The Politics of the Occult: A Conversation with Historian Mitch Horowitz

The nature of occultism is often misunderstood. Despite popular conceptions of Nazi esotericism or dark visions of the supernatural in films like The Exorcist, throughout modern history occult spirituality has regularly interwoven with explicitly progressive and sometimes radical social movements.

Mitch Horowitz is a historian of alternative spirituality, and in his new book, Modern Occultism, he presents a sprawling history of the occult, looking at its revival in Renaissance-era Europe and the threads that connect it to antiquity and the present. While he examines many different strains within occultism, including those associated with fascism, Horowitz presents a frequently liberatory view—socially and personally—of the diverse movement.

In this interview, edited for length and clarity, we discuss the radical history of occultism, and where the occult stands in relation to politics today.

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Will Solomon writes a newsletter, Nor’easter, on climate and environment in the Northeast US. He can be found on Twitter and elsewhere at @wsolol.

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