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The dictionary recognizes several shades of meaning of this word. It can mean, “secret,” or “not apprehensible by the mind,” or “recondite,” or “mysterious,” or “of the nature or pertaining to those sciences involving the knowledge or use of the supernatural (as magic, alchemy, astrology, theosophy and the like” (S.O.D.).

Helena P. BLAVATSKY, employing the term “Occult Sciences,” defines it as, “The science of the secrets of nature — physical and psychic, mental and spiritual; called Hermetic and Esoteric Sciences. In the West, the KABBALAH may be named; in the East, mysticism, magic, and Yoga philosophy, which latter is often referred to by the Chelas in India as the seventh “Darshana” (school of philosophy), there being only six Darshanas in India known to the world of the profane. These sciences are, and have been for ages, hidden from the vulgar for the very good reason that they would never be appreciated by the selfish educated classes, nor understood by the uneducated; whilst the former might misuse them for there own profit, and thus turn the divine science into black magic” (TG, p. 237).

The term “occultism” or “the occult” were in general and frequent use during the late nineteenth century, when it was used as a synonym for the Ancient Wisdom or the Esoteric Philosophy, but of recent years the word’s use has shifted its emphasis so that it now associated with nefarious practices such as witchcraft, black magic, sorcery etc.

See also MYSTICISM; Raja Yoga; Yoga.

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