Friday, April 15, 2011

Mitch Horowitz Visits the Rhine Research Center

On Friday, April 8th, the Rhine Research Center was honored to host a presentation by renowned author, publisher, and speaker, Mitch Hororitz.

Mitch’s recent book, Occult America , is highly acclaimed and received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. Mitch is editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin in New york, His credits include innumerable speaking engagements and interviews on such programs as CBS Sunday Morning and Dateline NBC. He has written articles in several well respected newspapers and magazines including the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.

Earlier in the day on Friday, Mitch was interviewed by Frank Stasio on NPR in Chapel Hill. During this time, several of us at the Rhine gathered at a local restaurant where we were to meet him for lunch after he finished..

Having never seen a picture of him, I expected an austere older man, who would be rather stuffy and standoffish. So you can imagine my surprise when Mitch arrived with a bounce in his step and a boyish smile on his face. He introduced himself to all of us in an engaging and particularly unassuming manner which immediately made us all feel comfortable.

This is not to say that he is not a serious or scholarly person, but he presents his ideas in such a way that they are not only understandable but fascinating. He briefly described some of the topics that he would be covering later that evening , everything from Ouija Boards and seances, to Abraham Lincoln, the Freemason Society, and recent Supreme Court decisions to uphold various religious practices.

The lunch hour went by quickly, and I was now really looking forward to the evening program. And Mitch did not disappoint. To a large group of people, he spoke for 90 minutes, nonstop, while the crowd sat mesmerized (pun intended) by his well-researched chronicle of how occult practices sprung up in America, and had an impact not only on religion and spirituality, but also on the social conscience and political movements of the times, right up to the present.

Mitch explained that the term “occult” often has negative connotations and is assumed to be associated either with some form of devil worship or else with ridiculous superstition. His definition, however, is more specifically used to describe the many religious and spiritual groups that came about during the Renaissance and had their roots in the ancient mysteries of Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

On the lighter side, he described how his interest in the occult was first sparked when he was a young child. While at a diner with his “grown-up” family members, he said he became bored., and wandered to the front of the restaurant where there was a variety of novelty and gum machines. One of them, dispensed horoscopes in small plastic tubes which fascinated him,. In purchasing one, he discovered that his horoscope said that he would receive a letter!

Now being only nine years old, and never receiving any mail whatsoever., he was intrigued. And the next day, he did get a letter! ----- No matter that it was only from the local library telling him he had an overdue book! And so began a lifelong passion.

Occult America is a fascinating read and is so detailed that it would be impossible to outline it in these few short paragraphs, but it tells of the way these various spiritual religions sprang up and were allowed to flourish in America as they would be no where else. It describes how they wound their way into our society and had vast influence on our culture and history;. It seems that people from time immemorial have searched for meaning in their lives, and wondered if there was not something greater than themselves that they personally could connect with.

Now, as I read this book , I recognize that these colonies of people were actually the forefathers of what we are doing today at the Rhine. Of course the Rhine is in no way a religious organization, but a rigorous scientific organization. Still, we too are working to discover if there is something bigger than ourselves, be it God, some energy field, or a collective unconscious, that we can access. We work on the premise that the mind is capable of far more than was originally believed, that mind over matter is a possibility. While we now have the advantage of science and technology that those before us did not, our goal is the same, to give to all men (and women!) the ability to have a greater understanding of their capabilities, and to demystify the unknown.

Mitch’s interview at NPR can be heard at
Mitch Horowitz website