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Occultism

OCCULTISM

Occult books of fortune-telling, dreams, spells, astrology, and speculative mysticism entered medieval Russia as translations of Greek, Byzantine, European, Arabic, and Persian "secret books." Their prohibition by the Council of a Hundred Chapters (Stoglav ) in 1551 enhanced rather than diminished their popularity, and many have circulated into our own day.

The Age of Reason did not extirpate Russia's occult interests. During the eighteenth century more than 100 occult books were printed, mostly translations of European alchemical, mystical, Masonic, Rosicrucian, and oriental wisdom texts. Many were published by the author and Freemason Nikolai Novikov.

As the nineteenth century began, Tsar Alexander I encouraged Swedenborgians, Freemasons, mystical sectarians, and the questionable "Bible Society," before suddenly banning occult books and secret societies in 1822. The autocracy and the church countered the occultism and supernaturalism of German Romanticism with an increasingly restrictive system of church censorship, viewing the occult as "spiritual sedition."

Nevertheless, Spiritualism managed to penetrate Russia in the late 1850s, introduced by Count Grigory Kushelev-Bezborodko, a friend of Daniel Dunglas Home (18331886), the famous medium who gave seances for the court of Alexander II. Their coterie included the writers and philosophers Alexei Tolstoy, Vladimir Soloviev, Vladimir Dal, Alexander Aksakov, and faculty from Moscow and St. Petersburg Universities.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Russia, like Europe, experienced the French "Occult Revival," a reaction against prevailing scientific positivism. Spiritualism, theosophy, hermeticism, mystery cults, and Freemasonry attracted the interest of upper- and middle-class Russian society and configured decadence and symbolism in the arts.

Theosophy, founded in New York in 1875 by Russian expatriate Elena Blavatsky (18311891), was a pseudo-religious, neo-Buddhist movement that claimed to be a "synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy." It appealed to the god-seeking Russian intelligentsia (including, at various times, Vladimir Soloviev, Max Voloshin, Konstantin Balmont, Alexander Skryabin, Maxim Gorky). A Christianized, Western form of theosophy, Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy, attracted the intellectuals Andrey Bely, Nikolai Berdyayev, and Vyacheslav Ivanov.

Russian Freemasonry revived at the end of the nineteenth century. Masons, Martinists, and Rosicrucians preceded the mystical sectarian Grigory Rasputin (18721916) as "friends" to the court of Tsar Nicholas II. After the Revolution of 19051906, Russian Freemasonry became increasingly politicized, eventually playing a role in the events of 1916-1917.

The least documented of Russia's occult movements was the elitist hermeticism (loosely including philosophical alchemy, gnosticism, kabbalism, mystical Freemasonry, and magic), heir of the Occult Revival. Finally, sensational (or "boulevard") mysticism was popular among all classes: magic, astrology, Tarot, fortune-telling, dream interpretation, chiromancy, phrenology, witchcraft, hypnotism.

More than forty occult journals and papers and eight hundred books on occultism appeared in Russia between 1881 and 1922, most of them after the censorship-easing Manifesto of October 17, 1905. After the Bolshevik coup, occult societies were proscribed. All were closed by official decree in 1922; in the 1930s those members who had not emigrated or ceased activity were arrested.

In the Soviet Union, occultists and ekstra-sensy existed underground (and occasionally within in the Kremlin walls). The post-1991 period saw the return of theosophy and anthroposophy, shamanism, Buddhism, Hare Krishnas, Roerich cults, neopaganism, the White Brotherhood, UFOlogy, and other occult trends.

See also: freemasonry; pagansim; religion

bibliography

Carlson, Maria. (1993). "No Religion Higher Than Truth": A History of the Theosophical Movement in Russia, 18751922. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer, ed. (1997). The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Maria Carlson

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Occultism

OCCULTISM

Occultism is the belief in secret doctrines and practices that are recognized neither by science nor religion and require some form of initiation. Related, but distinct, is telepathy, mental communication at a distance with the dead or the living. Such beliefs appeared in nineteenth-century Europe with the weakening of Christian churches, which had traditionally fought these phenomena, and as a form of resistance to rationalism, which claimed to be able to explain everything by means of logical reasoning. Occultism and telepathy are also related to an interest in mystery and the mysterious: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, devoted much his later life to the study of occultism, and a number of successful authors have taken an interest in paranormal phenomena.

Psychology and psychiatry in the late nineteenth century were strongly influenced by spiritualism and magnetism. Belief in a "celestial fluid" was not wholly unrelated to the growing use of an invisible energy (electricity), or a new device for communicating at a distance, known as the telephone. Freud referred specifically to this last invention to characterize the relationship between conscious and unconscious, between doctor and patient ("Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-Analysis," 1912e). The word telepathy was created in 1882 by the English psychologist Frederick Myers (1843-1901), who was the first British author to discuss Freud's work.

Parapsychology was referred to by Freud during his conversations and correspondence with several of his followers, primarily Theodor Reik and Sándor Ferenczi. With his daughter Anna and Ferenczi, he performed thought transmission and table-turning experiments. In his articles "Psychoanalysis and Telepathy" (1941d [1921]) and "Dreams and Telepathy" (1922a), he clarified his position with respect to paranormal phenomena as being a combination of "repugnance and ambivalence."

Freud's thoughts on occultism and telepathy involve an element of ambiguity as well as tactical maneuvering. Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was unable to ignore the support the fragile new movement received from parapsychology, while also having to confront the criticisms of rationalist science. However, based on the advice of Ernest Jones and Max Eitingon, he did not wish to compromise the scientific nature of psychoanalysis with irrational theories. Faced with the "black sea of occultism," Freud maintained a prudent sense of reserve, although this did not hamper his considerable interest in techniques of communication between minds, which presented analogies with transference.

Odon Vallet

See also: New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis ; Telepathy.

Bibliography

Freud, Sigmund. (1922a). Dreams and telepathy. SE, 18: 195-220.

. (1933a) New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. SE, 22: 1-182.

. (1941d [1921]). Psycho-analysis and telepathy. SE, 18: 173-193.

Freud, Sigmund, and Ferenczi, Sándor. (1992). The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi (Peter T. Hoffer, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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Occultism

Occultism

A collective term for the various doctrines, theories, ideas, and principles believed to underlie and hold together the practices of magic, and related topics such as alchemy, demonology, ghosts, poltergeists, prediction, psychic powers, spells, and Spiritualism. The term "the occult" is often used synonymously with "occultism." The term is most frequently used by those who oppose the existence of magic or the work of its practitioners. It is sometimes viewed as a derogatory label, and many involved in occultism have preferred other labels such as New Age.

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"Occultism." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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occultism

occultism (əkŭl´tĬzəm), 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.

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"occultism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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