Category Archives: Paranormal

Should astrology or horoscopes be taken seriously?

Astrology at one time was looked upon with great seriousness by the educated classes. For many centuries people believed that the earth was the center of the universe, and this mistaken cosmology led to the conviction that the personality and character of people could be influenced by the position of the heavenly spheres at their time of birth.

Since the introduction of modern astronomy, it became impossible for any serious-minded scientist to accept the original principles of astrology. Besides the fact that the heavenly bodies are at a much greater distance than our ancestors believed them to be, their positions in the sky have drastically changed with the passage of time.

After the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment made the original basis for astrology untenable, there have been numerous attempts by occultists to maintain confidence in it by mystical and occult means.

Though there is no genuinely scientific basis for astrology, millions of people resort to daily horoscopes for guidance in their lives. If nothing else, this behavior shows how deeply religious people are, and how strongly they long for a basis for hope and faith. It may not harm someone to read horoscopes, but anyone taking them seriously will be endangered.

At the very least, astrology is a crutch to avoid the effort of seeking out an informed basis for our decisions. At its worse, it becomes compulsive, a false god gripping us with demonic power. This is probably why the Old Testament warns against it (Isaiah 47:13).

(For more information about the occult, see the Discovery Series booklet What’s The Appeal Of The New Age Movement?)

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What Should I Think of what I Experience in Dreams?

Scientific evidence is accumulating that dreams have vital physiological and psychological functions. Our dreams apparently play an important role in creativity and problem solving.

1  This and other scientific discoveries about the important physiological role of dreaming show that the mysterious activity of dreaming is “hardwired” into us by God’s design, for our benefit. For that reason, we shouldn’t fear dreaming.

The Bible illustrates how highly the Hebrews and other ancient people esteemed dreams and those who could interpret them (Genesis 41; Daniel 2), and that they viewed dreams at times as natural (Ecclesiastes 5:3), as evil (Deuteronomy 13:1-2; Jeremiah 29:8), or as divine revelation (Genesis 28:12-13; Genesis 37:5,9). ( See the ATQ article Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

Like the daydreams and thoughts that drift into our minds in our conscious state, dream fantasies generally seem spontaneous. Sexual activity, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and uncontrollably in dreams. In dreams, all of us do things we certainly would never do if we were awake. We also have nightmares that seem to express our deepest fear and insecurity.

Many people describe having had “lucid dreams.” In lucid dreams, we are aware that we are dreaming and are sometimes able to choose our actions. Some early Christian ascetic monks actually believed that we are responsible not only for what we do in our waking state, but for what we do in our dreams. These monks withdrew from society and dedicated themselves to an isolated life of grueling hardship. Their solitary focus on subjective experience may have made them aware of some things that most of us don’t experience.

Occultists in many cultures have been interested in lucid dreams and have sometimes sought to cultivate lucid dreams and increase control over their fantasies. Such efforts to use occult technique to gain control over one’s dreams are sinister. At the very least, they focus attention away from the real world into a fantasy. At the worst, it may open one’s mind to overtly demonic or subconsciously destructive influences. (See the ATQ articles Why Is It Dangerous for Subconscious Images to Penetrate Our Waking Consciousness? and Why Are Channeling and Mediumship Dangerous?)

To the degree we are aware that we are dreaming and to the extent that our dreams are under our control—that is, lucid—we may be responsible for our actions and shaping our character by our choices.

However, the vast majority of dreams aren’t lucid. Most dreams are fantasies created by our sleeping brain from random memories. In certain ways we feel especially vulnerable when we are sleeping. But God never sleeps. He is always guarding and protecting us (Psalm 121:1-3).

Scripture nowhere indicates that God holds us responsible for what happens in our dreams. But our dreams should serve as a vivid reminder of how dependent we are on His love and grace.

  1. See the papers, “Sleep Inspires insight” in Nature magazine, January 2004 (Wagner, Gais, Haider, Verleger, and Born, from research at the University of Luebeck) and “REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks” (Cai, Mednick, Harrison, Kanady, and Mednick). (The Mednick paper is at Back To Article
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Can Christians Be Hurt by Witchcraft or Black Magic?

God is the Creator and Master of the natural world. Satan is only the master of illusion. He deals in hallucination and deceit. Any limited powers over nature he may possess are entirely circumscribed by God, but he can control susceptible minds. People in Satan’s power are obsessed and hypnotized by evil. The source of black magic’s power is fear. Academic writers have documented the life and death power of pagan magic over people who believe in it.

Dr. Herbert Basedow (1925), in his book, The Australian Aboriginal, has presented a vivid picture of the first horrifying effect of bone pointing on the ignorant, superstitious and credulous natives, and the later more calm acceptance of their mortal fate: The man who discovers that he is being boned by any enemy is, indeed, a pitiable sight. He stands aghast, with his eyes staring at the treacherous pointer, and with his hands lifted as though to ward off the lethal medium, which he imagines is pouring into his body. His cheeks blanch and his eyes become glassy and the expression of his face becomes horribly distorted. . . . He attempts to shriek but usually the sound chokes in his throat, and all that one might see is froth at his mouth. His body begins to tremble and the muscles twist involuntarily. He sways backwards and falls to the ground, and after a short time appears to be in a swoon; but soon after he writhes as if in mortal agony, and, covering his face with his hands, begins to moan.

After a while he becomes very composed and crawls to his wurley. From this time onwards he sickens and frets, refusing to eat and keeping aloof from the daily affairs of the tribe. Unless help is forthcoming in the shape of a countercharm administered by the hands of the Nangarri, or medicine-man, his death is only a matter of a comparatively short time (Walter B. Cannon, “Voodoo Death,” American Anthropologist, vol. 33, 1942).

Another anthropologist described the circumstances in which superstitious fear can take hold:

In “Voodoo Death” (Cannon 1972 [1942]) a person violates a taboo, such as walking on sacred ground, [or] eating a forbidden fruit, and, shortly after discovering that a taboo has been violated, the person is dead. The closely related phenomenon of “hex” death (Seligman 1975, p. 1977) occurs when a person learns that they have been cursed by someone with the appropriate technical knowledge and supernatural authority. As in the case of voodoo death, hex death kills within hours or days. While such deaths exhibit a fairly standard set of physical symptoms, they cannot be attributed to external agents such as poisons or bacteria nor to externally induced physical trauma. The death is psychosomatic.

A person who violates a taboo has broken the deepest rules of their culture and thereby is thrust outside the protective web of memes and traits which give meaning and structure to the world. The person who is cursed believes that someone else has severed the link between their soul and the cultural forms and practices in which that soul lives its life. Such people are in a situation where, in effect, they see no hope of ever again satisfying their higher reference levels. They are cut off from their culture. That kills them as surely as being cut off from food or water (William Benzon, Culture as an Evolutionary Arena).

In spite of the power pagan sorcerers and witch doctors hold over people who accept their authority, Christian missionaries confront “powerful” witch doctors with immunity to curses and black magic. I personally recall a confrontation between a Christian missionary in Haiti and several witch doctors at a famous voodoo shrine, the missionary laughing at their threats while ripping their inverted cross fetishes out of the ground and throwing them into a nearby lagoon. On another occasion, a voodoo houngan actually placed a curse on a son of this missionary, only to die himself in the time frame he had set for the death of the boy. Another witch doctor cursed the womb of a woman newly converted to Christianity. When she became pregnant, she fled to the mission compound and lived there for several months out of fear for her baby. Concerned for her feelings, but realizing that she was giving in to her fear, the missionaries helped her understand that the witch doctor’s curse had no power over a believer indwelt with the Holy Spirit’s power. She moved back home, and in a few months delivered a healthy baby boy.1The Bible describes the awesome power of the Creator (Genesis 1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 8:3-4; Proverbs 8:29; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 44:24-28), a power that instantly brought the material world into existence and is equally capable of instantly destroying it. The feeble magic of demons and sorcerers can no more thwart such boundless power than a grain of sand can stop a tsunami or a drop of rain the eruption of a volcano.

Obedient people empowered by God’s blessing and immersed in His favor are impervious to Satan’s power. A loyal child of the Creator stands in the power of the Creator (Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 18:10; Ephesians 6:16).

Since vulnerability to black magic is rooted in fear and lack of trust, Christians can count on God’s protection when they submit to His authority. But if they actively suppress or ignore God’s moral law for selfish purposes, they enter the realm of the demonic and become vulnerable to its power. If they live a gangster’s lifestyle, they become vulnerable to its dangers.  If they live by Satan’s code, they become subject to its rules. Sin and rebellion feed and magnify fear. Trust in God is manifested by a willingness to resist sin.

Christians should also keep guard over their imaginations, thinking of the admonitions of Paul and James:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8)

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

If we don’t put our trust in God, we may become more and more obsessed with Satan. In the Middle Ages, imaginations obsessed with Satan’s power led to the witch craze, causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be tortured and killed. The witch craze was the consequence of people becoming so obsessed with satanic power that they viewed the normal tragedies of a fallen world as the result of black magic. (See the ATQ article, Did Church Authorities Seek to Eradicate Paganism in Europe by Killing Millions of “Witches”?)

Once a person has accepted the authority of Jesus Christ, he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within (John 14:16-17). All of us are susceptible to the temptations and trials of the “world, flesh, and devil.” However, the Creator God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and will protect us if we are willing to trust Him enough to do right. The focus of spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life needs to be his own sinful nature and desires. We don’t need any rituals or charms to protect us. Just a simple prayer for protection, and willingness to acknowledge and forsake any conscious sin is enough.2

  1. This baby boy went on to be raised by his Christian parents, attended mission schools and college, and now is an accountant. This family’s courage to resist Satan’s lies made it possible for their family to be lifted out of the most extreme poverty and spiritual darkness to new horizons of spiritual and material hope. Back To Article
  2. Using the metaphor of a well-equipped Roman soldier, Paul told us how we could be prepared for spiritual warfare. We are to put on the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:11-18), which includes:
    • The belt of truth. Since Satan depends on deceit to maintain his power, our first line of defense is always truth. We must never distort or misrepresent the truth, regardless of any advantage we might gain by doing so.
    • The breastplate of righteousness. Any sin in our life leaves us open to Satan’s attack. Even though we are given the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), we must still continually put on the protection of holy living.
    • The shoes of the gospel of peace. With our feet firmly planted on the truth that we are at peace with God and that He is on our side, we can stand firmly against Satan’s attacks.
    • The shield of faith. In order to quench the “fiery darts” of Satan’s temptations, we must trust and believe what God has said about every area of our life.
    • The helmet of salvation. This is the confidence that there is coming in the future a great victory celebration. It is also referred to as the “hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This helmet protects us against Satan’s missiles of discouragement and doubt.
    • The sword of the Spirit. Since the Word of God is the basis of our faith, we need to learn how to wield it with authority. Scripture is our best offensive weapon against the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12).

    After he described the various elements of the armor, Paul said that we are to be in constant prayer. Prayer expresses our dependence on God. We can fight against Satan only “in the [strength of] the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). In the power of Christ and with the armor of the Spirit, we will be victors. Back To Article

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What Does the Bible Say About Witchcraft?

The Scriptures condemn all sorcery as opposed to a proper sense of dependence upon God. In Galatians 5:20, witchcraft is listed as being one of the acts of the sinful nature. The book of Revelation contains several passages that condemn sorcery in the strongest terms ( Revelation 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15 ).

The Bible asserts that only God has the right to understand the realm of the supernatural ( Genesis 40:8 ). Under Old Testament law, intrusion into the realm of the occult made one worthy of death ( Exodus 22:18 ). 1

Interestingly, several Greek words in the New Testament that are translated “witchcraft” and “sorcery” have the root pharm, from which our words pharmacy and pharmaceuticals are derived. This root refers to “drugs, potions, and poisons.” Those who are familiar with the practice of sorcery, both among primitive tribespeople and modern occultists, know that psychoactive drugs are often used by shamans and sorcerers 2 to induce dramatically altered states of consciousness that provide supernatural knowledge or contact with spirits.

1. Also see Leviticus 19:31 ; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24 ; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3 . Back To Article

2. Although the use of drugs as “potions” is common in sorcery and witchcraft, not all modern witches advocate the magical use of drugs. Ritual, meditation, and other magical techniques are often used in their place to produce similar effects. Back To Article

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What Is Witchcraft?

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines witchcraft as:

The human exercise of alleged supernatural powers for antisocial, evil purposes (so-called black magic). A female held to have such powers may be called a witch or sorceress, the male counterpart being named wizard, sorcerer, or warlock. Belief in witchcraft survives in modern technologically developed cultures and remains a potent factor in most nonliterate societies.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines witchcraft in the following way:

a. an act or instance of employing sorcery especially with malevolent intent: a magical rite or technique; b. the exercise of supernatural powers: alleged intercourse with the devil or with a familiar.

and the Colliers Encyclopedia states:

Witchcraft may be defined for general purposes as the use of supposed supernatural power for antisocial ends. In primitive societies where magic is an accepted part of religious ritual, the witch is the unauthorized, and especially the malevolent, practitioner.

Notice that these works refer to witchcraft as the use of sorcery and supernatural power for malevolent intent. Witchcraft of this type exists in nearly every cultural setting. This judgment isn’t merely the conclusion of “Christian culture.” Historian Jeffrey B. Russell, who is not at all hostile toward modern Neopaganism, states:

Folk tales, like dreams, express the concerns of the unconscious in symbols; the meaning of the figure of the witch, like the meaning of any symbol, varies with the story. Usually, however, she represents an elemental natural force possessing enormous and unexpected powers against which a natural person is unable to prepare or defend himself, a force not necessarily evil, but so alien and remote from the world of mankind as to constitute a threat to the social ethical, and even physical order of the cosmos. This manner of portraying the witch is very ancient and probably archetypal. This witch is neither a simple sorceress, nor a demonolater, nor a pagan. She is a hostile presence from another world. The gut terror inspired by this archetypal witch helps to explain the excesses of hatred and fear that welled up during the witch craze.

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