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Occult method of communicating with the spirit world, this group consults the dead through a ouija board, which moves from letter to letter to spell out words. Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The word occult means "to hide from view" or "to conceal." Occult practices are those that claim to deal, in a secret or hidden manner, with supernatural forces or agencies. In the religious sense, "the occult" is usually applied to those secret rituals that attempt to worship, serve, or invoke the power of a devil or demonic figures.

This large and vague description, fitting a host of undefined but almost superstitiously feared practices, is revealing. Those who practice traditional, established religion tend to use the word "occult" whenever faced with describing something they don't understand, fear greatly, or wish to condemn.

Mary is dealing in the occult. Tom joined a Satan-worshiping group. Mike's son is hooked on the Dungeons and Dragons board game. Susan plays with Ouija boards. Voodoo and tarot cards deal in the occult. The implication is that the occult is evil, devil-worshiping, and demonically controlled. Unspeakable evils go on in dark places. Illicit sex with captured virgins is somehow implied, and black magic lurks at the center. The occult is always thought to be weaker than God but stronger than the power of one's own religious friends. Occultism, unproved but accepted as real, is viewed as an attempt to sell one's soul to the devil and bend supernatural powers to human control.

Perhaps the word's strongest power resides in the human tendency to keep mysteries in the dark by never examining them. At various times the secret rituals of the Masonic organization, the practice of being "slain in the spirit" in the Pentecostal Church down the street, and the mysterious rites of the Catholic Church have been all that are needed to accuse those organizations of practicing the occult.

The reality is that few people have ever experienced a real, dark occultic ritual, except in the movies. But the practice of using the word—covering the unknown in a veil of secrecy—leaves occultism in the dark. And, as with most fear-inducing things, the dark is where it is most powerful. In the light of day, the occult seems to disappear. Indeed, the most potent weapon of those who claim to practice occultism is secrecy itself.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

That which is hidden, secret, or esoteric. Occultism is the study of the occult—of psychic phenomena and supernormal influences, magic, and divination. The word is from the Latin occulere, meaning "to conceal."


Occult; Occultism

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

“Occult” is from the Latin occulere, “to conceal.” It is that which is concealed or hidden, in the sense of keeping secret. It is something which is hidden behind external appearances and must be studied in order to be revealed. It is usually associated with the mystical and the magical and therefore is a part of Initiation. To some the word occult has a sinister inference, probably stemming from fear of the unknown.

According to Shepard, “Occultism is a philosophical system of theories and practices on, and for the attainment of, the higher powers of mind and spirit. Its practical side connects with psychical phenomena.”


Bletzer, June G.: The Encyclopedia Psychic Dictionary. Lithia Springs: New Leaf, 1998
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978



In the same way in which the term New Age came to have negative associations after the wave of media attention it received in the late 1980s, the term occult acquired negative connotations after a similar wave of media coverage in the 1970s. Occultism calls to mind images of robed figures conducting arcane rituals for socially undesirable ends. Occult comes from a root word meaning “hidden” and originally referred to a body of esoteric beliefs and practices that were in some sense “hidden” from the average person (e.g., practices and knowledge that remain inaccessible until after an initiation). The term occult also refers to practices dealing with energies that are normally imperceptible and thus hidden from the ordinary person (e.g., magical and astrological forces).

Certain aspects of dreams and dream practices have often been associated with occultism. For example, the practice of astral projection, during which the spiritual body is “projected” outside the physical body during a trancelike state, has been thought of as a kind of dream experience. There are also certain esoteric practices of lucid dreaming in both Western and Eastern occultism. Finally, there are various approaches to the esoteric interpretation of dreams (e.g., certain Sufi practices) that are “occult” in some sense.

References in periodicals archive ?
Its aim, Williamson later claimed, was to convince occultists in the German High Command that witches and warlocks in this country were working to thwart them.
All occult practice must seem strange to the outsider, and while mistaking Lovecraft's personal distaste for the occult for occultist wisdom may seem a grave error, it has not stopped practitioners' unconventional quests for enlightenment.
According to occultist precepts, the creation of the world came about from a subdivision of the substance that is God.
But so far from the 'no-more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts' that I had feared, they offer a distinct sense of 'more-than-meets-the-eye' that accords well with both the delight in the enigmatic of the Symbolist and the instinct for secrecy of the occultist.
However, the breadth of explanation given the different alternative religions, the scope of the films investigated, and the text's unique subject matter make it a volume to be given serious consideration by libraries, occultists, religious studies specialists, and film scholars who tilt toward the fantastic.
In researching his book, he found that Fleming was influenced by such dark side figures as British occultist Aleister Crowley and astrologer and psychic Sybil Leek.
As Palmer learns in the course of time, the property belonged to John Dee, an occultist who, according to Yates (1999: 37), is to be acknowledged as ".
But the topic is important because one of the prominent physicians in Conrad's career, Professor Joseph Grasset of the University of Montpellier, was not only a highly respected expert in nervous disorders but was also an occultist, who published on the topic shortly before he treated Borys Conrad in the spring of 1907.
1875: Occultist and writer Aleister Crowley (originally Edward Alexander Crowley) - once dubbed 'the wickedest man in the world' - was born in Leamington.
Pacwa tells us that the modern version of the enneagram system was "a complete fabrication based on instructions an occultist named Oscar Ichazo received from a spirit he was channeling.
The Women's Suffrage Movement, the Mormon Church, Johnny Appleseed, and the Occultist movements all had their origins here.
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