Europe: The Search for Meaning in the Occult

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled Denmark: The Search for Meaning in Astrology, where I pointed out that there appeared to be a surge in interest in astrology in that nation. Given that Denmark is a very atheistic country, I speculated that the reason for the increased interest is man's need for meaning. Using Francis Schaeffer's writings as a source, I noted that people have an intuitive belief that the universe is not meaningless. Atheism, however, leads to the conclusion that the only possible meaning in the universe has to be transitive and not absolute or eternal. Since people instinctively recognize that such transitive meaning is illusory, they seek meaning elsewhere. Since they have ruled out the God of the Bible as the source of meaning, they will turn to anything -- even astrology -- regardless of how irrational because it, at least, fills that need for meaning.

Now, another article has been released by the International Herald Tribune entitled Meanwhile: Europe's love of the occult, by Michael Johnson, which reveals that not only Denmark, but all of Europe, seems to be turning to the occult.

Europe, it should be recognized, has long ago ceased being a Christian-dominated culture. I have heard many times about the secularization of Europe. In our own blog, we have previously commented on the empty great cathedrals of Europe ("Europe's largest churches are often unused these days, reduced to monuments for tourists to admire"). Certainly, Europe has become greatly more secular and atheistic than America and Denmark has been one of the most atheistic countries in the newly secularized Europe. Thus, it probably came as a surprise to many that people in the heavily atheistic Denmark were turning to astology. Apparently, however, Denmark is not alone in turning to the occult. According to the IHT article:

Admittedly it was the silly season - the August doldrums - but nevertheless I was surprised a few years ago to see a leading French newsmagazine run a cover story labeled "Plunge into the Irrational." The writer advised readers to stop trying to figure out the world. The occult can do it for you.

The French are not alone in this weakness for the irrational. Seeking answers from the beyond is a favorite pastime of the Germans and the Swiss. In Denmark, the International Society of Business Astrologers encourages the business community to consult the alignment of the planets as a supplement to research on financial markets and other initiatives.

EU Commission research indicates that 52 percent of Europeans believe astrology has a scientific basis compared to a more skeptical United States and Britain, at about 31 percent each.

Note that the French newsmagazine identified the turn to the occult as a plunge into the irrational. In highly secular Europe -- the land where logic and rationally (supposedly) prevail -- wouldn't you think that the fact that astrology and other occultic practices such as clairvoyance are well-recognized as psuedo-sciences and irrational would cause Europeans to have second thoughts about trusting the purveyors of the occult to provide them anything of value? Apparently not.

Incidentally, to be labeled "irrational" in some countries is no insult. The Enlightenment may have come from here, but France in particular is a wonderfully complex society. The French seek solace in part because, according to cross-cultural studies, they are not very good at living with uncertainty.

I think that this makes perfect sense in light of my earlier essay. The French (as well as other secularists) are every bit as much in need of a feeling of meaning as any religious group. It is inherent in us as creations of God. Thus, they need to turn to something -- anything -- that will provide meaning. Just as Jean Paul Sartre made the "upper-story" leap from the limits of his rationality to meaning in his existentialism by his defining act as a means of authenticating himself, so to do secularists make an upper-story leap to the the occult -- irrational though it may be -- in order to try to establish meaning and order. Make no mistake about it, seeking to learn the future through the occult assumes that there is some ordered future outside of man that can be discovered. By turning to the occult in search of these answers, Europeans are acknowledging that despite their secularism they believe that there is some meaning and order that exists and that the universe is not the result of random chaos.

When I wrote my earlier essay, one commenter objected that the number of people turning to astrology was very small in light of the total population of Denmark. I agree that 13,000 hits per day to astrological websites from a population of around 4,000,000 people in Denmark could indicate that only 13,000 people are devoutly following astrology -- but I think that's not true. Instead, the 13,000 people per day probably represents at least five times that number who are following astrology, and that the percentage of people following astrology should not be so limited as the commenter suggested.

Now, the IHT article reveals that if you add in all of the occult avenues to astrology, you are beginning to see that the percentage of Europeans involved in various aspects of the occult is quite substantial.

The main French professional clairvoyance organization, INAD (Institut National des Arts Divinatoire) says some 100,000 men and women are practicing clairvoyants in France today. This is about four times the number of Roman Catholic priests. INAD estimates that about €3.2 billion are spent annually on their advice.

* * *

French political leaders have taken the irrational plunge. The late President Fran├žois Mitterrand had regular consultations with his favorite seer and former President Jacques Chirac reportedly consulted his horoscope every morning.

* * *

The popularity of the occult has mushroomed since the creation of telephone hotlines and consultation via the Internet, says Josiane (no last name), manager of 14 clairvoyants at France Voyance. Her clairvoyants do nearly all their consultation remotely.

I recognize that this article is focused on France, birthplace of the Enlightenment, but the fact that so many of the French are turning to the occult, when combined with the earlier article about astrology in Denmark, seems to me to suggest a trend towards the irrational and occult in the search for meaning.

St. Augustine wrote, "Oh God, our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." I think St. Augustine was right. We are built with a God-sized hole in our hearts, and we will never be satisfied until God takes his rightful place there. These poor people in Europe, having wrongly convinced themselves that Christianity is wrong or outdated, are now having to seek to find something to fill the void that has been left by their turning away from God. That void is being filled by the occult -- something much more sinister than Christianity even when Christianity was usurped and distorted to meet the ends of men (despite Hitchens' claim that religion ruins everything).

I suspect we will begin to see more and more news about the power of the occult coming out of Europe and the massive turning of European atheists to astrology, clairvoyance and any number of other occultic practices. I pray that God deliver them from this trap.


Anonymous said…
Having proven (to his satisfaction) that "there is almost certainly no God":), Richard Dawkins is now turning to attack occult and astrology in a new documentary. Should be a hoot. I honestly hope his arguments against the occult are better than his arguments against theism:)
BK said…
At least he'll have the advantage of being partially right when he criticizes the occult: The occult is no place to try to find meaning. If he goes at it with his usual "there is nothing beyond science" approach, then he'll fail.
Jason Pratt said…
I wonder how this will be catalyzing with the increasing Muslim population of Europe. I doubt it can end well: Muslims at least have Mohammad's injunction about letting Christians (and Jews) stay around for reference sake as People of the Book. Pagans aren't usually allowed to stay around, even in dhimmitude: the choices are convert, leave or die. And 'leave' is frequently ignored (not a practical option).


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