Cover image for Dark star rising : magick and power in the age of Trump / Gary Lachman.
Dark star rising : magick and power in the age of Trump / Gary Lachman.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : A Tarcher Perigee Book, [2018]
Physical Description:
xxii, 233 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A TarcherPerigee book."

Includes index.
New world disorder -- "I'm a winner" -- Positive chaos -- Gurus and demagogues -- Alt-right now -- It's tradition -- A war of all against all -- The politics of chaos.
Did positive thinking and mental science help put Donald Trump in the White House? And are there any other hidden powers of the mind and thought at work in today's world politics? In Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, historian and cultural critic Gary Lachman takes a close look at the various magical and esoteric ideas that are impacting political events across the globe. From New Thought and Chaos Magick to the far-right esotericism of Julius Evola and the Traditionalists, Lachman follows a trail of mystic clues that involve, among others, Norman Vincent Peale, domineering gurus and demagogues, Ayn Rand, Pepe the Frog, Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, synarchy, the Alt-Right, meme magic, and Vladimir Putin and his postmodern Rasputin. Come take a drop down the rabbit hole of occult politics in the twenty-first century and find out the post-truths and alternative facts surrounding the 45th President of the United States with one of the leading writers on esotericism and its influence on modern culture.
Personal Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
130.973 LAC Book Adult General Collection

On Order



First the good news- Various forms of magick and mind-metaphysics are on the rise. Now the bad news- Leading the revival are alt-right nationalists who do not want you to have a nice day.

Here is the definitive account of how esoteric practices and chaos magick relate to Trump's victory-and your future. No conspiracies, no fantasies- a steely eyed work of realism and a triumph of historical journalism written from within a world where most religion chroniclers never tread, by acclaimed historian Gary Lachman.

Author Notes

Gary Lachman is the author of many books on consciousness, culture, and the Western esoteric tradition, including The Secret Teachers of the Western World; Beyond the Robot- The Life and Work of Colin Wilson; Rudolf Steiner- An Introduction to His Life and Work; In Search of P. D. Ouspensky; A Secret History of Consciousness; Politics and the Occult; and The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus . He writes for several journals in the US and UK and lectures on his work in the US, UK, and Europe. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and he has appeared in several radio and television documentaries. He is assistant professor in the Evolution of Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies. A founding member of the rock group Blondie, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. He can be reached at



Chapter One "I'm a Winner" Billionaire Donald J. Trump's victory in the November 2016 U.S. presidential election came as a surprise to many, but surely not to Trump. "I am a winner," he said throughout his campaign, and it seems he was right. Winning is important for Trump; as more than one commentator has pointed out, it's no exaggeration to say that it is practically the only important thing for him. As he wrote in his self-help book The Art of the Deal, designed to help its readers become winners too, "I'm the first to admit that I am very competitive and that I'll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win." Most people who know Trump would agree with this self-assessment, although some might suspect that when necessary, he wouldn't be averse to stretching the acceptable boundaries of achieving success just a bit. But business is one thing. Surely politics is another. Or is it? Trump's victory left many reeling and set the political pundits pondering on the reasons for his upset. Scrambling for answers, they looked to white middle-class dissatisfaction, Russian intervention, and Hillary Clinton's bad reputation, among other things, for clues. But one sure contribution to Trump's ascendancy must be his positive self-image, his certainty that, as he told his supporters over and over, he is a winner and that he will get what he wants. "People may not always think big themselves," Trump tells his readers, "but they can still get very excited by those who do." Trump is one of those who do. He thinks big. There is nothing small about him. From Trump Tower to his aborted plans to build the largest building in the world to his massive Atlantic City casino, practically everything Trump turned his hand to was on a large scale, driven by a desire, with him from an early age, to "make a statement . . . to build something monumental," to take on what he called the "big challenge." What accounts for this strident self-confidence, this unshakable assurance of success and driving need to stand out from the mediocre many? Narcissism, megalomania, egomania, selfishness, insensitivity to others, and other personality traits have been offered as explanations for Trump's unswerving optimism and self-belief. To be sure, Trump's psychological profile can accommodate these characteristics and more; as I will try to show, he strikes me as an example of what the writer Colin Wilson called a "Right Man," someone who under no circumstances will admit to being wrong, and who will stop at practically nothing to get his way. But in the flurry of news reports, articles, posts, and tweets that followed in the wake of Trump's victory, one possible reason that could account for Trump's perpetually upbeat demeanor rose out of the mass of sound bites and caught my attention. According to some reports, Trump's at times ruthless belief in his own powers and abilities may lie in his interest in an obscure and somewhat "magical" philosophy known as New Thought, Mental Science, or, as it is sometimes also called, "the power of positive thinking." Trump's mentor in positive thinking was the man who popularized the phrase, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. In 1952, Peale's book The Power of Positive Thinking appeared and immediately became a success, spending ninety-eight weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and making its author a wealthy man. It is still a healthy seller in the self-help and self-improvement market. Peale read earlier New Thought writers such as Ernest Holmes, Charles Fillmore, and Napoleon Hill and absorbed their fundamental insight, that the mind can influence reality directly, or, as its most basic formula has it, "thoughts are causative." This means that by merely thinking we can change the world around us. If that isn't magical, I don't know what is. Peale took this idea and, as the historian of New Thought Mitch Horowitz put it, "reprocessed mind-power teachings through scriptural language and lessons." According to Peale, one could achieve both spiritual and material success in life-he believed that contrary to much ancient wisdom the two are not mutually exclusive-and thinking positively was the way to do it. Trump started attending Peale's sermons as a boy in the 1950s and he took this message to heart. Later he transferred it to the bank. Peale played a large role in Trump's life. His parents attended Peale's services at the Marble Collegiate Church on New York's Fifth Avenue and Trump himself was a familiar face among the parishioners there for more than fifty years. Trump was married to his first wife, Ivana Zeln'kov++, at the church, and rumor had it that he met his second wife, the model Marla Maples, there too. Trump denied this but he did admit to seeing Marla at the services often. In any case, his marriage to Marla was performed in the church by Peale's successor, the Reverend Arthur Caliandro. Peale's doctrine of "positive thinking" appealed to Fred Trump, Donald's father, another successful businessman, who said that there was "nobody else like Peale," an estimate Donald agreed with. Trump admitted to two mentors in his life: one was his father, the other was Peale. Given Trump's great respect for his father, this was admiration indeed. Trump called Peale "a great preacher and a great public speaker" and admitted that after hearing one of his sermons he could have "sat there for another hour." What religious or spiritual import Trump absorbed from Peale's sermons is debatable, but Trump was clearly impressed by the Reverend's "speaking ability" and "thought process." What did Peale speak of? What were his thoughts about? Mainly about success, in the world of the spirit, yes, but in the material one even more. As Gwenda Blair, a biographer of the Trump family, said in a podcast, Trump's obsession with winning may be rooted in the kind of this-worldly advice he absorbed at Peale's sermons. The idea that winning was everything was brought home in those Sunday services. "That's a very Norman Vincent Peale notion," Blair said, "that notion of success above all." If Trump thought highly of Peale, the admiration was mutual. In 1983, to congratulate him on the opening of Trump Tower, a fifty-eight-story multimillion-dollar contribution to Manhattan's skyline, Peale sent Trump a note predicting that he would be "America's greatest builder." Peale was always impressed by successful people and effective self-promoters, and he was drawn to Trump after seeing him on television. What Peale may have thought of Trump's political success is unknown-he died in 1993-but given that he backed Republicans throughout his life we can imagine. Richard Nixon sought solace at Peale's church after losing the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy, and was later consoled by Peale during the height of the Watergate scandal; Ronald Reagan was a fan too. With Trump in the White House, the idea of being "America's greatest builder" takes on a new meaning. Trump took Peale's teachings as a kind of scripture and suggested that he won the approval of his mentor. "He thought I was his greatest student of all time," Trump, no practitioner of false modesty, reported. Peale taught Trump to think only of the best outcomes-to, in the words of an old song, "accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative." "The mind," Trump believed, "can overcome any obstacle. I never think of the negative." No wonder he's convinced he's a winner. It is easy to see New Thought or Òpositive thinkingÓ as a scam, a metaphysical snake oil sold to the losers in lifeÕs scramble for success. Or as a self-serving religion to its winners, like Trump. Or, as Barbara Ehrenreich does, as a puritanical philosophy that denies valid cause for sorrow or sadness and demands of its practitioners Òperpetual effort and self-examination to the point of self-loathing,Ó not to mention cheerfulness on tap. But a closer look reveals something much more interesting. As mentioned, the philosophy of New Thought is based on the idea that the mind can influence reality directly, that mental effort alone can make things happen. In all of its different versions, whether as Mental Science, Science of Mind, Creative Visualization, and others, it emphasizes the same idea. If we can imagine an outcome clearly enough, persistently enough, with enough confidence and commitment, it will materialize. The mind, it affirms, can create reality. We need only believe firmly and it will be so. New Thought's insistence on the power of the imagination to create reality seems harmless, if absurd. Most of us accept that reality is not so accommodating and reject the idea outright. Experience, we say, tells us that it just can't be true. But the beliefs of New Thought are rooted in ancient occult ideas, insights into the magical nature of the mind and reality that informed the philosophers of second-century Alexandria and the geniuses of the Renaissance, and which today are seen to be more and more in line with our understanding of physical reality at its most fundamental level. Ever since the rise of quantum physics, we've known, as the physicist Werner Heisenberg tells us, that the observer influences the observed. Around the same time as the first forays into the quantum world were being made, in the early twentieth century, the philosopher Edmund Husserl came to a similar conclusion. Husserl's fundamental insight, which informed later developments such as existentialism, is that perception is intentional. That is, for Husserl, consciousness does not merely reflect a world that is already "there," as a mirror does, whether we want it to or not, but actively reaches out and "grabs" it, rather like a mental hand, and, as it were, molds it into shape. On a different track, a bit earlier than Husserl, and taking a hint from the German poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the esoteric teacher Rudolf Steiner, most known today as the founder of Waldorf Education, argued that our minds are not mere witnesses but cocreators of the world around us. And today, some of the most respected and successful people on the planet even suggest that the entire world we know is really a kind of collective dream, a simulation, maintained by a secret elite, aware of reality's plasticity and equipped with the knowledge and will to manipulate it-an idea that itself goes back to the beliefs of an ancient mystical sect known as the Gnostics. So if people adhering to the philosophy of New Thought, as Trump does, maintain that the mind can create, alter, or affect reality, they seem to be in good company. It really should be no surprise that a president who declared himself for ÒAmerica firstÓ should be a devotee of New Thought. The phrase Ònew thoughtÓ itself was coined by one of AmericaÕs greatest thinkers, the nineteenth-century poet, essayist, and orator Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was the leader of a school of philosophy known as Transcendentalism, which is a good candidate for the first homegrown American intellectual movement. Another famous Transcendentalist was Henry David Thoreau, author of the classic Walden. In an essay aptly named ÒSuccess,Ó Emerson wrote: ÒTo redeem defeat by new thought, by firm action, that is not easy, that is the work of divine men.Ó The notion of success must have been important to Emerson, as he also wrote a poem about it, although some believe the poem attributed to him was really written by Bessie Anderson Stanley. Either way, the kind of success the poem and EmersonÕs essay aspire to is not the kind we associate with Trump, having more to do with achieving a kind of inner harmony and leaving the world a better place than building monumental skyscrapers. Transcendentalism had its roots in German and English Romanticism, which itself was rooted in notions of the mind and its relation to reality associated with a school of German philosophy known as Idealism. Rudolf Steiner, mentioned above, was deeply influenced by German Idealism. The two philosophers most associated with Idealism were Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Idealism's view of the world reached Emerson through English thinkers like the historian Thomas Carlyle and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, both of whom were readers of German metaphysics. The simplest way to understand Idealism is to say that it is the polar opposite of the materialism that was the prevalent view of reality in Emerson's time and remains so today. That is to say, where materialism says that "matter," the hard stuff of the physical world, is the fundamental truth about reality, Idealism says that what is "really real" is the mind, consciousness, or spirit, and that the physical world is ultimately an expression of this. Kant, for instance, believed that the physical world we see, the universe of space and time, is actually a product of our perceptual apparatus. For Kant our minds somehow organize the raw data of reality into the world perceptible to our senses. Kant did not mean, as some think he did, that we create the world out of whole cloth, that it is a pure fabrication. He is not saying that everything "is in our heads." Such a route leads to solipsism, the belief that "you" are the only thing that you can know, which leaves one in a kind of epistemological bubble, in touch with nothing else. There is a "real world" out there, but we never see it as it is "in itself"-that is, as it appears when we are not perceiving it-but only as our minds deliver it to us. For Kant, it is through the mind's action on the raw data of existence that anything like a "world" appears for us to experience. Hegel got over the hurdle of Kant's verboten world "in itself" by saying that the entire universe, ourselves included, is participating in a vast process of evolution, in which Mind or Spirit, the ultimate reality, comes to awareness of itself through human consciousness. There are other aspects of Idealism, and Edmund Husserl, mentioned earlier, was a late exponent of it. The general idea is that for Idealism, the mind is not some accidental passive product of a blind material universe-something many scientists and philosophers persist in insisting on today-but is in fact in charge and at the center of things. Transcendentalism had roots in other schools of thought that emphasized the mind over matter. One was Hinduism, especially the spiritual scriptures of the Upanishads, which see the material world as a kind of illusion or dream called "Maya" from which our minds must awaken. Another was the teachings attributed to the mythical founder of magic, Hermes Trismegistus, "thrice-greatest Hermes." As the historian Frances Yates argued, the philosophers of second-century Alexandria and the geniuses of the Renaissance mentioned earlier were devotees of the teachings of the thrice-greatest one. Emerson's journals make more than one reference to Hermetic philosophy, which has come down to us in a collection of philosophical, mystical, and magical texts known as the Corpus Hermeticum. Central to Hermetic philosophy is the power of imagination. In Book XI of the Corpus Hermeticum, Nous, or the Universal Mind, tells Hermes that "within God everything lies in imagination." He tells his awestruck student, who receives this revelation in a kind of waking dream, that "if you do not make yourself equal to God you cannot understand him." Such is the power of the imagination that if Hermes were to command his soul to go anywhere, Nous tells him, it would be there "quicker than your command." With imagination he can "grow to immeasurable size," "be free from every body," and "transcend all time." And in a belief that will echo throughout the history of New Thought, Nous counsels Hermes to "Suppose nothing to be impossible for yourself." Excerpted from Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump by Gary Lachman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.