Man with world symbol THE OCCULT


Topics covered in this page are:

What is "The Occult"?

Some people (particularly individuals involved in occultic activities) look upon the occult as fascinating, mysterious, spiritual and a source of knowledge and healing power. Others (particularly conservative Christians) see it as being profoundly evil, criminal, destructive, life threatening, and Satanic; it is a word that generates horror and revulsion in them.

Although it is common for people to differ in their religious views, it is rare to have a disparity as extreme as this.

The word occult is derived from the Latin word occultus which means "hidden". Occult blood is a medical term which refers to blood which cannot be seen, except perhaps under a microscope. The Occult has been defined (1) as any activity which

  1. is esoteric (employs knowledge that is not known to the general public, but which is only revealed gradually to a selected few), and
  2. depends upon those talents which lie beyond the five senses, and
  3. engages with the supernatural.

Unfortunately, such a definition has serious flaws:

We would offer the following rather simple definition:

A set of mostly unrelated divination and/or spiritual 
practices or activities which are not part of a person's 
faith or of any large world religion.
Note that this definition is relative to one's personal religion. Thus, Tarot card readings might be: This is how the term is used in practice; people in different faith groups have very different meanings for "the Occult". No consensus on its meaning exists.

Conservative Christian Beliefs about the Occult

Many Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians include within the Occult an enormous range of practices:

Christian Books about the Occult

Many books have been written by Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian authors in opposition to the Occult. See references 2 to 9. Most are filled with misinformation and are quite unreliable. It is probable that an accurate book written on the Occult and sold through Christian book stores would be an economic failure; it could not compete with the fear and lurid descriptions of its inaccurate competitors. One partial exception (10) appears to be a "transition book" - one that offers some accurate data but which still contains a great deal of misleading information. The book is "When the Devil Dares your Kids, Protecting Your Children from Satanism, Witchcraft and the Occult" by Bob and Gretchen Passantino.

We have a critical review of the book available. The Passantinos are considerably more accurate than other Evangelical Christian authors, which usually project a totally false view of the Occult. Many of the latter state or imply that:

None of the above beliefs about the occult are believed to have any merit. In promoting these untruths, the authors do sell a lot of books. However, they are:

Pat Robertson, his Christian Coalition and 700 Club discuss the occult frequently. In his book, The New World Order, he describes a world-wide conspiracy whose goal is to establish "an occult-inspired world socialist dictatorship"....[a] new world order based on the overthrow of civil governments, the church and private property.". He identifies the leader of the conspiracy is "international Freemasonry." which he believes is dominated by "satanists and occultists." By this century, he writes that a Freemasonic coalition of "humanists" and "occultists" had seized control of governments, schools, banks, the media and "apostate" churches.

Biblical References to the Occult

There are a number of instances in the Bible where respected leaders were involved with magic and the occult, apparently without any condemnations from God:

There are many Biblical passages that described some prohibited types of occultic activity by the ancient Israelites. These include Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and Malachai 3:5. Deuteronomy 18 is perhaps the most important. They forbade the Israelites from engaging in human sacrifice and in eight specific practices which some have been regarded as occultic. The King James translation is:

"There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his 
son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth 
divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, 
or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, 
or a necromancer.
Various other translations of the Bible use the following terms or phrases here:
augur, black magic, calls up the dead, charm, consults with spirits, fortune teller, interpret omens, look for omens, magician, medium, sorcerer, soothsayer, spiritist, weaves or casts spells, witchcraft, and wizard.

Clearly, translators have had a great deal of difficulty selecting unique English words or short phrases to match the 8 original Hebrew words:

  1. yid'oni Making contact with spirits (not of God)
  2. sho'el 'ov Making contact with the dead
  3. qosem q'samim Foretelling the future by using lots or a similar system
  4. m'onen Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature
  5. m'nachesh Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake)
  6. chover chavar Casting spells by magical knot tying
  7. m'khaseph sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people
  8. doresh 'el hametim "One who asks the dead", probably via another method than sho'el 'ov

The reference to passing children through the fire has historically been interpreted as the ritual killing of the first born child in each family. Tribes surrounding the Israelites were believed to engage in this practice. In reality, it probably refers to a coming-of-age challenge that children had to endure. They would pass through the fire and (hopefully) emerge without much injury. In other traditions, they would run between two fires. This phrase has caused many people to believe that Pagans in ancient times engaged in child sacrifice. This might cause some Christians to assume that modern day Pagans do the same thing. They don't. This phrase (and many similar ones throughout the Bible) has probably contributed greatly to the public's widely held fear of Ritual Abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Deuteronomy 18 clearly prohibits modern day practices of:

  1. yid'oni The New Age practice of channeling in which a person attempts to contact a spirit in order to gain knowledge
  2. sho'el 'ov Spiritualism, in which a medium contacts the dead
  3. qosem q'samim Casting stones or sticks and predicting the future by their position (e.g. I Ching, and perhaps runes, or Tarot cards)
  4. m'onen Foretelling the future by looking for signs in nature (e.g. predicting the harshness of a winter by looking at moss on trees, or fur thickness on animals in the wild, or whether the groundhog sees his shadow)
  5. m'nachesh Snake charming
  6. chover chavar Casting (presumably evil) spells while tying knots.
  7. m'khaseph Reciting evil spells to injure others
  8. doresh 'el hametim Any other method of contacting the dead
Other currently used methods of foretelling the future, such as tea cup reading, astrology, palm reading, tarot cards, runes etc are not mentioned. It is thus not obvious whether they are not permitted (as in snake charming) or whether they are acceptable to God (as in scrying). A Membership in the Masonic Order (or similar fraternal/spiritual organization) is not banned. Wicca (Witchcraft) which does not allow its followers to engage in black magic or manipulative spells is not prohibited here. Black magic rituals, as occasionally performed by Satanists as revenge to injury done to them by others would be condemned.

The Biblical passages appear to apply to persons who are directly engaged in the various practices (e.g. mediums, channelers, astrologers, etc); they do not seem to refer to people who simply observe the activity.

The Greek word pharmakos which appears in Galatians 5:20 refers to poisoners, but has been mis-translated as witchcraft in the King James Version. Since no occultic activity engages in killing people by poison, the verse does not refer in any way to the Occult.

The Real Occult

"The Occult" is simply a list of mostly unrelated practices and activities. It does not exist as an organization. Occult Crime does not exist, any more than Christian or Jewish Crime exists. The exact makeup of the Occult depends upon your own religious beliefs. There is no general consensus. Some lists divide the Occult into three branches: To these lists, conservative Christians often add many unrelated activities that they do not approve of: playing games, listening to rock music, etc.

Return to the OCRT home page.

Books on "The Occult"

The following Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian anti-Occult references were consulted. None are particularly reliable, but may be useful to read for amusement or to gain an understanding of the mind set of people who fear the occult.
  1. D.W. Hoover, How to Respond to the Occult, Concordia, St. Louis (1977) P. 8
  2. J. McDowell & D. Stewart, The Occult, Here's Life, San Bernadino (1992)
  3. N. Price, New Age, the Occult and Lion Country Power Books, New Tappan NJ (1989)
  4. Texe Marrs, New Age Cults & Religions, Living Truth, Austin (1990)
  5. W.Viser, The Darkness Among Us, Broadman & Holman, Nashville (1994)
  6. E. Winker, The New Age is Lying to You, Concordia, St. Louis (1994)
  7. D. Hunt, America: The Sorcerer's New Apprentice, Harvest House, Eugene, (1988)
  8. T. Schwarz & D. Empey, Is Your Family Safe? Satanism, Zondervan, Grand Rapids (1988)
  9. J. Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter, Harvest House, Eugene (1999)
  10. B & G Passantino, When The Devil Dares Your Kids, Servant, Ann Arbor (1991)