Occult America

Occult America

The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation

Book - 2009
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Random House, Inc.
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 nation’s earliest days to the birth of the New Age era and traces many people and episodes, including:

•The spirit medium who became America’s 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 America’s 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.

Baker & Taylor
From the meaning of the symbols on the one-dollar bill to the origins of the Ouija board,"Occult America" briskly sweeps from the nation's earliest days of mystical and esoteric movements to the birth of the New Age era, tracing the many people and episodes that continue to exert such a powerful pull on the public today.

Book News
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)

Baker
& Taylor

Traces America's relationship with occult movements and thinkers, covering such topics as Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and transcendentalism movements; the origins of the Ouija board; and the practices of famous historical figures.
Traces America's unique relationship with occult movements and thinkers, providing meticulously researched coverage of such topics as the Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and transcendentalism movements; the origins of the Ouija board; and the practices of famous historical figures.

Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, 2009
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780553806755
0553806750
Branch Call Number: 130 HOR
Characteristics: 290 p. ; 22 cm

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abcDena
Apr 22, 2016

This book reads more like a collection of trivia on the subject rather than a linear story on the development of America and occult attitudes. Still, for history lovers, it's an interesting read and a springing board to more complex or detailed material.

I'd recommend this for people with a passing interest in US history and/or the occult itself.

j
Janice21383
Feb 12, 2014

Uncritical anecdotes regarding woo woo. The author's treatment of the Millerites, a 19th century millennial sect, is an example. He defends them against charges of giving away their possessions and winding up their affairs as "exaggerated" -- based on, so far as I can tell, nothing -- and praises them for their industry and thrift. But he fails to note: a) they thought the fricking world was coming to an end, and b) the world did not, in fact, come to an end.

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