1. Your latest book is “The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality”, so let’s address the 30 million copy selling elephant in the room. How does your book differ from “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne?
I applaud Rhonda’s achievements but her book leaves unsettled the real elephant in the room—which is the persistence of tragedy and catastrophe; what happens when mind-power methods appear not to work; and a theory of why thoughts makes things happen. The Miracle Club is, I hope, a complete journey into all facets of the seeker’s experience. It revives the serious and critical interpretation of New Thought methods that I think we haven’t seen since the death of William James in 1910.
2. What sparked your interest in New Thought?
I came to realize at a certain point in my life, even as I couldn’t always admit it to myself, that my spiritual search is really a search for personal power and agency; I yearned for a spirituality that was, above all, practical and actionable. Some people may be turned off by that, and may feel that I’ve entirely missed the point of the search. But I submit that this is what most of us are after, regardless of what we tell ourselves. New Thought meets the seeker in that place, while also holding to ethical standards.
3. Do you feel like there is a convenient excuse of victim blaming in positive thought circles? Like the chronic pain sufferer who doesn’t experience improvement, they just didn’t want it enough?
Although there isn’t as much “victim blaming” in New Thought circles as critics suppose (often critics who have never attended a single church service or read their way through a New Thought book), some of this does persist. There’s no denying it. My contention is that we live under many laws and forces, of which the mind is one vital part. New Thoughters need to use this idea to develop a theology of suffering, which is something we’ve never fully done. This is increasingly important today as people are dealing with end-of-life issues that weren’t as prevalent at the movement’s founding more than a century ago.
4. You discuss the importance of establishing a moral code before undertaking positive thought work. Why is that?
It’s very easy to fall into an attitude of soft hedonism when using New Thought methods. I’ve done it myself. In order to go through life in a manner that is nonviolent—by which I mean not violating other people’s ability to pursue their own highest aims—it is vital to have some code of honor or ethical or religious teaching at your back. This is one area in which New Thought excels because it stands on gospel ethics.
5. In your book you describe the hypnagogic state, something I’ve never encountered before. Can you explain what it is for my readers and its importance in New Thought?
This is the extremely relaxed state that we all enter just before drifting off to sleep at night or when coming to in the morning. It is a state of mind that can seem dreamy and hallucinogenic, yet one in which we remain cognizant and able to direct our attention. Both sleep researchers and psychical experimenters have discovered that the mind is extremely supple, suggestible, and sensitive at such times. This is a natural state in which to use affirmations, visualizations, intentions, and prayers. It is a time when you can impress your subconscious mind with an idea, so to speak. In The Miracle Club I maintain that it is also “prime time” in which episodes of extra-physicality have been found to occur, such as mind-to-mind communication or telepathy. This is not fantasy. It is a cycle that comes to all of us naturally, and it can be used.
6. If I recall correctly, didn’t President Trump come up through a prosperity ministry, a branch of the positive thought family tree? Can we attribute any of his success/survival to this?
Yes, the Trump family was close to the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993), author of The Power of Positive Thinking. There’s no question that Trump has used and harnessed these methods, but without ethics. His life is the story of the unprincipled pursuit of power. This is why I alluded above to the need for a serious ethical code. But do not despair. As the saying goes, “Use the force, Luke.”
7. Is it possible for someone to be using the power of positive thought without training or structure, just through their own force of will?
Absolutely. The poet William Blake did this. Figures throughout history realized organically that thought possesses causative dimensions, and acted on this without naming or devising a system. Blake famously wrote that if “the doors of perception were cleansed” we could see life in its infinitude. That statement more or less captures the theology of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.
8. When you’re not busy thinking positively, what do you do with your time?
I wish I were always busy thinking positively! I came to this philosophy because I am not a positive thinker by nature, so it’s a real challenge for me. But mostly I raise my two boys, ages 11 and 14, I write, I bike and exercise, and I hang with people I love. I watch very little TV (with the exception of Rachel Maddow and Better Call Saul). I do like to hang with close friends, eat a bit, and imbibe nature’s pleasures.
9. What’s next? Do you have an upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?
One of the projects I’m excited about is a movie version of the occult book The Kybalion, which I’m working on with my friend Ronni Thomas, a brilliant director whose work has been featured at the Tribeca Film Festival and who is known, among other things, for the digital series Midnight Archive. Ronni and I are making a documentary-style feature about this book, exploring its historical backstory and illuminating its principles.
Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
It is same the question I ask myself: What do you want?
I always tell people who asked me this that I want world peace and a body like Cindy Crawford’s. And that is as true today as when I said it in junior high school. However given the nature of your book, I’m going to tell you what I really want (what I really, really want) (the Spice Girls cannot be denied). I’d like to make a comfortable living doing The Magical Buffet, which is getting to share all the great books, products, and people I enjoy with everyone else.
About Mitch Horowitz:
Mitch Horowitz is a PEN Award-winning historian, longtime publishing executive, and a leading New Thought commentator with bylines in The New York Times, Time, Politico, Salon, and The Wall Street Journal and media appearances on Dateline NBC, CBS Sunday Morning, All Things Considered, and Coast to Coast AM. He is the author of several books, including Occult America and One Simple Idea. He lives in New York City. Visit him at https://mitchhorowitz.com/.