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Anglican Soul-Searching About the Occult

Anglican Soul-Searching About the Occult

By Alice C. Linsley
November 25, 2020

When I was 14, I wrote a little tract on the dangers of the occult. I shared it with a few friends and the neighbor lady who befriended me. She told me that what I wrote made sense. I lost that tract long ago, but the principles remain clear in my mind.

Participation in occult activities is equivalent to walking into enemy territory. What may seem benign at first, is spiritually and physically dangerous. The Devil never misses an opportunity to corrupt and destroy through manipulation, lies, and distortions. Those who scoff at supernatural realities are easy targets. Those beguiled by the supernatural become easy prey.

Christians are especially vulnerable. We should refrain from use of Tarot cards and Ouija boards, never participate in seances or shamanic rituals, never purchase occult objects, or visit places that the local populations perceive as inhabited by spirits.

We should avoid forums and groups that explore "spirituality" since this term never refers to orthodox Christianity. Preoccupation with witches, ghosts, and movies or games about the supernatural suggests demonic influence. Anything that incites fear is not of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am speaking from personal experience.

In this life "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). God's power and authority exist independent of human policy, government, and culture, and those who are "in Christ" belong to his eternal realm. We believe in the "visible and invisible" and sometimes find ourselves in situations where we must confront the demonic.

As a child (ages 8-10) I traveled with my family to many exotic places. Experiences in the Philippines, Thailand, and India made me aware of other religions and cultures. I visited the village of headhunters in the mountains of Luzon where I witnessed shrunken heads on stakes. As tourists, we visited Buddhist and Hindu temples, and because my father wanted to visit his mother's birthplace in southern India, we traveled through remote villages. During our travels through India I became extremely ill. My fever raged for 3 days and when it broke, I had no memory of that time of sickness. Years later, I became aware that an oppressive spirit had attached itself to me.

When I was 11, we moved to an old farmhouse in Ohio, and my cousin came to live with us. She brought a Ouija board which she said was a family game. My mother and my cousin played the "game" in the living room on a card table. However, they did not play for long! One night my mother received a message that made her realize this was not a game. She refused to play again, and she insisted that my cousin get rid of the Ouija board.

While my cousin lived with us, I had to sleep on the sofa in the living room. That was when the nightmares began. I had horrible dreams for many months. They involved abandonment, leprosy, being locked up in a dark cell, and the death of my loved ones. Years later, I told my father about those dreams and he cried. He asked me, "Why didn't you say something?" I had no explanation. Today I believe my silence was part of the oppression that had come over me.

I share this early history in the hope of increasing awareness of the dangers of occult involvement. The Ouija board uses an iron-shaped "planche" which is a shamanic device. In rural India it is hung from the branch of a "sacred" tree and used for divination.

Occultism has damaged the Anglican witness

It is likely that the darkness that has fallen on the Anglican community is due to entertaining occultism. Archbishop William Lang established a committee in 1937 "to discuss the relationship, if any, between spiritualism and the traditional teachings of the Anglican Church." By forming the committee, Archbishop Lang legitimized discussion of spiritualism in the Church of England. One of the committee members was Evelyn Underhill, who later withdrew, stating that she was "very strongly opposed to spiritualism... especially to any tendency on the part of the Church to recognize or encourage it."

The committee delivered its report in 1939, and closed with the recommendation that the Church of England engage with leaders of the spiritualist movement: "It is in our opinion important that representatives of the Church should keep in touch with groups of intelligent persons who believe in Spiritualism."

Some American mediums associated with the Episcopal Church include Margaret Duke and the psychic Joanna. The Philadelphia Medium and Psychic Development Group was given a place to meet at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Levittown, Pennsylvania. The former Bishop Charles E. Bennison of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania tolerated Bill Melnyk and his wife Glyn, both priests in that diocese, and self-professed Wiccans.

In September 1967, Episcopal Bishop James Albert Pike participated in a televised seance with Arthur Ford, a Disciples of Christ minister. James Pike died alone in the Judean wilderness, perhaps tormented by demons. Hopefully, he was comforted in his last hours by the Lord Jesus Christ who contended with demons and overcame them.

Anglicans who have embraced Pentecostal practices are encouraged to "discern the spirits," as John 4:1 advises: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." Unfortunately, the trance states that Pentecostals praise as a "gift of tongues" or being "slain in the spirit" closely mimic the trances of occultists. We should beware of spiritual counterfeits.

It is time for Anglicans across the globe to repent of occult activity and to claim the Blood of Jesus to transform us into a body that can exemplify and proclaim the Gospel in purity and in truth.

The Blood of Jesus

God used my early experiences to direct the course of my life and ministry. My work in Biblical Anthropology owes much to those early experiences of cultural and religious diversity. As an adult, I taught World Religions at the university and high school level. I observed nomadic peoples in Iran and studied shamanic practices of Native Americans. In a sweat lodge ceremony, I observed spirits called forth by the shaman. I was not afraid because trusted friends were praying for me throughout the ceremony, claiming the Blood of Jesus over me and praying in the name of the Holy Trinity. A naïve priest friend had insisted on going with me to the sweat lodge, but the next day, he came down with a terrible cold, and when I told the shaman, he responded, "The spirits knew he was a scoffer."

Over the years I have had numerous conversations and correspondences with shamans. These have deepened my understanding of the differences between the shaman and the priest. The typical explanation in anthropology texts reads something like this: "The shaman is a holy person who operates under the influence of his spirit guide. He or she is not attached to an institution or a hierarchy. The shaman's livelihood comes from income earned through work and from the spiritual services rendered to his community. The priest, on the other hand, is part of an institutional hierarchy that provides for his livelihood."

Note that the most important differences are not mentioned. The shaman consults spirits and travels in bodiless form to engage with spirits and other shamans (bi-location). He or she is trained to test the spirits since they often attempt deception. Visions and altered states of consciousness (trances) are induced through use of hallucinogenic substances such as mushrooms or ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is a plant that enables South American shamans to speak with snakes.

The priest is to be filled with the only Spirit that never lies. He is forbidden to consult spirits and engage with mediums. Visions are evaluated according to how well they align with Holy Scripture and Church Tradition. In the Christian Faith, bi-location is the unique power of the Lord Jesus Christ who is present with us in the Eucharist even as we lift our hearts to where He is enthroned in heaven.

Another significant difference centers on blood. The spirits may require offerings of the shaman. These usually involve fruits, tobacco, milk, honey, or incense. If blood is required, only the shaman's blood many be offered. The female shaman may offer her menstrual blood.

The priest at the altar officiates the reception of the gifts of Christ's Body and Blood. The faithful are exhorted to offer as an oblation their souls and bodies as a "living sacrifice" unto God. Throughout the history of the priesthood, going back thousands of years, menstrual blood has been forbidden to be present in the same place as the blood that makes atonement. This is one reason why women were never priests.

Those who follow my research in Biblical Anthropology are aware of my detailed study of the significance of blood among early human populations and primitive people groups. For at least 100,000 years humans buried their loved ones in red ocher powder. Anthropologists agree that this is a symbolic blood covering. They do not agree on its meaning. However, it is safe to say that the practice indicates hope for life after death.

It seems that God has been directing humanity to an understanding of blood as the substance of life and purification. How are we to explain the prevalence of blood sacrifice performed by a priest caste and concern for ritual purity among peoples as geographically separated as the ancient Egyptians, the Sarki of Nepal, and some native peoples of Africa and Australia?

The Hebrew root thr means "to be pure." It corresponds to the ancient Egyptian word for pure, tr, and to the Hausa/Hahm word for clean, toro, and to the Tamil word for holy, tiru (related to the Proto-Dravidian tir, meaning to correct or to rectify). There is a linguistic connection to the Proto-Dravidian word for blood, tor, and the Brahui word for blood, ditar. These people groups, like the ancient Hebrew, perceived blood to have the power to pollute and to purify; to condemn and to justify. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

The blood work of Jesus, the Son of God, is unique and all powerful. No wonder we are urged to receive His Body and Blood reverently, after self-examination, and in great humility! His work on the Cross is condemnation to those who are perishing and life to those who are being saved (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

During my years as an ordained minister I exercised spiritual authority over occult objects, haunted places, and prayed for those oppressed by the powers of darkness. By prayer invoking the power of the Blood of Jesus the "thingness" was restored to occult objects like amulets and masks. By prayer invoking the power of the Blood of Jesus haunted places were cleansed, and oppressed people were brought to a more wholesome state. It is my deep conviction that nothing can stand against the Blood of Jesus!


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