"Once I was a werewolf, but I am alright nowoooooh." It is an old joke, but it never fails to produce a chuckle. This self-destructing comment on the absurd will activate even the most underdeveloped funny bone.
Absurd it is indeed, but is it also without any consequences?
Count Dracula stories and the gurgling thirst of his anemic "undead" friends we dismiss as entertainment of doubtful quality, and the horoscope in our daily paper we only read to marvel at the platitudes which nobody in his right mind could possibly take seriously. But yet...
With our dismissals we might tend to go somewhat into the direction of the rationalists, who did not believe in anything "supernatural," or out of the ordinary. When rationalism reigned supreme, a report about a meteorite crashing into some farmland was greeted with scepticism from Paris: "In this age of enlightenment it is incredible that there are still people who seriously believe that rocks can fall from the sky." I suspect that the famous expression "there ain't such animal" resulted from a first confrontation of a rationalist with a giraffe. There is nothing between heaven and earth that cannot be explained in either chemical or mathematical formulas.
That sentiment prevailed also in the immediate post World War II times. The medical profession, for example, steadfastly refused to accept such "hocus-pocus" as acupuncture, because it did not fit within the formulas.
Mankind, at least in its leadership, had shed the medieval superstitions about angels and devils, anything divine or demonic. Instead, there were monumental leaps forward in understanding how the universe works, without a Creator. Soon man would reach outside the earth's realm and bring back photographs of the earth above the moon's horizon. "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" was the word when the first human footprint was pressed on the lunar surface. Even there, nothing was found that could not be explained in chemical or mathematical formulas. And yet...
A people robbed of its religion will create its own gods, after its own image will it create them. At no time in the history of Western civilization was there such a widespread market for the literature of astrological swindlers as during the last three decades. When the flower children stepped away from the stainless steel world of rationalism they reached for the mysticisms and the mysteries of the Orient. Their gurus taught them about holistic living — in harmony with the forces of nature — AND in harmony with the constellations of the Zodiac. The hippies of yore are today's adults, and many have taken their horoscopes along with their guidebooks on transcendental meditation to their workshops, their executive offices, their law practices and their labs. That was one influence. Rock, a brand of music from the Elvis Presley era, moved away from its total preoccupation with sex, and turned into the occult direction. From psychedelic to psychic is not such a great step. The end of the process is that now there are some rock groups totally dedicated to Satan worship. Small cultic groups, experimenting with "paranormal" matters are sprouting up everywhere. Psychic circles call upon recently deceased friends and report positive responses. It has become a cottage industry, more widespread than most of us would imagine. Some cynics try to reverse the trend by exposing it all as fraud. One author, calling UFO's, the Bermuda Triangle and Extrasensory Perception (ESP) "nothing but flimflammery," even describes how a table can be made to rise by any "medium" who turns his shoes under the table legs; the story comes complete with photos and diagrams. But it won't exorcize the exorcists. For that the occult has become too deeply rooted in the modern media-manipulated minds of the masses. Some warnings are being heard from time to time. And some young people who had seen The Exorcist ended up on the psychiatrist's couch. But what could the warners say, and what did the psychiatrist have to offer to a child in total panic?
Dabbling in the occult is not without danger. A number of suicides have been connected with the showing of The Exorcist. A really gruesome case of infanticide was reported in a recent issue of Nederlands Dagblad (July 7). A young couple responded to an ad placed by a woman who wished to share her interest in the occult. It was the first step on a road that led to total insanity, whereby the husband and the wife became convinced through visions and voices that they had lost a struggle with demons and that their little child was possessed. There was only one way to save it: purging by burning the child. This ritual murder caused a great outcry against the widespread propagation of occult programs and publications. But the reporter (A. Wisse) does not expect that the distributors of these "esoterica" will turn around and dump their inventory in one fell swoop. Bonfires like the one described in Acts 19:19 take place only after the gospel has been preached and the magic arts graduates have repented. Then their textbooks, at a fair bookmarket value of 50,000 silver pieces, can go up in flames.
Most of the astrological literature that has been produced through the centuries is patented malarkey, deserving nothing but our ridicule. How can someone publish the following prose and expect a serious readership: "My own horoscope has Cancer rising with the Moon in close trine to the Ascendant. This gives the lunar archetype a rather strong power in my chart. Unlike many people I know, I find the time of full moon very peaceful and quieting and I rather enjoy sleeping in its light." So, anyone whose birthdate coincides with this stellar configuration can cut back on sleeping pills; isn't it marvellous? On the same page we read with growing amazement: Persephone as the wife of Hades, king of the underworld is an example of this type of goddess. Likewise the Artemis-Phoebe pair is completed by the goddess Hecate, who rules all places where three roads come together, and guides the dead to the underworld. Another example is to be found in the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Otropos, who respectively “spin, measure and cut the thread of life." This may sound like a classical tourist guide, leading you to some mythological tailorshop, but it is in fact a lecture, the learned discourse of an expert in the field of interpreting the stellar positions. This is how the astrological key of knowledge is turned to uncover the future. Doesn't it scare you?
When Paul — upon request — explaining to Felix and Drusilla about the faith in Christ Jesus, argued about justice and self-control and future judgment, he scared Felix out of his wits and was told to stop (Acts 24:25). But when this astrological believer lectures about his faith in the moon and the stars, and the averse conditions connected with certain angles, I get the hiccups. And yet this garbage is swallowed by millions. Probably even by some of our own children.
Earlier I said that as believers we may tend to go somewhat into the direction of the rationalist camp with its Sadducean world without spirits. And yet we believe that angels, ministering spirits, surround us. The Bible simply mentions their activities. Jesus, in His parable, described how at the death of the poor Lazarus the angels came and delivered his soul up into Abraham's bosom. That function was mentioned in a very matter-of-fact manner.
The Roman Catholics even pray to their guardian angel, a practice which Scripture itself has forbidden. "But," they say in defence, "If there is one standing at my bedside anyway, what is wrong with striking up a short conversation?" This may sound a bit irreverent, but it brings the reality of angelic presence a lot closer. I venture to say that the Reformed doctrine with respect to the angels is in actual practice rather a bit neglected among us. Article 12 of the Belgic Confession has this remarkable title: The creation of all things, ESPECIALLY THE ANGELS. When was the last time you discussed ESPECIALLY the angels? These ministering spirits are a reality in the year 1988, in this world of which we sing — with Luther — that it is "with devils filled." The spiritual power struggle is very real.
Therefore, the issue of occultism is not really one of the existence of "supernatural" occurrences. And dismissing such presences as medieval superstitions is not the answer, because with the bathwater we would throw away some real spiritual truths. The issue is, that we must flee from all that is not from the Spirit of Christ; that in the horoscopes and the consulting of the dead we meet idolatry pure and simple; that we must place our trust in God alone.
As to the stars, lift up your eyes to the imposing heavens. Notice the strings of Pleiades. Could Job untie the bonds of the Orion in the wintry sky?
Who maintains from day to day those revolving constellations in their prescribed paths?
And who did the prescribing?
Spell His name F-A-T-H-E-R.