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For most people, the mere mention of the word “occult” would perhaps conjure images of witches, demon worship, fortune tellers, black magic and more. Well, yes these descriptions fall into the general category of the occult, however there’s more to the occult than the usual stuff you see in movies, or read in books or magazines. Let’s discuss a few interesting facts and figures, about the occult.
The word occult has been derived from the Latin word occultus, which means hidden, secretive and private from public view. Therefore occult refers to knowledge or system, which is of secretive nature as against the visible, scientific and verifiable knowledge, which is accessible to every one. Occult may also refer to knowledge of the supernatural psychic powers.
In the times gone by, occult knowledge was considered a secretive knowledge and so it was obviously not available in the popular public domain. It remained a prerogative of a certain few privileged people who could be relied upon to maintain its sacred secrecy.
With the democratization and liberalization of knowledge, the meaning of occult has undergone a change. It is now explained as beliefs and practices that are beyond the understanding of ordinary people. They cannot be rationalized by the logical concepts of science. But the secretive character of the occult is no more considered sacred enough to be religiously preserved so as to remain confined to a few privileged people.
It may however be noted that certain occult beliefs which were considered inexplicable and looked down upon some time back, have proved their validity, accuracy and potential by scientific rationalization and they are no more considered as occult or irrational as such. For example, clairvoyance, telepathy, empathy are now subjects of active Para psychological studies and their actual scope and potential are being validated by the progressive research.
Going by the above definition, the subject of psychics comes within the domain of occult. Even today to a large extent, there are some practices that are yet too subtle or supernatural to be understood and authenticated by the laboratory research. However, the inability of the scientific research to rationalize the psychic practices cannot negate their true and effective potential.
Communication with the spirits was frowned upon the rationalists and scientists a few years back. The human body was considered only a soulless composition of certain elements and their dismemberment meant death. Now more and more scientists are accepting the existence of souls, their immortality and also soul of human being taking birth after the death. Communication with souls or spirits and their active participation in human affairs on earth is being accepted as practical facts of life.
What The Word “Occult” Means
According to veteran researchers of the occult, the word is actually derived from the16th century Latin word “occulere”, which means “to conceal or hide”. Occultism is a term that means a “belief in hidden or mysterious abilities or powers, and the possibility of putting these, or subjecting them to human control. An “occultist” is defined as a person who practices occultism.
The History And Origins of Occultism
The study, and practice of occultism actually dates back centuries ago, from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to the medieval civilizations of Europe. Occultism blends together an interesting mix of topics and practices, from magic to alchemy, astrology, herbalism, spiritualism, divination, extrasensory perception and even certain Yogic and Hindu practices. In Judaism for example, an entire body of literature called the “Kabbalah” is fully dedicated to the study of occult science.
Why Occultism Is Doing A Comeback Today
Occultism has suffered from a lot of brickbats and criticisms. During the rise of the Protestant Reformation movement in the Middle Ages, there was an intense religious backlash on the occult philosophy, which was viewed by many as unorthodox, and threatening to the church. Thus, anything occult-related was identified as dark, sinister, and related to the Devil. This was evident during the countless witch-hunts and bloody purges which took place during the Renaissance, and after that. Today however, a wide array of organizations which are identified as occult, esoteric or both, continue to exist. Among the well-known occult groups or organizations include the Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn, Society of Inner Light, Servants of The Light, Theosophical Society, Temple of Set, Order of The Ross Cross and O.T.O (Ordo Templi Orientis).
The study of occultism is actually interpreted in different ways, by both observers and critics. Some define occultism as the study of knowledge that’s kept from the wider populace, and only offered to people (after proper initiation or preparation). This is because the knowledge is deemed as dangerous to the unprepared. Some define occultism as the study of realms, energies or abilities which are not recognized by the general populace. In general terms however, occultism is interconnected to anything supernatural or paranormal.
There is no concrete or single over-reaching definition of what the occult is all about. In truth, occultism is made up of a wide collection of practices and pathways, from astrology to numerology, Hermeticism, Kabbalah and more. Some adherents do not even wish to be identified as “occultists”. Thus when studying the occult, it would be much better for the individual to be extra-sensitive, yet open-minded, before he or she makes any generalizations or sweeping commentaries about the subject.
A peek into the occult world
If we go back to distant-hoary- past, most phenomena of nature such as dark thundering clouds, flashes of quivering lightening, hailstorms, devastating floods, the deep and dark shadows of lunar and solar eclipses, earthquakes, volcanoes and above all, a variety of human diseases generated incomprehensible fear, confusion, helplessness and desperation among the simple, primitive folks.
The terrified and confused lot turned to shaman, the wise man or woman priest, oracle, fortune teller, soothsayer, apothecary, magician and witch-- all rolled into one. This person had the power to propitiate, subjugate, manipulate and control the good and the evil spirits populating the environment and influencing the course of life and destinies of the people. These spirits comprising gods, angels, demons or devils represented all sorts of energies-- animal, elemental, vegetable, human or spiritual. Shamans could forecast the future both of men and the elements. They could cure the sick and unearth the hidden secrets.
A shaman could foresee and control the floods, tame the lightening and thunders, prevent the drought, keep away the avalanche and stop the earthquakes and landslides. He could infuse fertility in the soil and ensure plentiful crops that would fill the granaries to feed the generations. He could forestall famines and epidemics; secure the lives of men, women and children from evil spirits and finally he could influence the political events.
The occult vision of the world/cosmos
Shaman’s vision of the world was holistic as distinct from dualistic as the later day philosophers thought it to be. The outer and inner environment or the inner and the outer landscapes were only two sides of a unified whole. There was an essential unity between the physical and mental, outside and inside.
Shaman divided the cosmos into three segments- the sky, the subterranean world and the earth that lies between the two.
The three realms of existence are inhabited by three distinct entities. While the sky is populated and governed by gods, the sub-terrestrial domain is under the control of the serpent spirits and the earth is the residence of human beings. In elemental or environmental terms, the sky is filled with ether, space, air and fire; the subterranean and the earth realms primarily comprise earth, water and of course the human beings who are influenced by spirits, demons and gods.
The true nature of gods
The sky gods reside over the peaks of hills and mountains. They are the most powerful lot. While the mountains are ruled by the gods-male, the hills are dominated by goddesses-females. These gods and goddesses use mountains as their thrones. They are extremely jealous and susceptible to explosive anger. They tend to become violent and revengeful when their wills are thwarted or challenged.
One infuriated, these gods and goddesses relentlessly terrorize and torment people by sending rains, hailstorms, diseases, epidemics and other forms of affliction on the human beings. They, in fact, behave like drunks intoxicated with boundless power. They saunter over the mountains, hills, valleys and passes. They threaten the travellers with their poisonous breath.
The bigger the mountain, the more powerful and frightening is its occupant. They are extremely whimsical and idiosyncratic and devise various ways to subjugate the human beings. According to Hindu mythology, the demon Ravana who abducted Sita, the consort of Lord Rama was, in fact, a mountain god. All these gods and goddess, devils and demons need to be propitiated by making an assortment of complicated rituals and offerings.
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