For other uses of this term, see occult (disambiguation).

The word occult comes from Latin occultus (hidden), referring to the 'knowledge of the secret' or 'knowledge of the hidden' and often meaning 'knowledge of the supernatural', as opposed to 'knowledge of the visible' or 'knowledge of the measurable', usually referred to as science. The modern term's meaning is often imprecisely translated and used as a term for 'secret knowledge' or 'hidden knowledge', in the sense of meaning 'knowledge meant only for certain people' or 'knowledge that must be kept hidden'. For most practicing occultists, however, it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that cannot be understood using pure reason or material science. In general though, the term is used in reference to "evil" spiritual practices, such as devil worship, child sacrifice, or the casting of curses, or at best it is defined by things considered to be superstitious, such as seances, Ouija boards, or astrology.

The ancient Greek term for occult is esoteric.

Many people, especially Conservative Christians, use the term in a derogatory, connotative sense to refer to a number of practices which they disapprove of on religious grounds but which those who participate in for the most part do not consider occult. These include the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music, and sometimes even Catholicism. However, as there is nothing secret nor hidden, the term 'occult' would not denote role-playing games, "Harry Potter" books or heavy metal music.

For reference, one should compare the term 'occult' [<L occultus = oc 'dark' + cultus 'culture', p.p. of cultare to grow, cultivate] with the term cult. A cult must involve ritual, or religious rites. By Webster's New International Dictionary of 1920 as it applies here:

 2.  Worship; generally, the worship of a deity according to its specific rites ; as, the cult of 
 Apollo ; or, the worship of a group of deities allied in nature or relationship ; as, the cult of 
 the chthonian gods.
 3.  Hence : a The rites and ceremonies, or externals, of a religion, as distinguished from its 
 inner meaning or truth.
 That which was the religion of Moses is the ceremonial or cult of the religion of Christ     —Coleridge.

Hence, any religion involving ritual is a cult; anything hidden from the eye so as to appear mysterious or supernatural could be referred to as an occult.



Occultism is the study of supposed occult or hidden wisdom. To the Occultist it is the study of Truth, or rather the deeper truth that exists beyond the surface: 'The Truth Is Always Hidden Plain In Sight'. It may be considered by some to be a 'grey' area, perhaps larger than any other in the realm of religion. It can deal with subjects ranging from talismans, magic (alternatively spelt and defined as magick), sorcery, and voodoo, to ESP, astrology, numerology, and lucid dreams. It is all encompassing in that most everything that isn't claimed by any of the major religions (and many things that are) is included in the realm of the occult. Even qabalah also spelt Kabbalah, Cabala, Qabala (the hebrew qoph, the first letter of the name, is pronounced k) has been considered an occult study, perhaps because of its popularity amongst magi and Thelemites. But more likely because it deals in both the exoteric and esoteric and has been a study of mysticism pre-dating western civilisation. The 'Three Wise Men' in the bible are said to have been Magi of the Kabbalah. It was later adopted by the Golden Dawn and brought out into the open by Aleister Crowley and his protege Israel Regardie. Since that time many authors have added insight to the study of the Occult by drawing parallels between different disciplines.

Direct insight into or perception of the occult is said not to consist of access to physically measurable facts, but to be arrived at through the mind or the spirit. The term can refer to mental, psychological or spiritual training. It is important to note however, that many occultists will also study science (percieving science as a branch of Alchemy) to add validity to occult knowledge in a day and age where the mystical can easily be undermined as flights-of-fancy. An oft-cited means of gaining insight into the occult is the use of a focus. A focus may be a physical object, a ritualistic action (for example, meditation or chanting), or a medium in which one becomes wholly immersed. The previous examples are but a mere sample of the vast and numerous avenues that can be explored.

The beliefs and practices of those who consider their activities "occult" or part of "the occult" in the more usual western interpretation 'hidden knowledge' (ceremonial magicians, and so on) are generally far from being secret or hidden, being found very easily in print or on the Internet. This ready availability is historically recent and corresponds to a reduced interest in traditional religion and the promulgation by occultists of the perception of the occult as a broad term for a radical alternative to orthodoxy. As there are huge amounts of authors of the occult in the modern age, it is important for the student to question the validity of all books and to cross reference numerous times with other authors on the same subject. 'Beware False Prophets'. Most mass printed Occult knowledge is however, only for beginners. The sourcing of the more in-depth and advanced work can be a 'trial-of-spirit' in itself.


Occultism has seen countless resurgences throughout history, possibly because some people who investigate the occult seek for meaning in their lives.

Many occult practices remained within the circles of the subcultures until the nineteenth century when various academics and practitioners popularized occult studies. Occultists like Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, Eliphas Levi, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Arthur Edward Waite who later influenced other occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune.

In the nineteenth century there were various occult orders and schools of thought that were forged and some continue to flourish to this day. Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis are two examples of magical lodges that were formed by early nineteenth century occultist with rituals based on the Kabbalah, ceremonial magic, and Masonic ritual.

The fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, who did not himself believe in the occult, would have an important effect on the subculture as the pessimistic realism of Lovecraft's worldview ultimately predict and described the course of the coming century. In a word, Lovecraft has dated much better, arguably, than the ceremonialists of the nineteenth century.

Between World War I and World War II the centre of occult and mystical activity was shifted from France to Belgium. Belgium became the main centre for many brotherhoods and secret societies of which many branches still exist today.

One of the more recent branches of Occultism originated in the 1970s with the advent of chaos magic. Under the meta-belief that "Nothing Is True, Everything is Permitted", chaos magic encouarges the occultist to deliberately paradigm shift in order to achieve magical results and to believe everything and nothing.

The most recent resurgence is in a large way due to paperback editions of Simon's Necronomicon, movies like The Craft, and the never-out-of-print works of authors such as Lovecraft, Anton LaVey, Gerina Dunwich and Robert Anton Wilson have ensured occultism a permanent place in western popular culture.

The Occult and Christianity

A common argument held in Evangelical circles is that to believe that the spirits involved in the occult (and therefore Satan) exist, one must also believe that God exists and vice versa. Many people, however, believe in occult spirits, yet reject the existence of the Christian God and the Christian Devil.

The Christian definition of the occult is anything supernatural which is done, not by God's power, but by the power of an evil spirit, ultimately commanded by Satan. Christians believe that these supernatural happenings are done to harm human beings by diverting them away from God's plans and towards the malignities of Satan's.

Many Christians believe they should take care not to get involved in magick, astrology, numerology, the use of Ouija boards or Tarot cards as they consider these to be very real, occult activities.

See also

External links

de:Okkultismus et:Okultism fr:Occultisme nl:Occultisme ja:オカルト pl:Okultyzm pt:Ocultismo zh:神秘学


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