Friday, May 27, 2011
Is There Anything Wrong
In this series:
What Do You Know About Witchcraft?
What You Should Know About Witchcraft
Dabbling in the Occult—What's the Harm?
Is There Really a Devil?
What You Should Know About Witchcraft
MODERN-DAY witchcraft is hard to define. This is because those who practice it vary so greatly. They recognize no central authority or doctrine or holy book to unify belief. They also differ in tradition, organization, ritual, and opinion as to what gods to honor. Remarks one writer: "The occult world offers to the individual a 'free marketplace' of ideas." Says another: "Most Neo-Pagans disagree on almost everything."
For many, the contradictions are not a problem. One guidebook for aspiring witches states: "When you're challenged with seemingly contradictory information, examine this information and make a decision as to which to follow. Listen to your intuition. In other words, feel free to pick and choose among the published rituals and ritual textbooks to decide what feels right."
For those who recognize the nature of truth, such contradictions are a problem. Truth is fact, that which is real. Things are not true simply because a person feels or hopes or believes that they are true. For example, at one time doctors believed that they could cure pneumonia by cutting a live chicken in two and laying the pieces on the patient's chest. Doubtless, many patients sincerely believed that this treatment would cure them. Their beliefs and hopes, however, were not in harmony with fact—such a procedure does not cure pneumonia. People do not create truth; they reach out to comprehend it.
The Bible claims to contain the truth about spiritual matters. Jesus Christ, when on earth, said to his Father in prayer: "Your word is truth." (John 17:17) The apostle Paul wrote: "All Scripture is inspired of God." (2 Timothy 3:16) Many who practice witchcraft do not agree. Instead, they look for inspiration and guidance in myth, ancient religions, and even science fiction. Is it not reasonable, though, at least to consider what the Bible says? After all, it is almost universally recognized as a holy book. It is also one of the oldest religious texts that has survived. The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years, yet it is consistent throughout in its teachings. Let us compare the Bible's teachings with some common beliefs currently expressed by those who promote witchcraft.
Many today view witchcraft as a harmless nature religion
Who Dwell in the Spirit Realm?
A basic question in the quest for spiritual understanding is this, Who inhabit the spirit realm? While most modern witches are followers of a nature-oriented, polytheistic faith, some worship a great mother-goddess, viewed in a triple role of maiden, mother, and crone, representing the basic stages of life. Her lover is a god with horns. Other witches worship a god and goddess together. One writer says: "The Goddess and God are seen as a manifestation of the feminine and masculine forces of nature. Each [having] unique characteristics that when combined result in the harmonious creation of life." Another authority writes: "One of the most pivotal choices in Witchcraft is your choice of the deities (Gods/Goddesses) you will work with. . . . The Craft gives you the freedom to pick and subsequently honor your own forms of the Divine."
The Bible supports none of these ideas. Jesus Christ devoted his entire ministry to teaching others about Jehovah, "the only true God." (John 17:3) The Bible states: "Jehovah is great and very much to be praised, and he is to be feared more than all other gods. For all the gods of the peoples are valueless gods."—1 Chronicles 16:25, 26.
What about the Devil? Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines witchcraft as "communication with the devil." It would be hard to find a witch today who would agree with this definition, for many do not accept even the existence of Satan the Devil. One young woman, described in The Irish Times as a "high-ranking witch and leader of one of Ireland's most significant covens," reasons this way: "Belief in the Devil implies acceptance of Christianity . . . [The Devil] cannot inhabit a universe where there is no God."
The Bible confirms the existence of the Devil and charges him with much of the suffering and turmoil on earth. (Revelation 12:12) Jesus not only taught that the Devil exists but also showed that it is possible unwittingly to do the will of the Devil. For example, self-righteous religious leaders of the first century asserted that they were, in a way, sons of God and believed that they were doing the will of God. Jesus, who could discern what was in their hearts, knew differently. He told them forthright: "You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father." (John 8:44) Further, the Bible book of Revelation states that the Devil "is misleading the entire inhabited earth."—Revelation 12:9.
Is Some Magic Good?
Magic, of course, has always been associated with the occult.* Many people in both ancient and modern times believe that the magic practiced by witches is performed to bring harm to others. Witches are credited with the power to inflict severe pain and even death by means of magic. Traditionally, witches have been blamed for an almost limitless array of misfortunes, including illness, death, and crop failure.
Witches today strongly deny such charges. While acknowledging the existence of the occasional rogue witch who pursues evil, most maintain that their magic is used to bring benefits, not harm. Wiccans teach that the effects of magic will return threefold to the person practicing it and say that this is a major deterrent to the pronouncing of curses. Examples of this so-called benevolent magic include spells to protect yourself, to purify your home from negative energy left behind by former tenants, to make a person fall in love with you, to promote healing and health, to prevent the loss of your job, and to acquire money. With such sweeping powers being attributed to witchcraft, it is not surprising that it has become so popular.
Magic has always been associated with the occult
The Bible, however, makes no distinction between magic that is good and magic that is evil. In the Law given to Moses, God made his position quite clear. He said: "You must not practice magic." (Leviticus 19:26) We also read: "There should not be found in you . . . a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium."—Deuteronomy 18:10, 11.
Why did God say that? It is not because he intends to deny us what is beneficial. Jehovah gave these laws to his people because he loved them and did not want them to become enslaved by fear and superstition. Instead, he invites his servants to approach him for the things they need. He is the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect present." (James 1:17) The apostle John assured fellow believers: "Whatever we ask we receive from [God], because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes."—1 John 3:22.
Are practicers of witchcraft unknowingly doing the will of the Devil?
What About Evil Spirits?
Many witches agree with the Bible on this point: Evil spirits do exist. In one essay a promoter of witchcraft warns: "The Shadows are out there: They exist, in the invisible world that parallels our own, living creatures. . . . The terms 'Imp', 'Evil Spirit' and 'Demon' are fairly accurate. They are very strong. . . . The most intelligent variety . . . are capable (if someone is helpful enough to open a doorway for them) of entering our world. . . . They can enter your body . . . , even asserting a degree of control over you. Yes, this is exactly like the old stories of Demon possession."
In Bible times, demon possession afflicted people in various ways. Some of those affected were unable to speak, some were blind, some acted insane, and some possessed superhuman strength. (Matthew 9:32; 12:22; 17:15, 18; Mark 5:2-5; Luke 8:29; 9:42; 11:14; Acts 19:16) At times the agony was compounded when many demons gained possession of a person simultaneously. (Luke 8:2, 30) Surely, then, there is good reason why Jehovah warns people to stay away from witchcraft and other occult practices.
Religion Based on Truth
Many are drawn to witchcraft today because it seems to be a harmless, benign, nature religion. In some communities it has become accepted. It is not feared. Rather, it has often become trivialized. In a climate where religious tolerance leads many to embrace even the bizarre, witchcraft has gained considerable respectability.
The Bible reveals the way of truth
Indeed, the world of religions has become a marketplace from which people are free to choose one that fits their needs, much as one would buy a pair of shoes. In contrast, Jesus spoke of only two choices. He said: "Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it." (Matthew 7:13, 14) Naturally, we are free to choose which path to take. But since our eternal welfare is at stake, that choice is vitally important. To achieve spiritual enlightenment, we must pursue the way of truth—the way that is found only in God's Word, the Bible.
* In English, some use the spelling "magick" to distinguish the difference between the occult variety and stage illusions. See Awake!, September 8, 1993, page 26, "Is There Danger in Practicing Magic?