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Esoteric and Occult is a broad category embracing religious and mystical traditions and practices throughout history which have served as alternatives to mainstream religions. Esoteric and Occult also encompasses secret societies, underground groups and unusual activities that fall within occultism, meaning the study of hidden things, that is, the hidden structure of reality and of humanity.

The esoteric movement in the West began with Græco-Roman traditions of magic and mystery, and has continued to the present day through such well-known traditions as Neo-Platonism, Alchemy, Kabala, and Theosophy.

Egyptian and other ancient religions have long been of esoteric interest although they are not truly alternative; they were mainstream religions in their native cultures, and only became esoteric after they were revived centuries or millennia later. These revivals have sometimes embraced traditions of questionable historicity such as occult Templarism and medieval Witchcraft, as well as real traditions seen through a distorted historical lens.

Since the 19th century many Western esotericists have cultivated interests in Eastern mysticism as well. Yoga is commonly practiced by esotericists today, and modern occult conceptions have been strongly influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, especially as interpreted by Theosophy and Thelema.

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Last update: Friday, May 30, 2014 5:15:04 AM EDT - edit