What is the Occult?

By: Dave Hunt; ©1999
Dave Hunt offers a definition of the occult, and gives examples that show how it is manifest in many areas of our lives—ways we may not even be aware of.

What is the Occult?

(Excerpted from Occult Invasion, Harvest House, 1998)

The word occult comes from the Latin occultus, which means “concealed” or “hidden.” It involves mystic knowledge and magic powers received from the spirit world and dis­pensed for the benefit of devotees or directed destructively at enemies by those who have been initiated into its secrets. The masters of occult power are known as medicine men (or women), witch doctors, witches, psychics, priests, sorcerers, astrologers, gurus, yogis, shamans, mediums, seers, or healers.

Some of those involved with occult powers attribute them to a variety of deities, others to a “Force” inherent within the universe with a “dark” and “light” side which humans can tap into. Still others claim they are simply using a normal power of the mind which can be cultivated in a special state of consciousness. There are also those who attribute occult powers to the God of the Bible.

Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines occult as: 1) hidden; con­cealed: 2) secret; esoteric: 3) beyond human understanding, mysterious: 4) designating or of certain mystic arts or studies, such as magic, alchemy, astrology; etc. In apparent agree­ment with the dictionary definition, and unabashedly identifying himself with the occult, Archie Fire Lame Deer boasts that a medicine man has “spiritual powers… to do something supernatural which cannot be explained by the white man’s science….”[1] An occult connec­tion is no embarrassment to a medicine man or practicing witch, but would be (or should be) to a priest, pastor, or televangelist. Yet many professedly Christian leaders are involved in the occult and are leading their churches into this error, as we shall see.

What is Going On?

Some years ago, a leading attorney in a city in Florida where I was lecturing, having read some of my books and knowing the type of research I was doing, invited me to break­fast in order to ask me some questions. As soon as we had placed our orders, he launched into an interesting story:

I was at this party the other night. Someone introduced me to Dr. _____ [he named a world-renowned nuclear physicist]. After some small talk, I asked him a silly question: “Where do you get these brilliant ideas that have made you so famous?
His reply really dumbfounded me: “Most of them come from the school I attend at night.”
“You go to night school?” I asked, not knowing whether to take him seriously.
“Not exactly,” he said. “It’s like this. . . sometimes after falling asleep at night I find myself… well… out of my body… I don’t know where . . . and usually in the company of some other scientists, where we’re taught advanced concepts by extraterrestrials of some sort… maybe spirit beings… I’m not sure.”

The lawyer paused for a moment, watching me closely to see how I would react. I said nothing, so he continued. “Was the man drunk, or just pulling my leg? He seemed to be serious. I didn’t know how to react. It just blew my mind. What do you think? Have you heard of anything like this?”

I nodded. “You’d be surprised,” I told him, “how many medical doctors, scientists, writers, and inventors report similar experiences. The basic concepts for the Xerox photo­copying patents came in a similar way. Richard Bach claims that his bestseller; Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was all dictated to him by a disembodied spirit. And there’s Napoleon Hill. Have you heard of him?”

“He wrote books about success and Positive Mental Attitude, I think. Is that the man?”

“Yes. His books have heavily influenced thousands of top business executives around the world and have changed the whole concept of success/motivation training. Hill claimed to have learned his techniques from ‘The Venerable Brotherhood of Ancient India,’ a group of highly evolved Hindu Masters who supposedly lived centuries ago and can ‘disembody themselves and travel instantly to any place they choose.’[2] They claim to act as spiritual advisers to humans, whom they initiate into the use of their powers. And that’s just a sample.”

A Host of Questions Arise

“You’re not serious,” the lawyer responded with a skeptical smile.

“I’m afraid I am. This amazing contact with mysterious beings from a nonphysical dimension has been going on since the beginning of time.”

He insisted upon an explanation. Did I think these “beings” which the physicist seem­ingly encountered were extraterrestrials inhabiting other planets who were able with their superior technology to get to earth? Or were they “spirit beings,” as the nuclear scientist suspected? Were they demons, or angels, or something else? Or could it all be explained by some kind of innate power within the human psyche? What about psychics who predict the future or can apparently move physical objects with their minds? Is this all part of the occult? And what exactly is the occult?

Over breakfast that morning I did my best to explain why everything he had mentioned was indeed part of the occult, and exactly how it worked and what was behind it. In the ten years since that conversation, the practice of the occult and its popularity have grown at an astonishing rate.

A Common and Easily Evaluated Example

Logically, a belief in the occult could hardly have persisted for thousands of years unless enough people had convincing evidence that there was something to it. Of course, multitudes in primitive societies would vouch for that. They would swear that the curse of a witch doctor or an “evil eye” could bring not only “bad luck” but death. And we have reliable testimony about these powers, such as that of the Yanomamo shaman from Venezuela who tells his story in Spirit of the Rainforest.[3]

In the prestigious Smithsonian journal in its January 1996 edition, the explosive growth of dowsing, a very common form of occultism, was documented. Dowsing involves a mys­terious power for which there is no possible scientific explanation. Yet its results are verifi­able and undeniable.

Dowsing for water with a forked green willow stick held in both hands as one walks back and forth across the ground is an ancient occult technique. Often called “water witch­ing,” it is well known in all cultures throughout history. It has been used in the successful location of more than 500,000 producing water wells in the United States alone. How it works, however, is the question.

Dr. Peter Treadwell traveled the world for the multinational pharmaceutical firm Hoffman-La Roche “to dowse for water sources for newly planned factories before they were built.” Addressing a group of engineers in Basel, Switzerland, Treadwell declared, “I hope I shall not disappoint you when I say that I am in no position to offer any explanation for the phenomenon of dowsing. …I have none.” In a magazine interview, in response to the question “How is it that Roche, a company based on science, uses a nonscientific method to find water?”, he replied:

That problem has bothered me for a long time, but… we keep finding water for our company with a method that neither physics nor physiology nor psychology have even begun to explain…. The dowsing method… is 100 percent reliable.[4]

Dowsing may be “100 percent reliable” for Dr. Treadwell, but there is a varying margin of error for other dowsers, as in every area of the occult. Dowsers rationalize that the moisture in the green twig is magnetically attracted to the water in the ground, thus causing the twig to bend downward over a good supply of underground water.

However, there is no magnetic attraction of water to water of the magnitude exhibited in dowsing. If the dowser attempts to prevent the stick from turning downward, it will never­theless do so with such force that the forked portion held firmly in both hands is twisted loose from the bark. Clearly, such force cannot be attributed to an attraction of moisture in the forked stick to water in the ground.


  1. Archie Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Gift of Power: The Life and Teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man (Bear & Company Publishing, 1992), pp. 153-54.
  2. Napoleon Hill, Grow Rich!—With Peace of Mind (Fawcett Crest, 1967), pp. 158-59.
  3. Mark Andrew Ritchie, Spirit of the Rainforest (Island Lake Press, 1996).
  4. Christopher Bird, “Fruitful Searches,” in New Realities, March 1982, p. 59.

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