Fr. Jacques Verlinde, as a young man, abandoned a brilliant scientific career to seek spiritual enlightenment and spent several years in a Hindu ashram. Here he became a devotee of occult and New Age practices. Here we tell his story and how he eventually found Christ and became a Catholic priest.
Born into a deeply religious family, Jacques Verlinde had a happy childhood and his early relationship with Christ was a profound one. He wrote, "My most beautiful and intense childhood memories are associated with those heart to heart encounters before the tabernacle which filled me with inexpressible joy. I loved serving at Holy Mass and was so taken up by the greatness of the mystery unfolding before me that I would at times forget to ring the bells."
In his adolescent years, however, as he absorbed the teaching of writers like Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, he rejected this childlike faith and felt it was nobler to live without God and the "crutch" of religion and he gave up going to Mass and praying. He was only 20 when he finished his masters degree and obtained a doctorate in the field of analytical chemistry, becoming a research fellow at the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS) one of Belgium’s most famous research institutes. But despite his scientific success he had an insatiable thirst for the absolute, which led him into the political activism of the 1960’s.
But nothing satisfied the sense of emptiness within him. He commented, "I could not find the happiness that I knew before breaking my covenant with God. Like Judas whom St. John writes about in his gospel, after his decision to betray his master who "went out and it was night" (Jn 13.30) So I experienced the same thing: from the moment I rejected the presence of the One who is the light of the people (Jn 1:4), I found myself in the darkness of night. Of course, it was within my power to come out of it and return to the Lord, but I was drunk with pride, the pride of a man without God who by the very fact of rejecting Him takes His place and sees himself as equal to God."
It was only after experiencing the existential pain and loneliness that is the fruit of such a nihilistic worldview that he came to realise how meaningless life without God was. Rejecting the claims of atheism as absurd, he undertook a new search for God. But he now sought God in Hinduism and started going to transcendental meditation meetings. He began meditating several hours a day, repeating mantras that were supposed to suppress mental and critical activity and curb the personal influence of the "I".
The Hindus have a very different concept of God than Christians. For them, God is an impersonal cosmic energy and man can merge with the godhead through the technique of meditation and Jacques, through this meditation, was trying to reach a state of "unity consciousness" with the absolute. But such intense meditation instead brought him to such a mental state that he lost contact with reality and became incapable of carrying out his scientific work. Taking a leave of absence he travelled to India to improve his meditation technique under the guidance of Guru Maharishi where he was to spend four years.
It was at this ashram that one day he met a European tourist. "The man asked me if I had ever been a Christian?" remembers Jacques. "Yes," I replied. "And Jesus? What is He to you now?" the man asked. "When he mentioned the name of Jesus something strange happened to me. It was as if the name penetrated to my heart and awoke in me the most profound longing for God. In one moment I felt that Jesus was present in all His infinite mercy. Jesus had come looking for me in the Himalayas. I burst into tears of joy and sorrow: joy because the God whom I had been seeking all along had found me Himself, and sorrow because I realised how much Jesus had suffered on my account. With absolute certainty I knew and understood that Jesus lived. Not only did He live, but He was my whole life. It was enough simply to reach out to Him – my Saviour."
He decided to return to Europe but he still remained in a certain amount of spiritual confusion because of his esoteric experiences. He comments, "After returning from India, my chakras were open as a result of meditation and members of a certain esoteric group noticed this and tried to persuade me to use my powers1. In doing so they falsely interpreted the Holy Book saying that I could work miracles and use this for the good of others."
"I didn’t know the Scriptures well at that time and I didn’t realise that God strictly forbade this type of practice, for it is especially harmful: "Let there not be found among you anyone, who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord..." (Deut 18:10-14).
Not being well informed and completely unaware that there was anything wrong, I took up occultism to help the needy. I used a pendulum for diagnosis and with time I realised that even without it I could still know why a person was ill. I discovered the gift of clairvoyance and I could read diseases from photographs. When I was asked to diagnose a problem by telephone I would shut my eyes and I could see everything in the patient. Every normal person learns through their senses and gathers information as a result. But with radiosthesia and other forms of clairvoyance you receive immediate cognition which is not a human activity but belongs to angels and demons. I came to realise through its fruits that this was the work of the devil."
Initially, however, everything seemed positive. He remembers, "I realised that I was able not only to diagnose illness but also even restore health through touch." As he was at the time already back in the Catholic Church, spending long hours in prayer and going to Mass and saying the Rosary, he initially didn’t feel anything was wrong. But in time he began to suspect that all was not well.
"In healing through touch I learnt that a voice from somewhere was directing me and this discovery really worried me. By now I knew the Scriptures rather well and understood that this voice did not come from Jesus, and I started thinking, where did it come from then?"
"Today I know that this was so called "channelling". During the healing I became the "channel" of some spiritual entity. When I inquired among those who practised this therapy, they confirmed that I was working through a spirit without whose power, my work would not have any positive results. I was reassured that this was a friendly spirit which healed and there was no cause for concern. But I had my doubts.
"One day I was attending Holy Mass near Paris suddenly during the Eucharistic consecration the same spirit that accompanied me during my healing work suddenly started a barrage of blasphemy. I was terrified. From that moment on I had no doubt that a spirit which blasphemes against Jesus cannot wish good for man."
"After Mass I went up to the priest and related my experience. By coincidence this priest was also the diocesan exorcist so he was not surprised by my experience. He recommended a series of prayers to liberate me spiritually. During these prayers I gave myself to Jesus, to Him alone, and I gave up all powers that did not come from Him. From that moment on I lost all ability to diagnose illness and its subsequent healing. If this had been a gift from God He would certainly have let me retain it and sent me to help those in need. God, however, took it away from me for He did not want me to remain a prisoner to evil spirits."
"As a result of my experiences a number of experienced researchers, among them doctors, sociologists, ethnologists and psychologists, at the university of Lyon formed a consultative team to research the cases of those who were "healed" through various types of healing using occult therapies. Those studies showed that such therapies are never genuine, and although the symptoms might recede and the patient believes that the treatment has been helpful, quickly problems in other parts of the organism appear. In this way a process of dependency on the occult therapy begins without the patient realising it." Even the Hindus recognise that occultism is very dangerous because of the spirits of darkness that are involved. The great Hindi master, Krishnamurti said, "In the West you are like a sorcerer’s apprentice: the power is let loose and you are unable to control it, later it takes you captive."
"In my pastoral work now as a priest, I continue to come across this problem. People come to me and complain of physical, psychological or spiritual ailments because they have practiced the occult or because they have been treated by clairvoyants, soothsayers and healers."
The Lord Jesus bestows charisms to certain people in the Church but this is something completely different from occult powers. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself through the charisms, manifesting the Lord’s victory over death. It is a gift without encumbrance and it is not possible to make it one’s own. It brings with it the fruit of joy, peace, and freedom for all. This is a clear sign that it is Jesus Himself who is doing the healing. The "healings" that are the consequence of occult therapies result in the person being locked in themselves and filled with melancholy and obsessions and bring darkness, anxiety and death. This is why the Lord forbids us to practice things like astrology, magic, fortune telling, calling forth spirits and related practices, because He wants to protect us from evil forces. It is only in Him that we can find happiness, peace, joy and eternal life.
1 People practising Eastern cult techniques can open themselves up to so-called chakras, i.e. energy centres through which bad energies can be absorbed and used for magic or other occult purposes. Certain people can enter a state of so-called kundalini energy, as a medium, using the mysterious energy of evil.
Edited and reprinted with permission from "Love One Another" magazine.