Why has the paranormal gained traction in Western culture, along with the enduring popularity of psychics and the widespread fascination with contacting the dead? What drives this interest? Examining the appeal of the paranormal is not like looking through a telescope at a single subject. Rather, it is like looking through a kaleidoscope, for there are many factors that contribute to its appeal.
1960s Eastern Influence
The 1960s saw a significant influx of Eastern philosophies into Western culture in response to a rejection of traditional Western values such as technology, reason, materialism, and economics. The East, characterized by anti-rationalism, quietism, and a lack of technology, held a unique appeal for many. Some contemporary analysts suggest that the current interest in communicating with the dead may stem from the Eastern spirituality that emerged during this period. The Eastern influence has made people more receptive to the unseen, as spirits—whatever their nature—captivate those who once confined reality to the physical universe. In particular, the writings of prominent psychics such as James Van Praagh, John Edward, and Sylvia Browne show a significant Eastern influence.
Our current era is characterized by a strong emphasis on personal experience, where emotions carry considerable weight: “If it feels good, do it.” Many now seek mystical and emotional experiences in place of fact-based beliefs grounded in divine authority. The occult aligns with this experiential trend, as individuals who have powerful experiences in the realm of the occult become convinced of the existence of a spiritual world and the potential for contact with it.
A major driving force behind the popularity of psychic phenomena is simple curiosity about the supernatural. This curiosity is particularly evident among today’s teenagers, who enjoy experimenting with Ouija boards at gatherings and playing popular paranormal games with friends. Many people who explore occult phenomena, participate in psychic readings, or attend séances may not fully realize that they are inadvertently interacting with malevolent demonic forces.
Seeking Insight into the Future
Many people turn to psychics for insight into the future because of feelings of uncertainty and a desire to anticipate upcoming events. For example, someone might consult a psychic to determine the fate of a romantic relationship or to assess their prospects within a particular company. Many believe that having such inside knowledge provides a strategic advantage in making life decisions.
People Are Curious about the “Other Side”
People’s curiosity about what happens after death is natural, given the global death rate of three per second, which is 180 per minute, nearly 11,000 per hour, and over 250,000 per day. Psychics try to assure their followers that the “Other Side” is a tangible reality, more compelling than any fairy tale.
People Want to Communicate with Dead Loved Ones
Communicating with deceased loved ones is a strong motive behind the popularity of psychics. Spiritism typically gains traction during and after wars, as it offers comfort to those who have lost loved ones in battle. Psychics claim that the departed are trying to make contact to ease the grief of those they left behind.
People Are Burned Out on Traditional Religion
Disillusionment with traditional religion drives some to explore the occult and the paranormal. Many find conventional church services unfulfilling and turn to alternative spiritual outlets to meet their needs.
Spiritism Claims to Answer Life’s Deeper Questions
For some, spiritism offers answers to the deeper questions of life. For example, the belief in communication with spirits implies a spiritual dimension and an afterlife that is open to people of all faiths, thereby reducing the fear of death.
Some Young People Follow in Their Parents’ Footsteps
Parental influence can play a significant role in young people’s involvement in the occult. Growing up in families that are open to psychic phenomena can lead children to embrace such practices.
Some Teens Succumb to Peer Pressure
Peer pressure drives some teens to experiment with the paranormal. They engage in séances, play with Ouija boards, and engage in other occult activities to fit in with their peers.
Occultism Gives Isolated Teens a Sense of Control
Isolated and stressed teenagers are more likely to engage in occult practices. They seek control and meaning in their lives through activities such as witchcraft and various psychic activities.
All People Allegedly Have Latent Psychic Abilities—It Just Takes a Little Learning
Psychics claim that all people have latent psychic abilities that can be awakened and developed. Some psychics believe in the existence of a sixth sense, commonly referred to as intuition or a gut feeling. This often-overlooked sense is said to interact with our intellect, five senses, and emotions. We simply need to learn to pay attention to it.
Psychics also claim that benevolent spirit guides are present in everyone’s life, imparting wisdom and trying to make contact through various signs such as flickering light bulbs or ringing telephones. Psychics therefore encourage all people to embrace their psychic abilities, seeing them as a channel for connecting this world with the next.
Psychics advise their followers that examining their lives by reflecting on key questions can help uncover past psychic experiences:
- Did you ever know something instinctively?
- Have you ever changed your behavior for no apparent reason and had significant results?
- Have you ever had a dream that you thought was psychic in nature?
- Have you ever ignored a color or light that could have been an aura?
- Have you ever seen the dead or experienced signs of their presence? Did they communicate with you?
- Have you ever dreamed about an event that had nothing to do with you, and it came true later?
- Have you ever felt that you had a sixth sense about people?
- Have you ever made a successful business decision based on a hunch?
- Have you predicted a phone call or the ringing of a doorbell and it happened?
Psychics say that by pondering questions such as these, you may find that you have more psychic abilities than you thought.
The current fascination with the paranormal is rooted in a variety of underlying factors. The deception is enormous. Don’t be fooled. It can sound appealing, but it is spiritually deadly.
I invite you to consult my article, “A Christian Assessment of Psychics and Ghosts,” posted here at the John Ankerberg Show website.