"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China
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Pic by Jacqueline Castel, graphic by Josh Romero

All you need to do is try

American philosopher William James (1842–1910) yearned to find a practical spirituality, one that produced concrete improvements in happiness.

The Harvard physician grew encouraged, especially in his final years, by his personal experiments with New Thought, which he called “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” I challenge today’s seekers to continue James’s search for a testable, workable spiritual system. Will join me in a thirty-day experiment that puts positive-mind metaphysics to the test?

It is based on a passage from a 1931 book, Body, Mind, and Spirit by Elwood Worcester and Samuel McComb, in which a prominent scientist described radically improving his life through a one-month thought experiment. …

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Speaking in Chicago, 2019.

One Australian researcher got it

(This article is adapted from The Miracle Club. Notes appear at the end.)

I honor the perspective of journalist Norman Cousins who wrote in Anatomy of an Illness in 1979: “Not every illness can be overcome. But many people allow illness to disfigure their lives more than it should. They cave in needlessly. They ignore and weaken whatever powers they have for standing erect.”

Although I urge caution throughout this book, I do not discount the possibility of extraordinary—even miraculous—episodes of recovery pertaining to the mind. And when I write “mind” I use an open-ended definition. …

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“Are you a Satanist?”

I recently joined Greg Salyer, president of Manly P. Hall’s Philosophical Research Society (PRS), to participate in a forum to celebrate Manly’s life and work and the launch of my new book, The Seeker’s Guide to the Secret Teachings of All Ages. In the question-and-answer period that followed a viewer asked and Greg faithfully (and rightly) repeated THAT question. Here is my reply, which I hope you will find elucidating.

Greg: All right Mitch let’s get this over with. You’ve been you’ve been waiting for this question: Are a Satanist?

Mitch: Ah, what a wonderful question. I believe in giving direct answers to direct questions. So, I’m going to give you a very direct answer. And the answer is: yes. However, I also want to give you a very clear answer. And the clear answer is that I have my own individualized conception of what that means. And it’s very important to understand that it’s impossible to interpret another person’s ethical, religious, and spiritual journey through the lens of decisions that other people have made about what a classification is, what a thought system is, or what a school is, or, as often happens, through entertainment. …

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Mitch in Brooklyn. Pic by Jacquelyn Castel.

If you’ve heard it before it’s probably a waste of time

We derive a visceral thrill and probably a dopamine rush from reading things that affirm what we already believe. This is especially true of emotional subjects like religion and politics. “Opinion porn,” if I may, delivers the same kind of repetitive thrill as binge eating. It provides the head-nodding jolt of seeing your imagined adversaries taken down and your team score another touchdown.

Beware of this pattern. The repeat-intake of opinioneering stifles original thought even as you believe you are receiving more and more insight. (Hint: insight doesn’t arrive in quantity.) In actuality, bingeing on opinion-affirming media is an emotional and physical fix more than an intellectual one, even though the tools are words, facts, and arguments. …

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Lose this skin: at a self-immolation ritual in Brooklyn, July 4, 2020. Still by Jacquline Castel.

As a writer, I feared quitting the world’s largest media platform. I’ve never regretted it.

We remain attached to unproductive situations because of fear. We are often more frightened of losing a theorized or imagined benefit than we are desirous of freeing ourselves.

This summer I opted to free myself. I left Facebook and deleted my pages behind me. I haven’t experienced a moment’s regret.

Facebook has been a wonderful tool for me in many ways. I’ve met lots of great people there. However, something about the tech of Facebook — I cannot quite place my finger on it — fosters a frivolity of comment and an excess of familiarity with strangers or near-strangers. …

Whether Freemasons, the Illuminati, or the “Deep State,” secret groups are not out to get you…and may have something to teach

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[The following article is adapted from the author’s forthcoming book, The Seeker’s Guide to the Secret Teachings of All Ages.]

The question of “secret societies” is one of the most controversial and dramatic in all of esoteric spirituality. In a sense, it is particularly controversial at this moment in the twenty-first century because we are living through a period in America, and in other parts of the world, where people are suffused with a kind of us-versus-them mentality.

A certain degree of conspiracist thought has always been popular within American history, going back to the anti-Masonic scares of the early 19th century, and we seem to be experiencing an upsurge of this kind of conspiracist thinking today, in which a “hidden hand” is thought to be manipulating our destiny. …

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Mitch in Brooklyn, 2020. Still by Jacqueline Castel.

Trust me, it really is better

The principle of ruling in Hell has been the hallmark of my life.

As a young child and later as an adolescent I often felt ill at ease, locked out of the mainstream of life, uncomfortable, literally, in my own skin.

I had to create a world in which I could experience power and ability on my own terms. And I did. Because of that fact, I wouldn’t give up earlier sufferings for something easier even I could. …

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Open Classroom: Mitch in NYC, pre-pandemic. Photo by Larry Busacca.

Pandemics and student debt don’t mix

I believe we are in time of great flux in terms of education, especially with the crisis of student debt in the Age of Covid. I would take this opportunity to carefully consider where to dedicate your education dollars and years, or those of a child.

Some of the most inspiring and successful people I know did not attend college. …

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Mitch in NYC, 2020, pre-pandemic. Still by Jacqueline Castel.

Positive-mind metaphysics for working people

The conventional rap on positive thinking is that it is for corporate finks (or those who aspire to be), fuels Trump-like reality distortions, and forms a therapeutic miasma that keeps working people in their place.

My view is different. My story is different. And I write it from lived experience.


My philosophical hero is Neville Goddard (1905–1972). an English, Barbados-born mystic, who wrote under his first name. He heard the following words in the midst of a personal vision: “Down with the blue bloods!” To Neville, privilege did not belong to the rich but to the truly imaginative.

Because of Neville’s English background and elegant bearing, many people assumed he was born wealthy. He was not — far from it. Likewise, because of my New York background and surname, many people judged the same of me growing up. A school bus driver upon hearing that I lived in a suburban development with gaudily named streets like Royal Way and Regents Lane said, “Oh, a rich kid, huh?” A truculent writer with whom I worked once (just once) called me “college boy,” inferring the same thing. …

Planet Soul

Your outer self shouldn’t be an afterthought

A photo of a person holding a mirror that reflects the blue sky. The mirror is covering their face.
A photo of a person holding a mirror that reflects the blue sky. The mirror is covering their face.
Photo: Chrystofel Rico/EyeEm/Getty Images

Much of today’s spiritual culture asks us to embrace principles of nonattachment and nonidentification. We typically hear that the material world is an illusion or samsara, which the seeker should learn to disregard, and that what matters most is what we cannot see.

I don’t believe that gets at the real story of our lives. I don’t think it encompasses the nature of our existence. I believe the principle of nonattachment places an unnatural demand on the seeker. It’s like a carrot forever dangled in front of them; we feel like we’re running toward it without getting any closer.

Tradition or habit?

All religions attempt to codify and structure our relations with the ineffable. Every religion emerges from its own locality and time period, reflecting the civic, legal, and social needs of a particular population. All the great religions offer universal lessons, but they also bear traits of the cultural prejudices, attitudes, and circumstances from which they arose. Hinduism and Buddhism give us many of our modern ideas about nonidentification and nonattachment but grew from times and places where individuals were almost certain to live and die within the social caste they were born into. …

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