ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
CHAPTER ONE: THE ESOTERIC AND OCCULT
We can draw no sharp line between religion and the occult: both are inextricably involved with one another .For that reason any discussion of the esoteric or occult is necessarily an exploration of certain facets of what we ordinarily call religion. This is what the author proposes to do in what follows.
The Nature of the Psychic, Esotericism and the Occult
Several terms are generally used to define the realm of mysticism that lies outside organized religion. Many adherents of the New Age approach prefer the term psychic for this realm. This term is derived from the Greek word ψύκη or psyche meaning “breath,” but extended to mean “soul.” According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the soul [ME sowle,sawle; AS sawal; akin to G. seele, Goth saiwala] is “ an entity which is regarded as being the immortal or spiritual part of the person and, though having no physical or material reality, is credited with the functions of thinking and willing, and hence determining all behavior.” The psychic is therefore a person who is capable of access to this dimension of his or her being. Such a person is gifted in psi (ψ–pronounced in this case “psai”). For psychics, these ideas are bound up with matters such as ESP (extra-sensory-perception), astral projection (out-of-the-body soul travel), telepathy (the ability to read the thoughts of others), precognition (the ability to apprehend the future) and clairvoyance (French, meaning “clear seeing,” the ability to perceive things which cannot be perceived by the physical eye).
Debunkers such as James Randi assert that such abilities do not exist, and that those who profess to have them are either self-deceived or frauds. Whether or not such powers exist is much open to debate, but it is unfair to dismiss whatever we mean by psychism, intuitionism, the occult, or esoteric because of crystal balls or tarot cards. Much deeper matters are involved, issues which have been the subject of research by psychologists in the branch of that science known as parapsychology. While none of these studies has been conclusive and, indeed, none have demonstrated phenomena which cannot be accounted for by chance, it cannot denied that those who engage in this line of research are serious investigators.
Another term for this dimension, much preferred by many psychics, is intuition, meaning, according to Webster, “the immediate knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning; instantaneous apprehension.” A person who is a psychic could therefore also be called an intuitionist. Such a person emphasizes the importance of non-rational mental factors; in the light of recent research in the bilateral asymmetry of the brain, there is evidence that these are concentrated in the right hemisphere. Therefore intuitional thinking is sometimes called “right hemispheric.”