Executive editor of Tarcher/Penguin, Mitch Horowitz, shared an in-depth look at the occult, which he explained is all about the pursuit of self-knowledge.An effort was made by the early church to associate paganism and nature-based religions which delved into hidden abilities with something sinister, he said. For instance, he noted that in ancient art, horns depicted on the head of humans were a sign of enlightenment, but in a kind of "cultural warfare" the church later associated such imagery with evil.
The church sanctioned the brutal killing of people identified as witches for centuries, and Horowitz said that some of the people targeted may have actually had disorders such as epilepsy. Today, he noted, Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions with up to one million practitioners in the U.S.
He views Edgar Cayce as the most important figure in the development of the occult in America. The anecdotal evidence of his psychic ability was "overwhelming," he said, and Cayce brought popularity to the idea of using occultic gifts to help other people. Horowitz said he will be launching the book The Neville Reader, this June, which features the work of the metaphysical thinker Neville Goddard. He also recommended the book Science of Mind, and the websites prs.org and bota.org as good sources for more information about the occult.