What is Occultism?
The occult (from the Latin word occultus "clandestine, hidden, secret") is "knowledge of the hidden. This word meant originally only the science of things hid; even in the Middle Ages of Europe those philosophers who were the forerunners of the modern scientists, those who then studied physical nature, called their science occultism, and their studies occult, meaning the things that were hid or not known to the common run of mankind. Such a medieval philosopher was Albertus Magnus, a German; and so also was Roger Bacon, an Englishman — both of the thirteenth century of the Christian era.
Occultism is the study of occult practices, including (but not limited to) magic, alchemy, extra-sensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, religion, and divination. Interpretation of occultism and its concepts can be found in the belief structures of philosophies and religions such as Chaos magic, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Theosophy, Wicca, Thelema and modern paganism. .
Occultism as theosophists use the term, and as it should be used, means the study of the hid things of Being, the science of life or universal nature. In one sense this word can be used to mean the study of unusual "phenomena," which meaning it usually has today among people who do not think of the vastly larger field of causes which occultism, properly speaking, investigates. Doubtless mere physical phenomena have their place in study, but they are on the frontier, on the outskirts — the superficialities — of occultism. The study of true occultism means penetrating deep into the causal mysteries of Being.
Occultism is a generalizing term for the entire body of the occult sciences — the sciences of the secrets of universal nature; as H. P. Blavatsky phrases it, "physical and psychic, mental and spiritual; called Hermetic and Esoteric Sciences." Occultism may be considered also to be a word virtually interchangeable with the phrase esoteric philosophy, with, however, somewhat more emphasis laid on the occult or secret or hid portions of the esoteric philosophy. Genuine occultism embraces not merely the physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual portions of man's being, but has an equal and indeed a perhaps wider range in the studies dealing with the structure and operations as well as the origin and destiny of the kosmos.