Spiritistic Communication—Why Not?
“YOU! At my door preaching the Bible! I cannot believe my eyes. . . . my Mae-de-Santo [Brazilian voodoo priestess], now one of Jehovah’s Witnesses!”
This was the greeting that a Christian witness of Jehovah in Rio de Janeiro received in her door-to-door preaching activity. She had been one of thousands of Brazilian Catholics who practice some form of spiritism. However, she had given up both Catholicism and spiritism to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why? Was she dissatisfied with her work as a voodoo priestess? Did she not derive satisfaction from spiritistic communication? These were questions raised by the householder in the interesting conversation that followed their initial encounter.
It is estimated that in Brazil about 70 percent of nominal Catholics also practice some form of spiritism. Evidently they feel that something is missing in their Catholic religion, prompting them to look elsewhere. But what is it in spiritism that interests them? For many it may be the appeal of the mysticism in spiritistic sessions. For others, the attraction may be the hope of communicating with some dead loved one or of inquiring about the illicit love life of their husband or wife.
In the case just cited, however, it was a quest for the truth that led to the investigation of spiritism when this woman was 22 years of age. She made rapid progress, and within a short time she was in charge of the voodoo center. For 24 years she continued in that position. Much of her contact with the spirit world resulted superficially in some good for her clients, whether financially, socially or physically. But, by her own admission, in many instances her work as a medium resulted in divided families and unfaithfulness.
Yet if some “good” is accomplished by spiritistic communication, why not practice it? Is it proper for a Christian to become involved in such activities, even for some supposed “good” purpose?
BENEFICIAL COMMUNICATION WITH THE SPIRIT REALM
Looking into the Scriptures for guidance, we find that early in man’s history he had communication with the invisible realm. Concerning the first human pair, we read: “Later they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden about the breezy part of the day.” (Gen. 3:8) During those periods of communication, the first man learned much that was for his good. Had he heeded such counsel, he would have been spared much suffering and even death itself.
During the period of the Hebrew patriarchs, also, there was direct communication between God’s servants and the invisible realm. From an invisible source, Noah received instructions to build a huge ark for preservation during a coming Deluge. Listening to his invisible Counselor resulted in much good for Noah and his family—and also for us. If Noah had not heeded the instructions that he was given, we would not be here to listen to any voices, whether from invisible or visible sources.—Gen. 6:9-22.
After the patriarch Abraham received similar communication, he and his family moved to another land. (Gen. 12:1-4) Sometime later, God put this man to the test by telling him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. He followed such instruction explicitly, even to the point of raising the knife to kill his son. However, Abraham was stopped by a voice from the invisible heavens. (Gen. 22:1-18) Comparable direct communication with God was in evidence during the long period of Israel’s judges and was experienced later by those chosen by God to serve as prophets for that nation. Heeding such communications from a superhuman source brought much good to all those involved.
KING SAUL CONDEMNED FOR SPIRITISTIC COMMUNICATION
However, not all communication with the invisible realm resulted in good. When Israel’s first king, Saul, had to face up to a decisive battle with the Philistines, “he became afraid, and his heart began to tremble very much.” Saul felt in need of help, but Jehovah would not answer the unfaithful king. Saul then ordered: “Seek for me a woman who is a mistress of spirit mediumship, and I will go to her and consult her.” The result? Talking through the medium, the supposed spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel told the troubled king: “Jehovah will also give Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”—1 Sam. 28:4-19.
Did this prediction come true? Yes, but only in part. The Israelites were given into the hand of the Philistines and suffered a terrible defeat. Saul and three of his sons died in the battle. Contrary to the prediction, however, Saul’s son Ish-bosheth did not die that day. True, if Saul had heeded the prediction and retreated from the field of battle, it would have been “good” for him and his three sons. At least they may have lived a little longer. But it would have been much better if Saul had never consulted the spirit medium at Endor. Consider the reason why this is true.
Earlier, Saul “had removed the spirit mediums and the professional foretellers of events from the land.” (1 Sam. 28:3) Why? Because he knew that God’s law stated: “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.” The reason? Because “everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Deut. 18:10-12) Hence, by consulting a spirit medium, the unfaithful Saul came under a further condemnation from Jehovah according to the very law that he, as king, was to uphold. Well, then, since Jehovah God condemned spirit mediums and never answered Saul because of the king’s previous misdeeds, you might ask: Who sent the message to Saul through the medium?
THE SOURCE OF SPIRITISTIC MESSAGES
The answer will become clear as we continue searching the Bible record. Centuries after Saul’s death, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “In case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons?” Then it is stated emphatically: “To the law and to the attestation!” (Isa. 8:19, 20) Clearly, then, those who apply to spiritistic mediums are not applying to the Almighty God, Jehovah. So, what is the source of the messages received by those “making utterances in low tones”?
The same question may have occurred to persons of the first century C.E. as they heard the predictions made by professional mediums. For example, consider the case of “a certain servant girl” in Philippi. She had a “spirit” and furnished “her masters with much gain by practicing the art of prediction.” In fact, she kept following the apostle Paul and his associates and crying out: “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who are publishing to you the way of salvation.” Well, she was telling the truth. But were her words from God? No, for Paul ultimately got tired of hearing that message and “said to the spirit: ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” In no uncertain terms, the inspired account identifies that “spirit” as “a demon of divination.”—Acts 16:16-18.
It may have been difficult for some onlookers to determine just who that girl had been serving. Yet, Paul knew that she had received her powers, not from God, but from another superhuman source. A demon had been responsible. That there existed such spirits who used humans for occult purposes is evident from what happened in Ephesus a short time later.
Concerning the apostle Paul’s activities in that city, we read: “God kept performing extraordinary works of power through the hands of Paul, so that even cloths and aprons were borne from his body to the ailing people, and the diseases left them, and the wicked spirits came out.” When seven sons of the Jewish chief priest Sceva tried to expel a “wicked spirit,” the demon-possessed man leaped upon the would-be exorcists, so that they had to flee “naked and wounded.”—Acts 19:11-16.
“This became known to all, both the Jews and the Greeks that dwelt in Ephesus,” says the inspired account, “and a fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus went on being magnified.” Consequently, “many of those who had become believers would come and confess and report their practices openly. Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody,” even though such books were worth a considerable sum of money. Those individuals knew that they had to rid themselves of both their magical practices and the associated books. They turned from the wicked, demonic source of occult prediction to the true Source of life-giving wisdom, Jehovah God.—Acts 19:17-20.
DO “GOOD” RESULTS ALWAYS INDICATE A GOOD SOURCE?
Doubtless, any occult messages that those Ephesians had received previously were not always incorrect. At times, those messages may have been true and may have resulted in some apparent “good” to certain individuals, either financially or physically. By occult means, certain Ephesians may even have been directed to some cure for their serious ailments or diseases. But did this make the practice right? On another occasion, the apostle Paul warned that “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” So, in order to deceive the unwary, Satan the Devil can do things that seem good. Paul adds that Satan’s ministers act in the same way.—2 Cor. 11:14, 15.
Therefore, Christians wisely remain alert and avoid contact with this wicked “angel of light” and his ministers. Godly persons “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God” or with his great archenemy, Satan the Devil. (1 John 4:1) Moreover, Jesus Christ declared: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens . . . Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . expel demons in your name . . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:21-23) Strong words these, but they can apply even to persons who feel that they can communicate with or exorcise evil spirits. It is evident that such individuals could easily be deceived into serving Satan rather than the true God.
RESIST WICKED SPIRIT FORCES
To Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God . . . because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11, 12) If a Christian were to consult such forces through a spirit medium, could it be said that he was fighting them? No, indeed. Rather, would he not have to destroy any objects associated with such spiritistic communication, following the example of those first-century believers in Ephesus who burned even the books that dealt with occultism?
The former voodoo priestess mentioned earlier followed this course when she learned Bible truth. She destroyed all her paraphernalia related to occultism, burning all her images and the fancy clothes that she once wore during spiritistic sessions. This she did openly, before those who were convinced that such a thing could endanger her life. And she has kept on living an active life, devoting over 140 hours a month to declaring the good news of God’s kingdom. Why, even the astonished householder who greeted her with the words cited earlier followed her example, abandoning the fusion of Catholicism and spiritism! Both of them now realize that the name of Jehovah is a strong tower, into which the righteous one runs and is given protection.—Prov. 18:10.
Christians do not expect to receive direct communication from God, as did Adam, Abraham and others in early times. They realize that “God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken . . . by means of a Son,” Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1:1, 2) What Jehovah speaks to us through his Son is set out for our benefit in the Holy Scriptures. So Christians do not need, nor do they expect to receive, direct personal communication from God.
Therefore, true Christians avoid any presumptuous efforts to communicate with the invisible world. They resist Satanic efforts to deceive them into believing that a person can have spiritistic communication and still enjoy God’s favor. Rather, they heed Paul’s counsel: “Take up the complete suit of [spiritual] armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.”—Eph. 6:13.