When occult historian Mitch Horowitz's excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing's weird connection to New Age mysticism:
(Bannon) professed deep interest in the book's themes, and encouraged me in my next work, "One Simple Idea," an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life….
Although the media have characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration, I knew him, and still do, as a deeply read and erudite observer of the American religious scene, with a keen appetite for mystical thought.
Ronald Reagan, a hero of his, was not dissimilar. As I've written in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Reagan, from the start of his political career in the 1950s up through the first term of his presidency, adopted phrasing and ideas from the writings of a Los Angeles-based occult scholar named Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), whose 1928 encyclopedia arcana "The Secret Teachings of All Ages" is among the most influential underground books in American culture.
President Trump himself has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of "positive thinking" from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family's longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller "The Power of Positive Thinking."
What in the cosmos is going on? New Age and alternative spirituality are supposed to be the domain of patchouli-scented aisles of health food stores and bookshops that sell candles and pendulums, right? Well, not exactly.
There is a long-standing intersection between mysticism and conservatism in America. This marriage extends back to the late 19th century when globetrotting occultist and Russian noblewoman Madame H.P. Blavatsky depicted America as the catalyst for a revolution in human potential in her 1888 opus "The Secret Doctrine." "It is in America that the transformation will take place," Blavatsky wrote, "and has already silently commenced."