Dancing in the Dark

Preamble

For those who have been reading the discussion on the Forum you will know that we have been preparing a response to criticism of Audrey Harper’s book, “Dance with the Devil”. This was sent to known interested parties on Saturday 8 January 2005 and any that want to see it can download the pdf file here.

We are however saddened that exwitch.org, the main organisation behind the criticism, has responded to their web site as follows:

“ReachOut Trust
…THE LINK TO REACHOUT HAS BEEN REMOVED. Recently, RT chose to republish a book of “personal testimony” which we believe promotes the SRA myth and “satanic panic”. We immediately got in touch with Doug Harris of RT, who asked us to tender an explanation of our objections. We did so on 11/13/05. Nearly two months later, we received a 35-page response from them which focused on minor matters that we had little objection to, and ignored our problem with the claim, “It’s Witchcraft.” Their suggestion for how to proceed is so inadequate that we simply see no way to proceed with them, and we will be focusing our efforts where they belong, instead of on Reachout “Trust”. Any Pagans who are concerned regarding this matter are welcome to come to the forum and post in the ExWitch- UK folder (even ranting about it is welcome).” © Exwitch.org

First, the report shows clearly that we do not support the myth of SRA – just the opposite. They have read this but still insist on a different conclusion. Unfortunately they are creating a myth about Reachout Trust and causing more panic than we ever have.

Second, we did receive the report in mid-November and spent a significant amount of time putting together a 35 page response in the hope of having further dialogue. That response was with all relevant parties on Saturday January 8 after having taken a month and a half (including a busy Christmas period) of careful and heartfelt consideration by Reachout Trust. Within two days of receiving this carefully considered report ExWitch has decided to sever their connections with Reachout. I think it is self evident that while we have taken time and care to answer the original report the recipients have seen fit to dismiss our response out-of-hand.

Third, they have dismissed our report as something that addresses minor issues, failing to address their main objections. These are issues that were raised by them and appeared to us to be central to their claims. We expect this sort of reaction from cultists but feel deeply disappointed to find it coming from those who say they name the name of Jesus. Even now we are prepared to discuss further their concerns but our fears have always been that they long ago decided that we could either agree with them or be wrong. This latest development seems to confirm our worst fears.

Finally, they are encouraging pagans to say what they like about Reachout Trust on their forum and it appears that the normal board policy of editing malicious posts will be overlooked. I would say that this is “Incitement to Religious Hatred” and is not helpful. They are being asked to comment on what someone says about the report and not the report itself. We hope that you will read it – download here – and then make sensible comment on the Forum (see Witchcraft – IMPORTANT REPORT). We will remove anything that is of a vindictive nature to Reachout Trust or to Exwitch.

Having responded to this and see the way we have been treated we still want dialogue although unfortunately such seems not to be on their agenda at this time.

That said, this has been an interesting and rewarding time for Mike Thomas and Doug Harris, because although their previous investigations and knowledge had convinced them that Audrey was telling the truth, clear evidence of this fact needed to be put together in a logical way, that would answer specific queries raised, often on secondary issues.

What follows is Mike Thomas’ experience of this work and it will help to give an insight to the conscientious way that the work of Reachout Trust is undertaken.

Personal Observations

Periodically a writing and research project comes along that proves to be something more, something of a personal journey. This is such a project. If I might be allowed to make some personal observations then, since so many questions have arisen out of this exercise, questions that have a much wider impact than simply how they effect the occult community and the Christian community seeking to witness in this area. Issues that are important to me, questions I have spent many years studying and wrestling with. I would like to address myself to some of these.

What would you know?

One of the objections raised is that I should be involved at all in the task of answering the report in question. The feeling seems to be “what would an ex-Mormon know about it?” I asked myself the same question and how I might answer it if it became necessary. It is a legitimate question because, as a Christian who was once a Mormon (I am not an ex-anything), I have no first-hand experience of the occult in the sense of having been personally involved. On the other hand I do have a good deal of experience in the process of coming from a false religion into the arms of Christ. Of course, my main role has been as a director/trustee and not a former Mormon. I have been, for the past fifteen years or so, a volunteer factotum for Reachout Trust, researching, writing and producing innumerable articles, reports as well as part authorship of books on various Reachout subjects. I don’t write this to boast, but to say that, in my experience, while there is nothing quite like experience, nevertheless there is no faith or religion or philosophy that is incapable of being scrutinised and understood to a meaningful standard.

Although I was a Mormon for many years, I find myself turning for reference periodically to folk who have never been Mormons but have studied the Mormon faith. This is not because I don’t know my subject but because I recognise that others are perfectly capable of knowing it too. I might use an example that might be nearly a parallel to what we are discussing. While I have been inside a working Mormon temple dozens of times and witnessed and performed the secret/sacred rites performed therein, I have friends who have never been Mormons who know a thing or two about temples and I have no problem with that. My experience gives me a certain “authority” I imagine, but that does not mean they cannot know about it too.

Discussion not Lecture

I found one of the things that got in the way of my appreciating the report was the inherent assumption it seemed to make that its authors “knew” in a way others couldn’t possibly “know”. What kept coming across was an implicit insistence that we simply read and learn and mend our ways. While I appreciate and respect that the authors have a certain “authority” in their field, as I have in my own, I don’t accept that I cannot know for myself, ask my own questions and discover my own way through the subject. Not because I am especially clever, but because I feel it unreasonable to insist otherwise. I felt distinctly as though I was being lectured and, to me, this is not a lecture but a discussion and one that is perfectly capable of comprehension, as well as of sustaining differing views.

Another obstacle to my fully appreciating the report has been the declamatory tone of its authors. Their confidence, and that of their supporters, has led them to insist that the job of Reachout Trust has been to merely look up some references to confirm the “obvious” truth that they are right. When Jehovah’s Witnesses do this we call it directed learning and caution people to think outside the Watchtower box. The time we have taken to think outside the box built for us, and carefully finding out for ourselves has proved their confidence to be rather misplaced. Again, my own experience has served me well here. If I might say that had Doug Harris put a report of this calibre on my desk and informed me that he intended to publish it under the name of Reachout Trust I would have insisted upon a thorough revision. I find fault in three areas:

1. The research is one-sided: By this I mean that the “evidence” presented is clearly selective and serves solely to support the author’s preconceptions. There is no concession that anything Audrey claims might be remotely true and simply outside their experience, apart from the fact that they readily agree with and accept her testimony of drug abuse. But then this serves their argument well and so why shouldn’t they agree?

It begins in bad faith inasmuch as it presumes culpability on the part of Reachout Trust recognising neither good will, nor good sense, nor integrity on our part. Some words are written to the effect that they “choose to believe…” us when we say our motives are genuine. Nevertheless, the tone of even these words is sceptical and the tone of the report dismissive. This overreaching confidence is unfortunate since we have found numerous reasons to question the reports reliability. This is unfortunate furthermore since, on the basis of this report, some have seen fit to bait and criticise us on the Reachout Trust forum, keeping up a barrage of snide remarks and barely veiled accusations of dishonesty and prevarication. All has been posted on our web site (a thankless concession we often find) and has been borne patiently.

2. We have found ample evidence to contradict their claims and it is unfortunate indeed that the authors failed to look at more than one side of the argument, or further than their own experience. These things have been dealt with in detail in our response but I wish to enumerate them here to show that they are not minor, nor aberrant but integral to the nature of the report.

The report claims to show inconsistencies and misrepresentations in the book under review stating:

“This book is littered with simple errors that a person who ‘had been there’ would simply not make regardless of the occult path they followed.”

However, the report itself is littered with simple errors that a person determined to research properly would not have made. It also, ironically, significantly misquotes the book it condemns as inaccurate.

Highgate Cemetery

The report’s authors claim that

“… only [one] person is known to have desecrated graves at Highgate cemetery in London…”.

Yet David Farrant (president of The British Psychic & Occult Society) speaks of

“…a series of satanic rituals and cases of vandalism in the late 1960s”

and reports that the vandalism increased, including grave robbing. The authors of the report may choose to believe or not believe this evidence, and may choose to draw different conclusions from it. They cannot, however, claim as they do
that it does not exist. Had they taken the time and trouble to find it, as we have done, time they seem to have begrudged us, they might have produced a more accurate report. Why did they not know about this?

Candlemas or Imbolc

The report’s authors claim that Audrey is wrong in associating the festival of Candlemas on February 2nd with witchcraft but rather should have spoken of Imbolc that would fall between January 29 and February 3. Yet our research shows that both names are used in describing this season. Again, they might feel that it is simply wrong to confuse the two, but the evidence is there to show that not everyone agrees with them. Why didn’t they know this?

The same is true of their objection to calling May eve, Roodmas. Evidence we uncovered shows that their understanding and terminology is not universally accepted. Why didn’t they know that?

Warlock

One of the questions I personally had about the book was the use of the term “warlock” to describe a male witch (I do know enough to know this is unusual). Our research shows that, while their definition of a warlock as an oath-breaker is true enough in many traditions, again this is not universally true. In other traditions a warlock is a “cunning man” or “male witch”. Why didn’t they know this? Given the plethora of different traditions and the way each seems to invent his own paganism it is hardly surprising to find modern pagans and witches redefining old terms and even putting them to new uses. It happens in other, more ordered religions. Try asking a Mormon about trinity!

Athame

Again we find a conflict of ideas in this area. There are those who see a very clearly defined, double-edged, knife with a black handle, while others we spoke to used whatever was to hand, or even made one of wood. Why did our experts not know this? Perhaps they would characterise the folk we spoke to as misguided amateurs. However, the folk we spoke to wondered why the report writers were so pedantic.

Satanists

The number of Satanists in the UK is disputed but there is clear evidence that backs up Audrey’s claims. Why did they not access this evidence?

Sunday Sport?

I find myself absolutely stunned that anyone should quote this as a serious sole source! The claims drawn from this rag are proved spurious and the result of poor reporting. Is anyone truly surprised?

Misquotes

A. Audrey refers to the Satanic Bible on page 93. The report’s authors take this to be a reference to Audrey herself using such a book in the 1960’s. However, as our response makes clear, it is a general reference to current practice and put in the present tense, i.e.

“They hold (not held) masses at the temples, using a Satanic Bible, and they have (not had) a form of communion.” (emphasis added)

B. The authors claim that “On page 188 she makes reference to the Nottingham Abuse case despite both the JET report http://www.offmsg.connectfree.co.uk/broxtowe/jetrep1.htm issued soon after the case”

Our response makes clear that Audrey does not make reference to the Nottingham Abuse Case per se, she talks of meeting with one mother from Nottingham.

C. In the study Audrey is quoted as saying:

“…many Christian churches are sited on grounds of older pagan burial grounds.”

What she actually said was:

Older village churches are often built on the sites of pagan burial grounds.” (emphasis added)

Ample evidence for this statement can be found as shown in our response.

D. The report says:

“She then completed the chapter with the assertion that 100’s of children and adults who go missing are sacrificed on the altars…”

As we show, what she actually said was:

“It’s my belief that some of the hundreds of children…”
(emphasis added)

This is a very different statement and she is not claiming 100’s are but some are, and indeed, she says it is her belief and not making a prophetic statement!

All this hardly inspires confidence.

E. The “evidence” in the medical section, which, they insist, proves how impossible is the description of the baby sacrifice, is itself largely irrelevant to their cause. Indeed, their claims flatly contradict the best medical evidence we have been able to discover from a surgeon and a GP. Their description of the properties of blood is questioned and their use of hyperbole to make their case is plain as well as regrettable.

This I do Understand

The authors of the report are Christians who are concerned for the way their particular background is represented because misrepresentation only provokes ridicule and suspicion, and builds resistance to the message of Christ. This, too, I know and understand from personal experience. Many good books are written that are critical of the Mormon faith. Some bad books are also written and part of the work in which I am involved (a large part) is in educating Christians to tell the difference, to separate myth from reality and help them be a positive witness. So when a former witch, pagan, or Satanist complains loudly about the hindrance these things can be I understand.

I understand, also that while my own experience of Mormonism is relatively good, i.e. I was not ill-treated and my reasons for leaving were purely doctrinal, my experience cannot be the measure of everything. I wish to draw an example here to use as a parallel to the claims of child sacrifice in the book. I believe we have satisfactorily answered the charges of the report regarding the authenticity of the book’s claims – although of course we are still talking about it and I understand not everyone will agree. Yet there is still the question of whether the practice described is integral to occult ways for some, or whether it is entirely aberrant.

Mormonism helped me but Hurt Others

Other people’s testimonies of Mormonism are sometimes quite dramatic and even heartbreaking. There are tales of physical and mental abuse, abuse of power, as well as tragic suicides that too often follow such experiences. I struggle sometimes to recognise in these stories the Mormon Church I knew. Such testimonies are often met either with incredulity (you are making it up because you’re an anti-Mormon), or with the claim that such experiences are exceptions and hardly representative. One thing I have learned over the years is that, while some people do make things up, exaggerate, lie, this cannot be taken to mean that every time such tales are told they simply must be untrue.

In Mormonism there are a couple of extreme examples that might illustrate this point. Mormonism, as most people know it, is rooted in the Salt Lake Valley, Utah, represented by neat young men in dark suits, and seen th
rough heart-warming ads on television all about families.

There is, however, another side, indeed there are several other sides to Mormonism. There are upward of 300 breakaway groups calling themselves Mormons, some almost as old as Joseph Smith, like the Community of Christ, others as recent as the past ten or fifteen years. The Salt Lake Church is by far the largest and best known (remember the winter Olympics?), as well as the most acceptable group.

They insist that the others are not Mormons at all, especially the “fundamentalist” Mormon groups who live by the tenets of the faith as they were in the mid 1800’s – Brigham Young, polygamy, blood atonement, etc. The problem is that, while it is true that the Salt Lake Church has come a long way and extensively reformed and reinvented itself, these things are an integral part of their past and, what is more, even form an integral part of their scripture today, regardless of appearances. The arguments of fundamentalists hold more than a little water and many feel the Salt Lake Church has no right to dismiss these claims as simply aberrant.

There is, in such a system as exists in Mormonism, abuse of power as well as abuse of people. I have struggled with this question of abuse for a long time. Is it just a few people getting out of hand in an otherwise safe and affirming environment? My own experience of Mormonism might lend itself to such a conclusion. As I have said, I had no serious complaints and much for which to be thankful. I have come to the conclusion however that, while it is not my experience, nor is it widespread enough as to be typical, nevertheless this abuse is integral to the faith because it is built upon such an absolute authority and call to complete and blind obedience. And it is built upon examples from the past that the fundamentalists look to that show those at the very top of the system wielding almost despotic power. The average Mormon would be scandalised at such a conclusion since it is probably not their experience or perception.

In the same way, the world of the occult embraces, it seems to me, such a wide array of beliefs and practices, both in its past as well as present, that it seems the most anyone can say is that these things are not what is done in their, perhaps rehabilitated, tradition. Paganism, with its roots in ancient Shamanism, Druidism, etc. has all sorts of practices in its past which most modern pagans might well denounce. From the child sacrifices made to Baal, to the human sacrifices in ancient Gaul, to the stone worship of old Brittany, to the sacrifices of the ancient Druids, they are there for any “fundamentalist” thinker to draw upon and seek to “rediscover” and practice (look at Crowley). They are there for anyone interested in wielding power, and the occult is about power, to utilise as part of their play for it.

The world of the occult seems so capable of reinvention that any, all or none of the ancient practices, or modern adaptations may be applied somewhere by someone calling themselves a coven of black witches who worship Satan, drink blood and are led by a warlock. Any, “more enlightened”, modern pagan may protest, as respectively would a modern Mormon, that these conclusions are extreme and not their experience or perception. This does not mean that these things are not there, not possible, not correctly defined any more than it means Mormonism may be defined solely through the eyes of Salt Lake Mormons.

Picking Sides

I have said that I sympathise with those who object to misrepresentation of whatever were once beliefs and practices they embraced. In striving, myself, to correct many of the misconceptions of Mormonism I have identified a very dangerous trap for those who take on this task. There is a very real danger that, in sympathising with the plight of the misrepresented, we can too easily overlook the true danger of error and play down the sinister nature and extent of the deception that is going on. There is a danger that the cult, group, sect, tradition from which we have come becomes characterised in our thinking as just an unfortunate but benign system of false religion.

As we develop this picture of our former way of faith we may see many of the virtues but may be blind to, or play down the serious nature of the error. This can be especially true if the error is particularly frightening, disturbing or shameful. Some error and criminal activity is so unthinkable (human sacrifice, organ theft, human trafficking for example) that most ordinary people simply refuse to believe such things possible, let alone folk with past connections with the group in question. Add the plain fact that folk from cultic backgrounds don’t always have an easy time being accepted amongst Christians and can develop a “Christ yes, church no!” attitude. Soon you get a picture of someone who more readily defends/explains their former faith, with all its errors, than the church of which they have become a part. They thus become an unwitting co-belligerent with Mormons against Christians.

Such people gather around their grievances, complaining about “the state of the church” and regretting that it couldn’t at least have the integrity, loyalty, or “half the Christian charity” of the people they used to hang around with. Eventually they are back in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 when the people complained,

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat round pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death…If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

Through such eyes judgement has become clouded.

The influences of the world around us can “reason” us into compromise. After all, the world has a message of being accepting and understanding of different faiths even if we don’t agree with them and isn’t that somewhat Christlike, to be tolerant? Soon we have lost sight of the fact that, no matter how “nice” our former associates are, their faith is a deception that offends a holy and righteous God. It is natural, then, to see every argument and testimony that puts them in a bad light as exaggerated or malicious. Every statement that claims they are otherwise good folk who have been unfortunately misled, acceptable, while every story that uncovers gross sin is seen as misrepresentation.

No one Righteous

There is a world-view that sees religion developing from the simple to the complex, beginning with nature spirits, then polytheism through to the monotheism of the world’s great religions. In this view man is seen to have ascended from the simple to the complex, the primitive to the sophisticated. Such a view puts man generally in a rather good light as he struggles to discover and come to terms with the meaning of life. The Bible does not have it this way. There we discover a monotheistic beginning for man’s religion, which deteriorates into nature worship as man abandons the God who made him. This view sees the descent of man from truth into error, civilisation into barbarism. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes this process very clearly:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator – who is forever praised, Amen.”(Ro.1:18-25)

To understand how dreadful and ripe with sin this state is we read further on in Romans:

“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God’.”(Ro.3:10-11)

This has been the state of man since the beginning. At the time of Noah God’s assessment of man has been a terrible indictment:

“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”(Gen.6:5)

“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma [of Noah’s sacrifice] and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood’.”(Gen.8:21)

It is this fallen man that Christ came to save and we need to see false religion for what it is, i.e. the condition and outworking of man’s fallen state. As Christians we need to see our former ways, as well as those still following those ways as God sees them. We need to see that “every inclination of man’s heart is only evil all the time”. This is very difficult when we look at our non-Christian friends whose false religion nevertheless seems to lead them to do much good. But we must realise that their hearts have no redeeming features and nothing to commend them and, though we find such things too horrible to contemplate, we must face the fact that such hearts are capable of every type of depravity. That there is no such thing as a respectable error, an excusable falsehood, or acceptable version of a false religion. When we look at Christians we admire, we must realise what they were without Christ:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”(Eph.2:1-3)

Common Grace for Sinful Man

Having seen fallen mankind through God’s eyes of judgement we must also, as Christians, see the same through God’s’ eyes of grace. When Christ came he sat and ate with sinners and publicans, and we must too. He had compassion for the lost and brought mercy to those who most needed it, and we must bring those same gifts to those same sinners. He did not, however, excuse their sin, but saw it as God sees it. The Mormon prophet has said that his church’s mission is “to make bad men good and good men better.” This is not how God sees mankind and to the thoughtful Christian it is a message that mocks the Cross. It is not people who need self-improvement he came to help. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt.9:13). There is no one, however good they may seem in man’s eyes, who “would make a good Christian”. God makes good Christians, but man makes more wickedness.

Seeing things this way we begin to understand that every false religion, whether Mormonism or Paganism, Gnosticism or Secularism, has the same root – rebellion against God. This is the root of sin and, without exception, bears fruit unto condemnation. As we consider, then, our witnessing, we remember that we bring a message of salvation, not commendation or consolation. One of the key people in saving lives during the dreadful flooding of Boscastle was the owner of the witchcraft museum. Men are capable of great good, even in their sins, because of common grace, and we should be thankful that God causes his sun to shine on the unjust as well as the just. But man is still an object of wrath until he comes to the foot of the Cross and capable also of great evil because he is “by nature” sinful and rebellious.

Grace and Salt

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”(Col.4:6)

As Christians we bring the message of grace and, to come back to the subject of educating Christians about the cults, we at Reachout find ourselves encouraging people all the time to “Open the Door”, to coin a phrase. But, if grace is to have its full effect, we must season the message with salt so that people discover their great need of a gracious Saviour. Salt in a wound stings, but any attempt to compromise its properties, or avoid its application, only deprives our lost friends of its healing properties.

It is my prayer that we can work together to become more effective in bringing that message of grace, seasoned with salt, that this lost world so desperately needs.

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