I have a Friend who Dabbles in the Occult

Robert Hanks, writing in last Wednesday’s Independent obituary for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” claims this was the most original, witty and provocative television programme of the past two decades. The last episode entitled, "Chosen" - the concluding part of the seventh and final series - was aired in prime-time on the east coast of America. Sky viewers can watch it in the UK on the 12th June. He writes, “Our blonde Southern Californian ex-cheerleader, inspired and burdened over 154 episodes by her solemn mission to save the world from the forces of darkness, may never again break off from zapping some fanged or warty creature of the night to trade sassy epigrams with her ill-assorted gaggle of terrestrial, and infernal, pals… With astonishing bravura, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has succeeded in blending the conventions of teenage soap-opera with smart, dialogue-driven comedy, a phantasmagoria of supernatural motifs - and even knotty theological debate. Its impact and influence have always outpaced the viewing figures. Never much more than six million in the US … yet about 1,200 dedicated websites testify to the show's hold on near-obsessive fans.” Or should that be possessed?

From the world of entertainment and fictional characters like Buffy, Pokemon and
Harry Potter, interest in the occult in other parts of the world has more to do with survival.

China, for example, following the SARS epidemic, thousands are turning to the occult to fight the spread of the disease. While the government promotes science as the cure, the Chinese are burning fake money or visiting sorcerers to ward off the virus. Some believe the smoke from firecrackers will disinfect the air or the noise will chase away evil spirits. Scores of believers gather at temples or the sorcerer's home, kneeling in prayer before lighted incense and candles. He Dazhi, a reporter for the newspaper Sanxiang Metropolitan News, wrote this week that believers are asked to bow to spiritual scrolls or a statue of Buddha. Gongs or drums occasionally accompany the ceremony. "SARS is completely unknown to many farmers," He writes, "Their fear of infection has been used by sorcerers to have them rely on superstition instead of science."

And not to be outdone,
Mark Henderson, science correspondent for the Times also wrote a piece on Wednesday entitled, “Its time to give up on the ghost, says scientist”. Based on the largest scientific investigation of the paranormal conducted by the University of Hertfordshire and published in the British Journal of Psychology, Dr Richard Wiseman has concluded “Ghosts and supernatural phenomena do not exist.”

But this seems to be contradicted by another report in today’s Times where we are told “
Madonna the mystic sets up Kabbalah cult centre” “The material girl has become the spiritual woman. Madonna is helping a Jewish mystical group to buy a London headquarters. The actress and singer and Guy Ritchie, her film director husband, are giving money to purchase a former record company offices in London’s West End for £3.65m to serve as the London Kabbalah Centre. Both have become disciples of Kabbalah — Hebrew for “received tradition” — an ancient philosophy which an increasing number of celebrities believe holds messages for how to live their lives. Madonna, 44, credited the faith for creative guidance on her 1998 album, Ray of Light, which restored her to prominence as the queen of pop. She describes it as the “codes to the universe” and has taken to demanding spring water blessed by a Kabbalah rabbi when she stays in hotels. The couple and Lourdes, Madonna’s six-year-old daughter from a previous relationship with her personal trainer, have attended classes at a Kabbalah centre near their home in Los Angeles. The new London headquarters, in a grade II listed building in Stratford Place near Oxford Street, will provide spiritual healing for the family when they are in Britain staying on their West Country estate.

Other students of Kabbalah include
Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger, Demi Moore, Jeff Goldblum, Naomi Campbell and Elizabeth Taylor. Madonna, who wears a Kabbalist red thread known as “Rachel’s string” on her wrist to ward off negative energies, is writing children’s books based on Hebrew texts and is about to film a documentary on the religion. “I think that Kabbalah is very punk rock,” she has said. “It teaches you that you are responsible for everything. We don’t realise there is a bigger system at work. Everything that comes to you is for a reason. And I think that’s really revolutionary.”

Converts say Kabbalah offers a broad-based understanding of life which helps them deal with everything from family relationships to a bad press.” Critics however note that in the secret writings of the Jewish mystics, God is seen as an impersonal force, the Shekinah glory of God identified with a secret Gnostic female deity called
Sophia - or wisdom. Karen Armstrong, writes approvingly that “in Kabbalistic teaching of mystic ecstasy, the mystic becomes his own Messiah”.  No wonder this particular occult philosophy is popular with people who want to be their own Messiah.

C.S. Lewis in his book “The Screwtape Letters” offers this salutary commentary on this weeks newspapers reports. “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.'

The word “occult” is from the Latin occultus, and simply means secret, hidden, or esoteric knowledge and practices. It is comprised of three basic categories -- divination, magic or sorcery, and spiritism. Though there are many theories today as to how or why it works, according to biblical theology it originates from, and constitutes interaction with, demonic spirits. Hence, it is expressly condemned. The occult is based on the belief that the material world - stars, planets, people, nature and events are somehow all connected to one another. Those who believe in the occult think they can change events and predict the future. Occultism also includes a belief in beings, such as angels, or spirits who can be contacted and used to change people and events.

1. The Origins of the Occult
Occultists often make the claim that their religion predates Christianity and is indeed thousands of years old.  Here we can agree.  Astrology and witchcraft began in the ancient city of
Babylon in excess of 5,000 years ago.  But occult philosophy predates ancient Babylon.  It began in the mind of Lucifer (Satan) and was first whispered to Eve in the garden. 

Genesis chapter three contains the plot for the Conflict of the Ages and the Drama of Redemption.  What we also find in this chapter is the essence of both occult doctrine and the truth about redemption. 
Satan's lies, "You surely shall not die!" and "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" are the bases for false religion.  In these lies are embedded the doctrines of reincarnation, and Gnosticism the belief in secret knowledge.  Some theologians believe these occult doctrines were propagated on earth before the flood by fallen angels (see Genesis 6). The ensuing results were the violence and bloodshed which prompted God to judge the earth with a universal flood.  After the flood, these infernal ideas were somehow secretly passed on until Nimrod, a great-grandson of Noah, created his religio-political system known as the Babylonian mystery religion. If a genealogy of all false religions could be drawn, all would be traceable to "Babylon, the mother of all harlots" (Revelation 17). 

During the Renaissance (15th to 17th century) occultism experienced explosive growth and was identified with the worship of Satan. This resulted in literally millions of women being tortured and killed during the Renaissance because they were accused (sometimes falsely) of practicing occultism. During the so-called Burning Times of A.D. 1300-1600, an estimated nine million people were killed because they were accused of witchcraft. Despite this, occultism continued in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time occultism was reinvented as the Spiritualist movement. One main group that contributed to this was the Theosophical Society (1875) which included many artists, poets and intellectuals. In the 20th century, occultism experienced another rebirth in the counterculture movement of the 1960s which emphasized an interest in astrology, divination and magic. Today, the tentacles of occultism have affected every area of our society. Police departments use psychics to solve crimes. Universities offer degree courses in parapsychology.  And children can easily become addicted to fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons which introduces them to the world of the occult through role-playing. At the cinema films like Harry Potter have broken box office records. The author, J.K. Rowling is now wealthier than the Queen. 

2. Core Beliefs of The Occult
New religious cults spring up every day, with different terminology and techniques but with the same old Eastern-occult beliefs.  A modern example is the religion of scientology.  Its doctrines are nothing but Eastern cosmology clothed in pseudoscientific language. There seem to be seven major ingredients in occult practice and philosophy:

2.1 The Paranormal - This deals with experiences that are beyond the five senses and are extra-sensory or mystical in nature. An occultist will often refer to a sixth sense, or third eye, which enables them to see something that the ordinary person is unable to sense or see.

2.2 The Supernatural - This is the manipulation of natural laws through such things as psychokinesis (the movement of objects through the mind) or levitation.

2.3 The Esoteric - This refers to things that are hidden or secret. It is hiding the truth from the uninitiated through the use of symbols and allegories. Most occult groups draw newcomers in by advertising how they will learn things that have been hidden for thousands of years.

2.4 Monism - Man and the universe are all part of the same universal energy or life force. This means that there is only one ultimate reality. All is one and the one is God. The ultimate goal of monism is to experience this oneness with the universe through an alteration of one’s consciousness.

2.5 Pantheism - That a god, goddess or some divine energy pervades the universe. That we are all part of this divine force and that there is no distinction between humans and nature.

2.6 Polytheism - There are many gods or many manifestations of the one god or goddess.

2.7 Animism - That the earth and all other objects are pervaded by spirits or energy forces.

3. Three Categories of Occultism
There are three general categories of occultism. We will examine each and then consider what the Bible has to say about them.

3.1 Divination
Divination is the old term. Fortune telling is the new word. Those who are involved in this type of occultism attempt to gain hidden knowledge about the future by use of psychic “readings.” The word “divination” comes from the Latin word “divinare” which means to foresee. The person who practices this form of occultism is known as a diviner which also comes from the Latin word “divinus” which means divinely inspired and pertains to deity. A diviner predicts future events, finds lost articles or people, locates underground water, or reveals hidden knowledge. Divination is the most widespread occultic practice and can be found in literally hundreds of varieties. Some of the divination devices used to foretell the future include:

• Astrology - Using horoscopes and stars
• Fortune Telling - Using of palms, tea leaves, tarot cards or crystal balls, etc
• Reflexology - Using the bottoms of the feet
• Biorhythms - Using the cycles of life
• I Ching - Using sticks or coins
• Auras - Using multi-colored fields that surround the body
• Runes - Using wood or stone letters
• Games - Using Ouija Board,


Over the years, many who have rejected organized religion have turned to exotic occult instruments to find direction for their lives and advice concerning their future. Since the beginning, people have been looking for ways to predict the future and uncover the purposes of the past.

What does the Bible say?


God Condemns Divination
 “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)

God is angry with Fortune-tellers
 “They consulted fortune-tellers and used sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger.” (2 Kings 17:17b, NLT)

3.2 Paganism
Just as the term "Eastern religions " refers to Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc., the terms "Neo-Pagan" and "Pagan" refer to separate religions that share some common themes. Neopaganism is a modern religion which has been recently reconstructed from beliefs, deities, symbols, practices and other elements of ancient religions dating back to Greek, Roman and Egyptian worship. Paganism centers around goddess worship or worship of the “earth mother” or the “huntress.” The most common form of goddess worship is Wiccan or witchcraft. There are a number of forms of the Wiccan religion which include Druidism and Shamanism. In this sermon we will focus on the practice of witchcraft.


It was during the Middle Ages that witchcraft experienced a great revival. It was an age where everyone believed in the supernatural and superstition abounded. Witches often refer to themselves as “pagans”, “The Craft” or the “old Religion” pointing to the fact that witchcraft existed long before Christianity. They also dislike being called witches and prefer to be called Practitioners of Wicca. This terms comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for “wise ones.” Witchcraft is a nature religion that in many ways is similar to the fertility religions that the prophets in the Old Testament confronted.

They worship the creator but the creator is both male and female in the same image as man was created. They do not see god as being above, in the heavens, but as being all around us in the earth. The god or goddess of Wicca is creative energy or nature. The reason why their god is depicted with horns is because he represents both man and animal. They have many names for their god such as Pan, Kerminos, Mars, Zeus, Apollo, Thor, and Odin. They claim they do not worship many gods, but rather, one god and one goddess with many names. Wiccans are pantheistic and believe that all things are part of God.

Witches today deny that they believe in or worship the devil. Neither do they believe that hell exists. They do believe that “self” always comes first because the body is a temple. They also believe that upon death their spirit will become part of the natural energy of creation (the god/goddess) and will be channeled into whatever is next. The modern Wiccan movement can be traced back to Gerald B. Garner (1884-1964) who is considered the founder of contemporary witchcraft. As a student of the occult, Garner used his occult research to originate modern witchcraft. In 1954, Garner’s book, Witchcraft Today was published. It is estimated that there are as many as 80,000 to 10 million witches in the United States and over 100 million worldwide.

Closely connected with witches is the occult practice of magick which is the use of charms, spells, or rituals to produce supernatural effects or control and forecast natural events. There are literally hundreds of varieties of occult magick: Occult magick can be one of two kinds, either personal or impersonal. Personal magick is where living intelligent spirit agents are appealed to, influenced, and controlled by incantations, and ceremonies. Impersonal magick is where natural laws are thought to be set aside through the use of incantations, spells, love potions, amulets, and charms, apart from intervention of spiritual beings. What does the Bible say?


Witchcraft is Forbidden
 “Don’t practice any kind of witchcraft.” (Leviticus 19:26, CEV)

 “Don’t act like the people who make horoscopes and try to read their fate and future in the stars!” (Jeremiah 10:2, TLB)


Witchcraft was punishable by death
Exodus 22:18, “Death is the punishment for witchcraft.” (CEV), “
Saul died for his disobedience to the Lord and because he had consulted a medium.” (1 Chronicles 10:13 TLB)

Witchcraft will be Judged
 “The Lord All-Powerful said: I’m now on my way to judge you. And I will quickly condemn all who practice witchcraft...” (Malachi 3:5 CEV)

Revelation 21:8, “But I will tell you what will happen to cowards and to everyone who is unfaithful or dirty-minded or who murders or is sexually immoral or uses witchcraft or worships idols or tells lies. They will be thrown into that lake of fire and burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (CEV)

Witchcraft will be Destroyed
 “I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells.” (Micah 5:12, NIV)

Witchcraft will lead people Astray
 “People consult idols and fortunetellers, but the answers they get are lies and nonsense. Some interpret dreams, but only mislead you; the comfort they give is useless. So the people wander about like lost sheep.” (Zechariah 10:2, TEV)

3.3 Spiritism
Spiritism or spiritualism is the third kind of occult practice. Spiritualism is used by spiritists who profess to believe the Bible. While divination attempts to foretell the future and magick tries to change the future, Spiritism tries to communicate with a spirit or dead person in order receive information from them. How a spiritist goes about communicating with and receiving communication from the spirit world is what is known as spiritistic phenomena. The means used to do this includes such things as:

• Trance mediums
• New Age Channeling
• Seances
• Ouija Board
• Telepathy
• Clairvoyance
• Mesmerism
• Psychometry
• Telekinesis
• Levitations
• Automatic Writing
• Materializations
• Apparitions

Spiritism holds to certain doctrines that show its anti-Christian background and beliefs. For instance, spiritism believes in an evolutionary process of spiritual development. Spiritists believe that when someone dies and goes to the spirit world they are able to develop further with the help of other spirits. The goal of spiritism is to evolve to a higher plane in this life and the next. What you do in this life determines the plane of spiritual development you will enter after death. Spiritists also believe that God is a spirit and like everyone else, He too is evolving to a higher plane. They also believe that Jesus is the master of all mediums, but not the Savior of the world. Neither do spiritists believe in hell. Heaven on the other hand is a series of spiritual planes through which spirits pass in an evolutionary process. Through this process a very wicked person may begin on a very low plane, but through the help of other spirits can advance to the next plane until they eventually arrive in heaven. What Does The Bible Say?

Spiritism will make you spiritually unclean
 “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31)

Spiritism will separate you from God
“I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” (Leviticus 20:6, NIV)

4. Why do people get involved with the Occult?

4.1 The Lure of Hidden Knowledge
Secretly passed down through the ages and available to only a few initiates - and you can be one of them.


4.2 The Promise of Power to Control
The ability to manipulate the future, control your environment and people around you. For people frustrated in the areas of romance, vocation or work, the occult poses a short cut to success.


4.3 A Rejection of Scientific Rationalism and Materialism

Today’s culture is increasingly irrational and mystical. It is dissatisfied with rationalism - the attempt to explain everything through science. Science is unable to answer the great questions while materialism is unable to satisfy the soul. Experience has become more important than reason.


4.4 A Reaction against Formal Religion

Rightly or wrongly, the Church in the 20th Century has been equated with conservative values politically and morally. The Church has also at times become preoccupied with its internal disagreements rather than proclaiming the gospel and appeared increasingly irrelevant to many people. Instead people have turned to cults and mystical Easter religions that allow you to pick and choose your gods and moral lifestyle.

4.5 The Acceptance of Para-psychological Research

The occult has become a legitimate academic subject - altered states of consciousness, esoteric studies, transpersonal counseling and holistic healing are some of the courses available in universities these days.These are some of the factors that have made the occult popular and culturally acceptable. Surveying the extent of occult penetration in our society can be a discouraging and frightening experience for a Christian.  On the positive side, we know Satan has been defeated and that he and his demons, along with the Babylonian mystery religions (occult systems), will be destroyed.  On the negative side, the Scriptures tell us that right now Satan is the god of this world, the prince and power of the air, and that the whole world lies in wickedness. 


5. How Should we Respond?

How do we cope with Satan and his forces while he is still "free on bail?"  How do we respond to the friend who is dabbling in the occult? The following three steps are for you and your friends.

5.1 Draw Near to God

Remember the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Only God can protect us from the destructive power of the evil one. Put on the armour of God.

”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)


Get involved with like minded Christians who are learning how to apply God’s word to their lives. Trust God with your future.

“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19)


5.2 Resist the Devil

The demonic world is already doomed and defeated by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Resist Satan in Jesus name by denouncing him and repudiating all his works (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-10). The spirit-filled believer has greater power within him than is in the whole world's system. Jesus said “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

Jesus prophesied to His disciples that the gates of Hades would not prove stronger than the church (Matthew 16:18).  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”


What do you think that analogy means? Many times Christians read this passage and think its saying the opposite of what Jesus intended.  Jesus is not saying that the church is huddled behind the walls with the forces of Satan trying to kick in the gates.  It's the other way around.  The picture Jesus paints is a walled city in which Satan and his kingdom have taken refuge.  The gates and walls however, are no match for the battering rams of the Kingdom of God.  The gates of hell are not strong enough to prevail against the force of the gospel.  We can be bold. God has called us to plunder hell and populate heaven.

5.3 Repent of any Occult Involvement.   
Destroy Occult Books and Paraphernalia in your possession (2 Kings
23:24; Acts 19:8-20).  I had to do this with my grandfather’s Masonic items after he died and they were given to me. Refuse Satan any foothold in your life.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” (Ephesians 4:25-28)


How can I help a friend who is dabbling with the occult? Urge them to draw near to God, resist the devil and do not give him a foothold anymore.


I am grateful to Derek Prime for his book, “Bible Answers” (Christian Focus), to  Mark Jackson for his sermon “The Occult And The Bible” www.sermoncentral.com and “A Primer on Occult Philosophy” by Bill Crouse.