John Pavlovitz is the author of the new book, Hope and Other Superpowers: A life affirming, love-defending, butt-kicking, world-saving manifesto. John is a pastor and blogger from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past two years his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said, has reached a diverse audience of millions of people throughout the world, with an average monthly readership of over a million people. His home church, North Raleigh Community Church, is a growing, nontraditional Christian community dedicated to radical hospitality, mutual respect, and diversity of doctrine.
Steve Taylor PhD is the author of the new book Spiritual Science: Why Science Needs Spirituality to Make Sense of the World. He is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality. For the last six years he has been included in Watkins Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people.’
Lawrence Krauss is the author of the new book The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why are we here?. Lawrence is a renowned theoretical physicist, is director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and nine books, including the international bestsellers, A Universe from Nothing and The Physics of Star Trek. The recipient of numerous awards, Krauss is a regular columnist for newspapers and magazines, including The New Yorker, and he appears frequently on radio, television, and in feature films.
Jacob Needleman is the author of I Am Not I. A philosopher, author, and religious scholar, Jacob teaches philosophy at San Francisco State University. He is also the author of The New Religions, a pioneering study of the new American spirituality, Money and the Meaning of Life, A Sense of the Cosmos, The Heart of Philosophy, Time and the Soul, Why Can’t We Be Good? , and other books.
Dr. Peter Boghossian is author of the new book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. Peter is a full-time faculty member in Portland State University’s philosophy department. His main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Peter has a teaching pedigree spanning more than 20 years and 30,000 students – in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, seminaries, colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies, and small businesses. His fundamental objective is to teach people how to think through what often seem to be intractable problems.
Just watched a most excellent debate on the question “Does God Have a Future” on Nightline, which took place last March 14 at Caltech, between Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston on the side representing spiritual mysticism, and Sam Harris and Michael Shermer representing scientific atheism. All I can say is “Wow, thank you God!” (irony intended)
Even though it is divided up into several segments (most with a commercial) by ABC News on their site, I was enthralled by the entire thing, which I watched over the span of 3 days.
For someone like myself who is constantly deepening his own understanding, reading and studying about consciousness and belief systems, it was utterly fascinating … and lol entertaining! This discussion in an age of crazy fundamentalisms is more than relevant. If we are to survive and thrive, we need to evolve our belief systems one way or the other. Check it out and let me know what you think here.
Adapted from the book Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God by Paul O’Brien
Most of the organized Christian religions believe that the Bible prohibits the use of divination. However, there are numerous places in the Bible where God seems to be in favor of the esoteric arts. While it is by no means complete (you will not find passages referring to dream interpretation, channeling, or prophesy here), this list of New King James Version Bible passages proves that there are cases where God supports the use of divination.
Verses Condemning Divination
Exodus 22:18 You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
Leviticus 19:26 You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying.
Leviticus 19:31 Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 20:27 A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.
Deuteronomy 18:10-11 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
Deuteronomy 18:14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.
Joshua 13:22 The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them.
1 Samuel 6:2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it to its place.”
1 Samuel 28:8 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 seance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”
2 Kings 21:6 Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
2 Chronicles 33:6 Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
Isaiah 2:6 For You have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners.
Isaiah 8:19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?
Ezekiel 21:21 For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver.
Micah 3:6 Therefore you shall have night without vision, And you shall have darkness without divination; The sun shall go down on the prophets, And the day shall be dark for them.
Micah 3:7 So the seers shall be ashamed, And the diviners abashed; Indeed they shall all cover their lips; For there is no answer from God.
Micah 3:11 Her heads judge for a bribe, Her priests teach for pay, And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us.”
Acts 19:13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
Acts 8:9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,
Acts 13:6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus,
Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Acts 19:9 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.
Verses Supporting Divination
Genesis 44:4-5 4 When they had gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said to his steward, “Get up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is not this the one from which my lord drinks, and with which he indeed practices divination? You have done evil in so doing.’”
Exodus 28:30 And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually.
Leviticus 16:8 – 10 8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.
Numbers 26:55 But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers.
Numbers 26:56 According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.”
Numbers 27:21 He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him–all the congregation.
Deuteronomy 33:8 And of Levi he said: “Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one, Whom You tested at Massah, And with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah.”
Joshua 14:2 Their inheritance was by lot, as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes and the half-tribe.
Joshua 18:6 You shall therefore survey the land in seven parts and bring the survey here to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the Lord our God.
Joshua 18:8 Then the men arose to go away; and Joshua charged those who went to survey the land, saying, “Go, walk through the land, survey it, and come back to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.”
Joshua 18:10 Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.
Judges 6:36-40 36 So Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said–37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.
1 Samuel 14:8-10 8 Then Jonathan said, “Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us.”
1 Samuel 14: 42 And Saul said, “Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me.” So Jonathan was taken.
1 Chronicles 24:31 These also cast lots just as their brothers the sons of Aaron did, in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the priests and Levites. The chief fathers did just as their younger brethren.
1 Chronicles 25:8 And they cast lots for their duty, the small as well as the great, the teacher with the student.
1 Chronicles 26:13-14 13And they cast lots for each gate, the small as well as the great, according to their father’s house. 14 The lot for the East Gate fell to Shelemiah. Then they cast lots for his son Zechariah, a wise counselor, and his lot came out for the North Gate.
Nehemiah 10:34 We cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for bringing the wood offering into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at the appointed times year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God as it is written in the Law.
Nehemiah 11:1 Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities.
Psalms 22:18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord
Proverbs 18:18 Casting lots causes contentions to cease, And keeps the mighty apart.
Obadiah 1:11 In the day that you stood on the other side– In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem– Even you were as one of them.
Jonah 1:7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Matthew 27:35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
Mark 15:24 And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.
Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.
John 19:24 They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Acts 1:26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Excerpted and adapted from the book Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God by Paul O’Brien
Most people whose religious faith relies on biblical scripture believe that divination of any kind is a sin condemned by God. Fundamentalists claim that astrologers and diviners are agents of the devil leading the weak to eternal damnation. They selectively quote the Bible to back up their condemnation of divination systems and intuitive powers. Fundamentalists ignore the fact that the Bible, also contains numerous verses that reveal their God approving the use of divination as a way to decipher His will and make enlightened decisions.
In the research for my book on divination, my editor and I reviewed everything the Old and New Testaments have to say about divination and psychic arts—including the divination technique known as “Urim and Thummim” that was actually mandated by God, as well as omen reading, channeling, psychics and prophecy. For review purpposes, we used the New King James version.
Prophets and Diviners
Religious condemnation of intuitive powers is especially ironic considering that the Bible itself is considered to have been merely transcribed by its human authors through what St. Paul referred to as “the gift of prophecy,” which was originally considered available to all who believed in orthodox doctrine. In fact, it is an article of faith in scripture’s authority that God spoke through prophets, who received His message using what we now call ‘channeling.’ The Bible describes such channeling in several places, including the following:
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. (Deuteronomy 18:18)
I have also spoken by the prophets, And have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets. (Hosea 12:10)
The prophets, therefore, are psychic mediums who received wisdom in the form of voices and visions from a higher power, which they then conveyed to others, sometimes to make a decision or offer advice. The prophets served as guardians of the people, and were important precisely because they could foresee coming dangers. Prophets were also known to interpret events that were happening in the present, providing insights into God’s reasons for creating certain conditions. Diviners and prophets were classed together. In Isaiah 3:2-3, for instance, diviners are ranked with judges, warriors and prophets as pillars of the state.
The mighty man and the man of war, The judge and the prophet, And the diviner and the elder; The captain of fifty and the honorable man, The counselor and the skillful artisan, And the expert enchanter. (Isaiah 3:2-3)
The story of Moses is a classic example of a mystical experience in the Bible. Moses repeatedly ascended Mt. Sinai to communicate directly with God. Not only did he listen to God’s instructions, he also was able to ask questions of God in order to confirm His commands. Moses also used the Israelite’s Urim method of divination described below. It only makes sense that he would do so, because communicating with divinity is what the word “divination” means, what divination systems are meant to facilitate.
The High Priest’s Divination System
The reading of omens are used in the Bible when it comes to deciding all sorts of issues. The prophet Elisha directed King Joash to throw two arrows through the window in order to find out whether the king would be victorious or not (2 Kings 13:14-19). God used omens to signal Gideon’s victory over the Midianites. If the fleece of the sheep was wet and the ground was dry it was a sign of ensuing success (Judges 6:36-40). In 1 Samuel 14:9, Jonathan decides whether or not he should attack the Philistines by the words the Lord has them speak. There is nothing in the Bible disapproving of the reading of signs sent from God.
But the Israelites did not have to rely on external signs alone. They had a sacred divination system, known as Urim and Thummim, given to them by Jahweh (Esther 3: 21-28). Several verses of the Old Testament mention the use of this sacred tool. Today, the exact composition of the Urim and Thummim is not known, but most scholars believe there were two sacred stone dice, perhaps made of precious gems. They were stored in a pouch inside the high priest’s “breastplate of judgment,” which he wore whenever seeking divine guidance with regard to important issues or strategic decisions of state. However it worked exactly, the Bible does make it clear that God had granted the people this divination system, and that He controlled the answers it produced.
Abraham used Urim and Thummim, as did Aaron and the priests of Israel.
He shall stand before Eleazer the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him—all the congregation. (Numbers 27:21)
As noted, Moses used the Urim and Thummim. Joshua was named as his successor using this divination system (Numbers 27:21). After Joshua died, the Israelites used it to determine who would continue to lead them into victory over the Canaanites. (Judges 1:1) When David was considering whether or not to pursue the marauding Amalekites, the divination tool confirmed for him that it was advisable to do so (1 Samuel 30: 7-8). There are many more examples of the divinatory use of the Urim and Thummim, which can be easily looked up in any Bible concordance. In most cases, God explicitly tells the Israelites to use it to divine His will.
Since there are so many times in the Bible in which God provides answers to his followers through divination—either Urim and Thummim or the casting of lots (i.e. used in the New Testament to pick Matthias as the replacement for Judas)—we ask ourselves how divination came to be portrayed as just plain evil by fundamentalist religions and sects.
The biblical case against divination
Considering that God sanctioned and recommended divination in more passages than otherwise, it is a travesty that the organized western religions condemned divination systems. In spite of all the passages noted herein (and listed on Divination.com), it is incredible that Christian fundamentalists continue to cite the Bible as proof that God condemns diviners.
The most commonly quoted verse in the Bible that is used to assert that divination is a transgression against God’s will is Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
It’s important to note that the book of Deuteronomy, so preoccupied with “abominations,” contains countless laws that are in themselves abominable — laws that are no longer respected or practiced by anyone, let alone used as grounds for persecution. For instance, “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.” (Deuteronomy 15:1) There would be countless people in a much better financial position if this law were in effect! Women might be interested to know that they are “an abomination to the Lord” if they wear men’s clothes (Deuteronomy 22:5). Also according to this law, any bride who is not a virgin on her wedding night shall be stoned to death on her father’s porch (Deuteronomy 22:21). Nice laws!
Over the centuries, churches, temples and mosques have always been extremely selective about which parts of their scriptures to cite, and which to ignore. But in this modern age we are free to look at ancient scriptures with fresh eyes. In doing so, we need to remember that the true value of scriptures does not lie in lists of ancient laws and “shalt-nots,” but in parables of virtue and timeless principles that are relevant to the cultivation of wisdom.
Based on a balanced look at the biblical record, it is safe to conclude that God intended us to use divination systems to better interpret our pathway to realization. In ancient times, only the high priest had the power of direct access. Fortunately today, all spiritually inclined people have access to even better divination systems—like the I Ching, Astrology and Tarot. We are now able to ‘go direct’ for guidance on our own, bypassing religious and political hierarchies altogether.
In the first century of the common era, as he was defining orthodox Christian beliefs, St. Paul labeled the ability to decipher the mind of God as “the Gift of Prophecy”—one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to true believers. It was a form of channeling. Nowadays, thanks to universal access to authentic divination tools, everyone—Christian and non-Christian alike—who approaches the process with sincerity can derive the benefits, without being expected to channel (or speak in tongues :-). When it comes to communicating with the divine, the open minded are truly the chosen people.