I could not help but notice this link over at Mysterious Universe the other day and had to comment since, at the very least, the post seemed ambiguous when discussing the topic of morals in the “occult”.
First of all, let’s talk a little about what that much used but little understood word means. The Abrahamic fundamentalists would have you believe that occult = evil, Satanic, opposed to their view of how the world should be run. If we look at the root of the word, however, we find that occult comes from the Latin occultus which means simply “hidden, concealed, secret”. I would point out that even in the Abrahamic religions that fuss so about the “occult”, there are hidden traditions, usually related to the mystical experience. A good example would be the Sufis of Islam. These folks are definitely Muslim but they have definite secrets that do not open out to the practitioner until the person has gained the trust of a teacher and his disciples.
I do not think that anyone in their right mind would equate a tradition that bred the likes of Rumi with evil and Satanism. In like manner, it is obvious to me that those who squawk loudest about the occult are those who are most ignorant about the traditions that they are referring to or are picking and choosing from biased information to “prove” their position.
For example, Mr. Hanks, whom I admire for his intellect and even handed approach to the paranormal, comments that Christian friends of his have encouraged him to abandon his studies since exposure to the paranormal, UFO’s and the like will inevitably lead into the occult and the destruction of his (presumed on their part) faith. I wonder if those folks would be surprised to discover that one of the foremost occultists of our time, Gareth Knight, and the groups that he has founded are so strongly Christian in tone that some modern Neo-Pagans feel uncomfortable working within them. For those interested in seeing a fictionalized portrayal of Christian occultists doing the work of the Light, I recommend the Adept series by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris and/or Kurtz’s two fictional Templar books, The Temple and the Stone and The Temple and the Crown. Any of these fictional works will give the reader a pretty good idea of how a Christian occultist works without violating anyone’s oath of secrecy.
While most “occult” groups are not aligned to any particular religion, all of the ones that I have encountered encourage and, in fact, require the student to develop a strong system of ethics before they are introduced to the more advanced grades of the work. Note please that I say a system of ethics, not a code of morality. Ethics are not imposed, they are discovered through deep and continuous exposure to meditation and linkage through ritual and other practices with what may be thought of as the Higher Self (that portion of the human soul complex that is most attuned to the Source of All Being). The end product is an individual who is able to think through and seek guidance for ethical dilemmas rather than try to superimpose a coded system of morals (usually derived from ancient tribal mores) on complex modern situations.
Those of you familiar with the occult may be wondering about the practitioners of what has been called the Left Hand Path. While this way certainly has the external trappings that the fundamentalists fear and seems to me to be more open to abuse, it is essentially the path of isolate intelligence. Rather than seeking Union with the Divine, the LHP practitioner seeks to develop their fullest potential as a human being, developing a powerful soul complex that will survive death as something more than human. In essence, these practitioners seek to become gods and, while they tend to be iconoclastic, responsible workers of the LHP are often motivated by principles such as honor by which they guide their lives. Becoming a god or, at least, something Other requires a great deal of discipline and is not the purvey of undisciplined people.
Now, are their occult practitioners who have gone off the rails and are engaged in practices that would curdle the blood of the fundamentalists? Of course there are. Every spiritual path has its “strays” – people who take the teachings and pervert them, seeking after power and advantage for themselves. The occult, with its colorful personalities has certainly had its share of these folks and the publicity seekers among them have done a lot to feed the fears of the fundamentalists but for every Beast in occult circles there are dozens, if not hundreds of hard working, disciplined individuals working, in their own way, to move forward the course of human spiritual evolution.