By Keith Gibson

Almost from the day that man succumbed to the lie of the serpent in the garden that it was possible to become like God, men have sought to possess a god-like knowledge of the future. Rather than relying on and trusting the One who truly knows the end from the beginning, man has sought to gain inside knowledge about the world in general and events to come through a seemingly endless variety of methods. They have attempted to find answers by reading everything from the stars to animal entrails, from tea leaves to tarot cards. All of these various methods fall under the general heading of what the Bible refers to as divination or soothsaying. Although commonly and often erroneously referred to as fortune-telling, divination can be defined as any attempt to obtain information about the past, present or future through occultic means.

The purpose of this article will be to understand the occultic worldview that accompanies a belief in divination as well as to briefly examine a handful of the more common forms being mainstreamed in our culture. Additionally, we will consider what the Scriptures teach about this subject in general and some of the individual practices in particular. Lastly we will consider ways that this occultic mindset is beginning to infiltrate the church.

The Occultic Worldview

In order to better understand the nature of the various forms of soothsaying, it will be helpful to understand the worldview in which they operate. Without intending to be overly simplistic, there are three beliefs that lie at the heart of all modern forms of divination.

Pantheism —This is the view that all is God and God is all. Everything that exists is seen as either a manifestation of God or as containing God. This belief can be seen clearly in the “Charge of the Goddess,” written by Wiccan practitioner Doreen Valiente. One pertinent section states:

Arise and come unto me, for I am the souls of Nature who gives life to the universe. From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return. And before my face, beloved of Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.1

Panentheism —Though God is all, God is still transcendent beyond creation. The relationship between God and creation can be conceived of in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is pictured like a drop of water from the ocean. The drop has the same elements in it as the ocean but it is not the entire ocean. In similar fashion, though each individual is part of the divine, the Absolute still transcends the individual person or part of creation.

Monism —Monism implies that all that is can be reduced to one essential thing. This thing is a mystical force that connects all things. In Wicca, it is this belief that allows magick to operate. In the New Age, it is this force that allows occult practices such as astrology and numerology to function. New Age author and occult practitioner Alan Oken states this belief succinctly when he writes,

Each of us is intimately interwoven into the infinite fabric of the Universe. But how can we come to know that our own little life is united within the One Great Life of Creation?” His answer?—“[A]strology, the tarot cards, and numerology, valuable ways of knowing about life and ourselves.”2 Later in the same book Oken writes, “As a result of our appreciation and grasp of numerology, we know that we are connected in the deepest sense to all that is and everything that will be in the Cosmos.3

Oken’s statements are indicative of the occultic worldview. Because all of life is connected, filled and intertwined with the One Force that is ultimately divine, man can use psychic abilities and methods to tap into this force, gain knowledge and receive answers to life’s dilemmas. The various forms of soothsaying are merely different mediums to achieve the same objective, that of getting beyond the veil and understanding where life is heading. The person being counseled can then attune his life to the workings of the universe in order to have the highest possibility of success at life’s various activities.

It should be clear to any Christian that these beliefs are totally incompatible with Christianity. The Bible speaks of a personal God who is distinct from His creation. It is this God who sovereignly guides the course of all things. Though man is created in the image of God, he does not have the same essential nature as God. Further, Christianity asserts that man has fallen from his original station and must be redeemed. None of these beliefs can be reconciled with the worldview of the New Age.

Common Forms of Divination

With this extremely basic understanding of the New Age worldview in our mind, we can begin to discuss some of the particular categories of divination. As was stated previously, the forms are almost limitless in number. However, there are some that are more prominent within the modern culture. Space constraints will force us to be extremely basic and simplistic in our discussion of these different practices. In reality each of these forms is a fully developed system that is highly complex. In a tarot reading, for instance, one considers the position of the cards, the suit, the particular card and the psychic impressions of the one performing the reading. In fact, it is this very complexity that allows for a number of different possibilities to emerge from every reading. For this reason, most readings do not attempt to specifically tell the future. Rather, they tend to discuss probabilities and may end up sounding a great deal like counseling sessions. Ultimately it is up to the reader to bring out the sense of the various symbols regardless of the form of divination being practiced. Wiccan author Ray Buckland states, “As with all tools of divination—the tarot, crystal ball, tea leaves etc.—they are simply a focal point for your own psychic powers; a placebo for channeling.”4 These readings are usually vague enough that the participant will be able to find some aspect of the session that appears to come about or to be true, thus reinforcing the person’s belief in the authenticity of the practice.

Despite the brevity of the discussion given to each example of divination, it is hoped that the reader will gain a basic understanding of the practices.

Astrology

Without a doubt the most familiar form of divination for most people is astrology. Christian occult expert Craig Hawkins defines astrology as the “belief that the stars, planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies influence or actually determine personality, behavior, human affairs, terrestrial events, and so forth.”5 Astrologist John Anthony West concurs stating, “Astrology is based upon a simple two-part premise.  1.Correlations exist between celestial and terrestrial events.  2.Correspondences exist between the position of the planets at birth and the human personality.”

Building on these two dubious axioms modern astrology seeks to provide counsel to its adherents on all matters of daily life. Former astrologer and Christian Apologist Marcia Montenegro describes the development of modern astrology: “By integrating psychological terms and Eastern mystical worldviews such as Karma and reincarnation, contemporary astrology shifted in the 20th century from rigid readings and predictions to a tool of character analysis and spiritual advice.”6 In her excellent book on occult influences upon today’s young people, Montenegro explains the practice of astrology:

“The planets are placed in a circle divided into twelve sections, called houses, around which fall the 360 degrees of a fixed zodiac belt, Aries through Pisces. The astrologer synthesizes the position of the planets by sign and house, the position of the planets in relation to each other, ruler-ships of the houses, the elements (air, earth, water, and fire) that are represented, certain emphasized points in the chart, as well as other factors. These threads of the chart are tied together as the astrologer does the reading. Due to the rather open-ended meanings in a chart, a range of options is given. This is partly why astrology is so popular—the client is likely to relate to at least one of the options, thus adding a presumed validity to the reading.”7

Based on the reading, the client is able to adapt his or her life to those areas that are most in tune with the movement of the universe at this particular time. For example, a client may choose to pass up a change in her job because a reading indicated this was not a good time for making a major change.

The Bible clearly and directly condemns the practice of astrology. The prophet Isaiah writes:

You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons make known what shall come upon you. Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before! Such to you are those with whom you have labored, who have done business with you from your youth; they wander about each in his own direction; there is no one to save you. (Isaiah 47:13-15, ESV)

Ultimately, the answers man seeks will not be found in the stars but rather in a personal relationship with the creator of the stars.

Tarot Cards
Like astrology, tarot cards are another occult method of attempting to see into the future and gain understanding of life. Some tarot practitioners make great boasts concerning the tarot’s abilities. Nancy Shavick writes,

The Tarot forms a bible of ageless wisdom by using cards bearing ancient and mysterious symbols and archetypes to create a vast knowledge system that classifies and describes everything in the universe. The Tarot is a philosophical code of spiritual law that explains how our personal karma controls cycles of activity and change as we fulfill our preordained destinies.8

Other practitioners are more humble and cautious in their assessment. Raymond Buckland, for instance, states that tarot reading is not about seeing a future that is predetermined but rather, “More correctly, being aware of the forces at work that will bring about a probable result in the future.”9

A standard tarot deck consists of 78 cards, which are divided into the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, each containing an allegorical figure that has symbolic meaning such as the Chariot, the Tower, Justice, the Lovers, etc. The Minor Arcana consists of 56 cards in four suits of 14 cards each made up of number cards as well as the face cards King, Queen, Knight and Page.

In a typical reading, the querant (i.e., the person seeking guidance) is given the cards and told to handle and shuffle them while focusing on any specific problem or question he may have. The querant is then told to cut the deck into three piles, frequently with the left hand, though some practitioners insist that the hand does not matter. The psychic then gathers the cards and lays them out according to a set pattern. It is believed that the cards will automatically be placed in positions that relate to the querant. A reading is given by interpreting each of these cards based on the card’s symbolic meaning, it’s meaning in combination with other cards, and its position in the layout. All of this is subject to a variety of interpretations.

To complicate matters further, there are a variety of ways to lay out the cards in a Tarot reading such as the Keltic Spread or the Tree of Life Spread. If that weren’t enough, while the Rider-Waite deck is by far the most popular, it is estimated that there may be as many as 250 different tarot decks available. For occultists like Buckland, this is not a problem since the cards themselves are really irrelevant except as an aide to focus the psychic’s latent abilities. He boasts, “A good psychic could deal out a deck of blank cards and give a reading. So could you with a little practice. But why not start the easy way?”10 Buckland further encourages practitioners to reinterpret the cards if they feel that they are getting a different meaning in the reading than that which is commonly assigned to a particular card.

Such comments might lead a skeptic to consider that the psychic in a tarot reading is simply making it up as she goes along since the deck, the cards, the layout and the
positions all seem to be largely irrelevant to the success of a reading. But adherents remain undaunted.

Numerology
Ellin Dodge writes, “Numerology is a mystical arithmetic system that reveals character, personality, and experience through the sensible progression of numbers.”11 Oken states, “Numerology is the occult and metaphysical science of numbers. It is the path of understanding that gives depth and meaning to the simple digits represented by our ten fingers and toes.”12 In numerology, the numbers 1 thru 9 are thought to have occultic meaning (some adherents include 11 and 22 as well). Various formulas are followed to help seekers find numbers that are thought to be uniquely significant to them such as their name number, birth number, destiny number, personal year number, challenge number, etc., and then to order their lives around the messages in these numbers as they relate to various months and years. For instance, a person’s name number is found by assigning the numerical values 1 through 9 to the letters in the alphabet. A person then adds up the value of the numbers occurring in their full name. The digits of the resulting figure are then added together to get a single digit number. For example:

J o h n H e n r y D o e
1 6 8 5 8 5 5 9 7 4 6 5

Adding these numbers together gives the sum of 69. Adding six and nine equals 15 which is still a two-digit number. Adding one plus five equals six. Six then would be the name number of John Henry Doe. This name number then is supposed to demonstrate much about Mr. Doe’s personality. We find that, positively, Mr. Doe should be conscientious, peacemaking, kind, wise and a host of other attributes that relate to nurture. Negatively, Mr. Doe should have the tendency to be smothering, unreliable, worried etc. Of course, the reality is that every person can find aspects of their own nature in every one of the lists associated with every one of the numbers. So it is easy to deceive oneself into believing that the numbers are accurate. These personality numbers can then be used to determine all aspects of life from what primary colors should be used in decorating one’s home to the style of music that one will most appreciate.

Two of the most important numbers are one’s name number, demonstrated above, and one’s birth number, which is found by adding the numbers of one’s birthday and reducing to a single number. As Dodge explains, “The numbers of our names describe the things that we are born knowing. The numbers of our birth dates describe the things that we have to learn.”13

Other common forms of divination include Cheiromancy (palm reading), Scrying (crystal ball or gazing mirror reading), Tasseography (tea leaf reading), and many more. All are built on the same foundations of sand as the methods described above.

The Message of Scripture
The Bible universally condemns all forms of divination as well as all other occult practices. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 states:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer or a medium, or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

In similar fashion, Leviticus 19:26 reads: “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.” Acts 16:16 ascribes the work of the slave girl who brought her masters much gain through divination to the presence of an evil spirit. In Acts 19, the Christians who had practiced magic arts before their conversions brought their books together and burned them as a sign of their repentance and consecration.

The message of Scripture is consistent that those who belong to Christ must separate themselves from occultic practices.

The Modern Mystical Church

Yet despite the warnings of Scripture many professing believers still involve themselves in occult practices. For some, their involvement is direct through doing such things as reading their horoscopes in the daily paper. Yet perhaps even more alarming is the growing number of Christians who have unconsciously begun to adopt an occultic worldview.

For example, many well-meaning believers attempt to discern God’s will in ways that seem more akin to omen reading than to the Biblical patterns of Bible study, prayer and seeking wise counsel. The prophetic movement regularly embraces practices that are virtually identical to occult phenomena. For instance, in his very popular book, Growing in the Prophetic, Mike Bickle tells the story of a prophetic evangelist who prophesied over a member of Bickle’s church stating, “You have a music ministry. You’re called to be a singer.” Bickle says that the man to whom the prophecy was given could neither sing nor play an instrument but was rather the owner of a music store. He claims that the mistake occurred because the “prophet” saw in a vision musical notes around the man and made a mistaken interpretation. Bickle says that what he should have said was, “I see musical notes around you; does this mean anything to you?”14 What should be striking to anyone reading this statement is that this type of “prophecy,” while bearing absolutely no resemblance to anything done in Scripture, is remarkably similar to the kinds of statements given by a psychic performing a cold reading.

In my own experience, I remember a man prophesying over me that I would be a father in the end-time church because of the prominence of the number 1 in my birth date. One, he said, was the number of the Father. I was born on January 11, 1965 or 1/11/65. Of course one must not forget that 6+5=11 therefore my birthday is 1/11/11. This is numerology in a rudimentary form. Chuck Pierce, a popular prophet and member of the International Coalition of Apostles, is regularly featured practicing his own form of numerology on the elijahlist email newsletter, which is received by more than 136,000 people daily. Consider this example as Chuck gives the prophetic significance of the year 2008:

The Hebrew number system has always helped me as I focus each year on decreeing the “best” the Lord has for me and my family and those connected with me. I do not think you have to understand the Hebrew year to know the will of God. However, in Hebrew, numbers have word meanings, which have picture meanings, which have sounds. This brings a fuller perspective than just saying we have entered the year 2008. The Hebraic year 5768, which will encompass the Gregorian calendar’s, Year of the Lord 2008 A.D., is the “The Year of Samekh Chet!” That means we are coming into “The Year of the Full Circle of Life—A New Beginning Is Yours!15

True to form, Pierce issued another prophecy for the year 2009 (5769 in Hebrew according to Chuck) entitled, “5769 A Year of Goodness in the Midst of Suffering.”16 Just less than two weeks later, in order to encourage people to vote, Pierce issued this warning:

Also, the election for President in our nation will produce a major shift in the world. Do not forget to vote. Vote for righteousness to rule this nation! We need to stay focused in prayer. Stay focused, watch and pray! Remember that this year, 5769, “A Year of Goodness in the Midst of Suffering,” can also mean that “A Serpent Stands at Your Door to Constrict Your Future!17

Throughout the year Pierce regularly gives monthly prophecies based on the numerical year combined with the name of the month on the Hebrew calendar.

As Christians, we must reject all forms of occult practices, even those which come dressed in Evangelical trappings. We do not need to look to numbers, omens, or the stars to determine the times and seasons. Our direction comes to us from the Lord through His Word. We can rest assured that our future is not determined by the position of the planets, but rather by the God who loves us and is working all things together for the good of those who are the called according to His purpose.

Keith Gibson is Director of ARC’s Kansas City Office.

Notes
1Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the Goddess” (Internet article found at http://paganwiccan.about.com/ library/texts/blgoddesscharge.htm).

2 Alan Oken, Numerology Demystified (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1996), 7.
3 Ibid., 10
4 Raymond Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2005), 158-159.
5 Craig Hawkins, Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 97. 6 Marcia Montenegro, “Astrology” (Internet article found at www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/ Articles__Astrology.html).
7 Marcia Montenegro, Spellbound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 2006), 77.
8 Nancy Shavick, Tarot Universe (Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press, 2000), 11.
9 Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft , 157.
10 Ibid., 159.
11 Ellin Dodge, Numerology has Your Number (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 16.
12 Oken, Numerology Demystified, 9.
13 Dodge, Numerology has Your Number, 17.
14 Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 1996), 171.
15 Chuck Pierce, elijahlist.com (August 28, 2007).
16 Ibid., (September 28, 2008).
17 Ibid., (October 10, 2008).