There has been a massive influx of occult practices lately, especially in western society. Western culture and entertainment are saturated with occult books, TV, and movies. But what is the appeal of the occult? What is the main reason why people practice the occult?
What is the “Occult”?
First off, let us define what the occult is. The actual word “occult” has roots in the Latin occultus, which means “hidden, secret.” Occult practices range from various denominations and sects. The main branches include:
- Druidry / Druidism
- Witchcraft (African, Asian, Australian, North American, South American, etc.)
The occult does not appear to be going away anytime soon either. There has been a resurgence of occult practice in America within the last few decades. In fact, according to the last U.S. census of 2010, witchcraft had become the 4th largest religion in the United States. This same census revealed there are more practicing occultists than there are Muslims or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Main Reasons Why People Practice the Occult
We can clearly observe the rising popularity of the occult, especially in the West. But why has there been this massive flood of occultism as of late? Why are people flocking to this like never before?
Many occultists I have spoken and listened to have expressed many of the same reasons as to why they got involved initially. I have found many common themes and parallels in these testimonies. Most of these similarities seem to have psychological roots. Here are the two most common reasons why people seem to begin dabbling in the occult.
Counterculture Rebel Mentality
One of the main reasons why people practice the occult is due to the counterculture mentality. The counterculture movement has been around for a long time. But what is “counterculture” exactly and what does it mean? Counterculture is defined as:
“a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. When oppositional forces reach critical mass, countercultures can trigger dramatic cultural changes.”
Some of the most famous counterculture movements in history have occurred in Europe, North America. These movements include:
- Romanticism (1790–1840)
- Bohemianism (1850–1910)
- Beat Generation (1944–1964)
- globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964–1974)
- punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s
In interviews and testimonies, many occultists expressed a similar disillusionment or disenchantment with conventional religion. Many of these testimonies are from former Christians and Jews, or people who were raised in a religious household. There seems to be a correlation between former practitioners of conventional religion and interest in the occult.
What this says to me is that the occult has become a counterculture movement against organized religion, especially Christianity. After Christianity spread and laid the foundation for the Western world & culture, it became the prevailing, conventional worldview. The monotheistic religion of Christianity, but also Judaism and Islam, had become the mainstream. All the while the occult steadily grew an underground, counterculture following.
Whenever anything becomes mainstream or conventional, there is typically always a counterculture mentality and movement. It seems to be a characteristic of human nature to rebel against the status quo. There is something in the psyche of all of us which compels us to go against the grain. Especially when something becomes popular, there is an air of “coolness” to be an iconoclast.
The Allure of the Unknown & Inaccessible
The second common reason why people practice the occult is the mystery behind it. In many interviews and testimonies, practitioners express an appeal or seduction to the mysterious teaching of the occult. Because the teachings are obscure and fringe, they play into the human psychology of desiring the unknown and inaccessible.
Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist at Bing, explains this phenomenon:
“People love secrets revealed; even for very young children, the surest way to make someone want something is to tell them they can’t have it. Even better when it is a celebrity, because it seems unusual, exotic.”
For whatever reason, the human psyche is drawn and allured to the unknown and the inaccessible. If something is mysterious or unavailable to us, we yearn for it that much more. The occult plays into these human tendencies because it is “hidden knowledge” and is usually only available to initiates of a secret group or society.
However, just because something is secret or hidden, does not mean it is the truth.
Conclusion: The Occult is Real & Dangerous
This is not to say that the occult should be taken lightly. I do not believe the rise in the occult is merely due to rebellion. I do believe there are powerful, dark forces behind these practices, making them dangerous and evil. In no way is this article attempting to belittle the danger and repercussions of practicing the occult.
Find out more about world religions and why Christianity is set apart from all the rest.