"Occultism is in its essence man's effort to arrive at a knowledge of secret truths and potentialities of Nature which will lift him out of slavery to his physical limits of being, an attempt in particular to possess and organise the mysterious, occult, outwardly still undeveloped direct power of Mind upon Life and of both Mind and Life over Matter."
As defined here, "Occultism" has a somewhat more specific meaning than the usual definition. It need hardly be said that occultism has nothing to do with Christian fundamentalist superstitions about their devil.
By Occultism I mean both theoretical knowledge of the workings of the wider and universal (trans-individual) forces and aspects of the Intermediate (Psychic and Subtle Physical) Reality between the Objective or Surface consciousness and the Divine, and their practical application. Occultism therefore includes both a theoretical aspect, and a practical application. But because these may (or may not be - depending on the particular Wisdom Tradition) different fields, they are addressed differently.
Theoretical Occultism provides explanations of the nature of universal planes of existence, gods, archetypes, thoughtforms, spiritual hierarchies, the Intermediate Zone (as described by Sri Aurobindo), the subtle bodies or vehicles pertaining to each plane, and other such realities.
Applied or Practical Occultism includes visualisation, mantra, theurgy, internal alchemy, the use of correspondences, various siddhis, etc. The perennial philosophy acknowledges the existence of occult or intermediate forces and realities. Sometimes it sees these as a distraction from the mystical path (e.g. the Raja Yoga approach to siddhis), and at other times an essential element in the path of Liberation (Late Classical Neoplatonism, Buddhist Tantra).
Traditions like Tribal Medicine Men and Rain Making, Indian Village Tantrism, Medieval Grimores ("Grammors'), Chinese "Thunder Magic", and 19th century and later Hermeticism emphasise Practical Occultism; while post-classical and Renaissance Neoplatonism, Lurianic Kabbalah, and Theosophy in its various stripes (Blavatsky, Leadbeater, Steiner, Alice A Bailey, etc) concentrates more on Theoretical Occultism.
There is no sharp dividing line between Occultism and Mysticism - Shamanism, Gnosticism, post-Plotinian Classical Neoplatonism (especially Iamblichus and Proclus), Buddhist Tantra, Alchemical (Nei Tan) Taoism, much of Kabbalah, and Sant Mat, all include elements of both.
Among recent authorities, Leadbeater, Steiner, Crowley, and Mirra all agree the occultism is a precise science. One can dismiss this claim as "science envy", but this doesnt ring true with Mirra for example, and I think we can confidently say that occultism is based on precise laws that, while not the same as the laws of objective science, are still completely valid in their own right.
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