Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Over the past weeks I have shared some of my experiences with meditation, Buddhism, the Silva Method, and Scientology. Today I would like to talk about things that fall under the broad label of "the occult". Happily, my experiences here were always as an observer and not a participant. Looking back, I really feel that God was protecting me while allowing me to witness, first-hand, the detrimental effects of the occult in peoples' lives.
I was not raised in a Christian home, so I had no guidance when it came to spiritual matters. My journey started as an attempt to improve myself while seeking out the truth about the universe and my place within it. It started with meditation and went from there. Harmless enough, it seemed, but then this is how the enemy works. He ensnares you with the harmless stuff then, before you know it, you are dabbling in things that can put you into deep trouble, even placing your very soul in mortal danger. This is very much the case with the occult. For Christians, it conjures up all sorts of dark ideas, but it can start with something as simple as reading your horoscope in the newspaper, or having your palm read at a funfair. "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13).
The word "occult" comes from the Latin occultus, meaning "hidden" or "secret". In terms of religion, it refers to things of a spiritual nature, not observable by science. Practitioners of the occult attempt to pull back the curtain separating the visible world from the hidden world of the spirit realm. As such, it covers a wide range of practices, from ESP (extra-sensory perception) to astrology. It even encompasses meditation, if that meditation is used as a tool to attain spiritual awareness.
During my teens, I seemed to be surrounded by people who were interested in the occult. A school friend (I'll call him Steve) tried his hand at Tarot cards and Ouija. He was struggling with feelings of rejection from his family and was trying to find a sense of control in his life. He once told me that he woke during the night to see a wall of evil-looking faces staring down at him, mere inches from his own face. Not long after that, Steve and I were talking with the parents of a friend when Steve became extremely agitated and kept insisting we leave. I eventually relented but, as we were saying our goodbyes, the father collapsed and died from a heart attack right in front of us. Later, Steve told me that he had dreamed that very thing a few nights earlier, which is why he had been so determined to leave. He knew the man was going to die. Steve, it seemed, had found a way to view "hidden things" and, even though it frightened him, he seemed to enjoy the sense of power that came with it.
Another person close to me, the mother of a school friend, was heavily into all things occult. She was a lovely person and extremely intelligent, but she eventually slipped into paranoid schizophrenia. For years, she practiced daily the I-Ching and the reading of tea-leaves. Like so many people who get involved in the occult, she seemed to be driven by a desire to know the future. Every person I have ever met who is involved in these "hidden" things is doing so to gain some sense of power in their lives. They want to know what is going to happen tomorrow, and this makes them feel in control of their destiny. Sadly, what they do not realize is that by delving into the spirit realm they are opening themselves up to all sorts of demonic activity. A woman who worked as a nurse at a mental institute once told my wife that approximately eighty percent of the people admitted to her hospital with paranoid schizophrenia had been involved in the occult at some time in their lives. If this is accurate, then the dangers are clear. People may think it is harmless fun, but dabbling in something forbidden by God is never a good idea.
I believe that God forbids this kind of activity for a very good reason. The Bible warns us: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12). By taking part in occult practices, by attempting to draw back the curtain covering hidden places in the spirit realm, we are inviting attention from "spiritual wickedness". Our single point of contact in the spirit realm should be God. He loves us and has a plan for our lives. We should trust Him and turn to Him for all our needs, including our future. The enemy, on the other hand, will lie to us and try to deceive us. God wants to lead us down paths of righteousness whereas the enemy wants to drag us down to our destruction. The Bible instructs us to "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8).
In my next post I would like like to share my conversion to Christianity. Not, as it turns out, the end of my spiritual journey, but the beginning.