Mitch Horowitz is an internationally known occult historian and is the author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation which won the 2010 PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Award. Horowitz has appeared on The History Channel, The Montel Williams Show, Coast to Coast AM, Dateline NBC, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, American Radio Journal and most cable networks in addition to several prior interviews here at disinfo which can be found here.
I recently connected with Mitch after learning about his research on spiritual writer and lecturer Neville Goddard, who up to that point I was unfamiliar with. From Mitch’s excellent article “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher” we learn this of his legacy:
“The words of spiritual writer and lecturer Neville Goddard retain their power to electrify more than forty years after his death. In a sonorous, clipped tone that was preserved on thousands of tape recordings made during his lifetime, and now widely circulated online, Neville asserted with complete ease what many would find fantastical: The human imagination is God – and our thoughts create our world, in the most literal sense.
Neville Goddard was perhaps the last century’s most intellectually substantive and charismatic purveyor of the philosophy generally called New Thought. He wrote more than ten books under the solitary pen name Neville, and was a popular speaker on metaphysical themes from the late 1930s until his death in 1972.”
Below I present to you an interview with Mitch in which we delve into the work, life and times of Neville Goddard himself.
Q: Who is Neville Goddard?
MH: Neville, who wrote and spoke under his first name, was an spiritual philosopher and mystic born to an English family in Barbados in 1905. He developed a simple, radical metaphysical philosophy that centers on the principle that your imagination is God. In Neville’s teaching, the God of the New and Old Testaments is a metaphor for the human imagination, and everything that you experience is your emotionalized thoughts and mental pictures concretized in outer life. Scripture, Neville taught, is a blueprint of man’s psychological development, culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, which Neville describes as a process of inner unfoldment that awaits all people. He was the most elegant and challenging figure to emerge from modern New Thought, and I think his writings will attain the greatest posterity of any figure from the mind-power tradition. Neville is far more popular today than he was at the time of his death in West Hollywood in 1972.
Q: How has your life been impacted by his teachings?
MH: I believe there is essential truth in Neville’s teaching, and I work constantly to test and experiment with his ideas in my life. Although his method of mental imagery and feeling states is very simple, it requires great patience and steady application. I receive enough “green lights” to continue working with it. The implications of Neville’s ideas about the true nature of our minds are extraordinary, and represent the closest mystical analog to quantum theory, so I find this a worthy lifelong experiment.
Q: How did you discover Neville?
MH: In the summer of 2003 I was in a period where I felt that my life was directionless. I was working in corporate publishing and felt that I wasn’t doing anything of distinction. I had stopped writing and, as I entered my late-thirties, I felt that part of life had been permanently left behind. Then, some friends of mine who ran Science of Mind magazine approached me to ask if I would interview major-league pitcher Barry Zito. Barry was a rising superstar pitching for the Oakland A’s, and later for the Giants became the hero of the 2012 World Series. He was known for using mind metaphysics as a core part of his training regimen. Landing this interview was a very big “get” for the magazine, and they approached me feeling that they could trust me to handle it. I interviewed Barry for a feature article, and during our conservation he remarked, “You must really be into Neville.” I had never heard the name. I was intrigued and immediately got hold of Neville’s book Resurrection, which he published in 1966, and which many of his followers and students call their personal favorite. I was absolutely entranced. Writing about Barry and discovering Neville played a large role in rediscovering myself as a writer. I wrote a historical profile of Neville for Science of Mind in early 2005, and it gave me a sense of direction for myself as a historian of alternative spirituality. Soon I began writing books and narrating audio books, including many of Neville’s own works. In a very real sense, finding Neville meant finding myself. Today I have a large tattoo of him on my left upper arm in tribute (see above).
Q: What does Neville’s teachings have to offer the modern spiritual seeker?
MH: Above all, Neville offers a radical thesis about potential of human nature, and an ethic of extremist self-responsibility. Even if one doesn’t agree with Neville’s conception of the mind—and he would continually challenge listeners simply to experiment with his ideas—it is still a worthy exercise to act as though it is true. What would your life be like, how would you challenge old patterns, behaviors, and habitual thoughts and emotive states, if you knew that each one held tremendously high personal stakes? My challenge to people is not whether Neville is correct, but rather to consider how your life would change if you simply, even as a matter of personal experimentation, assumed him to be correct. His outlook would elevate your sense of existence and accountability. I say: go and try. And you may, in the end, be persuaded of his metaphysics, as well.
Q: Where did you get your 1946 original of his pamphlet “The Search”?
MH: I’m always hunting around for originals of Neville’s work. He wrote his own flap copy and some of it is quite stirring. This was written about one of his books Awakened Imagination, which he published in 1954: “…we heartily commend it to all thoughtful readers, especially those who lament the ‘decay of experimental religion’.” I like that phrase “experimental religion.”
Q: Why did you name one of your current workshops in NYC “Magician of the Beautiful?
MH: That was a term Neville used himself in The Search—he had a mystical vision in which he was healing people of all kinds of physical maladies and disfigurements, and he wrote: “As I came near, without thought or effort on my part they were, one after the other, molded as by the Magician of the Beautiful.” Neville was a personally a very elegant man, I found that term, Magician of the Beautiful, a good description of him.
Q: How would describe the value of Neville’s work to someone who is not familiar with him?
MH: I would say he was a man with one radical thesis—that the human imagination is God—who left us not a doctrine but rather with articles of experimentation. Is it worth an hour or so of your life to experiment with a new conception of human possibility? It requires nothing more than focusing your emotionalized thoughts and mental images.
Q: Where can people find more information about Neville and his teachings?
MH: There is a true renaissance of Neville’s thought online today. Nearly all of his ten books are in public domain and can easily be found on the web—though I recommend buying proper editions. These are works to venerate. I published several at TarcherPerigee. I have narrated audio editions of many of Neville’s works. And, perhaps most significantly, you can listen to hundreds of his lectures in his own voice, which are now digitized and easy to find on YouTube and elsewhere. During his lifetime, Neville allowed listeners to freely tape his lectures, which has gone a long way in preserving his work. Hearing the man’s voice, and his effortless, preternaturally calm and confident delivery, is an experience not to be missed. Finally, you can read my biographical article, “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher.”
Q: Will you be doing your series of workshops that includes “Magician of the Beautiful” in any other locations in the coming months?
MH: I recently completed that cycle of three lectures on mind metaphysics at Alchemist’s Kitchen in New York. I’d be happy to repeat the series. The lectures were also live streamed. You can watch the final evening on Neville right here.