The Real Power Behind Occultism
THE Bible identifies the real power behind occultism and its purpose. In its pages you will not find any uncertain theorizing on the subject. It sets out the facts clearly and takes a firm stand in opposition to all occult practices. All other ancient religious writings either lay the basis for occultism, allow for it or encourage it.
In fact, history testifies that almost all early peoples were deeply involved in occultism. Yet just one nation is known to have had a religion that avoided the occult—the ancient Hebrews of the Bible. Why?
The Hebrew religion was not influenced by superstitions about the unknown, as others were. Their religion was given to them by One who knows the facts, and He made it clear that it was not His power that was behind occult practices. As God said to them through the prophet Moses: “These nations . . . listen to those practicing magic and to those who divine; but as for you, Jehovah your God has not given you anything like this.”—Deut. 18:14.
In clear terms he specified the practices that they were to avoid: “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; compare Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Isaiah 8:19.
POWER BEHIND THE OCCULT
An experience involving a Roman official, Sergius Paulus, who was proconsul of Cyprus around 47 C.E., sheds light on the matter. The Bible describes him as “an intelligent man.” He was searching for truth. So he asked Saul of Tarsus, a Roman citizen who was also known as the apostle Paul, to tell him about God and Christianity. However, a “magician,” or sorcerer, named Elymas was present and began resisting Paul, no doubt aware that Paul’s message could weaken his own influence with the proconsul and the reputation he had owing to his occult powers.
Paul turned to Elymas and plainly identified the one behind his occult powers, saying: “You son of the devil, you enemy of all true religion, why don’t you stop twisting the straightforward ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6-10, Catholic Jerusalem Bible) So the apostle Paul named “the devil,” a wicked spirit person, as the power behind this sorcerer. Some may find the existence of such a creature hard to believe.
But there is eyewitness testimony to his existence. The Lord Jesus Christ came from the spirit realm, and with a conviction born of personal knowledge he spoke of “the Devil,” also known as “Satan.” As to Satan’s origin, Jesus explained: “He did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him . . . he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44; Luke 10:18) So at one time this spirit creature was “in the truth.” But chafing under God’s authority to determine what is “the truth” and to require submission to it, Satan-to-be chose to allow desire for power and independence to overcome his wisdom.—Jas. 1:13, 14; compare Ezekiel 28:13-17.
Then this “Devil” set about to entice others to a similar course. His first overt act was to lie against God, thus setting the pattern for his methods even now. That lie resulted in death to the first human pair and made the Devil “a manslayer when he began,” as well as the “father of the lie.”—Gen. 3:1-5, 13; Rev. 12:9.
Similarly, Bible history records that other “sons of God,” angels, chose independence from God. They have power and influence over the minds and lives of vulnerable persons, even the ability to “possess” or “obsess” humans or animals and to use inanimate objects for their deceptive purposes.—Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 8:27-33.
Those who are involved in occult practices themselves recognize that there is danger involved. The book Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain reports on the extensive Russian scientific research into ESP and other psychic powers. Illustrating the danger even from this type of investigation, the authors say: “There is one warning that any person who is involved in this work scientifically always gives—ESP is not to be treated lightly. It can be dangerous even when working with something as simple as an Ouija board. We have seen some of the effects.”
Why the danger? One reason is given by Ed Warren, considered to be a leading expert on the occult: “Using a Ouija board, holding séances, or practicing ESP . . . are invitations to malign spirits, and to eventual possession by those spirits.”
But why all the strange and seemingly contradictory variations of occultism? Why do some appear blatantly evil, others good and still others the result of mere caprice? There is actually one unified purpose, which only the Bible reveals.
PURPOSE OF OCCULTISM
As noted before, occultists like Elymas act as agents or dupes of the Devil. As such, they are the “enemy of all true religion . . . twisting the straightforward ways of the Lord.” (Acts 13:10, Je) So however contradictory and diverse the occult practices, there is a unified purpose: to entice men away from “true religion” and cause them to act independently of God’s “straightforward ways.”
The diabolic wisdom behind this scheme is clear. People are fascinated by unexplainable, seemingly “supernatural” phenomena. The variety of occult practices appeals to different types of people. Some subject themselves directly to the Devil through outright Satan worship, voodoo, witchcraft and the like. Others are deceived into thinking that God has something to do with astrology or spiritualism. Those with a scientific bent often become fascinated with “psychic” powers such as ESP and clairvoyance. There is something for almost everyone.
But what about the works of “healing,” “speaking in tongues,” “exorcising” demons, and others, directly tied in with so-called “Christian” organizations? Does this not show that God is working with them to defeat the works of Satan, just as he helped Jesus and his apostles? (John 10:37, 38; Acts 19:11) Jesus anticipated this very question in his famous Sermon on the Mount.
He said that many people would profess Christianity, but dishonestly so. On what basis would they claim to be Christians? Jesus said: “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?’” But would this prove that they had the spirit of God and were true disciples of his Son? Jesus went on to say: “Then I shall tell them to their faces: ‘I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!’”—Matt. 7:15-23, Je.
Clearly, those occultists who use the name of Christ are as detestable to him as occultism among the Hebrews was to Jehovah. Why? Because the power behind them is the same. The purpose is the same; namely, to draw people away from “true religion,” to entice them to do things condemned by God.
The Bible shows that miraculous spiritual gifts passed out of existence after they had identified the newly established Christian congregation as God’s instrument for spreading true worship. (1 Cor. 13:8-11) But the Scriptures warn that religious impostors would later seize upon such “miracles” to give an air of legitimacy to their own activities. “There is nothing unexpected about that,” says the Bible; “if Satan himself goes disguised as an angel of light, there is no need to be surprised when his servants, too, disguise themselves as the servants of righteousness.”—2 Cor. 11:14, 15, Je.
This shows that the ability to exorcise, or expel, demons, for example, is not necessarily a sign that God backs up clergymen who profess to have such power. Professed Christians and non-Christians alike claim success at exorcism: Catholics, Protestants, Jewish cabalists and even voodoo worshipers. Is God behind any of them? The Bible says “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33, Je) He certainly does not work against himself by supporting opposing factions.
Also, the very methods employed by most so-called “exorcists” show they are not from God. Jesus could “cast out the spirits with a word,” simply commanding them, and they obeyed, recognizing his authority. (Matt. 8:16, 29-34, Je; Mark 5:7-13; Luke 8:28-33) Yet these religious “exorcists” recite ritualistic, magical formulas, using certain words and pronouncements, which, in themselves, are supposed to have the power to exorcise. The Roman Catholic formula for exorcism found in the Rituale Romanum can take several hours to recite and uses religious relics and other superstitious religious paraphernalia—in marked contrast to Jesus’ simple commands! Nevertheless, their “exorcisms” often seem to work! Why?
The Bible shows that Satan would use supernatural powers to back up these religious impostors, establishing their credibility and thus furthering his own ends. The Christian apostle Paul foretold that a rebellion against God’s ways would take place on the part of those claiming to be followers of Christ, and that the rebels would seek worshipful honor for themselves, as Christendom’s clergy do. Then he said: “Satan will set to work: there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive . . . because they would not grasp the love of the truth which could have saved them.”—2 Thess. 2:9, 10, Je.
Notice that Paul contrasts the appeal of ‘deceptive signs’ with “the love of the truth.” Jesus identified the real source of truth when he prayed to God and said: “Your word is truth.” God’s “word” is found in the Bible. Genuine “love of the truth” develops from using our minds to learn about that word, to benefit from God’s “straightforward ways” in our lives.—John 17:17; Acts 13:10, Je.
PROPER VIEW OF THE OCCULT
What does this mean for those dabbling in occultism or those fascinated by the recent publicity given to it? It means that such things are not a safe subject of curiosity or entertainment. They are a means used by Satan the Devil to turn people to practices that are in direct conflict with the clearly stated will of God.
True Christians do not toy with occultism. If they were involved in it in the past, they have now destroyed anything in their possession that pertained to it. (Acts 19:18, 19) They know the value of the Biblical advice: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”—Jas. 4:7.
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have long followed the Bible’s wise advice on this matter. They have thereby avoided the trap of occultism, especially in the areas of Latin America and Africa where voodoo and juju remain a way of life, even among the supposedly “Christian” populations. Not by practicing any mystical rites of exorcism, but by teaching others the truth from God’s Word the Bible, they have aided honest-hearted ones to break free from the control of wicked spirits. (Eph. 6:10-18) Being guided by God’s Word, which neither discounts the occult nor allows for its practice, they can say as did the apostle Paul: “We will not be outwitted by Satan—we know well enough what his intentions are.”—2 Cor. 2:11, Je.