College of Arts and Sciences | Occult in Western Civilizations
E104 | 11591 | Newman

COLL-E 104 11591 Occult in Western Civilizations (Newman W) (S & H) (3
10:10AM - 11:00AM MW

The occult is a theme that is deeply ingrained in the history of
Western Civilization.  From antiquity to the present, segments of our
society have laid claim to an esoteric wisdom that could only be
revealed to those who are worthy of its exercise.  Such "occult"
pursuits as alchemy, astrology, and magic played an important role in
the formation of modern science during the scientific revolution of
seventeenth century, and subsequently had a major impact on poetry,
music and the pictorial arts.  And yet, if we considered pursuits that
are usually deemed to make up "the occult," it is remarkable how
little these fields have to do with one another. What does alchemy,
and artisanal pursuit related to metallurgy, have in common with
divinatory practices such as astrology, oneiromancy, or
crystal-gazing?  What does witchcraft have to do with extraterrestrial
life?  The occult in Western Civilization will answer these questions
and others.  It will also argue that the occult sciences-especially
alchemy, astrology, and natural magic-were originally predicted on
quite reasonable bases consistent with the best science and philosophy
of their time, however, they may have been altered in late
twentieth-century culture.  By thinking carefully about the
relationships among science, philosophy, and those disciplines
traditionally classified as "occult" students will learn about the
nature of scientific knowledge more generally.  The basic goals of the
course, then, will be to instill a historical understanding of the
occult while at the same time stimulating philosophical reflection on
the nature of scientific knowledge in general.