For many of us, the word occult triggers images of zealous and often-times dangerous religious groups. We think of people with such ardor for their faith that they are willing to contort themselves into unseemly images of piety. What many of us fail to realize, though, is that we are misconstruing the word occult with semblances of the word cult. To truly understand what the occult is we must first untangle the similar sounding but unrelated word cult.
Because of horror stories on the news or on the wind, by way of word of mouth, we associate the occult and evil together without truly grasping what these things are. Not understanding words and the root words inside of words can confuse a lot of us. The occult and cult have the same root word but one is shorter and has a vastly different meaning and connotation.
A cult is a religious group often bound by secrecy, rites, and oaths. Religion, in this aspect, does not mean well known spiritual or text based system. A religion, pertaining to cults, could be anything that the gathered group all believe and are willing to fight for. For instance, let's say that a group of people who fervently believe in the preservation of trees and other wildlife gather together once a month. This, by basic definition, is a cult. It may not fit the stereotypical imagery that we have come to associate with it but it, most definitely, serves the same point.
The Occult has been mistaken for cults for so often and so long that most people have no clue what the occult is. We automatically write it off as being a cult. Once we have written it off as a cult we associate it with many religious groups, over the years, that have all committed suicide as a form of devotion. Then, what happens next? We automatically assume that anyone associated with or interested in the occult must be as suicidal and crazy. We write it off as something we do not wish to associate with or have any desire to learn about, which leaves us vastly ignorant, in the process. Once we have started this level of thinking the occult is left, largely, unknown and without research. One could say that cults serves as a form of protection from ever learning about the occult with all of the assumptions we employ in our thinking.
The word occult simply means: hidden or hidden knowledge, something that is closed off from our view. This word has always been associated with things that are not as well known to the general public or things generally written in code from the public. To simplify things a bit, look at word search puzzles. You have a bunch of letters on a page and you are given a glossary of words to find amidst all of the letters. The letters are hidden from plain view and you have to decipher where they are and how they are situated among all of the other letters. This is a form of the occult and you have unknowingly participated in it.
If you are looking into the occult as it pertains to hidden worldly knowledge then that would lean more into esoteric spiritual teachings and can be searched through with any religion. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. all have hidden aspects in their teachings and it is generally left to the adepts to elucidate on whatever mysteries there are. As I mentioned before, figuring the occult is not just with religion or science, it can be with everyday items or situations such as a word search puzzle.
The occult and evil are not synonymous as both are far too broad a term to be immediately bound with one another. Evil is that which negates life or retards life. The occult is simply hidden knowledge. Can knowledge be evil in nature? That depends on the individual's perspective. Some people, throughout history and in present time, feel that some things are better kept a secret lest it fall into the wrong hands. While this is invariably true, there will always be someone who tries to use things to hurt others, it does not reflect on the whole. This is why the occult is ever used. It is a guard against those who would misuse and abuse it, which is why it is coded or hidden. If you are truly interested in that which is hidden you must fashion yourself a decoder and be prepared to embark on a journey of discovery.