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Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nationby Mitch Horowitz
Synopses & Reviews
It touched lives as disparate as those of Frederick Douglass, Franklin Roosevelt, and Mary Todd Lincoln—who once convinced her husband, Abe, to host a séance in the White House. Americans all, they were among the famous figures whose paths intertwined with the mystical and esoteric movement broadly known as the occult. Brought over from the Old World and spread throughout the New by some of the most obscure but gifted men and women of early U.S. history, this “hidden wisdom” transformed the spiritual life of the still-young nation and, through it, much of the Western world.
Yet the story of the American occult has remained largely untold. Now a leading writer on the subject of alternative spirituality brings it out of the shadows. Here is a rich, fascinating, and colorful history of a religious revolution and an epic of offbeat history.
From the meaning of the symbols on the one-dollar bill to the origins of the Ouija board, Occult America briskly sweeps from the nations earliest days to the birth of the New Age era and traces many people and episodes, including:
•The spirit medium who became Americas first female religious leader in 1776
•The supernatural passions that marked the career of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith
•The rural Sunday-school teacher whose clairvoyant visions instigated the dawn of the New Age
•The prominence of mind-power mysticism in the black-nationalist politics of Marcus Garvey
•The Idaho druggist whose mail-order mystical religion ranked as the eighth-largest faith in the world during the Great Depression
Here, too, are Americas homegrown religious movements, from transcendentalism to spiritualism to Christian Science to the positive-thinking philosophy that continues to exert such a powerful pull on the public today. A feast for believers in alternative spirituality, an eye-opener for anyone curious about the unknown byroads of American history, Occult America is an engaging, long-overdue portrait of one nation, under many gods, whose revolutionary influence is still being felt in every corner of the globe.
Book News Annotation:
Horowitz is the editor in chief of Tarcher/Penguin and a voice for occult and esoteric ideas based in New York City. He describes how mystical and occult ideas and practices have been present in North America since nearly the beginning of European settlement, and have often and constantly been crucial in the development of the US into what it is today. He recounts the history in a series of stories, generally chronological, that include the ouija and the selling of spiritualism the mail-order prophet, the rise of magic in Afro-America, the return of the Secret Teachings, politics and the occult during the New Deal, secrets for sale, and Aquarius rising at the dawn of the New Age. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A feast for believers in alternative spirituality and an eye-opener for anyone curious about the unknown byroads of American history, "Occult America" presents an engaging portrait of one nation, under many gods, whose revolutionary influence is still being felt.
About the Author
Mitch Horowitz is the editor in chief of Tarcher/Penguin. He has written for Esopus, Parabola, Fortean Times, and Science of Mind. A well-known voice for occult and esoteric ideas, Horowitz lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
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