Chapter 3: Religious Phenomena

Demonic Invasions

In the U.S., some clergypersons believe Satan and his demons appear to be busier than ever in the new millennium—and they admit that the ancient rites of exorcism are being performed in increasingly large numbers to combat the evil machinations of the powers of darkness.


The Antichrist, as the word implies, is one who opposes Christ or who falsely presents himself or herself as Christ. Although the word is most commonly associated with the apocalyptic New Testament book of Revelation, the word "Antichrist" is nowhere to be found within its text.


In apocalyptic visions, prophets see ahead to the end time. Humankind's salvation lies in the future, and the meaning of the present is obscured in the chaos of survival on the Earth's plane.

Apparitions of Holy Figures

In the twelfth century, St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) was credited with seeing an apparition of Jesus Christ (c.

Mother Mary Appears in Egypt

On April 2, 1968, two mechanics working in a city garage across the street from St. Mary's Church of Zeitoun, Egypt, were startled to see what appeared to be a nun dressed in white standing on top of the large dome at the center of the roof.


In Revelation 16:16, the battlefield designated where blasphemers, unclean spirits, and devils join forces for the final great battle of the ages between their evil hordes and Christ and his faithful angelic army is Armageddon, "the mound of Megiddo." The inspiration for such a choice of battlegrounds was quite likely an obvious one for John the Revelator, for it has been said that more blood has been shed around the hill of Megiddo than any other single spot on Earth. Located 10 miles southwest of Nazareth at the entrance to a pass across the Carmel mountain range, it stands on the main highway between Asia and Africa and in a key position between the Euphrates and the Nile rivers, thus providing a traditional meeting place of armies from the East and from the West.

Cosmic Consciousness

In his classic work, Cosmic Consciousness (1901), Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) did not presume to place himself in the company of the illumined individuals whose lives he examined in his book, but he did relate—in the third person—the account of his own experience.


In the teachings and traditions of all world religions, demons are spiritual entities without physical bodies that roam the Earth seeking to torment whomever attracts them through a wide variety of means—from weakness to wizardry. According to these ancient traditions, demons have supernatural powers; they are numerous; and they are organized.

Devil's Mark

During the time of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, it was believed that the Devil placed upon his human brides, the witches, a special mark that was insensitive to pain.


"All that the soul knows when it is left to itself is nothing in comparison with the knowledge that is given it during ecstasy. When the soul is raised aloft, illumined by the presence of God, when God and it are lost in each other, it apprehends and possesses with joy good things which it cannot describe.

Jerusalem Fever

The city of Jerusalem contains some of the most venerated sites in the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religions. To name only a few, the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock over the place from which Muhammad ascended to heaven; the Jews revere the Wailing Wall, all that remains of the great Temple of Solomon destroyed by the Romans; and the Christians flock to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built around the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead.


On September 11, 2000, newspapers around the world carried the story about how Satan had invaded the Vatican in Rome and screamed insults at Pope John Paul II (1920– ) through the agency of a teenage girl, reported to have been a "splendid girl in terms of purity and goodness" before being possessed by the devil at the age of 12. The 19-year-old began shouting in a "cavernous voice" during a general papal audience in St.

Mother Teresa's Exorcism

Faith Healing

Faith healing refers to the termination of an illness or a debilitating physical condition through supernatural means, such as the power of prayer or an intervention of God through a miracle. In the New Testament, one of the principal facets of Jesus' (c.

Ninety-Five Percent of Americans Believe in God

According to the Gallup Poll, belief in God has always been very high in the United States, ranking in the mid-90 percent range over the last sixty years. Interestingly, while 95 percent of Americans believe in God, only eight in ten envision that the Supreme Being is one who watches over them and answers their prayers.

Guardian Angels

An old tradition says that guardian angels are appointed to children at the time of their birth.


The Buddha (c. 563–c.


When Christianity became the state religion of Rome in the fourth century, those who held dissenting or differing views from the established church were condemned as heretics and excommunicated from church membership. Most of the early church fathers, such as St.


According to a Gallup poll taken in 1988, 88 percent of the people in the United States believed in miracles. In the results of a survey on spirituality published in the December 1997 issue of Self magazine, 91 percent of the readers who responded answered that they believed in miracles.

Liquefied Blood of Saints

In Italy alone there are 190 blood samples of various saints that are venerated by the faithful as important religious relics. In a number of cases, these vials of clotted blood become liquefied in a paranormal manner, especially during religious ceremonies, thus exalting the sample from relic to a supernatural miracle.


In February 2001, a 53-year-old Oklahoma woman who had no history of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, or domestic strife, began working a Ouija board with her daughter and two granddaughters. Later that night, claiming to be possessed by a spirit from the Ouija board that told her to kill, the woman stabbed to death her son-in-law, who was sleeping in another room, and attempted to kill other members of her family.

Power of Prayer

Prayer is a basic element of religious expression. According to a survey taken by Lutheran Brotherhood and reported in USA Today (February 7, 1997) Americans are great practitioners of prayer: 24 percent of those polled said that they prayed more than once a day; 31 percent prayed every day; 16 percent, several times a week; 10 percent, several times a month; 9 percent, several times a year.

Speaking in Tongues

The phenomenon of speaking in tongues during ecstatic religious experiences is also known as glossolalia, and began among the first Christians.

The Most Popular Prayers of Americans

According to a 2001 survey on the prayer habits of Americans conducted by Yankelovich Partners for Lutheran Brotherhood, nine out of 10 adults responded by saying that they prayed regularly. When asked what they most often prayed for, 98 percent answered that they prayed most frequently for their own family members.

The Rapture

According to the beliefs of the born-again Christians concerning the end times, the Rapture is an event when Christians will be taken up into the air to meet Christ in the sky. Many believe that the Rapture will happen unexpectedly and that those Christians of special merit will be lifted suddenly from their homes, their automobiles, even from their passenger seats on airliners.

Shroud of Turin

In the fall of 1978, the ancient Shroud of Turin was exhibited publicly for the first time since 1933, thus rekindling the fires of controversy that have raged intermittently around this icon since the first century C.E. Is this cloth truly the authentic burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth (c.


The association of the number 666 with the Antichrist is derived from Revelation 13:18 in which John the Revelator is told in his apocalyptic vision that the number of the Beast is 666 and that the number stands for a person. In John's world of the first century, the Beast that ruled the Earth would have been the emperor, the caesar, of the Roman Empire, Nero (37C.E.–68 C.E.).

Snake Handling

In the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of Mark, the resurrected Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.–c.


Stigmata are spontaneous bleeding wounds which appear in various places on the body, such as the hands, the feet, the back, the forehead, and the side, and, in the Christian context, are considered to be manifestations of the suffering endured prior to, and during, Jesus' (c. 6 B.C.E.–c.

Is There a Hidden Code in the Bible?

In 1997, Michael Drosnin's bookThe Bible Code claimed that the Hebrew Bible contains a complex code that had predicted events which occurred thousands of years after the ancient texts were first written.

Virgin of Guadalupe

In Mexico, December 12, Virgin of Guadalupe Day, is a national holiday, and often as many as five million Mexicans— many crawling on bloodied knees—make their annual pilgrimage to the country's most venerated shrine, a basilica for the Virgin Mary in Mexico City. In 1996, eight people were killed and 15 were injured in the press of pilgrims gathered around the site.


Avision consists of something seen other than by ordinary sight. Throughout the centuries, mystics, prophets, and ordinary people from all religions have experienced visions from their deities or higher levels of consciousness that have informed them, warned them, or enlightened them.

Weeping Statues and Icons

She was like thousands of other plaster Madonnas manufactured at a plant in Sicily and sold throughout the country for a few lira. This particular Madonna was sold as a wedding present from a friend who decided that such a statue would be an appropriate gift for Antionetta and Angelo Iannusco, who were married in Syracuse, Sicily, in the spring of 1953.

Tears of Blood

Aman named Fabio Gregori of Civitavecchia, near Rome, became extremely devout after surviving an automobile crash in 1993. To aid in his devotions, his priest Father Pablo gave him a 17-inch replica of the statue of the Madonna that now stands in Medjugorje, Bosnia.

Chapter 4: Mystery Religions and Cults

Throughout the history of organized religion there have been congregants who became dissatisfied with the structure of orthodoxy. These people left to develop their own forms of worship.

Egyptian Mystery Schools

For more than 3,000 years, the mystery schools of Egypt have epitomized the ultimate in secret wisdom and knowledge. As in ancient times, certain contemporary scholars and researchers insist that the great teachers who presided over the Egyptian mystery schools had to have come from some extraordinary place.

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Greek Mystery Schools

The origin and substance of the state religion of ancient Greece was a sophisticated kind of nature worship wherein natural elements and phenomena were transformed into divine beings who lived atop Mount Olympus. Like the humans who worshipped them, the Olympians lived in communities and had families, friends, and enemies and were controlled by the same emotions, lusts, and loves.

Christian Mystery Schools, Cults, Heresies

The Christian Mystery Schools were largely condemned by the early Church Fathers because of the fear that their practitioners were consciously or unconsciously continuing the old pagan ways. As it was, nearly all of the Christian holy days coincided with pagan holidays, from Christmas and the Roman feast of Saturnalia to Easter and the fertility rites of the goddess Eastre.

Mithras in the Roman Legions

Although Mithraism, the most popular religion among the soldiers in the Roman legions, became Christianity's greatest rival in the early centuries of the church, it was not, as is often incorrectly cited, a Christian heresy. While it is true that the worshippers of the Persian god Mithras spoke of the adoration of their deity by a group of shepherds at his miraculous birth, observed a baptismal ritual that must be observed by those who wished to follow him, participated in a communal meal of bread and water which resembled the Eucharist, and celebrated his birthday on December 25, Mithraism had been established throughout the Persian Empire at least 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ in 6 B.C.E.

Annie Besant and the Theosophical Society

Annie Besant was a social reformer and Theosophist who advocated for the independence and religious rights of women. Born to William and Emily Wood in 1847 England, Annie married a young clergyman, Frank Besant, at 19; they had two children.

Main Leaders of Gnosticism

Simon Magus: The earliest known Gnostic. Magnus construed that the Garden of Eden, the exodus from Egypt, and the Red Sea crossings were symbols.

Alice Bailey

Thinking the stranger to be Jesus Christ (c. 6 B.C.E.–c.

Tribal Mysteries

The tribal cults that have emerged in the past 500 years offer a blend of Christianity—the majority religion of the conqueror and the slave owner—and the aboriginal belief structures of the Native American or African tribes that were subjugated or enslaved. While the early Christian missionaries, ministers, and priests were sincere in preaching what they considered to be the authentic word of God to the tribes of North and South America and Africa, they regarded their culture, customs, and religion as innately superior.

Satanic Cults

The scriptures of all religions acknowledge the existence of demonic beings. Some, including Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, regard the power of evil entities to be real and perceive them as rivals to the dominion of God.

The Rise of Satanism in the Middle Ages

For the common folk of Europe, the Middle Ages (c. 500–c.

Anton LaVey's First Church of Satan

On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, Anton Szandor LaVey (1930–1997) of San Francisco shaved his head, donned clerical clothing, complete with white collar, and proclaimed himself Satan's high priest. Concurrently, LaVey announced the establishment of the First Church of Satan in America.

Temple of Set

The ancient Egyptians were perhaps the first to personify evil as a distinct force in the universe, but they retained a concept of unity by representing the evil god Set as a brother of Horus, prince of light and goodness. Although Set was actually the younger brother of Osiris—who, with Isis, his wife, and Horus, his son, comprised the Egyptian trinity—he was represented as Horus's brother, because Set stood for the opposing forces of evil and darkness.

UFO Cults

On November 20, 1952, George Adamski (1891–1965) walked into the night near Desert Center, California, and when he returned, he claimed to have communicated with the pilot of a Venusian spaceship through telepathic transfer. The entity was benign and seemed extremely concerned with the spiritual growth of humankind.

Twentieth-Century Spiritual Expression

Although millennial thought dates back to the ancient Persian philosophers and was sustained through the centuries by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim teachers, Americans especially seem always to have been fascinated by the horror of a certain apocalyptic vision that includes plagues, earthquakes, and cataclysmic volcanic eruptions. Christopher Columbus was a devout student of biblical prophecies who believed that the world would end in 1650.

The Restoration of the Ten Commandments

The cult of the Restoration of the Ten Commandments appears to have had its origins in the late 1970s when a group of schoolchildren claimed to have received visions of the Virgin Mary on a soccer field in the town of Kibeho, Rwanda. A cult of the Virgin, combining Roman Catholicism with aboriginal religious traditions, formed and spread to southwest Uganda.