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Secrets of the Occult

Learn the secret knock and access the hidden mysteries of the occult—a world full of magic and mysteries that is much bigger than you may expect.
Secrets of the Occult is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 35.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from I liked this but the name and content don't match This should've been called the history of modern occultism or something to that effect. "Secrets of the occult" sort of implies occult principles would be a larger part of the course. I found this interesting, don't get me wrong but the name just doesn't match what you get.
Date published: 2024-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical and Contemporary Value I perceive this course as a very well organized as well as a fair and objective approach, to the teaching of our historical and contemporary aspects of fantasy enmeshing with reality, and of good versus evil existing in our world and introduces repetitively, the recurrence upon the value of intentions; and leaving with the student, a confidence and belief that forces of that which is unseen is, within our capability, to control our own destiny as we, choose to, whether we believe it - or, not. Love these lectures and look forward to more teachings by Professor Richard Spence.
Date published: 2023-10-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sensationalistic If I don't know the answer to a math problem, that doesn't mean all answers are equally likely. And if you don't know the answer to the problem, that doesn't make it more likely that my guess is correct. I believe it is hazardous to present as educational information presented in such a sensationalistic matter that he remains "devoutly agnostic," I think he calls it. He uses anecdotes including using a Ouija board and experiencing something he can't explain to allow the listener to balance the hypothesis: 'Ouija boards are magical' with 'it's a board with letters on it' as though those hypotheses equally likely. For him to use sensationalism and personal anecdotes to promote an equality among hypotheses is all the more irresponsible on Wondrium when you identify as a 'historian.' I listened to this course and I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but with the discrediting factors already mentioned, I wasn't able to distinguish between what constitutes as evidence and fanciful storytelling.
Date published: 2023-09-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I wish this stuck to facts and not fantasy The history of the occult is pretty fascinating, but I can't stand it when people treat speculation as fact. The last straw was the Werewolves, Vampires and Zombies episode where he goes on about Peter Stumpp's confession, and despite everthing this poor fellow said about himself was extracted by torture or the threat of it, our lecturer treats this as a confession of real behavior, going on to speculate that he really did have a wolf-belt, and that he really was a serial killer and satanist, "probably" inducted by a family member?? This is still during the Inquisition years, remember and people seemed to have less mortal fear of the sin of bearing false witness than whatever motives made them accuse others of witchery, werewolvery, cannibalism and the like. This series undermines my confidence in the rest of Wondrium since it seems they are curating these "courses" for entertainment only, not educational value.
Date published: 2023-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course - bad production This course dosen't fail as a lesson on the occult, but it does as a visual production of lectures. The set - as it is - is little more than an empty room witht he professor sat in a chair that looks like it came form his home. There is also little visual support for the lectures or the occult as a whole. Mostly, it comprises of the teacher sat in his chair, overly lit talking about the topic at hand from multiple angles. The productioin is closer to something I would expect from Public Access TV than from the Teaching Company. And that's a shame because this course is both comprehensive and entertaining. Richard Spence is a quality lecturer and this is evident during this series. He has a skeptics eye and wry sence of humor when speaking about his subjects. He is not a man to fully buy into any of the topics he lectures about. And when dealing with a shadow movement that is full of charlatans, he is not averse to presenting it as so. He is also well versed in his subjects, exposing certain movements or connections that I did would not associate with the Occult as a whole. After watching this series I felt that it was wortht he 24 episodes alloted to it. But the production was too poor for me to give it five stars and I felt a real studio with props and better visual support would have made this lecture series one of my favorties.
Date published: 2023-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Right Guy For The Job Richard B Spence is a delight. Serving up tales of the weird and wonderful with a nice dose of tasteful sarcasm. I wouldn't trust an occult enthusiast who didn't have a sense of humor. He also delves deep into several topics I've only seen superficially covered elsewhere. Or covered for sensationalism, and not to try and seek a pattern, or build a thesis. The occult has indeed been around forever, I'd watch him do an entire class expanding on any one episode. Especially when he speaks about the occult in russian history.
Date published: 2023-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent intro to the occult I planned on listening to this while doing cardio at the gym and found myself listening to it throughout the whole workout and plan on listening to it again.
Date published: 2023-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ultimately fascinating A fine in depth review of Occultism. I felt the lectures started a little slowly, but the second half of the series is amazing. That is not to say the first half is dull. Far from it. But it lays a lot of the groundwork for the later discussions. I highly recommend this to anyone who is remotely interested in the occult.
Date published: 2023-01-17
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In the 24 illuminating episodes of Secrets of the Occult, you will see that the mystic and obscure are threaded through our ordinary lives in more ways than you may realize. This revealing course is taught by Richard B. Spence, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho, and covers a wide array of subjects and experiences that fall under the umbrella of the occult and stretch from the ancient world to the 21st century.


Richard B. Spence

A key theme is that human history, behavior and reality are governed not by what we know but by what we believe.


University of Idaho

Richard B. Spence is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho. He holds a PhD in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also taught as a visiting assistant professor. His research areas include Russian and military history, espionage, occultism, secret societies, anti-Semitism, and true crime. He is the author of several books, including Trust No One: The Secret World of Sidney Reilly and Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult. He has also been a contributor for HISTORY®.

By This Professor

The Secret World of Espionage
True Crime: Decoding the Evidence
Crimes of the Century: A Selective History of Infamy
Secrets of the Occult
The Real History of Secret Societies
Secrets of the Occult


What Is the Occult?

01: What Is the Occult?

The occult, in the popular imagination, is often associated with evil, cheap magic tricks and superstitions. But the world of the occult is much deeper and broader than that, encompassing an entire philosophy and way of life for some believers. In this introductory episode, you will consider what the occult really is and how occult practices seek to alter our everyday perspective.

31 min
Fauns, Fairies, and Djinn

02: Fauns, Fairies, and Djinn

Occultism posits that we are surrounded by a hidden world inhabited by intelligent beings that we don’t typically encounter in our everyday lives. These beings—fauns, fairies, pixies, elves, Djinn, and others—speak to something deep in the human psyche. Consider these various “others” and their role in cultures around the world.

29 min
The Christmas Tree and Other Rituals

03: The Christmas Tree and Other Rituals

Here, consider the occult concepts and symbolism embedded in common religious practices across different traditions, including the Christmas tree and Santa Claus, a Native American Ghost Dance of the 19th century American West, and a contemporary inauguration ceremony in Switzerland. What do we hope to accomplish through rituals?

29 min
Practical Magic: Love, Money, and Health

04: Practical Magic: Love, Money, and Health

Are occult techniques just “mental hacks” that allow us to tap into our own natural abilities? Turn now to the utilitarian side of occultism: practical magic. Whether practitioners hope to achieve great wealth, find love, or enact revenge, magical practices have been employed for centuries for protection and to influence the world around us.

26 min
Alchemy, Astrology, and Divination

05: Alchemy, Astrology, and Divination

Consider the three pillars of occultism: alchemy, astrology, and ritual magic. Through an exploration of these physical and cosmic forces, you will get a better understanding of key terms and concepts of the occult, including common practices like Tarot reading, Chinese I-Ching divination, and the Kabbalah.

27 min
Talking with the Dead

06: Talking with the Dead

Can certain individuals actually speak to people beyond the grave? Delve into the world of spirit communication and necromancy from Stone Age shamans to Harry Houdini’s anti-spiritualist crusade of the early 20th century. Along the way, trace the fascinating intersection of spiritualism and literature and witness the invention of the Ouija board.

26 min
The Occult Ancient World

07: The Occult Ancient World

From the late Ice Age to the 14th century, explore the origins and influence of occult ideas and practices. As you examine numerous cultures and practices from around the ancient world, you will consider practices like human sacrifice, effigies, magic spells, divination, and thaumaturgy, as well as early occult practitioners, including Druid shamans and the Knights Templar.

27 min
Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies

08: Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies

Creatures like vampires, werewolves, and zombies have become modern pop culture mainstays, but their origins are much older and more interesting than their current iterations would suggest. Where do these stories of human transformation and walking revenants originate and why do they appear in countless cultures around the world?

29 min
Religious Faith and the Occult

09: Religious Faith and the Occult

Here, consider the very close relationship between mainstream religion and the occult. From snake handling and speaking in tongues to relics and miracle working, you will see how thin the veil is that separates our understanding of established religious practices and their occult origins and will discover where some of the most well-known symbols and rituals were conceived.

29 min
Mysterious Places

10: Mysterious Places

Certain places hold a special fascination for those seeking supernatural activity or occult power. Visit two notorious locales with a reputation for strange occurrences and unique purposes: the ancient structure known as Stonehenge and the famously complex “haunted” house built by the American heiress Sarah Winchester.

30 min
Crime and the Occult

11: Crime and the Occult

Dive into the seedier side of the occult with a look at the superstitions, symbolism, and nefarious deeds that have helped stigmatize occult practices over the centuries. From medieval Italy to 21st-century Mexico, you will see why criminals so often embrace the occult and how this unsavory connection affects our cultural perceptions of occultism.

29 min
UFOs and the Occult

12: UFOs and the Occult

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” With that in mind, explore the surprising connection between the occult and another unexplainable mystery of the universe that began to take hold of the imagination in the mid-20th century: UFOs.

32 min
The Occult Russian Revolution

13: The Occult Russian Revolution

Genuine belief in the occult is often relegated a distant, more superstitious past. But, as you will see, modern history has strong ties to occult beliefs and practices. In this episode, you will meet the “Mad Monk” Rasputin and consider the power of the occult to influence the political transformation of Europe in the 20th century and beyond.

32 min
Hitler, Nazism, and the Occult

14: Hitler, Nazism, and the Occult

Consider an unsettling question: Was Hitler the sole mastermind of the Nazi regime and its monstrous crimes or was he the pawn of darker forces? Reveal the realities of Nazi occultism, a convoluted tangle of charlatanism, appropriation, and pure evil that had horrifying—and very real—consequences.

33 min
The Occult Soviet Union

15: The Occult Soviet Union

Look at the larger context of occult influence in the Red Russia of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin and better understand how the Bolsheviks set out to create a new system of faith and mysticism to replace the pre-Soviet one. Was the Soviet “experiment” simply one vast ritual to manifest a new reality?

32 min
Satanism and the Occult

16: Satanism and the Occult

Is Satanism just an aspect of occultism? Or the essence of it? Is the occult—in all its manifestations—just a gateway drug to evil and damnation? Trace the origins of Satan as far back as the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia and consider the modern manifestations of the devil in figures like Anton LeVay and the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s.

30 min
The Occult Renaissance and Reformation

17: The Occult Renaissance and Reformation

Between the 14th and the 17th centuries, science and the occult began to separate, as a new, mechanical conception of the world arose. And yet, as you will see, the occult never really disappeared, it simply changed with the times. Ponder the mysteries of the Rosicrucians and the occult roots of science.

29 min
Witchcraft and the Occult

18: Witchcraft and the Occult

Take a closer look at witchcraft, one of the best-known, and perhaps most misunderstood, aspects of the occult. Consider what witchcraft really is and how it has been popularly conceived with a look at the controversial work of two 20th-century witchcraft scholars, Margaret Murray and Montague Summers.

29 min
The Occult Enlightenment

19: The Occult Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment saw the ascendance of reason, empiricism, and science, yet mysticism of every sort flourished. Occultism came out of the shadows, and into the mainstream. Take a closer look at the 18th century and see how the decline of religious conviction contributed to the rise of occult scholarship and organizations.

29 min
American Occultism

20: American Occultism

The American melting pot makes for an especially diverse range of uniquely American esoterica. Take a tour of American occultism with a look at colonial witch trials, supernatural locales, caches of hidden knowledge, multicultural magical practices, unique religious sects, and more.

30 min
The Occult’s 19th-Century Revival

21: The Occult’s 19th-Century Revival

Occult beliefs, practice, and organizations have been around virtually forever, often operating out of public view. But as you will discover, the 19th century introduced an “occult revival” that captured the public imagination and sparked renewed interest in spiritualism and the supernatural, with fascinating repercussions.

32 min
Aleister Crowley’s Occult Life

22: Aleister Crowley’s Occult Life

Meet the best-known and most influential occultist of the 20th century, Aleister Crowley, the self-proclaimed Great Beast 666. Discover the real human being behind the notorious occultist, look at what drew him to the occult and how it affected him, and reveal perhaps his greatest secret of all: his work as an agent of British intelligence.

30 min
Popular Occulture

23: Popular Occulture

Take a closer look at the influence of the occult on modern pop culture, including its presence in art, literature, film, and music. Consider such disparate works as Alice in Wonderland, the music of Mozart, and the cult-classic science fiction film Zardoz to better understand the way occult ideas and beliefs shape our entertainment.

29 min
The Techno-Occult

24: The Techno-Occult

Conclude this course by revisiting some of the themes of the previous episodes, while also focusing on the present and future state of the occult. As you explore subjects like lucid dreaming, synchronicity, and even quantum mechanics, consider a fundamental principle of occult philosophy: the illusory nature of reality itself.

30 min