The Occult: A Primer

Definition 

Occult: “Occult” means “to hide or conceal,” so the occult is that which is hidden or concealed. It also refers to that which is beyond normal perception or knowledge. The occult deals with matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural agencies or some secret knowledge of them.[1]

What the Bible says about the occult

Hebrew Scriptures: 

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer [practitioner of the dark arts] or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12

And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?
Isaiah 8:19

He [Manasseh, king of Judah] sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
2 Kings 21:6

New Testament: 

Many of those who believed [in Jesus] now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.
Acts 19:18-19

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery [witchcraft] … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21

“… in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared …
1 Timothy 4:1

Occult practices

The three main areas of the occult are magic, fortune telling and spiritism.

Magic: the attempt to bring the spirit world under one’s own knowledge and control by means of hidden lore and secret ceremony. It is the opposite of religion, which seeks surrender to the divine, not control over it.[2]

  • Examples: telepathy, clairvoyance, ESP, charms, spells, curses, magic healing, enchantments

Fortune telling: Also known as divination, it is an attempt to gain knowledge of future or other unknown events.

  • Examples:
    • palmistry: acquiring knowledge through studying the lines of the hand
    • tarot cards: thrown to reveal a characteristic of the person involved
    • crystal gazing: a supposed way of peering into the future
    • psychometry: method in which an object belonging to a person is held by the practitioner, who then proceeds to make statements about the owner
    • astrology: assumes that our lives are controlled by the stars, forces outside our control[3]

Spiritism: the attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Spiritism is very close to animism, in which any and all objects are thought to be indwelt by spirits. Spiritists believe in the “other side,” a realm of bodiless spirits that can communicate with man. One of the main tenets of spiritism is reincarnation.[4]

  • Examples: levitation, apports, materializations, psychokinesis, telekinesis, astral projection, automatic writing, spiritistic visions, speaking in trances

[1] Kent Philpott, A Manual of Demonology and the Occult (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), p. 158.

[2] Michael Green, I Believe in Satan’s Downfall (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981), p. 118.

[3] Ibid., pp. 19–20.

[4] Philpott, op. cit., p. 161.