By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Few terms are more confused and complicated by webs of different cultural ideas, than elementals or elemental spirits. Nevertheless, they are deeply ensconced in the beliefs of the paranormal community. Let me first quote from the inspired apostle Paul in which he actually mentions elemental spirits. Many people do not realize that the bible actually uses this term. However, as we’ll see the bible fills that term with content that is utterly foreign and antithetical to its common understanding today.
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,1 though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then kan heir through God.
Paul's Concern for the Galatians
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature nare not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary spirits of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.(Galatians 4:11..authors partial interpretation and added bold)
ESV — Colossians 2
2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at aodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Alive in Christ.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding min thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also vou were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities 2 and he put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 3 Let No One Disqualify You
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to ia festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,4 puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—21 w“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.(ESV Colossians 2:1-23)
In three of the four texts, the Greek word is stoicheia. Only in Colossains 2:20 is the Greek slightly different-- ‘stoicheiown’.
In Galatians it refers to what they previously had followed, which for the Jews would have been the Mosaic law and for the Gentiles the basic concepts of their pagan religions. However, the demonic nature and bondage of both are clearly in view.
There is a vast quantity of information and opinions regarding the identity of elementals or elementary/elemental spirits. I haven’t the time to do an exhaustive analysis of FALSE views of elementals. However, below is a sampling of views, and then we shall examine the TRUTH.
According to many, nature is quite mysterious. Some Native Americans believe that an animal of each species houses within it the elemental spirit of that species, and housed within its body is a Mustika Stone/Pearl. They assert that these elemental spirits are often confused with demons due to their disdain of humanity, as the chief culprit in the raping of ‘Mother Earth’and desecrating sacred places. Oftentimes, they allegedly appear at night with burning animal eyes…which I’ve seen credible pictures of from ‘Hostile Haunts’.
There are those who believe that elemental spirits can be categorized according to which element they are related to: earth, wind, air, and fire. Gnomes, fairies, ect can allegedly be traced to one of these four basic elements. Much more could be said about this and other ideas regarding elemental spirits, but suffice it to say that they are generally seen as ‘nature spirits.’ They either infuse nature and/or defend nature, especially from the encroachments of human beings. Alleged sacred places are of particular interest to them.
So, what does God say elemental spirits are? If you’ll notice the term is highlighted four times in the two texts above, from Galatians and Colossians.
STOP! Only the Creator has the vantage point and authority to tell us what these entities are. As always, when it comes to identifying paranormal phenomena, we either humbly bow before God’s revelation, or in autonomous rebellion, we prefer speculation. REVELATION VS SPECULATION. In His kindness and love, God has spoken to us about things we could never know unless He revealed truth about them. Praise God, He has spoken clearly regarding the nature of elementary spirits! No speculation needed. Indeed, it is sinful.
The theme of Colossians is: Christ is Lord over all creation, including the invisible realm. He has secured redemption for all His people, enabling them to participate with Him in His life, death, resurrection, ascension and His fullness.
Paul is complaining that false teachings have been inspired by elemental spirits (stoicheia--Greek) in all four of its usages above. Stoicheia is the underlying force behind the false teaching…. and in ancient texts it was used for spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and some Jewish texts.
However, the important thing is how it is used in the bible. It is not some abstract principle. It was used as an equivalent in (Colossians) v.10,15 of rulers and authorities…which are Pauline synonyms for demonic forces. The classic text in 2:15 speaks of Christ disarming these rulers and authorities. Stoicheia, then, are clearly demons according to God. They are NOT nature demons—elementals or elemental/elementary spirits are simply another term for demons, just as fallen angels, unclean spirits…and principalities and powers…rulers and authorities. I don’t think this is widely known in Christian demonological circles. Perhaps I’m mistaken.
In Colossians 2:4 Paul states that these stoicheia generated religions often do sound plausible, and in v 23 they have the appearance of wisdom. But its just appearance. Satan does not invent stupid sounding philosophies or religions. Sometimes people do, but Satan knows how to make a lie sound true. v 8 human tradition is not an innocent exercise in God’s eyes…often, there is a confluence of human autonomy and demonic influence.
Indeed, the essence of stoicheia is that, although false teaching is passed down by human tradition (Col. 2:8),it finds its ultimate origin/energizer in demonic forces.
Once again we see demonic collusion. Take a brief survey of the world’s traditional religions or history of philosophy, and one can see a massive coordinated Satanic effort to suppress the truth and exchange a lie in its place (see Romans 1:18ff) The confluence of man’s sinful autonomy and demonic influence has generated countless religions which are sending billions to hell. Stoicheia. We must never mention hell without tears.
The human tradition which is passed down, whether Jewish legalism or paganism, is ultimately traced to demonic influence. If you read the texts above you may be struck with the wide diversity of teaching that Paul is attacking due its denial or minimization of the Person and Work of Christ. Specifically, Paul targets the denial that we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross, plus NOTHING. Or, to put it positively, we HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED IN CHRIST JESUS!! In 2:3 we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ, and the plausible sounding religions are a flat out denial of that.
We are justified by Christ alone…we are able to call the Creator ‘Abba”….we are released from bondage into freedom…we have been brought into union with Christ…all of our sins have been nailed to the cross…the stoicheia were disarmed and paraded as defeated foes of God…the Holy Spirit indwells us, etc. How, then, could we return to the very thing (stoicheia) that brought such bondage in the first place? That is Gods/Paul’s logic.
A summary may go like this: in the fullness of time, the fullness of God took on the fullness of human nature, in order to accomplish/apply the fullness of redemption. Amen!
This should be of intense interest to us today due to the juggernaut of paganism that is steam-rolling through our culture. However, any religion that is not biblical Christianity is stoicheia.
In vvs. 3,8,9 in Galatians, elementary spirits ENSLAVE people, and of course, that is precisely what demons do. The American credo is: I’m spiritual but not religious. That means different things to different people, but it usually means a denial and rejection of the biblical God, and exchanging the Living God for some demonic lie, or stoicheia. However, this libertarian view of religion does not lead to the liberty people are seeking. Rather, it leads to temporal and eternal enslavement and damnation.
It seems to the writer that many folks view elementals or elementary spirits as the epitome of freedom of pristine nature. But as with every Satanic lie, it sounds so plausible and looks so attractive, but it leads to death. Instead of bringing us into a relationship in which we can cry “Abba”, it leads to death dealing deception and delusion.
Ironically, the modern notions of elemental spirits are themselves the creation of elemental spirits!
So, what about the notion that there are spirits that infuse and protect nature? Below is one of the first verses I memorized decades ago regarding the relation of Christ to nature and supernature.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.(Colossians 1:15-17)
First, we note that Jesus created everything—the cosmos. His creating includes the visible and invisible realms. And just to make sure we get it, God tells us that all angels (probably focusing on being Creator of those angels who later fell) were created through Him.
In addition to creating the universe, He holds it together. Moment by moment the Creator God actively keeps His creation from poofing out of existence. Christ, not some impersonal force, personally pervades all of His creation and sustains all of His creation. God is both omnipresent and immense—He is everywhere present, and all of God is everywhere….not spread out thin like peanut butter on bread.
He is not only the agent of creation but the goal of creation as well—all things were created through Him and FOR Him! Every square inch of the visible and invisible universe is God’s by virtue of His creating it, out of nothing.
One of the more popular notions of the pagan worldview is that there is an impersonal divine spirit that indwells all things, animate or inanimate. This is known as animism. However, the above text is a clear contradiction of that notion. The Holy Trinity is omnipresent, and not some Star Wars type force pervading the universe. Buddhism, Native Americans and the exploding ranks of pagans have bought the stoicheia originated lie of ‘Mother Earth.” God is our Father but the Earth is NOT our Mother! From Genesis 1:1 –Revelation 22 the Holy Creator is utterly distinct from His fallen, but good creation. Paganism seeks to diminish or obliterate the distinction between the Creator and His creation. The creation IS god.
I recently received a text from a Christian friend who celebrated that Buddhists and Native Americans believe that a spirit pervades all nature and rocks are wise and can teach us. Dear friends, as Christians we must think like Christians. (Romans 12:1-2)
Some demons are territorial of alleged ‘sacred places’, and some forests/woods are ‘haunted’ or infested (e.g. Aokigahara…Suicide Forest in Japan). Tragically, this seems to be one place where stoicheia don’t mask their hateful intentions toward mankind. It is curious that many people actually state that elemental spirits ‘act like demons’, but they won’t go the next logical step and call it a demon. Many folks simply have an aversion to calling any spirits a ‘demon’….negative spirit maybe, but not demon.
Paul’s antidote to stoicheia teaching is a passionate defense of the Person and work of Christ..His singular honor and dignity. (see above texts) With a spiritual shock and awe, the miserable, enslaving nature of stoicheia is seen against the backdrop of the wondrous nature of the Second Person of the Trinity and our union with His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. By comparison, any stoicheia derived teaching is pitiful nonsense.
Make no mistake: the Father is not amused with stoicheia religion—He hates it. If He ever has to choose between the singular honor and dignity of His only Begotten Son and our spiritual whims, He will ALWAYS choose His Son. He has made that abundantly clear.
Those who have caught evidence of alleged elementals, which I have seen, show glowing eyes…and this would seem to have animal connection. But categorizing paranormal entities according to appearance is foolish. For example, on Paranormal Lockdown, Nick and crew saw a slithering creature which did not resemble anything any of them had seen before. So, what was his conclusion? “We may have caught evidence of a paranormal entity never seen before.” No. It is a demon Nick. It is stoicheia which may seem plausible to some but is hellish and odious to God.
Stoicheia is a classic case in which God, the Lord of linguistics, chose a word that had been in usage for a long time, and infused it with clear content…demon.
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.