At the beginning of the A-Z Challenge, I wrote of a commonly misunderstood word, “cult.” (Special thanks to Dark Mother Goddess for the extra clarification) Even more misunderstood is the term “occult.”
It means “Hidden.” It really wasn't meant to be any more than that. In the late 1800's and the early 1900's, the “occult sciences” came into vogue with all kinds of “Spiritism.” These things included seances, near-death stories, and all kinds of related things. Most of the seances were faked with table-shaking and helpers that created effects. Oddly, the most famous whistle-blower on these charlatans was Harry Houdini. Really, who better to sniff-out such tricks?
The trend did allow for some great books to be published by the likes of Dion Fortune and Israel Regargie. Much of the Mystery School tradition was laid bare and the rituals became known, and their purposes. Much of the Masonic-based ritual that was exposed was shown to be solid methods of self-improvement. With the use of ritual, the conscience mind – the part that's always chattering away – is by-passed, and the goals of surpassing your base nature is ingrained into the deeper parts of the initiates mind.
This is the nature of Occultism. To condition your mind with what you choose, and not what's dictated by your native culture.
Occultism has been misused for mind control through isolation and sleep-deprivation by all kinds of dangerous cults. If anyone you know is in a group that encourages late nights, early mornings, and a lack of communication with family, STRANGER DANGER!!! There are bad guys that use occultism, but they also use electricity and toasters.