I discovered Occult America by Mitch Horowitz a few years ago and the book forever changed the way I write dark fantasy and horror. His eloquent and insightful approach to the study of the occult is fascinating. Mitch Horowitz is a nationally known writer, speaker, and publisher in alternative spirituality as well as vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin, the division of Penguin books dedicated to metaphysical literature. Deepak Chopra called his work “brilliant” and I would agree. Mitch and I talked about his new book as well as some of his other studies. We also discussed the impact of the Salem Witch Hysteria of 1692, a personal interest of mine. Let me introduce you to Mitch Horowitz.
You have a new book out, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on your childhood and upbringing? You open the book with that story and I’m curious how that’s brought you to where you are today.
I grew up in a traditionally Jewish household and I had an Orthodox Bar Mitzvah. Judaism was a major commitment for me throughout much of my adolescence and into my twenties; but I later came to feel that my search was impelling me toward a variety of ideas and traditions, and diffuse psychological and spiritual methods.
From very early on in childhood I felt strongly that spirituality could be—should be—practical. That’s something that many people wrestle with. Some people have well-formed and sensitive objections to the idea that the spiritual experience should be in any way driven by practicality or cause and effect, or by some kind of transactional prayer. But I’ve felt that spirituality, like any system of self-development, should produce evident changes in the quality and experience of the individual’s life.
Thorn earned a B.A. in American History from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.A. from Duquesne University. He has spent the last twenty years researching mysticism and the occult in colonial American history.