Talking With the Dead


Definition One Only
Talking to Dead People Paganism
As the Romans Do Joan of Arc
The Witch of Endor Veneration
Dead Men's Bones Nailed to the Cross
Saints that Ain't Maggid
Santeria Spiritism


Definition

Moses criminalized the practice of certain arts by the people of God. Found listed among these is 'necromancy,'


  • "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
  • "Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
  • "For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
  • "Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God."
  • (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

What is the practice thus criminalized? Literally, a necromancer, ודרשׁ אלודרשׁ אל המתים, is a seeker after the dead, a person who inquires of [el] the dead:

01875 דרשׁ darash daw-rash’
a primitive root; v;

AV-seek 84, enquire 43, require 12, search 7, misc 18; 164

1) to resort to, seek, seek with care, enquire, require
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to resort to, frequent (a place), (tread a place)
1a2) to consult, enquire of, seek
1a2a) of God
1a2b) of heathen gods, necromancers
1a3) to seek deity in prayer and worship
1a3a) God
1a3b) heathen deities
1a4) to seek (with a demand), demand, require
04191 מות muwth mooth
a primitive root; v;

AV-die 424, dead 130, slay 100, death 83, surely 50, kill 31, dead man 3, dead body 2, in no wise 2, misc 10; 835

1) to die, kill, have one executed
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to die
1a2) to die (as penalty), be put to death
1a3) to die, perish (of a nation)
1a4) to die prematurely (by neglect of wise moral conduct)
1b) (Polel) to kill, put to death, dispatch
1c) (Hiphil) to kill, put to death
1d) (Hophal)
1d1) to be killed, be put to death (Online Bible Dictionary).

Other translations: "one that consulteth the dead" (Darby), "one who inquires of the dead" (ESV), "that asketh counsel of the dead" (Bishops Bible), "that asketh counsel at the dead" (Geneva), "one seeking unto the dead" (Young's Literal Translation), "that seeketh the truth from the dead" (Douay-Rheims), "who seeks oracles from the dead" (NRSV), "one who calls up the dead" (NASB).

There is no indication in the text that there is a 'good way' and a 'bad way' to do this. It isn't the methodology, but the seeking of contact, which is forbidden.

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Catholic Heaven



One Only

There is one, and one only, object of prayer offered in the Bible, the living God. In the Bible, prayer is to God alone: "O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come." (Psalm 65:2):

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  • "Truly my soul silently waits for God;
    From Him comes my salvation.
    He only is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my defense;
    I shall not be greatly moved. . .
    My soul, wait silently for God alone,
    For my expectation is from Him.
    He only is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my defense;
    I shall not be moved."
  • (Psalm 62:1-5).


Talking with Dead People

Roman Catholics talk to: i.e., communicate with,-- deceased persons noted for their sanctity in this life. They do this in a religious setting, for example in church. Is this practice Biblical?

The Lord forbade communicating with the dead to His people: "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NKJV).

The Catholic Church agrees: "There is a sect called spiritism, whose members try to call back the souls of their departed friends by superstitious practices; these deluded people say they hold communication with the dead. But such communication, whether it really be with the dead or with evil spirits, is forbidden to Catholics." (Religion, Doctrine and Practice, Francis B. Cassilly, S.J., p. 362).

But wait a minute -- what is prayer but "communication"? Perhaps it isn't what you are doing but how you are doing it that is the problem. If so it would be helpful to see where the Bible makes any such distinction between the 'good way' and the 'bad way' of calling up the dead.

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Paganism

Entreating deceased friends and relations for assistance was common pagan practice in the ancient world:

"For some time a woman known as Dedi, the wife of a priest living in the region of Memphis about the 20th century BC, had been worrying over the prolonged illness of her serving maid, Imiu. She could not run her household properly without assistance, and the apparent indifference of her husband, Intef, only sharpened her anxiety..When she could no longer tolerate the situation, Dedi sat down and wrote a letter to her negligent husband, taking him to task for his insensitivity to her suffering. 'Why do you want your threshold to be made desolate?' Dedi asked. 'If there's no help from you, your house will be destroyed; don't you know that it is this serving maid who maintans your house among men?'...Although Dedi had accused him of being insensitive to her concerns, Intef had a fairly good reason for keeping silent: He had died some time earlier. In Dedi's view, a common one, death did not necessarily preclude her husband from helping out around the house. Indeed, in this particular instance, Intef would be of more use to Dedi in the Realm of the Dead....Only by the intervention of her dead husband could Dedi hope to have the serving woman restored to health. 'Can you not fight for her day and night?' Dedi asked. 'Fight for her! Watch over her! Save her from all those doing her harm! Then your house and your children shall be maintained....Fight for her,' she urged. 'Now!' Having finished her letter, Dedi filled the bowl with food and left it in Intef's tomb." (What Life was Like on the Banks of the Nile, pp. 137-138).

Entreating deceased persons for favors is by no means a universal pagan custom, but neither is it in any way uncommon or unusual. The first century Gentiles among whom the gospel went forth no doubt included many who found it natural to reach out to deceased persons and solicit help from that quarter in the trials of life. Another example, from Crete:

"Minos’ sons, they say, were Deucalion and Molus, and to Deucalion was born Idomeneus and to Molus was born Meriones. These two joined with Agamemnon in the expedition against Ilium with ninety ships, when they had returned in safety to their fatherland they died and were accorded a notable burial and immortal honours. And the Cretans point out their tomb at Cnosus, which bears the following inscription: 'Behold Idomeneus the Cnosian’s tomb, and by his side am I, Meriones, the son of Molus.' These two the Cretans hold in special honour as heroes of renown, offering up sacrifices to them and calling upon them to come to their aid in the perils which arise in war."

(Siculus, Diodorus. Complete Works of Diodorus Siculus (Delphi Classics) (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 32) (Kindle Locations 7835-7841). Delphi Classics.)

These distinguished gentlemen fought at Troy. Roman Catholics seem sometimes to be under the impression there is something unique or out of the ordinary in invoking deceased persons for assistance, as if Christianity must have invented that. Christianity didn't invent it. Therefore caution should be exercised, what if this is just pagans being pagans?

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As the Romans Do

Nor was communion with the dead a preoccupation only of exotic peoples; many Roman families maintained a domestic gallery of death-masks and sculpted busts of departed, but still active, family members. These ancestors were revered, next after the gods: "'Having now performed for you the duty I owe to our family, I protest by the gods, whose temples and altars we who carry on the succession of the Appian family honor with common sacrifices, and by the genii of our ancestors, to whom after the gods we pay the next honors and gratitude in common, and, above all these, by the earth, which holds your father and my brother, that I have put at your disposal both my mind and my voice to give you the best advice.'" (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, quoting the speech of Gaius Claudius against Appius, Roman Antiquities, Book XI, Chapter 14).

The first century Latin poet Statius takes it for granted that his friend's deceased wife Priscilla will make it her business, upon her demise, to intercede for her surviving husband with the powers that be:

"Moreover, whenever a shade approaches that has won the praise of a loving spouse, Proserpine bids summon joyful torches, and the heroines of old to come forth from hallowed bowers and scatter the shades of gloom in radiant light, and strew garlands and Elysian flowers before her. Thus doth Priscilla enter the kingdom of the dead; there with suppliant hand she prays the Fates for thee, and placates the lords of grim Avernus, that having fulfilled the term of human life thou in old age mayst leave thy prince still giving peace to the world and still young! The unfailing Sisters take oath to grant her prayers. (Statius, Silvae, Book V, I, lines 258-262, p. 287 Loeb edition)

Those Romans, newly come to Christianity, who expected deceased persons to intercede on their behalf were continuing a normal cultural expectation. It is not a Biblical expectation however. Is this one of those cases where Rome conquered Christianity? It cannot be a case where Christianity conquered Rome, because New Testament Christianity follows no such custom.

The world of classical antiquity was much like our own; wildly contradictory views co-existed in the population. But despite the cultured despisers of traditional Roman ideas about the afterlife, the bulk of the population likely continued with the older ideas, amounting nearly to ancestor worship. While some Romans were open to foreign imports including Epicurean materialism, for which persistence of the soul post-mortem was problematical, competing foreign imports like the philosophical tradition of Pythagoras and Plato, or the mystery religions with their promise of everlasting life, were able to find an abundant place for the traditional expectation that deceased persons might be powerful allies, or enemies. It is jarring to realize that the Roman Senate continued to enroll deceased emperors into the empyrean, even after these emperors had become Christians: "Constantine the Great died in 337 A.D. He has met with rare and deep appreciation from many different points of view. The Roman senate, according to the historian of the fourth century, Eutropius, enrolled Constantine among the gods; history has named him 'the Great;' and the church has proclaimed him a saint and equal of the Apostles." (History of the Byzantine Empire, Alexander Vasiliev, Kindle location 502). The expectation that such a person could become a powerful protector posthumously was already embedded in pagan practice and belief, it owes nothing to Christianity. Constantine's Arianizing son, Constantius, was accorded like honors: "Constantius died during the Persian campaign in Cilicia. . .The Senate enrolled the deceased emperor among the gods." (History of the Byzantine Empire, Alexander Vasiliev, Kindle location 561). The pagan Romans did not 'learn' from Christianity that 'saints' could be powerful advocates, they already believed that; in fact it is more likely the information transfer ran the other way, that Christianity 'learned' this information from paganism.

It is interesting to realize another people group, the Chinese, worshipped their ancestors much as did the Romans. Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci 'went native' in reaching out to the Chinese, stirring up controversy in his tolerance for Chinese ancestor worship. But it seems they do that anyway.

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Joan of Arc

Some Roman Catholics report establishing two-way communication with the dead. Joan of Arc claimed to be in communication with Saints Catherine and Margaret, deceased at the time:

"It was at the age of thirteen and a half, in the summer of 1425, that Joan first became conscious of that manifestation, whose supernatural character it would now be rash to question, which she afterwards came to call her "voices" or her "counsel." It was at first simply a voice, as if someone had spoken quite close to her, but it seems also clear that a blaze of light accompanied it, and that later on she clearly discerned in some way the appearance of those who spoke to her, recognizing them individually as St. Michael (who was accompanied by other angels), St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and others. Joan was always reluctant to speak of her voices. She said nothing about them to her confessor, and constantly refused, at her trial, to be inveigled into descriptions of the appearance of the saints and to explain how she recognized them. None the less, she told her judges: 'I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you.'" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Article Joan of Arc).

These two deceased ladies revealed to Joan, among other things, future events. They remonstrated with her: "She agreed to sign a recantation, and was condemned to life imprisonment. But then she said that Saints Catherine and Margaret had spoken to her again, and rebuked her for her recantation, which she now withdrew. In consequence, she was taken to the Old Market Square in Rouen, and burned alive." (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p. 390). It's odd that these deceased ladies should turn out to be French patriots, but in any event they were deceased.

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The Witch of Endor

The Biblical grounds for criminalizing calling up the dead does not appear to be the futility of the practice, because it is not in all cases impossible:

"Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

"Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself." (1 Samuel 28:3-14).

Many other things forbidden in the law of Moses are also possible, such as murder and adultery. But God said not to do it!


Soul Sleep

"Worshipping the Dead"

Not only do Roman Catholics communicate with deceased persons noted for their sanctity in this life, they also 'venerate' them, kneeling before images of these departed saints. This practice was legalized by the council, accepted as ecumenical by Roman Catholic, called Second Nicaea.

  • "For I have heard in turn that others, who are out of their minds on the subject of this holy Ever-virgin, have done their best and are doing their best, in the grip both of madness and of folly, to substitute her for God...The words, 'Some shall depart from sound doctrine, giving heed to fables and doctrines of devils,' apply to these people as well. For as the scriptures say, they will be 'worshipping the dead' as the dead were given divine honors in Israel...For in Shechem, that is, the present day Neapolis, the inhabitants offer sacrifices in the name of Core, because of Jephthah's daughter, if you please, who was offered to God as a sacrifice. And for those who have been taken in by it, this has become the misfortunate of idolatry and the worship of vain things."
  • (Ephipanius, Panarion, Section VII, 58 [78], 23.2-23.6).

Do modern Catholics fall under Epiphanius' condemnation? They have set up a continuum of degrees of worship, with the highest falling to God alone, the lesser forms to created beings: "Let us understand that there are different degrees of worship." (John of Damascus, On Holy Images). But the Bible does not describe a continuum, rather an on/off switch: on for God, off for the creature.

Relics

In the law of Moses, death defiles; God's people sought to avoid pollution by avoiding human remains. The Lord's words call this to mind: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness." (Matthew 23:27). But nowadays the Roman Catholic Church cannot stop collecting dead men's bones.

  • "What can you say as to this, that it is attested by the writings of authors, that many of these temples which have been raised with golden domes and lofty roofs cover bones and ashes, and are sepulchers of the dead? Is it not plain and manifest, either that you worship dead men for immortal gods, or that an inexpiable affront is cast upon the deities, whose shrines and temples have been built over the tombs of the dead?"
  • (Arnobius, Case Against the Pagans, Book 6, Chapter 6).

A practice that grew up in Judah, evidently similar to the practice at Westminster Cathedral in England, of interring deceased kings beneath the pavement of the temple:

"In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcasses of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever." (Ezekiel 43:8-9).

Under the standards of the holiness code, death defiles, and the living God does not appreciate the companionship of deceased kings. Death is as far as the east is from the west from the holiness of God, and so contact with remains of deceased persons requires purification:

"He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean." (Numbers 19:11-15).

The habit of collecting the body parts of martyrs, wherever it started, likely did not start among the Jewish church, whose members would be reluctant to come into contact with body parts. The only support which can be marshalled from the Bible in favor of the practice comes from 2 Kings,

"And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet." (2 Kings 13:21).

However this passage is not prescriptive. It describes what did happen on that occasion, it does not lift the law of Moses nor instruct people to go out of their way to come into contact with dead bodies.

The importance of collecting the remains of renowned persons was already a familiar concept to the pagans, who expected good things to come to the possessors of such trophies:

"The body they buried in the grove of the temple of Jove, that no foreigner might find it out; the reason of this act was that the Orchomenians had searched far and near for it at the instigation of the oracle, who promised them the greatest felicity if they could get the bones of Hesiod and bury them in their city." (Plutarch (2011-03-17). Complete Works of Plutarch — Volume 3: Essays and Miscellanies (Kindle Locations 9844-9847). The Banquet of the Seven Wise Men. Kindle Edition.)

Is this just another instance of the pagans being pagan?

Nailed to the Cross

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2:13-15).

The old law has been nailed to the cross. Christians are not obligated to observe the holiness code of Moses' law. However the law continues to provide a window into the mind of God, and its condemnation of idolatrous and pagan practices has at no time been abrogated or contradicted. Christian rejoice in the "law of liberty" (James 2:12). It is less than obvious, however, why one would wish to introduce practices not known to the Bible, suspiciously similar to the customs of the nations, against which Moses legislated.

Saints that Ain't

Among the departed saints venerated in the past by Roman Catholics has been numbered...Gautama Buddha. Having your own religion is no bar to getting listed on the Roman Catholic calender:

Barlaam and Josaphat found their way into the Roman Martyrology (27 November), and into the Greek calendar (26 August)...The story is a Christianized version of one of the legends of Buddha, as even the name Josaphat would seem to show. This is said to be a corruption of the original Joasaph, which is again corrupted from the middle Persian Budasif (Budsaif=Bodhisattva)." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907, Article 'Barlaam and Josaphat.')

Mary   Mary: Mediatrix?


Mary

The most striking feature of Roman Catholicism is its devotion to Mary. Mary is 'Exhibit A,' a deceased human being, in no way God incarnate, with whom millions of Roman Catholics commune daily, pouring out to her their troubles and concerns. There were plenty of overlooked gods in the pagan pantheon who never received this level of devotion. No doubt she is in heaven with her Son, but what scriptural warrant is there for her elevation to the status of prayer-granter? What are the teachings by which Rome justifies the elevation of this woman to such a high and exalted status?


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Roman Catholics believe that Mary was a virgin, not only at the time of Jesus' birth as the scriptures teach, but throughout her life. Unlike the Immaculate Conception, which is a medieval doctrine, Perpetual Virginity finds supporters in the early church, though much of the early support is based on works like the Protevangelium whose authenticity cannot be defended. Is there any evidence for Mary's perpetual virginity in the Bible?


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Since the middle of the nineteenth century Roman Catholics have believed and taught as dogma that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. Is this concept Biblical?:



Immaculate Conception


Thriceholy Radio



Jesus rose from the dead, the first-fruits of those who sleep. To some it seems as though it stands to reason that some change in the locale, condition or situation of the righteous dead would have occurred at the same time, and apocryphal works like the Gospel of Nicodemus hazard speculations on that theme. This change was not a change from non-existence to existence, for Jesus said, "Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him." (Luke 20:37-38). If any of these speculations have any bearing on our theme here, it must be recalled that they are plausible human speculations only:



Some people say, what's the problem if that Roman Catholicism has brought in 'new' practices, like praying to deceased persons, since the Roman Catholic Church is protected by God from error. Where does the Bible say this? If it were so, why warn of apostasy?:

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30);

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2);

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (1 Tim. 4:1-3);

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4);

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.)

It seems superfluous to warn people about eventualities that can never come to pass in any event. Evidently they can come to pass. Wherefore is it known, "The Church does not deny that, with a special permission of God, the souls of the departed may appear to the living, and even manifest things unknown to the latter." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Article 'Necromancy.') Was a 'special permission' given to Joan of Arc? Who would know?

We see in the Bible that it is possible for a church to lapse into apostasy and be rejected: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:14-16). If we are admonished that such a thing is possible for the church of Laodicea, but not for the church at Rome, where is any such circumstance ever stated in the Bible?


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Maggid

Amongst the Jewish people, King Manasseh was a pioneer of the Kabbalah. He engaged in the practice of necromancy, communicating with a familiar spirit:

"Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. . .And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger." (2 Chronicles 33:1-6, see 2 Kings 21:1-6).

The word 'maggid' means 'preacher,' and many have with profit found a still-living preacher to serve as a reliable teacher and guide. And then there are the Kabbalists, who seek a familiar spirit to light their path:

"The most remarkable figure in this respect was R. Samson b. Pesah of Ostropol, who died a martyr's death at the head of his congregation in Polonnoye in the Ukraine during the 1648 massacres. . .Like other outstanding kabbalists (Joseph Karo, for instance), he was reported to have had a maggid, that is, a celestial, angelic mentor who appeared to him every day to teach him kabbalistic mysteries. Maggidic revelations, by the prophet Elijah or other heavenly visitants, occasionally provided the sanction for novel and daring speculations. . .Maggidim, holy angels, or the souls of departed saints speaking either to the kabbalist or through his mouth (often in a voice different from his usual one) had their counterparts on the 'other side' in the dibbuks, demons, or evil souls that possessed some unhappy or mentally sick creature. R. Samson's contemporaries knew that his maggid had warned him of the impending massacres, and that at the maggid's behest Samson had repeatedly preached in the synagogue and exhorted the people to repent. . . .And when the enemies came and besieged the city, the kabbalist [R. Samson] went into the synagogue accompanied by three hundred members of his congregation, all of them great scholars and all of them dressed in their shrouds and wrapped in their prayer mantles. There they remained in prayer until the enemies entered the city, and all were killed in the synagogue on holy ground." ('Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah,' by Gershom Scholem, pp. 82-83).

Did none of these three hundred heroic scholars awaiting the Cossacks know what a 'python' was, or that ventriloquism was a hallmark of their presence? Rabbi Samson was doing exactly what Moses said not to do:

"A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:27).

"And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people." (Leviticus 20:6).

"Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:31).

"And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?" (Isaiah 8:19).

To call a thing what it is, these kabbalists cultivate a familiar spirit, just as do the idolatrous nations:

"And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards." (Isaiah 19:3).



Recalling that Joan of Arc believed herself to be in communication with Saints Margaret and Catherine, it is worth noticing the Kabbalah has a 'French connection.' The Kabbalah got its start in the South of France, where, coincidentally. . .or maybe not so coincidentally. . .there was a major gnostic revival already underway:

"The Kabbalah, in its historical significance, can be defined as the product of the inter-penetration of Jewish Gnosticism and neoplatonism. In addition, Provence in these years was the scene of a powerful religious upheaval in the Christian world, when the Catharist sect gained control of a large part of the Languedoc, where the first centers of Kabbalah were to be found." (Kabbalah, by Gershom Scholem, p. 45).

It is not very likely this convergence at the same time and place was a coincidence, nor is it likely the smaller movement was the tail wagging the dog; rather, the Kabbalah is most likely derivative from the religion of the gnostic Cathari, then experiencing a major break-out in this part of the world. Tragically, the Roman Catholic Church, having lost all ability to respond to heresy by apologetics, instead resorted to genocide. Of course, these 'New Age' concepts of spirit guides and ascended masters are found all over, they are in no wise localized to one country or region. They are part of the gnostic heritage that peeks up above ground here and there and at various times, when Satan grows sufficiently bold to stage a revival. One common recurrent idea that plays a role in efforts to communicate with the dead is the concept of reincarnation, which is part of the Kabbalah, even including the threat of humans becoming animals:

"We have it by tradition that when Moses our Rabbi — peace be unto him! — said in the law, 'O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh' (Num. xvi. 22), he meant mystically to intimate that metempsychosis takes place in all flesh, in beasts, reptiles, and fowls." (Avodath Hakodesh, fol. 49, col. 3, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4417).


Roman Catholics tend to view the practices of their own church as sui generis, as if they must have arisen within a gospel context. But when these specific practices are in no way distinct to Catholicism, but are in fact the heritage of pre-existing religious traditions, these practices should be carefully scrutinized and compared with Bible teaching, lest they prove to be no more than accommodation to pagan culture.

Santeria

When slaves were brought in chains from Africa to the Caribbean, they did not necessarily draw from their change in circumstance and clime the conclusion that they ought also to change their religion. That conclusion was drawn for them. Lacking the political power to contest the issue, they took their devotions underground. While they continued to adore the deities known to the Yoruba religion, like Babaluye-Aye, they 'baptized' them as Catholic saints, so the Orisha known as Babaluye-Aye became the Lazarus of Jesus' parable. To the slave-master's eyes, here were slaves praying to various Catholic saints, which is allowed, and all was well. Meanwhile the people were continuing to practice their religion much as they had practiced it in Africa; the gods had new names, that's all.

This was not the first time large masses of people were ushered into the Christian faith without really wanting to go. Many of the Northern European tribes were command converts, baptized upon the conversion, or military defeat, of their chieftain. Entire populations were baptized upon command, in mass conversions. These people were not convinced converts, they were just going through the motions, doing as they were told. No doubt their strategy was the same as that of the Yoruba devotees: they renamed their gods. This is how Roman Catholicism ended up with the heavens populated by a full panoply of saints: this one specializes in child-birth, that other one manages the weather, pray to yet a third when you plant your crops, then there's another one in charge of the harvest. . .there is an efficient division of labor, just like in the pagan pantheons. These 'Christian' saints are specialists, as were the pagan gods they displaced.

In fact these are the very same pagan deities that have been there all along, they've just gone underground. Even Catholics cannot help noticing the resemblance: "But if we understand 'God' to be all those beings who are venerated through invocation, prayer, hymns, or the offering of gifts, then a great many Christians are polytheists." (Hans Kung, Christianity and the World Religions, p. 260). The Roman Catholic authorities naively imagined they could 'educate' the offspring of the first unwilling converts into Christianity; instead their offspring remained half-pagan. They got stuck in the half-Christian phase, and infected the original mass with the same disease.

It should not be forgotten that the original pagan paradigm of specialization of labor in the heavens, here mimicked, was the special target of the prophets' scorn:

"If in fact departed saints are not authorized and not enabled to hear and answer the prayers of suppliants on earth, then the people are in the condition of those who trust in gods who cannot save, who have eyes that see not, and ears that cannot hear. That the saints have no such office as the theory and practice of invocation suppose is plain, because the fact if true cannot be known except by divine revelation. But no such revelation exists. It is a purely superstitious belief, without the support of either Scripture or reason. . .If this be so, then how dreadfully are the people deluded! How fearful the consequences of turning their eyes and hearts from the one divine mediator between God and man, who ever lives to make intercession for us, and whom the Father heareth always, and causing them to direct their prayers to ears which never hear, and to place their hopes in arms which never save. It is turning from the fountain of living waters, to cisterns which can hold no water."
(Hodge, Charles (2015-02-13). Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Locations 30230-30239). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Paganism did not die a natural death. It was violently and forcibly murdered, by the police power of the state:

"The last decree against the pagans was issued by Theodosius in the year 392. It prohibited completely the offering of sacrifices, burning of incense, hanging of garlands, libations, divinations, and so forth. It also declared all who disobeyed these ordered guilty of offense against the Emperor and religion and liable therefore to severe penalties." (History of the Byzantine Empire, 324 to 1453, Alexander Vasiliev, Kindle location 831)

But the result of this premature, violent end was, paradoxically, that paganism did not die. It just went underground. The gods were renamed, but suffered no other disgrace nor abandonment, nor have yet.

Spiritism

This modern religious movement has labored mightily to disentangle itself from consumer fraud. In the bereaved, still smarting from the raw wound of the departure of the person most important to them, some enterprising folks see opportunity, and have always done so:

"There is a well-known popular bit of writing, which undertakes to summon up from the abode of Hades the souls which have actually slept out their full age, and had passed away by an honorable death, and had even been buried with full rites and proper ceremony. What after this shall we say about magic? Say, to be sure, what almost everybody says of it — that it is an imposture." (Tertullian, On the Soul, Chapter 57, p. 427).

One gets the impression the witch of Endor was the most surprised person in the vicinity,— terrified, really,— when, by the grace of God, Samuel appeared. Instead of supplying the 'special effects' herself, as those in her profession are normally obliged to do, she watched in wonder. But the worst thing that can happen to the gullible bereft parent or spouse who visits a medium isn't losing the money. Episcopal Bishop James Pike, whose son committed suicide in a New York City hotel room, spent the next several years trying to make contact with the deceased young man. Make contact he did: with something, a demon perhaps? No doubt this pioneering Episcopal Bishop, never ejected for heresy, was an important precursor to Bishop John Shelby Spong and his other spiritual progeny in the Episcopal Church today.


  • "We know that the names of the dead are nothing, as are their images; but we know well enough, too, who, when images are set up, under these names carry on their wicked work, and exult in the homage rendered to them, and pretend to be divine — none other than spirits accursed, than devils."
  • (Tertullian, On the Shows, Chapter 10).


A movement arose in the nineteenth century that gathered quite a following in its day:

March 31. 1848, then marked, as far as most church historians are concerned, the rise of modern Spiritism. On that date Mrs. John Fox, of Hydesville, New York, heard peculiar noises in the upstairs rooms and cellar of her home. Margaret and Katie Fox seemed to be peculiarly sensitive to these noises, and through this sensitivity they developed into mediums, and their communications became known as 'The Rochester Rappings." (The Kingdom of the Cults, Walter R. Martin, p. 201).

The remedy for familiar spirits is the Holy Spirit:

"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." (Acts 16:16-18).