Spiritualism. The expression conjures images of the supernatural, a realm where the imaginary underworld meets reality. Some have called it the new paranormal, but what is it really? Is it a good force? Is it a power to be reckoned with?
We see hints of it portrayed in such movies as Star Wars and Superman and more blatant characterizations of the supernatural in such shows as Ghostbusters and Lucifer. The legends of trolls, ghosts, spooky goblins, vampires, beasts, and demons are on the pages of books in whole sections of school libraries, as well as public libraries and major bookstore chains. Should we be concerned about the prevalence of these themes in our culture and our apparent preoccupation with the supernatural world? Let’s take a further look.
the new paranormal
Spiritualism has become the new paranormal for our times. Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), considered the guru of modern spiritualism, made communication with the spirit world appealing by his use of magic, spells, and supernatural phenomena.1 Today, being called a “science,” spiritualism seems to be more popular than ever. For example, a few years ago, Quartz reported that from 2008 to 2014, the number of people in the USA joining Wicca (a pagan religion that practices witchcraft and nature worship) increased from 340,000 to well over a million.2 At that rate, we might expect those numbers to now exceed two or three million.
The American Heritage Dictionary says spiritualism is “the belief that the dead communicate with the living, as through a medium.”3 These mediums can be referred to as witches, warlocks, or wizards. They serve as contacts between people and the spirit world. This is often done through seances, fortune-telling, or tarot cards.
Closely linked with spiritualism is the belief that the dead are not really dead. And if they are not dead, why not communicate with them? But is the idea of the dead not really being dead a reality or a fable?
what does the Bible say?
This question regarding the state of the dead dates back to Eden, where Satan told our first parents a whopping lie. God told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of a specific tree, they would die, but Heaven’s archenemy argued, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4, ESV4). The contrast was clear. God said one thing, and Satan said the opposite. That is the root of spiritualism—Satan’s sensational lie to deceive people into believing something contrary to God’s word. And he’s been promoting that lie ever since.
Now, why would Satan want to keep that falsehood going? Well, for one thing, he wants us to believe we will never die, no matter what we do in this life, even if it’s bad. He wants us to believe there will be no price to pay for living a sinful life, even though God said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Of course, if Satan can convince people that they don’t die, it only follows that the “dead” can communicate with the living—because they really aren’t dead! Amazingly, this lie is being perpetuated everywhere—in the movies, on the internet, in books, and even in the majority of Christian churches.
But can the dead really speak to us? Many believe so because they claim to have talked to a deceased relative or friend. But were these “visitors” really loved ones speaking from the dead?
The best explanation for that question comes straight from the Bible. “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, ESV). And Psalm 146:3, 4 says that when people die “they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”
Despite what the Bible says, Satan sells the idea that dead people continue to live in heaven, hell, purgatory, or some other limbo where their spirits float around, waiting for a body to inhabit. Such teachings could not be further from the truth because the Bible says the dead know nothing.
But, you say, what about the story of King Saul, who visited the witch of Endor and called Samuel’s ghost up from the dead? That’s a good question, and we must ask ourselves, was it really the ghost of Samuel? The short answer is no. Our verses from Psalms and Ecclesiastes are clear about that. Samuel was sleeping in his grave, awaiting the resurrection morning when Jesus would raise him to eternal life (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
God would not bring Samuel back from the dead to give Saul advice about a coming battle after the wicked king had rejected the prophet’s advice all his life. And, of course, Satan himself has no power to bring people back from the dead.
So, who was the ghost the witch was talking to? Quite clearly, it was one of the “demonic spirits that perform signs” (Revelation 16:14).
Not surprisingly, the Bible warns us that many Christians near the end of the world will “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Attempting to speak to the dead at a séance or consulting a fortune teller is considered direct ways to contact the forces of the spirit world. However, Western culture has come up with a way of mass-producing the ideas of spiritualism for the public. It’s called entertainment.
There is no doubt that movies, music, TV, and media now serve as prolific mediums for the world of spiritualism. In fact, Anton LaVey, who founded the church of Satan, called television the “satanic family altar,” and we shouldn’t be shocked. Television has dramatically changed the way society relates to the supernatural world.5
Old-time TV shows like the 1960s Bewitched were designed to be comedies, but today’s versions of Supernatural and The Walking Dead seem nothing short of demonic. And then there are the live seances conducted on national television by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey.
This obsession with spiritualism in the media has its roots in the film industry. Mae West, an actress from the 1930s, was one of the pioneers who changed Hollywood in this respect. “When she needed a script idea, she would walk about her room saying, ‘Forces, forces, come to me and help me write a script.’ She would then summon stenographers to work with her around the clock as she lay on her bed in a trance-like state, dictating what the spirits gave her.”6
Marilyn Monroe, Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robin Willaims, Heath Ledger, and Johnny Depp all said they intentionally allowed spirits into them so they could play their movie roles better. Writer Alan Moore said he got his inspiration for Marvel Comics from a snake god called Glycon.
Onstage musicians such as Beyoncé tell us they perform with the help of demons. “Sache is my alter ego,” Beyoncé says, referring to her supernatural helper. “When I’m by myself, I can’t do what Sache does.”7
Many actors, musicians, and athletes take their supernatural inspiration from New Age philosophies originally practiced in Far Eastern religions. Tom Brady, former NFL quarterback, says he would listen to advice from his wife, Giselle, before playing in football games. As his “good witch,” she would bring a little altar to the stadium with protection stones, necklace charms, and mantras for him to repeat so he would be safe. Under these conditions, she claimed his team would win.8
And how about our pocket technology? Satan has now harnessed our smartphone apps to infiltrate our minds and souls. Apps like Oni Kara Denwa that has demons call children are designed to help parents discipline their kids. No kidding! If such things continue, there’s no doubt Satan will soon be using artificial intelligence to advance his cause of deception in ways we can’t imagine.
knowing the false from the true
It’s disturbing to realize how deeply our culture is entrenched in the devil’s deceptions of spiritualism. But how can we distinguish between the messages coming from God and those coming from the world of demons? Once again, we must look to the Bible.
“And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:19, 20, NKJV). God’s Word is the final test. Check your movies, music, and apps by the Bible. Measure the voices of your friends and colleagues by the same standard. If they are telling you something different from what you find in the Bible, they are not giving you good advice.
There is a war being waged for your soul. Every day, the raging battle between good and evil touches your life. We are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light so he can deceive us. We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 that we can expect his deceptions in the near future: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (NKJV).
In the realm of spiritualism, the answers for you and me always come from God, not demons. “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NKJV). Go to the Father in prayer. Listen to His voice as you read the Bible. He will give you the wisdom and power you need to avoid the deceptions of Satan in the challenging days ahead.
Bradley Booth is a teacher and pastor writing from Rochester, Minnesota. He has written dozens of books, including the end-time thriller Last Call and the God Said It series for children, available at AdventistBookCenter.com.
1. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Aleister Crowley,” accesed September 29, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aleister-Crowley.
2. Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz, Dan Kopf, “The US Witch Population Has Seen an Astronomical Rise,” Quartz, October 4, 2018. https://qz.com/quartzy/1411909/the-explosive-growth-of-witches-wiccans-and-pagans-in-the-us.
3. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “spiritualism,” accessed September 29, 2023, https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=spiritualism.
4. Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
5. LED Live, “Actors Channeling Spirits (Part 01): Are You Being Entertained by Demons?” YouTube video, March 20, 2020, 58:44, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1ST3rfb2ww.
6. LED Live.
7. LED Live, “Actors Channeling Spirits (Part 02),” YouTube video, November 13, 2020, 35:29, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iO0gKaTTh8.
8. LED Live, “Actors Channeling Spirits (Part 01),” 7:40–9:27.