The White Magic Error and Charismatic Re-Definition of the Occult
by R. Davis
Confusion arises because Charismatics practice in the name of the Lord
Popular Charismatic author Michael Green endorsed what he refers to as “discriminating mysticism” in his book I Believe in Satan’s Downfall. He wrote:
But Mr. Green errs. He is correct about the dangers of mysticism, but errs in teaching that some kinds of mysticism are okay, or even that there is any valid distinction to be made. There is no such thing as discriminating mysticism, or mysticism “through Christ.” There’s no such thing as safe or discriminating mysticism, or any type of godly or safe mysticism. Mysticism is just one face of occultism and is forbidden by God. It is more dangerous than it may appear, and it is a root and means of spiritual deception. In occult practices we meet with Satan and his demons who pose as angels of light.
Confusion arises because Charismatics practice in the name of the Lord
Charismatic authors like Mr. Green confuse believers because they claim to practice in the name of the Lord. But, can we practice just any sort of spirituality so long as it is in Jesus’ name, or in the name of God or the Holy Spirit? Of course not. Israel was a sad example:
Charismatics always practice their mysticism or occultism in the name of the Lord. This may consist of seeking Him outside the Word of God by mystic focus upon a mental image—that is, an imagination of Jesus such as Mr. Green uses—or by seeking a vision. Then there is the magical reliance upon a name: for example, Charismatics call for presence and manifest influence of the Holy Spirit (“More, Lord, more…”). In my former Church, people would say Jesus’ name repeatedly, hands open, awaiting a sense of His arrival (again, as they imagine). I once heard that Charismatic evangelists were asking large assemblies of people to chant Jesus’ name, a mantra to invoke His presence. But this is occult in its mindless repetition and notions about the power of repeating a name. Former yogi Rabi R. Maharaj says he “firmly believed, as do all orthodox Hindus, that the mantra [the name of a god repeatedly spoken out loud or in the mind] embodied the deity itself and created what it expressed.”2 Occultists believe there is magic power in a name. When that name is Jesus, it is misleading.
Confusion also arises when Charismatics condemn the occult
Another way Charismatic teachers confuse us is by giving lip service to the prohibition against the occult. For example Mr. Green, who endorsed mysticism in the quotation above, wrote in the very same book:
Charismatics are always warning against the occult, not realizing they practice the very thing they condemn. Wizards who conjure gold dust are in the occult, but not them when gold dust materializes in their meetings! Egyptian Isis worshipers who seek spiritual drunkenness are in the occult, but not them when they stagger about and rejoice that they are spiritually drunk. Buddhist faith healers are occultists, but not Charismatic faith healers. Animists who channel lion spirits are, but not Toronto Blessing enthusiasts who roar like lions and bark like dogs. Witches who cast spells to ward off curses are occult, but not them when they try to break off curses. Sorcerers who talk with angels are occult, but not them when they speak with Gabriel. After all, they practice in the name of God!
The Charismatic condemnation of pagans is often noteworthy for its vehemence. Witches are a favorite target. I once heard John Sandford of Elijah House, a person who follows very occult theophostic teachings, claim to have spent three hours in spiritual warfare “fighting against witches.” (These brave words were followed by a request to donate lots of money to Mr. Sandford because, he said, the more we donated, the more God would pour out His Holy Spirit on my home town). In my former church, Charismatic prophets cautioned me not to “see a devil under every rock,” but at the same time they often searched chapel before Sunday services for tarot cards or other items supposedly planted by witches to disrupt the worship. This kind of hysteria is dangerous.
Charismatics are convinced of their own self-righteousness vis-a-vis pagan occultists. Mr. Green again:
Here Mr. Green baldly asserts that occult religions make no claim upon practitioners for “love, holiness or the service of others.” He appears to think that he, in his religion, has the corner on these attributes. But this is simply not true.
Some occult teachings are avowedly selfish and evil—e.g. some overtly wicked satanic sects and those that glorify self-indulgence—but only a few. Many or most occultists strive, or appear to strive, for what is good and right. That they may be mistaken is another issue. True, they are on the wrong path. But for Mr. Green to accuse them all of being selfish, unloving, etc., is unfair and self-righteous—not to mention blindly hypocritical, since he himself has been seduced by the occult.
Take yoga teachers: in his book Mr. Green condemns them, apparently not realizing that it is fundamental to their teachings to practice love and to put away selfishness and pride (or “ego,” as they say). So it is also in other religions. The “Sufi ethic” has been described by one mystic writer, Kabir Helminsky, as “chivalry,” meaning “heroic sacrifice and generosity.”5 Sufis teach that the way to realize chivalry in one’s life, and the way to be transformed into a more loving person, is to know the love of God through occult experiences similar to Charismatic soaking. Mr. Helminski says we must overcome the slavery of our attractions and see “beyond the veil of selfishness” to prepare ourselves for contact with the divine reality of love, for “Without the power of Love, we can only follow our egos and the desires of the world.” 6 The end of the Sufi path should be, he says, complete selflessness so that one can serve in love.7
Without accepting Sufi occult teaching, we must admit that it cannot be condemned for failing to teach love, holiness, or service of others, as Mr. Green wrongly accused. His unfair condemnation of other religions and other seekers is repeated later in I Believe in Satan’s Downfall when he writes, “Only in Judaism and Christianity is mysticism inescapably linked with love and compassion.8 Wrong again! True Christianity teaches love and compassion without mysticism.
The White Magic error and the re-defining of “occult”
Mr. Green has fallen into what I call the white magic error. This is the belief that there are good and bad types of occultism or mysticism, as determined by the practitioner’s motives or personal spiritual purity. This is exemplified in witchcraft: so-called white witches use occult power for good (as they believe) while black witches seek power to work evil, such as by cursing people they don’t like, or fulfilling selfish desires. The white witches realize that they are involved in the occult, but do not realize that what they are doing is wrong and involves them in the evil kingdom of Satan. I (Ruth) know this to be true because before I became a Christian I had a roommate who was a white witch. She was a lovely person and, in fact, my favourite roommate. I know that her intentions were good as she became involved in the occult and in witchcraft. What I (and she) did not know at the time was that the occult is the domain of Satan, and is very deceptive and dangerous.
But error compounds upon error with Charismatics who, because the Bible forbids occultism, cannot admit their practices are occult. They get around this by changing the definition of ‘occult,’ as we will see. (I do not say that they intentionally do this, but I believe they are demonically misled.) And then they condemn others by baldly accusing them of being occultists because they are selfish and unloving; they apply their new definition of ‘occult’ to them.
To be fair, Charismatics are not alone in condemning others. Secular occultists also denounce each other, each believing he possesses the key to righteousness. They excuse themselves — or rather, pat themselves on the back — on the basis of their superior understanding, their humility, their unselfish desire to use occult powers in the service of others, and so on. All of this is Satan’s deception.
But Charismatics go one step further into error, even denying what they do is occult. In essence, they deny that well intentioned people ever get involved in the occult. In their minds there is only ‘selfish occult’, and that is what everyone else is doing. They re-define ‘occult’ and teach that a religious practice is or becomes occult only when tainted by bad intentions. In other words, they say ‘occult’ has to do only with whatever is ‘selfish’, ‘unloving’, etc. It’s all about a person’s heart, not their spiritual practices. And, of course, they are not involved in the occult because they are so good and holy and loving! Like secular occultists they judge themselves as good and righteous (mistake number one) but they are also blind to the real nature of their spirituality (mistake number two). So they end up practicing as white witches in the name of Christ.
We saw these mistakes in Mr. Green’s teaching. First there was the basic white magic error: he distinguished Christ-focused mysticism from selfish mysticism: white vs. black mysticism. He also expressed the charismatic re-definition of the occult very clearly: “occult practice…does not make upon [a person] any claims for love, holiness, or service of others.”
What a satanic twist, this redefinition of the occult! What a deception—a demonic lie with profound consequences. Christians beguiled with this lie practice occultism, condemn others, and congratulate themselves on how loving they are. What a victory for Satan: people practicing in the name of the Lord are (a) involved in the occult, (b) full of pride, (c) blind to what they are doing, and (d) often loud in their Pharisaical condemnation of others. What a beam in their eyes:
In conclusion, a person’s intentions do not make a religious practice occult or not. Occultism is not mysticism gone bad or “undiscriminating mysticism.” No dictionary supports this, as will be seen below, and neither does the Bible. The occult does not become evil in the context of selfishness. It is always evil and always wrong because, whether we realize it or not, and whether our intentions are good or bad, it involves us in the kingdom of Satan and his fallen angels.
The fact is, many good people (in human terms) become involved in the occult. The sooner we come to understand this, the sooner we will be able to love them in true Christian charity.
A proper definition of ‘occult’
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘occult’ as follows:
We see from this that the occult has nothing whatsoever to do with evil intentions. It has to do with the supernatural.
Occultism always has one or more of these characteristics:
1) Occult practice includes seeking God or truth beyond nature, reason and the rational mind—that is, in the supernatural realm.
2) Occult practice is based on a belief that communion with God comes through subjective, supernatural experience.
3) Occult practice involves seeking supernatural energy, spirits, power, presence, influence, action or enchantments.
I add here a note here about a misunderstanding of ‘occult’ by writers who have suggested that ‘the occult’ means secret rituals. If this is the right meaning, then as occult practices become more openly practiced, they are no longer occult. This is also not correct. While secret rituals may involve occult practice, so may public rituals. The correct emphasis is on the secret or occult knowledge of the practitioner.
Please also note: I do not say true Christian experience is not supernatural. It is. Salvation is a supernatural miracle of God which completely changes a person’s life. It is also an intensely private experience. God’s love shed abroad in our hearts is a continuing miracle. Answers to prayers are miracles. What I do say is that it is not for us to seek after the secret things, which belong to God. We are to seek in the revelation of His Word:
See What is Occult? What is Biblical? posted on this Website.
Magicians accusing magicians, sorcerers accusing sorcerers
To see the Charismatic white magic error in action, consider a teaching from When the Spirit Comes With Power by influential Charismatic and occultist John White. Notice how he talks about ‘magic’ and ‘sorcery.’ He says that the things Charismatics do are okay, but the same things become magic and sorcery when done by selfish people. His explanation is straight out of an occult playbook:
Mr. White constructs here a totally occult and magic doctrine. He teaches that the “power of God,” which he confuses with the Holy Spirit (as is evident from the rest of his book, though it may not be clear in this quotation) is a dormant, morally neutral force available for anyone to use. It is neither good nor evil, he teaches—neither holy nor unholy—but it is the “user” who makes it good or evil, holy or unholy, based on his or her intent. Amazing: men or angels determine the holiness of the “power” of God. Furthermore, he teaches that God does not discriminate as to who may receive this power and anyone can “use it”: believers, nonbelievers, sorcerers and even fallen angels.
The occult aspects of Mr. White’s teaching are serious, yet his doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been accepted by countless churchgoers and forms the basis for much Charismatic thought. Even the evangelical leaders John Piper and Wayne Grudem have expressly endorsed White’s doctrine, approving his teaching that the Holy Spirit can bring about unholy consequences in a person’s life.*
But, to “use” or wield supernatural power is the role of the shaman or magician, not a Christian. It is clearly occult. Mr. White comes close to acknowledging this when he says Christians who use occult power for selfish purposes are acting like sorcerers and magicians. However, he tacitly excuses his own “use” of the “power” because his intentions are unselfish. And he teaches that those who use occult power for good purposes are good Christians. These are perfect examples of the white magic error and Charismatic re-definition of ‘occult.’
Following is another Charismatic teaching, this one about calling down “God’s touch of love.”It also reveals the Charismatic redefinition of ‘occult’:
The above writer believes it is okay to call down supernatural power for the benefit of another, but the same practice becomes “incantation or sorcery” when done for selfish purposes: again, the white magic error.
Like Charismatics, Hindi yogis emphasize the importance of good intentions for wielding supernatural power. And, like witches, they distinguish between white and black magic—or “high” and “low” occultism: the basic white magic error. Humility is important, they say, and pride must be destroyed before a person can become great in his faith. Better than Charismatics, however, yogis realize their practices are occult.
Consider the parable of a yoga disciple named Gorakshanath who “had tremendous pride because he had realized the Truth and attained occult power.”11 But in an encounter with another yogi, Garakshanath was outdone. His master said, “I gave you all kinds of occult power, but you were defeated by that yogi, only because of your pride. Now that you have been humiliated, now that your pride has been smashed…before long you will surpass both him and me.” The teaching here is clear: humility is a sign of healthy spirituality and is important for the proper use of supernatural power—a teaching also common among Charismatics.
Yogis, like Charismatics, also rely upon good intentions to receive blessings from God and for protection from evil spirits. Take for example the teaching of guru Sri Ramakrishna, who says that “when there is even a trace of pride in a person, he cannot reach God,”12 and exhorts us to:
This guru is saying that if our intentions are good, God will bless us and we will receive from him, even through occult practice. That is what Charismatics also say.
Consider the following teaching from renowned yoga master Sri Chinmoy, who teaches that to attain supernatural powers should never be the goal of a practitioner, but only a means to spiritual evolution:
Mr. Chinmoy is effectively teaching here that those who practice yoga with good intentions will be blessed, but those who are in it for the power are practicing a “low form of occultism.” This, of course, is just another variation of the white magic error. Note also that Chinmoy, like Charismatics, seeks the (apparently loving) presence of God through occult practice.
Ancient magicians – Eliphas Levi
Will we find the white magic error repeated in other pagan religions? Yes. It is common on the occult path. Take one of Europe’s most famous magicians, Alphonse Louis Constant, a Frenchman who wrote under the pseudonym Eliphas Levi in the mid 1800’s. A master alchemist and self-proclaimed “Magus of Light”, Mr. Levi wrote numerous tomes on magic.
Even though he called himself a magician, Mr. Levi also consdered himself a Christian because he used God’s power (which he termed “Astral Light”) in accordance with God’s will. This, of course, is similar to John White’s self-evaluation. And Mr. Levi would agree with Mr. White on other points. He believed supernatural power is available to everyone, believer or not. He also distinguished between those who use occult power for good, and those who use it for evil; the former he called Magicians of Light or Transcendental Magicians, and the latter he scorned as practitioners of black magic: again, the white magic error.
The writings of Eliphas Levi, Magus of Light, resonate with ideas found in Mr. White’s book When the Spirit Comes with Power, albeit clothed in different religious terminology. To compare their writings is to see how occult spirits lead practitioners to similar beliefs.
Levi the French magician taught that magic is the “secret” of the “science of good and evil [and]…confers on man powers apparently superhuman.”15 The secret, he said, consists in understanding and accessing a universal power, which he refers to as the “Astral Light.” This power, of course, finds its equivalent in John White’s “power of God.” Mr. White taught that the power can be used by men and angels; Mr. Levi taught the same thing about Astral Light. We saw that Mr. White believes God’s power is neither good nor bad, but can be used for good or evil in ccordance with the will of the practitioner. Mr. Levi taught the same thing about the “Astral Light,” calling it a “blind” force. His translator explains that this force, “… is the great medium of occult force, but as such it is a blind force, which can be used for good or evil.”16 And Levi condemned other occultists, especially mystics. In great but unintended irony the Magus of Light wrote:
Here we see an unrepentant magician condemning other occult practitioners: the white magic error. Mystics, says this magician, are the real sorcerers. Now we have come full circle. So, who is the real sorcerer? They all are, of course.
Our futile understanding
All occultists, whether Charismatic or other, are on misguided quests—for spiritual power, for personal change, for truth, or for love. Charismatics call down spirits, seek miracles, wield supernatural power, and claim to be God’s prophets, not realizing that what they are doing is forbidden, wrong, and dangerous. Perhaps some don’t care. They are those referred to in Scripture who will not receive the love of the truth and to whom God sends a delusion. The apostle Paul wrote:
Occultists of any name are just as foolish, just as selfish, just as unselfish, just as loving and just as unloving as others. And just as blind. No – more blind, because they had the word of God but have departed from it. They show they have cast His words behind their backs. They also have dictionaries, but have invented their own definition of ‘occult.’
Sorcery, occultism, mysticism and magic are works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20). Humankind will find them naturally appealing. For this reason, among others, the Bible warns us not to lean on our own understanding but to put all—not a little, but all—our trust in God, and in His commands, including His commands to stay away from the occult:
Moses warns us against relying on our own understanding—or, as he puts it, following the promptings of our own hearts—because we are stubborn seekers who love to flatter ourselves.
Endnotes (Website references were current when quotations were taken. Links have been removed to avoid linking to occult or Charismatic Websites. Full references are in the book.):
* Popular teachers John Piper and Wayne Grudem accept Mr. White as an authority on the Holy Spirit. They expressly endorsed both Mr. White and his book When the Spirit Comes in Power, containing the very teaching we are discussing here, in their own widely-circulated publication, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns About Manhood and Womanhood. At page 41, Mr. Piper and Mr. Grudem wrote, “John White is right when he writes, ‘Some people believe it to be impossible that the power of the Holy Spirit could have unholy consequences in an individual’s life. But it can.’ ” What blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. And Mr. Grudem was himself expressly endorsed by Banner of Truth Trust. Neither Mr. Grudem nor Banner of Truth Trust would recant their explicit or implicit endorsement of the occult doctrine of John White, nor even respond to concerns raised by the author.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
© Ruth Davis, Baruch House Publishing, 2008.