    Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there.

    That is the banality of evil.”

    The potential for evil lies in every human heart. How to “fight” it? I’m reminded of the common phrase, “There’s just no reasoning with these people,” (albeit the application here is different). Reason alone can’t do it. I think the storytellers, poets, artists, and saints would be more effective than the most towering of intellects, which kills me because I am not any of those four.

  2. Margot on October 28, 2023 at 15:38

    If evil is our enemy, seeking to distract and destroy us – how do we love it? Are we meant to? Are we to hate it? I have struggled with this question for over 50 years. Still not sure how to resolve it.
    It always helps though, to read or hear other views and lessons.
    Bless you!

  3. Wendy Sloan on October 25, 2023 at 15:38

    As I keep on reflecting upon this, I tend to wonder how much evil is born from ignorance. Thank you, Brother Curtis, for your teaching.

  4. Cara Alfieri on October 24, 2023 at 13:29

    Thank you for this, Br. Curtis. It’s very timely for me.
    Peace & Blessings to you.

  5. Shawn on October 24, 2023 at 10:21

    I appreciate this reminder and validation of what we face from our culture today. I can only imagine how the early Christians felt, being pressured to conform to state mandates to worship the emperor, offer sacrifices and participate in pagan festivals. While our culture may look different on the surface, it can have the same debilitating effect on our spirits.
    Thank you for your wisdom Brother Curtis!

  6. Judy Burnham on October 24, 2023 at 10:01

    This is quite a quote!

    “the online marketing and news reports: the incessant, salaciously subtle, often invisible, repetitive, tracking, alluring tugs to hijack our attention, our desire, our resources, our integrity.”

    SALACIOUSLY SUBTLE!

    Wonderfully written! Thanks

  7. Lyn Snyder on October 24, 2023 at 08:55

    Perfect for these days, Brother Curtis. Thank you.

  8. Charlotte Townsend on October 24, 2023 at 08:42

    Thank you Brother Curtis for a wonderful sharing.
    I am a recent widow and two women I know (one a relative and the other a Church friend) both recently lost tens of thousands of dollars in a scam. They both shared with me how guilty, ashamed, and vulnerable they felt and continued to feel.
    Evil is present and we need to be vigilant, skeptical, and careful.
    May God’s Grace be with you and all the Brothers at SSJE.

  9. -suzanne robinson on October 24, 2023 at 06:08

    Thank you Brother Curtis for helping me ask “From
    Whom cometh thee ? and to whom am I being led?
    Gratefully -suzanne

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