The Occult Craze

“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” —Isaiah 8:19,20

“HOUSEWIVES hold sťances, gurus speak on college campuses, businessmen exploit the zodiac, scientists investigate ESP. Where is the world and the Age of Aquarius taking us?” (McCall’s) Various phases of occultism have become very popular in recent years. Ouija boards were well-known to the general public some forty years ago, but for many years few were sold, and very seldom were they used. Last year, however, more than two million of these alleged aids to occultism and spiritualism were sold.

Spiritualism was thrust into the news when the late James A. Pike, a former Episcopal bishop, claimed that he had communicated several times with his dead son. Many well-known universities and hospitals have introduced serious studies into psychic phenomena, astroprojection; and extrasensory perception. Jeane Dixon, a real estate broker in Washington, D.C., went into the occult field and sold more than three million copies of her books. The New York Times, a dignified and conservative paper, interviewed a witch: It is claimed that there are now more than 400 practicing witches in the United States.

A number of high schools, as well as the University of South Carolina, New York University, and the University of Alabama are offering courses in witchcraft. In New York University so many students enrolled in these courses that the classes had to be moved into a larger auditorium than was at first planned. McCall’s observes:

“Yoga exercises, Zen mysteries, macrobiotic diets and spiritual fasts, even karate launched many a middle-class mystic. In addition, mind-altering hallucinogens like LSD turned many of the country’s young men and women toward a mystical form of dropout primitivism. All these factors helped nudge the country toward what it is today—a land in which Tarot readers, commercial ghost chasers, palmists, graphologists, phrenologists, numerologists, Satanists, alchemists, Hare Krishna chanters, and clairvoyants of varying degrees of seriousness are currently available in large enough numbers to form associations, hold meetings, and parade through the streets.”

Not New

Spiritualism and occultism are not new. While at times they have flourished more than at others, as is the case right now, they have always been practiced by some. In this country today there are many small church groups which call themselves Spiritualists. While all aspects of occultism are related in one way or another, in this article we will follow chiefly that phase which has to do with communicating with the dead.

Spiritualists, including the late Sir Conan Doyle, and the late Bishop James A. Pike, have produced too many evidences of their success in communicating with intelligent beings unseen by man to thoughtlessly dismiss their claims as having no foundation. However, if we accept the plain teachings of the Bible that the dead “know not anything,” then reason demands that some other scriptural explanation should be found for the phenomenal things that may be seen and heard in the sťance chambers of modern spiritualism.

If the theory of spiritualism is true, all those supposedly in the spirit world must indeed be very much more intelligent now than when they were here on the earth as men and women. To be able to communicate with these and obtain the benefit not only of what they learned here, but also what they have discovered and experienced since departing this life should, indeed, result in a great enrichment of our knowledge, and an increasing clarity of our vision of the meaning of life. But has anything of this kind come to pass? We believe not. To emphasize this we would like to quote a statement by the late Horace L. Hastings, who many years ago had a good opportunity to appraise the value of spiritualism as a medium of education. Speaking of the “spirits” of his day, Mr. Hastings said:

“They have had free access to the public mind and public press, with no end of mediums ready to receive their communications, and thousands and thousands of inquirers who have anxiously questioned them. They have had tables and slates and pens and pencils and banjos and pianos and cabinets and bells and violins and guitars; and what have we to show for it all? Their business in this world has been to instruct men, to help them, to make them wiser and better. They have talked and rapped, they have tipped and rattled, they have fiddled and scribbled, they have materialized and dematerialized, they have entranced and exhibited; they have told us many things we knew before; many things which we do not know yet; and many other things which it was no matter whether we knew or not; but when we come to real instruction, reliable information, or profitable and valuable knowledge, spiritualism is as barren as Sahara, as empty as a hollow gourd.”

Explanation Needed

In the field of occultism there is bound to be a great deal of charlatanism, for its very nature lends itself to quackery. But we should not let this blind us to the fact that there are real evidences of apparent extrasensory perception and a seeming ability to communicate with those who have died. There is undoubtedly deception in this—not necessarily on the part of the witches and mediums, but deceptions which have been foisted upon them, and of which for the most part they may be totally unaware.

However we may explain the supernatural phenomena of spiritualism, it remains a fact that its claims do run counter to the positive teachings of the Word of God with respect to the condition of the dead. David gives an emphatic declaration concerning the state of the dead, saying of man, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”—Ps. 146:4

The New Testament agrees with the Old in emphasizing the great scriptural truth that the wages of sin is death, and that death means a cessation of life, not a transfer to another form of life. (Rom. 6:23) The account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus is to the point in this connection. Jesus did not attempt to communicate with Lazarus while he was dead. He knew that the only way Martha and Mary could speak with their brother again was that he be raised from the dead. Similarly, all the dead will eventually be raised and thus be able to talk with the living.

While Lazarus was dead Jesus spoke of him as being asleep, thus resting in unconsciousness until the resurrection. That this is what he meant by his use of the term “sleep” is evident from his explanation to his disciples in which he said plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” He did not say that it was merely the “corporeal” body of Lazarus that was dead, but rather that Lazarus himself was dead, and when the Master called him forth from the tomb, “he that was dead came forth.”—John 11:1-46

In I Corinthians 15:12-18, where the apostle sets forth his great lesson on the resurrection of the dead, he explains that if there be no resurrection of the dead then “they which have fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” Certainly the Apostle Paul was wrong in this statement if the claims of spiritualism are true.

From the time of man’s creation Satan the great deceiver has attempted to prove that death is not a reality. God stated to our first parents that they would surely die if they disobeyed his law. (Gen. 2:17) In his dialog with Eve, Satan countered with the claim, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) In the view of unscriptural theology that has developed throughout the ages since that first lie was told by Satan, his assertion, “Ye shall not surely die,” has come to mean, “You only seem to die, for actually there is no death.”

However, this is wrong. We should accept as truth only that which comes from God in response to his invitation to “search the Scriptures.” We believe that this is the safe course, especially in view of the fact that we should believe and do what God’s prophet recommends rather than use the methods of the spiritualists who seek information from the dead through the mediumship of those who “have familiar spirits, and of the wizards that whisper and that mutter.”

Who Are the Spirits?

The Scriptures inform us that man was created “a little lower than the angels.” (Ps. 8:5) This means that in the universe there are beings who by nature are higher than the human. Throughout the Word of God there are references to these angels, and to the different ways in which the Lord uses them in connection with the outworking of his purposes. In Hebrews 1:14 these angels are referred to as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”

And the Bible tells us that some of God’s holy angels became unholy, or evil. The Apostle Peter mentions these, saying, “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” (II Pet. 2:4) Jude 6 also mentions this class, saying, “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”

Notice three points with reference to these evil angels: (1) They are imprisoned in Tartarus, restrained but not destroyed. This Greek word does not signify the grave, or death condition, as does the Greek word hades. But it does signify the air or atmosphere of the earth. (2) They have some liberties in this imprisoned condition, but are not permitted to exercise their powers in the light, being under chains of darkness. (3) This restriction was to continue until “the judgment of the great day,” the great millennial day.

These fallen angels, or demons, are not to be confused with Satan, the prince of darkness and of demons, or devils—who was the first, and for a time the only enemy of the divine government, who, having been created an angel of a superior order, sought to establish himself as a rival to the Almighty, and to deceive and ensnare Adam and his race to be his servants.

To a great extent Satan thus far has been successful in his rebellion against God; but this has been only by divine permission. He has a very multitudinous host of deceived and enslaved followers. Naturally he would appreciate the deflection of the “angels who kept not their first estate,” and who were restrained at the time of the Flood; and hence he is spoken of as their chief, “the prince of devils”; and no doubt as a superior order of being he exercises some degree of control over the others. His own deflection took place a long time prior to the Flood.

The history of these demons as given in the Scriptures indicates that their sin began by materializing as humans and taking unto themselves wives of the human stock. It would seem that the evil concupiscence which led to their fall before the Flood still continues with them. They still have their principle pleasure in that which is lascivious and degrading; and the general tendency of their influence upon mankind is toward working mischief against the well-disposed, and the debauchery of those over whom they gain absolute control.

In Jesus’ Day

All who are acquainted with the Bible know of the many recorded instances in which Jesus cast out devils from those who had been possessed by them. These devils were no doubt the fallen angels, and their possessing the minds of certain ones is another of their activities. Notice the personality and intelligence attributed to these demons in the following scriptures: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19) The demons said to our Lord, “Thou art Christ, the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak [further]: for they knew that he was Christ.” (Luke 4:41) Another said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) There seems to be no doubt but what the evil spirits which were exorcised by Jesus and the apostles were the “angels which kept not their first estate.”

But their control of human minds as brought to our attention in the Scriptures has been merely one of their activities. We believe that one of their chief efforts has been, under the direction of Satan, their Prince, to prove that the dead are not dead. To the extent that they are able to accomplish this they make it appear that Satan told the truth when he said to Mother Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die.”—Gen. 3:4

The instruction to Israel was very explicit: they were not to have any communion with, neither make any inquiries through spirit mediums; nor with any wizard or witch; nor with any who had occult powers or charms; nor with those who work miracles by means of sorcery and incantation. (see Exod. 22:18; Deut. 18:9-12; Lev. 19:31; 20:6,27; I Chron. 10:13,14; Acts 16:16-18; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8; Isa. 19:3).

It is clear that occultism in all its varied forms is forbidden by God. However, most of those in the past, as well as thousands who are dabbling in the occult today are not aware of this, and are ignorant to the extent to which their minds can become deranged and polluted by viewpoints which are contrary to God and his righteousness, and in many cases blasphemous to him.

As we have noted, one of the efforts of Satan, through the fallen angels, is to substantiate his lie in the Garden of Eden that there is no death. The method is simple. These fallen angels, or spirits, are superior to man, and when permitted to do so, are able to read the human mind. They are able to “pick” the mind of one who desires to communicate with a friend or a relative who has died, and through the witch or medium conducting the sťance, communicate to the mourning one certain details which presumably were known only to the bereaved and by the one who had died. This “proves” that the dead friend or relative is not dead at all, but living, and able to communicate with those who have not died.

This same superior ability of the fallen angels is doubtless in many cases the explanation of so-called “extrasensory perception.” It manifests itself in various occult and mysterious ways, but in it all never imparting to its votaries any really worthwhile information. One would think, for example, that if the dead could communicate with the living they would have gained much worthwhile information which they could divulge to those still on earth. But, as already noted, no information has ever reached the living here on earth from that mysterious “other world” which has even to the smallest degree enriched the minds of humans, or enabled them the better to cope with their problems.

World Still Deceived

The main thing which has been accomplished through the occult “sciences” is to “prove” that the dead are not dead. And this is something the people desperately want to hear. Death is a frustrating experience, and those who remain alive are never quite prepared for it. Through the centuries the question has been raised, Why? The “answer” which most frequently reaches the mourners is a denial of the reality of death. “There is no death,” the claim is made, and since the dear ones who have left us are not really dead there is no point in mourning for them.

This is exactly the viewpoint the Devil wishes the whole world to adopt, and he has used spiritualism as one of the means to accomplish this objective. He has used this means throughout the centuries, and is still doing so. But thank God Satan will not be allowed to deceive the nations forever! We have the assurance of this in Revelation 20:1-3, which reads, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.”

Then no form of occultism will be permitted again to deceive mankind. Meanwhile, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) The people will then know that the wages of sin is death. They will know that the reason they are enjoying the blessings of the millennial kingdom is that Jesus Christ by the grace of God “tasted death” for all men; that he gave himself “a ransom for all.”—I Tim. 2:3-5

The people will then know that God’s provision of eternal life for them through Christ is the opportunity to be restored to the perfection of life here on the earth as humans; not spending eternal life in a mysterious world of nowhere playing hide and seek with witches and mediums here on earth who may wish to contact them for their relatives who are not yet deceased. And this true knowledge of the Lord and his ways will be available even to those who have died, for the plan of God calls for an awakening of the dead.

Bishop Pike’s son will then be surprised to learn that his father was deceived into believing that he had communicated with him, for he will know of a surety that he was asleep in death, and thus not in a position to communicate with anyone, not even his father. Bishop Pike will also learn that he himself had been deceived, and will come to know how it was accomplished, and, we trust, will then rejoice in the loving provision made for him through the blood of Christ.

Meanwhile, with Satan bound, and the fallen angels themselves being judged, by the time the thousand years are finished the whole earth will have been purified of all the false notions which throughout the ages have polluted and deceived the minds of men, and kept them from knowing the true God of the Bible. What a glorious outlook it is!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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