I grew up in an evangelical, Pentecostal Christian home. In fact, I went to college to be a Pentecostal minister, and actually pastored a church for awhile. One of the words that were tossed around in that atmosphere-- usually amid fearful warnings--was "the occult".
But exactly what does the word occult mean? According to the Scott Foresman Advanced Dictionary, the definition of occult is:
1. Beyond the bounds of ordinary knowledge; mysterious.
2. Outside the laws of the natural world; magical.
3. Not disclosed; secret; revealed only to the initiated.
Forces beyond ordinary knowledge supposed to involve the supernatural.
So basically, the word occult merely means that which is hidden, mysterious, or beyond the realm of human comprehension.
There's a saying that goes people fear that which they don't understand. To take this saying a step further, some people react to their fear of the unknown by attacking people different from themselves--or by vilifying spiritual practices that are misunderstood.
However, when a person is open to educating themselves--bringing that which is hidden or misunderstood into the light of understanding--fear usually dissipates. Yet, as humans, we often have deeply ingrained religious and cultural beliefs. When those ideas and beliefs are threatened, our first response is usually to put up some kind of defense. This defense arises out of fear, even though it may not be consciously understood as fear.
One historical example is that of Galileo. Galileo’s theories about the solar system and his support of the discoveries of Copernicus were condemned by the Catholic Church (i.e. the belief that the Sun is the center of our Universe and not the Earth--heliocentrism). Under threat of torture, and sentenced to jail at the age of 70, the great scientist was forced to renounce what he knew to be true. On his death, his widow actually agreed to destroy some of his manuscripts. The interesting thing, however, is that heliocentrism was taught 2,000 years before by a famous occultist and mathematician named Pythagoras.
There's another famous quote that goes: the grandest truths are often rejected, not so much for want of direct evidence, as for want of inclination to search for it. Why don't individuals want to search? Is it laziness? Perhaps. My guess, though, is that it's largely out of fear. In the case of Copernicus and Galileo, to postulate that the Earth was not the center of God's Universe (gasp!) was to violate the tenants of how invested God was in His greatest and grandest creation--the Earth and its inhabitants.
Today, many of the scientific "truths" that we take for granted were once considered far-fetched speculations and/or heresies on the part of alchemists, philosophers, and scientists who were known as occultists. And, many famous spiritual teachers or "heroes of the faith" were also considered either heretics or members of the occult by virtue of their visions, miracles, prescience, or beliefs--including Jesus, Joan of Arc, and Hildegard Von Bingen.
Content copyright © by Janet Boyer. All rights reserved. This content was written by Janet Boyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.