Why was the Occult so popular in California?

California is a unique state because people were reluctant to accept traditional forms of religion. There is a historical link between Protestant Anglo-Americans and utilizing alternative sources of spirituality. Historically, conventional forms of religion were sparse in the 1850s – ninety percent of the population was male between twenty and forty years of age. It was not until the 1870s that there was an almost equal amount of women. Most men were temporary travelers in California searching for gold, not religion. As a result of this transient lifestyle, there were few women and families, a lack of laws, land disputes, and different customs, cultures, and moralities. No one was looking for religion in California.

In the 1800s, California represented a different way of life, an alternative to the industrial work ethic of the east coast. There was a high rate of social mobility, heavy immigration, and rapidly changing social and economic patterns. There was also a distinct cultural mix in California with the Spanish-Mexican, Chinese and European cultures.

            California was depicted as a wondrous land with natural hot springs, Yosemite, the Pacific Coast, and beautiful deserts to attract settlers – natural wonders became an allegory for spiritual understanding. For that reason, a tradition emerged in California of a culture of openness, tolerance, a reflection of nature, and independence of religious thinking. People who became ill looked to spiritual and occult groups, rather than barbers or doctors, for their healing practices. At this time, a prescribed belief system was unnecessary and the proliferation of “alternative” belief systems emerged.

Further Reading

Blog at WordPress.com.