'Pharmakeia' II: Biblically-defined Sorcery in the 20th and 21st Centuries

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Pharmakeia II: Biblically-defined Sorcery in the 20th and 21st Centuries

This is a sequel to the thread, ‘Pharmakeia’ in the NT Era: Exposition and Application. In the event some throw up their hands and say, “Oh no! haven’t we had enough of this?”, I answer in the negative and say, No, the unsettled state of this issue endangers souls who may be led to begin using marijuana (or other drugs) where it is legal to use it, by the affirmation of some who say it is not necessarily a sin – a violation of God’s word – to use it. While this is about marijuana, it is not only about that drug but the other psychedelics as well, and how they are to be seen in light of the Biblical data. For it may come to pass, even if not at present, that it will be legal to use a number of these drugs.

At issue is that the psychedelic drugs generally are those drugs spoken about in the Scripture and prohibited; some deny this; others deny that we can identify them since they are not specifically named. So this will be about the psychedelics generally – marijuana being just one among many – and classified as pharmakeia agents.

The seriousness of this discussion, and the moral accountability of individuals participating, increases with increasing light, for it will be shown that to allow (to condone, or not to forbid) a major idolatrous practice is the “doctrine of Balaam”, which includes [spiritual] fornication of different sorts, as was the case in Pergamos (Rev 2:14) and in Thyatira (2:20 ff.), which represent principles relevant for the entire church age. Therefore it would be most prudent to look before leaping into this discussion. To strongly state a view is tantamount to teaching it, as there are many observing who would act on a reasoned argument, not perceiving it may be wrong. We see this all the time when it comes to doctrine; with praxis (accepted practice or custom) it is the same.

For reasons to be made clear, I did not in the aforementioned thread sufficiently present the Biblical view, and would call my “debate” with Ruben there a draw, and given the stakes involved – the eternal destiny of souls – that is certainly not acceptable. So here we continue.

It will be obvious I am presenting this more strongly than before, while, at the same time, will endeavor to reflect graciously on the motives of those who oppose the view I present. R.C. Sproul, in an audio series on building Christian character, posited the concept “judgment of charity”, which is putting the best rather than the worst spin on others’ motives and actions, unless evidence demands otherwise.

I can see that one objection to the view I put forth is that people do not want to entertain – much less see established – more legalism. I wholeheartedly agree as I am of the same mind. I will endeavor to show that the pharmakeia-class substances are a genuine Biblical prohibition, why they are prohibited, that they are identifiable by means of their properties and their affect in the human system, and also the church’s obligation – mandate – to discern this matter, establish it by teaching, and enforce it by church discipline (the church aspects will not require a separate thread, thank you).

If this seems a little long, consider it a booklet, for the sake of thoroughness.

Something I have noticed while studying the interaction in this post (as well others) in the precursor thread to this, is that my main discussion partner, Ruben, had conflated the simple concept I presented regarding psychedelic drugs and their effects with the vast realm of “magical traditions, rites, and lore” which really do abound in superstition and charlatanism. The impression conveyed by him was that the view of pharmakeia I present was of the same cloth, which it is not.

This is why I have titled the thread “Biblically-defined” sorcery, that it may be distinguished from the common superstitious definition and class. If you want to know what this latter is just check out “Sorcery” in the 5-volume Hastings Dictionary of the Bible (what Sir Robert Anderson calls “the standard textbook of the [Unitarian] cult” in his The Lord from Heaven, p. 35). With their anti-supernatural bent they just posit garbage, recounting one superstition after another. The Biblical view and teaching regarding pharmakeia / sorcery is not filled with all sorts of this arcana and nonsense, but is plain and clear.

I think in trying to “get a handle” on a matter he is thoroughly unfamiliar with Ruben brought to bear in the discussion something he knew a little of, but which had nothing to do with what I am talking about, and so we spoke but from different frames of reference and thus did not communicate well. Admittedly it confused me that he brought up all manner of extraneous matters and expected me to answer them.

So I want to say, Ruben, that I am not talking of that entire field you repeatedly refer to, such as herbs and ingredients used in occult stores today, “sorcerers” as considered in magical traditions and rites, all of which are steeped in superstition, hoaxes, and nonsense.

I can understand your reverting to such things in the absence of familiarity with the topic at hand, but it would seem that intellectual humility and honesty would not venture forth to opine so strongly on what one does not know. I am surely not talking of all the magic and occult stuff you repeatedly bring up. It but serves the cause of obfuscation to do so, though I do not believe you intended this, but were unwitting in it.

I have a concern that the plug may again be pulled on this thread – as on a previous one – because some folks will feel reproved? Come on! This is a Christian board and we are talking of very serious matters, not only the taking of drugs, but a certain class of drugs which Scripture says regular use of will warrant damnation (Rev 21:8; 22:15). There ought to be no place for our own insipid form of “political correctness” here! Before folks venture an opinion they should be advised that gracious – albeit strong – reproof comes with the territory; we’re talking of sin such as can destroy souls, and where bad counsel is immensely destructive; should not such counsel be reproved?

I do not “hide behind” my standing as an officer in the church but involve myself in this discussion / debate simply as a brethren down in the trenches; I would appreciate the same from any admins and mods that participate, given that I conduct myself decently and in order.

I see reproof is given over such matters as celebrating Christmas in one’s own home, and how much more serious is this!? If one wants to avoid being reproved, one should guard one’s tongue, as the psalmist urges.

Nor is reproof wrong or ungodly:
“He that rebukes a man afterward shall find more favour than he that flatters with the tongue . . . Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” (Prov 28:23; Ps 141:5).​
In the previous aforementioned thread we played softball; here it’s hardball. This is the lot Luther and Calvin played on. Though I’m not in their league, this is no less serious – unless defending the true exposition of God’s word in a life-and-death matter is less important today.

I will review some of the exchanges in the previous thread. Often, to help clarify between speakers, those I quote will be in blue type and myself in grey (or whatever). Before that, for those new to the discussion, I will post some lexical data, and also give another link to an even earlier thread on the topic. Then I will go further into the phenomenon of increasing drug use – sorcerous drug use – in the 20th and the present centuries in the light of Scripture, and the foretelling of this in the Book of Revelation.

I will also present some examples, toward the end of the post, of the devastation the legalizing of marijuana has wreaked on the children of England.


To get started I’ll interact with some of Ruben’s objections:

Post #55
It was said by Ruben, “If the prohibitions of pharmakeia are prohibitions of substances then there must be some guidance in determining which those are.” Exactly so. And what would we receive as acceptable guidance? This is a primary issue, and I will address it.

Post #62
Ruben continues, “[Steve’s] argument is made based on experiences that certain drugs bring you into contact with the occult. But it hasn't been explained how we know that some sort of heightened occult contact is the right interpretation of those drug-induced experiences.

The argument is made based on a word-study that Scripture prohibits certain drugs; but unless Scripture prohibits all drugs you have the difficulty of identifying which drugs are in view.”

This is a good place to start. First of all, what is this pharmakeia about? It is the Greek word used in Revelation 18:23, where harlot Babylon is said to have deceived the nations by means of her “sorceries”, and it is also used in Rev 9:21 of the Textus Receptus (the so-called Majority Text and the Critical Text have instead the Greek word pharmakon: drugs “that induce magic spells” – interesting discussion on this variant below. Suffice it to say for the moment that it doesn’t affect the translation, per the NASB or ESV) – in Rev 9:21 it is said of men refusing to repent of their “sorceries” in the time of the sixth trumpet and its judgments, those that survived the lethal judgments.

When Paul uses this word in Galatians 5:20 (translated “witchcraft” AV) it is called a work of the flesh, equal to murder and adultery. We will have an extended discussion below of its use in Rev 18:23 and the deception of the nations by Babylon’s use of “sorceries” (pharmakeia); a related word (called a cognate) is used also in Rev 21:8 and 22:15 of “sorcerers”, those who use and administer the drugs, and influence others by means of them. In 21:8 it says that these people have their part in the lake of fire – “the second death” – and in 22:15 these are said to be eternally barred from the City of God.

In the LXX pharmakeia and its cognates are used when referring to persons or activities in the OT involving the magic arts (cf. Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18; 9:11; 22:18; Deut 18:10; Isa 47:9, 12; 2 Chr 33:6; 2 Kings 9:22; Dan 2:2; Mic 5:12; Nah 3:4; Mal 3:5). The Jews and others who translated the OT into the Greek LXX invariably used a word signifying “drugs used as magic potions” whenever referring to the magic arts and its practitioners. The apostles Paul and John likewise – we see them using the words pharmakeia and its cognates as such drugs are always connected by them with the magic arts. Bear in mind, please, these drug-related “magic arts” are not those of fairytales, legends, and superstitious beliefs, but such activities as warranted the death penalty under Moses’ law and excommunication from the people of God in the New Covenant under Christ.

Before going further to define what kind of drugs these are and what their significance is to us in the 21st century, I’d like to post some lexical data concerning them, as this will shed light on the matter.

The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, gives us a start:
“Strong’s #5331, pharmakeia, from pharmakon, a drug, which in the Gr. writers is used both for a curative or medicinal drug, and also as a poisonous one. Pharmakeia means the occult, sorcery, witchcraft, illicit pharmaceuticals, trance, magical incantation with drugs (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23; Sept.: Ex. 7:22; Is. 47:9, 12). (pp. 1437, 1438)

“Strong’s #5332, pharmakeus; gen. pharmakeos, from pharmakeuo, to administer a drug. An enchanter with drugs, a sorcerer (Rev. 21:8 [TR]) (Ibid., p. 1438)

“Strong’s #5333, pharmakos, gen. pharmakou. A magician, sorcerer, enchanter (Rev. 21:8 [UBS]; 22:15; Sept.: Ex. 7:11; 9:11; Deut. 18:10; Dan. 2:2). The same as pharmakeus (5332). The noun pharmakeia (5331) means the preparing and giving of medicine, and in the NT, sorcery, enchantment.” (Ibid.)
Quoting now from the old ISBE,
“The word translated in the AV ‘witchcraft’ in Gal 5:20 (pharmakeia) is the ordinary Greek one for ‘sorcery,’ and is so rendered in the RV, though it means literally the act of administering drugs and then of magical potions. It naturally comes then to stand for the magician’s art, as in the present passage and also in . . . the LXX of Isa 47:9 . . . translated ‘sorceries’.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Ed., Vol. 5, p. 3097.)​
With regard to pharmakeiaBAGD 2nd Edition says, that in Rev 18:23 the meaning is “sorcery, magic”, and in Rev 9:21, “magic arts”. It also gives usages in many other classical and LXX readings, but for brevity I’ll limit it to the NT usage, and will in the following citations also.

Concerning pharmakon – drug – in classical use (it’s not used in the AV NT) there are 3 meanings: 1) “poison”, 2) “magic potion, charm”, and 3) “medicine, remedy”. These are on page 854a of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition.

In both Biblical (as well classical) and modern Greek, the semantic range of these words with “similar lexemes” is clear. There are three primary uses of the basic word, pharmakon, drug: 1) medicinal / curative, 2) poison, and 3) magic potion. That’s the extent of the semantic range.

John was not talking of poisoners (murderers!) in Rev 21:8 and 22:15 as he had already listed “murderers” separately; neither was he talking of murders in Rev 9:21, as there also he had listed “murders” separately. Nor was he talking of legitimate medicines; these are used for curing illnesses and not for deception of magic spells.

In the Liddell and Scott New Edition (Oxford 1940) of their, A Greek-English Lexicon, they note:
Pharmakeia – “the use of any kind of drugs, potions, or spells”, “use enchantments, practice sorcery”.

Pharmakon – “enchanted potion, philter: hence, charm, spell”

Pharmakos – “poisoner, sorcerer, magician”. These entries were all found on page 1917 of Liddell and Scott.​
And this is from Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 4th Edition:
Pharmakeia, “the use or administering of drugs . . . poisoning . . . sorcery, magical arts”.

Pharmakeus, “one who prepares or uses magical remedies”

Pharmakos, “pertaining to magical arts”.​
I think this is sufficient for the moment to demonstrate that the underlying Greek for the word in Revelation translated “sorceries” – pharmakeia – is directly and exclusively used to refer to drug use and drug-related activities of a certain kind.

To show why the use of “sorceries” in the Rev 18:23 passage refers to activities involving certain kinds of drugs rather than figuratively for mere deceptive practices, consider the classes of transgressors in Rev 21:8 who are consigned to “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death”: “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars”. Sorcerers (from pharmakeus) here specifically means one who administers or uses a certain class of drugs to “enchant”, to cast a psychic spell upon by use of these drugs and accompanying demonic power. It doesn’t mean a deceiver – a liar – generally or even figuratively, but specifically one who uses sorcerous potions. Liars / deceivers are already classed separately in this listing. Likewise in Rev 22:15 where a similar Greek word, pharmakos, is used for sorcerer, with the same meaning as pharmakeus in 21:8.

Please remember again, when talking of “sorcerers” and “sorceries” we are not talking of the vast mixed-up field of magicians, mysterious rites and potions, wizards, the occult, voodoo, witchcraft, and Santeria rituals, the paranormal, etc., all of which are rife with superstition, slight-of-hand, and hoaxes (though there is some real stuff in the mix). We are limiting this discussion strictly to Biblically-defined and authentic pharmakeia and its linguistic cognates.

Recalling what was said by Ruben above, “If the prohibitions of pharmakeia are prohibitions of substances then there must be some guidance in determining which those are.”

The lexicons and the commentators hold that pharmakeia pertains to drugs used in the “magic arts”. In fact, Kistemaker says of pharmakon (drugs) – appearing as a variant in Rev 9:21,
[SIZE=+1]farmakwn[/SIZE] [pharmakon]—“magic potion . . .” [and refers] to the concept of drugs that induce magic spells. [Emphasis in original –SMR]. (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Revelation, p. 302.)​
Okay, so we have drugs used in the magic arts and which induce magic spells. If you’d have spoken of these things to me when I was a young man in my early 20s (that would be from 1962 on), I’d have thought you were talking of some weird concoctions used by magicians and witches (as in Shakespeare), but giving their actual and present reality little credence. And “magic spells”? I would have thought this sort of stuff was from fairy tales and fictions! As with Ruben, it was of a world unknown to me, except in legends and superstitious lore. But when the Scripture speaks of these things as being real we know it must be otherwise.

Grant Osborne’s remarks re pharmakon in the same Rev 9:21 variant are edifying:
[SIZE=+1]farmakon[/SIZE] (pharmakon, magic) can mean “medicine” or even “poison” in certain contexts but here refers to the use of “magic potions” in religious rites in the Greco-Roman world. It is interesting that John did not use the more general term [SIZE=+1]farmakeia[/SIZE] (pharmakeia) for “sorcery” or “magic” but rather chose the term that describes the potions used in the rites. John wants to condemn not just the general practice of magic but everything involved in it (i.e., the paraphernalia as well as the rite itself). Magic was a major problem for early Christianity. One of the signs of victory over paganism occurred when the sorcerers of Ephesus burned their magic scrolls in public (Acts 19:19). Paul listed “idolatry and witchcraft” together as “acts of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:19-20), for most acts of “sorcery” occurred in the atmosphere of idolatrous worship (note again the connection of idolatry and demonic activity). In the Apocalypse, using magic is how Babylon “led the nations astray” (18:23), and all who practice it will be cast into the lake of fire (21:8; cf. 22:15). (Grant R. Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation, p.387).​
Even with all this testimony it’s still unreal to us. Were there things happening in the 1st century – and even earlier, in the OT times – which are no longer extant today in the 21st century? But why then does John in the Apocalypse speak of “sorceries” as pertaining to the end times – the very end times – which may well be in our own day? Consider this item from The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558,
. . . pharmakos, magician (Rev. 22:15); pharmakeus, mixer of potions, magician (Rev. 21:8); pharmakeia, magic, sorcery (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21; 18:23). The basic word pharmakon does not occur in the NT, but its meaning of medicine, magic potion, poison gives the underlying idea of the words. Potions include poisons, but there has always been a magical tradition of herbs gathered and prepared for spells, and also for encouraging the presence of spirits at magical ceremonies (cf. possibly the final sentence of Ezek. 8:17: “They put the branch to their nose”). Sorcery is classed among the works of the flesh in Gal. 5:20. [underlined and last bold emphasis added –SMR]​
Well, that rings a bell! Students of comparative religion will recognize there are spiritual paths that use certain drugs to “encourage the presence of spirits” in their ceremonies. The Hindus use hashish (from the marijuana plant) for this purpose, the Native American Church, which originated in Oklahoma, has Federal government permission to use peyote in its shaman-led religion, which also contacts spirits. Both of these substances are in the psychedelic class of drugs. Here’s another one:
“Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic tea made from Amazonian vines and leaves. Long used in religious ceremonies and spiritual quests in South America . . .

Overall, there is a sentiment that well-controlled use of hallucinogens is basically harmless and protected by the First Amendment. It is as if the country has grown up, as indeed it has. The baby boomer rebels of the ’60s are now of retirement age, and hallucinogens no longer seem to be common or much of a threat. As the director of the DEA told me in a meeting at the Washington, DC headquarters, ‘Hallucinogens are not really our concern … it’s not a problem, and just interferes with our work on narcotics, meth and crack.’

Cultural and archeological investigations have convincingly shown that hallucinogens were used as religious sacraments around the world, going back as far as 10,000 years and perhaps much earlier. Indeed, many scholars believe that the fundamental ideation of religious transcendence is based on experiences of hallucinogenic drugs.” (From Catalyst: Healthy Living, Healthy Planet).​
And then there’s the infamous Marsh Chapel experiment, where a graduate student in theology at Harvard Divinity School in 1962 gave a group of volunteer seminary students psilocybin (the active ingredient in “psychedelic mushrooms”) on Good Friday; they all had intense religious / spiritual experiences. There is a new drug classification today: the psychedelics are being called by another name:
Entheogens: “An entheogen (‘God inside us,’ en εν- ‘in, within,’ theo θεος- ‘god, divine,’ -gen γενος ‘creates, generates’), in the strict sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, psychotherapeutic, recreational, shamanic, or spiritual context.” From, Entheogen - wiki.​
As one can see, an effort is being made to put a good spin on them.

A Christian’s online site astutely comments on this development:
“Pharmakeia. The ultimate sorcery, because it uses mind-altering drugs in a search for God and, worse, replaces God with the devil’s lie: that the divine is within us. Therefore, this witchcraft activity also becomes idolatry and blasphemy in their worst senses.” From, The End Time: Pharmakeia: psychedelic drugs and spirituality
Caveat: I don’t subscribe to certain theological views of the author of the above site, as I am Reformed and amil. Though it sometimes seems as if Reformed Christians are the last to discern the times! How could that be? More on this “Reformed blind spot” later.

At any rate, we are confronted with a class of drugs that “induce magic spells” or, to put it in other words, whose affect in the consciousness enable the user to have profound mystical / spiritual experiences, as well as to come into the presence of spirit beings. This is not all of their possible effects, but enough to get us started in our examination. This is Biblically-defined “sorcery” – pharmakeia – and not the “superstition-defined” stuff. Please don’t dredge this latter garbage into the discussion!

So have we come across any “guidance in determining which substances are prohibited”? Is it not clear enough that drugs which induce spiritual / religious states as well as enable communication with spirits are those being spoken of? The “entheogens” as some would call them? And that they are not medicines or poisons?

It is at this point that I expect you, Ruben, to object and repeat your saying, “But it hasn't been explained how we know that some sort of heightened occult contact is the right interpretation of those drug-induced experiences.”

I’ve been pondering this remark of yours, and am amazed that one with no idea whatsoever of what this psychedelic experience entails would have the temerity to venture a rather dogmatic opinion on the “interpretation” of this experience – what it is and what it is not.

Those who have no personal knowledge / experience of pharmakeia-class drugs seem to want to weigh in on the question of what they are or aren’t. It is little wonder that they don’t believe the reports of others who have, and minimize the danger, while denying the properties reported of them. When they ask for “evidence” of these drugs being what is claimed for them, what can replace the first-hand knowledge of their action? Is the determination regarding this to be left to those ignorant of the matter? Not that ignorance of this is bad per se, for these people have remained apart from an unholy and forbidden practice! Nonetheless, they shall be restricted to their own rationalistic musings; if they will not take the word of those whom the Lord rescued from this evil practice, and has given to the church to bear witness regarding it, so be it. Did all of Israel go into the promised land to scout it out, or just the twelve appointed from the tribes? And even of those twelve, ten gave a false report, while two gave a faithful one.

The apostle Paul, in his pre-conversion years, was immersed in rabbinic studies with the Pharisees – which teachings were hostile to the doctrine of Christ – yet when he was saved he used what he had known previously to highlight and contrast the true doctrine of God, and the Gospel of His Christ.

Yet it is certainly not experience alone that shall determine this matter, for we have the testimony of Scripture. Those who think to deny the “interpretation” posited here, what alternative do you offer? And let me ask this, have you bothered to do any research on the topic? There is much written. I will come back to you in a moment.

It is a prophecy in Revelation that there will come a time when severe – lethal – judgments afflict very many in the earth, and at that time those who survive these Biblical plagues will still not repent of their murdering, stealing, sexual immorality, idolatry, and using sorcerous drugs (Rev 9:21), and another prophecy says that in the end of days – near to the very end – an entity called “harlot Babylon” will deceive all the nations through her psychedelic drug activities, and for this (among other great sins) will be utterly destroyed (an extended discussion on this Babylon will commence below).

There are some prophecies we do not understand until we see their fulfillment – discernment is in hindsight.

There is a lesson – a principle – to be learned from Geerhardus Vos, when he spoke concerning the prophecy of Antichrist, that it
“belongs among the many prophecies, whose best and final exegete will be the eschatological fulfillment, and in regard to which it behooves the saints to exercise a peculiar kind of eschatological patience.” [emphasis added –SMR] (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 133)​
In the light of this same principle, when Scripture speaks in Revelation 9:21 of men refusing to repent of their “sorceries” (pharmakeia) in the time of the sixth trumpet and its judgments, and in Rev 18:23 of the judgment of the harlot Babylon for (among other things) her “sorceries” (pharmakeia) which deceived the nations – those centuries prior to the latter half of the 20th might not have understood the meaning and significance of the “sorceries” written of here, for sorcery and magic arts then were practiced in the dark, away from the view of society, hidden in all its aspects due to its evil nature, widespread condemnation, and severe penalties.

I repeat again, for I must: I am not talking of the vast field of superstition and magical folklore when I talk of pharmakeia and its translation as “sorcery”, as it is quite certain the Bible is not talking of that field, but of something concrete and definite. Let us have no obfuscation of this discussion with all sorts of extraneous garbage from the heap of magical superstitions and lore!

“The right interpretation of those drug-induced experiences”? First, let me ask (rhetorically), has there been an “eschatological fulfillment” of these Revelation prophecies, particularly the one in 18:23, “for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived” ?

It’s common knowledge that there has been an upsurge in psychedelic drug use starting in the 1950s with the Beats, and in the ‘60s with the counterculture (as well gov’t intelligence agencies, politicians, practitioners in the therapeutic fields, artists, intellectuals, etc, etc). Seeing as this was such an open and widespread phenomenon very few have made the connection with the topic of Biblical “sorcery”, a topic commonly thought of as taboo and arcane. To add to this, the fact that many of those who used these drugs did so “recreationally” and not for any sort of occult or spiritual purposes has given the impression that these drugs were not necessarily “sorcerous” although they could be used for those ends. This was the time when “sorcery” / pharmakeia became widely popular and supposedly both fun and enlightening.

It just goes to show how poorly thought-out and naïve our views on the topic are! People smoke or ingest marijuana to attain a psychological or psychic “high” – an elevated and enhanced state of consciousness – though some would deny calling this “high” as much a pharmakeia activity as more spiritual awareness. It is to deny that pharmakeia can involve enhanced physical sensation and pleasure through this psychic “high” – to the exclusion of overt occultism – as well as said occult activity. We should recognize that to use sorcery to voluptuously indulge in sensory pleasure is as much one of its activities as the seeking of psychic, occult, and spiritual experience.

Not everyone who uses sorcerous / pharmakeia-class drugs is interested in occultism or spiritual consciousness, but rather intense pleasure through the various senses, or perhaps aesthetic and mental acuity in their artistic or intellectual pursuits.

Does intended use make the drug work a certain way? Change its effect on the human body and psyche? What kind of chemical is this whose properties and effects change with intent? No other pharmaceutical has this characteristic. What we see is that there are different “levels” of Biblically-defined sorcery: occultic, spiritual, psychic high, and sensual pleasure. The enhancement by means of psychedelic agents constitutes them all pharmakeia activities.

Before we look at the “Babylonian” aspect of this, I’d like to introduce some thoughts on the topic from Os Guinness’ The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever, chapter 7, “The Counterfeit Infinity”:
A third defining feature of the counterculture is its resort to drugs, particularly the psychedelics to achieve a transcendental consciousness and a true infinity. Within the movement drugs attained an almost sacramental importance. They are virtually the bread and wine of the new community. But for many outside the movement they are a spectral horror, a phobia almost on a par with communism. . .

This sharp polarization of opinion, with its irrational emotionalism on either side, hardly allows for calm consideration of the real significance of drugs to the 1960s. But the psychedelic movement deserves serious attention. It is both a feature of the counterculture and the combination of two important trends—the perennial “taste for infinity” (as Baudelaire described it) and the urgent modern search for a new consciousness as a shortcut solution to human problems. . .

This chapter will analyze the story and the claims surrounding the psychedelics, delving beneath the unrestrained euphoria on the one hand and the reactionary ignorance on the other. I have no interest here in their medical or pharmacological implications, but will examine them for their philosophic and religious significance and for their place within the counterculture.

Two preliminary qualifications must be made. First, we are concerned with the psychedelics and not the depressants or stimulants. Many in the sixties generation have taken speed, heroin, and opium; others have resorted to nutmeg or airplane glue. These drugs range from the trivial to the terminal, but the former are hardly worthy of attention, and the horror of the latter are well documented. The psychedelic movement, on the contrary, shows the resort to drugs at its highest and is close to the nerve of the counterculture.

We are not using their former names, hallucinogenics or psychotomimetics, but rather psychedelics. Humphrey Osmond coined this word in 1957 to describe their mind-expanding qualities. The common feature of all these drugs is well known: Their effect appears to trigger a release that slips the leash of the normal, rational, waking mind. That which reasons logically, separates the self from the external world, and quantifies reality into colors, shapes, smells, and sound is disinhibited. A “transcending” consciousness is achieved whereby identity is often submerged into a feeling of oceanic unity; linear thinking gives way to a flooding awareness; and patterns, colors, and sounds often take on an existence for themselves, highly intensified. Sometimes this produces synesthesia or the crossover of sensations.

The explosive possibilities of the transcendence were glimpsed early by William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” But nearer our own time William James developed an understanding of its scientific possibility. After experimenting with nitrous oxide, he wrote in 1902 a passage that has become classic: “One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the flimsiest of screens*, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness. . . . No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. . . . Looking back on my own experiences, they all converge toward a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance.”

Recently the doors of perception have not just been glimpsed but blasted open with chemicals. So more recent writers are hotly impatient with normal perceptions. Colin McGlashan writes about dreams as “a file smuggled into the space-time cell where man lies captive; a cell whose walls and ceilings are our five senses, and whose warders are the inflexible concepts of logic.” But in all these understandings the psychedelic drugs are related to the mind as the microscope is to the eye; both expand the powers of apprehension, vision, and awareness.

A second preliminary qualification is that we must interpret any general conclusions about the psychedelic drugs in light of the set and the setting of the users, their character, and the circumstances under which they take the drug. There will be widely differing reactions to the same drug. A paid research volunteer experiences one thing, a curious artist quite another, a status seeker still another, while someone using drugs to search for God may have quite a different experience again. (pp. 236, 238, 239)​
* Cf. Jonathan Edward’s tissue paper-thin rotten covering between sinners and hell, God’s mere will holding them from plunging immediately down into the devil’s rapacious grasp (in “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” –SMR).

Guinness proceeds into a decent examination and analysis of the claims, the drugs themselves, their histories, and different aspects of their spiritual, philosophical, and cultural impact. The next chapter appropriately follows this one: “Encircling Eyes”, on the occult:
It should be obvious by now that the counterculture is not a monolithic unity. Compelling in its comprehensiveness but contradictory in its complexity, it rolls on like a relentless river of amorphous people, trends, fashions, ideals, and aspirations. At any moment there are a hundred eddies, crosscurrents, and whirlpools, and it is easy to be preoccupied with the inconsequential. But developing alongside the psychedelic movement and related to the logic of its failure is a further trend. It is a real defining feature of the movement. It will probably outlast the counterculture and go far beyond to be a profound influence in the closing years of the twentieth century. I am speaking here of the resurgent trend toward the occult.

The Fire Burns Low

Early hunters on safari in Africa used to build their fires high at night in order to keep away the wild animals. But when the fires burned low in the early hours of the morning, the hunters would see all around them the approaching outlined shapes of animals and a ring of encircling eyes in the darkness.

As we have witnessed the erosion and breakdown of the Christian culture of the West, so we have seen the vacuum filled by an upsurge of ideas that would have been unthinkable when the fires of the Christian culture were high. But this last trend is the most sinister of all. The occult is not just another compulsive spiral down which many have plunged, caught by the current of fascination with the weird and the wonderful. The trend is difficult to chart except the points that are spectacular, silly, or sinister and thus basically irrelevant to its deeper reality. At this deeper level the occult needs to be felt to be understood. So far as its future is concerned, only the grey outlines have emerged. But these are enough to quicken an appreciation of the horror of great darkness sweeping over the West, inexorably rolling inward like a swelling black tide or approaching with its encircling eyes.

In many ways this trend is the most surprising of all. Only a short time back any belief in such a world as the astral, the supernatural, the occult would have been relegated to the ridiculous. Spine-tingling stories and horror films were the modern surrogates for the modern loss of belief in Hell. They were anything but real. Perhaps stories of the occult were to be expected as part of the Middle Ages or the missionary world, but certainly they had little to do with the twentieth-century West and still less to do with the avant garde and the young. But the occult can no longer be relegated in time or distance. Yesterday’s skeptics are some of today’s firmest believers. (pp. 276, 277)​
After examining these developments in the culture of the times he was writing, and of the reality of occult signs and powers in the writings of Paul (2 Thess 2:8-12) and in the Apocalypse, which are meant to deceive , he says,
Reality is not to be mistaken for legitimacy. In a day of contentless religious experiences, the appeal of powerful spiritual phenomena is far wider than their legitimacy.

Interestingly, the word used for sorcery predicted in this context in Revelation is the word farmakeia, from which we get our word pharmacy or drugs. It is far from fanciful to interpret this as a prediction of the prevalence of drug-inspired sorcery at the end times. The Apostle John warns in his letter that we must test the spirits to see whether or not they are truly from God. In our day, when healing, fortunetelling, and speaking in tongues are so in vogue, there must be neither naiveté nor total skepticism, but a critical discernment made possible within the Christian framework. (pp. 309, 310).​
For an understanding of the sixties counterculture and developments that emerged from that time and are becoming full blown in the decades since, not only in our culture, but around the world, this book is a unique and informative read. As he writes from a Christian perspective, his spiritual discernment is all the more valuable. (I would recommend the updated 1994 edition, ISBN: 089107788X.)


With regard to Babylon in the book of Revelation – which topic I broached in the threads, Are We Babylon?, and the earlier, Thoughts on Babylon the Great in Revelation – please be aware that I am speaking from the amil or present millennium (aka realized millennium) viewpoint, which will be partially compatible with the historic premil view, but certainly not with the postmil.

We now in the year 2011 find ourselves in the unusual position of being able to observe – in hindsight – “the eschatological fulfillment” of a portion of the Babylon prophecy, that being the section ending Rev 18:23, “for by thy sorceries (pharmakeia) were all nations deceived”, and for which she would later be judged.

There was an event (the term now used for military-scale biological, chemical, or nuclear events) that befell the entire world through the drug-energized sixties generation in America, as this potent counterculture permeated the nations of the world through its music, literature, art, film, and other culture-bearing vehicles. These nations and cultures of the world were leavened from within by the exciting new consciousness of the sixties and the Woodstock spirit exported into them, but it was a Trojan Horse filled with the denizens of Hell. Its impact was, in the psychic realm, the equivalent of a massive nuclear detonation. The fallout of this “detonation” was the presence of malign spirits and their influence upon the new thinking: it became (seemingly) obvious to all that real vitality was not to be found in the Christian faith but in the relativity of postmodernism – the validation of everyone’s subjective truths and beliefs – and thus was the world made ripe for satanic deception on an unprecedented scale.

It was obvious now – at least to “enlightened” people – that the Christian worldview was a relentless cultural and spiritual imperialism, evil in that it denied the validity of all thought and cultural development contrary to itself and, for the sake of humankind’s health, urgently needed to be eliminated. We see, with the progressive delegitimizing of Christianity, the rise of fundamentalism in pagan religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism showing murderous hostility to Christians. Communism also attacked “Christian imperialism” with new rigor, as seen in North Korea, China, Eritrea, etc. And it will eventually give rise to the final deception and manifestation of satanic power in the last and worst antichrist figure and the beast government that shall institute the “final solution” for God’s people – the followers of Christ.

The damage done is irreversible. The timetable of the Sovereign God is counting down. Across the non-Western world Christians are already under severe duress, persecution increasing daily. And the signs are that a groundswell is building up in the West – the mystery of iniquity and lawlessness – and that He who restrains it will not restrain it for long (2 Thess 2:6 ff.).

In the West many professing followers of Christ are awash in the wine of great whore Babylon, rooting in pleasure and in her entertainments, worse off spiritually than their brethren in other lands being persecuted, for at least the latter are awake, if bleeding.


I would like to take a look at a scene in Revelation 9, which is a chapter about satanic deception pouring into the world in a sudden and great influx, with consequent destruction and violence – the fifth and sixth trumpets. My comments are not to be taken as dogmatic statements, but as attempts to understand in light of major historical happenings. Before that a few excerpts from commentators. From the beginning of Revelation 9:
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads (Rev 9:1-4).​
“In the vision the apostle now observes that the prince of darkness receives the key of the shaft of the abyss. In other words, he receives the power to open the abyss and let the demons out. The abyss indicates hell before the final judgment (Lk. 8:31; Rev. 20:1,3). After the judgment, hell is called ‘the lake of fire’ (20:14,15). When we read that Satan opens the shaft of the abyss, the meaning is that he incites to evil; he fills the world with demons and with their wicked influences and operations. John sees that the shaft, as soon as it is unlocked, begins to belch forth smoke just like the smoke of a great furnace. It is the smoke of deception and delusion, of sin and sorrow, of moral darkness and degradation that is constantly belching up out of hell. So thick and murky is that smoke that it blots out the light of the sun and darkens the air [footnote: . . . the picture, taken as a whole, symbolizes a very grievous moral and spiritual darkening by the forces of evil] . . .

“Now, out of the smoke, locusts descend on earth. A more terrible plague than that of locusts is hardly conceivable. . . The destruction, the utter ruin, the desolation and despondency caused by a locust storm can be understood only by the person who has seen and experienced it. These locusts, unbelievably terrible in their destructive power, are a fit symbol of the far more terrible and destructive hellish locusts which the apostle is about to picture. Under the symbolism of a locust plague John describes the powers and influences of hell operating in the heart and lives of wicked men.” [underlined emphasis added] (–Wm. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, pp. 120, 121.)

“The expression Abyss in the New Testament refers to the abode of the evil spirits with the exception of Romans 10:6-7, where Paul uses the concept for the abode of the dead. . . The Abyss has a shaft that leads to the so-called bottomless pit. Out of this shaft fumes arise like smoke out of a great furnace. The picture John presents is that of thick smoke which obscures the light of day, obstructs breathing, contributes to illness, produces unbearable stench, and besmirches everything on which it descends. It is as if hell itself breaks loose to mar, pollute, and defile God’s creation. This enormous furnace serves to portray hell itself from which clouds of smoke ascend to darken the light of the sun and pollute the air, making breathing nearly impossible. Evil is like a dense cloud that turns the world into darkness and suffocates all those who are breathing its polluted air. But evil functions only with divine permission. . . the context itself forces the interpreter to explain the word locusts not literally but figuratively. These creatures coming forth from hell are demonic in appearance and action.” [emphasis added] (–Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: Revelation, pp.286, 287.)

Dennis E. Johnson:
“The locust army of the fifth trumpet symbolizes demonic torment inflicted on the minds and souls of “those who dwell on the earth,” who lack the seal of God’s name on their thoughts and lives. . . (–Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 148.)

“Though limited in duration and severity, this outbreak of demonic activity carries the expression of God’s wrath to a new level, a first woe. The terrors and anxieties during a civilization’s dissolution, such as Rome would undergo in the coming centuries, epitomize but do not exhaust the torments of heart and mind symbolized by the army of the fifth trumpet. (Ibid. p. 149.)

“As the sixth seal provided a preview of the traumas that will characterize the dissolution of the first heavens and earth, so the sixth trumpet previews an increase of satanic deception that precipitates growing violence, death, and despair. Such a crumbling of law, order, and safety should shake idolaters’ confidence in ‘the works of their hands’ and cure their desire to ‘worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk’ (Rev. 9:20) . . . Yet, even as demons destroy their own worshippers in despair and violent conflict, the survivors of God’s warning blasts of judgment do not repent of their murders, sorceries, immorality, and thefts. These six warning notes, the overture of wrath to come, fall on deaf ears.” [emphasis added] (Ibid. p. 152.)

And last but surely not least of the commentators on this passage,

G.K. Beale:
“These woes are also worse than the initial four in that they directly strike the wicked. The wicked are directly affected because the first four judgments, those against the environment that supported their lives, have not led them to repentance. The spiritual nature of the judgments now becomes more explicit. ‘God is using, to expose the true character of the wicked, the same method which in the case of Job was used to expose the true character of the righteous’ [fn. 44: Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened, 96]. The spiritual heightening of the last three trumpets is indicated by the presence of demons.’ (G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 1999, Eerdmans, pp. 489, 490)

“The precise form of judgment anticipated in 9:2 is explained beginning in v 3. It partly involves deception (vv 3-6), which is metaphorically anticipated by the darkness caused by the smoke. Throughout the NT, and especially in the Johannine corpus, darkness symbolizes spiritual blindness. (Ibid. p. 494)

“. . . And Just as the frogs of the third exodus plague symbolize demons in Rev 16:13, so here the locusts that physically plagued the Egyptians now represent demonic forces. (Ibid. p. 495)

“The devilish beings of the fifth trumpet may be the spiritual forces of the
Antichrist, of the devil, or of both, which vv 1 and 11 confirm (cf. 1 John 2:18-26; 4:1-3, where the spirit of Antichrist works through deception brought by false teachers in the church). (Ibid. p. 502)

“In contrast to the fifth trumpet, the sixth includes death together with deception. Therefore, the sixth trumpet intensifies and develops further the woe of the fifth. The intensification is signaled by the fact that, whereas smoke affects people in the fifth trumpet, in the next trumpet they are affected by smoke together with the fire from which it comes . . .

“This means that these demons both torment, at least partly by deception, and then make certain the spiritual fate of their victims by imposing physical death. The smoke and resulting darkness are metaphorical for a punishment of deception (see on 8:12; 9:2-3), and the fire is metaphorical for lethal judgment (see on 9:18 and below) . . . This deception is an essential aspect of the torment . . .

“The deception manifests itself partly through false teachers affirming the legitimacy of some form of idolatry for Christians (cf., e.g., 2:6, 14-15, 20-21). (Ibid. p. 513)

“. . . That deception along with spiritual and physical death is implied [by the attack of the demonic creatures of 9:15-19 –SMR] is suggested by the fact that the saints cannot be harmed by these plagues. The essence of the saints’ seal is not immunity from physical death but protection against being deceived and losing the covenantal relationship with God.” (Ibid. p. 515)


I would suggest an interpretation of this prophesied opening of the abyss derived from hindsight, looking back on historical events. You will no doubt – those who have been following my tack in these writings – understand I am referring to the great psychedelic explosion that slowly began in the 1950s and mushroomed into a worldwide phenomenon in the 60s and early 70s. Of course there was evil and deception in the world prior to that time – great evil and deception – simply witness the emergence of antichristian philosophies and religions through the centuries, and the wars of the last century, yet this in the 60s was, as it were, gasoline thrown on the wickedness of the human heart, though at first it was said – by those who were promoting and doing it, at any rate – not to be an evil but a profound good, and which would benefit humankind. For so those who pushed the psychedelic drugs of the counterculture said: this will bring spiritual enlightenment, resulting in peace for the world, and the bettering of relationships. They lied. They were deceived and deceiving.

What this psychic / spiritual event actually accomplished, however, was a new state of mind that went far beyond the beats and hippies, for the drugs of that time were taken and experienced by the military intelligence services, politicians, academics, artists, psychiatrists and others in the medical and therapeutic professions, as well as teachers, lawyers and others. The ultimate message of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, marijuana et al was truth resides within man and not outside; whatever deity is to be known likewise resides in man and not in some external “God”. This understanding came into human consciousness with power, for it was experienced by vast multitudes (whether they took the drugs or not, for the evangelists of this revelation were many, and spoke, wrote, and sang with power), and it eventually became the reigning paradigm of the world, crowding out the exclusivist religions; it became the new zeitgeist.

Christianity still existed, but it was now déclassé, increasingly marginalized as an untrue, primitive, and dangerous thought-form, one that was injurious to society. And in the wake of this change in thinking came the emergence of ethnic, religious, and cultural renewals – with fierce passions and conflicts, fanned into flaming enthusiasm by the one cast down to the earth, and having great wrath for the shortness of his time (Rev 12:11-13). From the deception came wars, with their attending famines, disease, and death.

My take on this section of Revelation may certainly be contested, but I think it can be agreed on that at least both trumpets show a massive invasion of evil spirits and their influence upon the collective consciousness of humankind. Whether they are so closely aligned as I think is not certain.


To interact a bit with discussion from the previous thread, here is an exchange from post #93 regarding synecdoche:

Steve in post #82 said, “The prohibition against pharmakeia forbids the magic arts absolutely, both as regards the generally essential component of drug use, as well as by synecdoche the entire enterprise.”

And Ruben (in post #93) responded, “I think the difficulty I have here is that it appears to me that you are understanding the word both as a synecdoche and according to its etymology. That strikes me as being an instance of an equivocal definition of a term. However, if you have examples from Biblical or other literature of the use of a synecdoche where the term simultaneously functions according to its etymological and figurative use I would be very interested to see them.”

This is not an unusual phenomenon in Scripture, Ruben.

(Romans 1:16) “Greek” means Greeks and Gentiles – simultaneously

(Matthew 6:11) “Give us our daily bread” means the necessities of life and (in that culture) the food staple bread – simultaneously

(Romans 13:4) “the sword” (in Paul’s day) means the actual sword and the punitive authority and power of the state – simultaneously

(Jeremiah 29:17, 18) “I will send upon them the sword” means actual swords and all the weapons and killing methods of warfare – simultaneously

(Malachi 3:5) “sorcerer” [pharmakos LXX] means sorcerers and soothsayers, false prophets, diviners – simultaneously, Calvin concurring.

(Matthew 12:7 / Hosea 6:6) “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” – “This word ‘mercy’ signifies by synecdoche the duties of love, just as the outward cult of the Law is comprehended under ‘sacrifices’.” –John Calvin on Matt 12:7.

E.W. Bullinger in his, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, has a large section on Synecdoche starting on page 613.


So there is a narrow (you called it “etymological”) definition of pharmakeia which pertains to the actual use of drugs – the meaning inherent in the word – and then there is the more general definition which pertains to the various activities engaged in while under the influence of said drugs, as well as the influence effected on other parties by this demonic activity, i.e., “deceived by her sorceries” (cf. Rev 18:23). Or one could also put it: sorcery specifically involving “drugs that induce magic spells”, and activity involving intercourse with demons or demonically enhanced states of awareness.

Although it is beyond the scope of my present concern, I would venture to say that all the genuine magic arts (even those entered into apart from drug use) are comprehended in the NT terms “sorcery” and “witchcraft” even though they are both translated from the Greek pharmakeia. But please, I do not want to pursue this or go off on a hundred rabbit trails on this topic, as it is not germane to the point I wish to establish.

I would think it valid to say that the primary (satanic) purpose of “sorcery” / pharmakeia is deception, though of course it is not the only means of fostering deception. False teaching, for example, is a great means for this.

Sometimes false “teaching” (loosely speaking) – promoting “doctrines of devils” 1 Tim 4:1 – is combined with pharmakeia. Think of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, even some stages of Dylan. Or the poets and writers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Henry Miller, Herman Hesse – one could go on and on. Many of the New Age (now often called New Spirituality) adherents were first “hooked” while using pharmakeia-class drugs, while now they are sufficiently established in satanic power and consciousness so that they may disdain drugs.

We see in Revelation 18:23, where it is said to Babylon that “by thy sorceries were all nations deceived”, deception may be on a world-wide scale. Yet there are degrees of deception, as well as varieties. There is the primary deception of simple spiritual blindness, which is the condition of unregenerate humankind. Then there is additional – or intensified – deception from sorcery / pharmakeia, which confirms souls in “strong delusion” as a judgment on their idolatrous wickedness, and there is even further deception which sees the children of God as evil and to be persecuted and destroyed. There is also the blindness of ethnic and religious hatred, where various people groups seek to dominate or destroy one another. Although these have all been active during the church age, they are intensifying.

Deception is also aimed at God’s people. Concerning the saints, even in (or against from without) the early church there were false teachers – John in Rev 13:11 called these corporately the beast from the earth (aka “the false prophet” Rev 16:13; 19:20), though there could be an individual so named, as with the antichrist, at the end.

As noted above, some of these false teachers were in the church (in Pergamos Rev 2:14, and in Thyatira 2:20 ff.), and some of them encouraged the saints to participate in idolatrous activities, saying it would not be sin to them. The form it took then was allowing them to join the pagan trade guilds and to participate in their orgiastic (though in some cases tamer) rites while worshipping the patron deities of those guilds. They said, But you know there are no real deities other than the true God and so you are not really worshipping anything; it is not sin or idolatry to you to join the guilds. The Lord strongly reproved such in His messages to those churches.

Other major deceptions were the rise of the Roman Catholic organization, and Islam, both still active today.

Today we have a raging mighty torrent of false teaching seeking to drown the church in darkness, which many amil commentators say is shown in Rev 12:15: “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” Perhaps the earth which “opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood” (12:16) to help the woman is the wilderness of her separation from the world and its evil influences, as the commentators opine.

As the church then, in John’s day, was under this attack, even so are we in the 21st century. Here at PB there are very sharp discerners of false teachings, and there is safety in the multitude of wise counselors. But it is my view – and others’ – that soundness in doctrine is not enough; we must be pure in our practices as well, and this will come from sound exposition of the word of God. I see this drug issue as a breach in the wall of holiness, so to speak, endangering the people of God. It’s a small breach for now, but we all know about the tiny hole in a dike which quickly turns into a wide opening and floods the entire land.

And there are the equivalents today of those teachers who encouraged the saints to commit spiritual fornication with the world and the beast from the land. If indeed I am correct about the import of pharmakeia-class drugs being agents inducing spiritual fornication, one would hope folks would think twice before leaping in to defend their use or deny they are identifiable and prohibited.

Given the potency of these pharmakeia-class drugs, it amazes me, Ruben, that you could go on and on about what they are and are not without having an inkling as to their reality. It’s sort of an academic subject to you – even though you are ignorant of the reality of it – while to me it is something I know all too well, and have strong reasons for my views on their danger. When I read the Biblical data on these drugs I realize what depths the Lord drew me and many others out of. And you actually have the nerve to belittle my experience as a valid factor in how I apply the Biblical criteria to these substances and activities!

Reflecting on an exchange of ours in post #96 of the previous thread:

“I deny that a pharmakeia class of drugs is taught in Scripture, or can be derived therefrom (a). Some may be convinced by appeals to experience or discernment, but my own discernment tells me that this procedure is insufficiently Berean (b) . Scripture doesn't identify the constituent drugs in this class (c) , or describe the parameters of the class (d) , so their identification is arbitrary” (e). –To respond point by point: (a). You don’t even know what pharmakeia actually is, or what action that class of drugs actually has upon the human system, and yet you opine boldly as though you had an idea of what you are denying. How preposterous! It is clear that when Scripture uses the term pharmakeia it is using a word associated with magic, witchcraft, sorcery, drugs, and the demonic; this is the testimony of both the NT and the LXX OT, and of numerous lexicographers, commentators, and translators. Kistemaker says of them they are “drugs that induce magic spells”.

(b). Your “own discernment” tells you the procedure I follow to identify them is “insufficiently Berean”? By what knowledge of this field, pray tell, is your discernment informed? You have said you had no “hands on” experience, but have you studied any of the literature – of which there is much – on the topic?
And Luke defines “Berean” as those who “searched the Scriptures . . . [to see] whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). What more searching would you have me do than I have done? And what have you done? You have brought nothing more to this table than a sharp but uninformed intellect, and no Scripture whatsoever! Your denials are based on nothing more than human reasoning. This is a case of the pot calling the shiny silver tea kettle black!

(c). The reason the drugs were not named and specified in the Scriptures is because the someof the drugs as well as the names of the drugs change over the centuries and in various cultures. In the 1st century AD drugs such as LSD and mescaline were not yet invented / synthesized, but the principle of pharmakeia-class substances – knowledge of their properties and effects – were. And so the general term was used.

LSD was not invented till 1938 (nor used by the inventor till a few years later), and the names peyote (from which mescaline is derived), psilocybin mushrooms, hashish, marijuana etc. were not in the vocabulary of the Greeks or Hebrews of Biblical times, though likely they were known by other names. So some pharmakeia substances were yet to be discovered, and the changing nature of nomenclature was dealt with by an etymological-based understanding of their properties, or as you say, “parameters”.

But (d), the “parameters” of the class of drugs Biblically known as pharmakon – and producing the activity known as pharmakeia (sorcery) – were known. As Kistemaker says, they were those drugs known to “induce magic spells”! And “also for encouraging the presence of spirits” for those who used them! (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 2, p. 558.) You may deny this all you want, but your denials are what are “insufficiently Berean”!

(e). Thus, the identification of drugs in this class is not arbitrary, but derived from the word of God, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding!


You say, Ruben, “The question is not whether sorcery is demonic: certainly I don't deny that it is. And the question is not whether becoming involved with demons is acceptable, or trivial (no and no).

So the question returns to this: does Scripture identify the administration or ingestion of certain substances as being intrinsically sorcerous. This is what I deny.”
[emphasis added –SMR]

According to the lexicographers, commentators, and translators the Bible clearly states there are substances which – by “inducing magic spells” and “encouraging the present of spirits” – are intrinsically sorcerous and thus prohibited. This has been sufficiently discussed above.


Also from post #96:

“The upshot is then, that to the question of whether Scripture prohibits administration or ingestion of a certain class of drugs (a) as intrinsically sorcerous (b), the answer is no. – To recap: (a) You deny there is such a class simply on the basis, it surely seems, of your own uninformed bias. You respond not with Scripture, nor with studies on the topic, but your own isolated ideation. You wax eloquent, but it is an eloquence that clouds with all sorts of meandering extraneous possibilities, making the easy to understand needlessly complicated. Politicians and lawyers would call it a gift! (b) “Intrinsically sorcerous” – basically what those two words signify are drugs which so alter the consciousness as to induce entrance into a realm of spiritual activity not effected by the Spirit of Christ. You simply deny it despite not knowing anything about it, this “sorcery” you go on about with great naïveté, a naïveté quite destructive in its spreading of disinformation.


And so, again, the identification of a pharmakeia class of drugs is not drawn from Scripture, but rather from experience or from research. In the same vein, people hallucinate from causes other than drug use: if hallucinogenics are sorcerous, is any hallucination sorcery? – Come on, Ruben, this is silly! Some rhetorical questions – as this – are meant to cloud the issue with useless words! Obviously some hallucinations bespeak illness and a malfunctioning mind.

And this is why I still can't get away from the thought of superstition. Anyone who has ever had a high fever with delirium knows that the mind can do strange things; attributing strange-things-the-mind-does-under-the-influence-of-drugs to demons with only the warrant that has been suggested appears to be a classic example of attributing spiritual properties to material substances, and appealing to malevolent supernaturalism to explain a straightforward phenomenon. Before it is urged again that I have no personal experience, let me point out that others who share my views do, and that drugs are not the only means of having strange experiences. – That is quite convoluted an attempt to disprove a thing you are ignorant of! And perhaps this is the only way you are able to go about it, bringing in examples of other mental phenomena which do not in any way disprove what I am saying, but cloud the air with imagined possibilities, to which you add your usual charge of “superstition”. Of course the mind can do strange things, be it under sleep deprivation, stress, sensory deprivation, fever (as you note), etc., but you are trying to impugn the presentation of a phenomenon – and a Biblical teaching – with phantom phenomena spun so as to sound reasonable. But it is not reasonable, for you suggest all sorts of alternative possibilities to explain what you don’t know.

And those who share your views who have had some experience with psychedelic drugs, as you assert – please don’t just leave us with that empty sound bite but provide their evidences to the contrary. I think they will be found wanting upon examination, as they have been previously.

For this reason I would urge readers, before leaving a church that doesn't share your discernment on the matter, before dismissing as deceived by Babylon's sorceries the brothers who disagree, before supporting a political posture that has provided cover for brutality and hypocrisy abroad, consider that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and reflect on what the Bible identifies as demonic, such as sorcery, idolatry, improper asceticism, false teaching, statism, a culture of self-gratification, and make sure you are disputing the dominion of darkness with the right weapons (prayer, the word of God and the armor of righteousness), and in the right places.

You would urge readers not to leave a church that condones the use of marijuana – given its legality, and its “responsible” use? I ask, what of the pastor, say in Colorado or California where medicinal grass is legal under prescription for pain, or Holland where it is simply legal, who, having smoked before the service, ministers while stoned? Or where a number in the church are (legally) stoned in the service? Would you assert that, if they’ve done it in moderation (or for pain relief), this is not in accord with the RPW?

If someone says the smoking of marijuana doesn’t necessarily bring in demonic influence, and that such a thing is unprovable, does that mean it’s okay sometimes – and in areas or situations where it’s legal – then it’s alright if our teenagers smoke it in moderation? Or if the assistant pastor – who teaches the teenage Bible study – has pain from a sports injury, and smokes (with a script) beforehand, that’s okay?

And what about the young children of these people, who see them partaking and accepted by the church? In the rush to seem “open minded” and enlightened beyond the pall of “superstition” we are conditioning others to tolerate and accept an evil thing.

I put this question to you in the previous thread and you didn’t answer; would you please answer it now (I shouldn’t be the only one answering questions!):

What do you say to someone who comes to you for counsel, having looked in on the earlier thread, and asks you, “Ruben, I have access to some great and potent marijuana, and I’m a Christian living in Amsterdam where it’s perfectly legal, and I’ve been reading your posts and I get the view that if partake of this weed in moderation and with regard to safety (i.e., not driving or operating machinery) I’m not in violation of the Bible. Is that right?” What will you say by way of counsel to this person? That you’re not sure? Or yes it’s okay?

Buit getting back to your statement, have you anywhere heard me say that those who disagree with the view I present are “deceived by Babylon's sorceries”? That applies to “the nations” (Rev 18:23), not disagreeing brethren. Though yes, they would be deceived as regards the Scriptural prohibition. That’s the issue of this thread! And what is it you are saying with the words “supporting a political posture that has provided cover for brutality and hypocrisy abroad”? Do you imply I do this with my focus on pharmakeia? What can you be saying here? I have dealt with this sloppy thinking earlier. Is your exhortation to “consider that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, and reflect on what the Bible identifies as demonic, such as sorcery, idolatry, improper asceticism, false teaching, statism, a culture of self-gratification, and make sure you are disputing the dominion of darkness with the right weapons (prayer, the word of God and the armor of righteousness), and in the right places” meant to imply that I do not – or that I urge others to not – rightly consider such things? You include so much extraneous stuff – beside the point of the discussion – that you really do cloud the issues. I’m not saying you do it deliberately, but you sure do do it!

If you choose to continue discussing with me, would you please not do this?


I’d like to present some brief (really brief!) articles by The Christian Institute in England on what marijuana has done to the youth in that country after they liberalized the classification of that drug – for a while – till, some years later they saw the public health disaster they’d unleashed and tightened them up again. But the damage was done, and the drug had already made great inroads into the culture, especially the youth. The Christian Institute is a stand-up ministry that focuses on and exposes the marginalization of Christians in the UK and provides legal help to many Christians drawn into a legal system increasingly penalizing them for their faith. I will comment after the articles.

Nine-year-old kids caught dealing cannabis at school

Cannabis will be restored to class B, says Home Secretary

Surge in mental illness linked to relaxation of cannabis laws

Skunk increases psychosis risk seven-fold, says study

Cannabis blamed for rise in mental cases

Cannabis could raise the risk of cancer

UK teenagers are worst in Europe for cannabis abuse

Coroner links teen’s suicide to cannabis

(This pdf document is rather long): Going soft on cannabis: Demolishing 15 key arguments for the downgrading of the cannabis laws.pdf (Christian Institute, UK)

And here's a very recent one: Hundreds of children caught dealing cannabis


You will note the strong stand The Christian Institute (TCI) takes completely apart from the issue of pharmakeia involving the demonic realm. Is the increasing mental illness of those children who use marijuana merely a “mental health” issue apart from the spiritual health aspect? From the Biblical point of view there is no doubt that opening these children’s hearts and minds to the spiritual realm by means of pharmakeia-class agents has allowed demonic influence to ravage a great multitude of them.

In our own country it’s now been made known that Jared L. Loughner, the Tucson killer, used such agents, albeit legally: Shooting Suspect Had Been Known to Use Potent, and Legal, Hallucinogen (Salvia divinorum). From the article:
“Salvia is a potent but legal drug marketed with promises of producing a transcendental spiritual journey: out-of-body experiences, existence in multiple realities, the revelation of secret knowledge and, according to one online seller, ‘permanent mind-altering change in perception.’ ”​
Was this just a case of mental illness? Or was there a spiritual aspect to his murderous rampage? We will see much more violence springing out of deception, both individually and on far larger scales. The church needs to stand aloof from all pharmakeia involvement, and with a clarion sound issue the Scripture’s warning concerning it.


This post has gone on quite long. If there are responses, please understand that I may not get to them quickly, as I need to be packing and preparing to return back to the states, on top of my pastoral duties while still here. But I will get to them.
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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Many of us who do not have scruples against seeing occasional movies and television shows have seen the movies Iron Man and Iron Man II. The character Tony Stark invented a complex and very effective armoring around his entire body, along with an enhanced energy source to empower this armored suit and its accompanying weaponry. Some folks really get off on such invulnerability and wish they had such a thing.

Ourselves, the children of God in Christ, also have a supernaturally enhanced armor and energy source, but it is an entirely different sort. It does not protect the body, but the “inner man” of the person, or the soul. I won’t get into all the aspects of this armor except to say that our minds are protected as well as our hearts and wills. They are protected by qualities of character which function to formidably armor us against various kinds of assaults, qualities such as truthfulness, righteousness, readiness to bear witness to Christ, faith in Him, a sound mind saturated with His word, courage to wisely wield it as an offensive weapon, and all-prayer.

This requires a poise of mind and heart in the power and grace of Christ’s Spirit, which He nurtures and forms in us as we walk with Him.

Do you know what happens to this infrastructure of godly human personality when one takes psychedelic drugs, whether it be marijuana, mescaline, or LSD? The entire system of defense is broken down; in marijuana by the emergence of an energized awareness that is not of the Holy Spirit, and that enhances the soul’s powers at the expense of the Spirit’s: the focus is on the self and not on the Lord. If there is an appearance of the qualities of character serving as the godly man’s soul armor it is a delusion, for the heart has been hijacked by an alien and artificial energy source. With LSD or like psychedelics it is somewhat different; the entire structure of the mind and personality is blown away in the flood of awareness that carries the consciousness into a realm where the basic character of a person is gone in lieu of a naked vulnerability to stimuli, both from within the person and from without. There is no “personality” left intact to marshal the godly defenses – it has been temporarily disabled, and dismantled. This is a “mystical experience” of profound significance to some, but in reality is total exposure to influences in the psychic and spiritual realm, influences which do not come from God. All “mysticism” apart from the Biblical Christ is demonic.

The armor of the spiritual man or woman has not only been breached, it has been literally blown away. Things may come in with great power and cannot be resisted. It is immensely dangerous, and obvious why prohibited by God as demonic sorcery.

It is as though an adversary were able to disassemble Tony Stark’s armor by introducing another energy source to override his, leaving him standing in his underwear in the presence of merciless and violent enemies filled with hatred for him, enraged at his previous exploits against them.


In a related vein, I do wonder why Christian folk – who are enjoined to “love not the world” (1 John 2:15-17) – would want to take (or condone others taking) substances (I think particularly of marijuana here) which greatly enhance their sensual experience of the world. And not only of the world, but of the self. The heightened experience of self, artificially attained by means of a psychic energizer – one prized by spiritualists and shamanistic religions – would seem something the godly would avoid. And again, not only heightened experience of the world and the self, but also of the devil – that is, his influences in various realms, be they voluptuously enjoying the pleasures of the world, increasing love of the self, or participating in drug-induced consciousness in the psychic realms – one would think to see the godly fleeing such activity.

The church is in a critical period now. World-wide – apart from the “civilized” West – increasing heat in the form of persecution is putting the followers of Christ in a furnace of purifying affliction. Does the West seem immune, exempted from this fiery trial? No, for our present trial is the more dangerous: what we are tested by is the intoxicating wine of the spiritual fornication of harlot Babylon (Rev 17:2). To love the world, its pleasures, entertainments, prosperity, cultural and technological achievements, and the seeming naturalness of just chillin’, layin’ back and enjoying life, even if it is at the expense of cultivating our spiritual consciousness, seeking – and setting our affection upon – those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Col 3:1-3), this trial is indeed more dangerous than outright physical attack.

And grass is part of it, however small a part.

According to Scripture, this shall not be a perpetual trial for us, as the forces of darkness shall be loosed to try us as they try our brethren in the rest of the world, and Babylon the blood-drooling whore will show her true face as she turns against us. I remember it was said of the Jews in Germany, they were so confident of their place in that society, they said of themselves, “We will be such good citizens we will out-German even the Germans!” They were rudely disillusioned. Although we fit in nicely now, we too ought not assume the tide will not turn, for it will. I do not know when, but it will. After all, we are, as was our father Abraham before us, aliens and strangers here in this world.

We need to watch and pray, and flee spiritual fornication.
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