One of the questions I’ve been hearing on a regular basis over the past few months has been the Catholic perspective on “mediums” – persons who believe that they have a special calling to connect us with those in the afterlife. My reply is always along the same lines: Catholic Christians don’t believe in mediums – because we don’t need them. When Jesus died on the Cross, the curtain separating the inner court from the Holy of Holies (the very presence of God) in the Jerusalem temple was torn in two (see Matthew 27:51). Christians see in that passage a remarkable sign: any of us now have direct access to God… when you couple this with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on any Baptized Christian – you start to see how each of us is not only connected to God, but we are also connected to all who have died and are in His presence (which is you find the Catholic tradition of praying to the saints). It has long been considered heresy (error in teaching/belief) that certain people are given secret knowledge or abilities to connect to the spiritual realm – this is refered to as gnosticism, from gnosis meaning “knowledge.” The real danger in believing in mediums, ouija boards, horoscopes, or anything else we’d consider “occult” is the fact that as Christians – as human beings living after the death & resurrection of Jesus – we all have access to God. If you require these special means to contact the spiritual realm, you need to understand that you’re not addressing God, because you wouldn’t require these mediums to make that connection.
Which brings me to a current viral trend spreading across the internet: the “Charlie Charlie” challenge.
Kids make a grid on a piece of paper that says, “yes/no.” They make an X out of two pencils and attempt to summon an erstwhile demon named “Charlie.” Then they ask him questions which he answers by moving the pencils. It’s rather creepy to watch.
What’s going on here is much less creepy when you consider the simple scientific principle at work: gravity. Andrew Griffin explains:
With the Charlie Charlie game, however, nobody is actually touching the pencils. But they are still likely being pushed — the pencils have to be so finely balanced on top of each other that even the slightest movement from a breath or slightly tilted surface will push it around.
The arrangement of pencils that the game requires means that they’ll always move, because it’s just not a natural position for them to be in.
Between the weight of the metal bezel that holds in the eraser to the hexagonal shape of your average HB pencil – you don’t require any supernatural movement to make this happen – which all in all seems to make for a rather silly game. If that’s the case, then why bother writing about it at all?
Well, this ties back to my original comments on mediums (and other occult practices). Students are often surprised when things like ouija boards & horoscopes show up on an examination of conscience (as they prepare to head to confession). The danger with all of these things – including the Charlie Charlie game – is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2116-2117:
All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion.
What we’re doing in all of these cases poses a twofold concern. First of all, we are trying to circumvent God and gain His power for our own – thereby breaking the first commandment (have no other gods before me), and imitating the sin of our first parents (see Genesis 3). Secondly, if the so-called spirits we address are not the Holy Spirit… who are we dealing with? (I’ll give you a hint: it’s an unholy one.) And is this someone to whom we want to entrust ourselves and our hearts? Let’s face it – though His power pales in comparison to that of God, the devil still hates us and wants to do whatever he can to sour the relationship we have with our creator. If the turning our attention (and our faith) to a couple of pencils is going to help do that, well, it’s right up Satan’s alley (whether or not you’d qualify the practice as Satanic or not. And there are some pretty good arguments on that front as well.
We don’t need pencils to guide our lives just like we don’t need mediums to contact the dead: God has already left us a far more reliable (and less dangerous tool) to get us there: it’s prayer. And not only is it available to us, He’ll teach us to do it, too, because that’s how much He loves us. Dr. Popcak sums the whole situation up beautifully – so I’ll leave the last word to him:
Just because something is foolish and stupid doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Drugs and alcohol are stupid and foolish. High risk sexual behavior is stupid and foolish. Texting and driving is stupid and foolish. But each year these lesser demons claim thousands upon thousands of lives. Playing with “Charlie” is stupid and foolish too, because it purports to turn evil into a playmate. When we choose to associate with even the glamour of evil, we take our eyes off of God. That’s like turning off the lights before walking through a room filled with booby-traps and alligators just for the fun of it. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord at all times because he is our only reliable source of guidance and grace. The so-called, “Charlie Challenge” is a silly distraction that isn’t worth taking a single second away from the God who loves us more than anything and sacrificed everything to spend eternity with us. God has given us much better than this and he deserves better than this from us.