Spiritistic Religion—Why It Appeals to Many. Is It for You?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Liberia
THE massive cathedral stands dark and empty, but from a small church on a back street sounds of singing, rhythmic handclapping, tambourines and cries of “Praise the Lord!” pierce the night air. Intermittently the exciting tone of frenzied preaching rises above the din. Suddenly the arm-waving ecstatic leader begins spilling forth words in an unknown tongue. As someone responds, the audience senses that contact has been made with the supernatural, and there is expectancy of miraculous healings and prophesyings.
With variations, this scene in an African “healing” church is common in many lands. Some view it as a widespread charismatic movement manifesting man’s heightened spiritual need. Conventional religion of mere rote and ritual has been abandoned by great numbers of people in favor of supernaturalism and “spiritual reality.”
Will such vivid emotional experiences satisfy your spiritual need, or will they subject you to dangerous influences? The distress of our times impels many to seek a positive response from God. Whereas some seek out “healing” churches, others look for this response by contacting spirit personalities through mediums, as did King Saul of old.—1 Sam. 28:4-8.
But spiritistic religion is deceptive and dangerous, because it is getting in touch, not with the true God, but with malevolent spirit creatures ruled by the one “who is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” Satan the Devil. (Rev. 12:9) It is God-condemned spiritism. (Deut. 18:10-12) And do not forget that unchristian heathen of ancient times also received the “spirit,” enabling them to heal, speak in unknown tongues, and “prophesy”! Churches that pretend to approach God by stirring up audiences to states of ecstasy or hysteria are imitating the heathen. Consider how they go about it.
One way of inducing ecstasy is by means of drugs, as explained by Tylor’s Religion in Primitive Culture:
“By smoking tobacco, the sorcerers of Brazilian tribes raised themselves to ecstasy in their convulsive orgies, and saw spirits . . . North American Indians held intoxication by tobacco to be supernatural ecstasy, and the dreams of men in this state to be inspired.”—Vol. 2, p. 503.
Because of its use in spiritistic religion’s approach to the demons, tobacco was referred to as the “holy herb.” Comparing drug-induced ecstasy with what is carried on in churches, Tylor points out that fanatical preachers at “revivals” often produce the “very fits and swoons to which for untold ages savage tribes have given religious import.”
Frenzy can be built up at church services so that some come into a condition of hysteria, with eyeballs turned up and hands clenched with thumbs inverted, followed by muscle spasms, struggles and a throwing of themselves about. Does such a condition parallel the first-century Pentecostal outpouring of holy spirit?
By no means! (Acts 2:1-11) The operation of God’s spirit produces, not uncontrolled hysteria, but just the opposite, the fruits of mildness and self-control, according to the Bible, at Galatians 5:22, 23. In a state of hysteria, persons lose self-control and are known to have been “haunted by visions, their fancies conjuring up spirits whose names they shrieked out.”
It is clear that frenzied and ecstatic religious feelings can easily get beyond control as the limitations of the flesh are set aside. Little wonder that Hastings’ Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics acknowledges the responsibility of Christianity to keep “ecstasy in the background as a danger to the mind and to the will.”
The Bible counsels Christians to “persevere in prayer” and to keep their minds “fixed on the things above.” (Rom. 12:12; Col. 3:2) This does not mean, however, that one should concentrate the mind on a single idea or object for an extended period of time in expectation of some emotional experience. In some churches prospective converts kneel for hours at a “mourners’ bench” praying for “religion.” But herein lies great danger, for fixing one’s mind on one thing, accompanied by repetitious prayers, is the very practice that Jesus condemned. (Matt. 6:7) It can result in a state of trance or self-induced hypnosis. In such a condition, a person may receive mental suggestions, or the emotional response may be so vivid that he feels that he has been touched by God. This approach parallels the posture-concentration exercises of Yoga, a form of spiritism producing extrasensory impressions.
Whereas the Bible, at Philippians 4:6, 7, promises that God will ‘guard mental powers’ in response to prayer, those who seek “religion” by fasting and fixations find that they must blank out their minds and throw off the restraints of their mental powers of reasoning. “Your mind is too rational. You don’t get it until you let go and let the Holy Ghost get through,” admitted Marcus Bach in his book The Day I Spoke in Tongues—the Inner Ecstasy.
This ‘letting go’ was once recommended in these words:
“You must be able to subdue your mind, quiet it. . . . Allow your mind to wander or just to blank out. . . . Mistakes can be avoided by listening carefully each day at meditation for the inner voice . . . and the help from higher planes.”
Is this counsel from the Bible? Not at all. Rather, it is what a demonic “voice” told a lady who used a Ouija board. This incident demonstrates that clearing the mind through improper concentration in order to hear voices or to be touched emotionally is an invitation to the demons to rush in. It is just such a “swept clean” mind, not refilled with spiritually wholesome thoughts, that Jesus said would be occupied by demons.—Luke 11:24-26.
Employing principles common to witchcraft, a psychometric healer obtains some hair, a piece of fingernail, or even some saliva on a piece of paper to use as a contact bridge for diagnosis and healing influence. Such practices, as well as the healings effected by the psychic powers of Yoga and the spiritistic healing movements like that of Harry Edwards in England, led one investigator to comment: “Magic healing is the commonest form one meets today.”
In Africa a magical healer accomplishes his work through fetishes or amulets. Objects dedicated to Satan, such as stones, are used in some areas. Now, if this principle of magic is adopted by “Christian” churches, can we say that the power behind it now comes from God and not from Satan?
Actually, various charms are used even in some churches of Christendom in connection with healing. Says Hastings’ Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics: “In Western Christianity the Apostles’ Creed holds a position parallel with the Lord’s Prayer. It is used for healing, especially in exorcism.” Prayers, religious formulas and Bible texts have been converted into magic spells, exactly as is done in pagan religions. Christian Science healers use Bible texts in conjunction with autosuggestion. The sign of the cross still is superstitiously regarded by many as the “surest defense against demons, and the remedy for all diseases,” says Dr. Kurt Koch in his book Demonology Past and Present.
Magnetic and “Hot Hand” Healers
Then there are magnetic healers with strong powers who claim to restore health simply by making stroking movements with their hands. However, a magnetic healer himself explains: “Whoever has powers of healing magnetism to treat more than two people a day is plugged in to the underworld.” Are we to assume, then, that those possessing the weak “natural” magnetism are not demoniacally influenced? Such healers may not dabble directly in spiritism and may work “in the name of Jesus.” Shedding some light on this, Dr. Koch, during 30 years of dealing with cases of occult subjection, discovered that whenever he came across a person possessing a magnetic “gift,” either his parents, grandparents or great-grandparents had dabbled in magic or spiritism!
In Germany a church member found that he could “heal” by means of his “hot hand.” The minister of the church praised this ability as a “gift from God.” But what about a certain magician in the Philippines who, through occult power, makes his hand “hot” whenever he wishes? And there is also a master of Yoga who by autosuggestion causes the circulation in his hand to increase so that blood comes through the pores, a feat of mental concentration causing a change to take place in his physical body. Would the minister also praise these latter spiritistic phenomena as ‘gifts from God’? Such a religious leader offers little protection against dangerous spiritistic religion.
Healing by Suggestion
Many faith healers employ the principle of suggestion. This is not really divine healing at all, but depends on the extent to which a person’s emotional state is capable of changing his physical state. Such “cures” usually are not permanent. At an emotion-charged revival a healer convinces an arthritic in a wheelchair that he has been healed. On the power of that strong suggestion the trembling invalid stands and walks, only to relapse later into a worse physical state.
Even if the healer in such cases is not under demonic subjection, he deceptively misrepresents religious suggestion as divine healing accomplished by the power of holy spirit. On the part of one who is concerned it is a matter of testing the statements of the healer to see whether they really originate with God. (Compare 1 John 4:1.) True worship is not based on a lie, but “true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
Satisfying One’s Spiritual Need
If you have been groping for God, what more could you ask than to find the source where “you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension”? Then your spiritual need will be fully satisfied. This requires that one conscious of his spiritual need put forth effort in a sincere, open-minded search of the Bible itself. If you do this, you will come to know the truth, which Jesus said will “set you free.”—Col. 1:9; John 8:32; Matt. 5:3.