We will reach occultists when we demonstrate that pagan religious practice will not overcome mankind's separation from God. Our approach to the occult must be rooted in our understanding that the Bible declares such practices to be abominable: "For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord ..." (Deuteronomy 18:12).
One need only look at ancient Egyptian occult religion and its fascination with the underworld—the realm of the dead—to see its darkness. Likewise, the gargoyles decorating Hindu temples (and even medieval cathedrals) speak to the darkness of the occult. The human sacrifices of Old Testament Canaanites, New World Aztecs and modern Satanists underscore the fact that evil never changes.
Because occult practice obscures the revelation of God, the key for dealing with the occultist is to expose his dark practice:
A similar thought was expressed in the Old Testament in God's command to Ezekiel when He sent him up against the rebellious house of Israel, which had fallen into idolatry. God said He would put a word in Ezekiel's mouth that would rebuke the children of Israel (Ezekiel 3:26-27). Similarly, when Elijah faced the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he taunted them. When Baal would not light their ceremonial fire, Elijah challenged them, "Cry louder [because he must be] meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened." God honored Elijah's boldness and routed the forces of Baal.
Jesus Himself never shrank from exposing the dark work of mankind. He said:
As I prayed about this situation, I had the strong impression that I was to picket the Idaho Falls Mormon temple. That was a radical thought, even for me. When I did that with about thirty of my church members, however, I not only got free television coverage on all three network affiliates, but one of the stations donated air time for me to debate a Mormon college professor of religion. As a result, I know of one woman who came to Christ and several other Latter-day Saints who were impressed enough by my television statements to say things to me like, "I can tell by listening to you that you are sincerely concerned about my soul."
Another example of this kind of bold encounter was related to me by Ed Decker, founder of Saints Alive! and author of the book (and movie) The God Makers. Ed was in the Philippines teaching a seminar on Freemasonry. As he lectured to a group of several hundred, a huge man walked up on the stage and stood with his arms crossed. When Ed was through, the man said, "I want you to come outside and talk to some guys." Ed confided to me later that he really didn't want to go!
Once he was outside a circle of Freemasons challenged him, asking him how he dared to come to their city and tell lies about Freemasonry.
"I'm telling no lies," Ed said. "And you know that. Now let me ask you a question. What is the Sacred Word of the Seventeenth Degree?"
"We won't tell you," they replied.
"Well," Ed said, "I'll tell you. It's Abaddon."
They were surprised he knew that. Seeing one of the men was carrying a Bible, Ed said, "Open your Bible to the book of Revelation and read chapter nine, verse eleven."
Here is what the man read: "And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon."
"Here you are claiming to be Christians and at the same time you go to the lodge, put on funny clothes and take upon yourself the name of the Destroyer! You need to repent.
The men knelt down on the blacktop and repented.
The Biblical Admonition
The book of Colossians was written to a people much like we are. They were Christians who were being tempted to give in to occult influences. Superspiritual people had apparently attempted to seduce them to return to idolatry. Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians to demonstrate the futility of worldly philosophy to add anything to the fullness of God as it is revealed in Christ:
Such occult wisdom—asceticism, vain ritual and empty mystical experience—Paul said, is of no use in real spiritual progress: "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23).
Paul understood that occultism was a ruse: It keeps people busy doing religious things in an attempt to improve themselves, but it doesn't deal with their real need—healing their spiritual separation from their Creator.
Strategy for Dealing with Occultists
Presenting the Gospel message in the face of complex religious practice can be a struggle. The Gospel message is always regarded by the superreligious as "too simple." The Bible warns us, however, that the devil works to seduce us away from "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). Warfare against the occult is warfare between heaven and hell:
Roger, along with thousands of Elizabeth's devotees, "left the world" to come live in her shadow in Paradise Valley. He was a gentle little man who told me he was a Christian—that he "believed in Jesus." He couldn't understand why I would think he wasn't a genuine disciple of Christ. I questioned him about the so-called Ascended Masters who, according to Elizabeth Clare Prophet, were people like Jesus, Buddha, Mary Magdalene, Krishna and others. Roger said he believed they were all Ascended Masters and that he, too, could become one.
I asked him if I could read a portion of Scripture. He readily agreed. I read: "Jesus said to them . . . 'I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers'"(John 10:7-8).
I said, "Roger, the problem is, Jesus does not recognize any equals or any other 'Masters.' In fact, He condemns them all."
Roger looked at the verse, looked at me, smiled, then— lifting his finger to draw a mark in the air—said, "Well, that's one for you!" There was something innocent about him in that moment that made me feel caring toward him. I invited him to stay for the meetings. He came every night. When I last saw him he was leaving the church with a group of on-fire Christians, going out for coffee. The time we shared together at least got him to open his eyes to the possibility he had been deceived by the teachings of a false prophet.
Exposing hidden things of shame, in its simplest form, means bringing the practice out into the light and showing it for what it is. Following are several examples that demonstrate ways this can be done.
The Beatles not only introduced America to a new sound in the 1960s, they also brought us Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian guru promoting transcendental meditation.
TM is a Hindu method of "transcending" this illusory world. TM instructors consistently deny that transcendental meditation is a religious practice. They say it is simply a scientific technique in which one meditates on a one-or two-syllable Sanskrit word twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening. This practice is supposed to produce peace and creativity in the meditator. The May 3, 1990, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer carried a half-page advertisement for TM. The ad said people wrongly associate TM with other Eastern practices. It says TM does not require "any change in your religion."
It's not that clear-cut, however. TM is not what its advocates say publicly it is. It is actually a specific form of Hinduism. When a person attends a lecture on TM, he will be told repeatedly that TM is not a religion, yet in order to receive his mantra (the Sanskrit word), he is required to go through a Hindu initiation ceremony. The initiate is asked to bring a clean white handkerchief, some fresh cut flowers and some fresh fruit to the ceremony.
For the ceremony he is led into a dimly lighted room where he stands, with his initiator, before a small table which is actually an altar, upon which is a picture of an Indian guru—Shri Guru Dev. The initiator then begins to chant a long Sanskrit hymn. At various points during the chanting, he asks the disciple to participate—to spread out his white handkerchief, and later to place upon it his flowers and fruit. Here is the translation of part of the hymn (excerpts are taken from Christianity Today, March 26 and April 6, 1976):
...To the personified glory of the Lord, to Shankara, emancipator of the world, I bow down.
...To Shankaracharya the redeemer, hailed as Krishna and Badarayana. . .I bow down.
To the glory of the Lord I bow down again and again, at whose door the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and night.
Adorned with immeasurable glory, preceptor of the whole world, having bowed down to Him we gain fulfillment.... [To] Brahmananda Sarasvati, the supreme teacher... Him I bring to my awareness. Offering the invocation to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down. . .
Offering a cloth [handkerchief] to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down. . . . Offering a flower to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down. . . Offering fruit to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down.
. . . Guru in the glory of the great Lord Shiva, Guru in the glory of the personified transcendental fullness of Brahman, to Him, to Shri Guru Dev, adorned with glory, I bow down.
What is actually happening is that the TM initiate is unwittingly being indoctrinated into Hinduism. Maharishi himself said that through transcendental meditation one "rises to the level of divine Being, and it is [TM] that brings fulfillment to all religions" (Transcendental meditation, p. 255).
The purpose of meditation on the names of the gods is, according to Vedic (Hindu scripture) tradition, to call the spirit of that god into you to possess you so that it might aid you in transcending the world, to attain a state of creative intelligence, actually a state of nonbeing. Maharishi teaches that the TM practitioner "loses himself" until he is "One" with God: "He keeps on losing himself, but he does not know that he is losing himself and does not know even when he is completely lost. For, when he is lost, he is God; not even that he is God, but that God is God. Oneness of God consciousness, one eternal existence, oneness of eternal life, oneness of absolute Being; only the One remains (Transcendental Meditation, p. 283).
If we are to defeat the spread of religious ideas such as TM, we are going to have to bring these things out into the light. Most people, if made aware that they would be bowing down to Hindu gods, would never join TM. Americans who want to become Hindus are free to do so, obviously. But the Church must not sit by and allow people to be misled in religious issues without raising a voice.
Like all occult activity, the darkness of TM deepens with practice. Cult researchers Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman authored a book on occult/cult deception. In this book, Snapping, they report an interview with a former TM instructor. The man, called in the book Barry Robertson, said Maharishi purposely kept the "unenlightened masses" ignorant of TM's religious underpinnings. Robertson said:
Questions We Should Ask
When encountering ideas that look a little "off," we should ask some questions. I'm convinced that most Christians are no longer thinking as critically as we should be. To illustrate this point, I often ask my audiences, "How many of you have seen a photograph of our galaxy, the Milky Way?" Invariably all hands go up. I then say, "There are no photographs of the Milky Way galaxy!" We think we know what our galaxy looks like. We believe that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, and so we draw pictures of it that way. But in order to take such a picture, we would have to leave our galaxy and photograph it from afar. My only point is, we can no longer afford to accept everything without first judging it.
Here are three questions I think can be helpful in confronting occult thinking:
1. Does the end justify the means? Does it work?
The occult is a quest for power. Witchcraft, for example, at tempts to manipulate the universe to give someone what he wants. So-called "white magic" is an attempt to influence the powers, the "elements," the demi-spirits, to do one's bidding. Those who advocate a particular practice simply because "it works" are not going far enough in their thinking. Is the power legitimate power? Or has God declared it out of bounds?
2. Is the practice natural or spiritual?
Science is repeatable. When we give penicillin to cure infection, for example, we do so on the basis of objective testing. Any scientist who wants to perform the experiments can do so. But when it comes to the occult, we get into an area of faith. The practitioner must be an initiate. He must work his way up through lesser levels of expertise. This is clearly a spiritual dimension.
If it is spiritual, we remember that the spiritual realm is approached legitimately only through the name and blood of Jesus Christ, and under the warrant of Scripture. God has expressly forbidden every other doorway. The soul of man is the sole province of God.
When someone attempts to manipulate the mind, emotions and behavior of another without the ethical guidelines of Scripture and the approval of God, he embarks upon a dangerous road. Over and over again Scripture warns of the dangers of forbidden spiritual practices. Even objective secular researchers view the current prevalence of quasi-spiritual practice with skepticism. U.S. News & World Report writing on the New Age movement (February 9, 1987) observed: "From Manhattan to Malibu, a big and bizarre business is springing up as Americans look for supernatural answers to real-life problems. Psychics are collecting up to $250 an hour for making predictions and 'channeling' advice from entities, alleged spirits from another world or another time" (p. 67). Dr. Edwin Morse, former University of Wisconsin psychologist, warns that graduates of New Age thinking are often "psychically scarred."
3. How good is the science?
If the practice under consideration claims to be scientific, we should ask some questions. A man in Montana was promoting a new product recently to increase gas mileage. Actually he was selling an ordinary magnet to tape onto the gas line feeding the carburetor. The remarkable thing was that the magnets seemed to increase gas mileage! Stories of increased mileage circulated. The magnet was sold with a money-back guarantee if the purchaser did not notice at least a 10% increase in mileage. Eventually the drivers realized the reason their mileage went up was because as they followed instructions they were driving smarter: They were driving more slowly and they weren't jack-rabbiting away from stoplights.
The magnet merchant sold his wares through stories from people for whom the magnets had worked. This kind of scientific evidence is called "anecdotal." Anecdotes (stories) are not research. But unscrupulous people use anecdotal science to sell fatbuster pills, stop-smoking devices and self-improvement programs all the time. It's the snake oil salesman all over. As P. T. Barnum said, "There's one born every minute.
Often the anecdotes are accompanied by "conspiracy" theories. We are told that the new carburetor that will give us 200 miles per gallon is being held back by the oil companies who fear it will ruin their profits; the new cancer cure is opposed by the AMA because it is cheap and will put doctors out of business. The questions to ask when wondering about the quality of scientific evidence are "Specifically how does this work?" and "Let's see the objective reports from known and unbiased researchers."
Use these questions as a guide as you read through the next several examples. Ask yourself how you would go about documenting the claims of the disciplines. Then ask yourself if the practices might indeed touch on the occult.
What is acupuncture? Most Americans have heard of it. Many have received acupuncture treatment for a variety of ailments, or to help stop smoking or lose weight. The people I ask generally assume it has something to do with the nervous system: A needle is inserted into a nerve pathway, which interrupts pain or alters the flow of electro-chemical energy. That, however, is not what acupuncture is. Let's hear it from an acupuncturist, Dr. Ruth Lever, author of Acupuncture for Everyone:
Lever says the Chi force is related to the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang. Chi circulates throughout the body along "meridians." These meridians cannot be located physically, nor identified electronically. The description of the vital force of the body sounds very much like the soul or the spirit. In fact, the Oriental originators of acupuncture declared Chi to be the spiritual essence of not only the body, but the universe.
It is obvious that the simplest exploration of acupuncture demonstrates that it is a spiritual, not a physical phenomenon. If it is a spiritual phenomenon, where is the Scripture sanctioning it? Where is the protection of the blood of Christ in it?
Those involved in acupuncture are involved in spiritual manipulation of the body. That is the essence of the occult. There is not, in acupuncture, even the pretense of legitimate science.
Many people ask about acupressure. (or reflexology) It is precisely the same as acupuncture without the needles, using the same spiritual "meridians."
I was a student of hypnosis at an early age, and in high school I would hypnotize my friends. Stage hypnotists perform remarkable demonstrations. And now extravagant claims are made for the benefits of hypnosis in health care and psychotherapy.
Hypnotism, as we have stated, is credited to the Enlightenment physician Franz Mesmer. Sigmund Freud became an early student of hypnosis when one of his patients slipped into a hypnotic trance of her own accord. (Freud eventually abandoned hypnosis in favor of psychoanalysis.)
Hypnosis is rooted in a theory that says the mind is divided into two realms: the conscious and the subconscious. Psychologists will often use the words subconscious and unconscious interchangeably, although subconscious may also refer to a different state of mental activity just below the threshold of consciousness. Freud postulated that psychological disorders could be accounted for by traumas that had occurred in a patient's childhood and had been repressed. By bringing these hidden memories to light, he hoped to effect cures in neurotic/psychotic behavior.
Today, popular opinion takes the subconscious for granted. Many therapies, including hypnosis, psychoanalysis and subliminal learning techniques, rest on the presupposition of the existence of the subconscious mind.
The theory of hypnosis states that the subconscious mind lacks the ability to make certain rational judgments. This is why, for example, the stage hypnotist can tell his subject that he is freezing and the subject will shiver, even though the room temperature is comfortable.
The theory of hypnosis states that we must get the message past the conscious mind to the subconscious. Thus the practice of hypnotism tries to distract the rational conscious mind to get the suggestion to the irrational subconscious.
It is the inability of the subconscious mind to make rational judgments that allows the hypnotherapist to make "posthypnotic suggestions." While under hypnosis, a smoker can be told he really doesn't like to smoke. Or an obese person can be told he will not experience hunger. Since the subconscious mind can't say, "Wait a minute. I like to smoke!" the subject—supposedly—can be freed from smoking.
Several problems exist in the theory of hypnotism:
The basic question is: "Is there such a thing as the subconscious mind?" This is a question most educated Americans probably would not think to ask, since the concept is so prevalent in our society. I think we need to ask it all the same.
The fact is, the theory of the unconscious mind is impossible to prove.The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Vol. 8, p. 189) has a section devoted to this issue:
So then the question one should ask at this juncture is "How good is the science?" Not only is the subconscious a philosophical impossibility to prove, but the concept of the mind itself is somewhat speculative. Have we ever seen a mind? Do we know where the mind is located? Is it in the brain? Is it in the heart? Is it—as some mystics believe—in the viscera? We are beyond science when we speculate upon how the subconscious mind works.
When considering this question we should inquire about the hard evidence for its effectiveness. Is it used widely in legitimate medical circles? The answer to that may be found in any good encyclopedia. The fact is, hypnotism, after two hundred years of experimentation, is regarded as low-result therapy at best. In "Limitations and Potentialities of Hypnosis," for example, written for the EncycIopaedia Britannica (under the general heading of Hypnosis), we read that hard evidence indicates that the objectively observed actions of the hypnotized are little different from those of the unhypnotized. Likewise, when unhypnotized subjects are asked to simulate hypnosis, their performance can deceive experienced hypnotists:
Another question: "Does the end justify the means?" If, indeed, the subconscious mind is incapable of rational thought, do we really want to feed it information without the protection of the conscious mind?
I can't help but think of the scriptural discussion about people who go too far in their speculation about these "elemental things." I think we are in danger of being cheated through philosophy by men "intruding into. . . things [they have] not seen" (Colossians 2:8, 18).
It is important to note that I am not suggesting that psychic or supernatural phenomena do not occur. On the contrary, I believe they do. My point here is that when such phenomena occur, they are better explained from a spiritual rather than a scientific viewpoint. If phenomena are spiritual, we must insist they be submitted to the authority of God's Word.
Another area of speculation currently in vogue is subliminal perception. The word subliminal refers simply to the claim that humans can perceive audio or visual messages that are below the conscious level of perception. That point in itself is not objectionable since people can perceive multiple stimuli at the same time. In other words, if I am watching TV and my wife speaks to me, I may hear her without really hearing her. The problem with subliminal teaching tapes is the conclusions they reach and the claims they make.
The whole discussion was projected into public view in a Fort Lee, New Jersey, movie theater in 1958. Jim Vicary, a researcher for the faltering Subliminal Projection Company, flashed high-speed Coca-Cola and popcorn messages on the movie screen so briefly that viewers couldn't consciously perceive them. He reported that Coke sales soared 18 percent and popcorn 57 percent. After repeated attempts to duplicate the results failed, he quietly recanted (New York, December 4, 1989).
The concept caught on, however, and, since then, a variety of products and services has been marketed to take advantage of subliminal perception. Double-Vision in Carson City, Nevada, makes plastic screens embedded with subliminal messages that can be plastered over televisions or windows (New York, December 4, 1989). Psychologist Lloyd H. Silverman of New York University insists that the words Mommy and I are one, when flashed subliminally, can tap into powerful unconscious wishes and provoke several types of improvement in behavior. Sometimes the messages are accompanied by a subliminal picture of a man and woman merged at the shoulders like Siamese twins (Science News, March 8, 1986).
The subliminal audiotape market has skyrocketed in recent years. Bookstore chains are devoting more and more space to them, offering help with losing weight, stopping smoking, getting rich and becoming sexually irresistible. One catalog advertises tapes with titles like Flat Tummy Tape ("I see my stomach lean, I see my stomach flat"); Mother's Helper ("I pick up after myself. I put things back where they belong"); Flying without Fear ("Flying is safe, I breathe deeply"); I Like to List Real Estate (presumably for a real estate agent who doesn't like to list real estate). According to Psychology Today (September 1988) one subliminal tape manufacturer, Potentials Unlimited, markets more than two hundred titles with sales of more than $6 million per year.
The messages may be recorded on several tracks at once, at several speeds and at several frequencies. The idea is that instead of getting a few hundred repetitions of the message per hour, one can "hear" the message tens of thousands of times.As with hypnotism, the theory of subliminal perception relates to the power of the subconscious mind. Advocates of the technique have compared the conscious mind to that of a "rational guard," protecting the subconscious mind from messages it deems irrational. The technique of subliminal audio tape messages is to slip the message past.
Again, objective studies do not confirm the theories of subliminal perception. Frankly, the fact that the 1958 Coke and popcorn example is still the most quoted bit of scientific research on subliminals should raise questions in our minds. Howard Shervin, a University of Michigan psychologist who is a leader in subliminal research, says it's unclear what, if any thing, people get out of subliminal tapes. He says they may even be harmful if people turn to them rather than more reliable sources of help. Of the tape companies who make exaggerated claims he says:
Occultists flourish. Benjamin Creme, one New Age guru, says the ultimate manifestation of the "Christ Spirit" is Lord Maitreya. Maitreya flew into London's Heathrow Airport with a Pakistani passport in 1977. Soon he was being proclaimed as a "master." Maitreya claimed one of his disciples was Jesus, who was living in a suburb of Rome. On April 25, 1982, Creme published full-page ads announcing that Lord Maitreya would soon appear on television simultaneously throughout the world declaring himself master and ushering in the New Age of peace. Maitreya, Creme said, is no different from us. He is simply further evolved. He is on his way to oneness with God in the Hindu tradition. Needless to say, Maitreya's magical television appearances never materialized.
The occult permeates our world. Channelers and gurus, mystics with magic methodologies, holistic healers and ascetics all hawk their brand of mystery Babylon religion. Our task is to be as informed as we can be, to be open to God's leading and to bear witness to a dark world of the light of Christ.
Sometimes the task seems impossible. We can, however, make a difference. One example can be seen in the recent change in the occult Mormon temple ceremony. For 140 years Mormons have been required to swear blood oaths not to reveal what went on in a Mormon temple. The Mormon put his thumb to his throat and drew it sideways from ear to ear swearing secrecy.
I have done this myself. I was a Mormon elder before I was born again in 1974. 1 went through the temple. Every time I did, I had to put my thumb to my throat in the occult blood oath, and swear not to reveal what went on in the temple. Practices like that are what make Mormonism as much a part of the occult as it is a cult.
A few years ago, however, a number of people began challenging Mormonism openly on this issue. Chuck Sackett published a book called What's Going On in There?, exposing the temple ceremony. Ed Decker produced a movie called The Temple of the God Makers. (We used to show it on Main Street in Salt Lake City in the summer as part of our street evangelism program at the Capstone Conference.) Finally, Bill Schnoebelen and I published Mormonism's Temple of Doom, which contained a detailed description and an explanation of the occult nature of the temple ceremony. We also announced the publication of our book Whited Sepulchers, which locates and describes the occult symbols that festoon the Salt Lake City Temple.
In the spring of 1990 the Mormon Church dropped the blood oaths. They made no explanation for their decision. I am convinced that when we uncovered the occult roots of the ceremony and exposed it to the world, the light dispelled the darkness.
Our job in encountering the occult is to take the light of the Gospel of Christ to this present dark world. When we do that, some will be liberated from false systems of darkness.