The Donald, Chaos Magician

Historians are going to be spending decades trying to divine the reasons why Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. But what about divination itself? That’s the explanation given in a new book by occult historian Gary Lachman. Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump argues that the President and his alt-Right followers used positive thinking, magic, and occult practices to defeat Hillary Clinton.

The idea is that Trump came to power through the use of “New Thought,” which is a generic name for “a variety of different beliefs, philosophies, and practices that have as their central theme the idea that the mind can influence reality directly, that through mental effort alone we can ‘make things happen,’” writes Lachman, a musician and the author of critical studies of Karl Jung, Rudolf Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, and other figures in the Western esoteric tradition.

The real-estate magnate and his supporters apparently willed him into the White House by tapping into a non-material realm that allows those with the right skills, or the right amount of willpower and positive thinking, to create their imagined reality.

While the claim does not make rational sense, and many of the facts contradict it, Lachman’s history of American fringe spirituality is fascinating. Lachman is a good researcher and a skilled writer. If read like a science fiction novel, Dark Star Rising is a lot of fun. It offers an engaging  tour through the esoteric spiritual beliefs and practices that have been part of America’s history, and that have always been part of human history.

Known as Rejected Knowledge, hermeticism, perennial wisdom and, more recently, the New Thought, heterodox spiritual thinking goes back at least to ancient Greece. Lachman, a veteran of the rock band Blondie, did capacious research for this his 20th (approximately) book. It touches on the Greeks, who believed certain rituals affected the body, and on Hermes Trismegistu, the Egyptian priest whose ideas about conjuring spirits, alchemy, and spells greatly influenced the Transcendentalist movement that was started in America by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Hermes believed that “within God everything lies in the imagination” and that “if you do not make yourself equal to God you cannot understand him.” For Hermes, the imagination was the pathway to the universal mind, and if harnessed right allows one to send one’s soul anywhere and “transcend all of time.” It was a template for much New Age thought to come.

Poets and artists such as William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Butler Yeats were all interested in ghosts, séances, extrasensory perception, astral projection, and other fringe thought and practices. In the 19th century, Emerson coined the term “New Thought” for the old idea that thoughts could affect reality. Inspired by Hinduism, Hermes, and German and English Romanticism, Emerson founded Transcendentalism, the belief that the material world is a manifestation of our thoughts and imagination. The philosopher William James was also a disciple of the New Thought, and founded his own school of thought, Pragmatism, which looked for the “cash value” of Transcendentalism, Spiritism, Idealism and the “optimistic evolutionism” of his time.

While health was always central to occult ritual and then the New Thought, in 20th century America it became about creating not just wellness, but wealth. New Thought was fused with certain variants of Christianity, particularly the gospel of prosperity. One of the giants of American positive thinking was Norman Vincent Peale, who was also one of the major influences on Donald Trump (yes, the connection, however attenuated, does exist).

Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, a landmark in the American tradition of self-help, was published in 1952. As Lachman notes, he “was able to take the basic principles and concepts of New Thought and repackage them in a modern, Christianized version.” Peale read New Thought authors such as Ernest Holmes, Charles Filmore, and Napoleon Hill, and absorbed the idea that “thoughts are causative.”

Lachman informs us that the President’s parents, Fred and Mary Anne Trump, attended the Reverend Peale’s services at Marble Collegiate Church on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and that the President married his first wife, Ivana Zelnickova, at the church. Fred Trump is quoted in these pages saying that there was “nobody else like Peale.” Donald Trump, too, has praised Peale as “a great preacher and a great public speaker.” Lachman writes that “the idea that winning was everything was brought him in those Sunday services.” The presidential self-praise with which we’ve all become so familiar echoes Peale’s commands: “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Self-confidence leads to self-realization and successful achievement.”

The author calls Trump a “chaos magician.” Whereas in traditional magic or New Thought, the adherent taps into a platonic form or the collective unconscious, or “eternal vibration of the universe” in order to achieve health or wellbeing, “chaos magic” rejects the traditional rituals and sigils (medieval symbols) of the occult in favor of more direct action, like the imagination or will alone. It’s a focus on what Lachman calls “affecting the now.” He notes that Trump may not have been doing this consciously—that a lot of it may have just been a combination of Peale’s positivism and the hard will of a kid from Queens, New York.

Originating in London in the 1970s, chaos magic attempts to “widen the borders of achievable reality” by grasping the flow of events and “nudging it towards what is wanted.” Trump’s followers on the alt-Right turned to the Internet, a “techno astral plane” in Lachman’s words, to put their candidate over the top. Lachman even adduces what white nationalist leader Richard Spencer has said: “We willed him into office.” Traditionally, New Age disciples have not been so involved in politics.

As may already be evident, the problem with Dark Star Rising—the same problem that exists with occult interpretations in general—is that it’s possible to fit almost anything into a pattern that’s only discernible within a mystical system or unseen world. Lachman’s investigation into X-Files America is captivating and fun, as I say, but it attempts to spread its aura far too wide.

Like a numerologist who can connect the Washington Monument, Pablo Picasso, and Mexican beer into a tight system that makes perfect sense, Lachman sees Trump in every kind of occult movement. Thus the President uses the dark magnetism of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, but also the verbally abusive style of the anti-statist Objectivist Ayn Rand. (Lachman claims that Hitler liked chaos, which seems odd for such a tightly control demagogue.) Trump is simultaneously focused on his will and positive thinking and all over the map. Lachman asks whether Trump is a guru, a chaos magician, or a demagogue—and then answers that it’s a bit of all three. The author leaves out any mention of Barack Obama, who is arguably a much more messianic figure, guru, and cult leader than Trump. (But perhaps that’s a different book.)

Lachman’s biggest blunder comes in his assessment of Trump campaign chief and former White House aide Steve Bannon, who has commended the writings of an esoteric philosopher named Julius Evola. Evola (1898-1974) belonged to the philosophical school called Traditionalism, according to which the primordial revelation of the truth about reality, on which all religions have supposedly been based, was revealed in the distant past. Votaries of this philosophy believe that it has been a long, decadent decline since the golden age of truth. According to Evola, the West is in the Iron Age, having passed through Gold, Silver, and Bronze ages. Combining an affinity for Mussolini and Hitler with esoteric philosophy, Evola saw the magician as someone able to shape reality through the mind alone. Lachman: “For Evola, the aim of the magician is to develop his own personal power, his will, which is a kind of force that he can exert in order to refashion the world as he would like it.”

Bannon lasted a year before being bounced as White House chief strategist. He has been making lots of speeches since then, but has faded from the front pages. Apparently this alt-Right leader’s powers of manipulation and mesmerism have failed him. His fall from the peaks of power, which Lachman acknowledges in an afterword, calls into question the entire thesis of Dark Star Rising. It is likely that economic downturns, resistance to punitive liberalism, and the terrible candidacy of Hillary Clinton had more to do with the Trump victory than dark magic or voodoo. Perhaps resistance to the cult of political correctness and a bruising personal style have far more power to affect the world than a Ouija board.

Reader Discussion

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on May 25, 2018 at 08:30:38 am

"New Thought" is just old Democrat thinking, that of DemocRats blaming anything and anyone but Hillary for her deplorable loss. Amen to yet another notion that will provide Hillary a source of mental relief.

But how does (Ras)Putin and collusion figure into "New Thought"?
And does Mueller know about the evil influence on the Trump campaign of the power of positive thinking?

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Pukka Luftmensch
on May 25, 2018 at 10:35:00 am

Many thanks for your perceptive review of my book. I would like to point out that I do not say that Trump won because of voodoo - or even Ouija boards. I do say that some people within the alt-right and its fellow travelers believed that their use of certain New Thought and other 'magical' techniques helped him into office. Starting with that thread, I discovered that there was more than a little occult politics going on around Trump and also - which you've omitted from mentioning - around Vladimir Putin, especially in the form of Alexandr Dugin, a geopolitical adviser to Putin who also dabbles in chaos magick and variants of New Thought and positive thinking. I appreciate that you found the book entertaining and my writing readable. But I do think your alacrity in making clear that the whole business is really nonsense may obscure some of the deeper currents flowing around the seats of power these days.

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Gary Lachman
on May 25, 2018 at 10:38:48 am

And by the way, the fact that Steve Bannon is no longer on Trump's bench doesn't take away from the fact that he name checked Julius Evola in his talk with conservative Vatican churchmen - which the NY Times picked up on - nor that he referred to Alexandr Dugin - Putin's 'Rasputin' - in doing so, or that it was through the 'platform' that he made available to the alt-right that some of the meme-magic helping Trump into office took place. Just to clarify.

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Gary Lachman
on May 25, 2018 at 11:24:36 am

Hopefully this book was written tongue-in-cheek, but I think Pukka above got it about right!. If "New Thought, Group Thought, Who would've ever thought?" was the reason, then HRC most certainly would've been the victor, as there was no group more certain in thought than the Demo-Progressives that she had it in the bag; so sure of themselves, were they, that they totally missed where at least half of American's were politically in 2016 - hence the utter bewilderment, disillusionment, and apparently, as this book suggests, persistent delusional-ment (if you will allow me this word), still so prevalent on the left.

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Paul Binotto
on May 25, 2018 at 11:53:24 am

I must check my calendar!
Is it April 1st?

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Image of gabe
on May 25, 2018 at 12:58:18 pm

Shakespeare has King Lear saying:

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,
when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit
of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our
disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as
if we were villains by necessity; fools by
heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and
treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards,
liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of
planetary influence; and all that we are evil in,
by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion
of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
disposition to the charge of a star.”

One might contemporize Lear to fit Hillary's whining:

“This is the excellent foppery of the Left, that,
when Democrats are sick in fortune,-- the plain surfeit
of their own behavior,--they make guilty of their
disasters the Occult, Caucasians, Comey, Putin, and the Electors: as
if Hillary lost by collusion or constitutional treachery; was made criminal by
compulsion; loser by magical predominance;
querulous by foreign intrigue;
and all that they are evil in by a racialist thrusting on:
an admirable evasion of whoremaster media, to lay goatish
disposition to the charge of devilry, law and deplorable popular will.”

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Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on May 25, 2018 at 13:56:13 pm

The Dems aren't the only ones grasping at straws here. But I know it makes Trump's supporters feel good to think that they are always destined for victory.

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on May 25, 2018 at 14:33:27 pm

If anyone is interested, here's a link to an excerpt from the book: http://realitysandwich.com/322935/magick-and-power-in-the-age-of-trump/

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Gary Lachman
on May 25, 2018 at 14:47:03 pm


Wasn't it The Fat Lady in a Pantsuit that was 8destined* for victory?
And wasn't it James comey, et al, that were assured (and assuring to others) of their victory over The Donald?

Cannot this whole Mueller fiasco not be attributed to the strongly held belief by the Dems that we would win and that they could suppress their mischief after the election?

It would appear that the Dems are in possession of far more straws than the Trumpies!

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Guttenburgs Press and Brewery
on May 25, 2018 at 14:47:58 pm

"Excessively" stupid comment even for a ''perky" dimwit.
I know of no Trump supporter who would say or even think that "they are always destined for victory."

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Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on May 25, 2018 at 21:08:36 pm

That's okay.

Half the voters didn't "get it" either.

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steve baker
on May 26, 2018 at 02:32:58 am

I get a laugh reading the various theories on why Trump won. It's should be pretty obvious if you pay attention.
We're in the midst of an unCivil war, the globalists against the nationalists. Trump won the support of the working and middle classes who have been decimated by the globalists. The establishments of both parties disdain Trump supporters, so they never recognized this was a Sea change election.

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Kenneth Felton
on May 26, 2018 at 02:37:12 am

There was no Russian collusion or meddling. hillary was bought and paid for, and Putin wasn't interested in jinxing his puppet who everyone thought would win. The Steele dossier was a tissue of lies. Why would the globalists need Russia's help in concocting those lies?

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Kenneth Felton
on May 26, 2018 at 09:47:56 am

Pluto return in the US natal chart in Capricorn. Pairing up with Saturn.
Research some astrology, it's all there folks. (And no I am not a crackpot.)

Saturn conjunct Pluto January 2020
Pluto return to it's position at the inception of our country, March 2022.

All in the sign of government and institutions.

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Image of Mimi
on May 27, 2018 at 11:55:06 am

Please, spare me, try and recall, I know it's difficult, but we must remember , we have two public figures that should catch our interests, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. To keep it short, one, Obama who couldn't babble with out his teleprompter, and second Hillary, who spends most of her time fainting, both suffering from advanced egomania and neither very competent . that leaves us with Trump. Despite the ample statistics that point to improving economic activity it appears that some amongst us would prefer to avert our gaze, such is life.

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Image of johnt
on July 31, 2019 at 12:47:25 pm

This article reminds me that we're once again in the world of "too much time on our hands".

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on July 31, 2019 at 13:45:45 pm

I won't bother to elaborate, aside from name-checking Sally Quinn, that fascination with the occult seems far more prevalently a Democrat practice. It strikes me that you neglected to treat this. It's not tu quoque to compare and contrast.

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Image of Nichevo
on July 31, 2019 at 15:14:52 pm

I appreciate you having the grace and taking the time to respond to a generally critical review. I'm curious that you didn't mention the alleged influence of satanism in Hollywood and among the elites, e.g. Nexium, SNCTVM, Epstein, the noveau illuminati, etc. Isn't there more actual evidence for these groups and affiliations? This site has an amusing pictorial roundup: https://illuminatisymbols.info/celebrities/

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Image of Richard Parker
Richard Parker
on July 31, 2019 at 15:42:51 pm

Someone else who ignores the obvious reason why Trump won in 2016. Trump scared a lot of voters: he's loud, obnoxious, boorish and loves to cause chaos. Given all those worries and fear about Trump, he won for one simple reason: he wasn't Hillary Clinton.

Even though most of the media loved Hillary and did their best to hide her flaws and trumpet her mythical virtues, many voters knew that she was one of the most corrupt, incompetent, mean-spirited Presidential candidate this country has ever had. Now if Hillary was relatively new to the political scene, the media would've been successful in whitewashing her history and character. But she's been on the scene for decades and anyone who paid just a little bit of attention and who wasn't a delusional Democrat, knew exactly who she is and what she wanted to do to this country.

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Image of TBlakely
on July 31, 2019 at 17:56:11 pm

Democrats -- The party of science

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rick schwartz
on July 31, 2019 at 18:45:33 pm

Everyone knows Democrats have ineffectual beliefs -- why bother writing a book about it?

Only a real Nobody would think to raise such an objection.

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Steve Ray

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.