Occultism is the practice and study of hidden knowledge. It is founded on the belief in some form of action or influence of paranormal nature or origin, as well as the attempt to bring such forces under control, usually by scientific methods. Such occult sciences are alchemy, astrology, divination, and the practice of witchcraft or magic which may have been believed to impart physical and spiritual knowledge and power to the practitioner.
Modern occultism has its earliest roots in the late 18th century with the theories developed by Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (most prominently animal magnetism). Mesmer asserted that certain individuals possess occult powers similar to a magnet that draw spirits or supernatural phenomena toward them. These theories eventually evolved into the spiritualism movement, primarily based on the belief that the spirits of the departed could speak through a living vessel. After the turn of the century, occultism expanded to include serious investigations of other phenomena such as ESP, telepathy and other forms of mind over matter.
More formally, occult (from Latin "occultare" 1500) means "to shut off from view or exposure":
- not revealed
- not easily apprehended or understood
- hidden from view
- not manifest or detectable by clinical methods alone <~ carcinoma>; also : not present in macroscopic amounts <~ blood in a stool>
- matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural or paranormal powers or some secret knowledge of them
- Infopedia CD-Rom, 1995