Cult vs. Occult

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Cult and Occult is that the Cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel religious, philosophical or spiritual beliefs and practices and Occult is a “knowledge of the paranormal”, as opposed to “knowledge of the measurable”.

  • Cult

    The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. The term itself is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices, although this is often unclear. Other researchers present a less-organized picture of cults on the basis that cults arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices. Groups said to be cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions.

    Beginning in the 1930s, cults became the object of sociological study in the context of the study of religious behavior. From the 1940s the Christian countercult movement has opposed some sects and new religious movements, and it labelled them as cults for their “un-Christian” unorthodox beliefs. The secular anti-cult movement began in the 1970s and it opposed certain groups, often charging them with mind control and partly motivated in reaction to acts of violence committed by some of their members. Some of the claims and actions of the anti-cult movements have been disputed by scholars and by the news media, leading to further public controversy.

    The term “new religious movement” refers to religions which have appeared since the mid-1800s. Many, but not all of them, have been considered to be cults. Sub-categories of cults include: Doomsday cults, political cults, destructive cults, racist cults, polygamist cults, and terrorist cults. Various national governments have reacted to cult-related issues in different ways, and this has sometimes led to controversy.

  • Occult

    The occult (from the Latin word occultus “clandestine, hidden, secret”) is “knowledge of the hidden”. In common English usage, occult refers to “knowledge of the paranormal”, as opposed to “knowledge of the measurable”, usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that “is meant only for certain people” or that “must be kept hidden”, but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult, in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.

    It also describes a number of magical organizations or orders, the teachings and practices taught by them, and to a large body of current and historical literature and spiritual philosophy related to this subject.

  • Cult (noun)

    A group or sect of people with a religious, philosophical or cultural identity, often existing on the margins of society or exploitative towards its members.

  • Cult (noun)

    Devotion to a saint.

  • Cult (noun)

    A religion that evolved out of another religion but has become a different religion through developing a radically different theology.

    “Mormonism is a cult of Christianity because it evolved out of Christianity and claims to be Christian but rejects parts of the Bible and other foundational doctrines of the Christian religion.”

  • Cult (noun)

    A group of people having an obsession with or intense admiration for a particular activity, idea, person or thing.

  • Cult (adjective)

    Of or relating to a cult.

  • Cult (adjective)

    Enjoyed by a small, loyal group.

    “a cult horror movie”

  • Occult (verb)

    To cover or hide from view.

    “The Earth occults the Moon during a lunar eclipse.”

  • Occult (verb)

    To dissimulate, conceal, or obfuscate.

  • Occult (adjective)

    Secret; hidden from general knowledge; undetected.

    “occult blood loss;”

    “occult cancer”

  • Occult (adjective)

    Related to the occult; pertaining to mysticism, magic, or astrology.

    “Be aware that occult knowledge can be used for good or evil purposes. ― Pao Chang, “Words Are Magic Spells: Why You Practice the Occult Every Day”,”

  • Occult (adjective)


  • Occult (noun)

    Supernatural affairs.

  • Cult (noun)

    a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object

    “the cult of St Olaf”

  • Cult (noun)

    a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members

    “a network of Satan-worshipping cults”

  • Cult (noun)

    a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular thing

    “the cult of the pursuit of money as an end in itself”

  • Cult (noun)

    a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society

    “a cult film”

    “the series has become a bit of a cult in the UK”

  • Occult (noun)

    mystical, supernatural, or magical powers, practices, or phenomena

    “a secret society to study alchemy and the occult”

  • Occult (adjective)

    involving or relating to mystical, supernatural, or magical powers, practices, or phenomena

    “an occult ceremony”

    “a weird occult sensation of having experienced the identical situation before”

  • Occult (adjective)

    communicated only to the initiated; esoteric

    “the typically occult language of the time”

  • Occult (adjective)

    (of a disease or process) not accompanied by readily discernible signs or symptoms

    “careful palpation sometimes discloses occult spina bifida”

  • Occult (adjective)

    (of blood) abnormally present, e.g. in faeces, but detectable only chemically or microscopically.

  • Occult (verb)

    cut off from view by interposing something

    “a wooden screen designed to occult the competitors”

  • Occult (verb)

    (of a celestial body) conceal (an apparently smaller body) from view by passing or being in front of it

    “the Moon occults Mars during daylight on March 22”

Oxford Dictionary

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