Pharmakeia: The Terrifying Connections Between Drug Abuse And Demonic Oppression

Since moving to Hazard Kentucky, I have been blessed to work with individuals who struggle with substance abuse and chemical addiction. For a time, I was also blessed to work with a drug rehab in another local town. I have worked with addicts who have been addicted to alcohol, oxycodones, heroin, cocaine, Percocet, suboxone, meth, and on and on the list goes.

Several of the addicts I have studied the Gospel with have told me that while they were abusing drugs, they had experiences with spiritual beings (i.e., demons). These beings could have varying degrees of influence and communication with them, and they were often afraid to discuss this with Christians for fear that they would sound “insane” or “crazy” to people of the Book. Most made it clear to me that they were not trying to alleviate responsibilities from their personal sins and/or crimes by making these claims.

They began to ask me if the Bible teaches that such is possible, and I committed to find out what the Word of God teaches about these matters. While it is true that at least some of these experiences may have been readily explainable by the chemical reactions between the brain of the addict and the pharmaceuticals he had abused, could there have been a possible connection between drug abuse and demonic oppression of some kind? If so, God’s Word (the Bible-2 Timothy 3:16-17) would provide insight on the matter.

So, what does the Word of God teach?

Let’s study.

Pharmakeia

When I first began my investigation, I came across something that seemed very strange. In the Book of Revelation, we are told about how some sinners in the Christian Age would refuse to repent of their sins. John writes:

Revelation 9:20-21-But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

There is a footnote attached to the word “sorceries” in the NKJV of the Bible (my preferred and standard translation).

It reads “NU-Text and M-Text read drugs.”

(The “NU Text” and the “M Text” refer to different text types of the Greek New Testament).

Wait….

How is sorcery connected with drugs?

The word “sorcery” is from the Greek word “pharmakeia.” The root of this word is the basis for our English words “pharmacy” and “pharmaceutical.” It is used only a couple of other times in the New Testament.

In describing the “works of the flesh” which will cause a person to be lost unless he repents, Paul mentions:

Galatians 5:20-idolatry, SORCERY (PHARMAKEIA), hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

Later in the Book of Revelation, John also writes:

Revelation 18:23-The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your SORCERY (PHARMAKEIA) all the nations were deceived.

So, in the New Testament there is some kind of connection between “drug abuse” and “sorcery.”

But what is that connection?

And does it involve demonic entities?

Let’s Study Some Greek

Several Greek resources help us to better understand what Paul is talking about with this word “pharmakeia.” By examining how the word was used in the first century among the Greeks, we will be able to better comprehend the application of this word in our day and age.

One excellent authority tells us:

“(Papµaxe(a, `sorcery’, the use of cpaeµaxa, `drugs’, as in black magic, to do harm to others. In itself the word is as neutral as `pharmacy’, its English derivative, meaning the dispensing of drugs for medical purposes. But it acquired two pejorative senses: the use of drugs to poison people and (as here) the use of drugs in witchcraft. In Ex. 7:11 cpap.taxo( is used of the `sorcerers’ (Heb. mekass’pim) at Pharaoh’s court. Apart from its present occurrence, the only occurrences of cpaeµaxsia in the NT are in Rev. 9:21; 18:23 (cf. cpapµaxov, Rev. 9:21, and (papµaxos, Rev. 21:8; 22:15).” (F.F. Bruce, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle To The Galatians-A Commentary On The Greek Text, 4449 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

So from this we see that the word “pharmakeia” had clear references to the abuse of drugs. In fact, originally the word was a fairly benign term, referring to the good use of drugs. Over time, it came to describe the abuse of drugs, and then finally to the abuse of drugs in the way that witches and wizards made “potions” (hence, the translation as “sorcery”). Therefore, we can see that the word definitely at least carried with it the idea of any drug abuse, which could include occult practices. So, as Barclay has written:

“Witchcraft: this literally means the use of drugs. It can mean the healing use of drugs by a doctor; but it can also mean poisoning, and it came to be especially connected with the use of drugs for sorcery, of which the ancient world was full.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters To The Galatians And Ephesians, 56 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

Another scholar tells us still further about “pharmakeia:”

“Witchcraft (pharmakeia). At the root of this word is pharmakon, literally “drug,” from which we derive our English word “pharmacy.” In classical Greek pharmakeia referred to the use of drugs whether for medicinal or more sinister purposes, e.g., poisoning. In the New Testament, however, it is invariably associated with the occult, both here in Galatians and in Revelation, where it occurs twice (Rev 9: 21; 18: 23). English translations usually render pharmakeia as “witchcraft” (KJV, NIV) or “sorcery” (RSV, NEB). These words correctly convey the idea of black magic and demonic control, but they miss the more basic meaning of drug use. In New Testament times pharmakeia in fact denoted the use of drugs with occult properties for a variety of purposes including, especially, abortion. As J. T. Noonan has written, “Paul’s usage here cannot be restricted to abortion, but the term he chose is comprehensive enough to include the use of abortifacient drugs.” 86 In the early church both infanticide, often effected through the exposure of newborn babies to the harsh elements, and abortion, commonly brought about by the use of drugs, were regarded as murderous acts. Both are flagrant violations of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Timothy George, The New American Commentary: Volume Thirty-Galatians, 9724-9733 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)

So, “pharmakeia” also included the use of drugs in taking life (especially in abortion).

Did “Sorcery” Have Anything To Do With Demonic Spirits?

Since there is a clear connection between drug abuse and sorcery (or witchcraft), does the Bible say anything about a relationship between sorcery and demonic spirits?

Indeed, it does.

In his excellent book, The Powers Of Darkness, author Clinton Arnold tells us about the real meaning of “magic” and “sorcery” in the ancient world:

“ONE OF THE CLEAREST WINDOWS FOR SEEING WHAT ORDINARY PEOPLE believed about supernatural powers in the New Testament era is the realm of magic and divination. Magical beliefs and practices were a part of all religious traditions (and even came to have a share in Christianity!). In Western culture we have come to think of magic as harmless trickery in the context of entertainment. When we speak of magic during the period of the New Testament, however, we must realize it was not the art of illusion. Magic represented a method of manipulating good and evil spirits to lend help or bring harm. Magical formulas could be used for such things as attracting a lover or winning a chariot race. Black magic, or sorcery, involved summoning spirits to accomplish all kinds of evil deeds. Curses could be placed, competitors subdued, and enemies restrained.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 21 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press)

Another author, exploring the Old Testament designations for witchcraft and sorcery, has written:

“From Deuteronomy we can create a list of nine separate forms of Paganism. Once we identify these and learn exactly what the practices are, we will be able to see the form they occur in today….The Canaanites worshiped a god called Moloch with human sacrifices . Children, (mainly their firstborn sons) were burned alive in their sacrifices to this god….“Tophet is Moloch, an idol which was made of brass . The Canaanites heated him from his lower parts; and his outstretched hands were made hot. They put the child in his hands, and it was burnt alive. When the child vehemently cried out the priests beat a drum, so the father would not hear the voice of his son, and move his heart.” Rabbi Rashi’s Commentary on Jeremiah 7:31…Diviner –“Kesem” “Kesem” is the practice where one gazes at an object until he becomes transfixed by it and forgets the world around him. Once he achieves this great level of concentration, he can predict future events. By this definition, some form of meditation is required to achieve an altered state of consciousness….Observer of Times –“Me’onen” “Me’onen” is Chaldean Astrology. In later times it was confused with the cloud reader and those who divine by observing the flights of birds…The enchanter sees omens in animals. An enchanter uses something to charm/control animals (serpents and scorpions) to be passive or to attack. Burning incense is one way of charming…“Sorcerer” is a general term for any occult practice. It m ay include drug use , meditation , or both, but it always has some method to cause an altered state of consciousness . Compare this to Shamanism. The ancient church fathers used the terms “magician” and “sorcerer” interchangeably….A charmer is one who makes charms. A charm is a piece of jewelry worn for protection or to cause something to happen , such as attract love or money . A protective charm is called an amulet. Other charms are called talismans. In Acts 19:19 , Paul ’s new Christian converts in the city o f Ephesus burn ed their magic books. Archeology has unearthed some of these texts. The magic rites of Diana included spells, amulets, and talismans invoking her for aid. This is exactly the same thing found today inside the religion s of Hinduism and Wicca….One with a Familiar Spirit –“ Ob ” Ob ’s conjur ed up ghosts and spirits and made them materialize and speak. One kind used a skull ( teraphim) and the other kind use d soothsaying. Some rabbis taught that the Ob would see the spirit but not hear it speaking; the inquirer would hear the voice but not see the spirit, while bystanders would not hear or see anything…The Ob was the kind of Canaanite Sorcerer used by King Saul to conjure the spirit of the prophet Samuel….So the Ob created what is commonly called a necronomic pit . By use of a teraphim, (her familiar spirit) she cause d spirits to appear. This same practice of casting magic circle s on the ground for ritual purposes is still used today by modern w itches. See the chapter on Wicca for details….The Talmud states that the name for a wizard, Yidde’oni, comes from a word loosely translated as an extinct animal. It also states that no one remembers exactly what kind of animal it was. The name carried over to mean those who used a bone of this extinct animal by placing it in their mouths and through some incantations can have the dead speak through this bone. This has been translated as a ventriloquist or a medium. It is quite possible that the term in this ancient passage means, instead of “extinct animal,” a bone from the deceased. Mediums today often ask for an artifact of the deceased in order to try to make some sort of contact with them….A necromancer is a little different from the wizard. According to this passage in the Talmud, necromancers were said to spend nights in cemeteries in order to invoke the spirits of the dead . They would wear special clothing designed e specially for this purpose and burn incense to attract the spirits. Once the ritual was thought to be complete, the necromancer would go to sleep on the grave of the deceased , expecting them to appear in their dreams and answer their questions….Magician and Soothsayer are general terms for any of the previous practices. A sorcerer uses more ceremonial magic (calling on spirits for aid) , while a magician uses more non-ceremonial magic (relying on the power of the human spirit without asking other spirits for aid.) Biblically, whether the occultist thinks he or she is contacting a spirit or using their own power, it is exactly the same demonic manifestation.” (Ken Johnson, Th.D., Ancient Paganism: The Sorcery Of The Fallen Angels, 59-63 (Kindle Edition).

There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches there is a direction connection between sorcery and demonic influence.

Based upon that knowledge, is it not also clearly the case that there is a connection between “pharmakeia” and demonic influence?

How Could Abuse Of Drugs Open One Up To Spiritual Influence?

Martin’s fascinating volume, Kingdom Of The Occult, describes further the connections between “pharmakeia” and occultism:

“• “a sorcerer”: This is one who practices the induction of formulas, potions, or incantations to assist in gaining power over a person or an event. In the New Testament, this is referenced by Paul in Galatians 5: 22 by the Greek word pharmakia, which includes illicit drugs for spiritual awareness, promoted by the infamous Timothy Leary and others. Richard N. Longnecker points out that pharmakia “also acquired two negative connotations: the use of drugs to poison people and the use of drugs in sorcery or Witchcraft.”” (Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, Kurt Van Gorden, The Kingdom Of The Occult, 12438-12442 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson)

In detailing the possible dangers of “pharmakeia” from a physical and spiritual viewpoint, Dave Hunt writes:

“Sorcerers and sorceries are condemned in the Old Testament (Exodus 7; Isaiah 47; Jeremiah 27; Malachi 3). In the New Testament sorcery and sorcerers are again denounced (Acts 13:6, 8; Revelation 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). Today’s word for sorcerer is shaman; and the Greek word translated sorcery in the New Testament is pharmakeia. The shaman must enter an altered state of consciousness to obtain his spirit guide and effect his sorcery, and often the means of doing so is through mind-altering drugs….There are more cells in the brain than stars in the universe; and these cells make up hundreds of billions of neurons and trillions of synapses in perfect balance. Moreover, the mysterious link between the spirit of man (which was made in God’s image) and his brain and body is forever beyond the grasp of science. Yet that connection is being tampered with by drugs in order to adjust man’s behavior….A word of caution: We are not advocating that anyone now taking medication should abruptly stop….The moral and spiritual consequences of tampering with the brain and nervous system through drugs could be far worse than the physical dangers. Remember, the brain is “a machine that a ghost can operate.” The normal connection between the brain and the human spirit is loosened by drugs, allowing a demonic spirit to operate the brain. That fact is being completely ignored by the entire field of psychopharmacology. Already two generations of youth have been led unwittingly into sorcery. They thought they were just having fun on “recreational” drugs, only to be ushered seductively into the sorcerer’s world. As a result, they developed a basically Hindu philosophy of life that totally transformed them. We have already quoted Terence McKenna that the entities one meets on drug trips “are trying to teach us something.” Brad Green is only one of multitudes who stepped into the occult through the psychedelic door. His experience is typical of many which have been related to the author in interviews around the world. Here are his own words: When I first took acid [LSD], I took weak enough doses just to have fun and see colors and psychedelic patterns … but when I started taking really heavy doses … I got a spirit guide. After that, whenever I took psychedelic drugs, I was always guided by spirit beings. I had spirit teachers showing me lessons, making diagrams right in front of me. … One of the first times I took a strong dose of LSD, I had a lesson in astrology. … I saw all the signs of the zodiac … the whole thing was laid out in living color, big charts … information being printed right in front of me by spirit beings. … I heard their voices, but I didn’t see any of them at that time. On another LSD trip, the spirit guides taught me about Hinduism. … They taught me the highest Hindu vibration, OM [pronounced AUM]. I saw the whole universe dissolve into vibrations and started seeing vibrations of energy coming out of phone wires … and the spirits showed me that everything came down to one basic vibration, the OM. I saw “vibes” in people. … I had quit high school and devoted my life to taking drugs. … With spirits teaching me, I thought I’d entered into a higher education … more worthwhile than just dull stuff in school. One of my friends was taught Transcendental Meditation by spirits on an LSD trip. He never had any teaching from Maharishi. By the time he was 18, just following what the spirits had taught him … he had reached Cosmic-consciousness. Later on we were heavily influenced by the Beatles. They had a record called “Revolver” that I’d heard but didn’t understand until I heard it again … when I was stoned. The song was teaching meditation. It said, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, listen to the voices, are they not speaking …!” It was about spirit beings guiding you into Cosmic-consciousness. A lot of stuff the Beatles put into their albums … had all kinds of enticement to get kids into LSD … then later they advocated Maharishi Mahesh Yogi after they’d … gotten into TM. The Beatles, I think, were largely responsible for initiat ing hundreds of thousands of kids … into the Eastern way of thinking. … I accepted everything the spirits taught me because it had to be truth coming from the Universal Self. I began to believe that was what God was. I started to believe that God was the OM and that the universe was just maya, an illusion. … [Later] I began to realize that the spirits had been teaching me Hinduism. I accepted it as truth—I didn’t care what it was called. 15 Such experiences cannot be attributed to imagination or coincidence. There is a very clear purpose and a unity to what is taught to those who enter the sorcerers’ world. It is the same worldwide in all cultures and in all periods of history. Unquestionably, contact has been made with nonhuman intelligences that have a definite agenda.” (Dave Hunt, Occult Invasion: The Subtle Seduction Of The World And Church, 3542-3676 (Kindle Edition); Bend, Oregon; The Berean Call)

Conclusion

The Word of God is certainly clear that Satan and his forces are continually working in this world to try and enslave people to sin and keep them away from the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:10-18). Some in the church, unfortunately, have gone to the extreme position of claiming that Satan and his forces are virtually inoperative in the world of man. Hopefully, this study will demonstrate that drug abuse is not ONLY a physiological issue; but may definitely involve in some way, shape, or fashion a level of spiritual warfare that we as Christians need to be engaging in even as we minister to our loved ones who are addicts.

Addicts will often need medical help, as their bodies often become chemically dependent. The Bible has always authorized and approved the use of legitimate medicinal use (cf. Isaiah 38:21; Luke 10:34; Colossians 4:14). As Christians, let us minister not only to the bodies of our friends who struggle with addiction; let us minister spiritually to them as well. This will include studying the Word of God with them (1 Peter 3:15; Matthew 28:19-20), bearing their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2), and even being willing to pray and fast for them as well (assuming we are medically able to fast-see Mark 9:29). God has promised us in His Word:

James 4:7-Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Friend, the devil does not want you to know about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came and died for your sins on the Cross of Calvary. He died for each and every sinner, because He wants every person to be saved:

1 Timothy 2:4-6-who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,

By His death, burial, and resurrection on the third day from the grave, Jesus Christ defeated the powers of darkness (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Hebrews 2:14-16). Today, He invites you to come to Him to be saved. Believers are commanded:

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we are thus baptized into Christ, we “put on” Christ (Galatians 3;26-27) and are added by God to His church (Acts 2:47). He calls us to live faithfully to Him, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10). However, when we sin after becoming a Christian, the Lord has provided a means for us to be forgiven:

1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 4:15-16-For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Why not obey Jesus today?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

An Important Post Note

We must always remember that while the abuse of drugs is sinful and may open one up to demonic influence, there is still a place in Scripture for the appropriate use of drugs. This is shown in many passages:

Isaiah 38:21-Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.”

Luke 10:34-So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Colossians 4:14-Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

This passage from the Apocrypha well represents how the Jewish people (and many in the early church) looked upon the proper use of drugs:

Sirach 38:1-2, 4-8, 12-15-““Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him; for healing comes from the Most High, and he will receive a gift from the king… The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them. Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known? And he gave skill to men that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. By them he heals and takes away pain; the pharmacist makes of them a compound. His works will never be finished; and from him health is upon the face of the earth… And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him. There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians, for they too will pray to the Lord that he should grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life. He who sins before his Maker, may he fall into the care of a physician.”

Let us not forget that God has provided a place for the legitimate use of drugs in this world.

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