In the opening to his new book One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, author Mitch Horowitz recounts his childhood fascination with inspirational wisdom.
For him it all began with a poem that hung on the wall in his big sister’s bedroom. A blacklight poster that included phrases like:
“Forget yesterday. I am where I am. Tell me friend, what can I do today, to be where I want to be tomorrow?”
When Mitch’s father lost his job and financial conditions in the family took a downward arc, his curiosity about the possibilities of positive thinking grew, leading him to eventually study the writings of Emerson and Talmud. His hope was that his internal attitude and perspective of mind could make a difference.
Horowitz attributes aligning with uplifting thoughts as a remedy that didn’t so much as change his family’s fortunes –- which did gradually improve — but as a practice that helped him “navigate his life. And maybe something more.”
And it’s that “something more” that Horowitz explores in detail in his meticulously researched book. Read more
Jessica Murray is a professional astrologer with a fascinating personal history that involves writing, publishing, political activism and a command of semiotics. Semiotics is a field of study, some would call it a science of sociological code-breaking, that involves reading the language of signs.
The concept of semiotics is easier to grasp if you think of it as a system that attempts to understand how human beings create meaning from the manner in which reality displays itself, be that through events, words, images and objects.
Ideally, astrology benefits from the semiotic approach because astrology too is a language, a language that is brought to life by the linguist’s ability to skillfully interpret signs and symbols. If we think of an astrological chart as a signature of the soul, you can see how a confluence of astrological and semiotic insight would make for a formidable astrologer. And Jessica is very much one of contemporary astrology’s most creative and vibrant authors. Her close readings of the sociopolitical landscape are both dazzling and educational.
Our discussion centers around themes related to the ongoing and unprecedented Uranus Pluto square, a planetary component of the unfolding “Cardinal Cross Years,” which comprise our current historical moment — a time when “the modern Western mind … with its machines and weapons and power games, has grown so out-of-whack as to be needful of tough-love intervention, like a self-harming child…Our goal must be to get in touch, on a gut level, with the fact that the breakdowns we see around us are signals of incipient breakthrough.” Read more
• “Science has failed. Science, as we understand it, is too flabby, too simplistic…”
• “Collective unconsciousness? No. That’s flatly rubbish.”
• “Ink on paper survives. Electrons don’t.”
• “Ordinarily, organized religion is the most powerful thing on the planet, but in the Aquarian Age, gays are.”
Welcome to astrologer, publisher and online entrepreneur David Roell‘s world. Those are his quotes above. I promise you a stimulating, occasionally infuriating but always consciousness-twanging read.
What’s that classic Bette Davis line from All About Eve? It’ll be fitting. Oh, yes: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
David and I met a decade ago. I’d tumbled into his online bookstore Astrology Center of America one evening and went missing for hours; hopping from book review to book review — my eyes popping, brain smoking.
Dave’s critiques were piquant — often blunt and eviscerating — and he never shellacked bull to make a sale. I didn’t always agree, but Dave’s disregard for polticial correctness was refreshing. The astrological world could use more of this tough love approach. Too much New Age babble occupies the mainstream while worthy tomes are shoved into the backwaters of academia. And — oops, Sylvia Browne just released a new bestseller.
I fired a fan letter off to Dave that same evening and he responded almost instantly, in that eerie way that makes you wonder if Aquarian people ever sleep (it must have been 3AM in Maryland).
A wild rapids discussion followed. From Mozart’s suspicious death, to planetary nodes, to demigoddess Liz Greene‘s PhD. Somehow we dovetailed from a Venus in Taurus deconstruction into David comparing the weary faces of overworked female opera singers to those of beleaguered California porn vixens. At first I couldn’t follow his logic, but eventually grasped his point regarding the occupational hazards of a throat-based craft. With this later bit of wisdom I knew I’d met a kindred spirit.
Dave’s wonkiness is similar to my own. And who doesn’t like corresponding with someone who is just like you — only better? I also sensed that Dave and I would remain in touch for life.
Although my first teacher was Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, I’d progressed over the years into the tar baby of psychological astrology. David’s application of traditional astrological techniques impressed me. This goaded me, eventually, into studying William Lilly, John Frawley, Geoffrey Cornelius, Deborah Houlding and others. I kept asking David: “OK, so what should I read next? Send it to me.”
This interview took place over a three week period. Before we’d even started, and in typical Roell fashion, our exchange was darkened by his cup-half-empty appraisal. Dave had revisited the synastry between our charts. His concern: “Hmmm, your Jupiter is conjunct my South Node so this interview will probably turn out to be a whole lot of nothing.”
And of course, in typical Roell fashion, it became the exact opposite.
Enjoy the rabbit hole you’re about to enter. Revel in Dave’s revolutionary ideas about an earth-based zodiac, the near-uselessness of modern medicine, homosexuality and the Aquarian Age, and then go buy some good books.
Please, leave your comments and questions below the interview, even if it’s four in the morning you’ll probably have a response from Dave in an instant.
Recently I clicked into a podcast with the author Mitch Horowitz that forced me to put away my painting (I usually multitask) and sit down to catch each illuminating insight from Horowitz’s encyclopedic memory.
I was fascinated to learn of the various magical, mystical, and spiritual movements that have influenced American history, from Plymouth Rock to the Twin Towers. A complete chronology of which Mitch details in his award-winning book Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation.
Mitch currently works as the vice-president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin. And he is completing his second book, One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, a history and defense of the positive-thinking movement, which will be available at the top of 2014 from Crown. You can find Mitch online at mitchhorowitz.com.
We spoke yesterday about astrology, conspiracy theories, the post-election political landscape, his own horoscope and of course tomorrow’s Mayan-inspired End Days prophecy.
Frederick Woodruff: How do you link the world of astrology to the political history of the United States? We all know about Nancy Reagan’s astrologer, Joan Quigley, but what else can you share about the cosmic art and its influence on US politics and policy?
Mitch Horowitz: I actually write about this in my new book One Simple Idea. Seen from one perspective, Ronald Reagan’s personal interest in astrology was fairly casual, and limited to reading the daily horoscope page. But in actuality both Ronald and Nancy Reagan were deeply attached to the social and spiritual mores of Southern California, where they spent almost three decades of their adult lives. They were proud of those ties, and I think rightly so.
In my new work, I go into the deeper aspects of Reagan’s connections to that world. In a sense, he was indirectly a product of the positive-thinking movement, whose phraseology runs throughout his speeches. His first employer was a mind-power mystic and one of the shapers of chiropractic in America, B.J. Palmer, who gave Reagan his break into broadcasting.
One of Reagan’s Hollywood friends was an author named Eden Gray, who Tarot fans will recognize as a seminal, early author of Tarot guidebooks. Reagan spoke openly of his friendship with psychic Jeane Dixon, his belief in UFOs, his longtime interest in astrology and other mystical thought systems, and, most significantly, of the work of LA-based occult scholar Manly P. Hall, whose influence can be detected in Reagan’s earliest speeches. Read more