The Occult in Western Civilization

HPSC-X207 — Spring 2022

William Newman
Course Description

The occult is a theme that is deeply ingrained in the history of Western civilization. From antiquity to the present, segments of our society have laid claim to an esoteric wisdom that could only be revealed to those who were worthy of its exercise. This course will deal with the primary members of the “occult sciences,” alchemy, magic, and astrology, from their roots in antiquity up to the present. We will examine the metamorphosis of the occult sciences over time in order to examine their relationships to one another and to other cultural endeavors. It is little known to the general public that alchemy, astrology, and magic played an important role in the formation of modern science during the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Nor is it commonly realized that these disciplines had a major impact on poetry, music, and the pictorial arts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Finally, it is widely ignored that the occult sciences were originally predicated on quite reasonable bases consistent with the best science and philosophy of their time, however they may have been altered in late twentieth-century culture. All of these topics and others will be given consideration in the course.