The word ‘occult’ derives from the Latin word for ‘hidden’, ‘secret’ or ‘mysterious’ and concerns the unseen powers and activities of demons who are controlled by their master the devil. In the New Testament there are over eighty references to demons and the Lord Jesus taught very clearly that demons are real and have extensive power. Thus Scripture bears witness to the reality of occult activity and many missionaries have affirmed this fact from their own experience. Raymond Buker who served the Lord for sixteen years in Burma, wrote, ‘Those of us who have served on mission fields are aware of the reality of demonic activities. Many of us have seen demon-possessed people in action’.
It is also true that in contemporary Western society there has been a phenomenal increase in occult activity. There are estimated to be over 2,000 occult sects in France, with over 70,000 fortune-tellers, clairvoyants and astrologers. Britain has not been immune and media reports, together with personal experiences, strongly indicate that these practices are on the increase.
WHY THIS INCREASE?
- Because of the meaningless dissatisfaction with life in a materialistic, hedonistic society. When every material and physical need is met and people are satiated with entertainment man confronts the empty void of his own existence and seeks answers in a variety of ways, including the occult.
- Eastern religious practices have heavily infiltrated the West, and these are anchored directly in the occult and spirit world.
- The weakness of evangelical Christianity in presenting the gospel in a relevant and effective way. The result is that society sees no answer or power in the message of the Bible and has largely ignored it, often turning to the occult for answers.
- Much occult activity is commercially driven. The ready availability of do-it-yourself seance kits, ouija board games, occult games such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, together with the many books, films and videos devoted to the occult, give many people the opportunity to enter the doorway into the demonic world.
- Fascination with the mysterious, with television programmes such as the ‘X-files’, studies of UFOs and the strange powers of pyramids have developed deep interest in the occult for many people.
- The need to gain insights and knowledge about the future has encouraged people to dabble in the occult by consulting mediums and astrologers.
- The need for comfort at a time of bereavement has led some to consult occult practitioners in the vain hope of making contact with the dead or affirming that their loved one is happily settled in a better place.
- The desire for power and knowledge has made some people seek them in the occult realm.
Demons appear to be fallen angels who serve Satan in his rebellion against God, Matt. 12. 24; 25. 41. They do their utmost to disrupt, control, manipulate, oppress, depress and possess people. Thus it is a highly dangerous practice to get involved in any occult practice as the example of Legion makes clear in Mark 5. Legion was so controlled by demons that it had a horrendously oppressive effect upon his life, with the narrative indicating the following:
- He was fascinated by death and lived in a graveyard. Today many occult practices take place in cemeteries.
- He was physically affected and had an unnatural, even supernatural strength. Men were powerless to control him, as he was able to break out of anything they used to bind him. Walter Martin gives the following example of someone possessed: ‘the girl who was about 5‘4” tall and weighed 120 pounds, attacked a 180 pound man and with one arm flipped him 5 or 6 feet away. It took four of us including her husband to hold her body to a bed while we prayed in the name of Jesus Christ’.
- He was emotionally affected and was seized with surges of great anger and violent rage.
- He was mentally affected and shouted and cut himself with stones. Legion experienced terrible inner pressures that produced self-destructive, even suicidal tendencies.
- He had strange powers of understanding and clearly had a very profound knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ.
PRESENT DAY MANIFESTATIONS
Today, there are many manifestations of the occult of which the following are some of the most prominent:
- Witchcraft: Since the ‘Repeal of Witchcraft Act’ in 1959 witchcraft is not illegal in Britain, though that is not true of some of its practices. Witches (men and women) meet in groups called covens. They perform rites and ceremonies devoted to Satan, including chanting, dancing, animal sacrifices, possibly involving sexual activities, and it has been suggested there may even be human sacrifices in some instances. These are done in secret places and may involve stone circles and fires and take place at special times of the year. Halloween is an important date in the occult calendar as it was the ancient Celtic ‘day of death’, and marks the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. Satanic power is said to be at its greatest on October 31st.
- Astrology: this is the attempt to explain how the lives of people and events on earth are controlled by the position of celestial bodies. The claim is made that one’s life pattern is determined by the position of stars and planets at one’s birth. No one explains why birth, and not conception, is so vital. Also, the differing life experiences of twins is unexplained by astrology. There are also contradictory astrological systems and many are based on mediaeval systems that were formulated before the discovery of the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. We can also note that the constellations change through time and are not static as astrology claims. It all encourages superstition and fatalism, leaving people open to more serious occult influence.
- Fortune telling: this is the attempt to predict the future by divination. Such methods include palmistry or hand-reading, phrenology or interpretation of cranial bumps, iridology or eyediagnosis, cartomancy or card cutting, pendulum swing and teacup reading.
- Ouija boards: ‘ouija’ means ‘yes, yes’ in a combination of French and German. It is widely marketed as a game and is commonly known as ‘spirit in the glass’. Forms of it were used as long ago as six centuries before Christ. Fingers are placed on the glass and the spirit is asked a question and moves to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Words are spelt and messages given. This ‘harmless’ fun game has caused many to have direct contact with the world of Satan.
- Satanism: this is direct worship of Satan. Anton LeVey in San Francisco founded a very satanic church. He wrote his own satanic bible, altered the ten commandments to say the opposite, practised all sorts of perversion, placed a cross upside down and draped an undressed young woman over an altar. He openly mocks God, the Lord Jesus and Christian truth.
FINDING THE ANSWER
We must state that God condemns all occult practice, Exod. 22. 18; Deut. 18. 9-14. His anger is directed against those who practise it, 2 Chron. 33. 6, and He wants everyone to leave it, avoid it and burn any occult effects they may possess, Isa. 47. 9- 15; Jer. 27. 9-10; Acts 19. 19. He wants us to trust Him and in His Son, Jesus Christ. He knows the danger people place themselves in when they open up their lives to the occult. They allow Satan a foothold in their lives that may be exploited; it leaves people fearful and often with altered personalities. Such people have a much deeper resistance to the gospel and find it hard to understand the Christian message. Ultimately those people can be led into destruction and the horror of the torment of hell.
It is interesting that Jesus never touched the demon-possessed. He commanded the demons to depart and in the missionary enterprise in the book of Acts demons were ejected at ‘the name of Jesus’, 16. 18; 19. 13-18. Today it is never wise to seek a ministry in this area, unless the Lord clearly brings someone across your path. It is important to keep close to the Lord through prayer and maintenance of a clean life. The only authority we have is the name of the Lord Jesus and His word.
Satan is a real enemy who is both strong and subtle. He can even attack and discourage Christian people. Yet we must remember, that ‘Greater is he that is in you (the Lord), than he that is in the world (Satan)’, 1 John 4. 4. Also, if we submit ourselves to God we will be able to resist the devil and he will flee from us, Jas. 4. 7. We are in an intensive and serious spiritual battle but ultimately Christ is victorious and through His death on the cross Satan is already defeated and his destiny and doom assured, Rev. 20. 10. We praise God that through the shed blood of Christ many are being delivered from Satan’s bondage today.