It is essential to keep in mind that this movement encompasses a wide range of practices and beliefs. Consequently some of the critiques presented in this article may require some adaptation or modification in order to be applicable to certain variations of belief within the broader system of witchcraft and neopaganism. Nonetheless, the body of critiques presented here apply substantially to most witches and neopagans.
Many witches do not believe in spirits, and most if not all reject belief in a literal Devil or demons. Naturally, therefore, they reject the idea that sorcery and divination are accomplished by the agency of evil spirits. Many offer naturalistic explanations for the working of magic and divination and other "psychic technologies." On the whole, the occult community today has expanded its definition of "the natural" to incorporate elements that were earlier considered supernatural, placing them in the category of the super- or paranormal instead. Yet, they are still involved in the "old ways" -- that is, the occult.
Now You See it, Now You Don't
What has happened in the occult world in the past two or more decades is just what C. S. Lewis described in his classic work, The Screwtape Letters -- which portrays an experienced demon (Screwtape) writing letters of advice to a novice demon (Wormwood):
I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [i.e., God]. The "Life Force," the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work -- the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits" -- then the end of the war will be in sight. (1)
Lewis's insights on the insidious strategy of Satan -- the archenemy of our souls -- appear to have been right on target in regard to modern occultism. (2)
When observations like Lewis's are made, however, it is not uncommon to hear remarks to the effect that Christians attribute to the supernatural everything they cannot comprehend -- if it cannot be understood, it must be the Devil. However, this charge is unwarranted.
While it is unfortunately true that some Christians tend to hyperspiritualize events and exclaim "the Devil did it," or "the Devil made me do it," this is certainly not the case with all. Many Christians have pointed out alleged demonic (or divine) occurrences which were -- in fact -- instances of fraud, anomalies, psychosomatic phenomena, auto- or heterosuggestion, and so forth. (3) Such Christians have demystified baffling occurrences and accounted for them by their natural causes.
Black, White, or Neutral?
The critical question is, What is the actual source or causal agent(s) of the occult (i.e., of divination, sorcery, and spiritism)? Some witches like to make a distinction between black and white magic/sorcery and divination. They claim that sorcery or divination performed for unselfish and/or "benevolent" purposes (to help others) is good. Thus, magic done with good intentions and desired results is classified as white magic. Conversely, sorcery performed with selfish and/or malevolent motives and means (to harm others) is classified as black magic.
Other witches deny the validity of this distinction or find it useless. Since they regard magic as a natural force they view it as morally neutral (i.e., not intrinsically good or evil). Like...