If the devil is the prime tempter, then keeping the devil out of your head is an important step to avoiding sin. Here are some suggestions.
In today’s troubled world, so many people have so many weird ideas about the family, gender, politics, money, etc. All of this stems from a very skewed and upside-down view of reality. It wasn’t too long ago that good people could agree on what was good and what was evil. But nowadays, that doesn’t seem to be true. And if that isn’t bad enough, a lot of people really believe that you are full of hate if you dare to disagree with them, and then they won’t talk to you anymore. Isaiah 5:20 famously says
“Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.”
This prophecy of Isaiah seems to be very true today in this upside-down world in which we live. Why is this? More than likely, crazy thinking is due to demonic tampering with our minds. Demons can and do put thoughts into our brain. In Eden, the devil told Adam and Eve that if they ate forbidden fruit, then they would know right from wrong. This is a huge lie of Satan, as mortal sin not only weakens the will, but also dims the intellect so that we DO NOT know right from wrong. This article is strictly my opinion, and it will delve into how to guard what your thoughts are, which are always the precursor to action.
Six Basic Areas of the Mind
The human mind is a very complex thing, and while I am no psychologist, it seems to me that our brains are comprised of the following hierarchy (each one feeds into the next one):
- The imagination
- The emotions
- The memory
- The conscience
- The intellect
- The will
So let’s take a look at each one of these six areas and see how they act and react to demonic tampering.
This is the lowest form of the human mind, and it is the easiest one for the devil to influence. He can fill our minds with all sorts of images and ideas about sex, getting rich, revenge, etc. A lot of people do not control their imagination, because it usually is very pleasurable to think about fantasies. But the problem is that the imagination feeds into one’s emotions, then into the memory, then into the conscience, then into the intellect, and finally into the will. Enjoyable fantasies somehow create false realities in our minds, which eventually lead to our trying to obtain gratification through pornography, fornication, embezzlement, crime, etc.
Next up the ladder of the mind are the emotions, like happiness, sadness, anger, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with emotions, as even Jesus cried and got angry. But the problem is that if one lets an uncontrolled imagination with demonic tampering run wild, then the resultant emotions take over one’s actions. This is why you see so many people getting angry over things that most sane people don’t understand. During the last election, there were people angrily yelling at the sky because their candidate lost. They are truly controlled by their misguided emotions.
Satan can use past events in our lives to attack us today. Most of us have sinned pretty badly in our past, but thanks to the sacrament of Confession and Divine Mercy, we have been forgiven for those trespasses. But the devil never forgets anything we have ever done, and he can put the thought into our memory that we are still guilty of those sins. The devil will imply, “God isn’t merciful”. He will continue, “and He, as a stern judge, declares you still GUILTY of looking at pornography, stealing, and lying.” But in reality, God is not a judge now while we live; rather, he is a merciful Father to us all before our death. After our death, He will judge us justly, but if we repent now and totally trust in Him to save us, then the devil hasn’t got a … prayer.
The memory, in-turn, feeds into the next level of the mind, the conscience.
This is something that a lot of worldly people seemingly ignore. If people live for sex, money, pleasure, and power, then the devil will harden both their minds and their hearts against the evil they are doing. Taking a look at history, Hitler certainly didn’t have much of a conscience, as he murdered millions of people without mercy. But those who readily accept the Truth of God as written in the Bible, and who frequent the sacraments as often as possible, will have an enhanced conscience that will put the brakes on worldliness. The old cartoon with a devil on one shoulder whispering “Do it,” and the angel on the other shoulder saying “Don’t do it,” may be more accurate than we think! Next up comes the intellect.
This is the area of the brain that basically refers to how smart a person is. However, being smart is not only knowing a lot of facts, figures, and different languages, but it also refers to making the right choices in life, even when no one is looking (God, the saints and angels, and the demons are always looking, BTW). One huge effect of mortal sin (and venial sin to a lesser extent) is that it dims the intellect, which is a fancy way of saying that it makes you stupid. Most people with a hardened conscience will not think twice about repeating a mortal sin, because, after all, nothing bad happened to them after committing the first one. But just like credit card debt comes due, so will the debt of mortal sin come due (pain and death). And the more mortal sins one commits, the more the demons take over the intellect. Their oppression of your mind by sin will negatively affect your family, your job, and your life. Next up the chain is the will.
This is the final area, where we say to ourselves that we shall do either good or evil, i.e., “Will Power.” A lot of us never fully utilize this faculty of our minds, instead we just go with the flow of society, letting the events of the day control our actions, rather than letting our will control what we think, do, or say. This is what Adam did – He let the circumstances of temptation overrule his will to obey God. If we let Satan control the previous five areas of our mind (imagination, emotions, memory, conscience, and intellect), then our will is weakened to such an extent that we just go with the flow of pop culture and secular society, which leads straight to hell. As G.K. Chesterton, the famous Catholic author, noted, “A dead thing can go with the stream; but only a living thing can go against it.” (The Everlasting Man) Allowing mortal sin into our lives because of a wild imagination and the gratification of the emotions will always result in both a dimmed intellect and a weakened will, so that we will never do the will of Christ. Satan has such a superior intellect to ours, that when we allow him into our lives through our consent to sin, he takes over every facet of our minds, so that we just keep on sinning and believing that wrong is right.
Bottom-Up, or Top-Down?
So what can we do to put a halt to the enemy’s thought tampering? Well, for starters, we don’t let our thoughts come from the aforementioned bottom-up route – that is, into our imagination, then into our emotions, then into our memory, then into our conscience, then into our intellect, and then finally into our will. Rather, we use the top-down approach; that of praying to God to let His will become our will. God’s will then strengthens our weak human will. Doing this allows His will, in-turn, to control the lesser attributes of our mind. Every morning when we get up, we should start praying to Jesus and to his saints and angels for their intercession: that God’s WILL becomes our will (this is why we pray “Thy WILL be done, on earth, as it is in heaven“). This resolution, of total reliance on the will of Christ becoming our own will, then feeds into our human intellect to avoid the near occasion of sin. This, in-turn, guides an informed conscience, so that we will have nothing about which to feel guilty, since Christ is in control. And since our conscience is clear, there is a healing of our memory so that past sinful events in our life, that Satan wants to use against us, will be minimized. Then our emotions will become normalized, so that anger will be controlled, laughter at everyday humorous events will become the norm, and sadness/depression will start to melt away. Then, finally, our imagination will be pure, so that we begin to think about the things of heaven and the afterlife, rather than earthly things.
Never Sinning Again
We shouldn’t ever say that “I will never sin again,” or that “I will never commit adultery,” or that “I will never look at porn again.” The demons hear this and take it as a challenge to tempt us and then to make us fall mightily. Rather, we should always say, “Lord, with the help of your grace, I plan to never sin again, or with the help of your grace I plan to never commit adultery, or with the help of your grace I plan to never look at porn again.” Relying totally on God’s grace to avoid sin is a very humble thing to do. The proud devil hates humility in a person, and flees from it (James 4:7). And, of course, we should always invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary through her holy rosary to overcome our sinfulness. Over time, the rosary is one of the easiest (15 minutes!) and best ways to keep the devil at bay, because while meditating on the 20 mysteries of scripture, our imagination is blocked from Satan. The good news is that by using our imagination to meditate on Jesus and Mary, God cleanses our minds of evil over time. It’s like pouring alcohol on a wound!
Other Areas of the Mind
Of course, there are other areas of the mind, such as the subconscious, perceptions based on individual life experiences, the self-gratification/addiction center, and the auto-response to stimuli. All of these areas of the mind complicate our entire outlook on life when they are infected with demonic tampering. Senses like smell and taste can also affect how we see the world. For instance, when one smells the scent of perfume from a long ago girlfriend, the mind can instantly access her image and the times that were shared with her, both good and bad. When one tastes something that reminds him of food his grandmother used to cook for him, thoughts of her become present.
Other Methods to Keep the Devil Out of Your Head
Besides asking God to take away your own will (St. Ignatius Prayer), and to give you His will in its place, there are certainly other things that can be done to keep Satan away. For starters, don’t look at things that are lustful. Most men have a problem with this, but this problem of staring at female flesh can be overcome by going to Adoration often and staring at the flesh of Jesus in the Eucharist. Trust me, this works! Fasting also helps. Archbishop Sheen once said that fasting detaches one from this world, while prayer reattaches one to the next world. Going to confession, daily Mass and the Eucharist will also make the devil flee. Reading sacred scripture for thirty minutes a day certainly helps. Listening to bible study talks downloaded from the internet while driving around town means that the enemy will have a hard time breaking into your mind when you are concentrating on the wisdom of The Word. Over time, his grip on our minds lessens.
Finally, just do the opposite of what the devil expects you to do!