The occult (from the Latin word occultus "clandestine, hidden, secret") is "knowledge of the hidden" or "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to facts and "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science.[1][2] The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that "is meant only for certain people" or that "must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends pure reason and the physical sciences.[3] The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult,[4] in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.

The term occult sciences was used in the 16th century to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. The term occultism emerged in 19th-century France, where it came to be associated with various French esoteric groups connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, and in 1875 was introduced into the English language by the esotericist Helena Blavatsky. Throughout the 20th century, the term was used idiosyncratically by a range of different authors, but by the 21st century was commonly employed – including by academic scholars of esotericism – to refer to a range of esoteric currents that developed in the mid-19th century and their descendants. Occultism is thus often used to categorise such esoteric traditions as Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age.

Particularly since the late twentieth century, various authors have used the occult as a substantivized adjective. In this usage, "the occult" is a category into which varied beliefs and practices are placed if they are considered to fit into neither religion nor science. "The occult" in this sense is very broad, encompassing such phenomenon as beliefs in vampires or fairies and movements like Ufology and parapsychology. In that same period, occult and culture were combined to form the neologism occulture. Initially used in the industrial music scene, it was later given scholarly applications.

Occult sciences

The idea of "occult sciences" developed in the sixteenth century.[5] The term usually encompassed three practices—astrology, alchemy, and natural magic—although sometimes various forms of divination were also included rather than being subsumed under natural magic.[5] These were grouped together because, according to the historian of religion Wouter Hanegraaff, "each one of them engaged in a systematic investigation of nature and natural processes, in the context of theoretical frameworks that relied heavily on a belief in occult qualities, virtues or forces."[5] Although there are areas of overlap between these different occult sciences, they are separate and in some cases practitioners of one would reject the others as being illegitimate.[5]

During the Enlightenment, the term "occult" increasingly came to be seen as intrinsically incompatible with the concept of "science".[5] From that point on, use of the term "occult science(s)" implied a conscious polemic against mainstream science.[5]

In his 1871 book Primitive Culture, the anthropologist Edward Tylor used the term "occult science" as a synonym for "magic".[6]

Occult qualities

Occult qualities are properties that have no known rational explanation; in the Middle Ages, for example, magnetism was considered an occult quality.[7][8] Aether (classical element) is another such element.[9] Newton's contemporaries severely criticized his theory that gravity was effected through "action at a distance", as occult.[10]

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македонски: Окултизам
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norsk: Okkultisme
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oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Okkultizm
polski: Okultyzm
português: Ocultismo
română: Ocultism
русский: Оккультизм
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shqip: Okultizmi
Simple English: Occult
slovenčina: Okultizmus
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suomi: Okkultismi
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文言: 神秘學
中文: 神秘学