I have no idea on the science on this topic, this is just an observation from me. I think part of it is the vast eclecticism in the occult and also the encouragement to branch out. Do not take this as criticism in any shape or form. Just an observance by me.
I notice that many modern pagans and practicing occultists such as myself, have switched paths/systems or religions, or are involved in such things. In some cases it is a natural progression. I have seen someone go from Wicca to Vodun, someone use various occult systems of magick, someone go from being Wiccan and in a coven, to be a magical practitioner of Christianity, [powwow] and a few going from pagan reconstructions to a more modern approach that does not involve reviving the past, sometimes with their own upg added that has no historical basis.
For myself I tried different styles of philosophy; Buddhism and Satanism. Tried the Celt thing, Wicca and witchcraft, which I am still into, and the Aztec thing for along time, which backfired exponentially. If I had never been Aztec, I would have gradually gone from Goddess movement oriented witchcraft to Shaktism, which is really not that different. Been worshiping Kali before all that, since 2007, when I was getting into Shaktism/Hinduism. Maintained a Hindu cosmology and outlook even during Aztec days. SO, progressing to Hinduism is not a big deal to me or a foreign conversion. [I came from Christianity, but I will discard it because it was a family thing and came from there. "Raised" Christian, not chosen Christian.]
I find this curious that those in paganism/occult seem to do this the most often. Even Gerald Gardner was a member of a few different organizations in his day, that is not even including Crowley's eclectism. Then I have to say "What gives?". I cannot even answer this myself. I know only that with the Aztec religion, I tried fitting into something I could never fit into. It made me unhappy, so I left it. With my witchcraft I have always been eclectic.
Note: I am not saying that there are not people who stick to one system of magick or one religion. But I find many modern paganism encourages adherents to learn outside systems and religions, which helps their own system. They may even encourage others to make their own system/religion or religious branch. I just notice pagans and occultists tend to switch or have more than one of the styles/systems/philosophies/religions than any other group, and I wonder what for....?
Well, the first perspective which comes to MY mind is that, the cultures/systems referred to by paganism were sort of wiped out in the past, for the greater part... People who get into these older systems, today, I would say most typically begin their journey as a sort of search for a path to take within paganism as a whole. So, they start out with a mass of options... maybe selecting one at a time, moving from one to the next (and perhaps landing/staying with one), or sort of approaching multiple ones successively and not necessarily leaving behind the previous involvements which were acquired in the search.
In short, I think the typical position of one who enters paganism is that of explorer with un-pre-determined destination, thus becoming exposed to multiple paths via the search.
Since you have raised the question, I am curious if one of your assertions - that other groups of spiritual seekers are not composed of members who become so eclectic - is actually true. I really can't say! When you got involved with the Aztec culture, were you able to notice a particular separation amongst Mesoamerican practitioners? I ask the same of your experience with Eastern traditions... I am sure that a good number of Hindu practitioners have at some point left the path behind to pursue Buddhism.
"I just notice pagans and occultists tend to switch or have more than one of the styles/systems/philosophies/religions than any other group, and I wonder what for....?"
Paganism was the way the world turned until not much less than 3000 years ago, and I have to include the very first ancient Hebrews as Pagan, that held traditionally Pagan beliefs. There just is not a whole lot of evidence for that. What Hebrews, for example, evolved into is another story.
An answer to your question, mainly, but not limited to such, is because many, some, or who knows how many, are not stupid enough to subscribe to traditional dogma, regardless of how it is philosophically or esoterically perfumed, once one begins to understand the sociological, ideological fallacies of such.
A good example would be that what is "evil or amoral" to someone, may be justfyable to another, and the same with "good". Another reason is that knowledge to most people, is something that evolves, as you put it. From the time you are born, you evolve that way. You have to start somewhere, and you will end up somewhere.
Some people are groomed or brainwashed into a path of spirituality, and never got around to thinking for themselves about other possibilities. so they become lifetime gophers. But it just may be working for them, nevertheless. You know, if it ain't broke, then why try to fix it? Then they have found their "truth", as far as they are concerned.
Others begin to realize sooner or later the shortcomings of their current belief system for a variety of reasons that don't need to be explained here, thus the evolution of personal gnosis continues on. It will continue on until the "user" or "seeker" stumbles upon something they are attracted to, and then feels that their expectations are being met, to whatever degree, to make a long story shorter. It may involve subscription to more than one path.
Truth is something that is only relevant in terms of fact, or manifestation. It is not subjective. It is not some neo Platonic pie in the sky obscurity, that becomes so relative that it then becomes absolutely meaningless. If something is out of sync for you, then it is simply not a "truth" anymore as far as you are concerned.
In other words, truth can be relevant to an individual depending on how satisfied they are with their current state of evolvement. or truth can be an absolute in terms of how factual something is, to put it in simple terms.
One thing about dabbling into "foreign paths" that involves questionable ceremonial practices, is that the outsider of the culture simply does not have a clear understanding of the pitfalls, or dangers, if you will, of that particular path and the practices it entails..
If you practice kundalini yoga, for example, without proper guidance, OR while under the influence of psychotropic substances, one could, but not absolutely become susceptible to psychological damage or something worse. If one becomes a "sucker" for things like Karma and destiny, where it literally rules and controls your life, that's another pitfall.
But good question anyway.....
These are all valid points.
This is certainly true, especially of beginners. The examples I listed however, are older (Late 20s-early 50s age range) folks who have been pagan or a certain persuasion for quite sometime before moving on.
I do agree that Wicca is usually the religion everyone starts out in and is where most learn to first start their magical discourse. However, I see people evolving outside of that. My ex is a Discordian, comes from a pagan family of witches. But he was involved in many other systems and religions. I knew many people in recon communities who were former Christians turned Wiccans turned Recons, some of which ended up abandoning reconstructionism because of problems within the religion and groups. Now they are kind of 'anything goes' in practice, while leaning on history.
I think increase in globalization and information due to the internet is a culprit, too. People learn new information and it changes how they view the world. It's much more easily assailable now. However, traditional old school occultists (back when it was an underground thing) were also doing it.
I just find it interesting watching people spiritually change and progress over periods of time, myself included. Pagans (And New Agers) as a group, seem to be the most apt to do so. I mean you do get people doing that in non-pagan religions, such as the Catholic who worships Kali and still goes to church, seeing nothing wrong with the practice of both. Perhaps this is due to paganism broad acceptance of many paths instead of being exclusive, it is usually inclusive?
I also notice that such changes take periods of years. It's not an overnight thing people settle on when they begin to transition.
No, actually you did pretty good. You mentioned some items that I, in haste, overlooked, and are very relevant to the point of discussion.
By the way, did you ever try to get 13 tomcats together on anything?
I have found that I am curious about other philosophy and beliefs besides wicca and witchcraft. Buddhism is starting to appeal to me too. I dont believe you have to stick with one or the other either so its the curiosity and wanting to learn more other views and see if the shoe fits.
All of our attempts to discover what "our truth" (and I think that term is a bit overused) comes from the deep within us. As we are interconnected beings - interconnected with past and future lives, interconnected with each other, and ultimately interconnected with the universe itself, I believe that still small voice within us pulls us initially.
Then, as has been already eloquently explained by others here, we try to find something that fits with that deep inner calling. We want to know "Who is the voice within calling me?". Perhaps we desire more power over the course of our lives.
Ultimately we hope to find "the secret", solve the mystery, plumb the depths of existence. Some call this "finding their place" but the universe is our place. It is our playground if we will only but embrace this fact.
The life each of us has, right now, in this eternal now moment, is the life we have chosen, either consciously or unconsciously. Some of us are "Old souls" - we have been around the birth, death, rebirth cycle many many times. Our connection with others and the universe is stronger. Others of us are "New Souls" and perhaps the connection is more tenuous.
In any event, have you ever wondered why so few remember their former existences? Well. look at it this way: Ever take a math test in 10th grade? Sure you did. Do you remember any specific test? Probably not, unless something significant happened during that test. This might be a nice analogy of a former life. You don't remember the details, but those significant things put an imprint on you. Something you carry with you always...
And that is my round about way of saying that perhaps many of these paths are ones you have already traveled. Once you get into it, you realize "Ah yes, I know this! I have done this before. Time to find something new!!!"