Channeling is a modern name for what the Bible calls mediumship or spiritism. A channeler is a mystic who becomes a channel, or receptive agent, for intelligent communications coming from the spirit world. What does God say about mediumship? It's in the Bible, Leviticus 19:31 NIV. "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them." Explore: What does the Bible say about ghosts?
Channeling is a method of trying to communicate with the spirit world that has existed since antiquity. Most modern channelers learn the art through the practice of Eastern meditation. This mildly altered state of consciousness enables the channeler to psychically perceive spirit messages. These manifest themselves as a “thought voice,” which is perceived in the stillness of the medium’s mind. Experienced mediums can enter into a trance state whereby the spirit entity takes direct control over the medium's voice, speaking through it in an accent quite distinct from the medium's normal mode of speech. It is claimed that the telepathic communications come from highly evolved spirit beings existing in the normally invisible realms of the spirit dimension. Sometimes the medium will have a vision in which he or she sees the spirit in a visible form, manifested in the imagination faculties of the medium’s consciousness. The spirit guides are said to sometimes wear white robes and often radiate brilliant, golden-white light. Channelers claim that the messages received represent divine wisdom and truth, and have beneficial value for mankind.
Spiritists and mediums were common among the pagan peoples of the Bible lands. God warned the children of Israel against becoming involved in these practices just prior to their entry into the Promised Land of Canaan. "When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord." (Deuteronomy 18:9-12 NIV)
King Saul of Israel sought counsel from a medium called the Witch of Endor. The armies of Israel were about to be attacked by the Philistines. Saul was in rebellion against God and in desperation sought the services of the spiritist. "So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.” (1 Samuel 28:8 NKJV). Saul then asked the medium to conjure up the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel, to ask his counsel regarding the pending Philistine attack. "And the king said to her, 'Do not be afraid. What did you see?' And the woman said to Saul, 'I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.' So he said to her, 'What is his form?' And she said, 'An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.' And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.'" (1 Samuel 28:13-14. NKJV)
Saul should have known better than to consult with a medium, for God had warned in Leviticus 20:6, "I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them. I will cut him off from his people." The end result of King Saul's quest was tragic. Shortly after his visit to the witch, the king was wounded in battle and took his own life rather than being captured by the enemy.
Was the spirit conjured up by the medium a genuine agent of God? Was it actually the deceased prophet Samuel - or was it a spirit imposter?
The Bible says, "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun." In other words, for sure we know it couldn't be Samuel, because when we die, we "know nothing." (For more information on what happens when we die, see our topic on Death).
There are some key details that must not be overlooked. First, the spirit was "ascending out of the earth." Those who believe that when you die, your spirit goes up to heaven have to ask themselves, "why was Samuel's spirit coming up from the earth, rather than down from heaven?"
Second, when the spirit speaks to Saul and gives a prediction, the spirit says, "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” Again we have to ask, if Samuel is a good man and prophet of the Lord, isn't he supposed to be in heaven? If we assume that the spirit of Samuel is in heaven, then, how can Saul, who is in rebellion against the Lord, also end up where Samuel is the next day? It seems the spirit is a lying spirit!
The answer is in the Bible, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NIV. "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord." The medium's spirit was an imposter, for Scripture clearly states that Saul "did not inquire of the Lord."
In our modern day, just like King Saul of old, people seek counsel from psychic mediums. Several fortune-telling channelers have become wealthy celebrities as a result of predictions published in supermarket tabloids and through counseling well-paying clientele such as Hollywood movie stars, politicians and industrialists. The psychics sometimes claim to be channeling 'Jesus Christ', 'Jehovah God', and 'the Virgin Mary'. But what is the real source of the messages uttered by these spiritists?
The apostle Paul was once also met with a psychic medium. Luke records what happened to him, Paul, and Silas in the pagan city of Philippi.
"Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, 'These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.' And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, 'I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities (Acts 16:16-19, NKJV).
The spirit of the slave girl that was giving her the ability to do fortune-telling was an evil spirit, a demon, which Paul was able to cast out. It should be noted, that demons have no problem telling some of the truth to hide their deception. Even the demon could acknowledge Paul as serving God and teaching the truth.
Jesus himself on several occasions was confronted with people controlled by demon spirits, yet still recognized the authority of Jesus. In one instance in Capernaum, "there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him." (Mark 1:23-26, ESV). Just because a spirit can tell the truth, doesn't mean it is a good spirit.
At one time these evil spirits were holy angels living in heaven with God. But they rebelled with Satan and were cast down to planet earth. It's in the Bible, Revelation 12:7-9 NIV. "And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Because the spirits who respond to the channelers are satanic, channeling is abhorrent to God. There are few who have any true conception of the deceptive power of spiritualism and the danger of coming under its influence. Many tamper with it merely to gratify their curiosity. They have no real faith in it and would be filled with horror at the thought of yielding themselves to the spirits' control. But they venture upon the forbidden ground, and the mighty destroyer exercises his power upon them against their will. Let them once be induced to submit their minds to his direction, and he holds them captive. It is impossible, in their own strength, to break away from the bewitching, alluring spell. Nothing but the power of God, granted in answer to the earnest prayer of faith, can deliver these ensnared souls.
Among the Israelites, the penalty for anyone practicing spiritism was death. "A man or woman who is a medium or a spiritist among you must be put to death." (Leviticus 20:27, NIV.) God tells us, "And when they say to you, 'Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek their God?" (Isaiah 8:19, NKJV). The admonition from heaven is clear. When in need of counsel, we are to seek God. He who assures us, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV). In seeking God, His Word, the Holy Bible, is to be our guiding light. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105 KJV).