What is "Occult?"
The word occult has Latin origins and its root word is "occultus", which translates to "clandestine, hidden and/or secret". The word Occult has become a word to refer to "knowledge of the hidden". This refers to knowledge not everyone should or can know. Often bearing the double-meaning of forbidden or taboo knowledge, it is often used to describe 'paths' that are considered better avoided. The word "Occult" is often interchangeable with esoteric and arcane; all three have similar meanings, but differ in certain key aspects. In science, it sometimes refers to 'knowledge of the measurable'.
Magical Organizations, or "Orders", are often referred to as being Occult, as are their teachings and/or practices.
Occult verses Science
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, believed that there is an "inner nature" of things, as opposed to the outer characteristics that are studied by science. He called this 'inner nature' "Will", and he believed since science is about the other characteristics, science could not penetrate to this inner level. In this inner level, the world is connected.
Science defines things by its exterior nature, while the Occult believe in focusing the thing within itself. The Occult have a need to connect to the inner level of "Will" of things. This is also the base principle of Magick where there is a belief that the energy in the innerself can be manipulated. Magick after all is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will."
Occult in Psychology
Psychologist Carl Jung, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, often incorporated occult concepts (such as Alchemy) in his work, and even coined the term Anima/Animus. Other concepts include:
- Ouroboros is an ancient symbol where a Dragon or Serpent is devouring its own tail. Carl Jung saw the Ouroboros as a symbol of the human psyche. Later Jungian psychologist, Erich Neumann wrote that the Ouroboros was a representation of the pre-ego "dawn state". The symbol suppose to be depicting the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual child, both the same, but both different views of the same moment. In art and literature it is utilized as a symbol for eternity; it is an eternal cycle that never breaks.
- Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that do not share a direct relationship but have a related means alter or it is also seen as a set of causal unrelated "Coincidence". To count as Synchronicity, these events should be unlikely to occur at once. An example would be just finding this page. To future the events, after reading this page you find a copy of he book by Carl Jung laying around somewhere, like the floor of a library or a bus shelter.
Occult in Religion
Many people believe that the Occult is the 'Paranormal', or the supernatural that exists outside of religion, such as ghosts. There are many religions that are associated with the occult for various reasons (largely because of the nature of their studies), including Kabbalist, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Theosophy, Luciferianism, Satanism (largely Le Veyan), Thelema, and Neopaganism.
There are religions that are not seen as occult, such as: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Part of the reason for the separation of the sides is the nature of "mysticism" and the general amount of followers. The main reason that these religions are not seen as Occult is simply because they are 'mainstream', or widely practiced; these religions are often known for referring to alien beliefs as being 'pagan'.
Magick and the Occult
"Magick" is "the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will." Adapted by individuals such as Aleister Crowley, where the "Will" he is referring to is the one mentioned by Arthur Schopenhauer, or the "inner nature" of things.
There are many modern practices of Magic today; some are seen as occult, like demonology or alchemy. Divination practices like astrology (Horoscope) for example, are not seen as occult since many people enjoy them in non-religious ways.
Numerology (or, less commonly, Numeromancy), for example, is a form of pseudomathematics. It is used as a method of Divination, using numbers and patterns to find meaning in things.
- Note that the belief that certain numbers hold meaning in relation to world events, or 'conspiracy theories' that involve specific numbers, are not generally included within this category.
Occult in Comics
There are a few comic creators that use the Occult to create comics. Many of these comic creators are alumni of DC Comics' imprint Vertigo. The two most noted Occult practitioners in comics would be Alan Moore (From Hell) and Grant Morrison (The Invisibles). Both acclaimed writers have a lot of occult influence in there works, and are bitter rivals. The Invisibles is an example of the Occult in Comics, since it serves as the first comic Hypersigil. After reading and understanding The Invisibles, most of Grant Morrison's work is said to be understood differently; The Invisibles serves as his "handbook" to the Occult. Neal Gaiman, creator of such series as Sandman, can also be seen as utilizing Occult images and themes, though his work generally leans more towards the fantastic, not esoteric.
Character John Constantine (The Vertigo Flagship character) is considered the original Occult detective. Other Occult detectives would follow, such as Cal McDonald, William Gravel and Harry Dresden. Before Constantine, most occult characters dealt primarily in multiple fields of magic, such as: Doctor Strange, Zatanna and Madame Xanadu.
Ragman, although not originally an occult character, became one when he was rebooted after Crisis of Infinite Earths. The whole basis of his powers comes from the Suit of Souls, a suit made from occult Judaism.
It is also hinted from time to time that the Scarlet Witch wields occult power, although how she views her abilities is, as of yet, unspecified. Other mutants that delve into the realm of the occult include Illyana Rasputin, Amanda Sefton, and (to a small degree) Pixie.
Vertigo also released a Tarot set, in which characters of the Vertigo universe were used to represent the archetypes of the Tarot. Death of the Endless, for example, would be the Death card, Lucifer would be the Devil card and Swamp Thing would be the world. The reason why this worked is because Tarot knowledge is an archetype of patterns to symbols and the Vertigo universe just happens to have characters that fit similar symbols. Note that this is not necessarily unique to the Vertigo universe; virtually any of the other comic franchises could do the same, even with mere teams of individuals.