[Note: The writer of this article, in the past, attended several Spiritualist churches; used the Ouija Board many times; participated in seances; received a spirit guide in the mid-1970’s who stayed with her for a number of years; and attended sessions where spirit contact was being done.}
Spirit contact, specifically attempted contact with the dead or ghosts, is growing today. People who have lost loved ones want to know their loved one is okay. People may seek advice from the departed loved one, or guidance from a spirit being on a ‘higher’ dimension, from a guardian angel, or from an advanced spiritual master.
What is Spirit Contact? It is contacting a disembodied being, whether it is believed to be a dead person, an angel, a being in another dimension, an alien, a spirit guide, a spiritual being, an advanced soul, a demon, a higher evolved Master, or any spirit. Spirit contact has been and is common in many cultures that contact dead ancestors and contact the spirit world for advice or for information on the future. In the United States, the religion of Spiritualism, which still exists, teaches that one can and should contact departed souls for advice.
Types of Spirit Contact: There are mediums, channelers, and psychics, most of whom are involved either knowingly or unknowingly in spirit contact. Mediums usually contact beings they believe to be the dead by allowing the spirit to speak through them or by passing on messages from the spirits. Some mediums admit to having several spirit guides; often they will have a main spirit who speaks through them called a “control.” This term, however, is not as common as it used to be. These readings are done at seances, in private readings, or in public settings.
Seances are done with a group of people gathered together, usually in a dimly lit room; someone calls for protection by asking to be surrounded by white light or protective spirits; the medium summons spirits interested in contact, or tries to contact the spirit of a departed loved one of someone present.
Private readings are done between the medium, channeler or psychic and an individual. Public readings are often done on television shows, such as “Crossing Over” with John Edward, who claims to receive messages from the dead relatives of those in the audience. Some popular mediums in the U.S. are Sylvia Browne, John Edward, and James Van Praagh.
Channelers usually contact spirit beings other than the dead — angels, aliens, advanced spiritual beings, enlightened beings. They may do this by allowing the spirit to speak through them, or they may simply pass the message on. J Z Knight claims to channel Ramptha, who claims to be a 35,000-year-old warrior. Lazaris is a being channeled by Jach Pursel. Jane Roberts claimed to receive messages from an entity calling himself “Seth.” These messages are chronicled in the book Seth Speaks and other Seth books. Ruth Montgomery, a former journalist, wrote several books which she said contained teachings channeled from aliens who guided her. The popular Course in Miracles was channeled by Helen Schucman, an atheist, who said that the spirit talking to her was Jesus Christ. More recently, Neale Donald Walsch wrote a series of books that purport to be answers from God to Walsch’s questions [see CANA documents on Conversations with God and Friendship with God for further discussion].
Psychics may use spirit guides, angels, or the spirits of deceased teachers or gurus as a way to help them do their reading, though this is not always the case. Sometimes psychics may be unaware of the help they are getting from spirits.
One thing all these spirits — whether claiming to be the dead, angels, spiritual masters, Ascended Masters, aliens, or evolved souls — have in common is that they give messages often contradictory to the Bible and to Christian doctrine. The messages are sometimes blatantly hostile to Christ or Christianity, or promote ideas contrary to Christianity. The messages also often deny the reality of evil [see CANA document “The Dark Side” on ideas of good and evil in the occult].
The Messages from the Spirits: John Edward’s show, “Crossing Over,” was so popular on the Sci-Fi channel, that it ‘crossed over’ from cable to regular network. Edward approaches a section of the audience and starts giving his ‘impressions’ of what he is getting, whether it be a name, numbers, or a date, until someone responds with information that matches. He also asks the person questions as he tosses out ‘clues’ he says he is receiving. Sometimes it seems that he is throwing out very general information and that the person in the audience is filling in the blanks for Edward. Other times, Edward seems to be uncannily accurate. Is he really receiving messages from dead people?
Interestingly, it seems the dead have a hard time being very clear. For example, they may show Edward pink roses to say that everything is alright, according to Edward, or they may show Edward a flag to indicate their past patriotism in this life. It is sort of like a game of spiritual charades. One wonders about this. Why can’t the dead just speak words to Edward, or write them out on a “spirit chalkboard” so to speak? James Van Praagh, in explaining the difficulty he has in interpreting the symbols shown to him by spirits, said that the recently deceased spirits were just learning to communicate, and so one could not expect all messages to be clear. This raises other questions: Why do recently dead people have trouble communicating? Where do they get these objects that they show Edward and Van Praagh? Why can’t they just project their thoughts into Edward’s mind? Why are their messages so prosaic and, well, boring? The picture one gets of these creatures certainly does not present a very interesting company of people to pass the time with. Why would these spirits have any special wisdom just because they are dead?
Though the spirits always claim to be happy and to be doing well (is Hitler also there with them, doing okay?), we do not know why they are happy and doing well. What do they do, exactly? And if they told us, how do we know it’s true? How can we test these spirits to see if they are lying about anything or everything they tell the mediums? The answer is that we can’t test them based on our own experiences since we haven’t been to the other side. Only God really knows if these spirits are telling the truth, and who these spirits are.
Note that the messages from the “dead,” from the spirits, and from channeled entities never encourage people to believe the Bible, never urge people to trust Christ for salvation, and often openly contradict God’s word or even speak derisively of Christ as Savior. For example, the “God” in Walsch’s books attacks very early on the credibility of the Bible, which he mentions specifically, saying that words cannot contain truth (of course, that should apply to Walsch’s books as well since they are nothing but words!). This “God” also attacks the idea that there is right and wrong, and urges Walsch to abandon previous beliefs. At one point, “God” even tells Walsch that he (Walsch) is God’s equal, and that Adam’s fall was actually his “upliftment,” and that it was not sin, but was a “first blessing,” (Conversations with God, book 1 [NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995}, p. 75). This is directly opposite of God’s word.
Some movies that have popularized spirit contact are “The Sixth Sense,” “What Lies Beneath,” and “The Others.” “The Sixth Sense” gave the message that receiving communications from the dead is a special gift. The young boy in the movie finally accepts this as his gift, and he is able to help someone who is grieving over a death.
In addition to the mediums and the movies, there is the angel phenomenon. Angel books abound. Angels are popularized in movies and on TV shows like “Touched By an Angel.” Workshops are offered to teach one how to contact one’s Guardian Angel. Angels are promoted as guides. In fact, angels are the new spirit guides, and it seems so much safer to contact an angel than just any old spirit.
God does Address the Issue of Spirit Contact. What does God Say About it?
- Deut. 18: 10-12 forbids divination, sorcery, spirit contact, consulting mediums, consulting those who contact the dead, casting spells, and heeding omens.
- Jesus tells us about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, who have both died, in Luke 16. When the rich man pleads that the beggar, Lazarus, be allowed to go back to earth to warn the rich man’s brothers about his separation from God after death, and the terrible place he is in, the rich man is told that his brothers can listen to Moses and the Prophets and be warned that way. When the rich man begs again that “someone from the dead” should go to them, he is told that if his brothers ignore Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced “even if someone rises from the dead,” (verses 27-31). Jesus is not just speaking of someone coming back from the dead, but of his own resurrection from the dead which many refused to believe.
- 1 Samuel 28:11-20: The medium called up Samuel, who was dead, but the medium seemed surprised to see Samuel. Although God allowed Saul to see Samuel, it was for him to receive news of his death the next day. God used Saul’s forbidden consultation with the medium to give him a message that condemned his action. First Chronicles 10:13, 14 follows up by telling us that one reason that Saul is allowed to die in battle is because he consulted a medium.
- Consulting mediums or attempting spirit contact takes us away from seeking God for direction: “And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult 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).
- Leviticus 19:31 puts it clearly: “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” God considers this spiritual adultery (Leviticus 20:6).
- There are two kinds of angels: good angels who serve God, and fallen angels (evil spirits, demons) who serve Satan. Good angels are messengers of God; they serve God, not us. They do not come and go at our command. If one seeks to contact an angel, only evil angels will respond.-2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. Demons serve Satan, and take after him. Why can’t a demon disguise itself as a good angel, a dead person, a wise spiritual ‘master,’ or any other spirit that humans seek?
The spirits responding to contact are not dead people or wise spiritual beings, but evil spirits. The messages from these spirits may mention God, but they never urge Bible study, worship of God, or the need for Christ as Savior. The spirits deny Christ as the Savior or distort His message. God had some pretty harsh words for false prophets who were telling their dreams as though they came from God. This is not too different from claiming to receive messages from the dead and saying that God approves of this, or that it is a good thing, when God has clearly forbidden such contact. This is what God had to say about the prophets who presented their dreams as coming from God, when they weren’t:
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?‘” Jeremiah 23:25-29
We cannot get information from God through spirit contact. We don’t need guidance from wispy spirits playing charades. We don’t need a medium, channeler, or psychic contacting spirits who are playing with our minds and preying on our grief. Instead, God gave us His only son, and He gave us His word in scripture. Through trusting in the work of Christ on the cross as the atonement for our sins, we are reconciled to God. Jesus, who has power over all the spiritual realms, has this to say:
“I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Revelation 1:17b-18
For a more detailed discussion of this topic, see article by author published in the Christian Research Journal, “I See Dead People: A Look at After-Death Communication.”
For more information on good and bad angels, see: “Angels: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,” by Sue Bohlin.
Also, see the book, Angels Among Us, by Ron Rhodes.