Tag Archives: American Studies

Author Response: “The Occult and the Making of American Religion”

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

Discussions about the occult tend to stir passions, which is natural because we’ve been raised to regard occult spirituality as something diabolical or just strange. I argue in Occult America that mystical and supernatural-themed religions are communities of belief and should be understood as a vital part of America’s religious development – indeed we can’t really understand our religious past (and present) without coming to terms with them.  They have exerted a remarkable influence on mainstream life.

To reply to Juan Oskar’s good question about feudalism and the European church, Continue reading

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The Occult and the Making of American Religion

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

In 1970, philosopher Jacob Needleman opened a new discussion about religion in America. His book The New Religions was one of the first scholarly works to consider esoteric and alternative religious movements not as oddball trends but as forces that reflected a serious and widespread search for meaning among young Americans.

A generation later, this discussion has been expanded by a broad range of mainstream religious scholars – from Catherine Albanese to Jeffrey J. Kripal to Ann Braude – who are transforming how we understand the nation’s alternative religious culture.  New Age or metaphysical movements are no longer viewed within academia as fringe oddities but as crucial aspects of our religious history. This line of study should be encouraged. Without it, we cannot fully understand the nature of America’s religious life. Continue reading

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