Focusing on the impact that the 19th-century movements of Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and transcendentalism have had on America, Horowitz portrays a colorful cast of characters as he explains the origins of the Ouija board, the political influence of Spiritualism on the Senate, and the source of the mysterious slogan on the back of the dollar bill.
©2009 Mitch Horowitz; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"What a fascinating book. So it happens that another equally compelling take on our complicated national narrative lies just beneath the surface of things, not the grand procession of presidents, generals, and wars but something more hidden, more mysterious, but often no less revealing." (Ken Burns, award-winning documentary filmmaker)
Those serious about understanding America and Americans will find Occult America a fascinating and indispensable addition to their libraries. This book fills in some puzzling blanks in the nation's history as it is usually told, exploring the realities and personalities behind the Burned-Over District, Mesmerism, the importation of Eastern philosophy, and even the Ouija Board. Horowitz argues convincingly that spiritualism and mysticism never served as mere sideshows as American society developed, but rather they shaped profoundly the way we think today.
The book will perhaps find its most appreciative audience among readers who, like me, are "not typically given to occult enthusiasms" (as the author describes one mid-20th century writer), yet hope to understand the origins of the New Age philosophies that now run through so much of American thinking. Listening to Occult America, I was repeatedly impressed at Horowitz's ability to recount the course and effects of spiritualism in America without falling into either of the side-by-side traps of open-minded credulity or of snooty dismissiveness. The writing is lively and witty, and Paul Michael Garcia's narration matches the style and the subject well.
This book is not what I expected. I thought it was going to be similar to Dan Brown's "Lost Symbol" who book deals with occult symbols and Mason influences on our young nation.
Instead this book is about the origins of what we today know of as "new age ideas" in America and how these ideas influenced our culture and how many of its ideas were adopted by our major religions.
This ranges from the origins of "positive thinking" to Edgar Cayce. Its also about modern astrology, tarot, and the "mystic wisdom of the ages".
Great book. Well researched and well read.
The only problem I have with it is with what he sees as occult. He doesn't really mention Mormanism, Scientology, and other fringe religions of the U.S. for example.
For those that have loved the Quija or read thier horoscopes in the newspaper this book is a most.
I would recommend this to friends because it summarizes the roots of the occult in America.
I saw the roots of what is now the occult. I also learned details that I had not know before.
I was curious to hear about the darker side of the occult as I know its out there and most likely related to what was discuss. I know there is a whole practice related to Aliester Crowley, which is only mentioned in passing in this book several times. There are other occult practices that have large followings as well that were not discussed and, again, most likely come out of what was discussed.
I found this book very helpful in piecing many things together. It is amazing to see how the occult has played a role in the lives of many leaders of America and Europe. But, I was disappointed when the author did not address some major elements of the self-help programs that find their roots in the occult. Here I am specifically thinking of the AA 12-Step programs that were initiated with Bill Wilson. He started under the Oxford Group Movement which later changed its name to Moral Rearmament. They incorporated occult ideas. It is also well known that Bill Wilson attended many seances and perhaps even wrote the 12-Steps under the influence of praeternatural beings in sessions of automatic writing. Also, I was waiting to hear about the various groups that influence Hollywood and other figures that shape our country through the media. What about Charles Manson and the Process? What about Charles Manson and Scientology? What about the occult and the use of drugs like LSD? These things have greatly influenced us...as the book "Turn Off Your Mind" by Gary Lachman explains. Still, I would recommend this book even though it is deficient in providing a more complete picture.
Since books on occultism are very rare in audiobook form, it is difficult to find good ones. The chapters in this book seemed like it might have been dull, but it was not. Even to someone well versed in occult history, there was a wealth of information explored very intimately here. A good achievement in esoteric literature.
Peter Levenda's "The Secret Temple" is very similar. It is also somewhat juicier and written from a more esoteric perspective. "Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies" by Arthur Goldwag covers more material but is not quite as in-depth.
He is sort of the ideal narrator because he reads in a way that is very matter-of-fact without too much inflection to influence the tone f the actual text.
"Little known streams of occult philosophy and activity operating within infuential circles and movements in occult history."
Informative and well written. My grandmother told stories of and believed in the faith-healers, seances and spiritualism that were commonplace in her youth (US during the late 1800's and early 1900's). These were not "out there", but commonly held beliefs in the lower middle class of America during this time.
Fat balding hippy.
So far, the best esoteric book I've found here yet.
Just wish it was longer and went into even greater depth. Some times it seems like it is giving a Cliff Notes overview, other times it goes into exhaustive depth.
Will buy the book when it comes out in paperback this October.
Wish someone would make 'Secret Teaching Of All Ages' an audio book.
Given that I am on the go a lot, the audible version is highly convenient to listen to on not so short drives. It was a joy to listen to. Because of its convenience, I prefer listening to a book read, than reading it. It also spares my eyes from the stress of having to stare at a page, regardless of what one's speed of reading is.
Given the information is accurate, I like knowing more about America's history; the history not taught in conventional learning institutions.
It's hard to say; he's very good at all of them. But I would probably lean more towards the one with the southern drawl of the ex-slave. Fredrick Douglas? Maybe.
Interesting that I am asked this question; I am a TV Production major. I actually like the title of the book, "Occult America" and its sub-title as a film title. If done well, it would make for a great documentary.
This book among my other references, will certainly be used as a reference in the future, when necessary.
It is an interesting subject. However I am not sure I learned very much from this book. I am not sure I can cover how mysticism shape our nation after listening to it.
I was really looking forward to this book. I did learn that the occult was a much larger part of life in the United States than I thought it ever was.
The part I didn't like was that the author seemed to provide lists of people involved in the occult. What I would have been interested in is how the occult movements affected society.
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