Roman Catholic Books
Revered occult expert's book revived, as American culture increasingly glamorizes bloodlust and vampires
To learn all about ESP, clairvoyance and other "paranormal" phenomena, people once turned to this distinguished theologian.
As the rapid spread of New Age beliefs, magic and the glamorization of vampires have led to widespread fascination with the occult, some Catholics have mistakenly met the challenge by promoting a simplistic Protestant view of the subject—i.e., that all "paranormal" phenomena are either fraudulent or of the devil. But as Abbott Alois Wiesinger demonstrated half a century ago, Catholic teaching on the occult is far more complex—and interesting—than that. Now his groundbreaking study is back in print.
Abott Wiesinger, a Cistercian theologian who conducted extensive research into the paranormal, demonstrates that while many so-called psychic happenings can be dismissed, others can be explained by "vestigial" powers of the human soul left over from its pre-fallen state:
"Theology teaches us that in Paradise man possessed powers which were afterwards lost to him. The question is, which powers were lost completely, which were merely weakened, and whether certain of these powers, which may have remained latent, might... be capable of revival."
Wiesinger explores the entire range of paranormal phenomena, including:
Clairvoyance * "Prophetic" dreams and visions * Extra-sensory perception (ESP) * Ghosts and hauntings * "Second sight" * Telekinesis (movement of objects) * Telepathy ("mind-reading") * Teleacoustic phenomena (e.g., ghostly rapping) * Spiritualism (communication with the dead) * Fortune-tellers * Somnambulists * Levitation of objects * Materializations * Divining * Healings * Hypnosis * Mental suggestion * Precognition * Prophecy * Speaking in tongues * Transmission of dreams * Crystal-gazing
Which of these phenomena are—or may be—genuine? How can they best be explained in the light of Catholic theology? How might they attest to the existence of God, and of other spiritual realities taught or implied by Catholic doctrine? Some of Abbott Wiesinger's fascinating answers:
- Links between the action of pure spirits and the results of occult phenomena
- How the soul is organized. The relationship of its purely spiritual element to its other elements
- How abnormal states of mind can temporarily free the soul to act, and receive knowledge, after the manner of pure spirits
- St. Thomas on the higher powers of the soul when it is "partly freed" from the body
- Preternatural powers of knowledge and will possessed by our first parents, Adam and Eve. Similarities of these powers to those of pure (angelic) spirits
- How the soul's vestigial powers can, in certain extraordinary circumstances, act directly on matter
- How dreams or visions may accurately foretell certain events. How this differs from genuine prophecy
- Powers and characteristics of the human soul after it has become separated from the body in death
- Why Catholics must admit the possibility of ghosts, but reject the claims of spiritualists to summon the spirits of the dead
- Two characteristics of pure spirits that are also found in our subconscious
- How the Catholic concept of "spirit," and Catholic explanations for occult phenomena, differs from those of pagan spiritualists
- False approaches to the spiritual -- e.g., yoga and astrology
- How paranormal gifts differ from true mysticism. Why they should never be deliberately cultivated
Prophetic dreams? A word may well be in place here on the subject of the real and supposed foreknowledge of coming events. Theology, of course, teaches us, as we have seen, that such coming events cannot be foreseen in advance even by spirits, but since dreams do often appear to foreshadow the future, or at any rate since it often happens that things dreamed about actually take place, there is a tendency to regard such happenings as instances of prophecy. Yet the truth is quite different. What really happens is that when we come across a case where events turn out in such a manner as to appear to confirm a supposed prophetic dream, we pick on such cases and conveniently forget about the others, where our dreams have proved to be quite erroneous. We thus get the illusion of a genuine prediction, although actually we are dealing with no more than coincidence; at any rate the number of bull's eyes is not large enough to justify the belief that anything beyond the law of averages has been at work.
Catholic reviewers in 1957 lauded Abbott Wiesinger for his sound theology, scrupulous logic, and exhaustive scientific research:
"A satisfying account of the principal occult phenomena today ... widely needed ... provides a scrapbook, both Catholic and secular, of the unexplained in ordinary life." —The Month
"Level-headed ... [a] firm step forward into a field largely uncharted." —Theological Studies
"A mine of information on occult phenomena." —The Clergy Review