Extrasensory perception (ESP) is the ability to receive information in the mind that did not come through any of the five recognized senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. It is called “extrasensory” because it is seen as a sixth sense by which a person gains knowledge. There are several subcategories of extrasensory perception, such as telepathy (the ability to read another’s thoughts), clairvoyance (the ability to “see” activities taking place somewhere else), and precognition (the ability to see into the future). The Bible does, in fact, address phenomena similar to extrasensory perception but does not attribute it to ESP or clairvoyance.
The Bible teaches that supernatural happenings are either the work of God or of Satan. God and Satan are not in a tug-of-war for supremacy. God is the ultimate power, and all lesser beings, such as Satan, have only the power He permits them to have (1 Chronicles 29:11; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Luke 4:36). Satan must ask for anything he gets, and God keeps him on a short chain (Job 1:6–12; Luke 22:31–32). Therefore, any clairvoyant-type happenings in Scripture were either God at work or demonic manifestations.
In Old Testament times, God spoke supernaturally through His chosen prophets. Through God’s revelation, they could foretell the future, “see” events that had not yet happened, and know things that had not come through their five senses (1 Chronicles 21:9). In fact, a common name for a prophet was a “seer” (1 Samuel 9:9). They had a divine gift of “seeing” with their minds, and their oracles probably seemed to some to be the product of what we now refer to as “clairvoyance.”
The critical difference between clairvoyance or ESP and true prophetic ability lies in the source of the ability. God empowered the true prophets, but He strongly condemned fortune-tellers, diviners, magicians, astrologers, and any who practiced witchcraft (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10; Leviticus 19:31). The messages delivered through such means were unreliable: “For idols speak deceit and diviners see illusions; they tell false dreams and offer empty comfort. Therefore the people wander like sheep, oppressed for lack of a shepherd” (Zechariah 10:2). Any attempt to divine information through telepathic power, clairvoyance, or ESP is to open oneself to a power that opposes God.
Satan may exhibit false wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10). Satan often tries to imitate God’s miracles in order to rob God of His rightful glory (Exodus 7:10–12; 8:6–7). Certain people may seem to possess uncanny knowledge, and they may attribute it to ESP or to a knack for clairvoyance, but it is not a gift. It is a curse. Those who claim to have extrasensory perception might boast about the amazing predictions that came true, but they never mention the thousands of predictions that did not. The test of a true prophet was 100 percent accuracy, because God does not lie (Jeremiah 28:9; Deuteronomy 18:22).
Acts 8:9–34 records the account of a man named Simon who was a sorcerer in Samaria. Because of his amazing tricks, people thought Simon was of God. He was not, and Peter rebuked him when he tried to buy the power of Holy Spirit to use for his own purposes (Acts 8:20–24). God gives gifts to His people, but they are for His purposes, not so that human beings will be exalted.
God gives wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5), and spiritual insight comes with being filled with the Spirit. Many of God’s servants have been given revelatory knowledge about a person or an event in order to better serve the Lord. But that is not the same as clairvoyance or ESP. It is rather “the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9).
Clairvoyance and all its cousins are largely figments of people’s imaginations. Fortune-tellers employ a variety of schemes to mystify the gullible. Yet there are some who have allowed Satan to have such control of their minds that they appear to speak clairvoyantly. Satan is not omniscient, however. He does not know the future as God does. He knows only what God has chosen to reveal through Scripture and history, and based on that he can make some accurate predictions that seem to validate his mouthpieces. The Bible warns us to stay away from things associated with clairvoyance and ESP, such as horoscopes, Ouija boards, crystal balls, and tarot cards. Persons claiming to have extrasensory perception or who call themselves clairvoyants are involved in either a hoax or a trap, and it’s likely they themselves are being deceived.