I unfortunately know quite a number of people who are into these types of things. Some of them are friends, some are friendly colleagues.
From time to time I get emails about David Icke, Aliens, UFO's, and the lizard people, or various other conspiracy type things, that are fused with New Age mysticism, and all the rest of it.
What is strange is that most of these people are functioning people, with homes, incomes, and all the rest of it.
Its obviously a complicated psychological phenomena, but perhaps some of this stuff has taken the place of old time religion for people?
We all have "irrational" aspects to our psyche, and this might express in different ways.
When I talk to these folks about my view of these things, and Skepticism, and Reality Testing, and things of this nature, they all sort of smile, and look at me like I am a poor, foolish soul, trapped in the prison of my mindless, primitive scientific beliefs.
They truly believe that their view of "reality" is correct, and they seem to have many "experiences" to support this.
I might mention that they could benefit from reading Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World", but not one of them has read it yet!
Now in some of these cases, some of these folks have some mental health issues, (in my view!), that express themselves in the paranoia, mania, or Grandiosity. Of course, from their point of view, they are seeing reality as it is, and the rest of us have been brainwashed by our Culture.
So I think there is a lot of things at play here.
But I think it comes down to the fact that we have very primitive, Paleolithic brains, that still operate the same way they did in the Middle Ages, and even many thousands of years ago.
Combined with this, we have the loss of old time Religion for many folks, and this leaves a void in their worldview, and the scientific view of the universe is a bit barren, at first glance.
Added to this, are mental health issues, paranoia, grandiosity, and things of this nature.
Humans are also Constructivists, and our brains construct our interpretations of reality. The problem here is that we are also very Imaginative, so the mind can dream up all sorts of things.
As far as David Icke, I actually "read" (tried to read) one of his books. It was the weirdest book I have ever read. It was like taking every New Age crackpot idea on earth, and just sticking them all together.
I think he believes what he says.
Near the end of this book though, he states that according to psychiatry, he would be a "paranoid schizophrenic". But of course the psychiatrists are wrong. ;)
On top of this, the Leaders of these Groups, do all of the cultic techniques to get people to buy all of their junk.
And of course, we have a total lack of Critical Thinking skills, which are not taught in school. I didn't learn how to think critically until I read Carl Sagan's book, and this opened up a whole new world to me, of ways to think about thinking.
So I guess they would argue that Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper, and Martin Gardner brainwashed me into Skepticism and Reality Testing!
There is also a good book, WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS by Michael Shermer.
To me, it comes down to people not knowing how to distinguish external reality from Imagination. Of course, the folks I know think their Imagination IS reality, concerning these matters.
On top of this, they are manipulated by shrewd leaders.
But I do see folks as getting real "meaning" out of this stuff, that to me seems totally crazy.
All of the stress and fear of the world situation at present seems to feed into all of these things as well.
Its really a huge problem, and I see it getting much worse.
In my view, the way out of this mess is to use the skills of Critical Thinking.
A good basic place to start is Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit.
But of course, 99% of the people into all that stuff have no interest in Critical Thinking! As a matter of fact, they think they ARE critical thinkers, in rejecting the false worldview that dumb guys like me have.