occultism (əkŭlˈtĭzəm) [key], belief in supernatural sciences or powers, such as magic, astrology, alchemy, theosophy, and spiritism, either for the purpose of enlarging man's powers, of protecting him from evil forces, or of predicting the future. All the so-called natural sciences were in a sense occult in their beginnings; most early scientists were considered magicians or sorcerers because of the mystery attending their investigations. In the modern world occultism has centered in small groups that seek to perpetuate secret knowledge and rites alleged to be derived from the ancients.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.