In case you haven’t noticed, the occult is back from the dead. In the 1980’s, there was a large surge in occult involvement that ranged anywhere from participation in what was/is called the New Age movement, to spiritism, horoscopes, and even open satanic worship. After some years, however, the interest in the occult seemed to give way in the world to an attitude that favored philosophical naturalism, which denies any spiritual dimension to life whatsoever. Scientism – the belief that science is the only source of truth – gained ground and resulted in a total dismissal of anything supernatural.
My, how the tide has turned yet again.
We are now living in a culture that some are calling “Generation Hex”. In the same way Postmodernism resulted from a dismissal of Modernism’s failure and naturalist-only rigidity, the occult revival being experienced throughout the world may be the direct outcome of humanity’s rejection of scientism’s lie that a spiritual world does not exist. Atheists may try and tout increasing numbers but various surveys consistently show otherwise. As an example, the two-year worldwide study done by the Search Institute’s Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence found that only 7% of the adolescents they spoke with were unsure that a spiritual dimension to life exists.
While such a thing sounds good on the surface, there is a danger with a spiritual hunger that turns to junk food instead of the real thing. If a person rejects God and holds the Creator’s funeral, something will take His place. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The danger in disbelieving in God is not that a person believes in nothing, but that a person will believe in anything.” And that “anything” can be spiritually deadly.
Witness two recent trends that bear out this generations’ fascination with the occult. Ask any youth pastor what religion they are competing with the most and you won’t hear “Islam” or “Buddhism”, but instead you’ll hear them say “Wicca”. Wicca, or “the craft”, is an animistic religion that attempts to control and benefit from the spiritual powers that supposedly inhabit everything on the earth. Its morality is summed up in its simple mandate “An’ ye harm none, do what ye will” and its god is Gaia, who is described by Wiccan Scott Cunnigham in his book, Wicca: A guide for the Solitary Practitioner, as “The source of fertility, endless wisdom and loving caresses… She gives birth to abundance… Since the Goddess is nature, all nature…She is omnipresent, changeless, eternal.”
The popularity of Wicca can be demonstrated by the Web site witchschool.com, which is a fully functioning school that boasts more than 130,000 students and a staff of over 300. Not small potatoes by any definition.
A second trend that shows high interest in the supernatural and occult is the current fascination with vampirism. Whether it’s the HBO series True Blood, the Twilight/Eclipse series of books and movies, or Disney Channel's My Babysitter's a Vampire, many seemed enthralled with the idea of vampires, with some going to the extreme of acting it out.
Recently, a 19-year-old in Texas, claiming to be a 500-year-old vampire needing food, broke into a woman’s home, threw her against the wall, and tried to suck her blood. Another case was found in Florida involving a teenage girl who was charged with four others for beating a 16-year-old to death. They claimed to be part of a vampire cult, with one teenage girl calling herself a vampire/werewolf hybrid.
Not surprisingly, both trends directly promote activities that are in direct conflict with God’s Word. Regarding witchcraft, the Bible says: “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer (Deuteronomy 18:10). And on the topic of vampirism, the Scripture says: “And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:10–11).
The occultic siren song drawing those who are looking for spirituality apart from God is energized with slick packaging and marketing and, like Wiccan Scott Cunnigham, casts its god as something winsome and beautiful. But as Hamlet said, “The spirit that I have seen may be a devil; and the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape.”
Generation Hex has forgotten that evil is rarely ugly on the outside. Rather than something that repels and is frightening, real evil is attractive on the surface and is inviting. In his book, Hostage to the Devil, Jesuit Malachi Martin describes an encounter a Catholic priest had with a demon possessed person. When the priest commanded the demon to stop scaring the person it was inflicting, the clergyman was corrected by the demon who said, “We do not frighten our prospects.”
The open invitation this generation is giving what it thinks is a friendly and helpful spirit will result in disaster for itself. In truth, Satan doesn’t care whether people reject the spiritual world in which he exists or embrace his spiritual lies; the end result is the same. This was well described by C. S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters work where a chief demon tells his understudy: “Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence, we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism, and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God]. . . . If once we can produce our perfect work – the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls ‘Forces’ while denying the existence of ‘spirits’ – then the end of the war will be in sight.”
Such a time may be closer than we think. In the recent movie Thor, based on the Marvel Comics book hero, Thor tells his earthly companion, “You have magic and science. Where I come from they are one in the same.”
What can the Christian do about the resurgence in occult interest? First, we should embrace unbelievers’ interest in the spiritual world and use it as an opportunity to share the truth of Christ with them. Next, we need to train ourselves so that we are able to discern truth from error and not only help others see the light of the gospel, but also protect our family from its influences. As the writer of Hebrews says, "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14, emphasis added).
And finally, we need to remember that God is in control, is using the evil of the occult to ultimately bring about good and show His glory, and will have the victory over Satan. It’s said that Martin Luther was so sure of the devil’s presence on one occasion that he threw his ink bottle at him. But Luther wasn’t worried about Who has the upper hand in the war on evil. As Christians we can confidently sing along with Luther the third stanza of his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God” knowing that the deception of the occult will be unmasked and God will be victorious:
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us
The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him