Sociology ETDs


Bruce Hall

Publication Date




This thesis is an investigation of a number of alternative explanations of belief in and activity in various subareas of the occult milieu. These subareas include astrology, spiritualism, satanism and various occult activities such as palm and card reading.

A number of alternative hypotheses concerning the rela­tionships between occult belief and practice and status and psychic deprivation as measured by self-esteem, self-competence and anomie were developed. Alternative explanations which centered around peer influence and religious orthodoxy were also presented. Three principle hypotheses were tested:

1)belief in and activity in various aspects of the occult

will vary inversely as a function of self-esteem and self-competence and directly as a function of anomie, 2) belief in the existence of demons, spirits, and related phenomena will vary directly as a function of religious orthodoxy, 3) belief inand activity in various aspects of the occult will vary directly as a function of peer influence.

Questionnaires containing measures of these dependent and independent variables were administered to a sample consisting of 372 students enrolled in a section of Introduction to Socio­logy 101 during the Spring Semester of 1976. A number of items dealing with demographic characteristics were included in addition to the other variables.

Pearson correlation coefficients were computed and indicated weak positive relationships between self-esteem and self-competence and the occult variables. Low negative relationships appeared between anomie and the occult variables. Stronger positive relationships were indicated between peer influence and the occult variables and between religious orthodoxy and the demons and spirits variable. Only the peer influence and religious orthodoxy variables approach statis­tical significance.

Multiple regression analysis revealed that, with the exception of the demons and spirits variable, peer influence accounted for the greatest amount of variance in the occult variables. Religious orthodoxy emerged as the single best indicator of belief in demons and spirits. The combined effect of the three deprivation measures accounted for little of the total variance in any of the dependent variables. Both the correlation coefficients and the regression analysis tended to support hypotheses 2 and 3.

An analysis of the demographic variables indicated that, with one exception, demographic characteristics were not significantly related to belief in and activity in the occult. Church attendence was found to be strongly related to religious orthodoxy and was negatively related to a number of occult measures.

It was concluded that deprivation theory does not offer a useful explanation for occult interest, belief, and activity for all populations. One explanation of these results suggests the existence of two separate populations which are interested and involved in various subareas of the occult milieu to different degrees. One population is composed of those people belonging to cults and other esoteric organizations. The other population is made up of people who are interested in the occult as a form of diversion. It was also concluded that additional research should be undertaken using a number of data gathering techniques to investigate both of these populations.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dodd Harvey Bogart

Second Committee Member

Patrick Hayes McNamara

Third Committee Member

Frieda Lillian Gehlen



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Included in

Sociology Commons