Talking with spirits: Sinful, enlightening or hokum?
In the new film, “Hereafter,” a reclusive medium reluctantly uses his ability to help people communicate with their dead loved ones. But the Rev. Steve Wohlberg says such activity not only is dangerous, but also forbidden for people of faith.
A theologian and author of 24 books, including “Demons in Disguise: The Danger of Talking to the Dead,” Wohlberg said mediums, psychics, Wiccans, astrologers and others are engaging in practices the Bible condemns.
“I have concern for my kids,” he said. “I don’t want them to be exposed to things so dangerous. I’m trying to enlighten the public about the dangers of such practices.”
Wohlberg said Scripture makes it clear that engaging in the occult is “absolutely forbidden.” He cites the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy in the Torah, or Old Testament, which lists practices that are off-limits to the Israelites, including divination, consulting mediums, witchcraft and necromancy — communing with the dead.
Wohlberg said he is worried because the occult looms large in entertainment and popular culture, and that while he thinks people who embrace it are sincere, “they’re sincerely wrong — dead wrong.”
“I don’t believe they’re charlatans,” he continued. “There is a supernatural world. Most people believe angels exist; I do, too. There are good angels, but bad angels as well, who are capable of impersonating a person’s loved one who is dead.
“They prey on people when they’re down. They’re ruthless in their strategy to work their way into a person’s sympathies and lives. It’s very dangerous.”
“There are so many different beliefs, so many ways to interpret the Bible,” Akron medium Laura Lyn Wissler said. “Everybody is on their own path. When I’m channeling any type of energy, what comes through is love. It’s not an ominous state. It’s more of an enlightened state.
“I’ve had my own (conflicts) throughout my life,” she said. “I grew up Christian. It was very confusing. The spirit kept speaking and coming forward to tell me to ‘share what you know.’ ”
Wissler pointed out that the Bible mentions prophets “who were enlightened and had knowledge.”
“I don’t know why that would stop,” she said. “I’ve seen many preachers who bring forward prophetic responses.”
Wissler said she was 5 when she had her first encounter with a guardian angel she calls Gabrielle.
“I was in my bedroom, when I saw a glowing in the corner,” she recalled. “She started communicating with me. It was one of the most amazing, enveloping feelings I ever had. She told me she would always help me throughout my life, that I’d never be alone.”
Wissler told her family, who speculated it was a dream.
“I told people, but they seemed not to want to hear me,” she said. “I told preachers at my church because I wanted to know their angels’ names. I figured out very quickly it’s not something we talk about.”
Wohlberg also is critical of “Harry Potter” and the current vampire craze, particularly the “Twilight” series.
“My take is that while there are good things in ‘Twilight,’ Edward Cullen is a vampire,” he said. “And it’s true there’s no sex between Edward and Bella up until marriage, which is a good thing, but interwoven within the series is a lot of occultism. Edward’s a psychic and member of the Olympic Coven; there’s ‘shapeshifting’ throughout the series. All of these are occult practices.”
Wohlberg said everyone has God-given gifts, but not psychic abilities.
“Seeing dead people? I don’t buy that,” he said. “Satan has the ability to give people certain gifts connected to the occult for the purpose of luring them into the darkness. Many times, people involved in these gifts have opened the door to the occult, which is where they get their abilities.”
Wohlberg said celebrity psychics and mediums, such as Allison DuBois, John Edward, Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh, all acknowledge they have a connection with a “familiar spirit” that guides them.
“Just as there are deceivers in the visible world, the same thing happens in the invisible world,” he said. “Just like there’s identity theft in the visible world, there are spirits out there, fallen angels, who are adept at assuming others’ identity, knowing things only that person can know.”
“I’m not out for controversy,” Wissler said. “This is a very loving energy that comes forward. It’s so amazing to me how religions can get to these places where there’s just good and evil. I believe there’s evil in the world; I absolutely believe that.”
Wissler added that while most ghosts she encounters are seeking help, she once was attacked by a spiritual being while visiting the old Mansfield Reformatory, which some people believe is haunted.
“Out of the thousands of spirits I’ve spoken with, I’ve only had a handful of negative experiences,” she said. “There’s good energy and bad energy, but I’ve seen so many beautiful things and miracles with my own eyes. I can’t wrap my mind around what I was taught in church.”
Wohlberg said his goal is not to scare people.
“My books are not dark books,” he said. “They’re about an uplifting way, to draw people to a God who loves and wants to comfort them, instead of a seance. God wants to give (people) his whole peace instead of witchcraft. Instead of vampires who drink blood, I point to Jesus, who gave his blood for us.”
Wissler describes God as “a universal energy that we’re all connected to through our heart, our whole being.”
“We’re all connected to that force,” she added. “I believe that force is all about love.”
BUYING THE WOO-WOO
Unlike Wohlberg, skeptic James Randi said his objection to mediums and psychics is not based on religion. An atheist, Randi doesn’t believe in the supernatural. For 11 years, his James Randi Education Foundation has offered $1 million to anyone who can prove they have supernatural ability.
“They want easy answers,” Randi said of believers. “They are told by the media that these things are possible. The media supports the ‘woo-woo’ because it sells their product. It pays off to believe in ridiculous things.”
Randi cites TV talk-show host Montel Williams as an example.
“He had (psychic) Sylvia Browne on his program every week, and made excuses when she bombed. She bombed often,” he said. “He admitted in a radio interview that he doesn’t believe in psychics, but that she brought in sponsors, she brought him money in the bank. It doesn’t make any difference how much damage she’s done to people’s lives.”
Randi said people who claim to be gifted “fail all the time,” pointing out that no one has claimed his prize.
“I’m thoroughly annoyed at people who insist on believing these things despite the fact they’ve been disappointed again and again, religious people, particularly,” he said. “Millions and millions believe in prayers that are not answered. They ignore that, but when the right thing happens, it’s referred to as a ‘miracle.’ It’s selective reasoning.”
Wissler said virtually anyone can communicate with the spirit world.
“The spirits are right next to us. It’s not something to be fearful of,” she said. “The more positive energy we put out there, the more we’re going to get enlightened energy.”
Wohlberg said he doesn’t fault grieving people who simply are looking for answers.
“The general public is not doing these things out of sinister reasons,” he said. “They’re going for consolation, but they’re being misled down a primrose path that offers promises that can’t be delivered. It’s dangerous.”
“People need to grow up a bit and start looking into these things and find out what’s behind them,” Randi said. “The media has been very guilty in this respect. They just do not care. It’s reprehensible.”
Canton Repository: October 31, 2010