OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

OCCULT AMERICA

The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Haphazardly assembled history on the genesis of spirituality and mysticism and its impact on American culture.

Tarcher/Penguin editor in chief and metaphysical enthusiast Horowitz charts the movement of mystical philosophies from their origins in the late 1600s. He begins with young mystic Johannes Kelpius who fled his war-torn German homeland for America, a reputedly safe haven from Old World intolerance for free-thinking people like himself who believed in “breakaway faiths” such as Mormonism and Christian Science. But it was the faction known as the “occult” that most closely unified radical communitarians like Kelpius. Seeking to identify the “mystical doorways of realization and secret ways of knowing,” Horowitz asserts that occultism brought forth a revolutionized thought process but concurrently generated a newfound fear in the unseen and the unknown among nonbelievers. The Shakers, having laid ground in central and western New York State in the late 1700s, created a sanctuary for folk religions and their evangelism. Self-proclaimed prophets sought out angels to deliver divine guidance as the freemasonry brotherhood prospered alongside mesmerists and seers. This gave rise to the popularity of Mary Todd Lincoln and a host of politically fueled Spiritualists. The astounding sales of Ouija boards, the rise of the New Thought movement, media evangelist Frank B. Robinson’s faith sensation Psychiana and New Age psychic healer Edgar Cayce all precipitated the negative criticism occultism received as it was blamed for everything from world conspiracy theories to Nazi fascism. Horowitz confines his research to decades far removed from contemporary times; those interested in the role of modern mysticism should look elsewhere. Though occasionally intriguing, the disorganized dissemination of information amounts to a mishmash of dates and occurrences within chapters rather than a uniform chronicle.

A hodgepodge of theocracy and occultism.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-553-80675-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2009




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