- Introduction to the History of the Occult
Introduction to the History of the Occult
Throughout human history and across various cultures, traditions, and belief systems that are considered "occult" in Western societies (such as amulets, divinations, and spiritism etc), most of their practices have always just been considered a part of normal everyday life. For instance, if one were to visit a Shinto shrine in Japan or a traditional African temple, they would witness rituals and practices that would typically be classified as occultism in the West. These practices are not seen as hidden, taboo, or illogical within these societies, but rather are regarded as conventional forms of traditional knowledge that are routinely engaged in.
Due to complex historical circumstances, the Western world has not embraced the occult like other cultures have. Instead, the study of occult practices has been forbidden since Roman times and became increasingly shunned with the rise of Christianity. Anti-occult paranoia grew and led to the mass persecution and execution of those suspected of practicing magic during the Burning Times. Despite this, occult traditions in the Western world managed to persist and attract new followers throughout the centuries. The incredible tale of suppression, survival, and revival spanning over 2,500 years will be conveyed extensively throughout our blog.
The term "occult" originates from the Latin word "occultus" that means "hidden". It has been used to describe the practice of magic, divination, and alternative spirituality for centuries. In the Renaissance era, scholars began using the term "occult philosophy" to refer to these subjects. This term became more widely used when Cornelius Agrippa published his book "Three books of occult philosophy". Later, during the nineteenth century, French authors started using the term "Occultism" to describe the same practices.
Occultism can be viewed as the knowledge that has been rejected by the intellectual authorities of the Western world. However, this phenomenon is not unique to Western society, as every culture has a body of knowledge that has been shunned by the mainstream channels of education and public opinion. With the rapid increase in knowledge in industrialized nations, there has also been a corresponding increase in rejected knowledge, which is not necessarily related to occultism. Nonetheless, occultism has endured as the oldest and most fiercely suppressed form of rejected knowledge in the Western world.
Occultism consists of various fundamental components, with magic being one of the most crucial ones. Dion Fortune, a prominent occultist of the twentieth century, defined magic as the science and art of inducing deliberate transformations in consciousness. Practitioners of magic, known as mages, utilize a range of techniques such as rituals, symbols, meditation, and other means to attain altered states of consciousness. These occult teachings suggest that such states enable mages to direct subtle energies and connect with spirits to influence the world around them.
Divination, which is often referred to as fortune-telling, is the practice of using subtle connections that are also utilized in magic to obtain knowledge of concealed information in the present as well as the secrets of the future. This can be accomplished by means such as shuffling and dealing tarot cards, studying the positions of planets at specific times in astrology, or utilizing other methods to tap into the unseen forces that allow for glimpses into the unknown.
Initiation is the process through which an ordinary individual acquires the necessary powers and abilities to become a master of magic and divination. There are several methods of initiation, but the most renowned ones involve intricate ceremonies that simulate symbolic dramas, causing shifts in the consciousness of the new initiate. The ancient Greek mystery rituals were well-known initiations in the past, and in contemporary times, the rituals of magical lodges such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Martinist Order serve a similar purpose.
Alchemy is often considered by contemporary scientists as an unsuccessful endeavor to transform lead into gold. However, alchemy has a much wider scope and practicality. Alchemists perceive every substance as possessing the potential for perfection, and they employ alchemical techniques to aid each substance to reach its ideal state. Alchemists, therefore, create natural remedies, engage in spiritual contemplation, and manipulate a vast range of substances to uncover concealed knowledge.
Occult practices are based on a philosophical understanding of how and why they work. Throughout history, there have been three main schools of occult philosophy: Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and Cabala. Neoplatonism was derived from Plato's philosophy and originated in ancient Greece, while Hermeticism blended Greek philosophy with Egyptian magical teachings in Egypt. Cabala, the newest of the three, was developed in the Jewish communities of southern France. Despite their unique origins, these three schools share many similarities and draw from common sources.
The fundamental elements of occult traditions in the West consist of various practices and teachings that have been passed down from generation to generation, including the earliest known occult school founded by Pythagoras of Samos in the sixth century BCE. These teachings have been passed on both publicly and secretly, through organizations like the Rosicrucians and through personal instruction from teachers to students, and continue to be practiced and studied today.
In our upcoming blogs, numerous significant occurrences throughout the history of occultism will be discussed. These events can be viewed as significant markers along the path that stretches from Pythagoras up to the present day. This journey is a complex and meandering one that encompasses all aspects of human potential, ranging from the most divine spiritual pursuits to the most ignoble displays of foolishness and deceit.
The future direction of occult traditions is uncertain, but the evolution it has undergone shows that its narrative is far from concluded. The response of occultism to future challenges is unknown, but its past transformations indicate that there is much more yet to come.
-Written and Copyrighted by The Midnight Occult Society
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