By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Have you noticed that paranormal seminars are called "Phenomenology"?Why are they called that and what does it mean? I remember studying phenomenology in college as a philosophy major. It is a modern school of philosophy started by Edmund Husserl. He attempted to develop a universal philosophic method, devoid of presuppositions, by examining and describing our experience of phenomena. Frankly, though it has become fashionable to speak of the phenomenology of this or that, no two people can agree on a proper definition! Please Google it and discover this wonderment for yourself!
I will go on record and say that the way it (phenomenology) is meant in paranormal seminars is that it simply means the study of our experience of phenomena (in this case, paranormal phenomena). Another way of stating it is that of a radical empiricism. By that I mean, conclusions are deduced from experiences using the five senses AND our intuition. What a paranormal phenomenon looks, feels, tastes, smells, and sounds like will determine what the nature of the phenomena IS. Emphasis is on APPEARANCE in dictating ontology (the nature of being) as we proceed, I will contrast this method with what I call biblical realism. The differences are profound and lead to entirely different conclusions regarding the phenomena. I want to enliven this analysis by using a case study from a recent episode of the Dead Files. We shall see that the same basic flawed phenomenological presupposition is shared by paranormal seminars and the two principles on this TV show…perception equals reality. A thousand times—NO!
Last week’s Dead Files hit close to home…literally. This episode took place in a small town called Browns Summit, which is perhaps five miles from my hometown of Greensboro, NC. I want to re-tell the story and accent issues along the way. As usual, the medium Amy, her assistant husband, and Steve (retired NYC homicide detective) do their various walk-throughs of the location. From the outset, Steve indicates this is one of the most difficult cases ever. The parents and their two daughters are experiencing severely oppressive paranormal activity.
One daughter, we are told, has had 14 brain surgeries in the last few years. This has significantly reduced her ability to function normally. What was visibly moving to Steve (and me) was how viciously a special needs daughter was being singled out—she was being clawed on her skin, and seeing/hearing monstrous phenomena. Over time, she had regressed from a happy young lady to where she was muttering that she wanted to die. At one point in the show, you could actually hear her sobbing in the background…it was horrible. It did not, and does not seem fair—but such is demonic reality (jumping ahead).
The whole family is experiencing paranormal activity, but as is often the case, one person (usually the weakest) was being relentlessly hammered.They could not afford to move, but something had to change NOW. They were desperate for help, which is why they had called the producers. This was no “I Am Six” shameless parental attention grabbing. It does make me wonder, yet again, why a local pastor was not handling the case.
As has become the hallmark of this TV show, there was remarkable agreement between Amy and Steve as they conducted their separate investigations. Due to a tragic train wreck early in 20th century near the home, as well as the deaths of two children on the property, it was posited that these deceased humans were the causal agents of the oppression.
Let me try to personalize or apply this—have you ever determined that a paranormal entity or activity was benevolent based on your perception or subjective feelings? If you have, then you are engaging in phenomenology. Your starting point for determining the identity of paranormal phenomena lies within you, and is based on your perception. Is that appropriate for a Christian? As followers or disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are called to a life of radical submission to Him in all areas of life. We do this primarily by conforming our mind, attitude, and behavior to the authority of scripture--and not our autonomous reason or subjective states. (Rom.12:1ff)
It makes want to weep every time a person tells me that they “know” that the presence in their home is benevolent. Do we not realize that demons can not only project thoughts into our heads, but also feelings? That which is pure evil can make itself look and feel as if it were perfect love. And yet I hear this frequently: “Some entities in my home are evil, but I know this particular entity is benevolent because of how it acts and makes me feel.” Do you remember from last week how Laura Maxwell described how her “deceased sister” had gently brushed her hair on a nightly basis for years? But when she and her mom decided to leave Spiritualism, then the alleged sister, and other deceased family members, suddenly turned on them and revealed their true, demonic nature. Rebuke your benevolent paranormal friend in the name of Jesus (do it with conviction), and see what happens. This is where empirical verifiability is appropriate, and it WILL reveal realty. The bible is the most realistic book in existence because, when we read it, we are seeing phenomena through God’s eyes….the Creator and sustainer of all phenomena. (Col.1:16-17)
Meanwhile, back on DF, the mentally handicapped daughter is said to be in process of being possessed. While walking the grounds at night, Amy encounters what she considers is the primary culprit…for possessing the daughter. She asserts that she does not know what it is because it looks and feels different from anything she has encountered thus far in her life. However, she describes the entity as being a large black dog, which quickly begins to shape-shift into a large, dark humanoid shape, which is leaning against a tree. Amy says that it is extremely territorial and that she is afraid of it. During the reveal, she says it is that horrible entity that has been entering the handicapped girl’s room.
As is often the case, even when a possible demonic entity like this has been identified, there are other beings she sees which are innocent. In this case, she sees a young boy and girl—which perfectly matches the research Steve had done regarding untimely deaths on the property. Previously, the mom had told Steve that she was being awakened at night and seeing impressions being made on her bed, and this frightened her. Well, that was the little kids playing on the bed, says Amy… nothing to be frightened about.
She says the girl may need an exorcism, but since that is traumatic, she recommends first using black salt and some powder blessed by Wiccans (there was a third ritual but I cannot remember). This girls life is in danger, and the reveal is the most somber I have ever witnessed on TV. It is obvious, to me anyway; that both Amy and Steve are deeply touched by this young lady’s plight…they seem very sincere.
However, it is possible to be sincere, but sincerely wrong. First, you CANNOT get rid of demons by using occult rituals—like the burning of sage, black powder, Wiccan powder and so on. If this young woman survives, it is only because the demonic are humoring their attempts—in order to further validate the deception. If you are a disciple of Jesus, then you must get rid of occult paraphernalia…not use it to exorcise someone or some place.
Second, this is clear illustration of my thesis: phenomenology vs biblical realism. The former is incredibly naïve and foolish. What madness has come over us that makes us think that, how we function in the science lab, is transferable to the supernatural realm? Are we submitting to the Lordship of Christ or not? Making distinctions between benevolent and malevolent entities based on our perception is foolish. Using our five senses, as well as our intuition, is not a wise way to discern supernatural evil. Why? Because demons can project thoughts and sensations that will pleasantly (and deceptively) overwhelm all of these. GOD’S WORD is the only reliable source of information regarding the identity of these entities. I have said before that observation can yield some data, but it cannot reveal the identity of paranormal phenomena. IT CANNOT….IT IS UNABLE TO.
Please see that this is an immensely practical issue that millions of Americans are dealing with. It breaks my heart when folks tell me they are certain that the apparition in their bedroom is benevolent. All that glitters is not gold in the paranormal realm. Remember, the spirit realm is the God ordained temporary home for Satan and millions of demons (maybe billions). All genuine paranormal activity is linked to the spirit realm. I can assure you that no family member is standing guard in your bedroom at night. They are either in heaven or hell, and cannot come here.
Perception is often your worst enemy when it comes to the paranormal because it is teeming with master deceivers. Perception or reality (as defined by God)…which will we choose? Recently, an apparent demonic attempt on the life of my girlfriend occurred. This attempted murder has only further emboldened me to wrench back from the enemy that which belongs to God. To do that, we must walk humbly before our Lord…praying continually and relying on His all-sufficient word.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.