What Theologians Say About Occult Practices

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
The late Dr. Kurt Koch reported that many therapists simply refuse to recognize a problem exists with occult practices, and so perpetuate the problem through false diagnosis and resulting unworkable solutions. Those in countries where occultism is more prevalent have complained to him of “the arrogant attitude of Western scientists and how they simply explain away all mediumistic phenomena as harmless without really knowing the slightest thing about the background or the effects of these phenomena.”

What Theologians Say About Occult Practices

In previous articles we have examined the opinions of a number of authorities and practitioners as to the dangers of psychic or occult activity, but we have not yet entered the domain of the theologian. It is to this we now briefly turn.

The late Dr. Kurt Koch was a German theologian with extensive personal experience in counseling the occultly subjected. He reports that in his 45 years of experience he “has heard some twenty-thousand terrible cases.”[1] Unfortunately, he points out that many therapists simply refuse to recognize a problem exists and so perpetuate the problem through false diagnosis and resulting unworkable solutions.

Those in countries where occultism is more prevalent have complained to him of “the arrogant attitude of Western scientists and how they simply explain away all mediumistic phenomena as harmless without really knowing the slightest thing about the background or the effects of these phenomena.”[2]

Yet in my forty years of Christian work, and as a result of having counseled something in the region of 20,000 individual people, I have personally come across thousands of cases in which it was the contact with occultism that was the root cause of the problem, and the oppression that was the direct result of this contact. In the light of this, I have often wondered why the scientific research workers of today have been unable to produce any form of argument or proof in support of their dogmatic a priori assumptions.[3]

He noted that in the case of the drug thalidomide, the harmful effects were in the ratio of one thalidomide child for every 10,000 doses given. Who today would risk taking thalidomide, even at the ratio of 1:10,000? And yet:

Now, if we were to consider the number of cases in which occultism has had a damaging effect on people, our ratio would work out to something in the region of nine out of ten cases. I could support this fact by means of many thousands of examples. Yet scientists persist in saying “The problem does not exist.” If one’s counseling work were dependent upon narrow-mindedness like this, one would be driven to despair.[4]

According to Koch’s experience, occult involvement is 9000 times as danger­ous as taking the drug thalidomide. Thus, when researchers and alleged authorities make statements like the following, one can but wonder about the quality of the data upon which they base their assumptions.

  • Researcher Guy Playfair asserts in The Unknown Power, “I have nothing against occultism, which is no more harmful than science fiction, and can be just about as entertaining.”[5]
  • Parapsychology professor Han Holzer alleges, “For the record, no psychic healer ever caused anyone any physical harm.”[6]
  • Parapsychology authority Dr. Louise E. Rhine answers the question, “Are automatisms (e.g., automatic writing) harmful?” with “Taken in moderation, they probably are not.”[7]
  • Another parapsychology authority, Ian Stevenson, M.D., who is known world­wide for his research on supposed reincarnation experiences, declares, “I see no reason why interested persons should not try to develop themselves as automatic writers if they feel so inclined.”[8]
  • One well-respected psychologist told us, “You are a fool if you really believe spiritual occult practices have any dangers attached to them.”

Compare the above with Dr. Koch’s conclusions on those actively involved in the occult:

The family histories and the end of these occult workers are, in many cases known to me, so tragic that we can no longer speak in terms of coincidence….
In our section on magic charms we have already given many examples of the tragic end of magic charmers. In many instances we see suicide…, fatal accidents…, psychoses…, or horrible death-bed scenes…. Besides the instances recorded in this study, there are numerous other examples of this kind well known to me, e.g., the leader of a spiritist group in South Wurttemberg who hanged himself, and the leader of another group who ended his life in an asylum. Perhaps we should also mention here some examples from literature. The famous medium Dr. Slade suffered two apoplectic fits; a pioneer in the field of psychical research, Crawford, who made experiments with the medium Kathleen Goligher, took his own life in 1920. In the literature of psychical research we continually find reference to such happenings.[9]

In the case of those passively involved, the consequences are no less disturb­ing. Koch observes that in many instances “occult subjection” has been seen in relation to psychological disturbances which have the following predominant characteristics:

  1. Warping and distortion of character: hard, egoistic persons; uncongenial, dark natures.
  2. Extreme passions: abnormal sexuality; violent temper, belligerence; ten­dencies to addiction; meanness and kleptomania.
  3. Emotional disturbances: compulsive thoughts, anxiety states.
  4. Possession: destructive urges, fits of mania; tendency to violent acts and crime; inhabitation by demons.
  5. Mental illnesses.
  6. Bigoted attitude against Christ and God: conscious atheism; simulated piety; indifference to God’s word and to prayer; blasphemous thoughts; religious delusions.
  7. Puzzling phenomena in their environment.[10]

In Occult Bondage and Deliverance and elsewhere he argues that every sin connected with the occult cuts a person off from God, and that the effects of this transgressing of God’s laws make themselves felt in different areas of a person’s life.

These areas involve 1) moral character, 2) spiritual volition, e.g., moderate to severe difficulty in turning to Christ (such persons “begin to show signs of all sorts of emotional disturbances”—suicidal thoughts, severe depression, etc.), 3) family—families in which the occult has been practiced “are much more prone to mental illness and mental abnormalities than other families,” and 4) the develop­ment of mediumistic abilities.[11]

Koch also gives numerous examples in Between Christ and Satan:

We will just briefly summarize these effects, although it must be pointed out that the list only represents a frequency pattern, and it cannot be assumed that these effects are always the result of occult practices. Nevertheless, people infected or burdened by fortune-telling and occult phenomena very frequently suffer in the following ways:
The characters of such people reveal abnormal passions, instability, violent tempers, addiction to alcohol, nicotine and sexual vices, selfishness, gossiping, egotism, cursing, etc….
Medically speaking the families of those involved in fortune-telling reveal in a remarkable way such things as nervous disturbances, psychopathic and hysteric symptoms, cases of St. Vitus’ dance, symptoms of paralysis, epileptics, freaks, deaf-mutes, cases of mediumistic psychoses, and a general tendency towards emotional and mental illnesses, etc.[12]
… I would like to point out that in my own experience numerous cases of suicides, fatal accidents, strokes and insanity are to be observed among occult practitioners.[13]
It is known particularly in the field of psychiatry that prolonged activity with mediumistic forces produces symptoms of schizophrenia. This has been termed mediumistic psychosis. Psychology too has drawn certain conclusions on the matter, and Professor Bender, a psychologist of the University of Prieburg in his booklet entitled “Parapsychology—Its Results and Problems,” has warned people in these words: “Thousands of people base their hopes on the deceptive statements of spiritistic practitioners and subsequently become dependent upon the advice they receive from the ‘other side.’ I have quite a number of patients who have suffered serious psychic disturbances through the misuse of such practices. Their personalities have been split and they have been utterly confused by the spirits on which they have called.”[14]

The above represents only a few of Koch’s relevant comments, although literally hundreds of examples are detailed throughout his various books.[15]

The findings of other reputable theologians produce similar conclusions. Dr. Merrill F. Unger (Ph.D., John Hopkins University; Th.D. Dallas Theological Semi­nary) is the author of four books on occultism and demonism. He observes:

Both psychiatry and psychology recognize the adverse effects of spiritistic activity upon the mind. Symptoms of split personality appear after sustained dealings in the occult. Psychiatry defines the resulting disorder as mediumistic psychosis.[16]

Elsewhere he points out that occult initiates commonly

…develop antipathy toward true spirituality and reject the Bible as the authoritative word of God. They tend to relax moral standards and to make morality a relative matter…. Those who become involved in spiritualism or in occultism in general become mentally oppressed or enslaved by inexplicable forces. Often they suffer from strong depression, melancholia, psychopathic disorders, and severe psychoses. Suicide is common in occult circles, as are horrible deathbed scenes among practicing occultists, especially when no one is at hand to carry on their occult practices.[17]

In Demons in the World Today and What Demons Can Do to Saints, Unger lists many examples of the terrible harm caused by occult practices.[18]

Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, editor of Demon Possession and author of some 50 books, reveals in his Principalities and Powers:

There is a definite correlation between negative occult activity and madness. European psychiatrist L. Szondi has shown a high correlation between involvement in spiritualism and occultism (and the related theosophical blind alleys) on the one hand, and schizophrenia on the other. Kurt Koch’s detailed case studies have confirmed this judgement…. Being a genuine Christian believer is no guarantee of exemption from the consequences of sorcery and black magic….
The tragedy of most sorcery, invocation of demons, and related practices is that those who carry on these activities refuse to face the fact that they always turn out for the worst. What is received through the Faustian past never satisfies and one pays with one’s soul in the end anyway.[19]

In Demon Possession and the Christian, theologian Dr. C. Fred Dickason details many examples of what occult practices can do to Christians who are foolish enough to disobey God in this area.[20] Problems of demon influence or possession may result from practices engaged in before conversion and this may even extend to the sins of one’s ancestors: “I have found this avenue of ancestral involvement to be the chief cause of demonization. Well over 95 percent of more than 400 persons I have contacted in my counseling ministry have been demon­ized because of their ancestors’ involvement in occult and demonic activities.”[21]

Theologian and psychologist/psycholinguist Dr. Clifford Wilson emphasizes the following:[QUOTE] There are many evidences that dabbling in black magic is dangerous. Alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, insanity and other abnormal conditions are all too often the fruits of such involvement. Even financial disaster can follow those who have been snared and seek to extricate themselves by their own power.[22]

All this explains why Dr. Alfred Lechler, a Christian psychiatrist with wide clini­cal experience, can argue that even in our modern era of scientific advance and cultural achievement, “Demonic subjection is a surprisingly common occur­rence.”[23]

The testimony of scholars like Koch, Unger, Wilson, Dickason, Lechler, and Montgomery cannot simply be swept under the rug. The overall counseling experiences and/or scholarly research of these and other men stand as a testi­mony to the dangers of occult practice.


  1. Kurt Koch, Occult ABC (West Germany: Literature Mission Aglasterhausen, Inc., 1980), p. 282.
  2. Kurt Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1970), p. 32.
  3. Ibid., p. 30.
  4. Ibid., emphasis added.
  5. G. L. Playfair, The Unknown Power (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975), p. 271.
  6. Hans Holzer, Beyond Medicine (New York: Ballantine, 1974), p. 45.
  7. J. B. Rhine and Louise E. Rhine, “Automatic Writing and the Ouija Board” (Durham, NC: Founda­tion for the Research of Man, Spring 1969), Bulletin #12.
  8. Ian Stevenson, “Some Comments on Automatic Writing,” ASPR [American Society of Psychical Research] Newsletter, Jan. 1979, Vol. 5, No. 1, p. 3.
  9. Kurt Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1972), pp. 184-185.
  10. Ibid., p. 188.
  11. Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance, pp. 33-38.
  12. Kurt Koch, Between Christ and Satan (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1962), pp. 49-50.
  13. Ibid., p. 102.
  14. Ibid., p. 120.
  15. Other books by Kurt Koch may be available from Kregel Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, or online through, e.g., Alibris.com.
  16. Merrill Unger, Demons in the World Today (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1972), p. 50.
  17. Merrill Unger, The Haunting of Bishop Pike (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1971), pp. 89-90.
  18. Unger, Demons in the World Today, passim; Unger, What Demons Can do to Saints (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1977), passim.
  19. John W. Montgomery, Principalities and Powers (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1973), p. 149.
  20. E.g., C. Fred Dickason, Demon Possession and the Christian (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1987), pp. 191-193, 207-221.
  21. Ibid., p. 221.
  22. Clifford Wilson, The Occult Explosion (San Diego, CA: Master Books, 1980), p. 22.
  23. In Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance, p. 137.

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