At that point, and without warning, the possessed man became rigid.
He screamed and jeered: “If you take it from him, Priest, we needn’t
leave. He has too many enemies. We needn’t leave! He didn’t help
them when they asked him. We won’t leave! We needn’t leave!” Then a
hideous, raucous laughter cackled at them all. The possessed man
pointed a fine finger at David. “Hah-hah! Burnt. And he didn’t pray
for them . . . Father of hopelessness! Hah-ha!”
David’s nerves were jangled. The parish priest took the crucifix and
the holy-water flask himself and concluded the exorcism
successfully. Afterward, he had a short chat with David. He calmed
the young man, but added: “You have a problem. I don’t know your
life. I am sure God will solve it at home for you.”
Back in his own diocese, David had a heart-to-heart talk with his
bishop, who remarked on the change in David: no longer the
self-confident, sometimes cocksure, always rather inaccessible
intellectual he had known, David was now questioning and searching
for internal peace, working through some puzzle he could not
verbalize but which he felt entangling him.
David talked on, telling the bishop about the Paris exorcism and
about his meeting with Teilhard years before.
“Well, have you some serious doubts about your orthodoxy as an
asked the bishop after a time. “Or rather, perhaps, I should phrase
differently. Do you feel that the exorcism experience has opened
something in you,
some deficiency perhaps, which your anthropology and your
intellectualism were only hardening and making permanent?”
“I honestly don’t know,” David answered. “There is the death of Old
Edward. Why did I take his last words so seriously? I know they
meant something personal to me. But I don’t know exactly what.”
“Look, David,” the bishop finally said, “I will put you in touch
with Father G., the diocesan exorcist. He has very little work,
thank God. But he can help you one way or another-at least as far as
the puzzle of that exorcism goes.”
Father G. turned out to be a breezy character full of snappy little
phrases and quick, jerky movements. “Okay, Father David, okay,” was
his comment on David’s story. “You have a problem. I have no
solution for problems except action. I’m not an intellectual. I
failed every exam they gave me. But they needed priests in the
diocese so they let me through. I can say a valid Mass and baptize
babies at any rate, even if my Latin is awful. And I am a good
exorcist. The next time we have a case of possession, I’ll put you
in the picture. Only concrete participation in this matter will help
True to his word, Father G. took David as his assistant exorcist in
two cases of possession the following year. Both were relatively
uneventful; at any rate, nothing personal to David occurred in
either of them. David, however, underwent a continuing change within
himself in the succeeding two years. His experience with the
possessed man in Paris and with the two exorcisms at home had
convinced him that, whatever was at stake in possession and
exorcism, it was not a question either of myth or fable, or of
mental illness. In addition, he had to keep struggling to make sense
of his personal history. He kept stringing a few facts together,
trying to make sense out of them.
There was, first of all, the dying conversation of his Uncle Edward
about praying for “them” and their going “home,” and David’s own
failure to pray for “them.” Then there was Teilhard’s “give hope”
and his words on the flyleaf of the book. And, finally, there were
the jeering words of the fifty-year-old man in Paris. On the face of
it, he could not understand any of these things, and there seemed to
be very little connection between them all. Yet David felt sure
there was a connection, if he could only perceive it.
During a few vacations at home on the farm, he walked down to the
cemetery where Edward was buried. He sat in the old man’s bedroom.
He hiked over to stand in the same place Edward and he had so often
visited, and stood in full view of the “Old Man” of Franconia Notch.
Once or twice after dinner, he strolled up and down the copse at the
west end of the house and thought about Edward. He always felt calm
and peaceful in that copse but could not understand why.
David’s mother, who was always very close to her son and his moods,
said briefly to him as he was departing for the seminary after one
of those home visits: “David, some things take time. Time. Only time
can help. Be patient. With yourself, I mean. And with whatever it is
that is bothering you. Remember how many years it took Edward to
arrive at his own peace.”
David was grateful for these words and felt consoled. It was some
sort of special
message for him. But, again, there was the perplexing character of
it: the consolation
and the “message” character of herwords yielded to no rational
explanation. Just as
the effect of the copse on him, or the significance of Edward’s last
words, or what
precisely the possessed man in Paris had conveyed to him, or the
strangeness he had
discovered in Teilhard. The point was none of his knowledge and
to be of avail. The meanings of all these incidents seemed to flow
from some source
other than his intellect; they were foreign to his knowledge and his
learning. And this disturbed him.
His students began to notice that the tone and, in part, the content
of David’s lectures changed. He was still as unrelenting as ever in
his probings of traditional doctrines in the light of modern
scientific findings. And he excused in no way traditional
presentations of doctrines about creation and Original Sin.
But a new element caught their attention. “Bones” returned again and
again to the data of anthropology and paleontology with phrases they
had not heard him use before. “As long as we measure this solely
with our rulers and our logical reasoning, we will find no cause for
hope,” he might say. Or: “In addition to the scientist’s eye and the
theologian’s subtleties, we must have an eye for spirit.” Once he
ended a lecture on burial cults in Africa saying, in effect: “But
even if you analyze all these data theologically and rationally, you
have to be careful. You can do all that faithfully, and yet pass
blindly by the one trace of spirit present in the situation.” There
seemed to be a note of regret in his tone at such moments.
Very few people-and this included his students, who generally got to
know their professors intimately-very few knew that by this time
David had been appointed diocesan exorcist. Father G. had been
severely injured in an automobile accident and would never walk
David did not take his new post lightly. In his interview with the
bishop when he accepted the post, he tried to get across a curious
foreboding to his bishop. “I am changing,” he said. “I mean I am
slowly coming to a deep, very deep realization about what I have
become over the years. It isn’t that I have gruesome problems.
Rather, it’s as if I had neglected something vital and the time is
coming when I will have to face it. Exorcisms have the effect of
making this need more acute,” he told the bishop.
“You, Father David, can never stop being useful to the diocese,” was
the bishop’s remark.
“No. Of course not. That is, I hope not. But-“ David broke off and
looked past the bishop. He had the vaguest premonition. If only he
could tie it down in words. “It may be, Bishop, that at the end of a
couple of years . . .” He broke off again and stared out the window.
Vaguely he saw the faces of two choices rising up. Yet they made no
sense to him. He turned and looked at the bishop. “It may be that I
will resign from my teaching job at the seminary.”
“Let’s take a chance on that,” the bishop answered pleasantly,
For three weeks in November 1967, David was on leave from the
seminary. He was in New York dealing with the strange case of one of
his own students, Father Jonathan, born Yves L. in Manchester, New
Hampshire. By the time of his excommunication from the Roman
Catholic Church, Yves had changed his name. He was fourteen years
younger than Father David. Like David, he came from an affluent home
and, for all practical purposes, was an only child.
Yves’ father, Romain, was Catholic, French Canadian, originally from
Montreal, and a doctor by profession. His mother, Sybil, a convert
to Catholicism, was of Swedish parentage. Her first marriage, a
childless one, had ended when she was twenty-seven years old, in the
suicide of her husband.
Sybil was over forty and Romain was fifty-two years old when Yves
was born. He had one half-brother, Pierre, by his father’s previous
marriage in Canada. Pierre’s mother had died giving birth to him.
When Yves was born, Pierre was twenty-eight, married, with children
of his own, and living in New Jersey.
Before her first marriage, Sybil had taught in a private Swiss
school. She had been
educated at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and had a
philosophy. She emigrated to Canada with her parents in the early
19305. Yves’ good looks obviously reflected his Swedish ancestry and
particularly his mother’s Nordic beauty.
His childhood was a happy one. Relations and friends who knew all
three over many years always remembered how united they were as a
family, though some remember the house as too adult and
mind-oriented for a little boy. Under his mother’s influence in
particular, by the age of nine Yves was reading voraciously; and
seven years later, at the year-end examinations, he astounded his
school examiners by his detailed knowledge of English and American
Yves’ mother had a smoldering personality; she always conveyed the
impression of deep and somber experiences within her. As with many
converts, she was more Catholic than the Catholics themselves.
His father’s religion was of a more popular and instinctual kind.
His youth had been spent in northwest Canada. Later, David was to
find out that the earliest images retained by Yves’ father were more
or less like David’s own: of rugged nature, gargantuan proportions
of sky and mountain and water, unbeatable and often cruel forces in
the snow, the storm, the wind, and the inhospitable soil.
Yves’ parents always remained devoted to one another, but sexual
expression of that love stopped when Sybil underwent a hysterectomy
after Yves’ birth. Apparently a deep feeling of being wounded or
deficient in her femininity took hold of her.
Romain, on the other hand, entered a religious crisis of acute pain
during his wife’s pregnancy. Partly because his wife’s life was
endangered by the pregnancy, and partly due to a fleeting affair he
had during that time, he developed a constant fear that, because of
the sins of his earlier years and the affair during his wife’s
pregnancy, he would lose his faith, die an unbeliever, and suffer
the loss of eternal life in Heaven.
Yves never noticed any sign of his father’s agonizing
scrupulousness; and he did not realize until much later in life that
the marital love of his parents had cooled very early in his
childhood. Both parents were outwardly very loving in every way.
By the time Yves reached his teens, Sybil had become a kind,
intelligent, and healthy woman. While no longer attached to what she
called the mechanisms of sexuality, she was very aware of her love
and sensuality, very graceful in her life, creative, but beyond
ambition. Romain was a doctor known for his devotion and skill as
well as for his sense of community duty. Father and mother had an
unwritten pact of close companionship and intimate care for each
other. It created a personal world of utter trust and undisturbed
All in all, the atmosphere in which Yves grew up and in which he
felt secure was an adult one permeated by values he felt more than
he understood.’ Home life was inspired by sentiments he perceived
and reproduced but which did not deeply express his own tastes and
inclinations. Life with Sybil and Romain gravitated around unseen
things that the immature Yves knew best by intuition but could not
identify. There was an integrity of person and a graceful style in
their living. There was strength of love and a solidity of judgment.
But the viewpoint was narrow, too narrow.
Within that family Yves’ values and personal ties-his parents, his
school, his parish ambient, his friends-were held in place by solid
moorings. He went to parish schools until he was eighteen. In
retrospect, and as far as anyone can remember, there was no
difference between him and the other boys of his acquaintance. He
was excellent at sports and a very good dancer; he dated local
girls, and moonlighted with another boy until they had put enough
money together to buy a secondhand car.
He had only a few serious scrapes with the school authorities. It
was never a matter of
study-at that he was consistently beyond reproach. But now and then
Yves would turn
on one of his teachers in full view of the class in a fit of verbal
abuse and uncontrollable rage.
He was always apologetic later, and his obviously sincere regret and
winning smile generally had their effect; the school authorities
forgave him easily. It probably did not hurt that his father was
quite a prominent citizen, and that his mother was an active member
of the parish, and that Yves won a state prize every year for his
English essay, thus bringing honor to the school. He had a way with
words and a touch of the poet that was beyond the ordinary. It
helped him in his studies and in his scrapes.
By sixteen, Yves was an amateur painter, was writing poems to
commemorate events at school and at home, was chosen to be his class
valedictorian, and genuinely loved literature. By the time he was
seventeen, he had decided to become a priest.
A final school essay written by Yves at the end of his last year
reads today like a terrible prediction. In a precocious study of
Shelley, Yves wrote: “But with all this beauty, no one can say what
it would have done to the poet and the man had he lived beyond the
age of thirty. Shelley pioneered a fresh idea of godliness. But it
might-we will never know-have been a trap sprung by Job’s Satan or
Dante’s Devil.” Yves carried the essay around with him for many
years, because he felt that in writing it he had perceived something
He owed his decision to become a priest largely to his parents’
influence. Priesthood had been his father’s first ambition in life;
and he transmitted this frustrated wish to his son-not as a command
or an obligation, but as an ideal. Yves knew from the age of seven
that, in his father’s eyes, the priesthood was the best, the
highest, the most honorable profession. This is what his father
conveyed by look, word, and attitude. His mother’s influence was not
so positive. It was more that, by looking down on any other
occupation as secondary, she highlighted priesthood as the ideal and
The seminary Yves attended was the same one to which two years later
Father David M. was posted. Yves was one of many seminarians and did
not arouse any particular attention on David’s part. His studies
were, as usual, excellent. He had a very fine voice for chanting. He
cut an impressive figure in ceremonial robes: over six feet in
height, blond-haired, blue-eyed, with hands that were both masculine
and beautiful. He was marked by a winsome grace and symmetry of
movement; and, above all, he possessed a pair of eyes that radiated
a striking luminosity and that had an almost hypnotic effect on
people around him.
For all these reasons, Yves was the ideal actor in the liturgist’s
manual and the type for which every preacher’s handbook was written.
His knowledge of English and his good writing style helped him in
the practice sermons he composed and delivered at the seminary.
In view of these talents, his interest in art and poetry was
forgiven. In the atmosphere of any seminary during the 19505, there
was always a general suspicion of anyone interested in painting and
literature- especially poetry. Roman Catholicism of that time
regarded such things as “dangerous.” The Church always had had
difficulty in governing poets and painters; they sometimes were
unwelcome prophets and discomforting commentators.
But Yves used his gifts well. He kept within the seminary mentality.
He was careful, always careful.
One incident during his seminary years did disturb the authorities
briefly. It was 1961.
As always with Yves, he quickly overcame it. The occasion was Yves’
theological examinations, oral ones, conducted by three of his
professors and presided
over by a fourth, who would, if necessary, step in to arbitrate a
dispute or cast a
deciding vote in the assigning of grades. Generally, the
moderator-as the fourth member of the examining board was called-had
no part in the examinations and used the time to read a book or
catch up with his correspondence.
This time the moderator was David. At one point in Yves’ oral
examinations, a heated dispute developed between one of the
examiners, Father Herlihy, and Yves. Father Herlihy was questioning
Yves about the nature of the seven sacraments (baptism,
confirmation, marriage, etc.), and he appeared to David to be angry.
But it was Yves who drew David’s closest attention-the handsome face
drawn and haggard, mouth pulled tight in an obstinate grimace,
perspiring forehead, eyes empty of their usual winsomeness. The
change, so complete, so rapid, startled David and worried him. He
could see none of the accustomed light, but only bitter resentment
in Yves’ eyes.
Yves finally was able to mumble out some sort of answer to Father
Herlihy’s questions, and ran quickly from the examination room as
soon as time was up.
In his concern, David went along after the examination to Father Herlihy’s study to discuss in greater detail exactly what had
happened between him and Yves.
Apparently Yves had insisted at one point that all the sacraments
were no more than expressions of man’s natural unity with the world
around him. According to accepted doctrine, this is heretical. The
sacraments are believed to be the supreme means of union with God.
Yves’ words had implied that, after his death, Jesus had gone back
to nature; and therefore the sacraments were our way of being one
with Jesus in the earth, the sky, the sea, and the wide universe.
With his customary attention to detail, David wanted to know Father
Herlihy’s exact impression from Yves’ words. “That was the funny
part,” Father Herlihy answered-and David never forgot his next
words-“what he said was just foolish; but it was the peculiar sense
he communicated to me; I seemed to be listening to something not
quite human-I know it sounds foolish.”
Afterward, David had deep qualms about the whole matter. In part, he
blamed himself: he felt that his own lectures on creation and on the
origin of man had something to do with Yves’ reaction. Yves could
have wrongly interpreted the Teilhardian doctrines David taught.
With only a thin and fragile line between Teilhard’s view and a
total denial of divinity in Jesus, Teilhardian concepts were
delicious mental playthings that could-David saw clearly for the
first time-be used to exalt man as an animal, to make his world into
a gilded menagerie, to reduce Jesus to the status of a Christian
hero as grandly noble and as pitifully mortal as Prometheus in the
Greek myth, and to picture God as no more than the very bowels of
earth and sky and the spatial distances of the universe with all its
The incident continued to disturb David. Yves had conveyed merely by
his looks during the exchange with Father Herlihy a sort of inner
savagery and hate that David felt was out of kilter with Yves’
normal demeanor. David had an instinctive suspicion of such sudden
and dramatic breaks in the normal patterns of behavior. Perhaps it
was merely a bad moment-and everyone has such moments. But if not,
then that winning exterior and compatible behavior Yves ordinarily
displayed must mask something else, some inner condition of spirit
and bent of mind that no amount of seminary training had touched.
However, there the matter rested. The end of the school year was on
them. Three weeks later Yves, with eleven others, was ordained to
the priesthood. David himself was scheduled to leave for a vacation
at home on the family farm, and then to proceed to Mexico City for
an international conference of anthropologists. The incident was
quickly forgotten for the time being.
When the summer was over, Yves was posted as assistant to an
outlying parish of Manchester. He was near his hometown and within
calling distance of his parents. For Yves’ mother the new
appointment was providential. Early in the new year, Yves’ father,
Remain, died suddenly from a heart attack. She would have been quite
alone if Yves had not been posted to Manchester.
Yves’ memory of the time span between September 1960 and January
1967 is clear and full of details. His recollections of 1967 are
incomplete but still helpful in reconstructing what happened to him.
From April 1968, when David made a first attempt to exorcise the
evil spirit possessing Yves, until March 1970, when David concluded
the exorcism, Yves’ memory has large gaps. But his recollections,
the notes and memories of David, together with the transcript of his
exorcism contribute mightily to create a whole picture, a
photomontage of how satanic possession started in one individual,
gained ground, progressed continuously, and finally became as total
as we can imagine it ever to be.
Possession by the spirit of evil proceeds along the structure of
day-to-day life. In Yves’ case, it used the priestly structure of
his life, appearing first of all in the way he administered the
Sacrament of Marriage, then in the way he said Mass, and finally in
all his priestly activities.
In the Sacrament of Ordination, it is the whole man who is
“priested.” He does not simply acquire an extra function. He is not
endowed with merely a new faculty or granted a rare permission.
Rather, it is a new dimension of his spirit which necessarily
affects all he does bodily and mentally. Any deformation of that
dimension by the introduction of some antipathetic or utterly
foreign element spells disturbance and trouble. The dimension of
priesthood cannot be removed or replaced; it can be degraded,
Yves took up his duties in St. Declan’s parish with apparent gusto.
The work was not overwhelming. He had plenty of time for his own
occupations. The parish bordered on the countryside; he had a view
of the southeast from one window of his study and of the west from
another. He rapidly became popular as a preacher in the parish, as a
counselor for its younger members, and as a welcome visitor in the
homes of the parishioners. At no time was there ever any question of
his probity; he had no desire to accumulate wealth; he drank seldom;
and those who knew him have always asserted that there was never in
him the slightest deviation from his vow of celibacy. “A grand young
priest” was the general judgment and impression.
When, after a couple of months, he had established a daily routine
and found out what amount of time was needed for his official duties
as an assistant, he started again to cultivate his two principal
hobbies: painting and English literature. Once he made a trip to New
York to talk with a publisher about a study of the poet, Gerard
Manly Hopkins, and he returned home full of enthusiasm for the
It was toward the end of 1961, a little over a year after his
arrival at St. Declan’s, that the first traces of change became
apparent in him.
On an average, Yves performed ceremonies of marriage three to five
times every month. He seemed to add a special note of solemnity,
joy, and celebration by his mere presence. His sermons on these
occasions were beautifully delivered. And it thrilled everyone
present to see this handsome and graceful young priest celebrating
the love of the newlyweds within the purlieu of the Church’s
holiness and God’s purity, and the Lordship of Jesus. For these were
the themes on which Yves preached again and again in modulated tones
and poetic language.
As time went on, however, Yves became more and more dissatisfied
marriage ceremonial as prescribed in the Roman Ritual, the official
priests that contains detailed instructions on how priests are to
celebrate the various sacraments. He felt that the words and
gestures assigned to the priest in performing a marriage ceremony
were not merely outmoded, but that they did not convey what modern
men and women thought and felt about marriage.
Above all, Yves found the actual words of the marriage vows more and
more repulsive and irrelevant. Here he was, standing in front of two
young people about to embark on a marvelous union and life together;
and, as official representative of the Church, all he could tell
them to do in the name of God and religion was to “stick it out,” to
stay together no matter what happened, until they were parted by
death. Was that precisely what marriage partners promised each
other? he asked himself.
In the beginning, he made no change in the words of the actual vows.
But in his sermon at each marriage, he began to outline what the
marriage partners did really promise to each other.
In the first sermons he insisted that the partners were giving each
other what Jesus gave his Church. Jesus was the supreme model. Then,
as he developed this theme, he began to say more explicitly what it
was Jesus gave his Church.
Consciously now, Yves was drawing on what he had heard Father
“Bones” say at the seminary and what he had thought out by his own
reading of Teilhardian doctrines. Mixed with all he said were lines
of poetry about Jesus which he applied to the bridegroom and the
In these sermons Jesus was pictured by Yves as the summit of human
development, the great Omega Point. He made all nature beautiful,
including the bodies and the love of married people. Jesus was so
dedicated to perfecting the material world that he was evolving as
that world’s peak of perfection. In the same total way that Jesus
gave himself to this human world even to the point of dying like
every living element in it, so the marriage partners should, Yves
pointed out, adapt themselves to this world. They would find
perfection primarily in each other, secondarily in other people
around them, then in nature, in life, and finally in their dying and
All this was, of course, far from the normal teaching of Yves’
Church, according to which Jesus does not depend on the material
world in any way, and marriage is a sacrament which enables the
partners to live their lives with supernatural grace and to achieve
eternal life in heaven after death.
But the change in Yves’ beliefs was not the strangest or most
dramatic thing about this early “enigmatic stage” of his possession.
What is relevant and striking is that Yves constantly found his
thoughts and words “coming” to him. Sometimes, having spoken to the
congregation in the church, he woke up to the fact that he had said
this or thought that without having willed it or even been conscious
of what he had done. It was not that his mind had wandered. It was a
sort of “remote control.”
In fact, Yves’ first clear idea of what was happening within himself
did not come because his clerical colleagues in the rectory and a
few parishioners objected to some of his thoughts and expressions.
They did, but this of itself did not bother Yves very much. He still
relied on his charm and his words to get him out of any incidental
That “remote control” which was to increase in him until it became
paramount in his life-this was the first sign to him of something
alien within him. It had become apparent to him at first during his
In his free time away from the church and his parish duties, Yves
tackled painting and writing much as any other artist. He would be
in the mood for painting or poetry. He would have some perceptions
of color, line, form, or spatial dimensions. The perceptions burned
in his imagination and inner sensibilities for some period of time.
He would sit down to paint, for instance, while he thus burned
inside with images, imaginings, flights of fancy and inner
While doing initial drafts on canvas or paper, motivated by that not
unusual activity of his imagination, he normally experienced a
special inner perception which was always pleasurable. It was, Yves
said, his mind and will gathering in and enjoying the fruits of his
imagination. And there poured back into his imagination freshly
burnished forms of what originally had entered through his senses.
It was these burnished forms he tried to depict on canvas or to
express in his poetry. But even as he painted or wrote, he found his
memory of past things reviving and lighting up like a panel, pouring
assonances and shadings into his imagination. And his general effort
suddenly expanded and became richer as he tried to reproduce the new
form his experience had taken.
It was this rather normal creative routine that began to take a
peculiar turn; and it was always in strict relationship to some
exterior trouble or difficulty Yves had as a priest.
The most important occasion which he clearly remembers hinged upon a
bit of unpleasantness with the senior assistant in his parish. In
late September 1962, he had preached at a marriage. Afterward, the
senior assistant of the parish, who had been present at the
ceremony, admonished Yves about his sermon. “You are making marriage
a merely human thing,” he argued. “It is a sacrament, a channel of
supernatural grace. The Lord Jesus is not going to evolve out of the
earth or a woman’s body or from gases in the upper atmosphere.”
The rebuke was potentially serious, but Yves had talked his way out
of it; the senior assistant was very firm, but he liked Yves, as
everyone did. For his part, Yves wanted no trouble. He liked his
post too much. But, afterwards, he had a deep surge of resentment
about the whole matter.
The following day was his weekly free day. In the morning, while he
was painting, the incident was still annoyingly in the forefront of
his mind. But there was also a peculiarity which he was quick to
notice and apparently powerless to prevent: he felt there were two
parts of him or two functions going on at the same time in him, each
of them working in different directions.
He went on painting, holding the brush, choosing colors, dipping,
painting, standing back and returning to his easel and continuing to
paint. All the while, the normal mechanism of his inner man was at
work-imagination, memory, mind, will.
But all that while, too, another and parallel process was going on.
His imagination was receiving data-images, impressions, forms- from
some source other than the outside world. He knew this because they
resembled nothing he had ever seen, heard, or thought. And then,
too, it seemed to him that these images were not assimilated by his
mind and will. Rather, they seemed to paralyze mind and will, to
freeze them so that bit by bit they went fallow. An entire idea-he
could not even make out its contours or details-was being “shoved”
into his mind and forced into his will for acceptance.
He resisted the “push” of the idea; but it eventually invaded his
mind and will through his imagination. And finally, as far as he
could make out, he yielded. Then that grossly strange idea flooded
back into his imagination with all its parts, reasons, and logic,
there to be clothed in new images. His mind even supplied words for
those images and sometimes, indeed, he found himself pronouncing
these words in whole sentences.
After about an hour, on the first vivid and eerie occasion of this
kind, he was shocked
to discover that he was now painting in a strange and completely
compared to his normal way. His canvas had become a hodgepodge of
brushings, which he had intended to portray a street scene. On top
of them was a crazy quilt of other forms and shapes-shadowy trees,
rivers, irregular forms with legs, squares with ears, loops that
ended in numerals.
When he resisted that inner “push” of ideas from that unknown
source, his painting followed the normal course. But when he
yielded, the hodgepodge started anew. He seemed to have become a
means of translating into pictorial images some message or
instructions or thoughts conveyed to him forcibly and not by his own
Yves felt alone and vulnerable. He was very disturbed. On an impulse
he decided to drive out to see some friends in the country. But
there was no letup. Along the way, he found he could no longer
concentrate on his driving, so great and distracting was the force
of all that was now pouring into him. He had to stop the car on the
side of the road. He sat there and tried to keep his mind and will
free of all those images and forms that were pounding at them from
some source he could not identify.
But as he intensified his struggle, another element crept to the
fore: his resentment about the previous day’s argument with the
senior assistant. When Yves yielded to the “push” of the idea being
“shoved” into his mind, it brought with it some peculiar
satisfaction in resentment. When Yves resisted, the resentment
smoldered there and hurt him. In the brief pauses between these
inner gyrations, Yves’ mind dwelt on what he had said during the
sermon and elaborated the ideas still further. He found intense
satisfaction in this.
Eventually, as he sat beside the road, his planned visit with
friends forgotten, he found himself yielding willingly to the “push”
of the idea. And the moment he yielded, he felt immediate relief
from an internal pressure and a deep conviction that his resentment
against the senior assistant was justified: Yves had been right all
along. He knew what was going on. Besides, he found his imagination
and feelings once more chockful of inspiration which he knew would
pour into his sermons, his painting, and his poetry.
Yves points to this experience as the moment “remote control” became
a constant element in his life, because at that instant he accepted
it willingly. It was, so to speak, the “consecration” of Yves’
Once he voluntarily accepted it-and he insists today that he knew he
was accepting some “remote” or “alien” control-he was suddenly
inundated. He still had not moved from his car. All around him was
soft-spoken countryside. But every sense-eyes, ears, taste, smell,
touch-was saturated with a discordant medley of experiences. A riot
of sounds, colors, odors, tastes, skin feelings washed over him. He
could distinguish a certain rhythmic beat throughout this confusion
and din. But he had no control and could not shake himself loose
from these perceptions. Throughout, he felt a certain privileged
awe, a secret pride. Then the storm in his senses gathered up inside
him somewhere, absorbing utterly his imagination and memory. He now
felt as if serpentine thoughts were touching the furthest reaches of
his mind, and that fine tendrils were closing around each fiber of
Slowly he began again to be conscious of the world around him. What
had occurred had taken only moments, but for those moments he had
been totally abstracted, walled up within himself.
Sound and light and shape now wafted back through the trellis of his
senses, making him a newly aware observer of the world. He heard
birds singing once more; he felt the sunlight on his face again. The
coolness of the wind and the smell of morning-fresh grass and
flowers became vivid for him. But now each lattice of sensation was
filled by some coiling presence weaving slowly, possessively, with
ease, lazily enjoying an acquired resting place in the shaded
corners of his being.
For a brief instant, there was some echo of resistance in him. Some
ancient voice protested in dim tones. Then it ceased. Yves “let go,”
and all tension fled. He was at peace for the first time in many
years. And he felt renewed. There was a sudden ease throughout his
body and an almost fierce, certainly overpowering calm flooding his
He was never more conscious of being “visited.” And every image he
ever had of those who had been “visited” by “another” came tumbling
from his memory: Moses at the burning bush; Isaiah catching sight of
the flaming seraphs in the temple of Yahweh; Mary the Virgin in
Nazareth bowing before Gabriel the messenger; Jesus transfigured
with Moses and Elias on Mount Tabor and conversing with God; St.
John in his Patmos cavern gazing at the Mystic Lamb in all his
glory; Constantine galvanized by the Cross in the clouds; Joan of
Arc in her prison cell tearfully hearing her “voices” in the depths
of pain; John of the Cross in his prison cell piercing the Dark
Night and embracing the Beloved; Teilhard fingering the bones of
Sinanthropos and seeing Jesus, Omega Point, prefigured in those
pathetic pieces. Yves had a clear sense of being destined, as all
those had been, for a special revelation.
All this rushed by him and fell away as he raised his eyes and
looked again at the fields, the trees, the sky. All was now moving
in a new vision, animated by a life he had dreamed of, but never
known. It was all, he now knew, a sacrament, a row of sacraments
strung together as a lovely necklace around man’s world. And his
mind, will, and inner senses were permeated with a strange new
incense consecrating him-as no bishop’s hands could ever do-to the
priesthood of a new being. He knew: always it had been so near him
and yet so far. “Beauty, ever ancient, ever new! Too late have I
known thee!” he murmured Augustine’s quiet regret.
There was awe at the surprise of it all, humbleness at not having
seen it all before. And, dominantly, an enthusiasm lush with
passion. The coiling presence stirred in him; and he began to
“Hey, Father! Having any trouble?” The shout startled Yves. It was a
local state trooper who had drawn alongside in his patrol car. Yves
snapped his head around, angry at the interruption, his eyes
blazing. But the genial smile of the trooper reassured him. They
knew each other. “Just passing a few moments in peace, Pat,” he
said, recovering himself and reaching for the ignition key. “Give
Jane and the kids my love.”
With a wave of his hand he continued on his way to see his friends.
From then on, Yves became extremely careful. It was as if he had
been put on his guard. He knew with an almost uncanny foresight when
trouble was in store for him. At times he was forewarned about a
particular person. “Someone” told him. At other times the warning
concerned activities: a request to solemnize a marriage, a request
for confessions, an invitation to dinner at a parishioner’s house or
with his fellow priests; or it might be a book or article in a
magazine or a letter. The warning was silent, but clear and pithy:
“Avoid it!” or “Don’t do it!” or “Don’t meet them!” Except for an
occasional flourish in a sermon, his colleagues found no further
reason to cavil at his ideas.
But when he spoke privately with parishioners, with an engaged
couple about to be married, for example, it was different. Then he
explained their union so poetically, and he dwelt so insistingly on
the peculiarly earthly role of Jesus, that they always departed
completely charmed by his counseling.
Yves himself clearly explains now how the entire purpose, meaning,
and reason of
marriage as a Sacrament had changed for him. It had become a
Sacrament of nature
for him. It had lost its dimension as a channel of supernatural
grace, just as the senior
assistant had warned him. It was something that united people with
universe. And this meant there had been some deep damage to Yves’
own faith. As
time went by, and Yves introduced this same dark element to the
his own condition became far more extreme; and he
himself began to sense more clearly the meaning of his voluntary
commitment to a force he now could not control. The moment for
possible resistance had passed.
In 1963, Yves’ situation became critical for him. Saying Mass was a
The servers and the people found that he began to take a longer time
to say Mass. Peculiarly enough, it was only one part of the Mass
that took the additional time. It was the most solemn section
immediately preceding the Consecration that begins when the priest
extends his hands, palms downward, fingers together, over the
chalice and the bread. The ceremonial calls for complete silence,
broken only by the tinkling of the Mass bell. Yves would now remain
for abnormal lengths of time, with his hands outstretched-at first
only three minutes, then ten, then fifteen, once thirty agonizing
additional minutes, with congregation and attendants waiting and
watching. Then he would take an abnormally long time to utter the
actual words of Consecration. At an ordinary pace, all these
ceremonial actions take no more than three to five minutes.
His colleagues thought he was going through a “mystical” period, or
that he was suffering from “religious scruples,” that he took too
seriously each official prescription for the actions and words of
the Mass. Some priests go through such a phase. They know that any
deviation can result in venial or mortal sin. So they torture
themselves, making sure they observe all the rules; they go back
again and again repeating actions and words, to make sure they
consciously do everything correctly.
But Yves neither was mystical nor was he paralyzed by religious
scruples. He was undergoing what he now describes as the most
agonizing whipping and thrashing of his inner self. It began one day
when, as he tells it, from the moment that his hands were
outstretched over the chalice and the bread, until after the
Consecration, the “remote control” changed in force and in its
“I fought every inch of the way,” Yves recounts today, “and I lost
every inch of that fight.”
Instead of the officially prescribed words of the Mass and the
concepts expressed in those words, Yves now found different concepts
and different words. It was always and only key words that were
changed. Every time, for instance, the word “saving” or “salvation”
was ritually prescribed, he could only think and say “winning” and
“triumph.” “Saving” and “salvation” appeared to him like words
scribbled on bits of torn paper and pinned to a wall out of his
reach. To reach for them impotently was the source of intense agony
and searing pain.
Similarly with “love” (this now became “pride”), “died” and “death”
(now “returned home to death” and “nothingness”), “sacrifice” (now
“defiance”), “sins” (now “myths and fables”), “bread” and “wine”
(now “desire” and “pleasure”). So it went.
An additional agony ensued whenever a sign of the cross was called
for by the ritual, when Yves would find only the index finger of his
right hand capable of motion, and it could trace only a vertical
Throughout, his memory and reflexes propelled him to act according
to the ritual. The
substitute words and thoughts poured in. He recognized immediately
that the sense
and intent of the whole ceremony was changed utterly by those new
thoughts. He fought with will and mind to retain the ritual. But
each time it was the
same: as long as he fought, some hard lump seemed to start expanding
him-not in his body, not in his brain, but in his living
consciousness. “It was like
remembering last night’s nightmare and knowing that this reality was
you then.” As the lump expanded, it began to reduce in a sinister
fashion the area of his very self.
At the excruciating limit of this inner pain, it began to have a
physical and psychological ricochet: the blood roared in his ears
and peculiar pains started-his hair, eyelashes, and toenails ached
unbearably. Quick kaleidoscopic pictures of his entire life tumbled
in front of his mind, always making him look ludicrous, smelly,
contemptible, beyond help. He could hear himself beginning to form a
scream, which, if it had emerged, would have been: “I’m drowning!
I’m perishing! Save me!”
It never emerged. He stopped fighting. All agony ceased. And a
marvelous exhilaration-not unmixed with relief-flooded him. The ease
was almost painful in its contrast with the pain that had preceded
The final agony came one day when he started to pronounce the words
Consecration. Instead of “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood,”
echoed in his own voice: “This is My Tombstone” and “This is My
Sexuality.” As he
pronounced these words while bending over the altar as prescribed by
the ritual, all
authentic Consecration fled from him. His index finger bent into a
hook shape, thrust itself into the wine, and then scratched a
vertical red stain on the white wafer.
At that moment, Yves could not straighten up. His ears were filled
with two different sounds. He was sure he actually heard them: a
jeering laugh that echoed and echoed and echoed; and a faint
keening, a muted wail or cry of protest which eventually died away
in the reverberations of that heinous laugh. Then, as from that
“remote control,” he heard the syllables: “Jesus is now Jonathan,”
and “Jonathan is now Yves,” and “Yves is now Jonathan and Jesus.”
And finally, “All is gathered into Mr. Natural.”
It was some time before Yves realized that only he had heard all
those profanities. But whether they heard those words or not, it was
Yves’ appearance after those painfully extended moments of inward
battle that shocked the people who watched him. When he turned
around finally to distribute communion, his face was terribly drawn,
haggard, the color of chalk. His hair, cut short then, seemed to be
standing on end. His eyes, normally so impressively clear and
winning, were narrowed to slits; and he was muttering through
clenched teeth. The whole impression was stark and lifeless.
He finished the Mass in a violent state of inner tension. Only after
some time spent alone was he once more flooded with that strange
peace and exultation. Finally, when he had recovered himself alone
in the vesting room, he emerged smiling, composed, looking as he had
His yielding to the “control” at Mass had immediate and far-reaching
effects. In baptizing infants, he changed the Latin words, which
were unintelligible to the parents and bystanders. When he was
supposed to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the
Son and the Holy Spirit,” he said, “I baptize you in the name of the
Sky, the Earth, and Water.”
But the most momentous change in his performance both of Baptism and
the other Sacraments (Extreme Unction, Confession) affected those
parts which spoke of “Satan” or the “Devil” or “evil spirits.”
At Baptism, instead of saying (in Latin), “Depart, Unclean Spirit”
or “To renounce Satan and all his works” or “Become a child of God,”
he now said, “Depart, spirit of hate for the Angel of Light,” and
“To renounce all exile of Prince Lucifer,” and “Become a member of
In Confession, he stopped saying, “I absolve you of your sins in the
name of the
Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; instead, he said, “I
confirm you in your
natural wishes, in the name of Sky, Earth, and Water.” And when he
Sacrament of the Dying (“Extreme Unction” was its old name), he
committed the dying person to the mercy and peace of “Sister Earth”
and to the eternity of “Mother Nature.”
Whenever he felt an initial repugnance to accepting what was
“dictated” to him by the “remote control,” that frightful inner lump
grew sensitive; and Yves became a being of pure pain. He quickly
obeyed, and he was rewarded always by a wild exultation. The sun was
brighter. The blue of the sky was deeper. The coffee he drank was
never so good. The blood coursed vigorously in his veins. And his
head never felt clearer.
By the end of 1964, it became obvious to his colleagues there was
something wrong with Yves that they could no longer explain by his
artistic temperament, his French Canadian-Swedish ancestry, a
mystical period of life, or religious scruples. It was all too
peculiar. It frightened some. It repelled others. It angered still
others. It left all with an eerie sense of something utterly alien
in Yves. And to cap it all, Yves had begun to refer to himself as
But it was always isolated things, and nobody ever put them all
together into a definite pattern. When he turned around at Mass (as
the priest did four or five times) to say “Dominus vobiscum” (“The
Lord be with you”), one colleague swore he heard Yves say, “Dominus
Lucis vobiscum” (“The Lord of Light be with you”). Others did not
hear that single added word, but the faint glint in his eyes gave
them a momentary shock. Once, as he touched the forehead of a baby
he was baptizing, the baby went into violent hysteria and had to be
rushed to the hospital for treatment.
All such incidents taken individually were susceptible of perfectly
rational explanations. But his visit to a boy dying of bone cancer
was the final incident that led ultimately to his abandonment of his
It was at the end of 1966. The boy, the fourteen-year-old red-haired
son of Irish immigrant parents, was to be anointed: death was
certain and imminent. Before the priest, Father Yves, arrived, the
boy asked his mother to wash his face and hands and help him put on
his favorite shirt and tie. He also asked his father to turn his bed
toward the door, because, he said, there was a dark thing in the
corner of the room.
When Yves arrived, all went normally until Yves
endeavored to straighten the bed, making the boy again face the
“darkened” corner. The boy started to scream: “No! Father! No!
Please! Mother!” Then as his mother ran in and Yves, having
straightened the bed, stood over toward that particular corner, the
boy started to weep uncontrollably. Yves does not remember all the
boy said, but he does recall certain words and sentences:
“darkness,” “they smile at each other,” “he hates Jesus,” “save me,”
“I don’t want to go with them.”
Finally the boy’s father apologetically requested Yves to leave and
come back the next day. But his mother telephoned Yves’ superior,
the pastor of the parish. The pastor came an hour later, anointed
the boy, and waited for the end, which came quickly.
The incident was the last straw. And now everything known and
remarked about Yves
for the previous three years was put together. The pastor and his
senior assistant said
nothing to Yves, but they spent about three months gathering
watching Yves closely. In addition to the peculiarities mentioned
received a puzzling report they could not make head or tail of. A
Yves’ description periodically lived in a loft in Greenwich Village,
New York. His
appearances there always coincided with Yves’ vacations and the free
days when he
was away from his home parish.
They found out that the loft was
known as the Shrine
of the New Being; that the man was called Father Jonathan; that he
held services for
all and sundry: said Mass, performed marriages, heard confessions,
ordained men and
women as priests of the Shrine, baptized infants and adults, went on
call to homes and
hospitals where the dying lay; and that he had one other specific
rite, which he called the Bearing of the Light. Its initiated
members were called the Light-Bearers. But no details about either
members or their rites were available.
Just at the moment that a full written report was ready and about to
be sent to the bishop, Yves seemed to have been alerted-however
late-to the intentions of his colleagues. For about two months his
behavior, as far as anyone could judge, was absolutely normal. He
never went to Greenwich Village. He worked hard.
Then, in mid-June 1967, when all concerned were just about to
dismiss the whole affair as exaggerated and irrelevant, Yves had his
first terrible seizure. Predictably, perhaps, it was at Mass.
When he had stretched his hands out, palms downward over the
chalice, he suddenly started to weep and groan and sway. One hand
clamped down roughly over the chalice. The other fell resoundingly
on the white wafer of bread. The servers called the pastor. He,
together with the two other assistants, could not physically
dislodge Yves’ hands, or move the chalice, or stop Yves’ weeping and
groaning. He and the chalice and the bread were rooted physically to
their place as if by rivets. He became incontinent on the altar.
By that time, the pastor had emptied the church and locked the
doors. They were about to call a doctor when Yves suddenly let go of
the chalice and the bread. He seemed to be flung backward, tumbling
down the three steps of the altar and falling heavily to the marble
floor of the sanctuary. He was unconscious when they reached him.
He awoke about an hour later. When the pastor spoke with him, Yves
disclosed to him that his mother had been epileptic, and he pleaded
with the pastor not to put him to shame publicly. He would go away
in order to rest, follow a doctor’s advice after a checkup, and all
would be well.
But now the pastor believed the worst. In his eyes, Father Yves must
be possessed. The pastor’s conclusion was no more than a deep
conviction based on his personal reactions. But even so, it was a
serious matter, and it would not be dropped or postponed again until
the pastor was sure one way or the other. A discreet inquiry
revealed that Sybil, Yves’ mother, was not epileptic. In a long
Sunday morning interview, the bishop was told the whole story,
including the pastor’s worst fears. That was in June at the
seminary, where the bishop was ordaining the new young priests.
The bishop called in Father David M. for consultation.
After his consultation with the bishop, Father David had an
interview with Yves. He came away completely baffled. Not only did
Yves cooperate fully with him, but whatever Yves said seemed to
strike a sympathetic chord in David. The only two peculiarities he
could not explain satisfactorily were Yves’ constant use of his new
name, Jonathan, and the condition of Yves’ right index finger.
The name David could accept. After all, only ten years before, David
had started to call himself, or at least to sign letters to his
intimate friends, as “Pierre” (after Teilhard de Chardin); and he
had taken a lot of leg-pulling from his colleagues about that. And
the name “Bones” had stuck to David chiefly because David, once he
heard the name, deliberately used it several times during his
lectures; he liked it.
The finger was another matter. According to the doctor who had
X-rayed it, no bone was broken and no nerve was shattered. The
problem could in no way be traced to the supposed epileptic history
of Yves’ mother. There was calcification in the finger; but the
deformity could not be traced to a blow or injury; and no
calcification could be found elsewhere in Yves’ body. He was found
not to be arthritic.
For the rest of it, David could not find much to be alarmed about.
He had checked out Yves’ mother: she had, indeed, been subject to
some sort of seizures, but the doctors who examined her always ruled
out epilepsy. That much left David relieved. But he still came away
baffled. He was convinced that he had missed something essential;
and he felt foolish without knowing why. His discussion with Yves
had covered both the doctrine Yves professed as a priest and Yves’
own spirituality. As far as David could make out, both doctrine and
spirituality coincided more or less with his own.
“If Yves is in error,” David told the bishop later, “then so am I.
Now what do I do?”
The bishop eyed David speculatively for a while. Then he said
softly: “I suppose if all this paleontology and de Chardin’s
teachings were to lead you to a point where you had to choose faith
or de Chardin, you would choose faith, Father David.”
It was a statement of fact, with an implied question. David glanced
at the bishop, who was now looking out the window of his study with
his back to David.
The bishop continued. “Tell me, Father. Is evolution as much a fact
as, say, the salvation of us all by Jesus?”
David faced the question with its now distant echoes of the
foreboding he had felt the day the bishop had named him to the post
of exorcist. Today he says his first reaction to the question was
surprise: “It’s as if I had neglected something final, and the time
was coming when I would have to face it.” Deep in his mind, he
realized, he had spontaneously said, “Yes.”
To the bishop he answered by rising and saying something to the
effect that it was like comparing apples and oranges. And the bishop
apparently wanted only to put the question. He was far too old and
wise a man always to expect precise answers.
After this interview with his bishop, David was not at peace. He
made up his mind to see Yves the following day.
What he proposed to Yves was quite simple. After much thought, it
seemed to David that they should conduct a ceremony in which they
would say special prayers for the sick and against disease, and in
which they would also go through the main parts of the Exorcism
ritual. He, David, would conduct a simple exorcism. The idea, he
told Yves, was to satisfy the bishop and the pastor.
Yves saw no difficulty. He would like that, he said. Only Yves’
pastor would be present; no trouble was anticipated.
They performed the exorcism in the private oratory of the seminary,
all three men kneeling in the pews normally occupied by the
seminarians. Yves answered in a low murmur all the questions put to
him by David as exorcist. “Do you believe in God?” “Do you believe
in Jesus Christ, Our Lord?”- “Do you renounce the Devil and all his
works and pomps?” and so on.
Yves kissed the crucifix; and, jabbing his crooked index finger into
the holy-water font, he blessed himself.
David and the pastor rose to their feet at the end of the ceremony.
Yves had not budged from his place where he knelt with his face in
his hands. They both went out quietly, leaving him alone.
“That’s that,” said David with a sigh of relief.
“I did not hear one clear word from him,” rejoined the pastor, “but
I suppose I’d be as subdued as he was in the same circumstances.”
In the oratory, Yves raised his face from his hands a few minutes
later and looked around; he was alone; and he could not remember
much. He remembered coming in with David and the pastor, kneeling
down, and opening the ritual book. But that was all. For the 15
minutes of the exorcism ceremony he had completely blacked out.
When he knelt down, it was as if a powerful sedative had been
injected into him. He
remembered nothing except a sudden compulsion forcing his lips to
speak and his limbs to move.
He waited a. moment now, then looked toward the altar. All was
normal on the altar; but between him and it a bulky, formless shadow
hung in the air blotting out all sight of the crucifix over the
altar and of the stained-glass windows behind the altar. Then,
abruptly but calmly, like a man remembering a decision he had made
or some instructions from a superior, Yves rose and left the
oratory. A seminarian he met at the door caught sight of Yves’ face:
it was glowing and laughing.
That evening, as David sat in his study, he could not concentrate on
the work in hand.
He was supposed to finish a paper for a conference on de Chardin’s
Choukoutien, China, where the Jesuit had unearthed the fossil of
David’s mind kept going back again and again to the bishop’s
question: “Is evolution
as much a
fact as the salvation of us all by Jesus?” A foolish question, he
told himself. No meaning to it at all. The bishop was of the old
school. But still it kept bothering him.
He looked up at the glass cases where all his beloved fossils and
paleontological treasures were exhibited. His eyes traveled over a
chipped skull casing, the collection of anklebones, the pieces of
ancient rock in which flora and fauna fossils were embedded, and the
series of reconstructed busts: Solo Man, Rhodesian Man, Neanderthal
Man, Cro-Magnon Man. His mind was playing tricks with him: not only
were the plaster busts looking at him, he thought, but these dead
and broken human bones seemed to be speaking without sound.
Then his head cleared. He got angry with himself. Had a choice to be
made between evolution and Jesus? Must it be made? If Jesus were the
culmination of it all, there was no such choice to be made. Jesus
and evolution were one in some deep way or other.
He hung along the edge of these considerations for a while. Then on
a sudden impulse he went over to the house phone and called to the
guest room where Yves was spending the night.
“Hello, Yves-eh-Jonathan,” he stumbled.
“Hello, Father,” Yves answered in a calm and pleasant tone.
“I just had an idea, Jonathan. About evolution and all that, I mean.
Supposing Teilhard was wrong all the time and his whole theory and
evolution itself was irreconcilable with the divinity of Jesus, what
would you say?”
There was a short pause. Then in a level voice with a certain note
of hidden triumph, Yves said: “You seem to be asking this to
yourself and for the first time, Father David!”
“But what do you say, Yves-Jonathan, excuse me,” David insisted. “I
am now asking you.”
“There can never be any such conflict, Father David”-David began to
feel some relief-“for the simple reason that evolution makes Jesus
possible. And only evolution can do that.” Yves remembers the
conversation very well. The “remote control” was on him again with a
strong compulsion; he waited until the thoughts and words came to
him. Then he continued quietly, but with the emphasis of one in
possession of some superior or additional knowledge.
all I have become, you made me. My spirituality and my beliefs and
my explanations all come from you. You also know that evolution
makes it possible for us to believe in Jesus; it makes Jesus
possible for us as rational men. Don’t you, Father David?”
At the other end of the telephone, David caught his breath sharply.
As Yves’ words hit
his ears, the thoughts and images they conveyed pushed past all his
like rough visitors. He felt an invasion of himself such as he had
never known before.
He struggled for a moment: “Do you really think . . .”
“Father David, you have the testimony of your own conscience and
your conscious mind.” Then, with terrible deliberateness and a hard
note in his voice that completely destroyed David’s self-confidence:
“After all, if I had to be exorcised, you also need it. Perhaps it
is both of us who needed it. Or, perhaps-and this is a better
idea-we are both beyond exorcism.” The telephone clicked and went
David was stunned. Within a few hours, he decided to telephone the
bishop. Before he could say a word, he was given the latest news:
Yves had gone to the bishop that evening, resigned from the diocese,
and left with some friends for New York.
From that time onward until the marriage by the sea, David did not
see much of Yves, though he heard about him constantly as Father
But now David had a problem of his own: had he in some way or other
been contaminated? Had he yielded to the Evil One? Had he
voluntarily, although under the veil of goodness and wisdom,
admitted the influence of the Devil into his own personal life?
He thought back over the exorcism. Come to think of it now, Yves was
not the only one who had mumbled the Latin words. He himself had
mumbled them, his mind had been absent half the time thinking of
David did not realize it then, but he would not enjoy any peace
until the exorcism of Yves had been accomplished some two years
When Father Jonathan, as Yves now called himself, came to stay in
Greenwich Village, he chose at first to work among its inhabitants,
seeking neophytes and converts for his cause. He hung around the
popular discotheques and bars, joined the clubs, took part in
several of the “happenings” organized by the various Village groups
of the time. He became known for what he claimed to be: the founder
of a new religion.
But after a year of this apostolate, Jonathan’s emphasis changed. He
consorted with the ordinary denizens of the Village. He had a
different mission: to
create a new religious movement among the
well-heeled families of upper Manhattan. Initially he became good
friends with a few people he met by chance. As time went on, he
enlarged his circle. Soon he had enough voluntary contributions to
enlarge and decorate his Shrine of the Loft, as he called it. And
there, every Wednesday evening, he held services, administered the
new “Sacraments,” and counseled the members of his “parish.”
By the autumn of 1968, he had attracted a solid congregation who
found that Jonathan, far from being an iconoclast or a preacher of
strange doctrines, seemed to revive in them a new sense of religious
belief and a trust in the future. His message was simple. He couched
it in beautiful language. He strewed his addresses with a genuine
knowledge of art and poetry. And, most especially, he had a knack of
suffusing everything with esthetic values. He could preach on the
Missing Link, for example, or a picture of Neanderthal Man, and make
the entire idea of evolution from inanimate matter appear a glorious
beginning. For the future, Jonathan had a still more glorious
outlook. There was a new being in process now, he told his
congregations; and it would live in a new time. “New Being” and “New
Time” became his watchwords.
Jonathan’s outlook and his intuition of the rather sinister “New
Being” came just in
time to fill a vacuum felt by many people. The vacuum had begun to
years before Jonathan’s arrival; its effects in theater, poetry, and
art had been felt far
and wide during preceding decades. All-poetry, theater, and art-had
lamented the fact that man’s world had increasingly sacrificed
meaning for usefulness. And without any further meaning, without the
possibility of some transcendence, that world, however “useful,”
ceases to nourish the spirit of men and women and children. Without
that nourishment, the spirit of man must die.
In the area of religion and especially of Roman Catholicism, the
vacuum became widely visible and tangible in the late 19605, when
the changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council had taken
effect. The new changes did away with much of the ancient
symbolism-its mystery and its immemorial associations. The changes
might have evolved into something worthwhile, except for the strange
vacuum that now seized Roman Catholics and religious people in
Its effect seemed sudden. And it was numbing. For it was a vacuum of
indifference: to the external rites-words, actions, objects-proper
to religion; to the concepts of religious thought and theology; and
to the functions and character of religious people-priests, rabbis,
ministers, bishops, popes-to all of these was now applied the norm
of “usefulness”: form equals function; but, beyond practical use,
there is meaning. The externals of religion no longer seemed to have
any compelling significance. Increasing numbers of people laid them
aside, or ignored them, or used them as mere social conveniences and
Jonathan’s message was simple and geared to this new situation. All
the beauty of being human had, he said, been obscured by religious
theorizing and institutional churches. But now is a new time, he
preached: all is and always was really natural. Good meant natural.
We did not need such artificial supports as organized religions had
supplied. We must just rediscover the perfectly natural. Everywhere
in the world around us there were natural sacraments, natural
shrines, natural holiness, natural immortality, natural deity. There
was a natural grace and overwhelming natural beauty. Furthermore, in
spite of the chasm that institutional religion had dug between
humans and the nature of the world, the world and all humans were
one in some naturally mystical union. We came from that union and by
death we went back into it. Jonathan called that natural union “Abba
In effect, Jonathan made a fateful synthesis of Teilhardian
evolutionary doctrines and Teilhard’s idea of Jesus. And he
permeated it with a deep humanism and had a knowing eye for the
yawning indifference now gripping traditional Christian believers.
In Jonathan’s outlook, “religious” belief became easy again. At one
pole, one could accept the currently pervasive idea that man evolved
from inanimate matter. At the other, one had no need to aim at
believing in an unimaginable “resurrection” of the body. Instead,
there was a return “to where we came from,” as Jonathan used to say:
a going back to the oneness of nature and of this universe.
All this allowed the clever use of the full range of vocabulary and
concept about “salvation,” “divine love,” “hope,” “goodness,”
“evil,” “honesty”-all terms and ideas that were already so
comforting and familiar to his congregation. But all these terms
were understood in a sense completely different from the traditional
one: minus a supernatural god, minus a man-god called Jesus, and
minus a supernatural condition called “personal afterlife.”
Jonathan’s congregation was never very large-never more than about
150 people. But he drew deep satisfaction from it all; for in his
mind, all this was a preparation for the glorious New Time which was
just around the corner-at the Shrine of the Loft.
But there were deep consequences for Jonathan. As time went on, and
the spring of
1969 approached, he found more and more that, in the literal sense
of the words, “he
was not his own man” any longer. Outsiders-his flock, his
difference beyond that he had let his golden hair grow longer, that
he wore exotic clothes, and that his language became very exalted.
With the passage of time, however, Jonathan’s “movement” seemed to
be in danger of petering out-before the New Time started! He was
getting no new followers. His doctrine and outlook did not easily
accommodate the more flamboyant upheavals of the 19605. He was no
revolutionary in the political sense. The Shrine of the Loft was
clearly on the wane before it had really taken off. He needed
Meanwhile, Jonathan would wake up in the middle of the night and
find his mind full of strange impulses coming from that “remote
control.” He kept finding himself packing a bag and preparing for a
journey. He spent long hours alone in his Shrine; and later he did
not know what he had been doing there all that time. The “remote
control” was inexorable in its domination. He had to wait until he
was told what to do. While waiting for that order, he performed
marriages and birth celebrations for his few followers. He held
weekly services. He dreamed constantly of starting a new priesthood
and a new church that would sweep the ranks of Catholics and
Toward the end of the summer of 1969, Jonathan’s “instructions”
started to come in earnest. He was invited to spend three weeks in
the Canadian wilds with a party of friends who annually went there
to hunt and fish.
Jonathan knew the moment he received the letter of invitation that
this was it. Some inner voice kept telling him: “Go! Go! You will
now find your mirror of eternity. Ordination to the supreme
priesthood is at hand!” When asked if he heard an actual voice on
this occasion, he denies this. It was an inner conviction coming
with the same firmness of all his other “instructions” and
exercising the same irresistible compulsion, far beyond the effect
of mere words.
With Jonathan, the hunting party numbered 12 people. They lodged at
a base camp. Each day they split up into groups. Each group departed
for two- to four-day treks in the wilderness.
Apart from some fishing, Father Jonathan busied himself with
painting and writing. But after the first week, he found himself
venturing alone farther and farther from the base camp. He was
looking for something or some place. When he came on it, he would
recognize it, he knew. His walks always followed the course of a
river on whose bank the base camp stood. He could easily find his
way home by retracing his steps along the river.
It was on one of these forays that he found his place-as he called
it later. That name, “my place,” has now a grisly significance for
Jonathan: there his final immersion in demonic possession was
One day after lunch, he had been walking for about three hours in a
southerly direction along the river. For those hours, the course of
the waters had run fairly straight. At a certain spot, however,
Jonathan noticed that the river entered between two high ridges of
ground and that within them it described an S-shape. When Jonathan
reached the farther curve of the S-shape, his whole body and mind
suddenly became electrified with a sense of discovery. He stood
stock-still, one Latin word-sacerdos (priest)-ringing like a clear
bell in his ears. Sacerdos!
That was it! This was the place! Here he would be ordained truly as
priest of the New Being and Bishop-Leader of the New Time. This was
it! He felt full of gratitude.
The place was beautiful. The water in that corner was not more than
a few feet deep.
The center of the riverbed was a soft, shifting carpet of sand as
white as salt. On each
side, like rows of attendant black-cowled monks, there were tiers of
rocks, rounded and smoothed by the overflow of water during the
yearly flooding of
the river. In the corners of the S-shape, on each bank, there was a
beach of that pure white carpet of sand sloping up out of the water
to a rim of blue and black pebbles, then ferns and grass, then the
pines, alders, sycamores, chestnuts. Everything burned in the sun,
and silent shadows gloomed over rock and sand and river to make a
patchwork of green half-darkness in the yellow light.
Jonathan could see a hundred summer suns mirrored in the green-gray
water, and each of them gave off a fire that dazzled him. The river
moved slowly, but not sluggishly, all the while singing a pervasive
refrain of calm and constancy.
The place was Jonathan’s “mirror of eternity,” an opening in nature
through which he could glimpse the strength of eternity, its
softness and cleansing power, and the boundless spaces of its being.
Jonathan fell stunned and crying on the beach. Stretched out full
length, face down, his hands digging into the sand, he kept
shouting: “Sacerdos! Sacerdos! Sacerdos! Sacerdos!” His cries
ricocheted off the rocks and the trees, each echo coming back
fainter and fainter as if traveling away with his petitions and
hopes, until he found himself listening silently.
The wetness of the sand soaked into his clothes, and the sun warmed
his back. He began to feel a buoyancy all through his body: some
mighty hand held him on its palm. He heard himself saying almost
plaintively: “Make me . . . make me, please . . . make me . . .
priest . . . priest-make ...” Every word was spoken into the white
sand beneath his face.
Now thoughts, emotions, imaginings, all seemed to be under the
control of that hand. And he began to feel an emptying sensation.
His past was being erased; his entire past, what he remembered and
even what he had forgotten, all that had entered into the making of
what he had been up to that moment, was being flushed from him. He
was being emptied of every concept, every logical reasoning, every
memory and image which his culture, his religion, his ambient, his
reading had formed in him.
Then, under some inner impulse which he questioned no longer, he
rose and went slowly into the water. He stood in midstream looking
at the sky for a moment. Obeying the inner voice, he bent down; his
hands groped at the base of a rock and sought to reach to where its
roots went deep in water. The river swirled caressingly over his
shoulders and back. His chin now was almost level with the surface.
“I was reaching for the veined heart of our world,” he told me in
one of our conversations, “to where Jesus, the Omega Point, was
evolving and evolving, and was on the threshold of emerging.”
It seemed to him that “only this world was forgiving and cleansing,”
it alone had “united elements.” He had the impression that now at
last he had “broken through,” and that the revelation of all
revelations had been granted him: the real truth, the real god, the
real Jesus, the real holiness, the real sacrament, the real being,
and the new time in which all this newness would inevitably take
He lost count of ordinary time, of the sun and the wind, of the
river and its banks. The
wind was a great rushing bird whose wings dovetailed into the green
and brown arms
of the trees on either side of him. The rocks became living things,
his brothers and
sisters, his millennial cousins, witnessing his consecration with
the reverence that
only nature had. And the water around him winked with gleaming eyes
as it sang the song it had learned millions of years ago, from the
swirling atoms of space, before there was any world and man to hear
it. It was an irresistible ecstasy for Jonathan.
He began to chant to himself: “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Then this
became “Lord of Light!
Lord of Light! Lord of Light!” Once again he had no control. Every
fiber and sinew in
his body and mind was flooded with a dusky power. Now he was
chanting: “Lord of
Light! Lord of Jesus and of all things! Your slave! Your servant!
Your creature! Your priest!”
He felt a soft relaxation throughout himself; he had now no trace of
tension, no anticipation, no forward-looking thought or emotion. All
was wrapped up and contained in the now, the here-present.
He rose to his feet in the shallow water and faced the bank; his
hands, bleeding from his efforts to dig for the bottom of that rock,
hung by his sides. He looked at the scratches and tears in his
fingers and palms, loving the gleam of blood in the sunshine on the
background of his clean skin.
Slowly he walked up the beach. For no reason his pace quickened. He
started to trot. Once past the sand and on solid ground, he ran
zigzagging through the trees, propelled by the force within him. The
ground sloped upward. Still running, he was out of breath as he
reached the top of the slope. He began to falter and stumble.
He reached out for support. But on every side the tall, rough bodies
of the pine trees, their branches many times his height off the
ground, their heads lost in the sky, were the only things near to
him; and they gave no help.
Through the haze of his sweat and weariness he saw on the ridge he
was approaching a small tree with branches near the ground. He
stumbled, fell, got up, and labored until he fell against the tree
trunk, his outstretched arms falling on the short branches sticking
out on either side. He leaned there a while, his cheek against the
tree, his armpits resting on the branches, catching his breath and
sobbing half syllables, waiting for his strength to return.
But he became aware that his face was lying against something
smooth: this was no rough pine bark or knotty sycamore skin. He
opened his eyes slowly, easing himself to a standing position and
drew back from the tree wonderingly.
With a growing horror he could not control, he now saw it in clear
outline: a bare tree trunk, stripped of all its bark, severed to a
quarter of its original height by some force-a lightning bolt, a
random axe, some accident. It was a withered tree trunk with only
two stubby arms. Blood stained the putty-white surface of those mute
cross-pieces and its withered trunk.
He was standing in front of a cross, he thought with a fierce horror
and revulsion. There’s blood on it. My blood? Or whose blood? His
blood? Whose blood? The questions were hysterical cries of fear in
He started to shout. “Curse it! Curse him! Curse that blood! Curse
that false Jesus!” The “remote control” was pouring the words into
his brain, and he was echoing them with his lips. “Destroy it! Break
those arms!” The instructions tumbled pell-mell.
He stretched out his hands, gripped one arm of the tree, and began
to pull while he shouted. “Curses on you! Curses on you! I am free
of you! Lord of Light! Save me! Help!” The arm of the tree broke. He
seized the other arm with both hands and started pulling and
shouting. It gave without warning, and its release sent him flying
backward, tumbling down the slope toward the river, his world now a
careening tunnel of lights and blows and bumps, until he fell
against a tree trunk and lost consciousness.
The search party found him there a few hours later, just before
sundown. He was semiconscious and weak, his two hands still holding
a broken tree branch. They lifted him to a sitting position, his
back resting against the tree that had broken his fall. He was
facing the ridge. The sun was setting, but its last red-gold rays
flowed thinly around the withered tree, its cross-arms now
splintered stubs, its trunk stained with dark splotches.
Jonathan did not notice it for a while until his vision focused.
Gradually he became aware of tall figures around him, of voices
speaking, of hands that were putting a flask of whisky to his lips,
and of other hands tending to his bruises. He heard the sounds of
branches being cut with axes. But his gaze fell on the tree. Alarm
bells sounded in him. He began to struggle to his feet, his eyes
fixed on that tree.
The red light of the sun was rapidly fading to blue-black twilight,
and the tree was dissolving into the ridge. One of the men in the
search party saw Jonathan struggling to rise and noticed the fixity
of his stare at the tree.
“Don’t worry, Father,” he said, “it’s only a tree. A dead tree. It’s
all right, I tell you. Take it easy, will you, Father! It’s only a
tree, Father.” He exerted pressure on Jonathan and prevented him
from standing up.
Jonathan slumped back wearily and muttered: “Only a tree. Only a
tree.” Then he blacked out. They placed him on the makeshift
stretcher they had fashioned and set off for the campsite.
The end was not far off for Jonathan; but he did not seem to realize
it. After a few days’ rest at the base camp, the party journeyed to
Manchester, New Hampshire. Jonathan was taken to his mother’s house.
He was extremely weak, suffered bouts of dizziness, had pains all
over his body. He found it difficult to sleep at night and could not
concentrate on reading or painting. The family doctor prescribed a
Jonathan spent the first few weeks in bed under sedation. He was
tended by his mother and a day nurse. Gradually his strength
returned. By October’s end he was up and around the house. In
November he was strong enough to walk around the garden, and he
started to read and paint again.
His mother had been in touch with Father David at the seminary
through her pastor. And the moment Jonathan (she also had to adopt
his new name) was at all well, she telephoned David. He arrived one
afternoon to see Jonathan.
The meeting was a disturbing one for David, but for Jonathan it
seemed to be an occasion of new strength, an eerie triumph bathed
him even in his misery. He addressed David as “my son,” using a
paternalistic tone of voice that affected David in an unexpected
way. It was the first time in all his years as an adult that David
had felt real fear.
With this atmosphere as a brooding backdrop to their conversation,
David and Jonathan chatted about Canada. The common report brought
back by his companions had been that either Jonathan had been
attacked by a wild animal, or that for some other reason he had
panicked, taken to his heels, and knocked himself unconscious while
running. After a few minutes with Jonathan, David was certain that
something much more significant than a mere accident had happened,
but Jonathan would not open up to him.
After a while, Jonathan succeeded in shifting David’s queries away
from Canada and
the recent trip. He began talking instead about his new apostolate
and of his plans for
a New York “mission.” Then surprisingly, and in ways that seemed
elusive to him, the
conversation began returning to David himself. And once again David
found that a
whole part of his being was in total accord with all that Jonathan
said. And again, in some other part of him, he felt a deep
Finally Jonathan rounded on him at one moment: “Father David, my
son, eventually you too will find the light, and come out into the
open and preach the New Time and the New Being.”
David’s conflict welled up full inside him, a welcoming chord for
portentous words, and a hard, gripping fright. Supposing he could
not stop himself
going all the way into exactly what Jonathan was doing-whatever that
was. What then?
David recalls vividly the slow and deep nausea that built up inside
him as he sat in that sick room surrounded by a quiet countryside.
It was disgust driven with fear. He had had a similar but not quite
identical experience once before, descending into a mass grave in
Africa, at the tomb of an ancient tribal chieftain. Over the piles
of bones of people sacrificed to ensure a chieftain’s safe passage
to eternal happiness, he had felt the touch of independent and
sovereign evil, almost heard its voice in the fetid darkness saying
silkily to him: “Come into my domain, David! You belong here!” And
it kept coming into his mind that those long-buried men had never
known anything about Jesus or Christianity. Some obscure conclusions
had started to run around his head as he had stood in the tomb. But
his nausea had not permitted him to examine them clearly.
Now, trying to fathom the mystery, he looked at Jonathan. Who was
possessed? Was either of them possessed? Was it all imagination?
Jonathan, in spite of his illness, seemed erect, tall, the color
back in his cheeks, his blue eyes gleaming, his long hair falling
gracefully over his shoulders. All his strength and natural
comeliness seemed restored. Facing him, David suddenly felt weak and
puny and somehow dirty. A phrase of Jonathan’s sent his courage
“Not for nothing, my son, have I been named Jonathan. You are David.
And in the Bible they were bound together in the divine work.”
David turned away helplessly, fighting the floods of weakness and
fear that engulfed him. He was seeking composure, but Jonathan’s
voice pursued, triumphant, resounding.
“What happens to me, happens to you, my son. Don’t you see? It is
We have entered the Kingdom of the New Time and the New Being.”
David felt at the end of his resistance. The nausea was increasing.
He was enmeshed in a trap he had not suspected. He went to the door,
opened it, and spoke over his shoulder in a weak voice:
“Jonathan. Let’s agree on one thing. If you need help, I shall help.
Is it a deal?” When
there was no answer, he turned slowly around. “Jonathan! We have an
the day you-“
He broke off. Jonathan was standing in the middle of the room, his
eyes closed, his body swaying back and forth as if buffeted by a
“Jonathan! Jonathan! Are you all right?”
“Father David,” the voice was almost a whisper and full of pain.
“Father David, help
me . . . not now . . , impossible now . . . too far ... but at the
moment . . . it’s a deal ... if
The rest was lost in a mumbling confusion. Jonathan turned away and
then slumped down into an armchair. David noticed Jonathan’s right
index finger was held in his left hand.
The door opened. Jonathan’s mother entered quietly, unhurriedly. Her
face was a mask. “Don’t worry, Father David,” she murmured. “He will
sleep now. And in the aftertime you can get back to him. Go and
rest. You need it. You all need rest.”
He chatted for a few minutes with her, then left. She would keep him
posted on Jonathan’s movements.
In the middle of December Jonathan left home again and went back to
New York. For
the next four months David followed Jonathan’s activities. He was
but never conspicuous, visiting New York regularly, keeping informed
whereabouts and activities. For the moment he could not intervene.
That moment would come, he knew.
He now was convinced that Jonathan had ceded full possession of
himself to some evil spirit. He was half-convinced that he himself
was affected by all this, but he did not understand exactly how. Not
until the disastrous marriage ceremony by the sea was he to have the
opportunity of helping Jonathan and of finding out exactly what had
happened to himself.
In mid-February, David heard quite by accident of the marriage
ceremony Jonathan was going to perform at Dutchman’s Point. The
bride’s father, a prominent broker, was an old acquaintance of
David. He immediately telephoned the father and arranged to have
lunch with him at his home in Manchester. David was received at
first with great warmth as an old friend. But the conversation
turned sour, as the reason for his visit became clear: David wanted
the bride’s father either to postpone the marriage or to engage
Father Jonathan was a good priest, sniffed Hilda’s father. Then,
unpleasantly, he went on to grumble about the clergy in general,
saying that at least Jonathan got the younger generation to say
their prayers and to believe in God and take care of the
environment- something “men of the cloth” did not ordinarily do.
David argued, hinting at his basic fears and suspicions about
Jonathan. But it was of no avail. The world was changing, he was
told. What was all this sinister talk of evil and of the Devil?
Father David did not believe, or did he, in all that nonsense
anymore? David’s only answer was an expression of his deep
apprehension for Jonathan and for his friend’s daughter.
Then, if he was so afraid, the broker concluded as he rose from the
table, why didn’t Father David come himself? He was thereby invited.
He would see, the broker added, his daughter would be all right. For
once Hilda was going to be gloriously happy. She wanted things this
way. She was to be married only once.
“I’ll be there,” answered David quietly. “Don’t worry. But you will
have to answer for the result.”
The broker stopped and looked at David, thought for a few seconds,
then his face clouded over with anger. His words cut into David
deeply. “Father David, I am a simple man as far as religion and
religious matters go. Whatever happens in that area is the fault of
all you clergy. You know”-he broke off, scrutinizing David’s face
and figure-“sometimes I have a feeling that you people are the
really lost ones. We lay people have some sort of protection. We
were never in charge of religion, y’know.”
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