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What is a séance?

what is a séance

The word séance comes from a French verb meaning “to sit,” and the word is often used in the French language to refer to a session where people gather together, seated, to enjoy a show or some other entertainment. In English since the mid-19th century, the word has become specifically associated with the occult. A séance is a small gathering of people, among them a spiritualist or medium, who are attempting to contact the spirits of the dead. Oddly enough, people at séances do not always sit.

Séances are nothing new. The practice of attempting to communicate with the dead is by no means particular to modern Western culture. The Old Testament mentions mediums and spiritists (1 Samuel 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3), and the New Testament also mentions occult practices (Acts 8:9). Throughout the Bible, the practice of communication with the spirits of dead people is strictly forbidden (Leviticus 19:31; Galatians 5:20).

The one example in the Bible of someone holding a “séance” is in 1 Samuel 28. King Saul, in desperation, hired the medium of Endor to contact the departed spirit of Samuel on his behalf. Amazingly, the séance was a success—Samuel appeared to the witch, who shrieked in fright and surprise (verse 12). The medium’s reaction to seeing Samuel indicates that she normally relied on trickery or was expecting a “familiar spirit” to deliver its deceitful message. But, in this case, God allowed Samuel to be summoned, and Samuel even chided Saul for “bringing me up” (verse 15).

Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44) who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). This makes a séance a serious thing and spiritually dangerous. Satan and his demons delight in fooling people. A séance provides them with a golden opportunity to impersonate a departed loved one and speak lies to the living. A medium, someone who claims to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and the spirit world, is either relying on illusion and sleight-of-hand to make a living, or he or she is in contact with a familiar spirit—which is a demon or unclean spirit bent on deception.

Since the Bible forbids contacting the dead, we should have nothing to do with séances. Trying to receive communication from a spirit is not a parlor game or trifling diversion. Personal, demonic forces are real, and they actively wish us harm (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8). Instead of dabbling in the occult, we should put on the full armor of God and take our stand against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:11).

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This page last updated: August 25, 2023