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November 20, 2013 to August 25, 2014
Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University
The word occult describes a broad variety of ideas, beliefs, and practices. For some, the term has an entirely negative connotation, referring to black magic, devil worship and other such scary stuff. And some simply laugh at anything occult-related. But for many others, the term is applied liberally to a host of familiar interests, including astrology, Spiritualism, divination, magic, Tarot, alchemy, extra-sensory perception or ESP, and many types of 'pseudoscience' including palmistry, phrenology and numerology. The unifying theme along the way remains stepping outside of the mortal coil to explore the mysterious side of the universe.
However which way you define occult, it is true that a dichotomy of opposing practices may be found throughout the Western Esoteric Tradition, one tending toward the benevolent and the other, toward the malicious. Referred to as the Right-Hand and Left-Hand Paths, these opposing practices involve, in simpler terms, the use of white and black magic. Students of the Western Esoteric Tradition are as diverse as students of any other discipline, so resulting views vary wildly. A surprising number of organized religions also feature occult elements, including Neo-paganism, Wicca, Vodun (voodoo), Santería, Qabalah, and New Age - as well as some schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, in fact.
In 2005, Hugh C. Hyde, known for his continued support of SDSU’s Living Writers series, made a generous donation of books belonging to his father, Lawrence Kaye Hyde. The collection, referred to by Kaye as his "occult library,” features over 2,000 titles on esoteric topics including the great majority of titles in this exhibit. Special Collections invites you to explore the secret teachings and many mysteries of the universe through the eyes of scholars, philosophers, mystics, whack jobs, and maniacs. We suspect you may be surprised to find occult roots in something very ordinary and familiar to you.