What is Occult? What is Biblical?
by R. Davis
One or more aspects may be present:
1) Occult practice includes seeking God or truth beyond nature, reason, or 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 outside biblical means (God’s word or sacraments).
3) Occult practice involves seeking supernatural energy, spirits, power, presence, influence, action or enchantments.
At its most blatant, occultism involves humans by their own efforts and outside biblical means attempting to bridge the veil between the natural and supernatural realms to see, hear or experience God or the supernatural.
The occult is Satan’s domain.
What is the occult? Longer answer
Examples of occult practices
What the occult is not
What are biblical spiritual practices?
We do not deny the supernatural in true Christian experience
Biblical and occult ways contrasted
A final word about the Word
Your testimonies are wonderful…the entrance of Your words gives light.
The God of the Bible cannot be found through occult spiritual practices. In the occult we find only Satan and his demons. God is God of the Word, but Satan is god of the occult; and in occultism he wreaks havoc upon human souls.
People need to understand that occult practices expose them to satanic influence, open them to demonic attack, and pollute their souls—the King James Bible consistently refers to occult religious practices as “abominations”. The bodies of believers are earthly temples of the Holy Spirit. We must keep them pure, clean, and free of desecration. We must guard ourselves, mind, body and soul; and this includes staying utterly separate from the occult.
But—what is the occult?
We know the names of some occult practices from the Bible, such as magic, necromancy and witchcraft. But most people do not understand what makes these occult. So, for example, if they know someone practicing as a ‘witch’ they condemn it, but if they know someone practicing as a ‘Christian’ yet doing the same thing, they fail to condemn it because they don’t understand what witchcraft is.
We need a clear and accurate definition of the occult. What confusion and ignorance there is in Charismatic circles!—and, indeed, in much of the Church and in the world. As a result, there is widespread disobedience to God’s commands for spiritual practices. And there is widespread suffering when people make contact with demons during occult spiritual practices: they suffer compulsive thoughts, irrational fears and even outright poltergeist attacks. But we have been warned. The Bible DOES warn us of plagues, gall and wormwood that await those who become involved in forbidden spiritual practices, whether deliberately or through ignorance. And we have been warned that Satan masquerades as an angel of light; and so also do his emissaries, pastors and teachers.
If anyone can improve upon my definition and explanations, I encourage them to do so and to let me know. I have found it challenging. I offer this article and my book in fear and trembling, but believing it necessary because I found no clear and definitive explanation of these matters anywhere else. It is not enough to say we just need to be sure our experiences “line up with Scripture.” This is too vague and subjective. Many occultists will tell you their experiences line up with Scripture: Edgar Cayce is an example. Experiences have potential to deceive, and that is why we need an objective test. Such an objective test is offered here: test the spiritual practices against the definition of occult. If it is occult, then the experience deriving from it, no matter how godly it may seem, is suspect.
The noun ‘occult’—used with ‘the’ as in ‘the occult’—means spiritual practices involving ‘hidden’ spiritual mysteries and the supernatural, whence occultism. Used as an adjective, for our purposes, occult means ‘of or relating to the occult’.
Occult practice has certain characteristics, one or more of which may be present in varying degrees:
- Occult practice includes seeking God or truth beyond nature, reason and the rational mind—that is, directly in the supernatural realm apart from God’s word and sacraments.
- Occult practice is based on a belief that communion with God comes through subjective, supernatural experience. (This is not meant to deny the supernatural nature of true Christianity, or our personal experiences of salvation and sanctification, as is explained below. On the other hand, neither do we deny the reality of occult experience: we acknowledge it and warn against it.
- Occult practice involves seeking supernatural energy, spirits, power, presence, influence, action or enchantments.
Another way of explaining it is: the occult involves humans by their own efforts and outside biblical means attempting to pierce the veil between the natural and the supernatural. These efforts might be part of a misguided quest for God and truth, or stem from a desire for feelings of peace and love that sometimes come during occult experience (being manifestations of the angel of light). They might be part of a search for supernatural power to help people, or even to hurt them (so-called black magic); or to develop occult powers such as the ability to tell the future, discern people’s illnesses, or heal people magically; or simply to be enthralled by signs and wonders.
Often, especially in mysticism, occult practice requires altered consciousness. The rational mind needs to be turned off; this is one aspect of seeking beyond reason and the rational mind and can be accomplished through so-called ‘quieting’ the mind in meditation, seeking a ‘still’ or visualized place where you can ‘go’, dulling the mind through chanting or drumming, taking drugs, or attempting to set a mystical mood with music. Through altered consciousness, Satan gains access to the mind, and through the mind he moves on our hearts, souls and even our bodies, where he or his demons somehow evoke feelings of peace or love, or cause manifestations such as jerking, vomiting, electrical currents, etc. Manifestations and feelings of love and peace are some of the subjective experience aspects of occultism. Note, the Word of God has no place here.
A special word about mysticism, since it is gaining ground in the emerging Church and in so-called “contemplative prayer”: One author describes it as follows, noting the typical characteristics of altered consciousness and seeking beyond the Word of God and beyond reason (or, as he puts it, “ordinary understanding”):
“Although defying exact definition because the practices and experiences of mystics are so various and mysterious, one dictionary defines mysticism as, ‘the doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding, or of a direct, intimate union of the soul with God through contemplation and love.’ Note that in contrast to God revealing Himself in Scripture, mystical truth is individually, intimately, and immediately intuited through spiritual experiences.”
“In his book The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James identified four main characteristics of mystical experience: first, ineffability; second, noetic quality; third, transiency; and fourth, passivity. James also notes that absorption, fusion, or union of the individual into the Absolute, or deity, is “the great mystic achievement.” He adds, “In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness.” On this point, James apparently suggested a fifth characteristic of mysticism—absorption.” *
Sometimes, Charismatics alter consciousness by quieting themselves and “waiting on a Word” so they can grasp at some supposed revelation from God and offer it as a prophesy. This is seeking supernatural influence or power, what the Bible calls divination. During such practice Satan takes this opportunity to plant his darts—visions, thoughts, lies, etc—in the mind. Such practice amounts to an open invitation to Satan to come and do his work in your mind. (I do not deny that God sends words of knowledge sometimes, but that this would ever come in response to occult seeking.)
Occultists find that active and intelligent use of the mind interferes with their experiences. Thus, they learn to disparage reason and the intellect. This is one of the ways Charismatics turn believers away from the Word of God; they seek experience over intelligent study of the Word. It is a sign of satanic influence when people disdain reason in spirituality and attempt to warn those who value truth and seek discernment that they are on the wrong path. (“You should be more loving!”). Satan wants us to disdain reason and discernment. This plays into his hands because a dull mind is easily manipulated.
Examples of occult practices
Examples of occult practices (this is far from an exhaustive list):
- Emptying the mind, meditating, focusing on one thought or object to attain a peaceful state or subjective spiritual experience.
- Visualizing the breath moving in unnatural ways.
- Speaking with the dead, including entering trance states to speak with dead people, pets, or Mother Mary (necromancy).
- Channeling spirits and prophesying in another voice.
- Channeling animal spirits: roaring like a lion, etc.
- Passing electrical currents or waves of heat through laying on hands.
- Speaking to demons or angels. This is part of the problem with deliverance ministries. Telling angels and demons where to go was the work of ancient magicians who used wands to order them about. Now, Charismatics send them to the abyss, or to a waterless place, etc.
- Waving flags to keep demons away, or anointing with oil.
- Calling down a spirit to feel its ecstatic influence (soaking in the spirit, called samadhi in yoga).
- Submitting to a spirit it so it can “have its way” with you (manifestations, spiritual drunkenness).
- Calling down spirit to work with it—dig in the heart, etc.
- Seeking supernatural knowledge from dreams or visions.
- Waiting for ‘prophetic words’ or supernatural insight into peoples’ illnesses or problems (taught in Alpha) .
- Casting spells or curses.
- Breaking off spells or curses (reverse voodoo).
- Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki and Acupuncture which channel ‘spiritual’ energies (as they imagine).
- Attempting to develop supernatural prophetic powers such as gifts of healing or prophetic gifts (divination).
- Developing spiritual eyes (called ‘opening the third eye’ in yoga) to see angels and demons (clairvoyance).
- Conjuring gold dust and ‘manna’ miracles (pure Magick).
See how the Word of God has no place in any of these? They are all counterfeits of biblical practice. Occult worship includes endless repetition of verses in a song so the meaning is lost and one enters into a dulled state.
The notion that one must assemble under an anointed elder or pastor to receive the Holy Spirit called down through Charismatic practices is in my view a clever counterfeit of public assembly in the name of our Lord to receive of Him through the sacrament of Holy Communion. It appears that in the counterfeit and occult “sacrament,” demonic spirit can be received at the hands of demonically anointed ministers, and there follows a very real communion with occult spirits during “soaking in the spirit” and spiritual drunkenness (very aptly named).
I have explained more about much of this in my book, True to His Ways, and show how Charismatic practices and teaching very closely resemble yogic and magic practices and teachings. The occult pastor or priest is more akin to the Hindu guru than to a Christian minister.
One meaning of occult as an adjective is ‘hidden’, and it is often used in this sense in medicine (e.g. an occult bleed). But occult religious practices are not necessarily hidden or secret rituals. Nowadays, much occultism is openly practiced in Charismatic Churches, in yoga classes, etc.—even in our schools. When it comes to the occult, the word ‘hidden’ refers to where we seeking, that is, in the hidden, spiritual realm.
The occult is not selfish religion or religion for evil people. Sure, some satanic sects are nasty. But usually ordinary people seeking to fill a void in their life, or to learn about spiritual things, are lured into it. (I have discussed this more fully in my book.)
Occultism is not some sort of deeper spirituality for really spiritual people, except in the sense of experiencing the depths of Satan. Christian mystics might claim their practices are truly spiritual and those who read the Bible are ‘religious’ or stuck in a ‘dead letter’. But if we believe the Bible, those mystics are fleshly and carnal, since witchcraft and all occult pursuits are works of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-20). As to the Word of God, Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
What are biblical spiritual practices?
“But,” the reader might be asking, “What’s left? If all those spiritual practices are occult and forbidden, there is nothing left.” If we are talking about seeking after mystic ecstasies, supernatural visions or prophetic powers, then perhaps there is nothing left: there is nothing left for those who want to divine illnesses, see the future, interpret dreams or impart spiritual power. There is nothing left for those who seek supernatural gifts of healing, conjuring gold dust, power over demons, or power to raise the dead.
But for those who seek wisdom and truth, much is left. For Jesus was sent to those who love truth, not to those who seek signs and wonders. His truth is – He is – the pearl of great price.
What is left is simple. But yet, it is difficult. What is left may not seem spiritual, but it is. What is left is unappealing to the flesh: indeed, is anathema to the natural man, for the natural man seeks not the things of God, and to him the things of God are foolishness. But to the spiritual man who loves truth, the joys of biblical practice are undeniable.
Men and women find and commune with their spiritual Father in 4 ways, and this is what true, life-giving spirituality is all about:
- Reading, learning and studying the Father’s Word—the Bible.
- Praying to the Father with thoughtful, intelligent prayer.
- Doing the Father’s will; i.e., walking in obedience.
- Through the sacraments ordained by the Lord: Baptism, and, as we continue in our walk, the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper is greatly ignored in the modern Church, to our great loss, for by it, if it is rightly and reverently performed, we are fed and noursihed by the spiritual bread and wine of the body and blood of the Lord, unto eternal life. By this means of grace we receive of the Lord, the Word, in a very real way.
There is nothing occult about these practices. In doing them, no child of God is attempting to pierce the veil. Yet he does, provided he has the Spirit of God, by these means, through Christ, find and abide with the Father who is beyond the veil in the Holy of Holies, in the ark of the Testimony and under the mercy seat. Here is the life-giving Testimony (Word) of God, and the way in to it and to Him has been opened by and in His Son. And His testimony is spirit and life. Go only to His Word in faith and there by the Spirit is your access to the Father—to His mind, His thoughts, His will and His love. The more you partake of His Word, the more you appropriate His life into your soul: His Word is humbling, and it is sweetness and it is life. Pray constantly: pray to Him with reason, love, reverence and thoughtfulness. Exercise your own will to obey His as you discover it in the Word. Seek Him, the Word incarnate, in the upper room in His supper, (which this writer has found to be most fruitfully and reverently performed with the aid of the traditional Book of Common Prayer in those few Anglican and Episcopal Churches which have remained faithful).
Through these practices we do not challenge demons or become involved in occult spiritual warfare, though indeed they are a sort of spiritual warfare. Our battle is with pride, temptations, our own sin, and the flesh. The gifts we develop include meekness, mercy, love, peace, a sound mind, and a precious understanding of God’s Word as the Holy Spirit illumines its meaning. We learn to praise God in all things. We should be free of poltergeist experiences, as this author has been since leaving the Charismatic Church. We should find ourselves being conformed more and more to the likeness of Christ, and growing more in faith, hope, charity, and peace.
We do not deny the supernatural in true Christian experience
It is not that the supernatural is ‘wrong’. That’s not the point. The point is that it is wrong for humans, whom God has placed in the natural and temporal realm, to, through unbiblical or occult means, reach outside into the supernatural. It is also wrong to invite supernatural spirits into the natural realm, much less into one’s mind or heart—God forbid! It is wrong and it is folly.
We do not deny that man is spirit and partakes spiritually of that other realm, in mysterious ways having to do, I suspect (but do not know), with the mind as a point of contact through thought and belief. Nor do we deny the supernatural aspects of true Christian experience. Salvation is supernatural—a wondrous miracle. The believer’s union and communion with God the Father by His Spirit is supernatural and our experience of it is subjective. God’s love shed abroad in our hearts and His tenderness moving us to new mercies are miracles. God grants miracle healings and answers to prayer. We say only, leave supernatural work to Him! Be content with the humble and obedient ways He set for us to find Him, to learn of Him, and to abide in His presence.
As to visions and angels in the Bible: when godly people in the Bible prophesied or saw angels or visions, they were always first moved by God or moved upon by Him. They never sought these experiences, which did not come through occult ritual.
Biblical and occult ways contrasted:
Biblical practice – stays natural
1) Biblical practice includes seeking truth in God’s Word through the natural senses—sight, hearing and reason. The Holy Spirit teaches each believer who so applies him or herself, or provides the teacher.
2) Biblical practice is based on a belief that God’s Word is an objective truth to which we must conform while denying the flesh and being ever alert to the deceptions of the heart and subjective impressions.
3) Biblical practice means relying upon God to perform wonders of sanctification in our souls for His glory and pleasure while we walk in humble obedience to His moral and spiritual commands.
Occult practice – goes supernatural
1) Occult practice includes seeking God or truth beyond nature and the rational mind—that is, in the supernatural realm. Reason and the natural senses are usually disdained. Occult teachers abound.
2) Occult practice is based on a belief that communion with God comes through subjective, supernatural experience, and emphasizes reliance upon feelings and impressions.
3) Occult practice involves seeking supernatural energy, spirits, power or presence, and often emphasizes growing in the ability to work supernatural signs and wonders.
Any person who seeks God outside His Word and sacraments is on a wrong path. But sometimes occultists dress up their practices as if they were based on the Word: we see this blatantly in the Charismatic Churches.
Although Christian (so-called) occultists dress up their religion as if it were biblical, satanic influence can be seen in the way they actually suppress the Word of God. Satan wants to keep people away from the Bible, because they might find the truth there. In many Churches, people will correct you or exclude you if you show too much concern for the truth and teachings of Scripture. The wife of a Charismatic pastor told me not to refer to the Scriptures in our Alpha classes, where we were trying to lead people to Christ—no, she said to me, do not even open the Bible! And I know a couple who were actually dismissed from an apostate Church for asking a priest to teach from the Bible.
Let no one deceive you about the primacy of the Word of God.
Occult strongholds do not come down easily. Explore the articles on this Website. Exercise reason and pray to come to a right understanding.
* Note – the description of mysticism is by Larry DeBruyn, reference: Church on the Rise (Indianapolis: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2007) 183. My quoting from others does not imply that I endorse all they say, nor that they endorse anything I say.