In Proverbs 8:12, Wisdom personified informs us that she is the key to finding knowledge. Unfortunately, her counterpart, Folly, has the upper hand when it comes to getting attention (Prov 9:15).
If you haven’t already, watch this video: “MONSTER Energy drinks are the work of SATAN!!!” It’s received over eight-million views on YouTube alone, a substantial amount of attention.
Now, ask yourself whether you think it might be possible that, aside from any health effects, you’re putting yourself under the power of Satan if you drink Monster.
If your answer to the above question is yes, you might have an occult epistemology.
What is occult epistemology, you ask?
- Occult: Pertaining to hidden knowledge of supernatural power
- Epistemology: The philosophy of how to attain knowledge
Occult epistemology teaches that there are two levels of knowledge. The lower level is the knowledge that can be gained by observation and reason through the normal and boring disciplines of history, science, philosophy, etc. The higher level of knowledge that leads to supernatural power is not laid open to ordinary observation and disciplined reason but is secretly layered on top of ordinary reality in a system of hidden symbols that only the initiated can interpret.
The modern occult movement of the 19th century looked back to the ancient mystery religions for this knowledge. One of those religions was Gnosticism, a blending of mystery religion and Christianity. Gnosticism means something like “knowledgeism,” because the Gnostics taught that a system of secret spiritual knowledge understood through hidden symbolism was necessary for salvation from the material world.
The word heretic as we use it today, was created to describe Gnostics. They were heretics because they preached salvation through secret knowledge instead of salvation through Jesus.
In Proverbs, Wisdom does not consist in a system of hidden symbols, but rather is publicly available (Prov 8:1-3). God created reality with but one level of knowledge (Prov 8:12), and it is accessible to all who diligently seek Wisdom (Prov 8:17). Rather, it is Folly that deals in secrets (Prov 9:17).
Today we not only have a modern expression of ancient mystery religions known as the occult, we also have a modern expression of Gnosticism—Christian conspiracy preachers who teach attainment of spiritual power through secret knowledge of hidden symbols. They purport to warn you against the occult, while at the same time adopting occult epistemology in order to explain its power.
When conspiracy teachers blend Christianity and occult epistemology they end up with two levels of spiritual knowledge. The first level is the knowledge you get from ordinary theology—comparing Scripture with Scripture, studying the original languages, thinking through the teachings of the Bible—that’s open for anyone to study. That’s probably enough to get you to heaven, but you still might get fooled by the Devil if you don’t know what he’s secretly up to. So you need to advance to that second level of hidden knowledge that is only available through an extra-biblical system of hidden symbols, which only the initiated can understand.
Once you accept the premise that spiritual knowledge can be gained through this system of hidden symbols, you’re swept up into a hidden world of mysterious powers, remarkable secrets, and high-stakes conflict—all contributing to a sense of self-importance. It’s like being on a spiritual drug, and once the buzz wears off you want some more. None of it does anything to bring your heart closer to Jesus, and you end up trusting in your knowledge about the inner-workings supernatural power to save you from Satan.
So what can you do if you realize you’ve fallen for the folly of occult epistemology?
- Recognize that true spiritual knowledge starts with Jesus (Prov 9:10), and Jesus doesn’t hide this knowledge but lays it open in His Word: “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2).
- Get close to Jesus. Instead of studying conspiracy theories, spend time in prayer. Not only will you get true spiritual knowledge, but you’ll be protected from the Devil. No one accidentally ends up under demonic power by drinking a beverage with “666” hidden on it or watching a music video with Illuminati symbolism. The real danger is in choosing to focus my heart’s desires on something other than God (1 Peter 5:8-10). In that light, conspiracy preaching holds a more subtle danger than popular entertainment, because you think your heart is close to God when the reality is far from it.
- Study the symbolic system of Scripture. The Bible is replete with ritual, typological, and apocalyptic symbolism. God uses it to communicate spiritual truths that are too profound for simple explanation. Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to look to a hidden knowledge outside the Bible to interpret the symbols in the Bible. Rather, the Bible provides its own interpretive keys, which are not hidden and available only to initiates, but open to all.
I believe occult epistemology is the devil’s counterfeit to distract us from the symbolic system of the Bible while fooling us into thinking we can have a measure of control over supernatural power. The symbolic system of Scripture is deep enough to sustain a lifetime of study, but it has a simple message: God is in control, put your trust in Him. (Prov. 3:5)