Tag Archives: hidden wisdom

The Secret History of the World

The Secret History of the World by Mark Booth, from Overlook Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Mark Booth's The Secret History of the World

At times derisory and ridiculous, at times cloyingly panderingly truthy, but, as Booth asks the reader in the introduction to approach this text “as an imaginative exercise,” this is a pretty much an amusing guilty pleasure summer read. At least it isn’t as abysmal as LIFE The Hidden World of Secret Societies, right? This made the New York Times Bestseller list, so as a sort of widely exposed, soft introduction for the novice, this might, maybe, be a book that could spark some conversations, and lead the reader to more serious material. This is from the same publisher behind The Book of English Magic, which I reviewed a while ago, and it occurs to me the latter could follow the former in a series for the YA or non-academic reader interested in such things.

“They say that history is written by the victors. But what if history—or what we come to know as history—has been written by the wrong people? What if everything we’ve been told is only part of the story?

In this groundbreaking and now famous work, Mark Booth embarks on an enthralling tour of our world’s secret histories. Starting from a dangerous premise—that everything we’ve known about our world’s past is corrupted, and that the stories put forward by the various cults and mystery schools throughout history are true-Booth produces nothing short of an alternate history of the past 3,000 years.

From Greek and Egyptian mythology to Jewish folklore, from Christian cults to Freemasons, from Charlemagne to Don Quixote, from George Washington to Hitler—Booth shows that history needs a revolutionary rethink, and he has 3,000 years of hidden wisdom to back it up.”

 

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Secrets of Secret Societies

It appears that Mitch Horowtiz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation, is going to be the host of a show on Discovery Channel called Secrets of Secret Societies, which premieres Sun, Oct 14th at 10pm eastern/pacific.

The listing for the show, which doesn’t link to a show description anywhere else on the site, isn’t promising, but isn’t horrid.

“Do secret societies exist in our own time, manipulating government from behind the scenes? Go behind the curtain of myth and legend with insiders and members of today’s secret societies.” [via]

However, while the press release for the show doesn’t sound as silly, sensational and excoriable as the obnoxiously bad information and worse than sophomoric writing in LIFE The Hidden World of Secret Societies, it sure does seem to be heading in that direction.

“Do secret societies control our government? Discovery Channel turns history upside-down and reveals the role of unknown organizations in America’s government — and beyond — with the new special SECRETS OF SECRET SOCIETES that premieres Sunday, Oct. 14 at 10PM ET/PT.

Freemasons step out of the shadows to reveal the deepest secrets of the order. Skeptics may become believers as a leading member of the “Ordo Templi Orientis,” one the world’s most mysterious secret societies, presents never-before-seen rituals on television. Watch as the riddles behind everyday symbols in our culture reveal a deeper, darker role in our society.

Signs of secret societies that are hidden in plain sight are revealed throughout the architecture of Washington, D.C. Nothing appears as what it seems as secret society expert, Mitch Horwitz, provides insight to how the Freemasons guided some of the events that changed America forever. Evidence will point to well-known artists, politicians and scientists as members of the enigmatic Freemasons – even past Presidents of the United States. Other secret societies that will be explored include Skull and Bones, the Bilderberg Group, and the Bohemian Club.” [via, HT SickTanicK]

 

I personally find the statement “Ordo Templi Orientis, one the world’s most mysterious secret societies” to be bizarre and laughable, but it turns out that the initiate of O.T.O. mentioned only indirectly is actually James Wasserman. Although I’m not sure what “never-before-seen rituals on television” might be, I suppose technically most Aleister Crowley rituals have never been seen on television so that bar is set pretty darned low. After all, by that standard James could simply do “Will” before eating a hotdog and shock the Prozac nation into next week. However, as it turns out, my understanding is that there will be an interview and a performance of Liber Israfel, which seems to me to be a relatively uncommon ritual to see done publicly even in Thelemic circles.

 

That show description seems to be in sharp contrast to the description for Mitch Horowitz’s book, Occult America:

“From its earliest days, America served as an arena for the revolutions in alternative spirituality that eventually swept the globe. Esoteric philosophies and personas—from Freemasonry to Spiritualism, from Madame H. P. Blavatsky to Edgar Cayce—dramatically altered the nation’s culture, politics, and religion. Yet the mystical roots of our identity are often ignored or overlooked. Opening a new window on the past, Occult America presents a dramatic, pioneering study of the esoteric undercurrents of our history and their profound impact across modern life.” [via]

“It touched lives as disparate as those of Frederick Douglass, Franklin Roosevelt, and Mary Todd Lincoln—who once convinced her husband, Abe, to host a séance in the White House. Americans all, they were among the famous figures whose paths intertwined with the mystical and esoteric movement broadly known as the occult. Brought over from the Old World and spread throughout the New by some of the most obscure but gifted men and women of early U.S. history, this “hidden wisdom” transformed the spiritual life of the still-young nation and, through it, much of the Western world.

Yet the story of the American occult has remained largely untold. Now a leading writer on the subject of alternative spirituality brings it out of the shadows. Here is a rich, fascinating, and colorful history of a religious revolution and an epic of offbeat history.

From the meaning of the symbols on the one-dollar bill to the origins of the Ouija board, Occult America briskly sweeps from the nation’s earliest days to the birth of the New Age era and traces many people and episodes, including:

• The spirit medium who became America’s first female religious leader in 1776
• The supernatural passions that marked the career of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith
• The rural Sunday-school teacher whose clairvoyant visions instigated the dawn of the New Age
• The prominence of mind-power mysticism in the black-nationalist politics of Marcus Garvey
• The Idaho druggist whose mail-order mystical religion ranked as the eighth-largest faith in the world during the Great Depression

Here, too, are America’s homegrown religious movements, from transcendentalism to spiritualism to Christian Science to the positive-thinking philosophy that continues to exert such a powerful pull on the public today. A feast for believers in alternative spirituality, an eye-opener for anyone curious about the unknown byroads of American history, Occult America is an engaging, long-overdue portrait of one nation, under many gods, whose revolutionary influence is still being felt in every corner of the globe.” [via]

 

I just don’t even … The ad copy on Mitch Horowitz’s book sounds so reasonable, but that show description makes my imaginary secret goat sad. So, watch at your own risk, as brain leakage may or may not occur during viewing.

 

 

The Arch-Conjuror of England: John Dee, By Glyn Parry

The Arch-Conjuror of England: John Dee, By Glyn Parry” is a book review by Ronald Hutton of a new biography of John Dee, due to release in the states in April, from Yale University Press. (HT @t3dy)

“One of the most colourful and least respectable figures of the European Renaissance was the magus, a scholar, expert in the hidden wisdom of the created world, who sought the power to manipulate it to the advantage of (depending on his degree of probity) himself, his employers or humanity.

The most familiar such character in fiction is of course Dr Faustus, but the best known in real life is John Dee, a Londoner of Welsh blood who haunted the English and other royal courts throughout the late 16th century.

Much has been written about him in modern times, though little has been produced by experts in his period. To most historians he represents a tragic waste of talent; a brilliant scientist who was diverted into a fruitless attempt to converse with angels, thereby ruining his career and reputation and falling prey to the demented or unscrupulous adventurers who posed as his mediums: above all Edward Kelley, who combined both characteristics and, at one point, even persuaded Dee to swap wives with him under angelic instruction. Modern ritual magicians, by contrast, have seen Dee as a hero who discovered an occult system of genuine validity.

But in Glyn Parry, he has at last attracted a biographer with a talent for uncovering fresh archival material, who has conducted thorough research both into his life and the circles in which he moved.

The basic argument of the resulting book is that Dee was not an anomalous figure at the court of Queen Elizabeth, because that monarch and her leading courtiers – like their counterparts on the Continent – were deeply interested in the occult arts and sciences and were prepared to invest large sums in practitioners who promised material gains from them. As a result, they tapped into an underworld of alchemists and ritual magicians who became tangled up in turn with royal policy-making, political rivalry, and conspiracy.” [via]