From the archive: How God saved Ken Duncan from the dark side
“I was an idiot,” confesses prominent Christian photographer
** This article was first published in January 2017. It is republished from our archives.
Landscape photographer Ken Duncan had to fall off a mountain, nearly die of hypothermia and call on God for rescue from demonic spirits before he came to understand the simple truth that Jesus is more powerful than any other force.
These days Duncan is almost as well known for his Christian charity work among indigenous people as his panoramic shots of God’s creation, but he tells Eternity that he spent many years immersed in the occult and the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
Duncan reveres the memory of his father Jim Duncan, a pioneering missionary among indigenous people in the Kimberley. But in his 20s the son wandered very far from his loving parents’ path.
“I was one of those people who had to do things the hard way. I had the most beautiful Christian parents ever. I had no excuses. And my parents instilled in me the love for indigenous people,” he says..
“I grew up with indigenous people but I had to go off and get involved in Buddhism, Hinduism, Aboriginal spiritualism – you name it – because I thought Christianity was far too simple.”
Back then, the young photographer was drawn to the supernatural rather than to Jesus because of what he saw as the hypocrisy of formal religion and came close to losing control to what he calls the dark side.
“I had to go off and get involved in Buddhism, Hinduism, Aboriginal spiritualism – you name it – because I thought Christianity was far too simple.”
“Along the way I got very involved in demonic activities, so I understood the power of the spiritual realm.
“The reason I didn’t go along with the Christian thing to start with – it was just presented as religion. People didn’t know the reality of the spiritual realm. They talked about how Jesus healed people and did all this supernatural stuff and the power of meditation and the word of God … but I never saw it happening.”
Blind to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit through the word of God, Duncan went in search of “something with real power.”
“And in the dark side there is power but it comes at a cost and it’s very seductive, so what happens is you’re going somewhere, but it’s not somewhere you want to go,” he warns.
“At some stage it’s like a fishing hook (has caught you) and you realise you’re not in control any more; you’re being controlled. And it was really the faith and the prayers of my mother and father, who just kept praying for me, and at times they must have thought, ‘gee, this is really working well, the boy’s getting worse,’ but I was never allowed to step over the line – I would go so close and I’ve been to some of the highest levels of some of these activities, so I know the reality of the spiritual realm but in Jesus it’s so beautiful because he’s more powerful than any spiritual power or principality.”
“Along the way I got very involved in demonic activities, so I understood the power of the spiritual realm.”
Duncan says three dramatic experiences on a physical, emotional and spiritual level had to happen before he surrendered to the living God.
“First of all you have the physical and I had to fall off a mountain and have gangrene in my body, almost losing a foot, before I finally said ‘I’ve got an issue here, I’m running from God.’
“I just knew I was in trouble and I said ‘God, help me,’ and he hit me with a light on the inside that radiated through my body.”
“So I said God ‘you heal me of this and I promise I’ll follow you.’ So he miraculously healed gangrene in my foot to the point where the toes were putrid and then all of a sudden that night after prayer they were fine – all I lost was the top of my big toe.”
But a year after making that deal, Duncan began to think maybe he had just been lucky and stopped following Jesus.
Duncan had to endure a Bear Grylls-type brush with near-death before God showed up again in his life.
“I was down in Tasmania and I’d come from the Kimberleys and the heat and I thought I was bulletproof and I was waiting for a shot and I got hypothermia,” he recalls.
After finally getting his shot after spending half a day in the frigid cold, Duncan went into a euphoric state.
“I just lay down and I was going to go to sleep and I would have died,” he says.
“And then a voice came through and said ‘get up, you’ve got hypothermia, get back to the car.’
“Now what’s really funny, I didn’t know what hypothermia was, but hearing a voice like that I figured it’s time to get up, so I go back and I couldn’t get warm. It had been raining 22 days; my whole car was wet. To get to this location I’d winched in through mud, and all of a sudden my mind wants to set fire to my car, or get in the car and try and drive out. If I’d done that I never would never have got out because it was such hard-core driving.
“I just knew I was in trouble and I said ‘God, help me,’ and he hit me with a light on the inside that radiated through my body and I went to sleep and that was God.”
“The world needs to see the reality of Christ like never before.”
After that episode, Duncan realised that he needed to surrender his mind, which was so powerful it could kill him, to Jesus. But God needed to rescue him on a spiritual level too – from demonic forces.
“I had other encounters too in messing around with the spiritual realm, with a lot of stuff that was very occultish, and I thought I was in control and I was seeing all sorts of things like astral travelling and all of a sudden I found I was no longer in control,” he says.
“And again I called out to the God of my mother and father because I knew who I was calling out to. I said ‘God, help me,’ because I was in a situation where these demonic processes manifested themselves in front of me and God just went – boom – put me to sleep. And I woke up the next morning and he’d sort of intervened.
“So three times he intervened – once in the spirit, once in the flesh and the other one in the mind. And I was not going to turn up for number four. So when I said ‘OK’, that was the greatest day of my life because I finally found the meaning to life. And it’s just the best thing that ever happened in my life.”
Duncan says he finds it a hard story to tell because “I was an idiot.” But in light of the happy ending, he wrote a second verse for the “tragic” nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty when he told it to his daughter.
“The world needs to see the reality of Christ like never before,” he says.
“Humpty Dumpty is just sitting there shattered but I changed the end of that for my daughter.
“But along came Jesus that very day, said ‘hello’ little Humpty, I’m the only way, and right there and then he raised Humpty from the dead, and now Humpty’s no longer misled.
“That’s the reality of our life right now. All the king’s horses and all the kings men cannot put this together again. Only the king of kings can put it together and it requires people who are willing to say ‘Lord, what is your will for my life?’ That’s where you will find the power of the Holy Spirit.”