Worldview and Practices of the Occult – Introduction

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2002
The basic premise of the occult is “monism,” which is defined as a “philosophical theory that everything consists of or is reducible to one substance.” The occult accepts a mystical form of monism characterized by pantheism—that everything is God. This is only one of several major differences between the occult and Christianity.

The Worldview and Practices of the Occult – Introduction

People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. —Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?
Everything we do has a result. —Goethe
Ideas have consequences. —Francis Schaeffer

The basic philosophy and premise of the occult is described by a specific term: “mo­nism.” Monism is defined as a “philosophical theory that everything consists of or is reduc­ible to one substance.” [1] The Encyclopedia of Philosophy observes that monism “is a name for a group of views in metaphysics that stress the oneness or unity of reality in some sense.” [2]

There are different forms of monism. The occult may be described as a mystical form of monistic belief that characteristically accepts some form of pantheism. Pantheism teaches that everything is God. For example, as one magical text teaches, “God and the universe… have always existed: visible and invisible, both make up the divine being.” [3] The modern influence of monism can be seen in that several major world religions are monistic. Hindu­ism and Buddhism are examples of world religions that reflect monistic teaching. In mo­nistic (advaita) Hinduism, the one ultimate reality is defined as “Nirguna Brahman.” In monistic Buddhism, the one ultimate reality is defined as an indescribable state of imper­sonal existence termed “Nirvana.”

Christianity, on the other hand, is not monistic. Christianity teaches that an infinite-personal Triune God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), created the physical world distinct from Himself. (For an excellent study, see Francis Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent.) This idea that God made the universe apart from Himself is known as “religious dualism,” and it stands in contrast with occultic monistic philosophy. Thus, Christianity does not teach that reality is only one thing, but rather that reality is composed of both an eternal spiritual reality (a personal God) and the created universe (itself involving a material and spiritual realm of existence).

Occult monism claims, in contrast to Christian teaching, that “God” and the “creation” are ultimately the same thing—they are one in essence. Christianity maintains that because God created the world apart from Himself, God and the creation are not the same thing. Thus, the basic Christian doctrine which rejects monistic teaching is the biblical doctrine of creation.

In essence then, the occult (which is monistic) and Christianity (which is not monistic) are based on entirely different and opposing beliefs. The underlying premise of each sys­tem powerfully conditions how their proponents view God, man’s relationship to God, the world, and man’s place in the world. So let us further compare and contrast Christianity and the occult to understand how fully in opposition these worldviews are.

In Christianity, God is personal. The material world is a real place created by God and distinct from Him. Man is a creation of God, made in His image, having as his ultimate purpose in life a loving, personal, and eternal relationship with His Creator.

But in the world of the occult, all of this is rejected. God is ultimately impersonal and/or personal only in a provisional sense. The material world is ultimately a secondary or illusory manifestation of God. Inwardly, all men are part of God, currently existing in ignorance of their divinity, and whose ultimate purpose is a merging of their true nature back into imper­sonal reality.

This is why the final goal of occult practice is to experience a condition of alleged spiri­tual “enlightenment” where a person supposedly understands the true nature of reality (“All is One”) and his proper place in the world (seeking a final “reuniting” with the One).

The alleged truth of occult monism is supposedly “confirmed” through occult practices such as altered states of consciousness, magic ritual, spirit possession, drug use, medita­tion, or other means whereby monistic consciousness (the feeling that “All is One”) is directly “experienced” and interpreted as “evidence” for the truth of one’s occult philosophy.

It is the monistic premise of occultism that makes its philosophy so fundamentally anti-Christian. Dr. Gary North observes in his excellent evaluation Unholy Spirits: Occultism and New Age Humanism:

Because God created the universe, there is a permanent, unbridgeable gap between the ultimate being of God and the derivative being of creatures. There is a Creator-creature distinction. Though men are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), they do not partake of God’s being. They are like God, but they are not of the same substance as God. There is no more fundamental doctrine than this one. Significantly, in every form of occultism this principle is denied, sometimes implicitly and usually explicitly. Satan’s old temptation to man hinges on his denial and man’s denial of the Creator-creature distinction….
In direct contrast to the biblical view of man and God, the occult systems, from the magical sects of the East to the gnostics of the early church period, and from there unto today’s preachers of the cosmic evolution and irresistible karma, one theme stands out— monism. There is no Creator-creature distinction. We are all gods in the making. Out of One has proceeded the many, and back into One are the many traveling….
It is such a convenient doctrine, for it denies any eternal separation of God and His creation and therefore it denies any eternal separation of saved and lost. It denies any ultimate distinction between good and evil, past and present, structure and change…. [It] leads to rampant immorality, and… to a dismissal of earthly affairs and earthly responsibility. The result… is moral nihilism. [4]

Of course, if one can indeed be a god, then to be as God and exercise one’s divinity demands above all else the exercise of power—power over personal limitations, power over others (human and nonhuman), power over the creation, etc. Thus, personal “realiza­tion” of one’s godhood finds “confirmation” through the development of supernatural mas­tery over one’s environment. In other words, occult practice develops occult abilities which “confirm” personal divinity outwardly in the acts of supernatural power:

The power that is used in magic is derived from the forces we have been describing and so comes from both within and outside ourselves. It is formed by linking one aspect of the magician’s personality with the corresponding aspect of the cosmic mind. This at once sets up a current of power which the magician can draw upon for his own purposes. [5]

The above brief discussion of the differences between Christian and occult philosophy reveals why occultism in all its forms is so fundamentally hostile to Christian faith.

Below we present a brief contrast between the worldview of the occult and that of Chris­tianity:

 

Occult/Psychic Worldview Biblical Worldview
Pantheisrn-monism—Everything is divine. There is only one divine reality (Spirit). Traditional theism—God is the Creator, distinct from His creation (Spirit/matter— Genesis 1:1).
God is ultimately impersonal. God is personal and loving (John 3:16).
Man is inwardly divine, one with God in essence. Man is a creature, created in God’s image,but not inwardly deity (Genesis 1:27).
Evil is an illusion, but ultimately in har-mony with God (God is amoral). Evil is a concrete fact, which operates in opposition to God’s nature (God is holy— 1 Peter 1:14,15; 3:12).
Salvation or enlightenment is achieved through self-realization (awareness of personal divinity) by various means (e.g., psychic practices). Salvation is based on the atonement (Christ’s vicarious suffering and death for sin) and received as a free gift (by grace) through faith in God and Christ (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 17:3).
Psychic powers normally result from psychic practices and are often used for personal power or profit. Spiritual gifts are distinct from and work in contrast to psychic powers. (See our Cult Watch, pp. 268-81.) They are given by God to His people for service to others (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 14:3).
“Eternal” cyclic incarnation or absorption into impersonal divinity (personal extinction). Eternal heaven or hell (personal immortal-ity—Matthew 25:46).

What difference does all this make? We will begin to examine that question next time.

Notes:

  1. William D. Halsey, ed. director, MacMillan Dictionary for Students (New York: Macmillan, 1984), p. 57.
  2. “Monism,” in Paul Edwards, ed, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 5 (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. and The Free Press, 1972), p. 363.
  3. David Conway, Magic: An Occult Primer (New York: Bantam, 1973), p. 35.
  4. Gary North, Unholy Spirits: Occultism and New Age Humanism (For Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1986), pp. 59-61.
  5. Conway, Magic: An Occult Primer, pp. 29-30.

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