Why This Election Year America Is Nurse Jackie
Is a nation of saints and sinners finally ready for some Mormon sobriety?
October 26, 2012 - 3:00 pm
Last month in “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano” I lamented that in The Sopranos, one of the most celebrated TV shows of the era, the main characters remained as broken at the end as the beginning. Tony Soprano spent six seasons going to therapy to, supposedly, treat his psychological problems. It’s all for naught since Tony never grapples with the evil acts he commits and the suffering they cause for others. His wife Carmela also remains trapped in his criminal world, unable to grasp that while she lounges comfortably in a luxurious New Jersey suburb, others lie dead, their bodies hidden and forgotten as a result of her husband’s Mafia-style perversion of the American Dream.
I feared that voters would take a similar approach this election, ignoring the evil men who we now know shaped Barack Obama’s ideas and the bloody reality of their implementation. For all of the summer and into September I operated with the mindset of the 99%. With the legacy media cleaning up his messes, and the economy still not bad enough for most to really feel the pain, there was about a 99% chance of Obama winning the election. And polls aside, the mysterious variable of voter fraud weighed heavily on my mind with every new J. Christian Adams story.
In conversations with friends, I referenced more how we should prepare for Obama’s second term impeachment, rather than putting our hopes in the GOP establishment to avoid a repeat of 2008. And while my respect for Mitt Romney had grown considerably, I still doubted his campaign’s competence. (The yielding of Obamacare!) But a few unknown unknowns remained on the horizon as October began:
Obama bombing that first debate. Benghazi. Two weeks of trying to disguise a terrorist attack as a “spontaneous” response to a YouTube video.
A lot can happen in a month.
Last Sunday, on the eve of the last presidential debate, my wife April and I finished our successor show to The Sopranos, the third season of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. By then my assessment of the president’s reelection chances had dropped to 66% — where it still remains today. The Romney campaign leaped to life as a shot of reality hit the American people in the heart. But is it enough to fully awaken America from the haze of a four-year hopenchange high?
Edie Falco, who played Carmela on The Sopranos, stars as Jackie Peyton, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Room at All Saints’ Hospital in New York City. She’s a fighter, eager to battle hospital bureaucracy and push others to do what’s right for patients. In an age where we’ve all experienced the packed doctor offices often filled with indifferent staffers, a Super-Nurse Warrior like Jackie makes for an appropriate hero. Jackie’s greenhorn coworker, a Millennial named Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever), sees her as such, declaring her a saint and her role model.
But Jackie knows her sins well. She might be the superhero in the ER but behind the scenes she’s addicted to prescription pills, sometimes steals to support her habit, and carries on an affair with Eddie the pharmacist. She also neglects her husband and their two daughters, both of whom have started acting out in response to her workaholism.
And in every episode new saints and sinners stumble into the ER and Jackie struggles to balance the scales, pushing ethical boundaries and soothing her guilty conscience with the thrill of saving everyone else’s life except her own.
And the statues of the saints watch on as Jackie retreats to the hospital’s chapel — her Temple — struggling to find a way out of the new problem brought courtesy of her expensive drug addiction.
Noah was a drunk. David was an adulterer. Jackie is both.
Not yet mentioned in the series, though somewhat implicit, is that Jackie probably has some variety of psychological disorder. The same biochemical combination in her head pushing her to risk everything to save a life also drives her to risk her marriage with an affair. Sometimes the gambles pay off, other times they explode in her face. One moment she’s flying high, the next she’s crashing and burning.
Where have we seen this recently?
Many conservatives felt disappointment with Mitt Romney for not taking charge more during the foreign policy debate. Talking with my friends Lisa Richards, Lisa Graas, and Rebecca Diserio of Fidelis Radio Network Monday night after the debate, I expressed a sentiment others would admit the next morning: Romney just didn’t hit hard enough. He said great things but, as with Obamacare, again deferred from attacking the president on his most vulnerable failure, Benghazi.
I thought that he “won” the debate on points but knew the establishment narrative would still spin it into a victory for the president.
Turns out that was Romney’s plan all along. He wasn’t talking to either his base or the journalistic saboteurs who would declare his failure. His goal: get the undecideds to realize he wasn’t a wide-eyed warmonger. And, as we began to realize as the polls and reactions came in, it worked:
Less than two weeks out from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has erased President Barack Obama’s 16-point advantage among women, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. And the president, in turn, has largely eliminated Romney’s edge among men.
Those churning gender dynamics leave the presidential race still a virtual dead heat, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent, a result within the poll’s margin of sampling error, the survey shows.
After a commanding first debate performance and a generally good month, Romney has gained ground with Americans on a number of important fronts, including their confidence in how he would handle the economy and their impressions of his ability to understand their problems.
At the Corner after the debate, Obama’s most underrated critic, Spreading the Wealth author Stanley Kurtz, invoked Aesop’s Fables to explain Romney’s long-game method, “Tortoise Ties: Hare’s Concerned“:
During the first half of the debate, Romney was playing for a tie while Obama was playing for a win. That made a certain sense. As commander-in-chief, Obama has an inherent advantage on foreign policy. So long as Romney stands toe-to-toe and achieves a rough equality with a sitting president on foreign policy, he gains credibility and keeps his momentum in this race…. Partway through the debate, however, Romney started pushing for the win. His pivot to the economy might have seemed like evasion, but Obama followed him into domestic policy because he saw the risk of not answering the challenge. This put Romney on familiar ground and you could see his confidence grow.
Then Romney came hard at Obama on Iran, Israel, and the general decline of America’s influence in the world. The look on Obama’s face as Romney was discussing Democratic concerns about his Israel policy was pained. It was the first time he lost his confident stare. Then Romney did what he does best, paint a picture of general decline in America’s fortunes abroad under Obama’s stewardship. This worked almost as well on foreign policy as it does when Romney applies it to domestic policy. It was the pivotal moment of the debate.
By the end I thought Romney had at least won his tie, and maybe even inched out victory by a nose. He did it by playing offense at critical moments during a generally restrained, respectful, and competent performance. In effect, Romney carefully pivoted between playing for a tie and a win, and the strategy worked.
That’s what we need in a commander-in-chief: someone who can analyze the threat and “carefully pivot” to the appropriate option whether it’s to pull back, negotiate, or strike hard. Even though he restrained himself, Romney still managed to deliver some precise strikes, like this sharp hit referencing “Mr. Putin“:
How did Mitt Romney develop such a level of self-control?
Last weekend I debuted the first installment in my ongoing series of book reviews here at PJ Lifestyle: “23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards.”
In the middle of the list I featured these six books and discussed their contributions to understanding American exceptionalism:
10. Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America by Ann Coulter
11. The Secrets of Masonic Washington by James Wasserman
12. Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion by David Gelernter
15. The Secret Destiny of America by Manly P. Hall
In Demonic, Ann Coulter explains the relationship between mob psychology, human evil, demagogic emotional manipulation, and America’s founding as a bulwark to protect against all three. In The Secrets of Masonic Washington, James Wasserman reveals the esoteric meanings behind the statues and symbols of Washington, D.C., the enduring monuments to the transcendent values that liberated America from the tyrannies of the fickle moods of mobs and kings. In Americanism, David Gelernter argues that Old Testament Puritanism evolved into the American Idea, a secular creed uniting citizens of disparate religious identities. In Occult America, Mitch Horowtiz shows that as America grew and expanded her states acted as not just “laboratories of democracy” but cauldrons of religious freedom from which new faiths — including Mormonism — emerged. In The Hypomanic Edge, psychologist John Gartner argues that all throughout America’s history the peculiar, high-energy temperament of an immigrant nation has manifested repeatedly in the nation’s entrepreneurs, scientists, explorers, and statesmen. And finally, The Secret Destiny of America by Manly P. Hall, a favorite of Ronald Reagan, collects together a series of fantastic tall tales and prophecies to mythologize this American ideal of a land dedicated to every human being’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Mitt Romney fits this paradigm. He’s the textbook example of the energetic, can-do businessman, balanced and guided by a system of traditional, American values embedded within his Mormon faith. Meanwhile, Barack Obama spent 20 years practicing how to worship himself in this antisemitic conspiracy theorist’s church:
Well Jackie, what’s it going to be? More Goddamn America to kill the pain of having to take responsibility for the freedom of creating your own happiness? Or some Mormon sobriety so we all can just see the price of gas go back down?
10. Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America by Ann Coulter
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. The Democratic Party activates mobs, depends on mobs, coddles mobs, publicizes and celebrates mobs—it is the mob. Sweeping in its scope and relentless in its argument, Demonic explains the peculiarities of liberals as standard groupthink behavior. To understand mobs is to understand liberals.
In her most provocative book to date, Ann Coulter argues that liberals exhibit all the psychological characteristics of a mob, for instance:
Liberal Groupthink: “The same mob mentality that leads otherwise law-abiding people to hurl rocks at cops also leads otherwise intelligent people to refuse to believe anything they haven’t heard on NPR.”
Liberal Schemes: “No matter how mad the plan is—Fraternité, the ‘New Soviet Man,’ the Master Race, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, Building a New Society, ObamaCare—a mob will believe it.”
Liberal Enemies: “Instead of ‘counterrevolutionaries,’ liberals’ opponents are called ‘haters,’ ‘those who seek to divide us,’ ‘tea baggers,’ and ‘right-wing hate groups.’ Meanwhile, conservatives call liberals ‘liberals’—and that makes them testy.”
Liberal Justice: “In the world of the liberal, as in the world of Robespierre, there are no crimes, only criminals.”
Liberal Violence: “If Charles Manson’s followers hadn’t killed Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, Clinton would have pardoned him, too, and he’d probably be teaching at Northwestern University.”
Citing the father of mob psychology, Gustave Le Bon, Coulter catalogs the Left’s mob behaviors: the creation of messiahs, the fear of scientific innovation, the mythmaking, the preference for images over words, the lack of morals, and the casual embrace of contradictory ideas.
Coulter traces the history of the liberal mob to the French Revolution and Robespierre’s revolutionaries (delineating a clear distinction from America’s founding fathers), who simply proclaimed that they were exercising the “general will” before slaughtering their fellow citizens “for the good of mankind.”
Similarly, as Coulter demonstrates, liberal mobs, from student radicals to white-trash racists to anti-war and pro-ObamaCare fanatics today, have consistently used violence to implement their idea of the “general will.”
This is not the American tradition; it is the tradition of Stalin, of Hitler, of the guillotine—and the tradition of the American Left.
As the heirs of the French Revolution, Democrats have a history that consists of pandering to mobs, time and again, while Republicans, heirs to the American Revolution, have regularly stood for peaceable order.
Hoping to muddy this horrifying truth, liberals slanderously accuse conservatives of their own crimes—assassination plots, conspiracy theorizing, political violence, embrace of the Ku Klux Klan. Coulter shows that the truth is the opposite: Political violence—mob violence—is always a Democratic affair.
Surveying two centuries of mob movements, Coulter demonstrates that the mob is always destructive. And yet, she argues, beginning with the civil rights movement in the sixties, Americans have lost their natural, inherited aversion to mobs. Indeed, most Americans have no idea what they are even dealing with.
Only by recognizing the mobs and their demonic nature can America begin to defend itself.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
I began my review last year of Demonic,
2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”
Ann Coulter begins her newest polemic with this quotation from the Gospel of Mark, immediately capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone for her most elegant, sophisticated, and literary work to date. Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America is Coulter’s exorcism of the dark spirits hidden within the political Left. The bestselling author combines insights in mob psychology, the history of the French Revolution, and the theology of evil to illuminate the political challenges of the day. Even those who have studied the Left in depth will be startled by the clarity and originality of the argument she methodically demonstrates over 300 packed pages.
Coulter uses Gustave Le Bon’s 1896 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind as the foundation of her analysis. She notes as evidence of the book’s accuracy that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used the text not to understand mobs but to incite them. Throughout Demonic she returns to the influential text and applies its analysis to the union mobs of Ohio, the Obamacare mobs, the progressive conspiracy mobs, and the Bush Derangement mobs. World War II’s totalitarian dictators aren’t the only ones reading from Le Bon’s playbook to harness the power of a mob to push forward an intolerable political agenda.
In the ancient world what we now recognize as psychological disorders were once understood as demonic possessions. That metaphor deserves reconsideration. What if one understood “demon” as “a collection of chemicals in one’s brain that precipitate destructive behaviors”? Then its opposite comes into focus: the “angel” as the self-initiated, biochemical alignment of emotions that makes someone a better person.
The magical idea is that through writing and speaking we can invoke gods, angels, demons, and whatever we want as tools to change ourselves and others. Words properly applied can inspire hatred or transcendent love. Powerful speakers know how to pour either into desperate hearts and minds:
The most famous role of the Egytian god of writing and magic, Tahuti, is recording the weighing of the heart after death:
In our Christianity-based society we’ve come to know a reinvention of the struggle to balance one’s internal scales. The personal demon sitting on one shoulder and Holy Guardian Angel on the other:
Psychology as it relates to the development of America will emerge as one of the themes in Part IV, American Exceptionalism. (And future editions of this list will include more books by psychologists.)
Part IV: American Exceptionalism
11. The Secrets of Masonic Washington by James Wasserman
Publication Date: November 26, 2008
A fully illustrated guide to the Masonic origins and present-day Masonic sites of Washington, D.C.
• Provides a walking tour of the Masonic sites and symbols of the city
• Explores the critical role of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States
• By the author of The Templars and Assassins
In this guide to the Masonic underpinnings of America’s capital, James Wasserman reveals the esoteric symbols and the spiritual and visionary ideas that lie hidden in the buildings, monuments, and physical layout of Washington, D.C. His walking tour of these Masonic sites includes both the expected and unexpected–from the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building to the Federal Reserve complex, National Academy of Sciences, and the Library of Congress. Each location includes descriptions, interpretations, and explanations of the Masonic symbols and ritualistic meanings hidden within its structure, all illustrated with contemporary color and historic black-and-white photographs.
Wasserman explains the purpose behind putting these symbols and Masonic designs into the capital and how all these monuments fit into the spiritual vision held by the founding fathers. He reveals the prominent role that Freemasonry played in the 18th-century Enlightenment movement and shows how in the New World of America, free of monarchy and aristocracy, the ideas of the Enlightenment were able to flourish. This illustrated guidebook to the Masonic secrets of Washington, D.C., provides valuable insights on the founding of America. It will be welcomed by students of esoteric art and symbolism, admirers of American history, and devotees of Dan Brown novels and National Treasure movies.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
I recommend reading Wasserman’s historical books in the order presented on the list: first The Temple of Solomon: From Ancient Israel to Secret Societies, then The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven, and third The Secrets of Masonic Washington. They tell the story of the Western Mystery Tradition from its origins in the ancient world of the Old Testament up through the founding of America.
In understanding the link between the mystical practices of Western religion and the American system of governance we come to see that the process for creating a great person mirrors the method of building the greatest nation in history. American Exceptionalism means that the United States of America is unique; that the system of ideas and values institutionalized in the Constitution is the best. And by “best” I mean objectively, empirically this political ideology called classical liberalism and its accompanying religion of ethical monotheism and the system of government that sprang forth from them on the American continent produce greater happiness, prosperity, and freedom than any other. It accomplishes this through balancing conflicting interests against each other so that no individual’s or group’s inner demons can enslave anybody else permanently. Thus, it is the right of every human being on the planet to live free under a system of government approximating ours in their own land. Every human being deserves to have their rights protected — including their ability to seek the Transcendent God as they see fit. We as human beings are all born ignorant and weak and we must turn to the collective wisdom and history of humanity for guidance if we are to balance our conflicting natures and desires on the scale.
That’s what religion — be it the traditional Judeo-Christian variety, Freemasonry, or the modern electric counterculture conservatism I’m describing on this list — is all about. Why practice a religion? Because doing so will produce long-term happiness. Through providing structure and meaning to our daily lives and a source of guidance during difficult times, religious systems act as additional weights to help balance the uneven scales of our hearts.
The final Wasserman book on this edition of the list illustrates how much the founders of our country understood these principles and modeled not just themselves but our nation on them. One of the central teachings of the Western Mystery Traditions describes the understanding of the four symbolic elements and their representations in nature: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. These are not to be understood in their literal formulations but as metaphors for how God creates — how energy transforms into matter, how nothing becomes something — and how we can imitate His example and take personal responsibility for creating our own lives. (They also correlate with the Tetragrammaton, an important subject to be explored more in writing about future books added to the list…)
Occultists learn to use these symbols as metaphors for personal transformation in rituals — hence the importance of the Tarot cards for use in meditation and prayer. Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks correspond with each of the elements which also correspond with different parts of our lives: Will, Emotion, Intellect, and the Physical World. Right-Hand mystical practices and their traditional religious counterparts each provide methods to balance these conflicting impulses.
This method mirrors the American government’s system of checks and balances: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial — each eventually balancing the other out. And also, of course: Federal, State, Local. This structure adapts the mystical balancing of conflicting natures in the individual and broadens it into an organizing method for managing the conflicts of human civilization as a whole. Creation comes in the friction of conflicting values, but we have to have a system in place to catch the sparks and manage the heat and light produced. This is what it means to institutionalize the American Trinity as defined by Dennis Prager: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E. Pluribus Unum.
Wasserman reveals that amongst the many Masonic statues and architecture throughout Washington D.C. the four elements appear more than once. Here’s the best example:
The next two books pick up on the story of how the Western Mystery Tradition continued to evolve in different directions after the founding of the United States.Why do we hear so little about freemasonry today? Why do so few people participate in Masonic groups? For much the same reason there why are so few Jews and so many Christians. Because with the founding of America and the ratification of the Constitution, Masonry’s ideas and principles won that era’s culture war, became the new mainstream and then spun off into new groups with different names and variations of the teachings. Religious tolerance is now just the expected, default position instead of something radical as it was during 1770s. We don’t need Free Speech clubs anymore where people can come to speak their minds freely. The First Amendment made all of US territory a Masonic temple where everyone can speak.
David Gelernter reveals another side of this story with the long evolution from 16th century Old Testament Puritanism to 20th century secular Americanism, what he calls “the fourth great western religion.”
And Mitch Horowitz shows another variation of the path, how homespun mysticism and occultism in the frontiers merged with the capitalistic instinct to invent the self-help industry in the first half of the 20th century.
12. Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion by David Gelernter
Publication Date: June 19, 2007
What does it mean to “believe” in America? Why do we always speak of our country as having a mission or purpose that is higher than other nations?
Modern liberals have invested a great deal in the notion that America was founded as a secular state, with religion relegated to the private sphere. David Gelernter argues that America is not secular at all, but a powerful religious idea—indeed, a religion in its own right.
Gelernter argues that what we have come to call “Americanism” is in fact a secular version of Zionism. Not the Zionism of the ancient Hebrews, but that of the Puritan founders who saw themselves as the new children of Israel, creating a new Jerusalem in a new world. Their faith-based ideals of liberty, equality, and democratic governance had a greater influence on the nation’s founders than the Enlightenment.
Gelernter traces the development of the American religion from its roots in the Puritan Zionism of seventeenth-century New England to the idealistic fighting faith it has become, a militant creed dedicated to spreading freedom around the world. The central figures in this process were Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, who presided over the secularization of the American Zionist idea into the form we now know as Americanism.
If America is a religion, it is a religion without a god, and it is a global religion. People who believe in America live all over the world. Its adherents have included oppressed and freedom-loving peoples everywhere—from the patriots of the Greek and Hungarian revolutions to the martyred Chinese dissidents of Tiananmen Square.
Gelernter also shows that anti-Americanism, particularly the virulent kind that is found today in Europe, is a reaction against this religious conception of America on the part of those who adhere to a rival religion of pacifism and appeasement.
A startlingly original argument about the religious meaning of America and why it is loved—and hated—with so much passion at home and abroad.
Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:
The people who first came to the American continent from Europe were Christian radicals escaping persecution, wanting to live in a land where they could worship God as they saw fit in their own temples. They were just imitating the words written in their Bibles, the stories of ancient Hebrews fleeing Pharaoh in Exodus. We are a nation of dozens of countercultures all stitched together on this basic premise of freedom from tyranny. In this vigorous, engaging collection of historical, polemical essays Gelertner shows how successive generations of American presidents performed a magickal act: they secularized Zionism to create Americanism.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
Harry Truman’s understanding of America in these terms had profound effects in the real world:
Future editions of this list will include more books on Israel and Zionism… A fact of note: rocket scientist occultist Jack Parsons planned to relocate to the recently-created state of Israel before a mysterious explosion killed him in 1952…
13. Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
It touched lives as disparate as those of Frederick Douglass, Franklin Roosevelt, and Mary Todd Lincoln–who once convinced her husband, Abe, to host a séance in the White House. Americans all, they were among the famous figures whose paths intertwined with the mystical and esoteric movement broadly known as the occult. Brought over from the Old World and spread throughout the New by some of the most obscure but gifted men and women of early U.S. history, this “hidden wisdom” transformed the spiritual life of the still-young nation and, through it, much of the Western world.
Yet the story of the American occult has remained largely untold. Now a leading writer on the subject of alternative spirituality brings it out of the shadows. Here is a rich, fascinating, and colorful history of a religious revolution and an epic of offbeat history.
From the meaning of the symbols on the one-dollar bill to the origins of the Ouija board, Occult America briskly sweeps from the nation’s earliest days to the birth of the New Age era and traces many people and episodes, including:
• The spirit medium who became America’s first female religious leader in 1776
• The supernatural passions that marked the career of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith
• The rural Sunday-school teacher whose clairvoyant visions instigated the dawn of the New Age
• The prominence of mind-power mysticism in the black-nationalist politics of Marcus Garvey
• The Idaho druggist whose mail-order mystical religion ranked as the eighth-largest faith in the world during the Great Depression
Here, too, are America’s homegrown religious movements, from transcendentalism to spiritualism to Christian Science to the positive-thinking philosophy that continues to exert such a powerful pull on the public today. A feast for believers in alternative spirituality, an eye-opener for anyone curious about the unknown byroads of American history, Occult America is an engaging, long-overdue portrait of one nation, under many gods, whose revolutionary influence is still being felt in every corner of the globe.
Why Tea Party Occultists and Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:
This book contains all kinds of historical nuggets but the one worth understanding for the purpose of this list is the real secret behind occultism — what all the spells and magic wands and tarot cards and general silliness is really all about.
I’m not sure when I made the connection on my own — perhaps around the time when The Secret came out in 2006 — that “occultism” was really just self-help strategies with religious props. In Occult America Mitch Horowitz shows how this developed in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries. Mystical and occult ideas sold heavily as mail order programs with promises of techniques that could transform the individual’s life and manifest wealth from nothing. And some of them worked. So to expand their appeal authors reinvented them in a secular context. And behold the modern self-help genre.
Today when John Hawkins submits his self-help articles to me for PJ Lifestyle, pieces with titles like 5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life and 4 Crucial Techniques for Reprogramming Yourself into A Better Person, he’ll lay out his own variations of common personal improvement strategies that worked for him and I’ll recognize their parallels in my own mystical practices. Likewise, when Dr. Helen recommends career and self-help books like Robert Greene’s Mastery one has to work hard to ignore that the methods for mastering a skill and career are the same ones that Aleister Crowley and other occultists explain for becoming a Master of the Temple.
As hokey and even crackpot as some self-help literature can be, the central premise remains sound: the root of changing the world is changing yourself, and the root of changing yourself is gaining control of your mind and thoughts. (Future editions of the list will include more on this subject…)
The next book shows why this has becomes such a necessary cornerstone of American Exceptionalism, a vital counterbalance to one of the surprising side effects of immigrant nations…
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.
image courtesy shutterstock / Jose Ignacio Soto