The word “occult” is from the Latin word, “occultus” which means “secret, hidden or clandestine.” It refers to a wide range of practices, concepts or organizations whose true nature are disguised with discrete and deceptive phenomena.
The Bible describes an “immoral woman” saying “her ways are unstable; you do not know them” (Prov. 5:6). This also fits the occult. It’s so multifaceted, unstable and adaptive that no limit can be set to the forms it takes to seduce and trap people.
There are however 6 general characteristics that distinguish the occult:
Secrecy – It’s always shrouded in secrecy and cover up both in teaching and practice. It binds adherents under oaths and covenants and attaches terrible consequences to its secrets being exposed.
Esotericism – it claims to possess mysteries, symbolism and mysticism unknown to the people outside or veiled to the mundane world.
Gnosticism – it claims to offer the most ancient wisdom or secret knowledge that allegedly places the initiate on a higher footing than the outsiders. Thus, it’s very fascinating to the fallen man.
Supernaturalism – it offers experiences beyond the natural. Experiences that transcend reason, science and the physical plane. It promises great insights through interactions with the spirit realm.
Control – it creates a system where man can manipulate or control others, events (past, present or future), spiritual forces and alter reality to suit his own purposes.
Opposition – it rejects or replaces the existing social and political order. It counterfeits healthy relationships, family structures or organizations with its own authority or order.
The occult typifies an “alternative” lifestyle or system that defies and opposes the supremacy of God. Its sound bites are: “Is God not showing you your future? Come, we’ll show it to you”; “Is He not offering you material wealth? Come we will offer it to you;” “Is He not healing your loved one? We’ll do it – and instantly!”
The occult gathers under its banner those seeking things outside God, and are willing to do anything to get them. Some of the things that entangle people in it are:
I. Pride: it not only leads people into the occult but also keeps them in it. Pride is translated from a Greek word, huperephania (Strong #5243) which means “excessive shinning i.e (self-exaltation, self-absorption).” It also means a person who “has a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
A person who sees himself as a “shinning one” and is “swollen” about his life achievements would want to live above reality, so he seeks occult power to bend things to his own will.
Pride also makes people desire a sort of wisdom or knowledge that would place them on a “higher plane” than others. A proud person will find it difficult to leave the occult because it constantly feeds his ego.
II. Unhealthy curiosity: an untamed desire for knowledge or power can be dangerous. A Christian can be so obsessed about “the other side” and end up experimenting with the occult. At times, this happens under the guise of feasting on “Illuminati-exposing” materials which quickly introduce the occult to the unwary.
III. Entertainment: the marketing of the occult through computer games, movies and music works well, because what people can’t accept through doctrine, they can accept through entertainment. Like a columnist wrote, “If a 60-second commercial can move mountains in the marketplace, don’t tell me that a 2-hour mega million movie doesn’t modify attitudes.”
When a flurry of movies or games present the occult in a positive light – especially to children – their sense of adventure gets stimulated and they become desensitized to fear or evil. If that root is not dealt with, as they grow, they will likely follow the course of what they were exposed to.
IV. Unresolved rejection and hurts: the occult attracts people who have been rejected by friends, family or who feel rejected by God or a church, and are seeking acceptance – or revenge.
Psychologists agree that rejection hurts the brain. Unresolved hurts or bitterness caused by negative life experiences (e.g loss of a loved one, failures, physical sickness etc) can result in rebellion which is Biblically associated with occultism (1Sam. 15:23).
V. Anxiety: in a world of unforeseen tragedies, people seek for answers anywhere. A lack of purpose or uncertainty can also suck people into divination. Even a Christian who doesn’t have a real relationship with God can easily fall into this snare.
VI. Inordinate desire for wealth: the occult seduces people with promises of great wealth. This lie appeals to many because, in most cases, people join the occult so as to gain a lot of wealth without having to work. Indeed, the devil enriches his slaves, but the sorrow, torment and destruction attached to it should make it abhorrent to any sane person.
The Occult Tree
There are different “branches” and sub-branches of the occult. All cannot be covered here, but they can be classified into:
1. The Knowledge branch of the Occult: This operates by disseminating supernatural knowledge to people. It is sub-divided into:
(a) Knowledge by divination: an occult art that attempts to see into the future or discover hidden knowledge. e.g palmistry, applied kinesiology, astrology, biofeedback, I Ching, Ifa corpus, water witching, crystal balls/mirror divining, extra sensory perception (ESP), telepathy and other methods listed in What Lies Behind Divination?
(b) Knowledge by spirit-communication: when a person directly receives teachings from spirits (pagan deities, spirit teachers, ascended masters or “guardian angels”) by invoking them or random visitation. e.g use of Ouija board, “channelling” ascended masters or spirit guides, cultural or regular Spiritism, apparitions of the “Virgin Mary” and messages from “aliens.”
(c) Knowledge via occult books: materials written by a person under direct inspiration of the entities listed in (b) above or by occult groups disseminating occult philosophies to people. e.g The Grail Message, Theosophy, OAHSPE, the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, The Lost Teachings of Jesus, Liber Al Legis (The Book of the Law), A Course in Miracles, The Secret (and other “dictated” New Age books), the Book of the Law, Masonic books and ritual monitors, Witchcraft and Neopaganism books, books on Yoga, TM and other forms of Eastern occultism, books by Rosicrucians and motivational cults (Napoleon Hill, Pacific Institute etc).
2. The power branch of the occult: the use of spiritual powers to control, intimidate or oppress. It’s divided into:
(a) “Religious” occult groups: various forms of Witchcraft, Hermetic orders like the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), New Age groups, Voodoo, Santeria, Ogboni Fraternity, Palo Mayombe, Candomblé, various Satanic covens (e.g Church of Satan, Order of the Black Ram, Order of the Infernal light, Cathedral of the fallen angels, Temple of Set, Temple of Lylyth, Shrine of the Little Mother, Cathedral of the Black Goat etc).
(b) Eclectic practices: the practitioner may/may not belong to a specific occult group, but combines different occult principles and pathways to wield supernatural power e.g Psychic surgery, “internal styles” martial arts, practical Kabbala, Santa Muerte rites, African or Eastern pagan rites, and Western Ceremonial Magick (it’s spelled “magick” in the occult).
Ceremonial magick are a complex, elaborate ritual magic rites involving different working tools – chalice, sword, altar, and candles. These rites are based on medieval occult textbooks called Grimoires containing instructions on how to create talismans and amulets (or charms); perform magical spells and divination; invoke fallen angels, spirits, and demons.
Popular grimoires are: Transcendental Magic, the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, the Greater Key of Solomon, the Necronomicon, Dragon Rogue, The Book of St. Cyprian, The Magus, The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, Secrets of the Golden Dawn and the Book of Shadows (Wiccan ritual books).
3. The branch operating through physical objects: These are objects which exert occult power for (or on) the user. They are:
a) Objects in occult or pagan worship – rosaries, crucifixes, pictures or statues of pagan deities, or “saints” (including those of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Mary’), occult regalia, religious altars, relics and others listed in 2 (b) above.
b) Materials with occult symbols or occult connotations – occult jewelries (ankhs, pentagrams, eyes, moon, horns etc), demonic sigils, Native American emblems (e.g totem poles, Kachina dolls), New Age music items, occult toys and role-playing games.
c) Objects “charged” with occult powers – charms, occult rings, “energy” swords or athames, hex signs, talisman, occult crystals, voodoo dolls, herbs and oils etc.
There are only two sources of supernatural knowledge and power in the universe: either God or Satan. There is no middle ground. Since “God is light and in him there is no darkness,” the dark system of the occult is of Satan (1Jn. 1:9).
God has set a boundary between His kingdom and that of Satan, so, when a Christian crosses that boundary by dabbling in the occult, he steps into a zone where he is taken captive by Satan to do his will. This captivity can be likened to “tentacles.” It binds to a person and gradually saps away his/her life.
God has clearly revealed His truth to man in His Word. There are no “secret teachings of Christ” or “inner room rites” in Christianity. Jesus Himself said “I have spoken openly to the world … I said nothing in secret” (Jn. 18:20). He told His disciples: “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” (Mt. 10:27).
Continued in Part II