1951 saw the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act. This move of Parliament legalised membership of satanic covens and the open practice of witchcraft. European interest in the paranormal is rising to a phenomenal level, the sheer volume of media coverage and literature available on the subject of the Occult bearing witness to this.The Church is not exempt: the number of Christians ignorantly involved in practices and organisations allied to the paranormal is very concerning. Their ignorance has been aided by the gradual deterioration in biblical knowledge across the Western world. Many Christians are oblivious to the reality of the spiritual realm, good as well as evil.
In his book 'The Screwtape Letters', C. S. Lewis has this to say, 'There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased in both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight!'
From death to life
Why have Westerners become so fascinated with the Occult? In some churches, God's Word is not being preached. Therefore increasing numbers of people no longer consider the Church to have access to any real power. Such people are therefore prompted to seek power elsewhere. I was introduced to spiritualism by a sweet, elderly lady. I attended a meeting which commenced with prayer and included hymns where a medium purportedly gave me a message from my grandmother who had died some years before. Although I had never met this person before, she told me personal details that were humanly impossible to know. This sort of power excited and comforted me.
I was taught about an after-life where we will see loved ones again. My great fear of death and uncertainty about the future drove me deeper into occult experiences. I practised yoga and meditation, read about gurus who were 'enlightened', used mind-altering drugs and consulted Tarot cards. I deteriorated morally as I was unable to control my thinking and physical desires. I longed to be pure but failed constantly to keep God's commands.
Eleven years ago I became a born-again Christian after reading the Bible. It was wonderful to have real peace with God and to have his righteousness given to me. It is great to have a real hope of heaven which is based on the historical truth that Christ rose from the dead. It is tremendous to have that same power of new life within me by faith.
What sort of people get involved in the Occult? William Gladstone (previous British prime minister) and Arthur Conan-Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) were both involved. Susceptible individuals may be:
- spiritually minded
- psychically inclined
What is the Occult?
Occult means 'hidden, secret, that pertaining to the supernatural, mystical or magical'. This definition is a very general umbrella term which covers a plethora of beliefs and practices invoking a power which is neither Christocentric nor biblical. On many occasions it may be seen as a philosophical point as to whether a practice is seen as occult, cultic or a religion. Things that are commonly considered to come under the umbrella of the Occult include: Astrology, ouija board, voodoo, black or white magic, levitation, Halloween, spiritualism (contacting the dead via mediums or channels), crystal gazing, fortune telling (Tarot cards, palm reading, rune stones) and psychic healing (also called faith or spiritual healing).Some other religions, superstitions, New Age and martial arts practices and alternative medicine therapies also contain occultic elements. The problem comes in deciding whether something is part of the Occult and, if so, what should be done about it? What does the Bible say?
- Satan or Lucifer (meaning 'Morning Star') is the source of Occult power. The Bible tells us that the Devil was an angel who rebelled against God and was therefore cast to earth along with his army of angels (demons). Consequently he is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
- There are biblical warnings against the Occult. God warns his people against contacting the dead or being involved with the art of soothsaying. In 1 Samuel 28, King Saul contacts a medium; this was contrary to God's Law and was one of the reasons for his later death .
- The Occult is based on a deception. In Acts 13, Simon the sorcerer is called 'child of the devil' by Paul. He deceived people by performing miracles using satanic power. In Acts 16, a spirit of divination is cast out. 'So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers. They prophesy lies to you.'. Jesus says of the devil, 'He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.'
- Satan has some power and authority on earth. 'He was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.' He is called the 'the prince of this world' and 'the god of this age'.
- The devil is not all powerful. Pharoah's magicians used demonic power to replicate Moses' early miracles but they were unable to replicate his later ones. They said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God'. This teaches us that occult power is very real but limited in comparison with God's power and knowledge. Similar examples of the devil's limited power are seen in Daniel 9 and Genesis 10. Daniel and Joseph could interpret their rulers dreams while the court magicians could not.
- Satan and his demons are under the authority of God. Satan had to ask God's permission to harm Job and to sift Peter. Demons bowed down to Jesus, pleaded with him not to torment them before the appointed time and sought his permission to enter a herd of pigs.
- Only Christ has authority over the devil. 'Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you'. In Ephesians Paul tells us that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God and has authority over the devil. Furthermore we are seated with him! This is the basis of the command to stand against him. The great truth is that the devil was defeated by Jesus on the cross at Calvary and therefore he has already lost the battle and has been condemned to an eternity in Hell. He awaits Judgment Day with fear.
How to be freed from the Occult
Only Jesus Christ can free you from the power of the Occult.
'That by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.'
Why only through Jesus?
Jesus alone is the true living God: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.' He alone will return to establish his everlasting kingdom in heaven. He will rescue those who are his but judge and cast all those who deny him into everlasting Hell.
What should we do?
- Believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only true Son of God who died for our sins to save us from judgment. He took our punishment upon himself and by so doing we can now receive forgiveness, have peace with God and God's eternal life. All this is accomplished by faith and that, in itself, is God-given.
- Acknowledge our sin before God and admit that the Occult is based on deception d and dismissed from which has caused us to worship another god (the devil or ourselves) rather than the true God revealed in Christ.
- Repent (turn around) from all our sin and ask God to forgive us, acknowledging that Jesus has paid the penalty of our sin for us. Ask him to dwell in us by his Spirit. 'God's kindness leads towards repentance.'
- Destroy any occult items, books, charms or clothing that belongs to us. 'A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.'
- Follow Jesus Christ exclusively. If you are a Christian who has drifted back into occult practice or used such power either directly or indirectly, seek out a mature, Bible-based Christian and ask him or her to pray with you. You need to confess it to the Lord and he will forgive you. Remember, '...the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world'.