B.C. CATHOLIC PHOTO | NATHAN RUMOHR
Retired teacher Peter Nation mapped out his trip into the occult in his search for God.
A retired Catholic school teacher warned that although the occult has a less prevalent role in today's Western society, it should still be taken seriously.
Peter Nation, a former teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School in North Vancouver, brought his personal experience to a talk about the occult at a Catholic After Hours event at the Irish Heather Pub Sept. 30.
"In 1972 I was instructed in transcendental meditation (TM)," Nation said. "We were told we could become one with God, and that was something I was very interested in."
Transcendental meditation, started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is based on the ancient Vedic tradition in India of enlightenment.
Nation became a teacher of TM while living in Victoria. He described the use of mantras, which he called "meaningless sounds." While meditating using TM, he felt "things happen" and paid more money to continue studying the New Age movement.
Mantras/occult powers are different from the powers God has given to saints throughout history, he said. "Mantras put you in touch with spiritual powers, but they're not the result of grace."
Nation said St. Thomas Aquinas had power to levitate because of his faith, not through the occult. "These powers could be given by the grace of God to strengthen people's faith. They're distinctly different processes than using a mantra to contact an occult power, which is a technique."
Nation said an "enlightened" TM teacher who had occult powers lured him into a cult in Victoria.
"He was credible enough to manipulate people," he said. "We became, as most of those groups do, obsessed by evil."
Born an Anglican, Nation described his experience in the cult as scary, but thinks that without the experience he wouldn't have found the Catholic Church. Many others who left the cult also joined the Church.
"I was a sincere seeker (of God)," he said. "I was meditating eight hours a day because I wanted occult power; I really wanted God. I think anybody who is sincere, God will draw to himself."
Nation also talked about the occult in Judaism. He said he always wondered why the Jews continuously fell back into idol worship in the Old Testament.
"It didn't compute. Yahweh parted the Red Sea for them, fed them with manna in the desert, cured them when they were bitten by poisonous snakes," Nation said.
He referred to the book By Reason Alone, by Jacek Bacz, explaining that occult practices in ancient times were part of the cultural landscape. The Israelites weren't a weak people but the occult was very seductive.
"That's what really hit me and answered my questions," Nation said, noting that even Solomon fell into idolatry.
Nation also addressed the influence of the occult on popular activities such as yoga. Yoga can be a gateway to occult powers, but if used in moderation for exercising it's not a threat, he said.
"I don't like to generalize and say everything is risky or negative, but we have to be intelligent and sensitive and not fool with stuff that could be unhelpful for our spiritual lives."
Erin McDougall, an attendee, asked Nation about the power of psychics, explaining she had a friend who believed in the occult-derived power.
"It does work," Nation said. "Otherwise the Catholic Church wouldn't bother warning us not to do it."