the god of the occult
Right off the bat, we have to start with a serious bummer for horror film aficionados. Eccentric scholars driven to insanity by their nightly commune with dark forces didn’t write their Occult spell books in a demonic trance. Actually, at their inception, Occult arts weren’t secretive or hidden, but openly discussed esoteric ideas about how the universe worked and why, combining the scientific discoveries of the day with highly refined theology.
When Christian missionaries tried to replace ancient religions by mass conversions or violence if the niceties failed, it was necessary for scholars of ancient esoterica to shroud themselves in a veil of secrecy. To the officials in charge of spreading the new religion, Occult arts based on a combination of Ancient Egyptian mysticism, Greek logic and the roots of what would soon become Kabballah (the complex religious musings of rabbis, not the recent celebrity fad), were a pagan superstition to be eliminated.
From that point on, the misconceptions about the Occult began. It was associated with pagans, with the Devil or with heretics who wanted to play God by questioning the inner workings of the world. Myths portrayed Occult spell books as encyclopedias of recipes for evil, eye of newt, left testicle of frog while dancing naked under the full moon kind of stuff. But the reality was much more complex. Despite their pagan roots, the Occult arts were actually monotheistic and their only deity in Medieval times became the God of the Old Testament.
The first known spell book was The Key of Solomon and it set the tone for virtually all the spell books that came after it. Rather than being a demonic cookbook with some corrupted Latin or a twisted alien language thrown in for the creepiness factor, it was an astrology manual and an encyclopedia of angels and demons. It borrowed heavily from the Kabballah and instructed its readers to use the powers of God wisely and only in accordance with strict rules. The outcomes of the rituals it detailed would depend on God’s calculus of what you were and weren’t allowed to know or do.
All spell books mention only one deity and all the powers in which they try to tap were just ways of getting closer to God and gaining knowledge of the universe. No newt eyes or frog genitals. No dancing naked around a boiling pot under the full moon. Just complicated astrology charts, symbols of ancient zodiacs and lengthy incantations that were actually special prayers to God and his menagerie of supernatural servants.
During the neo-Pagan revival of the late 19th century and the resurgence of Kabballah and the hybrid of Egyptian magic and Greek philosophy, Hermeticism, a great deal of new things were added to traditional Medieval Occultism. New branches that mixed pagan concepts and many New Ageisms with classical Occult esoterica arose and fought for publicity and dominance as people like Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley sought to leave their marks on the religions of the world. But from Plato’s Timaeus from which the basic root concepts of Hermeticism were taken and nurtured by Alexandria’s religious scholars, to the alchemists of the Renaissance, there was only one God in the Occult universe.