THE OCCULT: BRIEF EXPLANATIONS OF VARIOUS TERMS AND CONCEPTS

by Marcia Montenegro (page 2 of 4)

Astrology - The belief that the planets, sun, and moon are external and internal signposts for individuals or society to follow in order to understand themselves and choose the best options. It is thought that the person's birth time and place happen at a particular time when the planetary configurations will reveal that person's character and path in this life. A chart of the planetary positions is cast by the astrologer which involves mathematical formulas for determining the planetary positions at a certain moment and place. Computer programs can compute a chart, but the astrologer still needs to know how to do this in order to understand how the chart works, and in order to rectify a chart (rectifying is determining a birth time through events when there is no known birth time). The astrologer interprets the chart according to the meanings signified by the planets, sun, and moon, the significance of the houses, the meaning of the zodiac signs, and how the planets relate to each other by distance. Increasingly in the latter half of the 20th century, astrology took on concepts and terms from Carl Jung, humanistic psychology, and Eastern/occult beliefs such as Theosophy. The interpretation of charts became less rigid and fatalistic and became more of a psychological/spiritual counseling session. The planets are often referred to as archetypes (influence from Carl Jung) or energies. See Divination, Synchronicity.

Automatic writing - A method of spirit communication and/or divination. Many who practice this believe they are communicating with the dead or evolved spirit beings. The person's hand is controlled by something beyond themselves, and they write out (or even type) words without knowing what is being written. Ruth Montgomery, a journalist, experienced automatic writing and produced many books from it. Neale Donald Walsch, author of the bestselling Conversations with God books, started getting "answers" from an entity he called God through automatic writing. See Divination, Spiritism.

Aura - Believed to be a psychic energy or field of light surrounding and emanating from a person's body and all living things. Auras may manifest in different colors, seen by clairvoyants, and those colors are interpreted as indicating a feeling, experience, state of health, or quality possessed by the owner. Reading or scanning a person's aura is used in some alternative healing work.

Black Magick - The use of sorcery or magickal powers for evil intentions or selfish gain. White magicians and white witches would claim that black magick is using magick to harm people as opposed to white magick which is used to heal or help people. Anton La Vey, who founded the Church of Satan, stated that there is no such thing as black or white magick, that "Satanism draws no such dividing line" and "Magic is magic" (Anton La Vey, The Satanic Bible, [NY: Avon Books, 1969], 51). This echoes occultist Arthur Edward Waite who writes that the good and evil sides of the magical arts "dissolve into one another and belong one to another in the root that is common to both" (Arthur Edward Waite, The Book of Ceremonial Magick, [NY: Citadel Press, 1989; Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1994], XXIV). It should be noted that the condemnation of sorcery in the Bible does not acknowledge "white" or good sorcery or magic(k), or the good or bad intentions involved in practicing sorcery.

Channeling - See Seance, Spiritism.

Chakras - A Sanskrit word meaning 'wheel' used in Hindu beliefs and practices, such as yoga, to describe what are believed to be the five, six, or seven (depending on the teaching) psychic and spiritual centers of man. The chakras are invisible, and are believed to start at the base of the spine and end in the middle of the forehead. The top of the head is the culmination point for an energy called kundalini which rises through the chakras to the crown of the head through certain meditation and tantric practices. (Some sources which include the crown area state there are seven chakras). A different color is often associated with each chakra, usually red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo/purple, and white for the crown. The kundalini is believed to be a form of divine energy, coiled at the base of the spine like a serpent which can rise through a channel, called the Sushumna, up the chakras, thus bringing a spiritual awakening. It is taught that arousing the kundalini up through the chakras can be dangerous and should be done under the supervision of a teacher or guru. It is also taught that awakening the kundalini may uncover certain psychic powers called Siddhis. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Western views may differ in their teachings on the chakras. Chakras may be equated by mystics and occultists with the spheres from the Kabbalah's Tree of Life. Chakras are often referred to in some New Age meditation practices and philosophies, and in some forms of energy healing, such as Therapeutic Touch. Alternative healing often assumes the existence of chakras and connects ill health to blockages in the chakras.

Clairvoyance - From term meaning 'seeing clearly.' This is considered a psychic ability. See ESP.

Cartoons, Comics - Many TV cartoons, video cartoons, and comics portray the main characters or heroes as possessing supernatural powers. Sometimes this is part fantasy, sometimes these powers are occult. If the character is practicing sorcery, or using an object to gain power, this is related to occult views. Often the powers are a mixture of fantasy and the occult. There are also comics featuring evil beings as the heroes.

Christ consciousness - A term from the New Thought movement signifying a state one achieves through realization that the innate self is divine. Followers of New Thought believe that Jesus was a man who achieved this and is the example for the rest of humanity. The New Age movement and some occult groups also use this term. Sometimes the term "higher consciousness" is used to designate Christ Consciousness. See Higher Consciousness.

Course in Miracles - Published in 1976. Writings and teachings channeled by an atheist, Helen Schucman, which are purportedly from Jesus. However, the teachings contradict what Jesus says in the Bible, and teach that sin is an illusion. The Jesus presented in the Course is a man who attained Christ consciousness, and supposedly represents what all people can do. This work has been popularized and promoted by author Marianne Williamson in her book, "A Return to Love." For a good evaluation of the Course, read the article at http://www.letusreason.org/BookR3.htm 

Crystals - Quartz, semiprecious and precious stones believed by some to contain and emit certain kinds of energy or vibrations which can be used for healing, protection, mental clarity, to enhance love, or to attract success and prosperity. The purchaser of a crystal may "cleanse" the crystal through certain techniques (such as immersing in salt, then placing in sunlight), then "charge" or "program" the crystal with his/her energy through meditation and/or visualization. The owner will wear the crystal, carry it on his/her person, or place it somewhere in the home. Crystals are often used in alternative healing by being placed on the body.

Divination - Also called "fortunetelling;" the art of retrieving information about the past, present or future using psychic or occult techniques (reading hidden meanings into ordinary objects), or spirit contact. Beliefs behind divination include: one can tap into a psychic file cabinet, called the Akashic Record, where all information is stored; one's spirit guide may retrieve the information from the client's spirit guide or Higher Self; or that time itself, being an illusion, can be transcended in such a way that the past, present, or future may be viewed by those with divinatory abilities. Examples of divination: astrology, palm reading, numerology, Tarot cards, the I-Ching, Runes, pendulum, automatic writing, tea-leaf and coffee ground reading (called Tasseomancy), crystal gazing (a form of scrying). See Akashic Records, Astrology, Automatic Writing, Numerology, Runes, Scrying, Tarot Cards.

Energy healing - This form of healing is based on accessing, channeling, balancing and/or manipulating energy and is commonly found in many alternative healing practices such as Reiki, intuitive healing/medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu, chi kung (also spelled qi gong), polarity, aura cleansing, and chakra balancing/healing. This energy is called by various names: chi, qi, ki, ji, the life force, the vital force, the universal force, universal energy, vital energy, bioenergy. See Chi under "Foundational Concepts."

ESP, Extra Sensory Perception - Sometimes considered the sixth sense, a way in which one perceives or receives information beyond the five physical senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. The information can be about the past, present or future. This includes telepathy, the ability to know another's thoughts; precognition, a knowledge of the future; and clairvoyance, a knowledge of past, present or future often associated with psychics. This is sometimes called the "sixth sense" or "the third eye."

Familiar(s) - A spirit often assuming the form of an animal, or an actual animal used as a helper for sorcerers or witches. A familiar can also be conjured by a sorcerer for protection or aid; sometimes this is called a thought-form and has a quasi-independent existence. Although there is much legend and lore surrounding what a familiar exactly is or whether they exist, the King James translation of the Bible forbids consulting those with familiar spirits in several passages (16 to be exact). In more recent translations, the phrase used in these passages is "mediums and spiritists." This may be linked to the idea that one practiced divination and spirit contact with the aid of a demonic spirit (Unger, 399-400). An example in a popular series of books can be found in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry is taught by Professor Lupin to conjure a "Patronus" to protect Harry from the dementors (pp. 237-242). The Patronus appears in the form of an animal, a stag, and goes after the dementors (385, 411, 412). The Patronus as described in this book closely parallels the conjuring of a thought-form, which is sometimes considered to be a familiar. (See Brennan, 148; Guiley, Witchcraft, 120; Farrar, "Rituals of Protection," 93, "Spells," 240-241, Glossary, 321; Gonzalez-Wippler, 105).

Ghost - Usually believed to be the form or spirit of a dead person appearing to those still living. The belief in ghosts in Western culture assumes that people can linger or return after death, and that those alive can see dead people. The spirit world consists only of angels -- good angels who serve God and the fallen angels, also known as demons or evil spirits. It is possible for these fallen angels to disguise themselves as dead people in order to deceive and mislead people. Those who claim to see a ghost are either imagining it, making it up, dreaming, hallucinating, or seeing an evil spirit. Attempting spirit contact or attempting to communicate with a dead person is strongly prohibited in God's word. See CANA article on Spirit Contact.

Higher Consciousness - A term for a state of spiritual understanding that one reaches through various techniques and as a result of through living many lives through reincarnation. This understanding is believed to come about when one realizes that this reality and this world are illusory and that actually we are all one and part of the Absolute (also called God, the One, Consciousness, the Universe, the Source) and are not separate beings. One attains higher consciousness through meditation, recognizing that one is evolving through reincarnation, chanting various mantras, and other techniques often derived from Hindu and/or Buddhist beliefs and practices usually syncretized with Western terms and views of the self. One is able to tune into or tap into one's Higher Self through pursuing Higher Consciousness. Higher Consciousness is sometimes equated with Christ Consciousness (also called God Consciousness), a term from the New Thought Movement which postulates that we all have a Christ Consciousness which we attain through realization of our inherent divine nature. See Christ Consciousness.

Higher Self - Based on the belief that our identity as a separate individual is part of a delusion or illusion. The Higher Self is divine or part of God and is the "true" self. This Higher Self is wise and good, and one must transcend the desires and illusions of the lower self (ego, self-identity) to access the understanding and views of the Higher Self. See Christ Consciousness, Higher Consciousness.

Hypnosis - An induced altered state of consciousness in which a person responds readily to suggestions. The hypnotic state may be light or be deep enough to the degree that the person is not aware of surrounding events. In the 1770's, Franz Anton Mesmer espoused a theory of animal magnetism which was a term he used to describe the universal life force. Mesmer used techniques to heal people which he based on his idea that he was restoring health through magnetic forces by transmitting healing energy using iron rods or wands. Techniques included staring into the patient's eyes or "making slow passes...with hands or a wand," (Guiley, Paranormal, 275, 366). The word "mesmerize" comes from Mesmer's name. The passivity and lack of initiative or thinking on the part of one hypnotized is common (Hillstrom, 64). Fantasy can easily be woven in with real memories "to create entirely fictitious episodes in this state," (Ibid, 65). As shown by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, false memories can be implanted in hypnotized subjects. Because of the suggestibility and lack of reliability in memory in a hypnotized person, courts do not accept the testimony given by someone under hypnosis. See Altered State.

Kabbalah (also spelled Kabala, Cabala, Qabalah, etc.) - Considered an offshoot of Jewish mysticism, the beliefs of the Kabbalah are a mystical and incredibly complex re-interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures which is actually closer to Gnosticism. The Kabbalah uses terms, people and situations from Hebrew Scripture, but adds an underlying esoteric meaning and techniques to advance to mystical states. Followers of the Kabbalah believe it was taught to angels, and then to Adam as a way back to God after the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The world was created by God "through 32 secret paths of wisdom which are the ten sephirot and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet," the sephirot being emanations originating in God (Guiley, Paranormal, 306). Creation is divine, and contains God: "Do not say, 'This is a stone and not God.' God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity," (Matt, 24). The textbooks for the Kabbalah are the Sepher Yetzirah, ascribed to Rabbi Akiba (or Akiva) around 100 AD, and the Zohar (Book of Splendor), a thirteenth-century book often ascribed to Kabbalist Moses de Leon or to Rabbi Simeon. God is called Ein-Sof ("without end"), and is "unknowable and beyond representation," (Guiley, 307) and "should never be conceptualized in any way....should not be called Creator, Almighty, Father, Mother, Infinite, the One, Brahma, Buddhamind, Allah, Adonoy, Elohim, El, or Shaddai;...," (Cooper, 65). Man's goal is union with the Divine, and by doing so, others in the universe are also elevated. Ecstatic and mystical trance-like states are associated with the study of the Kabbalah. It is also considered dangerous to study the Kabbalah, and is only for one who is stable and ethical (Epstein, 2, 3; Matt, 17). A central point of the Kabbalah is the Tree of Life, a diagram of "the descent of the divine into the material world," and how man can ascend back to God (Guiley, 308; Epstein, 2). One "climbs" the Tree of Life back to God through meditation and contemplation of the different parts of this Tree, and "on the corresponding Hebrew letters of the divine names of God" and other things such as planets and angels (Guiley, 308). The Tree of Life is also called "a complete map of consciousness," and represents "the evolution of the individual....and the universe," (Parfitt, 3). The Tree of Life and its ten spheres are sometimes equated with the chakras of Yoga (Ibid., 61). A Kabbalist can receive "messages" and "teachings" from "archangels, angels, demons, animals, plants, and rocks, " (Ibid., 73). God is considered to have a female aspect, and sexual union is symbolic of spiritual union. There is a history of magickal practices, based on the Kabbalah, which are used today. The secret society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, was influenced by the Kabbalah through occultists Eliphas Levi and MacGregor Mathers. Other well-known occultists who used the Kabbalah were Israel Regardie and the infamous Aleister Crowley. In fact, many regard the Kabbalah as the foundation of Western Esoteric/Mystery/Magickal Traditions, and was called by occultist Dion Fortune "the Yoga of the West," (Cicero, 6). One of the more well-known practices is the correspondence of a number for each Hebrew letter of the alphabet, and using this as a numerology for hidden meanings. The sounds and writing of the letters are also put into an occult context for either mystical or magickal purposes. There is an emphasis on the sacred name of God, the Tetragrammaton, which is used in the practice of magick. The practitioner of Kabbalah occultism uses techniques and rituals to have power over the spirit world, even demons, and hopes for a union with the Divine. The occult view of polarity is seen in Rabbi David Cooper's explanation of good and evil in his best-selling book on the Kabbalah. Stating that even "evil has divine nature" in it, Cooper says that "evil as we know it can never be eradicated, even if we wanted, for it fulfills a primary function in creation," (God Is A Verb, 160). The Kabbalah is perhaps the most extensive collection of occult teachings in existence. For more information see http://www.apologeticsindex.org/k03.html   

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