Can You Talk with the Dead?
IN LIFE, we humans keenly sense a need to talk with those whom we love. We want to know that our loved ones are well and happy. When things go well for them, we are encouraged. But when we learn that they face grave danger due to a “natural” disaster or some other calamity, we begin to worry. We anxiously wait to hear from them. As soon as we have word that they are safe we are relieved.
The desire to know about the welfare of loved ones has prompted many to want to talk with the dead. They want to know whether their deceased loved ones are happy ‘in the beyond.’ But is it possible to talk with the dead?
Some maintain that they have periodically felt the presence of a deceased relative or friend and have heard his voice. Others have had like experiences with the help of spirit mediums. Through these mediums they believe that they have heard voices from ‘the beyond.’ What are they told by such voices? Basically this: ‘The dead are very happy and contented. They continue to take a real interest in the life of their surviving loved ones and can see and hear everything they do.’
Regarding such messages, François Grégoire, in his book L’au-delà (The Hereafter), observes: “What do these Spirits have to say to us? ‘Above all, they appear to be anxious to prove their identity and that they still exist’ . . . but on the nature of the other world, nothing essential, not even the smallest revelation.”
What do you think about these messages? Do you believe that the dead are actually talking? Since, as the Bible shows, no soul or spirit survives the death of the body to continue conscious existence, could these voices really be the voices of the dead?
THE CASE OF KING SAUL
Some among those believing that the dead can give messages to the living point to the Holy Bible as confirming their view. One example they cite is an incident involving King Saul of ancient Israel.
Because of his unfaithfulness to Jehovah God, King Saul was cut off from divine direction for carrying out his responsibilities. Therefore, when the Philistines came to wage war against him, in desperation he sought help from a spirit medium. He asked her to bring up the dead prophet Samuel. As to what happened thereafter, the Bible relates:
“When the woman [the medium] saw ‘Samuel’ she began crying out at the top of her voice; and the woman went on to say to Saul: ‘Why did you trick me, when you yourself are Saul?’ But the king said to her: ‘Do not be afraid, but what did you see?’ And the woman went on to say to Saul: ‘A god I saw coming up out of the earth.’ At once he said to her: ‘What is his form?’ to which she said: ‘It is an old man coming up, and he has himself covered with a sleeveless coat.’ At that Saul recognized that it was ‘Samuel,’ and he proceeded to bow low with his face to the earth and to prostrate himself. And ‘Samuel’ began to say to Saul: ‘Why have you disturbed me by having me brought up?’”—1 Samuel 28:12-15.
Was Saul, in this case, actually brought in touch with the dead prophet Samuel? How could this be, for the Bible links silence, not talking, with death? We read: “The dead themselves do not praise Jah [Jehovah], nor do any going down into silence.”—Psalm 115:17.
Other passages of the Holy Scriptures shed light on the matter. First, it is clear that what Saul did in consulting a spirit medium was a violation of God’s law. Both spirit mediums and those consulting them were judged guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:6, 27) God’s law to Israel stated: “Do not turn yourselves to the spirit mediums, and do not consult professional foretellers of events, so as to become unclean by them.” (Leviticus 19:31) “When you are entered into the land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not learn to do according to the detestable things of those nations. There should not be found in you . . . anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead.”—Deuteronomy 18:9-11; Isaiah 8:19, 20.
If spirit mediums could actually get in touch with the dead, why, then, did God’s law label their practice as something “unclean,” “detestable” and deserving of death? If the communication were with dead loved ones, for example, why would a God of love designate this as a terrible crime? Why would he want to deprive the living of getting some comforting messages from the dead? Does not God’s view indicate that people are not really talking to the dead but that a terrible deception must be involved? Scriptural evidence shows that is the case.
Against this background, consider the case of Saul. Regarding divine communication with him, Saul acknowledged: “God himself has departed from me and has answered me no more, either by means of the prophets or by dreams; so that I am calling you [Samuel] to let me know what I shall do.” (1 Samuel 28:15) Obviously, God would not allow a spirit medium to get around this divine cutoff of communication by getting in touch with a dead prophet and having him deliver a message from God to Saul. Then, too, during the latter part of his life, Samuel himself, a faithful prophet of God, had ceased to have any dealings whatsoever with Saul. Would it not be unreasonable, therefore, to conclude that Samuel was willing to speak with Saul by means of a spirit medium, an arrangement that was condemned by God?
Manifestly, there must have been deception involved, something so unclean that spirit mediums and those consulting them merited the death sentence. That same deception must be behind claimed communication with the dead today.
Indicating this is the fact that, under the influence of supposed “voices” from the beyond, many persons have committed suicide. They have given up their most precious possession—life—in an effort to join dead loved ones. Others have begun to dread such voices, as the messages have been gloomy, telling of some terrible accident or death about to occur. How could such voices possibly come from a good source? Who or what might be behind these voices?
[Picture on page 77]
Who was it that spoke to Saul by means of the spirit medium at En-dor?