`1955 ad for the “Special Liberace Edition” of Claude M. Bristol’s Magic of Believing.

Claude M. Bristol and the Metaphysics of Necessity

Life was not always ‘magic’ for the mind-power author — but he left an important self-help legacy

Mitch Horowitz
18 min readMar 27


The American metaphysical scene has produced no other figure quite like Claude M. Bristol (1890–1951). He did not write as a spiritual visionary or scientist but rather as a journalist and businessman who related to the needs of everyday people — and who discovered a personal metaphysics that he believed could be broadly applied.

Bristol gave full voice to his ideas in his 1948 mind-power classic, The Magic of Believing, a book that has never been out of print. Bristol’s guide to the actualizing powers of thought won legions of readers, including celebrities from Liberace to Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a writer and seeker on the contemporary metaphysical scene, I encounter a surprising range of people who swear by Bristol’s insights.

The Magic of Believing is as much memoir as metaphysical guidebook and it must be understood in connection with the man himself. Bristol’s life was at once testament to his ideas — and to their limits.

Bristol was born in Portland, Oregon, on March 8, 1890. He spent most of his career as a journalist, businessman, and lawyer. The author was widely known throughout the West as a crack newspaper and magazine writer. He first learned his craft as a police reporter in Portland. Few forms of training do more to sharpen and prepare you for work as a writer, journalist, or researcher than police reporting.

A rare image of the author.

I also began my career as a police reporter in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so I can identify with Bristol’s path. In that atmosphere, you function under tight deadlines in stressful and rarely friendly conditions. You learn to gather facts quickly and produce resolutely clear copy. Or you sink. That’s where Bristol’s chops as a writer came from.

He was sufficiently recognized as a journalist so that Palmer Hoyt (1897–1979), the widely respected editor-in-chief of The Denver Post, wrote the introduction to the first edition of The Magic of Believing, an unusual…



Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China