Do Evil Spirits Exercise Power over Man?
MILLIONS of persons in the Orient greatly fear evil spirits. This fear deeply affects their lives in many ways. For instance, to protect themselves from the power of evil spirits large numbers of Orientals employ various objects in unusual ways.
Consider, for example, the long bamboo pole used during the Vietnamese New Year. This pole is set up in front of each house. Items are hung on top of the pole, including a small basket containing betel nuts. Certain instruments are added that jingle in the breeze. Above the basket, a small square of bamboo represents roughly the barrier that is intended to stop evil spirits, preventing them from entering the home.
In Malaya evil spirits are also feared, especially in the home at the time of pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, for instance, a Malay woman will wear an iron nail in her hair or carry a sharp instrument such as a knife, in the belief that evil spirits will flee at the sight of metal objects.
In Thailand you will see in the front of most homes a small house. This is a house for evil spirits. Since many believe that evil spirits can harm humans, the small spirit houses are put up to protect the occupants of the real house. They expect that the evil spirits will be fooled by the small house and enter it rather than the real house. Further, to appease the spirits, people often put food in the small houses. Since ants eat the food, it may appear that the food has been taken away mysteriously.
Moreover, the fierce-looking statues at the temple entrances in Thailand are for the purpose of frightening away evil spirits; and the sharp points on the roof are said by some to cause them to flee after they sit down.
Not all Thai people, however, take evil spirits seriously; in fact, the more sophisticated ones may deny that they believe in them. No doubt many Thai people have wondered at such things as: How could evil spirits with immaterial bodies have any need for food or ever be harmed or frightened by metal or other objects? How can invisible creatures with intelligence ever be frightened by lifeless statues? How could they be so easily fooled as to think that some doll-sized house is a real house and go inside it rather than the real one? Yet even those who may feel somewhat ashamed to admit they believe in evil spirits may keep a small house for demons in their front yard.
So the questions arise: Are there evil spirits? Do they exercise an evil, misleading influence over men? Is it necessary to protect oneself by means of objects or spirit houses or by appeasing demons with food and drink?
THE BIBLE’S TEACHING ABOUT SPIRITS
There is a sacred Book that answers these questions. This is the oldest book on earth, an Oriental book, documents of which go back nearly 6,000 years, tens of centuries before Buddhist, Taoist and other such writings were begun. This oldest of all sacred books is the Holy Bible. To find answers to our questions we must go to these Holy Scriptures.
Original religion as taught by the Holy Bible does indeed speak of good and evil spirits, but it definitely does not teach that humans need objects such as nails or spirit houses to protect themselves or that they need to offer food to appease demons. The Bible does not teach the kind of fear of evil spirits that is common throughout the Orient.
The Spirit that is the main subject of the Bible is good, for He is the God of the Bible, whose name is Jehovah. He is the Author of the Holy Bible and also man’s Creator. As such, “God is a Spirit,” invisible to human eyes.—John 4:24; Ps. 83:18.
How can one believe in Jehovah, man’s Creator, without seeing him? We can believe in the Creator’s existence because we can see his creation, the flowers, the birds, the animals and earth’s other marvels such as oceans and mountains, so that Jehovah’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” And as we ponder not only on earth’s marvels but on the unimaginable immensity of a universe in which the earth is a mere speck, we can better appreciate that there must be a Creator. Most important, we have his own Book, the Holy Bible, that tells us about man’s Creator and that convinces one of God’s creatorship. As Creator and God, Jehovah is the Great and Good Spirit.—Rom. 1:20.
How, then, could evil spirits come into existence? Did Jehovah, Creator of the heavens and earth, make evil spirits? No, because the Bible assures us of his eternal righteousness by saying: “Perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he. They have acted ruinously on their own part.” (Deut. 32:4, 5) Just as men have turned bad and acted ruinously on their own part, so can invisible spirit creatures, originally created perfect, go bad. And that is just what happened to some of the holy angels. They turned themselves into demons or devils.
THE FIRST DEMON, SATAN THE DEVIL
When did a holy angelic creature first turn himself into an evil spirit? This was after the creation of the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Jehovah had placed them in “a garden in Eden, toward the east.” It was a perfect Paradise, and it was God’s purpose to have mankind fill the earth, making Paradise earth-wide. But the Bible shows that one of God’s spirit sons, an angel “in Eden, the garden of God,” determined to turn the worship of the first man and woman away from their Creator, Jehovah, to himself. Through a serpent, this angelic spirit lied to Eve, and induced her and her husband to disobey Jehovah God, bringing the penalty of death for them and their future offspring. This spirit creature that brought sin and rebellion into the universe came to be known as the Serpent, the Devil or Satan. The Devil has been placed under sentence of death, but God has permitted him to continue for a time.—Gen. 2:8; compare Ezek. 28:13.
The Holy Bible also shows that other spirit creatures later turned disobedient to Jehovah God, thus becoming demons. When was that? At least in the 120 years before the global flood of Noah’s day. The Bible record at Genesis 6:1-5 explains how spirit sons of God materialized as men to enjoy human passions by marrying the daughters of men. This was disobedience to God. It brought bad results, including freakish hybrids called Nephilim who were born as a result of such marriages. By taking this wrong course, those spirit sons of God turned themselves into demons and put themselves on the side of the Devil, who is the “ruler of the demons.”—Matt. 9:34; Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4.
These self-demonized angels are under sentence of destruction, along with Satan the Devil. (Matt. 25:41) However, the sentence was not executed upon them at the time of the global Flood. For the sons of God dematerialized to escape the Flood and returned to the spirit realm. But they were not allowed to become again part of God’s organization of holy angels; instead they have lived in a debased condition of spiritual darkness till now.
The Bible further shows that following the birth of God’s heavenly kingdom by his Son, Jesus Christ, the Devil and his angels were hurled down to the vicinity of the earth: “So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.” (Rev. 12:9) Down here at the earth, these demonic angels are no more permitted to materialize in the flesh as they did before the global Flood. Yet they can exercise power over men, so much so that the Bible says that Satan, along with the demons, is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.”
HOW EVIL SPIRITS EXERCISE POWER OVER MEN
That evil spirits do exercise misleading power over men, the Bible assures us by saying: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. (1 John 5:19) But how do these wicked spirits exercise power over men, to mislead them?
Again it is the Holy Bible that identifies the many ways that evil spirits deceive and mislead men. They do this by means of spiritistic practices condemned by Jehovah God because they are of demonic origin and not from God. Jehovah warns his people against these practices, as the Bible shows: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deut. 18:10-12.
Among those practices condemned by the God of the Bible is that of consulting persons such as fortune-tellers and spirit mediums who foretell events. For instance, the man in charge of Chinese and Vietnamese temples is often a spirit medium. People request him to get in touch with the god of the temple. A séance is held in the temple, the medium invoking the god by offering joss sticks. Then he goes into a trance, perhaps jiggling. People ask favors and questions about the future and receive answers through the voice of the spirit medium. When spirit mediums thus inquire of some god or of the dead, they are actually contacting evil spirits, demons. All such activity is condemned by the Bible as something detestable to God, because it is demonism.
Also condemned by the Bible are magical practices, which include the many magical feats performed by yogis and others, such as levitation, being buried alive for many hours, walking on fiery coals, eating glass, nails, and so forth. What is called black magic is also the work of demons. Thus the Bible condemns sorcerers, those who bind others with a spell, such as by using some of the victim’s hair or blood as a “contact,” in order to cast a spell on one, or by modeling in clay or wax the effigy of a person whom the sorcerer or witch doctor wishes to injure or destroy, then sticking pins into it. Such black magic is the work of evil spirits.
Then there is divination, common throughout the world. Divination is the obtaining of knowledge of the unknown or of the future by means of omens and supernatural, demon power. There are hundreds of methods of divination, such as the use of divining rods, examining the length of a split bamboo pole, the direction in which the blood of a killed animal flows, the bones of fowl, the entrails of animals, the flight of certain birds, by crystal gazing, the use of playing cards, examining the lines of one’s hand, called palmistry, going into a self-induced trance and by the common means of using dreams as omens. All such divination and looking for omens is not taught by the Bible but is warned against and is exposed by the Bible as the deceptive teachings and work of evil spirits to mislead men.—1 Tim. 4:1.
DIVINATION BY ASTROLOGY
One of the most common means of trying to foretell the future is divination by astrology. Astrology is divination by stars and planets, a practice that has had tremendous influence on the people of the Orient. Those who practice divination by astrology believe certain days and months are propitious for marriage, business, politics and even burial. For example, the body of the last king of Laos was held for about a year until a favorable time for burial was reached. In 1952, in Burma, the government resigned for five minutes because of an astrological prediction. In 1959, the swearing in of Nepal’s first elected government was postponed for two days because some believed the appointed day was astrologically inauspicious. In 1962, Indian astrologers predicted great disasters or the end of the world between the third and fifth of February. It was estimated that the astral crisis caused India to lose, in money alone, 35 crore rupees—about $70,000,000! In Sikkim, on the advice of astrologers the marriage of the maharajah’s son to New York post-debutante Hope Cooke was put off until 1963.
The Bible makes clear that all such methods of divination, whether by astrology or other means, are opposed by Jehovah God and shown to be futile and disastrous to those who depend on them. This is illustrated by what happened to those who originated astrology, the ancient Babylonians. Yes, it was in ancient Babylon that astrology began, as well as the practice of magic and sorcery. But did astrology save Babylon? Almost two hundred years before Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians, the Holy Bible gave the answer, showing that the astrologers would be useless, unable to save Babylon: “Stand still, now, with your spells and with the abundance of your sorceries, in which you have toiled from your youth; that perhaps you might be able to benefit, that perhaps you might strike people with awe. You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens, the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you. Look! They have become like stubble. A fire itself will certainly burn them up. They will not deliver their soul from the power of the flame.”—Isa. 47:12-14.
How utterly useless Babylon’s own astrologers were when Babylon was threatened by the Medes and Persians! A few hours before Babylon’s fall to Cyrus the Persian in 539 B.C.E., Jehovah God caused a mysterious handwriting to appear on the wall of the king’s palace. The king called on all his wise men and astrologers to interpret it. But “they were not competent enough to read the writing itself or to make known to the king the interpretation.” It was not the worshipers of the heavens but a worshiper of the Creator of the heavens who interpreted the writing to mean “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and has finished it.” Babylon fell, its astrologers failing to save the king, the kingdom or even themselves. Here we see astrology convicted of ignorance and impotence in the very place where it originated and where it was practiced the most. Astrology not only fails those who rely on it, but it is one of the ways evil spirits mislead mankind.—Dan. 5:1-31.
OPPOSE EVIL SPIRITS THE BIBLE’S WAY
How, then, can one protect himself from the misleading influence of evil spirits? First of all, break free from all those practices condemned by the Bible as detestable to God—divination whether by astrology or any other way, looking for omens such as dreams, and consulting foretellers of events such as spirit mediums. Have nothing to do with sorcerers or those who practice the magical arts and spells. Keep free from all these forms of demonism.
Though evil spirits do exercise misleading power over most of mankind, those who worship Jehovah God are not among those “lying the power of the wicked one.” The Bible counsels: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas. 4:7) Oppose the Devil by putting on the spiritual suit of armor that God provides to fight against the demons: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” This requires faith in Jehovah God, knowledge of him and of his purpose to destroy the Devil and the demons and to make possible everlasting life on a Paradise earth through his heavenly kingdom. God also provides “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” the Holy Bible, to help you to fight successfully against wicked spirit forces.—Eph. 6:11-18.
So break free from the misleading power of demons. Use the Bible to help you and to help others to break free of demonistic practices. Do not be among those in bondage to the fear of evil spirits, senselessly trying to protect themselves by using nails, spirit houses, astrology, charms, and so forth. But acquire the spiritual weapons God provides for opposing the Devil and the demons. Come into the glorious freedom of those who know the Bible’s truth by means of God’s Son, and this “truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.