Afew years ago, the number one and number two bestsellers of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association were the fictional novels This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness by Frank Peretti. Both books describe an ongoing struggle between angels and demons as they battle each other for influence over all those who dwell on the earth.
The interest in the spirit world is even stronger today. Books about communicating with angels and spirits of the dead are repeatedly at the top of the secular charts. But this interest isn’t new. People have always been fascinated by stories of invisible, supernatural beings who are involved in a celestial good-versus-evil struggle. All the major world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity—believe in the existence of angels who are organized in complex hierarchies of rank and function. The ancients developed complicated doctrines of angels. It is said that during the Scholastic Period, men of learning debated about the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.
The present interest in the invisible spirit world is also fueled by people who are connected with the New Age movement. Some claim to have personal “guides” or “channels” who enable them to enter into an altered state of consciousness or to contact the spirits of the dead. Some well-known people—the anthropologist Carlos Castenada, the famous death-and-dying authority Elisabeth Kübler- Ross, the actress Shirley MacLaine—write and speak convincingly about spirit beings with whom they maintain contact and from whom they receive help.
This New Age emphasis on “unseen friends” is part of a world view that has permeated our society. Books on channeling, crystals, visualizations, reincarnation, and astrology are flooding the market and are being viewed with respect. These ideas sometimes even filter into the classrooms of our public schools. Some teachers have followed the procedure outlined by the psychic William W. Hewitt to show children how they can invite spirit beings to be their helpers. He says they can construct in their minds a “psychic workshop” to “experience communication with a dead person.” He follows with these instructions:
In this session you will meet your two advisors. Now mentally say, “I welcome my advisor into my workshop. Please enter and sit in your chair.”. . . Greet your male advisor. Thank him for coming . . . . Now, mentally say, “I welcome my female advisor into my workshop” (Beyond Hypnosis: A Program For Developing Your Healing And Psychic Power, William W. Hewitt, St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Publications, 1990, pp.84,144,152,154,177).
Later in his book this same author instructs his students to make contact with “the Master of all Masters.”
While relatively few children are actually being exposed to such a disturbing program, the fact that it has occurred should alert parents to the potential danger. Although we have no solid basis to speak of a “New Age conspiracy,” we should recognize that thousands of people today claim that through hypnosis and mind-altering drugs they have been able to make genuine contact with spirit beings, who become very real to them. The “experiences” they relate are highly convincing. And multitudes have been greatly influenced by them.
In many ways, those who recognize the authority and perspectives of the Bible should not be surprised at such developments. From cover to cover, the Bible describes the activities of unseen spirits who have a long history of interacting with our human race.
What the Bible makes clear, however, is that the subject of angels calls for a good deal of discernment and caution. The unseen world can either be harmful or helpful. Therefore, it needs to be treated not merely as an intriguing curiosity, but as an unseen society from which we have much to learn.