Renowned media guru, Oprah Winfrey, admitted that during the filming of Beloved, she had moments of “spiritual episodes of divine guidance that far transcend the chatty exchanges with her studio audiences” She revealed her personal communion with some spirits of black slaves from the past which she calls at will to guide her in her work. In her words, “I tried to empty myself and let the spirit of Sethe inhabit me … Every morning before my scenes, I lit candles and said the names of these slaves. I prayed everyday to the ancestors.” (Time, October 5, 1998)
It’s glaring how current reality TV shows titillate viewers with the paranormal and supernatural. A report from Norway indicated that though Norwegians are mandated to belong to the Lutheran church, many of them are now turning to spiritism. “God is out but the spirits and ghosts are filling the vacuum” said Roar Fortland, a Methodist professor of theology. (Irish Times, Oct. 26, 2015) In spite of the growing skepticism in the modern age, its clear many people are seeking to become a part of something bigger, transcendent and more significant than themselves.
Every human being has an innate longing to seek fellowship or connection with a higher being and this is a main reason why people are fascinated with receiving a message or “sign” from spirits. Unfortunately, many of these seekers are stepping into a terrain forbidden by God and are interacting with very wicked and deceitful spirits dressed up in beautiful “prada.” Let’s consider some their categories:
I. Cultural or “Regular” Spiritism
Cultural spiritism is the contacting of departed spirits as dictated by various cultures. It is aptly described as “a cult of antiquity” because its one of the oldest form of communion with the spirit realm. It was known among ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Eutricians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese, usually as ancestor worship.
In several African cultures, when a person dies, his spirit is usually consulted to know the cause of his death or to avenge his murder. In some cases, people claim to be visited by a dead relative in dreams who then informs them where he kept some money or which medicine to use for specific ailments, and they find the information to be accurate and true in reality. They then conclude that this dead relative is still watching over them from the spirit realm.
In 19th century America, ancient spiritism metamorphosed into “regular” spiritism or Spiritualism which is an organized self-conscious religion started by Margaret and Kate Fox. Spiritualist churches, often modeled after Christian churches, have their own liturgy, ordained ministers and services (involving prayer, revamped Christian hymns and “messages” from departed spirits), along with public lectures and publications. There are at least 5 major spiritualist camps in the US where a plethora of occult services are rendered to the public.
In the 1980’s, some mediums began to serve as channelers or actual physical voices for particular spirits. Individuals (including some Hollywood stars) began to admit they had “spirit guides” – spirits of the dead from centuries ago offering spiritual insight. Penny Torres channeled a spirit named “Mafu”; Sharon Gless – “Lazaris”; Jane Robert – “Seth”; J. Z. Knight – “Ramtha” to name a few. Today, many psychics and mediums, like the Long Island medium, Theresa Caputo, are dishing messages from these spirits to millions of people through the Internet and the printed page – at a price, of course.
These practices – necromancy and consulting with familiar spirits – are condemned by God and the spirits these people are seeing and hearing from are actually demons imitating the dead (Dt. 18:10, Gal. 5:19). This is why spiritism is closely allied with witchcraft, because the spirits being contacted by spiritist mediums are the same spirits being contacted by witches and they are from the same demonic realm. Their external packaging only slightly differs.
This involves contacting the spirit world and interacting with spirit entities (deities, ascended masters or energies) there to attain knowledge, healing and power. The term “shaman” comes from the language of the Tungus tribe in Siberia and refers to a tribal medicine man or witch doctor. A shaman is thus an occult priest/priestess who taps into the spirit realm through dreams, visions or trances at will.
Shamanism exists in different forms, in fact, Anthropologists are intrigued by the fact that shamanism is practiced in every part of the world. This points to the reality of the spirit realm and Satan who “deceives the whole world” through his demons (Rev. 12:9). Shamanism is based on Pantheism (the belief that God is all and all is God) and Animism (belief that everything is alive and has a soul), so shamans often claim to contact spirits in trees, animals or rocks. A class of them are called Devas – nature spirits or deities in the plant kingdom. This idea is also subtly relayed in “innocent” children cartoons. In Disney’s Pocahontas, grandmother Willow speaks from a tree to her saying:
“All around you are spirits. They live in the earth, the water, the sky. If you listen they will guide you.” Its understandable why Glory Zell, a witch, said this cartoon was “the most pagan-positive movie to ever come out of Disney.”
These devas are often contacted through drugs like marijuana, hashish etc which enable the shaman to experience the spirit world. “The key thing with plant shamanism” says a writer, “is to establish a connection with the plant. Once this is done, the plant spirits themselves teach you everything you need to know and reveal the many ways of using them in healing.” Shamans also astral travel through “sound of drumming, which encourages ‘dreaming’ patterns to emerge in the brain, taking the shaman deeper into a more holistic experience of the world.” (The Sequitur, May, 21, 2016)
Others travel via occult meditation as an ex-Hindu yogi recalled:
“During the daily meditation, I began to have visions of psychedelic colors, to hear unearthly music, and to visit exotic planets where the gods conversed with me, encouraging me to attain even higher states of consciousness. Sometimes in my trance, I encountered the same horrible demonic creatures that are depicted by the images in Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto and other religious temples.” (Rabindranath Maharaj, Death of a Guru, 1985, 57)
It’s total folly to worship creatures rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:21-25). God is “the Living God” who is distinct and separate from His creation, hence, He is not a universal force present in rocks or plants (Jer. 10:10-12). The spirits shamans are in touch with are demons disguised as nature deities.
III. Apparitions and Manifestations
These vary with religions, but I want to focus on two specific groups – African syncretic (white garment) churches and Roman Catholicism. In the former, these spirits are termed “good angels” (malaikas) or “the Holy Spirit” and are often invoked with wild dances, rites involving chanting of Psalms, prayers with assorted candles, salt, incense, perfumed water and fruit rites. Members of these churches frequently have dreams, visions and supernatural experiences which they think are “proofs” of divine approval.
Their mediums also give wild “prophesies” which make them glide on floors, hop on one leg like Sandpipers, go into trances, shout or bang their heads on walls. In Catholicism, the apparitions of “Mary” or the “saints” also convey certain messages, but the primary ways to know they are demonic are:
a) They teach doctrines that contradict or discredit the Bible (Is. 8:20)
b) They de-personalise or misrepresent God by presenting Him as mean or indulgent (Gen. 3:1-2)
c) They distort the Person of Christ and deny He is the only way to God (Jn. 14:6)
d) They deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice by teaching the necessity of sacrifices for sin (Heb. 10:12)
e) They instill fear into people by threatening those who don’t blindly accept their messages with suffering, horrors and death.
I’ve addressed the Marian apparitions in an article, but I’ll cite 2 examples here:
#1 “I alone am able to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.” (Teiji Yasuda, Akita: The Tears and Messages of Mary, 1989, 78)
But the Bible says: “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Is. 43:11)
#2 “The world is degenerating so much so, that it was necessary for the Father and the Son to send Me into the world among all the peoples, in order to be their Advocate and to save them.” (Message given to Ida Peerdeman, April 29, 1951)
But Scripture says: “My little children … And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn. 2:1-2)
Only a demon would give those messages. Christians don’t need to consult created spirits with limited knowledge or power when they have an all-knowing and all-powerful God. We “have received … the Spirit which is of God that we might know the things freely given us by God” (1Cor. 2:12). There is no technique for contacting the Holy Spirit who “guides [us] into all truth … show [us] things to come” (Jh 16:13) and we can access “the Father in one Spirit.” (Eph. 2:18) We don’t need to seek out deities, spirits in haunted houses, “saints” or Mary to know God’s purposes for our lives.