Mitch Horowitz and “Occult America” pt.2

In podcast episode 71, our good friend Mitch Horowitz returns for the second part of our conversation about his excellent new book, Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation published by Bantam (if you haven’t already, please listen to the first part of the interview – Mitch Horowitz and “Occult America” pt.1). Mitch is the editor-in-chief of Tarcher / Peguin in New York and has also been our guest previously in podcast 21, Podcast 42 – The Life and Work of Paul Foster Case, and Podcast 48 – The Life and Work of Col. Henry Steel Olcott.

Mitch begins this interview by recounting the story of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Smith was raised in the Burned-over district in upstate New York and he and his family were steeped in supernatural ideas and practices, including astrology and magic. Knowledge of the occult and folklore traditions of the Burned-over District are integral to understanding Smith and his family. For example, as a young man, Smith earned money using “seer stones” to find buried treasure.

Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, VT

Mitch explains how the background knowledge about Joseph Smith may allow us to understand his later experiences that led to the founding of his church in a different way. Smith was also a Freemason and Masonic philosophy, rites, and symbols influenced his religious practices.

Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial inscription

Next, Mitch reviews the origins and continued popularity of the Ouija Board. Although it is marketed as a toy or game, there are many examples of paranormal activity associated with its use.

an English Ouija board

Last, Mitch delves into the story of Edgar Cayce. An extremely popular medium, Cayce is notable for the tremendous number of accurate predictions and readings that he gave while in a trance state. Mitch also highlights the high moral character of Cayce and its importance in the growth of New Age ideas and philosophies.

Again, I highly recommend Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz. It is a well-researched, well-written and a crucial record of the hidden history of the United States.

The chapter about Paul Foster Case from Occult America is now available in the Occult of Personality Membership Section.

relevant links:

Mitch Horowitz

Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz

Mitch Horowitz and “Occult America” pt.1

Podcast 42 – The Life and Work of Paul Foster Case

Podcast 48 – The Life and Work of Col. Henry Steel Olcott

Burned-over District” Wikipedia entry

Joseph Smith, Jr.” Wikipedia entry

The Magus” by Francis Barrett

Three Books of Occult Philosophy” by Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim

Book of Mormon” Wikipedia entry

Mormonism” Wikipedia entry

Latter Day Saint movement” Wikipedia entry

William Morgan (anti-Mason)” Wikipedia entry

Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial” Wikipedia entry

Ouija” Wikipedia entry

The Changing Light at Sandover” Wikipedia entry

Edgar Cayce” Wikipedia entry

Association for Research and Enlightenment

intro music by HipGnosis

background music by Darkfold – “Nomads”

outro music by William Zeitler – “The Fixed Stars, the Frontier to the Beyond

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jennifer Emick September 17, 2009, 9:40 AM

    Very nice…I’ll have to check out this book…

  • kirk charles November 13, 2009, 6:11 PM

    Thanks for the “Occult America” interviews. Look forward to reading the book.

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