The Strange Legacy of the Weird Fascination with the Occult in the 60s and 70s

George Case is a writer on ideas and popular culture, and an acknowledged authority on the band Led Zeppelin. He is the author of “Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man,” “Out of Our Heads: Rock ‘n’ Roll Before the Drugs Wore Off,” “Led Zeppelin FAQ,” “Calling Dr. Strangelove,” and “Arcadia Borealis: Childhood and Youth in Northern Ontario.”

George’s article explores in minor, more generalized details the way that the occult culture paradigm has been shaped and molded by the world at large, and its many personages. It is an interesting skeptical perspective, but one that should also be taken with a grain of salt here at Media Monarchy, and Holy Hexes. How much of what we think we know about the occult is fabricated, or has been driven by cultural trends? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction, possibility and myth?

George Case writes at History News Network:

In truth, the steady incursion of the fantastic and the irrational into American political discourse has been perceived for some time. Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer to help plan her husband’s presidential schedule; Pat Robertson suggested feminism was a plot to make women take up witchcraft; Rick Santorum identified “the father of lies, Satan,” as America’s Number One enemy; and still today we have the conspiracy theories of Truthers (who believe 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by the Bush administration), Birthers (who insist Barack Obama’s certified eligibility for high office is fraudulent), and Deniers (who reject the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change). Yet what’s seldom discussed is where this national predilection for unreality came from. The occult boom of the 1960s and 70s is surely one point of origin.

Between Time magazine’s “Is God Dead?” issue of April 1966 and the November 1980 publication of Michelle Remembers, a purportedly factual account of horrific child abuse by devil worshippers, a fascination with dark spirituality, the supernatural, and sheer superstition swept western popular culture. Much of it, to be sure, was only a commercial cash-in, but all of it added up to a transformation of mass thought and mass faith.

mysticartsThere is some peculiarity at work amongst the financial and ‘social’ elite, but how deep those doldrums go is relatively unknown. In fact, we don’t know a fraction of what we claim to think we know. We hear things or read about them from word of mouth, which brings me to a thought: When will serious scholarship and investigation be devoted to issues such as elite occult rituals, and their implications for the rest of us living in the ‘real’ world?

The article also mentions how movies related to demonic lore have influenced our ways of thinking, and maybe even some sources of collective paranoia:

The long-term consequences of the occult wave and its aftermath continue to resonate. No matter how farfetched or inherently groundless most of its premises were, they were presented with a conviction that was often persuasive: in the wake of a devastating world war and a supremacy of reason that seemed to have climaxed with the Bomb, the unreasonable was once again attractive. It still is. Certainly the graphic depictions of urban diabolism in Rosemary’s Baby, of demonic possession in The Exorcist, and of the present-day significance of ancient scripture in The Omen, have made outlandish claims in politics and economics a little less outlandish; certainly the intellectual intrigues offered by the notions of unusual life forms, inexplicable disappearances, and ancient astronauts have made incredible reports of government conspiracies and celebrity scandals that much more intriguing; certainly the richly entertaining and imaginative—though usually specious—occult of the 1960s and 70s promoted a public suspension of disbelief which has become a seemingly permanent quality of our societal character. The next time a website, advertiser, or (ahem) presidential candidate cites wishful thinking as hard statistic, junk science as proven fact, or paranoid fantasy as viable policy, we do well to remember: the Devil’s in the details.

Read the full article.

For more information about George Case’s latest book: Here’s to My Sweet Satan: How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies and Pop Culture, 1966-1980.