- (often: "the occult") Disciplines, organizations, or teachings of a magical or mystical nature
- Related to mystical phenomena
- To conceal or shield from observation
The occult as a concept is generally used to describe disciplines and organizations engaged in deciphering supernatural occurrences or forces. It is made up of many mystical traditions that study a purported spiritual reality, or other ideas beyond the realm of reason and science. The practice of occult arts, also known as occultism, is comprised of many practices, including magic, alchemy, astrology, and divination.
The occult has its own range of beliefs and sects, but it also plays a part in pagan religions. Most denominations of Christianity see the occult as satanic and denounce it as heretical to Christian practice and their overall worldview.
As an adjective, occult describes something that relates to magical forces. However, it can also be used to generally describe something that is outside of common knowledge, or that cannot be understood without dedicating deep thought to it. Occult is applied to abstract or multi-faceted ideas and theories that are difficult to grasp for most people. There is a connotation of exclusivity to occult, similar to the occult itself. When used as an adjective for an idea, concept, or piece of information, occult describes something communicated between or to a chosen group of people.
In its verb form, occult means to obscure or hide something from view. Most often, this thing is a physical object, but it is possible to describe the concealing of information as occult, as well. In astrology it can be applied to planets or moons that are hidden behind other, larger objects in the sky.
Though there are many meanings for occult, across all of them there is a shared element of secrecy, or interfacing with something physically, figuratively, or spiritually hidden.
Example: Members of certain occult sects believe there is more to the world than what can be seen with the eye.
Example: Though computers are almost indispensable to daily life, their occult inner workings are only truly understood by a small industry of tech professionals.
Example: Her husband had to quickly occult her birthday gift when she came home from work early.
The verb usage of occult comes from the Latin verb "celare" which means "to hide." It evolved to "occulere," meaning "conceal." It then evolved to "occultare" which is the active form of the Latin "occultō" meaning "to hide or keep secret."
The adjective form of occult also comes from the verb "occulere," but instead was derived from the root "occult-," which means "covered over." Both the verb and adjective forms of occult emerged in English sometime in the late 1400s.
The modern noun form of occult comes from the Latin "occultus," meaning "clandestine, hidden, or secret."
Occultism: (noun) This is a more precise term for the occult, and denotes the study of supernatural practices.
Example: The occultism associated with the pagans of Medieval Europe has continued into the mystical practices of modern pagan adherents.
Occultist: (noun) This refers to an individual who studies the occult, or to the nature of a practice or activity.
Example: Practitioners insist that occultist practices cannot truly be understood by outsiders.
Occulted: The past tense of occult relates specifically to the concealment sense of the root word, describing something that has been hidden or kept secret.
Example: Her parents had long since occulted the fact that she was adopted.
Occulting: The active verb form of occult is used when something is being obscured or hidden.
Example: Solar eclipses occur when the moon moves between the sun and earth, occulting the sun's light.
Occultation: This noun form is derived from the occult's verb form, and is applied more directly to astronomy. Usually, it is used to describe when the moon blocks another planet or star. It can also be used when something is disguised. In Shia Islam, the Occultation refers to a hidden man who is believed to be the descendant of Muhammad. Though he was occulted, some Shi'is believe he will return and bring peace to the world.
Example: The astrologer interpreted the moon's occultation of Venus as a bad omen.
From Gertrude Atherton's The Smart Set
Possibly there are few imaginative writers who have not a leaning, secret or avowed, to the occult. The creative gift is in very close relationship with the Great Force behind the universe; for aught we know, may be an atom thereof. It is not strange, therefore, that the lesser and closer of the unseen forces should send their vibrations to it occasionally; or, at all events, that the imagination should incline its ear to the most mysterious and picturesque of all beliefs.
Here, the occult is described as a muse for creative authors, implying that only by believing in mystical occurrences could they produce such evocative works.
- To outsiders, the occult just looks like a cult.
- An obscure cult is occult.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of occult. Did you use occult in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.