If the word occult is basically a synonym for secret or hidden knowledge, how occult can esoteric phenomena really be in the internet age, when nearly any piece of information on the subject is instantly available?
Remember that words, like spells, can be potent magical tools. Too often, terms such as occultism, magic, mysticism, gnosis, Hermeticism, and esotericism are lumped together into a general foggy blob, in which no one word seems to be much different from any other.
If you are going to claim knowledge about the world of magic, mysticism or the esoteric , simply knowing the correct definitions and historical contexts of some of the major terms associated with the tradition will instantly differentiate you from your typical trend-chasing cultural vampire.
Me, our online school for chaos magick. The word esoteric comes from the Greek esotero , meaning inner or within.
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The first known use of the adjective esoterikos was around C. The word was later used to reference any teachings designed for a inner circle of disciples or initiates. Esoteric knowledge is, in the traditional sense, hidden knowledge that is available to a select few.
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Esotericism refers to the myriad ways in which this secret knowledge has been transmitted throughout the centuries philosophy, literature, art, symbols, etc. This sort of knowledge cultivates an awareness of the inner workings of the self, and of reality in general, and it can only be accessed via transmission of one who already knows, through the study of key texts, or through direct personal revelation.
The last method leads to the next term:.
The Gnostics were various groups of Christians who emerged in the first few centuries of the Common Era, and whose unique views—which drew from Christianity, Judaism and paganism—were deemed heretical. Although the Gnostics did not have a single, unified group of beliefs or practices, they were nevertheless instrumental in developing what could be considered a third element in the progression of Western culture—concurrent, but also in resistance to, Greek rationalism and Biblical faith.
Unlike these two currents, in which knowledge is gained either through reason or faith, respectively, gnosis is primarily focused on the inner spiritual experience and the knowledge gained from direct personal relationship to the divine.
Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge, but this is an inner, more intuitive and imaginal knowledge. It is the kind of knowledge one obtains through inner vision, by taking a peek behind the veil at what lies behind the surface of things. Faith is not a factor in the gnostic experience—belief is obviously unnecessary in the face of direct spiritual revelation. The experience of gnosis is at the core of the Western esoteric tradition, and the ways in which this knowledge has been utilized over the millennia can generally be boiled down into two approaches: magic and mysticism.
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Magic and mysticism are often erroneously conflated. The two terms or magick words are not quite as black and white as they may seem, and often they blur together, but in many cases there is a clear distinction.
Hermetism basically refers to a group of writings collectively referred to as the Hermetica , attributed to the semi-historical and semi-mythical Egyptian figure Hermes Trismegistus, as well as the literature that the Hermetica inspired throughout the Renaissance and beyond.
There are differences between Gnostics and Hermetists, but like the Gnostic, the goal of the Hermetic practitioner is to seek truth via divine revelation, not through reason or faith.
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Hermetic philosophy leans more towards the mystical than the magical, with the ultimate goal being purification of the soul and ascent into the divine realm. Hermeticism, closely related to Hermetism, is a term that has gained popularity since the s, and is used to refer to the esoteric currents influenced by the resurgence of Hermetic philosophy and literature during the Renaissance.
Under this heading could be placed Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the rest of the Hermetically influenced secret orders and magical traditions that flourished in the post-Renaissance West. One can see how in this sense, Hermetism and the Western esoteric tradition are very closely tied together.
The traditional meaning of the word is simply secret or hidden, and in this sense it is very much related to Western esotericism; however, occultism and esotericism are not necessarily interchangeable terms.
If esotericism involves the ways in which gnosis is harnessed and communicated, occultism is the group of practices that put gnosis to use rituals, procedures, techniques, etc.
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As Antoine Faivre has said,. This distinction did not exist until the mid nineteenth century, when due to the impact of the Enlightenment, esotericism began to evolve with the times.
This was an attempt to legitimize esoteric phenomena in the face of the scientific revolution.
Even Aleister Crowley, in his famous definition of magic, declares it a science. Much of the information on the magick words in this article is indebted to the work of Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, and Arthur Versluis.
Your email address will not be published. Esotericism The word esoteric comes from the Greek esotero , meaning inner or within. The last method leads to the next term: 2. Gnosis The Gnostics were various groups of Christians who emerged in the first few centuries of the Common Era, and whose unique views—which drew from Christianity, Judaism and paganism—were deemed heretical.
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Hopefully these magick words will help you to unlock open the doors to greater wisdom. Aaron Piccirillo has written on esoteric topics for Clavis Journal and many others.
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