23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards
We are a nation created by generations of religious whack-jobs who just wanted to live strangely, create stuff, and be left alone! Version 1.0
October 20, 2012 - 3:00 pm
14. The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America by John Gartner
Publication Date: March 1, 2005
Hypomania, a genetically based mild form of mania, endows many of us with unusual energy, creativity, enthusiasm, and a propensity for taking risks. America has an extraordinarily high number of hypomanics — grandiose types who leap on every wacky idea that occurs to them, utterly convinced it will change the world. Market bubbles and ill-considered messianic crusades can be the downside. But there is an enormous upside in terms of spectacular entrepreneurial zeal, drive for innovation, and material success. Americans may have a lot of crazy ideas, but some of them lead to brilliant inventions.Why is America so hypomanic? It is populated primarily by immigrants. This self-selection process is the boldest natural experiment ever conducted. Those who had the will, optimism, and daring to take the leap into the unknown have passed those traits on to their descendants.Bringing his audacious and persuasive thesis to life, Gartner offers case histories of some famous Americans who represent this phenomenon of hypomania. These are the real stories you never learned in school about some of those men who made America: Columbus, who discovered the continent, thought he was the messiah. John Winthrop, who settled and defined it, believed Americans were God’s new chosen people. Alexander Hamilton, the indispensable founder who envisioned America’s economic future, self-destructed because of pride and impulsive behavior. Andrew Carnegie, who began America’s industrial revolution, was sure that he was destined personally to speed up human evolution and bring world peace. The Mayer and Selznick families helped create the peculiarly American art form of the Hollywood film, but familial bipolar disorders led to the fall of their empires. Craig Venter decoded the human genome, yet his arrogance made him despised by most of his scientific colleagues, even as he spurred them on to make great discoveries.While these men are extraordinary examples, Gartner argues that many Americans have inherited the genes that have made them the most successful citizens in the world.
Why Tea Party Occultists and Counterculture Conservatives and Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:
America really is a nation of crazy people — crazy for God, crazy for building big things, crazy to protect our Right to Live Free. And psychologist John Gartner explains why. The personality type that chooses to risk everything to reinvent themselves in a new land is abnormal. Gartner argues that America as an immigrant nation has a higher number of bipolar, hypomanic personalities:
A small empirical literature suggests that there are elevated rates of manic-depressive disorder among immigrants, regardless of what country they are moving from or to. America, a nation of immigrants, has higher rates of mania than every other country studied (with the possible exception of New Zealand, which topped the United States in one study)…. While we have no cross-cultural studies of hypomania, we can infer that we would find increased levels of hypomania among immigrant-rich nations like America, since mania and hypomania run together in the same families.
I’ve wandered across America’s religious, cultural, and political landscape and wherever I’ve stumbled some variety of this kind of high-energy American madness has emerged. I’ve seen first hand in micro the big pattern that Gartner sketches in the macro from Columbus to DNA splicing. The same dramatic, mood-swinging personalities seem to fuel all of America’s innovations on every front cultural, political, economic, science or religious. James Wasserman’s memoir In The Center of the Fire catalogs his experiences with plenty in New York City’s occult scene, illustrating our second president’s warning:
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net.”
– John Adams
What has enabled America to thrive is that traditional values based in the Bible have expanded beyond their religious roots into the secular religion of Americanism and the practical techniques of self-help to counterbalance and unify the sometimes demonic excesses of the American immigrant temperament. An apocryphal story from America’s founding, one that inspired the 20th century’s greatest President Ronald Reagan, articulates this value of Freedom enabled through our trust in the Divine.
15. The Secret Destiny of America by Manly P. Hall
Republication Date: September 18, 2008 (originally published in 1944)
Back in print at last, America’s place in the essential progress of civilization is emphasized as the story unfolds of how our continent was set aside for the great experiment of enlightened self-government. Drawing upon often neglected fragments of history, evidence is presented which indicates that the seeds of this plan for the founding of America were planted one thousand years before the beginning of the Christian era. Whether discussing the symbolism of the Great Seal of the U.S.S or the mysterious stranger who swayed the signers of the Declaration of Independence, here is a book sure to fascinate. It shows how the brilliant plan of the ancients, concealed from the common view, has survived to the present day and will continue to function until the great work is accomplished.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
I don’t take the factual claims of this book too seriously. It’s more a collection of myths, prophecy and folklore rather than a serious argument that the creation of America is actually a centuries-long plan of a secret brotherhood of mystical initiates guiding humanity back to God. This is the equivalent of a secular theology to the secular religion Americanism
But Ronald Reagan certainly took the values seriously, as Occult America author Mitch Horowitz wrote for the Washington Post:
In a speech and essay produced decades apart, Reagan revealed the unmistakable mark of a little-known but widely influential scholar of occult philosophy, Manly P. Hall. Judging from a tale that Reagan borrowed from Hall, the president’s reading tastes ran to some of the outer reaches of esoteric spiritual lore.
Hall, who worked in the Reagans’ hometown of Los Angeles until his death in 1990, attained underground fame in the late 1920s when, at the age of 27, he published a massive codex to the mystical and esoteric philosophies of antiquity: The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Exploring subjects from Native American mythology to Pythagorean mathematics to the geometry of Ancient Egypt, this encyclopedia esoterica won the admiration of readers ranging from General John Pershing to Elvis Presley. Novelist Dan Brown cites it as a key source.
After publishing his great work, Hall spent the rest of his life lecturing and writing within the walls of his Egypto-art deco campus in L.A.’s Griffith Park neighborhood. He called the place a “mystery school” in the mold of Pythagoras’s ancient academy. It was there in 1944 that the occult thinker produced a short work, one little known beyond his immediate circle. This book, The Secret Destiny of America, caught the eye of the future president, then a middling Hollywood actor gravitating toward politics.
Hall’s concise volume described how America was the product of a “Great Plan” for religious liberty and self-governance, launched by a hidden order of ancient philosophers and secret societies. In one chapter, Hall described a rousing speech delivered by a mysterious “unknown speaker” before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The “strange man,” wrote Hall, invisibly entered and exited the locked doors of the Philadelphia statehouse on July 4th, 1776, delivering an oration that bolstered the wavering spirits of the delegates. “God has given America to be free!” commanded the mysterious speaker, urging the men to overcome their fears of the noose, axe, or gibbet, and to seal destiny by signing the great document. Newly emboldened, the delegates rushed forward to add their names. They looked to thank the stranger only to discover that he had vanished from the locked room. Was this, Hall wondered, “one of the agents of the secret Order, guarding and directing the destiny of America?”
At a 1957 commencement address at his alma mater Eureka College, Reagan, then a corporate spokesman for GE, sought to inspire students with this leaf from occult history. “This is a land of destiny,” Reagan said, “and our forefathers found their way here by some Divine system of selective service gathered here to fulfill a mission to advance man a further step in his climb from the swamps.”
Reagan then retold (without naming a source) the tale of Hall’s unknown speaker. “When they turned to thank the speaker for his timely words,” Reagan concluded, “he couldn’t be found and to this day no one knows who he was or how he entered or left the guarded room.”
Reagan revived the story in 1981, when Parade magazine asked the president for a personal essay on what July 4th meant to him.
It is Hall’s language that unmistakably marks the Reagan telling.
Biographer Edmund Morris noted Reagan’s fondness for apocryphal tales and his “Dalíesque ability to bend reality to his own purposes.” Yet he added that the president’s stories “should be taken seriously because they represent core philosophy.” This influential (and sometimes inscrutable) president of the late-twentieth century found an illustration of his core belief in America’s purpose within the pages of an occult work little known beyond its genre. Lucky numbers and newspaper horoscopes were not Reagan’s only interest in the arcane.
Future editions of this list will feature more titles by and about both Hall and Reagan. Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall will be included. Hall’s life story when juxtaposed with the mystical traditions he promoted — and his frequent failures to live them himself — reveals the power these ideas can have when practiced consistently.
The last 2 sections — Media and Science — each focus on books by two thinkers whose ideas have most shaped my understanding of what it means to be a Capitalist Wizard creating something out of nothing.
The books of Doug Rushkoff and Howard Bloom make up the last 8 titles…