The occult and the study of the occult known as occultism have been around for centuries in varying forms. Occultism is related to esotericism. The word occult comes from a Latin word that means hidden or secret and so the Occult is defined as “knowledge of the hidden”, though in modern time it has been taken to mean knowledge of the paranormal and to many it has come to mean the practice of devil worship or satanism. However, there are many different groups that practice occultism and engage in nothing other than the use of the occult or hidden knowledge.
What is the Occult?
Occultism includes the practices of magic, alchemy, ESP, astrology, spiritualism, religion, and divination.. Because it is so closely tied to esotericism, different interpretations of occultism can be found in everything from Gnosticism to Kabbalah. Many feel that occultism was formed out of a desire to reconcile modern natural science with religion and in fact Occult science seeks to reconcile science and the divine using systematic research similar to the scientific method.
The occult is not the same as a cult and the distinction is terribly important. A cult is a group, very often religious or semi-religious, with members that are controlled by a person or small group of elite members that take over every aspect of their lives. The occult, however, is all about knowledge and that knowledge is not controlled by anyone. It may be hidden, but it is available to everyone who seeks to learn it.
Is it a religion?
The occult is not the same as religion, though in the modern time the occult is considered to be synonymous with “evil” religions such as Satanism or with paganism like Wicca. The primary difference between the occult and religion is the difference between a passive and active system of beliefs. Religion provides those who follow it a list of rules to live by, removing from them the obligation of having to establish their own code of morality. It gives them a mythos with which to understand the world, which takes away the need for them to have to develop their own beliefs on how the universe came to be. And it provides the words and descriptions with which to describe their spirituality, which can prevent them from connecting fully with their own beliefs. The occult, however, is active. It provides tools that you must use to create your own morality, methods of communication that you must actively employ to get the answers about the universe you seek, and requires you to have the desire to describe yourself and your journey in your own way.
In many ways the occult and occultism is a science of religion. It doesn’t passively sit back and accept what happens, but demands answers and creates its own understandings. Where religion operates on faith with the idea that there are mysteries we cannot know, the occult and occultism says that there is nothing unknown if we have the drive and desire to find out about it. Where religion says to have faith, the occult demands proof and finds it.