There exists a strain of thought today, some of it in academia and political commentary, that historically links occult and New Age movements to fascism and rightwing extremism.
Even if one writes with critical sympathy on occultism, as I do, its diffuse history and influence — intellectually, spiritually, socially, and in literature — is difficult to capture. Excellent historians, including my colleagues Richard Smoley and Gary Lachman, spend years probing the byways.
There exists no easily summarized connection between occultism and politics. This is because, among other things, there exists no unitary cultural and historical definition of outsider spirituality, much less its sprawling impact.
Even seemingly familiar terms (e.g., “Theosophy,” “Ascended Masters,” “Rosicrucians,” “Freemasons”) are laden with encyclopedic complexities and mean different things to different users and practitioners, although there are major historical currents, often neglected.
Unsurprisingly, a strain of occult influence historically appears in movements considered both regressive and progressive, with no definitive plurality in either.
Yet an occult-rightwing connection is widely heard about. Indeed, there exists a recently revived trend within academia to ascribe “green” and occult roots to the ultimate expression of corrupted power: Nazism. I have always found the Nazi-occult connection, as depicted in both popular and scholarly literature, including Eric Kurlander’s celebrated Hitler’s Monsters (2017), fairly loose and overstated.* Indeed, there existed no constancy, aside from race hatred, within Nazi ideology; wide-ranging symbolical and historical material was embraced, copied, discarded, and contradicted in the same way that, as I write these words, there is no core ideology to Trumpism (other than anti-immigration). Is Trumpism the “result” of the Christian right? Or of Christianity in general? The insipid dramas of QAnon, while popular on some New Age margins, are expressions of longstanding persecutory canards directed against accused occultists, reimagined today as “Satanists” or “groomers.”
As I argue in my 2009 Occult America, Europe was suffused with competing ideologies in the early twentieth century and the impact of an occult revival…