The goal of carefully defining the terms central to the occult influenced the organizational contents of this study. Because law enforcers all too often use several terms interchangeably - occult, Satanic, ritualistic - this study is committed to placing such terms in an appropriate definitional context.
While these terms are related, they simply are not interchangeable. Consider the following:
Occult activity involves the use or secret knowledge of actions and/or rituals connected to supernatural beliefs and/or supernatural powers.
Satanic activity involves a belief that Satan will bring personal power over oneself, others and the external environment and, in turn, such power will permit the believer to live by whatever moral and ethical codes one wishes to adopt.
Ritualistic activity involves repeated physical, sexual, psychological, and/ or spiritual acts.
Occultism, then, is the umbrella term for a wide array of belief systems that involve or use supernatural beliefs and/or powers. Satanism is just one of many such belief systems; it is not the occult, but rather a type of occult belief system. Occult activities, Satanism included, are legal as long as adherence to the belief system does not motivate or require the commission of a criminal act. Ritualism, which involves a series of repeated acts, is a method for celebrating a belief system. In cases where ritualistic methods involve some sort of abuse, their commission becomes a criminal rather than a legal activity.
This study emphasizes the need for law enforcers not only to understand these differences in terminology, but to become knowledgeable about the various belief systems and activities of the major occult groups operating in the United States.
Once such knowledge is obtained, law enforcers can begin to make educated distinctions between legal, Constitutionally protected occult activity and illegal occult activity which has increasingly become known as occult crime. To that end, the belief systems and legal activities typical of historical and contemporary occult groups are the subject of Chapter One; the illegal activities and rituals practiced by some occultists are the subject of Chapter Two; and the manner in which law enforcers learn about and handle both legal and illegal occult activities is the subject of Chapter Three.
Currently, it is impossible to measure the extent of occult crime because few law enforcement agencies specifically record occult and occult-related crime, and those agencies that do keep such figures define occult primarily as Satanic in nature, lumping anything that is different but not necessarily criminal into an all-inclusive but inaccurate occult category.
While this report does not "take sides" in the current debate over whether or not law enforcers should record all crimes related to the occult, it does emphasize that most information about the extent of occult crime is based upon what people actually believe rather than what they factually know. Such perceptions have fueled the contemporary notion that occult crime has reached epidemic proportions. For instance, consider the following:
At a professional meeting held in 1987, a Utah State Prison system official claimed that based upon his knowledge of the State's inmates, an estimated 60,000 persons were annually killed in ritualistic homicides, many of which had occult links.
Such claims have also been refuted. Consider the following:
A spokesperson for the FBI refuted the allegations of the Utah State Prison official, pointing to annual UCR statistics that show the nationwide rate of all homicides averages about 20,000.
While the debate continues, only one thing remains certain: no one knows the actual extent of occult crime! Most information is largely perceptual, often based upon misinformation and fear, the experiences and assumptions of occult investigators, and unsubstantiated research conducted by persons who have spiritual, social and/or economic reasons to believe occult crime exists.