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Edited by J Gordon Melton, 5th. ed.
A Compendium of Information on the Occult Sciences, Magic, Demonology, Superstitions, Spiritism,
Mysticism, Metaphysics, Psychical Science, and Parapsychology, with Biographical and Bibliographical
Notes and Comprehensive Indexes.
This fifth edition of the Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology (EOP) continues the tradition
established by its predecessors in providing the most comprehensive coverage of the fields of
occultism and parapsychology. The first edition, published in 1978, brought together the texts of
two of the standard reference works in the field, Lewis Spence’s Encyclopedia of Occultism (1920)
and Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopedia of Psychic Science (1934). Later, editor Leslie Shepard took on
the task of updating their observations and supplementing the volume with new entries.
The production of this massively ambitious work was sparked by a heightened interest in psychic
phenomena, the occult, witchcraft, and related topics in the 1970s. This interest, which led
directly to the New Age movement of the 1980s, provided a continued wealth of material for
parapsychologists to examine. It also led to a reaction by a group of debunkers to form the
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal. This group believed that
they were spokesmen for the scientific establishment.
Defining the Terms
The term “occult” remains suspect in many circles. The word derives from Latin and simply means
“to shut off from view or exposure.” However, it eventually came to refer to realities
specifically hidden from common sight; the occult realm is invisible to the physical eye but can be
seen by an inner “spiritual” vision and/or grasped by psychic intuition. The occult is the
opposite of “apocalypse,” which means “to uncover.” The last book of the Christian Bible is
alternatively called The Apocalypse or The Revelation. To many religious people, the term occult
denotes that which is opposite of what God has revealed; hence, the realm of Satan and his legions
of demons. Some substance for this observation has been provided by religious leaders who combine an
exploration of the occult with open opposition to the more traditional religions and religious
As used in EOP, however, occultism stands for (1) the broad area of human experience (now called
extrasensory perception, or ESP) that goes beyond the five senses; (2) the philosophical conclusions
drawn from consideration of such experiences; and (3) the social structures created by people who
have had extrasensory experiences, who attempt to produce and cultivate them, and who believe in
their vital significance for human life. Therefore, occultism (or its currently preferred term
“paranormal”) entails a wide spectrum of experiences—from clairvoyance and telepathy to
visions and dreams, from ghost sightings to the pronouncements of mediums and channelers. The
paranormal encompasses the phenomenon known as psychokinesis (commonly referred to as “mind over
matter”)—whether in the dramatic form of levitation or teleportation, or in the more commonly
experienced phenomenon of spiritual healing. It also covers experiences related to death, such as
out-of-body travel and deathbed visions.
The occult also includes a host of techniques and practices originally designed and created to
contact the extrasensory realm. Most frequently associated with the term occult are the techniques
of magic and divination (including astrology, the tarot, and palmistry). In addition, various forms
of meditation, yoga, and psychic development should be included, as well as some practices more
commonly associated with religion, such as speaking in tongues, prayer, and mysticism.
By extension, the occult or paranormal can also legitimately incorporate a legion of mysterious
phenomena not obviously extrasensory in nature: anomalous natural occurrences not easily understood
or explained by contemporary science. Such phenomena as the Loch Ness monster, unidentified flying
objects (UFOs), and Bigfoot, may eventually be attributed to the realm of ordinary sense perception,
but their very elusiveness has led them to be associated with the occult.
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