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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Can Demons Read our Thoughts? — An Exorcist Responds

August 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Demonology, Featured, Fr. Fortea

Can Demons Read Our Thoughts?

Father Fortea, can demons read our thoughts?

No. Though demons can tempt us, they cannot read our thoughts. With their great intelligence, they can guess what we are Demons Read our Thoughtsthinking – but they can never be absolutely certain. As spiritual beings, they are much more intelligent than we are, and as such, they can deduce things with greater accuracy and with fewer external signs than we can. But we always have to remember that demons are outside our souls; only God can truly read the soul. This being said, if one directs his mind and will to a saint, an angel, or a demon, they can hear us. So it does not matter whether our prayer is verbal or merely mental. In certain cases of possession I have observed that the demon obeys orders that have been given mentally.

 

 

 

 

Editor’s Note:  To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book, Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.


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About Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea

Father José Antonio Fortea is not only an exorcist, but also a writer, and parish priest. He once thought he would lead what he has termed ordinary life as an attorney in Madrid, much as his father did before him, but sensed instead a vocation to the priesthood in his adolescent years. A theology graduate of Navarre University in Spain, Father Fortea wrote a thesis there on exorcism. He has been a practicing exorcist for several decades.

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  • patricia

    Thank you father for this post as I was not sure if demons the devil can read our thoughts. They do have a higher intellect to try to figure them out. Thank you father for such clarity in this issue God Bless Always!!!

  • Jeanette

    I had wondered about whether demons can read our thoughts or not so I asked my spiritual director and he told me that they cannot. My question is: Why should we worry if demons can deduce what our thoughts are? If we thinking on all that is beautiful, all that is good and all that is truth, we have nothing to fear.

    • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

      I don’t think we need to fear demons, period, if one lives an observant, sacramental life.

      • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

        You might want to read the biography of St. Padre Pio or St. Catherine of Sienna (or many other saints who confronted this kind of darkness in manifest form). You can live an observant sacramental life and still be faced with battles in this arena. Fear is a natural response to true manifestations. However, fear need not and must not dominate the soul in battle.

        • Jeanette

          I was waiting to see if someone was going to say something like this. I have read about St. Padre Pio…how he would be beat up by demons at night. St. John Vianney also had a terrible time with demons that greatly disturbed his sleep night after night. I believe God has many good reasons for allowing this, even though it seems so scary to us.

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            You may rest easy. Neither your nor I are Sts Pio or Catherine. Our spiritual warfare takes place in much guarded terrain, due to our own weaknesses and progress in holiness and grace.

          • Tessye

            Even if we live observant and sacramental lives, this does not grant us full immunity to the snares of the devil/demons, we are all different and God may allow a spiritual attack to keep some of us alert and/or make stronger. In the Our Father, we pray, “…lead us not into temptations…” and “…deliver us from evil…”, this tells me we need to always keep guard of demons on a daily basis and not believe in immunity because we were not born special like Padre Pio. Sometimes God may allow such atracks if it brings us closer to Him. Demons can attack us through our weaknesses/vices, directly or indirectly. For example, suicide can be the result of a demon’s temptations gearing one or a loved one thru addictions, doubts, false scuples, idols before God such as money, grades, society standards, etc….these mental attacks are just as scary as physical attacks. I say do not fear, but keep guard and pray God gives us the wisdom and courage when we are subjected to testing.

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            I’m very familiar with the “mental attacks.” Which proves my point: we are all not called to wrestle with demons physically. Not doing so does not represent that one is not progressing in the spiritual life. We should not ordinarily expect such a test. What makes the experiences of Sts.Pio et al is their rarity.

            If, despite our baptism, confirmation, communion, and frequent confession the Lord allows that to happen to one, He will also grant the necessary attendant graces to resist and win. Yet, even these graces flow from the sacraments and are not superadded to them, in my opinion.

            +JMJ,
            ~Theo

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Dear friend, one danger in making assertions about the spiritual life is to assume that our own limited experience or surroundings are the norm and are everywhere thus. There are some who experience the demonic far more than you might believe.

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            Hi Dan: I don’t think I’m doing that and I hope those souls are receiving the right kind of spiritual direction they need and deserve. It’s simply a matter of numbers: There are 1 billion Catholics in the world. Of those, let’s say 10% are weekly communicants. That’s 100 million. Let’s say 10% of those frequent confession, observe the feast days, and practice the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. That’s 10 million. Of those, you can count with the fingers of one hand those who are undergoing tests at the level of Padre Pio or St. Catherine of Siena.

            The rest of us engage in spiritual combat too, but thankfully, of a kind that does not include physically coming to blows with demons.

            Let me add some clarifications in the interest of self-disclosure: I’ve read all of Fr. Fortea’s published works on exorcism and demonology in English and in the original Spanish, and several others by other authors, including Fr. Malachi Martin’s hostage to the devil. I offer also my own personal experience fighting my own temptations and attempting to achieve self-mastery by systematically attacking my dominant faults.

          • William Randle

            What makes one person more susceptible than the next when it comes to demonic possession? My brother once told me that when you fully give yourself to God that you can almost hear the demons around you but to me it feels more like a pull. Like a small child inside me that gets angry cause he doesn’t get his way, but the child can never give you reasoning to why he so angry you deny him fleshly temptation. So it becomes negative emotion i.e sadness, anger, jealousy for no apparent reason etc.. and that emotion clouds the voice that tells us to do otherwise and helps us search for reasoning to do the things we do. One man lies, Someone cheats on their spouse, Someone steals from a store and someone kills and on some level in that persons head they had all the reasoning they needed to sin at that moment. On a mental/spiritual level is the temptation to commit one sin as strong as another. Is the level at which we sin dependent on the strength of our individual spirits? And as spirits are we not in some part made up of what these angels/demons are? Are we not all a piece of the same God. Sorry to bombard anyone but this has intrigued me for a long time.

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            I will attempt to answer your questions as best I can, knowing my own limitations and also stating my desire to submit my answers to the judgment of the Teaching Church for guidance and/or correction.

            What makes one person more susceptible than the next when it comes to demonic possession?

            Dabbling in occultism makes a person more susceptible to demonic possession, although every concrete capital sin may become a “gateway” if a person sins gravely with the intent to blaspheme God.

            My brother once told me that when you fully give yourself to God that you can almost hear the demons around you but to me it feels more like a pull. Like a small child inside me that gets angry cause he doesn’t get his way, but the child can never give you reasoning to why he so angry you deny him fleshly temptation. So it becomes negative emotion i.e sadness, anger, jealousy for no apparent reason etc.. and that emotion clouds the voice that tells us to do otherwise and helps us search for reasoning to do the things we do. One man lies, Someone cheats on their spouse, Someone steals from a store and someone kills and on some level in that persons head they had all the reasoning they need ed to sin at that moment.

            Sure. But one doesn’t need to be “possessed” in order to “hear demons”, experience negative emotional distress, or sin in one way or another. Outside of a few cases in which God has allowed the demonic possession of very saintly people who are thus tested in this way, demonic possession requires a voluntary acquiescence of some sort to the demonic presence and an agreement or alignment of one’s will to that of the demon. The subjective conditions underlying the phenomenon may be similar to those you describe, or may be others, or none. That’s as far as I can say at this time.

            On a mental/spiritual level is the temptation to commit one sin as strong as another. Is the level at which we sin dependent on the strength of our individual spirits? And as spirits are we not in some part made up of what these angels/demons are? Are we not all a piece of the same God. Sorry to bombard anyone but this has intrigued me for a long time.

            As Catholic Christians, we can’t say that we, humans and angels, are “pieces” of God because does not subdivide Himself. Even God’s Triune nature entails no division.

            To your first question the answer would be dependent on a person’s psycho-emotional makeup, his or her degree of volitional freedom, and the ability to discriminate between concrete goods and evil. This make may yield a spiritual weakness that may make one more susceptible to one kind of temptation over another.

            To your question I would say “yes” if you were to substitute “will power sustained by grace” for “strength of individual spirits”. The efficient cause of sinning is our will, and that’s what needs to be strengthened by prayer and mortification in order to fortify the will against sin.

            I hope my answers help you.

            +JMJ,
            ~Theo

          • William Randle

            Thank you. That gives me a lot of insight. I’ve been trying to understand and truly see my spirit and who I am outside of my flesh this few years. I know the demons that follow me and that they are around us all the time. I see them in the people I come in contact with every day and for the first time in my life I can feel and see the ones around me. They are some of the same that my father had. They hide in distraction and complacencys and I’m just ready to give them up. I feel like God has shown me what his plan is for me and all he ask for me to obtain it is to give up my demons. But the more clearly I see his plan the more I feel something else taking my focus away. Thank you for responding. You were very helpful.

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            I would like to add one thing, William: you need spiritual direction. One can’t discern this kind of thing alone. We’re too close to the situation. You need to talk to a priest or a mature Christian about your experiences for discernment and to establish a path to healing, wholeness, and holiness.
            +JMJ,
            ~Theo

          • William Randle

            Thank you.

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Dear William, the most simple answer is sin. Sin is a rejection of God’s will and a yielding to that which opposes God. Even so, any particular sin is not necessarily going to lead a demonic encounter. However, sin that has to do with the occult or of a nature that is related to demonic infleunce can lead ever closer to the demonic realm. Many people talk profusely about these topics but only have a theoretical knowledge that is usually less than helpful. A good book to read on this subject (beyond Fr. Fortea’s) is “Unbound” by Neal Lozano

          • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

            Dear William ­ the simple answer is sin or any kind of leaning into sin. Of course, not all sin is caused by the enemy but you can be sure that every chance they get they will take advantage of any opportunity to deceive and tempt one into sin, or deeper into sin.

          • Fiona Deveney

            [Editor Note] Dear Fiona – it appears you ignored my response to your first post. The purpose of this site is to teach the truth according to Christ’s one true Church – the Catholic Church. If you desire to dialogue and learn what the Church truly teaches versus what you think it may teach, we are more than happy to engage with you. However, if you are seeking to use this site as a soap-box for the proclamation of your misunderstanding of Catholic teaching, we don’t allow it. Sincerely hoping you have a real interest in truth and dialogue about the truth. Yours in Christ. Dan

          • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

            (last part) and in my work in the military and as a civilian, I’ve seen the evil harboring in men’s hearts, as well as what I can only term as “infestation”, but one brought about by evil men.

            We’re all tasked confront evil but only an elite few, prepared since their early years, are called to confront demons face-to-face with God’s permission. We are all assured of victory through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We should not be afraid. Be not afraid. That’s all I’m saying.

            JMJ,
            Theo

        • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

          I’ve read several biographies of St. Pio. I’m not denying the phenomenon but do say it is rare. The answer lies in the example of these saints themselves. They showed exceptional signs of grace since early childhood, therefore the kind of attacks they suffered were also exceptional. You and I, being more ordinary saints, could breath easier given the fact that we won’t have to fear such overt attacks.

  • JKA

    From the post – “This being said, if one directs his mind and will to a saint, an angel, or a demon, they can hear us.”

    Is this intended to say that only the addressee can hear the mental statement, or that all parties (saint, angel, demon) hear the directed statement. I think it is the first, but just making sure. i.e. can a mental prayer be overheard by those to whom it is not addressed?

    • LizEst

      JKA – It is the first. Only the addressee can “hear” communication directed to them.

      All spirits can receive thoughts directed to them. But, they have to be directed to them in order to be “heard” or understood. When you are asking a saint or angel to pray for you, they are the only ones that receive that communication. However, if you are asking all saints and angels to pray for you, they all receive that communication. Hope that helps.

  • MrSpock

    Can Guardian Angels read our thoughts?

    • http://www.vivificat.org/ Teófilo de Jesús

      Only with God’s permission and yours.

    • LizEst

      Guardian angels cannot read our thoughts. Only God can read our thoughts and know our hearts. But, when we direct our thoughts to our guardian angels, they know what it is we are telling them…or what we are asking them to pray for. Otherwise, no one but God can read our thoughts. It does not mean our guardian angels know our thoughts. It is only when we specifically direct our thoughts to them that they come to know them that they come to know our requests, our concerns, etc.

      • Fiona Deveney

        you should not pray to anyone except God or Jesus who came to reconnect us with God. We are NOT told to pray to anyone else- please do not take my word for this but please find out. I know that many catholics pray to saints and to Mary which is absolutley wrong because they are only human. We should respect and appreciate Mary but not pray to her as she is just human… We are saved by Jesus and HE is the Word ( communication) of God and it is THROUGH HIM- not Mary- that we come to God. Mary does NOT bring salvation and neither should we pray to humans. We can learn from her example and thank God for her- but why would you pray to her when we have the Lord Jesus ? Please research this as there is no way I can convey to you here why it is so important… thankyou and God bless x

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Dear Fiona – thank you for your energetic concern. It is a common misunderstanding for non Catholics to think that Catholics are “praying” to saints in the same way we pray to God. As a former anti-Catholic Baptist, I held this view myself. After some study I realized that I was looking at Catholic teaching through a protestant lens rather than allowing the Catholic Church to explain what it means by what it says. It really is simple – just as you ask others to pray for you, so we too ask those who are in heaven to pray for us. So our prayers to them are simply requests that they pray for us. We are not worshipping them or Mary but simply recognizing that they are with God in heaven and care for us and will pray for us. The problem is that we are limited by language regarding how we describe this phenomenon. We are limited to “pray to” and it is confusing unless we dig a little deeper into the reality of the meaning behind the words. I hope this helps allay your concerns. I will pray to St. Paul that he will bring you peace about this ;-). Yours in Christ – Dan

  • mrgees

    I have such a doubt that they cannot read my mind. Aren’t thoughts a spiritual and physical process? Isn’t this physical process of thinking a matter of electrical current in my mind? Isn’t electricity a light? These are all doubts that come to my mind… I have see so many times that when I was pondering on a subject then I was moving away from a subject to an other, and seeing temptation following me ‘right on the spot’ that without Magisterium I would be sure daemons can know what I am thinking about because they ‘see’ it. The same as they can tempt me by bringing pictures or memories of my sins and sins of others from the past. Has Thomas Aquinas or any of the Saints, or maybe the Church Herself talking about it?

  • Kay Priddy

    Why is it always “the demon” rather than “a” demon?

    • LizEst

      Fr. Fortea does speak of “a demon” in his answer above. So, it’s not “always” the demon rather than a demon.

      • Kay Priddy

        Thanks!

        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Can Demons Read our Thoughts?

  • patricia

    A person who leads a sacramental life gets bothered more with mental and physical attacks. We need to draw closer to God and his representatives Holy priests and honestly lay our souls bare in the sacrament of confession the devil can not stand this he can’t stand us coming before the feet of Jesus in the tribunal of his mercy. Demons will disappear when we are walking towards the light but it had to be a continuous trust in the mercy of God and to work towards it. It’s a struggle that seems with no ending but we just need to be like children and go to God the Father and trust in his love and mercy. Physical and mental attacks The Lord will heal us and protect us but we need to run immediately to him sacramentals help when being tempted for it keeps our gaze on Christ but the best is confession at least for me. When I am afraid to confess even a temptation that is when I need even more come to the feet of the merciful Lord.