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Book Review: 'Occult America'

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

Review: 'Occult America'
by Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express, Feb 21, 2010
"From the earliest German Rosicrucian renegades to Shakers, Mormons, Masons and the prophets of spiritualism and faith healing, Horowitz builds a basis for understanding the national urge to transcend ordinarily reality and imbue it with palpable, understandable residues of the divine.

With sharp wit and factual detail, he ranges from describing America's long-standing and continuing obsession with the Ouija board to relating the origins and continuing influence of the Theosophical Society. Founder Henry Steel Olcott — allied with famed medium Helena Petrovna Blavatsky — brought an amalgam of spiritualism, bizarre scenarios of human evolution and the teachings of the "Masters of the East" to Americans hungry for a coherent alternative spirituality.
[...]
Remarkable for its breadth, "Occult America" has some significant omissions. There is no serious treatment of the problem of "cultism" in the occult or the practice of negative and abusive mind control. His epilogue on New Age spirituality is a good overview but passes too lightly over elements of interest — from UFOS to Wicca and hatha yoga — that gained popular followings during the '80s and '90s.

Nevertheless, Horowitz sums up this exceptional book with a short list of core contemporary American spiritual beliefs that have become widespread and derive from their occult movement predecessors. It's worth a read to see if something one might believe to be true was also once "occult.""
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