Communicating with the dead?
The Bible has a story about a case where communication with the dead actually happened. King Saul did it. The spiritist at En-Dor put him in touch with the prophet/judge Samuel, who had made Saul king many years earlier. This spiritist was apparently renown as an extra-large among the area's mediums. This was no fake Samuel she reached, either (despite what you may read in the fundamentalist press); the text treats him as the real Sam - who sent the medium into a panic. But this Sam was not at all happy about being contacted. He truthfully issued God's final doom on Saul and his sons, specifically because Saul was so willing to do dirty to God. The next day, Saul found out first-hand about being in the realm of the dead.
(You can, of course, choose to take this incident figuratively. But there are no grounds for doing so here which you don't also have for most of the rest of Israelite history. You could also do something as radical as imposing modern-day theological conclusions about death upon the ancient biblical text, and say, 'this is how it really went'. But that's a refusal to let the Bible speak for itself, a refusal on your part to really listen. There is one matter that is key to the discussion here: The one option the text itself does not at all allow is that the apparition is a demon out to undo God's plans, for in fact, what's spoken is a great prophecy stating what God's plans are for a crucial moment in Hebrew history.)
Knowing Death and Other 'Secrets'
Let's put aside for the moment the Devil's ability to manipulate what comes from beyond the grave -- a big problem, but not the crucial one. Let's also put aside the vast array of phonies who con people out of mucho money -- they are not the issue. The issue is why one would want to go to a medium or to channel in the first place. The notion of actually knowing the dead leads directly to thinking that this knowledge can help make for a good death or even for bypassing the ugliness of death. This is the Gnostic way, the way of the inside track and the spiritual secret. But knowledge can't do the trick. No one has ever been made perfect or sinless or deathless or complete or even merely good by mere knowledge. Knowledge cannot change a person's nature. However, it can help us to create a mirage of where this life will lead. Ultimately, if we have the knowledge, we will rely on it, and it will fail us. All else will fail us, except God. The 'secret' to death is that we are to live life as God would have us live it, through the Holy Spirit, and then trust that this same God who loves us in life will also love us in death, and, by mysteries beyond what any seer can tell, through the work of Christ, bring us through death to a new life with God. But that's no secret. That's the Good News, the gospel. And you've already been told about it.
Then, there are people who are so pained over losing a loved one that they seek any way possible to get in touch with them (like Bishop Pike did over his son). It sounds like a good thing, at least on the surface of it. But this is still a way of avoiding truth. The answers to 'why' something happened are found among the living, not the dead. And only God can rob death of its finality. We have to deal with the death of those we love by living a life which honors them, a life that shows where their love matters. If you're desperate enough to try to contact the dead, then you aren't trusting God, but instead are trusting someone who has done nothing in our lives to earn any trust.
I just spoke under the presumption of an honest (though misguided) search for truth. But not everyone is so honest. Many of those seeking to reach the dead do so with the wicked dishonesty of King Saul. Saul was seeking a way out of the mess he himself had created by being disloyal to God and foolish toward his own soldiers. He was hoping Samuel could in some way intercede for him before God, or perhaps could clear up the problem himself. But Samuel told Saul that his problem was with God, not Samuel, and that he had just made it worse by using a form of divination (occultic means to discover the unknown), forbidden by the Law and punishable by death. Samuel made it clear that necromancy is not how one follows God; it was instead the last straw in Saul's series of betrayals of the Covenant. Saul had turned to other spiritual powers instead of God.
Many people today look toward mediums and spiritists for help in getting out of the binds they put themselves in. They even have developed "angel therapy" in which they aid healing by getting people in touch with 'angels'. Then as now, special knowledge 'from beyond' does not help. What helps is to do the right thing in the first place. And the mess is made much worse by trying to evade what one has to do. That kind of living is quite far from living in the Spirit.
Channeling: The Modern Way
Channeling is where a human enters into an 'altered state of consciousness' which allows the person to become a conduit or 'channel' for the spirit of another, who can then use the channel to speak and take limited actions. This is, in essence, what a medium does to communicate with the dead. The channeling popular in some New Age circles is more extensive than the traditional medium, and sometimes involves the identity of the channeled being taking full control of the channel for a short period of time.
Jesus is one of the most reported occupants of the channelers; another popular one is Nostradamus. But most often, the speaker claims to be some little-known or unknown figure from the distant past like J.Z. Knight's prehistoric warrior Ramtha, or Boopsie's 'visitor' in the Doonesbury comic strip. Channelers typically spout generalized wisdom sayings, and/or make big claims about themselves or their listeners (like the kiss-ups channeled by Kevin Ryerson).
One of the strange things about doing a web site like Spirithome.com is that hardly a month goes by without my receiving some sort of mail package or large e-mail file from a channeler of Jesus or some apostle or saint. They come from all over the world, including nations with very few Christians such as Turkey, Uzbekistan, or Morocco. Without exception, the material is confusing, disjointed, bizarre, and contradictory. The channeler web sites I've run into on line are almost as hard to read, except for one easy-to-read site whose author I've met, and who I know to be a very good fiction writer who has much trouble dealing with reality. Channeling often leaves the mind messed up -- twisted up is more like it -- and it's as if they can no longer feel the torsion.
Let's put aside for a moment the many channelers out there who are well aware they're lying to us. It may well be possible for someone to really open themselves up to other spirits, whether of the dead or otherwise. But us material folks don't have any real control over what spirit goes into us. We have little ability of our own to figure out spiritual beings. This lack is just part of our being material. Lying spirits abound. And once the lying spirit is in there, it can do serious damage to your soul. Your body and your brain are yours, but then some stranger comes in and starts playing around inside of them. It doesn't take long for it to settle in, rearrange the furniture, put up new walls, hang up family photos, and bring in some friends. That changes not just the arrangements, it changes your identity. Your body is part of who you are, but the visiting spirit may never have really had a material body and thus would have no idea of what it is like to be bodied. They never died because they never lived. (They won't tell you any of that, though.) There isn't enough room in there for the two of you at once. When that happens, channeling becomes much like being possessed by a demon. Even after the channeling is over, you're just not the same.
Your body is made to be a home for your spirit. Your spirit was made to work inside your body; your soul is made to be your identity. (In fact, this is what the term 'yours ' means - this is what makes you who you are.) You are a person not a pipeline. Other spirits has no business being in control even for a short while. God understands this. The Holy Spirit works through leading you into willful cooperation -- that is, working with you in your choices as you use your view, your voice and your experiences. That makes a world of difference.
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Someone wrote to me :
Yes, channeling is bad, and please don't try it. Your body was made for you to dwell in, not some autonomous spirit who wants to play pretend. Who knows what it will do once it's in there? Keep watch on your own spirit, not others'; you have your hands full as it is. Pay your attention not on channeling or other such stuff, but the things which make your own spirit more whole : study of the Bible; service; joy; learning how to show love to others; etc. Do it, and the only thing you'll 'channel' is the love of Christ to the human race. And that's not your doing, but the Lord's.
Again, please don't.