Morrow, Felix (1906–1988)
American publisher who contributed significantly to the occult
boom in the United States in the 1960s through his publishing
house University Books and associated Mystic Arts
Book Society. Morrow was born on June 3, 1906, in New York
City in a Hasidic Jewish family. He grew up in a non-religious
atmosphere and became drawn to both Marxism and Freudian
teaching. He became a graduate student in philosophy at Columbia
University (1929–31), where he researched the history
of religions. As editor of the theoretical monthly magazine
Fourth International, he wrote a thoughtful article on Marxism
and religion. For over a decade (1931–46), he devoted himself
to the revolutionary socialist movement and was author of an
important study Revolution and Counter-revolution in Spain
(1938; rev. ed. 1974).
In 1946, he moved from socialism to capitalism in publishing
as executive vice president of Schocken Books, a Jewish
publishing house in New York City, and became attracted to
the writings of Franz Kafka, Martin Buber, and Gershom
Scholen, and through them rediscovered his Hasidic roots.
However, from 1948 to 1970, he became immersed in Freudian
psychoanalytic training and publishing, though at the same
time, his association with Mel Arnold at Beacon Press, and later
with University of Notre Dame Press, made him responsive to
mysticism. Throughout this period he remained a socialist at
heart, this dichotomy creating many personal conflicts for him
while broadening his humanist outlook.
As executive vice president of British Book Center, he took
on American rights of Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond
Leslie and George Adamski (originally published in England
in 1953), and this project launched his research into earlier literature
in psychic and occult subjects. In 1954, he incorporated
University Books, Inc. in New York, and began publishing important
out-of-print books on occultism, mysticism, psychical
research, and comparative religion. These included key works
such as A. E. Waite’s books on the tarot and ceremonial magic;
Lewis Spence’s Encyclopedia of Occultism; Montague Summers’
books on witchcraft and vampires; William James’s Varieties of
Religious Experience; R. M. Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness; F. W. H.
Myers’s Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death; scholarly
works by Charles Guignebert on the origins of Christianity;
D. T. Suzuki’s books on Zen; Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopedia of
Psychical Research; G. R. S. Mead’s books on Gnosticism; Alexandra
David-Neel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet; and scores of
similar books that opened large segments of the tradition to a
new generation of modern occultists.
Each book carried a new introduction, evaluating the work
in a modern context and often supplying original biographical
research on the author. Some of these introductions were written
by Morrow under the pseudonym ‘John C. Wilson;‘ others
were written by such authorities as E. J. Dingwall, Kenneth Rexroth,
and Leslie Shepard.
University Books also published original works as the occult
revival threw up names like Timothy Leary and new causes like
the psychedelic revolution. In addition to publishing, the company
marketed chosen titles each month through the Mystic
Arts Book Society. A major event of that period was Morrow’s
association with William Nyland in distributing the books of
Georgei I. Gurdjieff through the society. Morrow eventually
became a disciple of Nyland and developed a great respect for
the Gurdjieff work.
After 15 years of creative and stimulating publishing in the
fields of occultism and mysticism, Morrow relinquished the
business to Lyle Stuart, who continued the University Books
imprint side by side with its own Citadel Press imprint, and
moved the operation from New York to Secaucus, New Jersey.
In 1973, Morrow launched a second occult series for Causeway
Books, an imprint of A. & W. Publishers, Inc., New York. Morrow
wrote some of the new introductions for this series under
the pseudonym ‘‘Charles Sen.’’
The significant influence of Morrow’s publishing work was
recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities
and the Rockefeller Foundation, which initiated an oral history
recording project on the advanced literary-intellectual life of
New York City between 1925 and 1975. Tape recordings have
been made of Morrow and other individuals for deposit in the
Oral History division of the Columbia libraries.
Morrow extended his psychological studies from Freudianism
to Maslow’s humanist psychology and the holistic depth
psychology of Ira Progoff. He was in charge of publishing projects
in these areas for Dialogue House Library (80 E. 11th St.,
New York, NY 10003) prior to resuming independent publishing
again with the books of Mantok and Maneewan Chia under
the imprint Healing Tao Books, in New York. In his later years
he was a regular visitor to the library of the Parapsychology
Foundation in New York, where he found excellent facilities
for research. He died suddenly on May 28, 1988, in New York.