PEOPLE have long believed that the dead are capable of guiding the living. One ancient portrayal of this belief is found in a tale written by the Greek poet Homer about Odysseus, also known as Ulysses. Homer’s legendary hero, desperate to know how he could return to his home island of Ithaca, ventured into the underworld to consult a dead seer.

Hopeful of receiving answers from the dead to perplexing questions, many people have consulted spirit mediums, slept in their ancestors’ tombs, or performed spiritistic rites. Is it really possible to obtain supernatural guidance from the dead?

A Widespread Practice

Many of the world’s major religions teach that communication with the departed is possible. The Encyclopedia of Religion observes that “necromancy, the art or practice of magically conjuring up the souls of the dead, is primarily a form of divination.” It then adds that this practice is “widespread.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia confirms this by stating that “necromancy, in various forms, has had a worldwide distribution.” Little wonder, then, that some faithful in many religions have attempted to obtain knowledge from the spirit world!

Although this contact with the dead “was severely condemned by the Church,” says the New Catholic Encyclopedia, “repeated references are made to the practice in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.” What does the Bible say on those matters?

Should You Inquire of the Dead?

In ancient times, Jehovah God commanded his people: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who inquires of the dead.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13) Why would Jehovah make such a prohibition? If it were possible for the living to talk with the dead, it would be a loving thing on God’s part to allow such communication, would it not? But simply put, such communication is not possible. How do we know that?

The Scriptures repeatedly teach that the dead are unconscious. Consider Ecclesiastes 9:5: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” Psalm 146:3, 4, says: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” And the prophet Isaiah likewise spoke of the deceased as being “impotent in death.”​—Isaiah 26:14.

Numerous people believe, however, that through the use of spiritistic practices, they have been able to contact dead loved ones. Such experiences are common, so it is evident that many have spoken with someone from the spirit world. As the above scriptures show, however, they have not spoken with the dead. With whom, then, have they spoken?

 Talking With Whom?

The Bible reveals that spirit sons of God rebelled against their Maker and became demons. (Genesis 6:1-5; Jude 6, 7) These promote the false idea that humans live on after death. To further this untruth, they pretend to be dead persons by speaking to the living from the spirit realm.

The Bible relates that King Saul of Israel, after being abandoned by Jehovah for disobedience, attempted to consult the dead prophet Samuel through a spirit medium. Saul did receive a message from the spirit world but not from Samuel. Samuel, in fact, had refused to see the king, and Samuel opposed spirit mediums. In reality, Saul received information from a demon who merely pretended to be Samuel.​—1 Samuel 28:3-20.

The demons are God’s enemies, and contact with them is dangerous. For this reason, the Scriptures command: “Do not turn yourselves to the spirit mediums, and do not consult professional foretellers of events, so as to become unclean by them.” (Leviticus 19:31) “Anyone who inquires of the dead,” warns Deuteronomy 18:11, 12, is doing “something detestable to Jehovah.” Indeed, among the other acts of unfaithfulness for which Jehovah put King Saul to death was Saul’s “asking of a spirit medium to make inquiry.”​—1 Chronicles 10:13, 14.

To whom, then, should you turn when you feel the need for superior guidance, when faced with perplexing questions or choices? The Scriptures describe Jehovah God as the “Grand Instructor.” If you and your loved ones consult his Word, the Bible, and actually practice what it teaches, it will be as if “your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people.’” (Isaiah 30:20, 21) Though Christians today do not expect to hear a literal voice from the true God, he can guide them by means of the Bible. Yes, Jehovah himself is, as it were, saying: ‘Let me be your guide.’

HAVE YOU WONDERED?

● How does God view attempts to contact the dead?​—Deuteronomy 18:9-13.

● Can the dead provide the living with knowledge? Why do you so answer?​—Ecclesiastes 9:5.

● To whom may we confidently turn for guidance?​—Isaiah 30:20, 21.