Mitch Horowitz is an expert esoteric mysticism and the occult who happens to be a Satanist.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:00] There were times, when I was doing Jack that I actually felt retarded, like really retarded. I mean, I brushed my teeth retarded. I rode buss retarded
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:10] Damn.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:11] In a weird way, I had to sort of just free myself up to believe that it was okay to be stupid or dumb.
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:17] To be a moron.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:18] Yeah!]
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:19] To be moronical.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:20] Exactly, to be a moron.
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:22] An imbecile.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:22] Yeah!
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:23] But simple Jack thought he was smart or rather, didn’t think he was retarded, so you can’t afford to play retarded, being a smart actor. Playing a guy who ain’t smart, but thinks he is, that’s tricky.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:33] Hmm, tricky.
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:34] It’s like working with mercury. It’s high science, man! It’s an art form. You an artist.
Ben Stiller: [00:00:40] That’s what we do, right
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:41] Yeah
Ben Stiller: [00:00:41] Yeah
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:00:42] Hats off of going there, especially, knowing how the Academy is about that shit.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:00:46] That’s, of course, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. from Tropic Thunder. And it’s a clip that has become somewhat of a touchstone cultural icon because of the full retard thing, which is part of the clip that we’re going to get to in a minute, but I wanted to start with this long way around the barn clip on the first part, because what he slips in there, Robert Downey Jr. does in a very interesting way is, the reference to the academy that being the Academy Awards, which in our case, serves as a very good stand in for culture and our popular culture, and what we think of it and how we process it. And if this intro is a long way around the barn, which I assure you it is, then you will have to stay with me for its linked to today’s guest, Mitch Horowitz, who is self-described historian of alternative spirituality, and one of today’s most literate voices of esoterica mysticism and the occult, and he also happens to be a Satanist. Now, I’m not hating on him, because he’s a Satanist. As a matter of fact, I like Mitch Horowitz. At least I like him well enough, but I’m not sure I trust Mitch Horowitz. I’m not sure I believe Mitch Horowitz. And I guess my doubts stems from this character that we touched on a couple episodes back named Colonel Michael Aquino, who it turns out is somebody that Mitch identifies as one of his greatest sources of inspiration.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:02:20] In that same article, you’re asked who are some of your greatest inspirations, and you mentioned Satanist Michael Aquino. I mean, Mitch, this guy is one of the worst of the worst Pedophiles…
Mitch Horowitz: [00:02:37] No, that’s not true.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:02:39] But hold on. If you say it’s not true, okay, I get it.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:02:43] It’s not my saying. That’s grotesquely inaccurate. He died recently. He had no involvement with pedophilia whatsoever. I’m surprised to hear you say that.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:02:52] Okay, back to Tropic Thunder.
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:02:54] You serious? You don’t know? Everybody knows you never go full retard?
Ben Stiller: [00:02:58] What do you mean?
Robert Downey Jr.: [00:02:59] Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man look retarted, act retarded, not retarted. Count toothpicks, cheat at cards. Autistic, sure. Not retarted. Then you got Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump. Slow, yes, retarded, maybe, braces on his leg. But he charmed the pants off Nixon, and he won a Ping-Pong competition. That ain’t retarded. He was goddamn war hero. You know any retarded war heroes? You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:03:25] I love that clip on so many levels. And maybe none of you get what I mean. I mean, I can trust you, just don’t go full retard on me. Don’t ask me to believe that Michael Aquino is not a worst of the worst Satanist sex abusing, probably murder of children, [and] probably pedophile kind of person. Just go read his history. It starts in ‘67 when he’s in the Phoenix program, which we talked about on the last episode, but that’s just the beginning. He’s named in the MK Ultra program. He’s named by people involved in the Franklin scandal in ‘82. In ‘85, there’s satanic ritual abuse allegations at Fort [Unclear 04:13]. Again, Aquino was identified as being part of that. And then the real ones that everyone points to and everyone knows about is at the Presidio Child Development Center in San Francisco in ‘86. Sixty victims came forward. These are all little kids, three to seven years old, and they describe being taken to Aquino’s House with him and his wife. They describe the inside. The crazy insane, all black, all red walls, the altar, [and] the satanic altar. Kids don’t make that up. The evidence was so overwhelming that the police immediately got a search warrant and searched his house. And what do they find? All sorts of videotapes, photographs, photo albums, all of it as were later told, but never shown is related to this child sexual abuse thing. Now, there were a lot of people in the military who were providing cover for Colonel Michael Aquino, and I guess we’ll never really know why. But there are some who also stood up for that. And in a report filed by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, they recommended that Aquino be processed out of the army for indecent acts with a child, sodomy, conspiracy, kidnapping, and false swearing. They also said in that report that Aquino was not persuasive in his response to these allegations. And then there’s all the stuff in the San Jose Mercury News and other places that I read last time. And then there’s even more stuff that comes up later. Those accounts are published and his pictures published, and children in other locations at other bases are coming forward and reporting that Michael Aquino abused these kids. So was he convicted? Nope, was not convicted. Is this speculation to a certain extent? Yeah, I guess you’d have to say. But to believe this guy isn’t dirty? To believe that this guy should be held up as some sort of inspiration, that’s going full retard. And I don’t ever go full retard. Here’s my interview with Mitch Horowitz.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:04:46] Welcome to Skeptico, where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris. You want to talk about controversial spirituality? Yeah, we got the guy today. Mitch Horowitz is here. I don’t generally read bio’s but Mitch’s website, which is just pretty amazing website in and of itself, has an amazing bio, and I’m going to read it. Mitch Horowitz is a historian of alternative spirituality, and one of the most literate voices of esoterica mysticism and the occult. Mitch illuminates outsider history, explains its relevance to contemporary life and reveals the long standing quest to bring empowerment and agency to the human condition. Wow, that is really well written which we would expect. Mitch is writer in residence [and] lecturer in residence at the New York Public Library, award winning author of books, including occult America; one simple idea, and the miracle club. Ton ton ton of major media appearances, [including] CBS Morning News, Dateline, [and] History Channel. He’s on History Channel all the time, and he’s here today joining us. So Mitch Horowitz, thank you so much for being here at Skeptico.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:07:48] Thank you, man. Happy to be here. And you have got the voice. You’ve got one of the best voices in podcasting, and I want to say that straight out.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:07:55] Wow. Let me take another sip of the tea.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:07:59] I dig it. Keep doing whatever you’re doing. It’s working.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:08:03] Great. So, hey, so many things to talk about. Questions I have that I don’t see anyone else asking. But maybe as a starting point, tell people… I think I get where you’re coming from on the link between a book like occult America, which is essentially a historical book, and then the link you’re making to some of the positive human psychology, [and] human potential movement kind of stuff. Explain that.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:08:37] Sure. Well, I call myself a believing historian. I’m very much a participant in many of the alternative and esoteric spiritual movements that I write about. And in fact, that’s true of most historians of religion. They don’t acknowledge that because they think that it will give the appearance of compromise or a lack of ability to think critically about the movements they’re documenting. But if you pull off the shelf, almost any biography of a religious figure, or a biography of a saint, or a religious movement, ancient or more recent, almost always that’s being written by somebody who emerges from the congregation that’s being written about. And in fact, being close to a community of belief or being close to a thought system can give you the ability to write with even greater critical capacity about it because you understand the values, the promises, [and] the shadow that falls in between the dreaming and the coming true. So I write both historically, and practically. I writer as a seeker who documents metaphysics in history and practice.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:09:43] But you also link up which I think is interesting, this human potential movement, positive psychology movement. I mean, Napoleon Hill, you can get in there and talk about it. I was listening to one of your lectures, and you know, you were talking about consciousness. And JB Rhine and ESP experiments, and even linking that to the positive psychology movement. So help people understand the connection there.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:10:09] Sure, well, I’m very interested in positive mind metaphysics, or what is sometimes called New Thought. More popularly, that’ll go under names that I don’t particularly like, like the secret or law of attraction or power positive thinking, which I like a little more. None of those movements capture what I’m about, but I reference them just so people can understand this is the tradition that I’m coming from, albeit critically. And I’m very, very interested in rendering metaphysical ideas into their simplest, simplest methodology. And for me, the new thought movement or the movement that holds the belief that your thoughts are in some way or another causative, [and] that thoughts contribute to or create experience, I’m very, very interested in that movement. I’m also very deeply critical of that movement. Because I think what they’re doing is they’re taking a core metaphysical outlook, [and] they’re taking the outlook that actually is at the heart of ceremonial magic, chaos magic, and all kinds of historical occult practices, and they’re trying to boil it down to something that can really, really sit within the environments of everyday life. And I like that. I like that. And my question is, is it true? Does it work? And there’s no rushing to an answer on that?
Alex Tsakiris: [00:11:30] Okay. Let me kind of parse that a little bit, because I get your criticism, I think. But I also get your criticism of those who would deny consciousness [and] that it even exists. That consciousness is an illusion. This is kind of extreme, scientific materialism that you’re saying. And I’ve heard in your lecture, say, “Guys, look at the data. Here is JB Rhine. Here is…” – I don’t know if you’ve referenced Dean Raiden – But, “Here are all these para psychology experiments. They all point to the same thing.” How did we get in this ridiculous kind of…? It’s driven by a lot of atheist, kind of get behind this, kind of consciousness is an illusion, [and] you don’t really exist kind of thing. Play off of that.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:12:16] It’s orthodoxy. It’s just the most common place and ordinary form of human orthodoxy, which is seizing on a position, [and] seizing on a point of view, usually something that makes me feel safe. And anybody who questions that point of view, however carefully, or however respectfully, is regarded as if they, just crashed through my living room window in a car. And first of all, we’re in a very unusual time, at this moment. [Unclear 12:52] of the philosophy of materialism, which is pretty much what you were referring to. The philosophy of materialism holds that matter creates itself. And that thought, or consciousness, or whatever term one wants to use, is just an epiphenomenon of the gray matter of the brain. And the thoughts are like bubbles in a carbonated glass of water, the water being the brain. And when the brain is gone, the bubbles is gone. And that’s it. And that point of view no longer covers the basis of life. It’s going to stick around for a while, because it’s been very widely held. And the people who vote to that point of view in media, in academia, [and] in journalism are very formidable and tireless. However, it’s over. It’s over. Because we have so much evidence over the past 80 years or so that there is nonlocality of thought, [and] that it can be denied and damned and smashed, but like Galileo’s telescope, it’s here, and it’s going to stick around. You made reference to JB Ryan, he was an ESP researcher who did a very wide range of academic experiments into ESP or extra physical communication, starting in the early 1930’s, at Duke University. Without going into great detail, – and I see Dean Raiden, who you also mentioned as a kind of inheritor to JB Ryan, – the data that they and dozens of other academically based parapsychologists have assembled is absolutely Sterling. And if you were to have a materialist critic on the show with me, which I would welcome, that person would almost certainly say, there isn’t a shred of evidence. And that’s the phraseology that’s very often used or something like it. And they just don’t know. They simply don’t know the data. And if you put parapsychology into Google, the first five search results that come up, probably the first one will be from Wikipedia, will represent to you incorrectly, that this data doesn’t exist or is riddled with holes or has not been repeatable. And I understand that. I understand people are reading that and that feels persuasive. It is incorrect. The data is absolutely overwhelming and I’m citing only one field. There are more widely accepted fields such as neuroplasticity, I could cite. There are the outer reaches of placebo studies. There are…
Alex Tsakiris: [00:15:09] Not even the outer reaches. Just…
Mitch Horowitz: [00:15:11] Not even the outer reaches.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:15:12] It’s a placebo effect.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:15:12] Where we are today, in the here and now. The placebo effect. I mean take neuroplasticity, for example. This is a field that demonstrates through brain scans, that your sustained thoughts, if held to for a certain period of time, will eventually change the cellular matter of your brain. They will change the neural pathways through which electrical impulses traveling your brain. No one questions this data. It’s uncontroversial. What is controversial are the implications. You’re seeing that what we experience as thought is physically changing the brain. As Jeffrey Schwartz, a psychiatrist at UCLA who really pioneered the field puts it, it’s literally mind over matter. It’s literally mind over matter on the cellular level of the brain. It’s not supposed to happen. And yet there it is. That in itself, displaces the materialist thesis.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:16:02] I interviewed Schwartz on the show, and he’s kind of an interesting guy, because like all these guys, he’s really been muzzled. At the same time, he’s not allowed to do his work, as long as he presents it in a very narrow way. He’s been told directly, do not talk about the implications of this. Because the other thing I always kind of got that – I don’t know. From a philosophical standpoint, it certainly raises the chicken and the egg question. If thought is changing, as you said, the physical structure [and] cellular structure of the brain, well then roll that back to what is the origin of everything. Is the origin of everything thought? Is consciousness, fundamental, which is what all the great physicists told us kind of from the beginning,
Mitch Horowitz: [00:16:07] Yes. And that comports with ancient classical religious thought. I mean, once you start to get into ancient thought, there’s really not a demarcation between philosophy and religion. And the ancient Greeks, [and] the ancient Egyptians believed that all reality was eminent from a great infinite mind or Universal Mind. The Greeks used to call it [Unclear 17:10], and that we are all part of concentric circles, basically, of the thoughts of that mind. And that was at the heart of many deeply ancient philosophies.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:17:23] So terrific, but now so we’re talking about consciousness. At the same time, in that same lecture, I heard you kind of pulled up a little bit short on extended consciousness. I mean, isn’t the same evidence that we’re talking about and pointing to just as solid when we talk about, for example, reincarnation, and the work of Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker at University of Virginia. We have not only accounts but we have… Right? I mean, we have birthmarks that correlate to… And then near death experience. We have a ton of science. Hundreds and hundreds of… Right. So are you willing to go there in terms of extended consciousness realms, and what the science might be telling us there?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:18:09] Oh, I do go there. If one were to understand the gravity, the clarity, the mythological repetition of experiments by JB Ryan, for example, or any number of other parapsychologists. Dean Reagan is a living example. Charles Overton was something of a protégé to JB Ryan. A figure I admire very much. If you understand that, and if you say look, if I give it an individual, a deck of cards, and he or she over the course of thousands of trials, keep scoring several points above a random hit rate, then there appears to be some anomalous transfer of information going on. And if one accepts the ESB thesis, then it stands to reason that we have a non-physical existence. We have an extra physical existence, which is my only definition of spirituality, the extra physical, which then opens up the question of a creator, an afterlife, [and] eternal recurrence. I mean, we’re still just on our knees peeking through a little keyhole. But all those questions get opened up and through that opening step people like Ian Stevenson, who you were just referencing. Now deceased. Brilliant UVA scientist who studied the case for scientific evidence of ESP and found birthmarks concurrent across proposed lifetimes and so forth. And you have all kinds of openings and possibilities. Raymond Moody is a friend who coined the term near death experience. We have such a vastness of vastness of testimony, sometimes correlating with extremely [and] deeply tantalizing scientific validations. It’s impossible to close the door on these questions. Just as it is today impossible to close the door in the UFO thesis, for example. It’s not directly related. But I can say for certain, 18 months ago, you could stand around somewhere, or write something somewhere and say, “Oh, UFO’s, little Green Men, swamp gas, it’s imaginary.” Today, you’d look absurd doing that, literally. In a space of 18 months, that point of view is held by no serious person. And although these things are not directly related, I think we may be on the precipice of something similar with regard to some of these questions of the paranormal. Materialism is not going away. And materialism has also brought us some good things. I’m not so sure I want it to go away. I just want materialists who are serious, not cynical, and who actually know the material and realize what they’re looking at, because denial is anti-intellectualism.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:20:53] I’m with you. I’m part of that. I guess, where I’m going and we’ll kind of keep hitting on it further is, as we want to probe into those extended realms… I love the way you build the argument solid, right? Consciousness is not an illusion. It’s not an epiphenomena of the brain. We’re not biological robots in a meaningless universe. We are more. So then what we all want to know is what is that more? How do we sit in this world relative to these extended consciousness realms? And in that way, what near death experience science is telling us? What reincarnation is telling us? Has some direct implications for sorting out those questions beginning to nudge a little bit closer to those questions? How do you feel about that database?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:21:43] Yeah, I don’t consider myself somebody who is an expert on near death experience, or eternal recurrence, or reincarnation. I mean, I focus largely on questions of mind causation and fields in areas where we see that showing up like Psychical Research, neuroplasticity, placebo studies, quantum theory, and so on. But there’s absolutely no question that we lead an extra physical existence and what form that takes, sometimes will come in the form of the near death experience. On questions of an afterlife, it’s really just impossible for me to say. It’s really impossible for me to say. I mean, ESP itself does not show up in everybody. ESP itself is something that it can be demonstrated to repeat, but it’s not like turning a faucet on and off. So we just have one very small piece of the puzzle. And it’s hard for me to extrapolate from that into any concrete statements about near death experiences other than feeling absolutely certain that the mind is a non-local phenomenon. The mind is not just an epi-phenomena of the brain, and which is why I’m deeply interested in near death experiences. I can’t claim any expertise in that area.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:23:01] Let’s talk Satanism.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:23:05] Famous Question.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:23:06] I love your directness. I love that you tackle tough questions. And that’s what this piece that you posted in medium is all about. You said, “I get asked that question a lot.” And the question is, are you a Satanist? Take us through your answer to that question and why you answer it the way you do.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:23:28] Well, I use very blunt language. I use terms like ESP, as you’ve just heard. Occult, New Age, [and] positive thinking. I like to be very plain. I don’t feel a sense of desperately needing to get away from vocabulary. In fact, I dislike leaving vocabulary terms to be defined solely by their critics are used as epithets. And I came to feel, probably going back to the late fall of 2017, that there is in fact, an intellectual, spiritual, [and] literary tradition in the West that can justly be called Satanism, that views the figure of Satan, as seen in its most nascent form. Let’s say symbolically as the parabolic snake in the garden in Genesis three, as the force of rebellion, usurpation revolution, radical individuality, nonconformity, [and] anti-heroics. And it dawned on me that within our founding myth of the creation and the Garden of Eden, humanity simply wasn’t humanity according to any definition that we would understand today. Until came the snake and said to Eve, “Look at the bargain that has been struck here.” You’re kept in this garden of Paradise, like a pretty fish in an aquarium or like a poodle in a pet store window. Yes, every need is taken. care of. But you’ve been told cruelly, it seems that the one tree in the garden from which you cannot eat is that which will give you perspective, measurement, possibility, [and] creativity. Eat from it. You won’t die.” And so Eve did and did not die. And thus was born, the beings that we literally know is human. Born with friction, born with suffering, born with difficulty, all of which are the price of creation. And that figure of the satanic is what some of the Romantic poets starting with William Blake, were trying to reclaim. And I was really excited. And I was very aroused by that, and I felt the truth of it. And I feel that there is an esoteric tradition that can fairly if controversially be called Satanism in the West, that has nothing to do with entertainment or gory and ridiculous delusions that come out of the [Unclear 25:46] movement or other things, that has everything to do with a kind of underground esoteric tradition, perhaps the most forbidden tradition, but one that we would not be human without.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:25:58] Whenever I bring up the topic of Satanism, or talk to people who identify as Satanist on the show, they generally fall into one of two camps. One is, you know, kind of an anti-reactionary Christian type. And up first of all, I’m not Christian, I’m not religious. I’m certainly not an atheist, but I don’t fall into those camps. But like an example of this is a CBS Radio longtime guy just interviewed him not too long ago, Richard Allen, right? So he comes on the show and he’s just a pure atheist materialist. Straight down, he goes Satanism, “Yeah, I joined the [Unclear 26:37]. I joined the [Unclear 26:38].” Purely as kind of this reactionary push against Christianity, but from this very atheistic position that we’re talking about, which always seemed kind of ridiculous in a way, and that he doesn’t understand any of this extended consciousness that we’re talking about. If you’re closed down to that, I can’t get it. But the other way I hear it is kind of in the way that you’re representing it, kind of a gnostic create better than the creator gods. I love this a force of radical individualism, [and] radical non-conformity. I get that. But I guess, I don’t know how we really do separate that from the culture. So we have this force, which is this spiritually charged energy, and we can’t really… You call it a force. We could call it a spiritual energy. Whatever term we use, isn’t really going to work. But if we are co-creators of this reality, which is essentially what you’re positing, and I’m all about that. We’re co-creators, then we’re also co-experiencers of this culture, and certainly the cultural attachment that’s been made to Satanism, and domination, and evil, and all that kind of stuff, why would we choose to be a part of that co-creation? [And] Identify with that? I mean, hell, why not? I’m not sure about the historical Jesus. I’m rather doubtful of the historical Jesus. But I would certainly rather identify with that co-created consciousness of, love everyone tell the truth, then I would, Satan.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:28:27] Well, I understand that. And to some extent this has to do with very, very deeply embedded definitions that we in the Western world are the recipients of. And there are many, many deeply embedded definitions in our lives, including, higher-lower, for example, I mean, which actually doesn’t really exist. If you asked me to point up, I go that way. But at this point, someone in Australia is watching your show. And he’s having an entirely different experience. It’s not the same as mine, although we agree, consensus based on what such terms are. I am trying to overturn the definition that we have of the satanic in the West, going back to its earliest roots, as a term for a kind of adversarial, or opposing force that you find within ancient Hebrew, up through esoteric traditions that came much later, including and primarily the romantic movements, and the thought systems of John Milton, Lord Byron, Percy [Unclear 29:35] and so on. All of that is very interesting to me. This may be too great a windmill for me to tilt at. I may be able to redeem certain terms like New Age, for example, because I don’t want them to just be defined by their critics. This term may be too foundational for me to redeem, but I don’t run away from very blunt language and I run away from frankly talking about it. And that’s my effort.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:30:00] Okay, I can buy that to a certain extent. But I just feel at some point we have to kind of compare it with stuff that’s going on. Like in that same article – I’ll pull it up again – you’re asked for who are some of your greatest inspirations. And you mentioned Satanist, Michael Aquino. I mean, Mitch, this guy is one of the worst of the worst. Pedophiles…
Mitch Horowitz: [00:30:29] No, that’s not true.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:30:31] But hold on. If you say it’s not true, okay, I get.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:30:35] It’s not my saying. That’s grotesquely inaccurate. He died recently. He had no involvement with pedophilia whatsoever. I’m surprised to hear you say that.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:30:43] Well, the reason I say it is because it’s reported in the San Jose Mercury News. And [Crosstalk 30:51]
Mitch Horowitz: [00:30:53] And it’s vintage. Because he was caught up in the satanic panic in the late 80’s, early 90’s. And most of the stuff that came out of the satanic panic is utter and complete fantasy and terrible calumny on the people who were accused. I would include him in that. I don’t know him personally. Never did. But I speak of him as a literary figure. I would advise reading his works, and I think he was a dynamic thinker.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:31:19] Well, I can pull up on the screen, but I have it up on the other screen. Okay, I will. So here it is. I now have it on the screen. Child abuse…
Mitch Horowitz: [00:31:29] Exactly the vintage I expected. Yeah, I mean, this is part of the whole satanic panic thing. The vast, vast number of these charges – And I will read this article, if you send it to me – have been not only disproved, but held up to be just a kind of mass hysteria. I don’t know this article, but I know the vintage.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:31:46] Well, we can talk about that for a minute. Are you familiar with… I mean, here’s the little girl at the mall. This is again a report in San Jose Mercury News, that sees Aquino and runs over to dad and holds her legs and says, “That’s the horrible man that did all of these things.” And with regard to the satanic panic thing…
Mitch Horowitz: [00:32:05] I’d be very careful. This article is from 1988. The entire story of the satanic panic was not dissimilar to stories of other mass hysteria, such as the Salem witch trials, where they were also similar things.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:32:24] Are you familiar with the book, The witch hunt narrative by Brown University professor, Dr. Ross [Unclear 32:31]?] Mitch Horowitz: [00:32:31] No.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:32:33] I mean, it kind of completely smashes the idea of this kind of wacky satanic panic. And he does it just with evidence. Like the evidence in the Presidio thing that Michael Aquino was directly connected with… Directly… I mean, he was brought… Charges were brought, they just never completed the prosecution of them, which happens so often in these cases. But there was evidence of sexual molestation of these three-year-old kids. They had sexually transmitted diseases, and their parents didn’t have any of those diseases.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:33:07] So that may be but I would be very careful about laying that at this doorstep. People suffer, and crimes are committed, and I want those crimes prosecuted, and I want people to be heard and things to be brought to justice. But the overarching theme of the satanic panic in many, many, many dozens of cases, which has been the subject of recent articles, including in the New York Times, which we could put up on the screen. It was a trail of absolute paranoia, calumny, and false charges, in general. And so I’d be very careful. I’m not denying the presence of suffering and justice that needs to be delivered. I stand for that. I stand for it. But the reason you hear me defending him is because dozens of people, many of whom were less flamboyant than Michael Aquino, many of whom were entirely innocent people, including daycare workers, healthcare workers, counselors were guilty of absolutely nothing. And yet at that time, concurrent with that, there were actual real documented cases of abuse going on in a mass scale, within very mainstream institutions like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church. Those are just facts. Very often a society will sort of displace what’s going on in the mainstream onto the fringes, because it presents a much easier and more salacious target.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:34:29] I agree with you that there’s a lot to sort through here. And the whole Christian thing can really muddy the waters because a lot of the people who were kind of stoking the flames of the satanic panic… And just to be clear, satanic panic is real. Right? There were a lot of people who were caught up in something that was in their wrongful accusations. There are people sitting in jail probably today as a result of that. And some of them have been let out. But the real evidence and the reason I brought up that book, “The Witch-Hunt Narrative” is that at the core of those cases, there was also a movement to discredit the core reality of satanic crimes against children. You know, McMartin preschool is one of the ones that everyone kind of points to. It is, oh my god, Martin preschool. Go back and look at the first case that’s reported McMartin preschool. It’s this kid Matt Johnson, who’s three years old and comes back and he’s bleeding from his butt. And he says, “Mommy, the teacher did this to me.” They rushed him to UCLA Medical, and go to cheats book, he has all the names of the people at UCLA and examined and this looks like sexual abuse. And they go, “Let’s bring it in somebody else like.” This looks like sexual abuse. “Let’s call the cops.” And they call the cops. And that’s when they start interviewing people that McMartin preschool. Now, whether the prosecution always leads to convictions of all these people, that’s a whole other thing.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:35:58] I dispute the premise that there’s a connection between child abuse and something called Satanism. Because, first of all, there is such a diffusion of definitions of Satanism, I’ve given you one, that one has to be very careful about the terms one is using. And there may be people who use any kind of definitions for themselves, that are not necessarily part of any historical lineage, movement or community. And we very rarely attempt to define these terms in terms of how the individual him or herself is using it. And the fact is, there are instances of abuse run rife across our society. The Satanist accusations are used to obfuscate rather than to reveal those instances, and that’s how they have been used historically.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:36:48] There’s a point there that you’re making that I would definitely agree with, and I’m not trying to shift more of the responsibility to Satanist then needs to go there. And I think that speaks to the larger understanding of this extended consciousness realm, and some of the forces in that extended realm that are truly malevolent, but I don’t want to get away from either the idea that Satanist haven’t been associated with this. And Michael Aquino, again, I mean, these charges, they follow him from the 60s when he’s doing all this horrible stuff in Vietnam, right through all the 80s in the 90s, and it keep coming up again and again. And like I say, the Presidio daycare thing is really pretty overwhelming evidence, I think, for a lot of people. And I guess, you can pull up on the fact that he wasn’t convicted. I just don’t get the inspiration. I don’t get that.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:37:53] Well, I’ll say two things. First of all, I dispute your characterization. I am not familiar with that article. But I was correct to suggest, as I did at the outset, that it was probably from the late 80s, early 90s, which was the deepest, darkest period of the satanic panic in which people’s lives were destroyed based on false accusations that were often stoked by therapists, counselors, clergy, self-styled experts, who are supposed to be protecting the very people who are sometimes exploited in these situations. There have been many articles and quite recently, in places like Vox and the New York Times who have no sympathy for paranormal themes that have traced the false history of this narrative. So I don’t know every source. And I can’t say that I have the final word on every personality, but that is a widely established fact of our civic culture at this point. My praise for…
Alex Tsakiris: [00:38:01] What is the fact that that I wasn’t acknowledging?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:38:50] That this satanic… As much as McCarthyism fomented an unjustified witch hunt mentality, so did the satanic panic.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:39:00] Yeah, but all I’m saying is that guy at McMartin raped little kids, and the evidence is pretty clear. And he was performing satanic rituals as part of it. He was cutting off the heads of animals, ritualistically. And then in court, he said, “It was animal husbands [unclear 39:18], animal husband [unclear 39:20]? It shows four and five years old.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:39:24] I don’t know that you’re talking. Do you know, the Boy Scouts of America has declared bankruptcy to shield itself from the wave of survivor abuse cases. I am sure that some of those cases are false and incorrect. I am sure that some of those cases are absolutely true, as with the Catholic Church. I can’t account for every single individual. And there may be a case where somebody was engaged in something. The Unabomber had a copy of the Bible and Catcher in the Rye in his cabin. I don’t know what he called himself, but I can’t account for every single individual. I’m talking about the Satanic Panic, being a period of mass hysteria and a real brutalization of people’s individual rights and lives ruined based on these false accusations. Now, Aquino is somebody who I have praised for his literary work, which goes back to the early 70s. I mentioned and I referenced several of his books, which I think are brilliant re-conceptualizations of [unclear 40:23] or Satanic themes.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:40:26] Okay. And I’ll take one more stab at this kind of indirectly, because I was really trying to connect the two things. One is that if there is this co-created culture that we both agree that we’re a part of, we are co-creators of our own reality in some way, we don’t totally understand. And we’re also collectively co-creators of our culture in some way that we don’t fully understand. And we are co-creating Satanism. And as its portrayed, and as you point out, not always in a way that you would, as a historian of spirituality like to see it go, but the way it’s portrayed in movies and film and all the rest of that stuff. So I just don’t think it’s hard to understand that there would be certain people that would identify with that what you call force, what I call spiritual energy, what I call possibility in this extended realm, some malevolent force that for a very long time has tried to pull things in a certain direction. Again, I’m not Christian. So I’m not trying to say this great fight.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:41:32] I agree to that. And I’m not what you were just describing. And I’m trying to say that. My very definition at the outset of this exchange was actually in opposition to malevolence. And so we have a disagreement about terms and I’m trying to use that term in a different way. I may fail at that, because it may just be that there’s too much baggage attached to it. And I’ve taken on a windmill that even I can’t tell that, but I’m applying a vastly and radically different definition, and one that is esoterically grounded that I think is defensible. But it is very hard to establish because there’s so much weight attached to that term, which I understand.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:42:14] Great. Thank you for hanging in there with me. Again, complements you directly answering stuff. Let me ask you a very big picture question. The question! Do you think there is a moral imperative? Is there right and wrong, or is that just a social construct?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:42:31] I think there’s a moral imperative, which I would refer to as reciprocity, where which in other cultures might be referred to as karma. I think in terms of a basic human wholeness, I think in terms of a basic reciprocity, I think reciprocity is what’s at the back of all ethics. I speak of ethics more than I speak of a moral imperative. And I think that my essential ethic in life is reciprocity. And my essential ethic is also one of what I suppose you could call non-violence, by which I mean, not desisting from self-defense, but not doing anything to disrupt another person’s search for highest potential that I claim for myself.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:43:10] Fair enough. So just straight on question. What do you make? How do you process some of the information that comes back from those extended realms, that would point to a moral imperative, a hierarchy of consciousness? So you know, we’ve done 100 shows on near death experience, just interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Long, who has the largest medically verified database of near death experiences. He believes that he can start seeing patterns in that data that any social scientist would agree are as valid as any other patterns we might see of people who suffer depression or grief or any of these other things that we generally accept. He’s all about, “There seems to be a moral hierarchy, a moral imperative, in this extended realm.” I’m not asking you to come in on that particular data, but to what extent are you willing to go there philosophically from what you’ve discovered so far?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:44:11] Oh sure. I mean, in terms of the psyche, I don’t think really with respect to hierarchy exactly, but in terms of the psyche, there’s certainly a polarity. And that polarity, say between good and evil, on the psychical scale is empathy versus spite. And we might be sliding on that polarity in different ways all the time. But the individual’s capacity for empathy is probably everything that lay behind what we would call ethics or what somebody might call morality. The individual’s capacity for spite is the polar opposite. And we may slide along that scale in different ways. But as above so below, you know, if that scale exists on the psyche, then it probably exists on greater scales as well.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:44:53] Okay, let me just see if I can pull it a little slightly different direction because I get what you’re saying. that winds up sounding a lot like what the materialists, atheists say about a socially constructed morality that is not connected with this extended reality that we’re talking about this force, if you will. So what I like about, for example, Dr. Long’s work. He says, “Okay. We’re past this time space limited consciousness. We are in this extended consciousness that is beyond time space. And now here’s the information we’re getting back. We know we can’t rely on it completely, because it’s contradictory in so many ways, just like so much of the esoteric information that you have studied,” but he says, “Here’s the pattern. And the pattern is, God, for lack of a better term hierarchy. The moral imperative, there is a good. You should go towards the light.” All that kind of stuff. And I’m just wondering how you deal with that. How you process that? What do you think about that? There’s a lot of different opinions on that, but I kind of leave out the atheist kind of, “It’s just all what we decide. And it’s the moral.” No, let’s assume there is this greater extended consciousness.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:46:13] Well, life tends towards generativity. We see that in nature. We see what might be called eternal recurrence in nature. We see polarities in nature. I believe that there is a generative principle in life, I think, in terms of generativity, productivity, self-expression, the fostering of potential. Again, not doing anything to deprive another person actively of that which I seek for myself, which includes physical safety, highest human potential, protection of the individual search for meaning. I don’t necessarily think in terms of hierarchy. I think of the greatest moral imperative as being, again, one of a kind of cosmic reciprocity. And I think that follows us into every area of life. And I think, we see those cycles repeated in nature as well.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:47:05] So Mitch, you are always a busy guy, writing a lot of books, a lot of appearances. What’s coming up for you now? What are you most interested in? What’s caught your attention? And what’s coming up for you in the future?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:47:19] What I’m really most interested in right now. And this is the subject of a book in progress. I’m trying to really get down to the guts within the mind causation or positive mind. Gambit or thesis. You know, are our thoughts causative? If so, to what extent? How is it possible to sort of understand this within the ordinary hours of our lives? How do we respond, if perhaps we’ve been dedicated to these kinds of methods? And they fail. And how does one deal with spiritual failure? And I believe that the mind power thesis is valid. I really believe it’s valid. But I also believe that it has not been sufficiently developed to accommodate questions of suffering, very deeply complex questions, some of which are unique to our time. Like people being able to live very long lives, but not necessarily with health. And it doesn’t do a good job of accommodating failure.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:47:43] What do you mean, it doesn’t do a good job of accommodating failure?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:48:35] Well, let’s say for example, I have some deeply, deeply cherished aim or wish in my life, and it goes bust. I don’t want to run away from questions of defeat or failure. I wish for myself what I wish for everyone watching this right now, which is that you’re able to pursue your ethical wishes with tremendous effectiveness, but there are things in life that present countervailing forces. And if the positive mind thesis is correct, it has to take account of that. So I’m trying to really get down to the guts of how we can arrive at a mature theory of positive mind metaphysics, if one thinks that’s valid, which I do.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:49:22] And what do you find most compelling from a historical standpoint in terms of what would inform that kind of right now secret kind of driven, positive psychology kind of thing?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:49:37] Yeah. I have a big problem with the secret, because I think, the secret posits a model of there being this one giant mental super law. And I think, in fact, we experience many different laws and forces. But probably, let’s say, the last 90 years of experiments in quantum theory have been just absolutely extraordinary in demonstrating that reality doesn’t behave itself on the subatomic level. And a law in order to be a law must be consistent. So we must be experiencing that on the macro level. There are interventions that keep us from experiencing it in the same way that one might on the micro level, just as there are interventions that keep us from experiencing gravity in the same way in all circumstances, even though gravity is constant. So the quantum theory suggests to us that perspective is constant and it’s effective. But what gets in the way of it, there may be any number of intervening forces, there might be infinite intervening forces. But that reality, that law, if I can put it that way, is present. And that’s fascinating to me.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:50:48] And what are the most significant links you find to that and the esoteric literature that you’re so well versed in?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:50:57] Well, my man who I have tattooed here in my arm is Neville Goddard. And he was a British Barbadian thinker. He died in 1972. And Neville, I think, created the greatest mystical analog to quantum theory. Neville was talking about things that we today would identify with quantum theory, but he was talking about them in the late 1940s, when none of this stuff was popularized. And he’s been an extraordinary source of inspiration to me. But as with many of my sources of inspiration, I love him, but I love him in light of disagreements. And I do believe that Neville didn’t account for in his philosophy, which is basically that your mind is the creative force of the universe. Your mind is what we refer to symbolically in Scripture as God or Christ. And you are… All your emotionalized thoughts are the birthing mechanism of everything that you experience. That’s a tantalizing theory. And he could argue for it with elegance, which he did. But I don’t think he took into account that. Again, I used to say, we live under many different laws and forces. Now I put it a little differently. I say we experience many different laws and forces. There’s so many intervening things, so many intervening things. And I simply cannot allow for the fact that people who dwell in tragic circumstances are self-creating that. I don’t believe that. I believe there are other intervention or circumstances. I also believe that Neville was right. So there’s a kind of paradoxical thing, and someone told me many years ago, “Listen, if you want to get somewhere on the spiritual path, a lot of it depends upon having a very high toleration level for paradox.” And I’ve come to realize that more and more as years have passed. So while Neville’s thesis is at the core of my life, there’s too much that goes on in life in general that it doesn’t fully cover. And so I’m trying to marry my love for this man’s ideas, which I share and which I experiment with, with my own insistence that there must be other laws and forces that are intervening, because there’s too many things in life that we see that I believe are not attributable to the individual’s mental picture rising or emotionalized thoughts.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:53:28] The only thing that stands in its way really is kind of a lot of this absurd, guilt induced religious dogma that is so woven into our culture. And I just think when that stripped away, all the rest of this stuff just seems not even controversial. Of course, we are the captain of our ship, of course, we are co-creators of our reality, of course, whatever divinity there is, we have access to it directly. How have they manufactured that, obfuscated that in some way that even has to be something that we wrestle with? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Mitch Horowitz: [00:54:08] Well, you know, I think it’s probably because there’s so much suffering in life. And in order to come up with a framework for understanding that different institutions, for example, have arrived at theologies of suffering.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:54:26] But as we know now, it’s been exposed. A lot of times that is the manipulation on the weaponization of suffering. So it’s not just like that they come in saying, “I’m going to heal you”, but what they’re really trying to do is inflict that suffering as a kind of control guilt whole thing.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:54:44] Well, it’s an interesting question. I mean, I never want people to feel that I have kind of a stock or an off the shelf judgment of relationship towards different communities of belief also. So for example, the Catholic Church has a very serious and highly developed theology of suffering. I think, there’s some merit in it. I think that I don’t know, you know, in the ultimate sense that it’s true. I don’t believe it as my personal philosophy. But I do think that it’s an effort that is at once institutional and hierarchical and at once deeply serious and meaningful. And, for example, like someone like Norman Vincent Peale, a Protestant minister, who wrote the power of positive thinking. My criticism of Peale is that he didn’t have a theology of suffering. He didn’t grapple with those questions sufficiently enough or deep enough by miles. Although I love him in other ways. And so I look at Neville, for example, and Neville would say that, if you’re suffering, you need to assume the feeling state of deliverance. And that feeling state itself will eventually harden into the contours of reality. Now, I think, it’s a fact of human nature, and other people watching can make their own determinations about this. But I believe it’s a fact of human nature, I say, for a long lifetime on this path, that when a person is in the depths of grief or addiction or suffering, I think it is all but asking that person to do the impossible by assuming the feeling state of a diametrically different reality. They would almost have to be a master thespian to the point of some sort of transcendental ability to assume that feeling state psychically. So does that mean that the truly suffering individual is kind of locked outside the gates? Sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you. This is the method. And if you can’t follow it, you’re out of luck. I dispute that. I don’t think that Mother Nature has played a cruel joke on us, where the only way that we can access desired causative energies of the mind is to work ourselves into a feeling state that’s opposite where we are. I don’t think that’s possible. I think it’s possible from an armchair. I don’t think it’s possible from a state of deep grief. So one of the things I’m trying to do in this new book that I’m working on, which I was referencing, is I’m asking, “Are there alternate methods available to the suffering person?” That’s a huge question for me right now.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:57:21] Great. I really appreciate you engaging so fully in this dialogue. As you know, that’s something a lot of people have a hard time doing. But I always find that these conversations are important to a lot of people who seek them out and never seem to find them. So it’s been great having you on and I really appreciate you joining us.
Mitch Horowitz: [00:57:44] Thank you, man. I appreciate it very much.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:57:46] Thanks again to Mitch Hurwitz for joining me today on Skeptiko. And I guess the one question I tee up from this interview is, “What’s the game? What’s going on here? What’s with the deception? What’s with the coded speech? What’s with the kind of wink and nod hidden stuff?” None of this stuff seems that complicated to me. Why is it always portrayed as so damn esoteric? so darn occulted? Let me know your thoughts. Like to do it as a Skeptical Forum or anywhere you track me down. Glad you’re here. Glad you’re joining me. This is my journey shared with anyone else who’s interested. So if it suits you, if it fits, you come along, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I get it. No problem. Until next time, take care, and bye for now.
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