Throughout the ages, many great scientific minds subscribed to not so scientific ideologies. In fact, science, religion, and the occult share a rich intertwined history. From the very beginning humanity, (a curious species by nature) sought to explain the phenomena, in the world around them.
A great example of this curiosity (found in early Paleolithic cave paintings) originated some 15,000 years ago, in the caverns located, in Lascaux, France. These cave pictographs depicted the fascination that early humanity had not only with their earthly environment, but also with the heavens above.
As early human cultures marveled at the surreal world around them (seeking to explain the unexplainable without even the rudimentary knowledge of advanced mathematics) they used the one thing they had in abundance their imagination.
As time progressed and our knowledge base grew so did the grandiosity of our supernatural explanations of a natural world beyond our comprehension. Therefore, as you might expect many of the earliest sciences were more faction than science.
For example, Astrology was the great grandfather of the current scientific field of astronomy. Astrology sought to explain the physical world around us in terms of planetary position and motion. Even the most primitive of cultures (like the aforementioned cave dwellers living in France) showed knowledge of the constellations, in the night sky. And, as humanity is so fond of doing, we attached a friendly face to the stars. Depicting the constellations as familiar animals readily found in our terrestrial environment.
The Hebrews also revered the supernatural. Their beliefs incorporated numbers into every facet of their lives. The importance of numbers as a supernatural force becomes readily apparent as you read the Old Testament. In fact, the mystical attributions of numerical values play a major role in just about every major event, in the bible. Numerology and the Kabala definitely gave humanity a deeper appreciation for numbers and encouraged the study of their relationship with world around us.
Taking this fascination with numbers a step farther, advanced mathematics shows us another discipline intermingled with the occult. Many do not realize that Pythagoras (by far one of the most well known mathematicians of ancient or modern times) embraced the esoteric and the occult. Seeing significance in numbers, he developed the monads, dyads, triads, and tetrads.
These fundamental principles not only formed a cornerstone for advanced Geometry, but also the foundation for Music theory, physics, and engineering. He also provided our first look at the concept of "multiple intelligences". (Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice) Pythagoras believed that each of these four aspects (monads, dyads, triads, and tetrads) correlated with a different type of "intelligence".
Not only did ancient science and philosophy intermingle with the occult, but so did modern science. Some of the most famous household names, in Psychology, like Freud and Jung both subscribed to esoteric beliefs. They saw archetypal imagery in the Tarot deck and in some instances used them as therapeutic tools.
Although science would like to think itself separate from the occult, separating the two would be like trying to separate a child’s DNA from its parents. Whether or not science would like to admit it, many of our modern day disciplines would not exist without their esoteric counterparts.
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice New York: Perseus Books. http://www.howardgardner.com/MI/mi.html