Gandalf Lives! Jesus Lives!
by Richard Nathan
Full of curiosity and excitement,
the young man wandered into one of the head shops springing up like weeds along San Francisco’s Haight Street. It was the early Sixties, and the shop was only one among many devoted to drug paraphernalia for LSD and marijuana. Its gaudy assortment of lights, crystal figurines, colored and flavored rolling papers, and flamboyant posters drew him on.
Struck by the electric message of one poster, he halted. Scrolling in psychedelic style beneath the picture of a wizard the words, “Gandalf Lives!” leaped out. He studied it for a moment, vaguely reminded of a similar term describing Jesus Christ: “Jesus Lives!” But in his new philosophy born of the emerging LSD/Eastern religious culture, it seemed a proper twist. Yes, a wizard instead of Christ! Excitement and magic—not that “old rugged cross” stuff! That day, an interest was kindled to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which, just like magic, the citizens of hippie town were already devouring.
The world of elves, sorcerers, nature spirits, and witches soon filled his impressionable mind and blended seamlessly into the early LSD-New Age culture springing up like mushrooms after a rain of enchantment. And although he thought in the monistic terms of Hinduism, he wasn’t bothered by the apparent dichotomy of good and evil The Rings presented. After all, the books made “white” magic charming and the idea of a cosmic battle exciting. Theosophy, too, had its White and Black Brotherhoods—with “white” magic fighting “black” magic on the earthly plane. What else could the Brotherhood of the Ring be except the White Brotherhood?—proven (ever so romantically) by the figure of Gandolf, the wise magician who used his magic for “good” (white witchcraft).
And then there were the elves, beautiful, graceful beings who moved effortlessly in supernatural, clairvoyant ways without a word about Jesus Christ or holiness or God’s abhorrence of strange fire. The world of witchcraft beckoned sweetly throughout the pages, its poison obscured by the exciting battle between what seemed “good” and what was obviously evil.
As my wife Linda and I moved smoothly from LSD into occult fantasy and spiritualism, these same images peopled our world. There again we encountered the great adventure of the White Brotherhood with its Ascended Masters guiding us as we sallied forth to defeat the Black Brotherhood (i.e., black witchcraft or Satanism).
* * *
Many years have passed since Christ rescued us from that glittering web of deadly deception and brought us into the His Kingdom through His pre-eminent grace. The culture has changed immensely from that early, naïve time. I thought I was safe.
Then I saw Evangelical Christians everywhere lauding The Lord of the Rings.
What was going on?
When I was enmeshed in darkness, did the Ring Chronicles bring me the Light of Christ? In all honesty, I must say they only increased my spiritual darkness by lending a cozy loveableness to witchcraft and nature spirits.
Did a vague hint of the saving Gospel shine through to lead me out of darkness?
No! There was no hint; rather, there was another gospel entirely—the gospel that it’s “heroism” that stands against evil!
A professor at my seminary once talked about the difference between the Gospel approach to life and the Quest approach popularized by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth. This made startling sense to me of the strange dichotomies woven through the Middle Ages, where the medieval syncretism of Roman Catholicism, classical culture, and German paganism gave birth to chivalry—a peculiar amalgamation that justified being a “killer for Christ.”
The Lord of the Rings springs from this same worldview, which has pushed today’s science fiction market into the fantasy realm and transformed the world of fiction. It has launched an avalanche of books and movies in the same genre, until we not only have sword and sorcery and speculative fiction, but Christian Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, and Christian Futuristic Fiction (often apocalyptic). Furthermore, some popular and even Christian authors are now emphasizing disturbing elements common to pagan, occult, and secular novels.[i] It was to combat this avalanche that we wrote The Glittering Web and our Omega Point Series.[ii]
It must be said: The promotion of a worldview that reduces the struggle of humanity to a battle between white and black magic is nothing more than neo-paganism. And this worldview is a flood that undiscerning Christians are consuming in great draughts today. Media ministries are promoting it, and discernment ministries, which should be pointing it out, are lauding it instead.
Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and publisher and editor-in-chief of MOVIEGUIDE(r): A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment, stated many years ago:
The movie also includes a brief occult element not in the book. Happily, however, the filmmakers have left in plenty of Christian author J. R. R. Tolkien's biblical, metaphorical Christian references. In doing this, they have fashioned a masterful blend of fantasy and adventure that has positive Christological implications.[iii]
Recent opinion polls have ranked The Lord of the Rings as one of the most popular literary works of this century.[iv]
* * *
Where is the clear voice speaking to the crucial issues of the day with distinctly biblical, Christian answers? With tears we must say it is not there and that a large segment of the evangelical world has become seduced by the world spirit of this present age.
–Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984, p. 14.
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. (Colossians 2:8)
* * *
[i] For more on this topic, see the following articles by Richard and Linda Nathan:
[ii] Read “Glorifying the Savior / Exposing Deception: Why We Wrote The Omega Point Series. Richard and Linda Nathan (3/8/21 on this blog).
[iii] Baehr’s organization states that “MOVIEGUIDE(r) and the Christian Film & Television Commission are non-profit organizations dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment media according to biblical principles by influencing industry executives and by equipping the public to be active, media-wise consumers.”
[iv] From “Influences on The Lord of the Rings: The Impact of the Lord of the Rings.” Online at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/influences.html Actually, there’s nothing “brief” about the book's occult elements. The entire worldview illustrates it.
Photo by Tim Rebkavets on Unsplash
By Linda Nathan
When I grew up during the nineteen forties and fifties, Halloween was just a day at the end of October where we dressed up, ate popcorn and caramel apples, and collected candy from neighbors. Once I tried knocking on doors a day early and received green tomatoes. But that was it--we had no fears of being poisoned or of finding glass in our candy.
I made one of my favorite costumes from my mother's metallic-looking silver diet suit that was supposed to melt the pounds off while she exercised. I don't think it worked because she gave it to me, and it made a fantastic space suit. A plastic space helmet with bags for air tanks completed the effect, along with green cotton gloves with green thread sewn between the fingers for webs. It didn't scare anybody, but it sure was fun.
The horrific and demonic were almost unknown in my West Seattle neighborhood. And as television was still relatively new—we young kids used to gather at a neighbor's house in the afternoons to watch The Lone Ranger—there were no ghastly cartoons or demonic rock groups to trouble our fun—or our sleep. If there were a few monsters, you could sometimes see the zippers down their backs.
It wasn't long, though, before Hollywood started getting professional about horror. I still remember the terrible nightmares I experienced for weeks after watching the original War of the Worlds movie in 1953 when I was twelve. It wasn't until many years later that Jesus Christ freed me from the demons that harassed me from that movie.
Things began to change in major ways during and after the Sixties. And they changed for me too. My dad's sister was a spiritualist, and some years earlier, she'd introduced me to a few of her occult practices and given me a subscription to an occult magazine. She also convinced my mother and me to join her in a séance before I left for college. I started to become involved with evil, and it wasn't just "pretend" evil. It led to 14 years of deep involvement in psychedelics, spiritualism, and the New Age Movement. (For the full story, read Glorifying the Savior / Exposing Deception: Why We Wrote The Omega Point Series).
At the same time, horror and evil were becoming both popular and profitable in our culture. One important way it spreads is through the imagination, such as cartoons that we kids ate up and that kids still do. If it was "imaginative," it had to be okay. Sadly, Disney hasn't turned out to be the harmless fun it seemed at first. Fantasia, created to promote Mickey Mouse, not only blended animated imagery with classical music it also included vivid scenes of evil dominating good. One section that haunted Richard for years (a young boy when he saw it) was its depiction of Mussorgsky's "The Night on Bald Mountain," in which a gigantic rampaging Satan overpowered a tiny church. Even though Richard was raised as an atheist, the sheer overpowering visual evil was terrifying. Many years later, after he became a Christian, Jesus Christ sent those demons to flight. (When Richard went to seminary in the 1980s, one of his studies was on the theology of children's cartoons. The results weren't pretty, for by that time evil was coming in like a flood.)
Three Major Stages in the Downfall of a Nation
Dr. Mark Bubeck, in his book, The Satanic Revival, lists three major stages in the downfall of a nation, which he determined from studying God's actions in the Old Testament:
The coming psychedelic renaissance has its roots in both the laboratory and jungle. It is both scientific and shamanic.
(Short portions of the following article are excerpted from the new booklet, Psychedelic Seduction: Drugging the Church, by Richard and Linda Nathan, coming fall 2021 through Lighthouse Trails Publishing.)
A “psychedelic renaissance” is exploding across America.
Why is it happening? What does that mean? Is it helpful or harmful?
The psychedelic movement began in 1938 when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered LSD. Within a short time, therapists were using it on their patients and the CIA was using it in mind control experiments in the Cold War. When Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary popularized his LSD experiments in the early ‘60s, it launched the American counterculture revolution. By 1970, its dangers were apparent, and the Federal Drug Administration labeled LSD a dangerous Schedule I drug, along with heroin, marijuana, Ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote. (This means these drugs have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”)
That didn’t stop efforts to legalize these drugs though, which went underground for decades. But now with the War on Drugs fading and marijuana legalization breaking old barriers, those efforts are bearing fruit. Powerful interests in our society are releasing them on a massive scale at breakneck speed, and they likely will be reclassified soon. Meantime, huge paradigm shifts are occurring in major areas like medicine, psychiatry, business, and politics.
What does psychedelic mean?
The term refers to drugs “capable of producing abnormal psychic effects (such as hallucinations) and sometimes psychotic states.” (Merriam-Webster, online) It includes LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, and high-THC concentrate marijuana and its dangerous imitations, Spice, K2, and Kratom, as well as the “magic mushroom” (psilocybin), Ayahuasca/DMT, and designer drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy) and RAVE.
Psychedelics manipulate ordinary consciousness by affecting the senses, altering thinking, time sense, and emotions, and changing perception, mood, and cognition. They can (and often do) produce hallucinations, deceptive mystical states, and psychosis.
The goal of this “renaissance”
"The ultimate goal is the legalization of psychedelic drugs. … social transformation and spirituality and liberation."
Once we become Christians, God begins transforming us from a pagan (rebellious, anti-God) mind to a Bible-based, Holy Spirit-led mind (Ephesians 2; Romans 1–14, 12:2). Psychedelics can create terrible turmoil by unleashing powerful imagery that can blur or erase the lines between fantasy and reality, and imagination and truth. The underlying spiritual nature and foundation of the psychedelic experience is paganism, which rejects the Divine creator God and deifies creation (Romans 1:21–23), eventually seducing users with the idea that we are all gods.
Therefore, this so-called renaissance is not liberation at all but basically a return to paganism for these drugs unlock the portals of sorcery (witchcraft). The New Testament word for sorcery is the Greek term pharmakeia, which is the root of our word pharmacy—a dispensary of drugs. Deuteronomy 18:9–12 shows that God hates sorcery.
”Aliens and god-like entities.”
Another dangerous aspect of psychedelics involves the encounters users frequently have with what psychedelic therapist Daniel McQueen calls ”aliens and god-like entities.” The Bible calls these entities demons and warns about this warfare in Ephesians chapter 6:10-18.
Psychiatrist Rick Strassman studied DMT research subjects extensively and found at least half had encountered an entity after taking DMT. He reports,
"I was neither intellectually nor emotionally prepared for the frequency with which contact with beings occurred in our studies, nor the often utterly bizarre nature of these experiences…. Their business appeared to be testing, examining, probing, and even modifying the volunteer’s mind and body. One patient described it this way: 'It’s more like being possessed. During the experience there is a sense of someone or something else there taking control. It’s like you have to defend yourself against them, whoever they are, but they certainly are there. I’m aware of them, and they’re aware of me. It’s like they have an agenda.'''
Author Carl Teichrib perfectly sums up their deceptive agenda:
We can become as gods. It's the same messaging all the way through, isn't it? Doesn't matter if you read the writings of channeled UFO entities, if you take a look at what the New Age teaches, what Eastern spirituality gives us, or what the messages that come through the psychedelic experience show us. It always points back to Genesis 3: ‘We will be as gods.’ This is a gateway… a form of forbidden fruit."
While psychedelics may at times seem to provide captivating mystical experiences and insights or some mental or physical improvement, at the bottom, they are a portal to great instability and spiritual deception and danger. Expecting a hallucinogen ultimately to heal is like expecting a poisonous snake not to bite.
Only Jesus Christ can save, set free, and truly transform.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
Read a fictionalized version of our escape in our novel The Glittering Web, Book 1 of the Omega Point Series here. Listen to the prequel free. Also read “Why We Wrote the Omega Point Series” here.
Take our one-minute survey: View of Psychedelics here.
- The Cross & the Marijuana Leaf by Linda Nathan (2017). 20-page booklet. $1.95. Lighthouse Trails Publishing here.
- Linda answers questions about marijuana on the Parker J Cole Show here.
- Richard & Linda discuss drugs, deception, and the spiritual realm on the Parker J Cole Show here.
 Opening quotes from Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy by Don Lattin, Synergetic Press, 2017.
It was 1962, and there was a sense of awakening in the air, a call to a different kind of life.
Young people hearing the siren song were pouring into San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District from across the nation. A once-declining neighborhood, the Haight was blossoming overnight into a counterculture Mecca, spreading the new consciousness in a chaotic profusion of hippie pads, light shows, and drugs.
One sunny spring day, we met at an anarchist meeting.
Richard’s father, Julius, was a tough Marxist revolutionary who had known Chinese premier Mao Tse Tung prior to the 1949 communist takeover in China and had organized cannery workers from Monterey to San Francisco. Now he supported a hotbed of radical leftists who ran Ye Olde Anarchiste Bookstore in the Nathan storefront apartment on Ocean Avenue.
When Fantasy Becomes the Voice of Faith: How Edgy “Christian” Fiction Is Transforming Today’s Church
By Richard and Linda Nathan
Fantasy became the voice of faith. And it made for a cracking good story."
Stories teach. Whether we read a novel just to kick back and relax or to jump into an exciting adventure, we enter another view of reality—of one or possibly more worldviews.
Since our central purpose as Christians should be to glorify God and to grow in our knowledge of Him, we should be alert to a story’s influences—even when we read for pleasure.
In recent years, fiction aimed at Christians has exploded in the marketplace with such new categories as Christian Fantasy, Christian Science Fiction, Supernatural, and Christian Futuristic Fiction (often apocalyptic). Christian novels used to be relatively wholesome and instructive, but nowadays many popular and even Christian authors are emphasizing disturbing elements common to pagan, occult, and secular novels.
Some publishers are fueling the flood by trying to repeat the phenomenal sales of Frank Peretti’s spiritual warfare novels, the Left Behind series, and the fantasy novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis with countless imitations and wannabes. (Estimates of the worldwide sales figures of The Lord of the Rings run from 150 to 200 million, according to Zaleski, 2015.) This is all part of an enormous rise in the love and promotion of fantasy and mythology. As the Zaleskis ' article about the Inklings says, “Fantasy became the voice of faith. And it made for a cracking good story.”
Nevertheless, we’ve found hardly any Evangelical Christians nowadays questioning the popularity of such mythological/fantasy thinking. Fifty or sixty years ago, this type of thinking would have been anathema to many biblical churches.
Why? Is fantasy really the voice of faith?