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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars illuminating, fascinating and thought provoking
Having spent some time now looking into the ancient history of the world both from an academic point of view as well as so called "pseudo historical facts" I have turned my head towards the esoterical and mystical side of history. Having read quite a few of the books in the bibliography here I have also had a fascination with religion and it's history and impact on the...
Published on 19 Mar 2011 by A. Fosse

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Alas, still a secret!
I am a scientist with a love of art, religion and history, and have an open, inquiring mind. I approached this book with great expectations of learning something about the history and development of esoteric thought. Alas, I was completely disappointed. The fault is not in my "too rigid academic mind", but in the writer's failings. I am prepared to forgive his obvious and...
Published 24 months ago by mjbaker


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars illuminating, fascinating and thought provoking, 19 Mar 2011
By 
A. Fosse "Neet" (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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Having spent some time now looking into the ancient history of the world both from an academic point of view as well as so called "pseudo historical facts" I have turned my head towards the esoterical and mystical side of history. Having read quite a few of the books in the bibliography here I have also had a fascination with religion and it's history and impact on the world for a long time. There was something about this book that made me purchase it and I have not regretted the purchase.

For someone of a closed mind or of strict religious views this book is not reccommended as you will find yourself in a world that is "topsy turvy" (which is the way of the ancient teachings that constitutes esoteric thinking to begin with), and might anger you that someone is arguing that "magic" and mysticism is at the core of religion as a whole. Especially concidering that religious leaders have condemned the very idea of magic and occult teachings as the workings of the devil.

Jonathan Black's style of writing is easy going and very engaging, which helps you understand the heaviness of what is discussed here.
To me it is clear that he has a vast knowledge on esoteric and religious matters, and as he makes you take part in the experience that is reading this book with his imaginative exercises, you might gain an appreciation that goes beyond the pages of this book. I have gained new energy in my search for understanding of the past and present as well as a vast body of books to sift through in addition to what I'm already looking into.

He makes no claims as to say that this is anything but a history of the world looked at from a esotheric stand point, and you may disagree to any or all of what is written, but you cannot deny that it makes you look at things in a different way than you used to. He wants you to use your imagination and in doing so see the world in a new way, and that is something we all can allow ourself to do without hesitation in my opinion.

This is food for thought and a must read for anyone who is open minded or just plain curious. For anyone wanting one book on the esoterical view this is that one book!!!

Hope to have been of assistance and wish you luck in your search for knowledge!
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122 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Esoteric Mind Gym, 19 Jun 2008
This is a certainly an unusual book and I found it a very stimulating read. It invites the reader to take part in an imaginative exercise, which involves having an artistic and emotional response to the book's ideas, as well as an intellectual one. In a way, it's an experiment to see if we can approach the same kind of consciousness as our ancestors, when people could be rational and mystical at the same time.

Pythagoras, Copernicus, da Vinci and Newton are some of the better known exemplars of this way of thinking, but the book draws its inspiration much more widely than the usual poster boys.

Comparisons between Lao-Tzu and Heraclitus are illuminated with comments on Confucius and Rudyard Kipling, for example. Creative artists as varied as David Lynch and Botticelli are shown to be nourished by the same ideas - as was P.L. Travers, creator of one the most famous children's magicians of all time: Mary Poppins.

The author explores the significance of certain archetypes and symbols down the ages - and personally I found the writing nimble and light of touch. Yes, it makes connections that are sometimes surprising, but that's the point. Ever wondered exactly what the difference is between Satan and Lucifer? Or why French revolutionaries adopted the Phrygian cap as their headgear of choice? Did you know that St Thomas Aquinas and St Francis of Assissi both claimed to have levitated?

What "The Secret History" never pretends to be is yet another conspiracy theory book, or an academic history. (A fact that seems to upset some of the other reviewers.) It would be better to think of it as an esoteric mind gym.

Sure, it structures itself as a "secret history" of how humanity and human consciousness developed but this is, after all, just a metaphor. The author has created that narrative form as a way to explore the ideas that have fascinated some of the greatest minds in the actual, real, (footnotable) history of the world.

Conspiracy theories close things down; this book is an ambitious, enjoyable attempt to open them up and offer a graspable alternative account of how human consciousness has developed - from the creation of the world through to dadaism and beyond.

Definitely worth a read, if you like ideas and knowledge and can cope with them being taken out of their boxes and shaken round a bit.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, 10 Jan 2009
By 
J. Piatkus (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I have been interested to read the wide range of comments about this book which I personally found fascinating.

The Secret History of the World presents a different way of contemplating the world that we live in. Whether you agree or disagree with the author's ideas - and there are so many different ideas, links and connections here that why should you agree with all of them? - the book is about opening your mind to a radically new way of thinking about the mystical history of the world and about our own human consciousness.

It isn't necessary to agree with everything the author writes to find dozens of fascinating avenues to explore. The whole point of a book like this is to be an entertaining read and to raise the consciousness of the reader by presenting ideas that remind us that different civilisations did not regard or understand the world in the same way that we do.

We cannot assume that our thought processes and our attitudes to life are comparable to those of our ancestors who experienced their lives at different times and in different societies throughout the ages and had no knowledge of industry, science or technology as we understand it today.
Everything they believed in was based on the much more limited (in most cases)knowledge that was available to them at the time.

In the past twelve months people everywhere are seeing the collapse of so many organisations and systems in our society that they had assumed were fundamentally stable. The book is very timely because we are entering a new era in our civilisation where we will have no choice but to adjust our thinking about many different things. The Secret History of the World can be used to expand your mind introducing original and mystical concepts which have been common throughout many different civilisations in history and for that reason are worthy of consideration when our present-day globally linked and crowded world is heading towards its own tipping point.

What this book tells us is that things are not necessarily what they seem and that history and science and everything we think we know and understand can be turned on its head and seen from a different angle - if we choose to open our minds to other possibilities.

The concept of the book - a secret mystical history of the world in under 1000 pages - is huge and I do wonder how much material had to be left out. I would love to read more of the research because some of the sections are of necessity rather sketchy. I was also very much aware that so few women featured in it. But secret societies have tended to be for men and run by men.

While I was reading the book I thought of a lot of people who I would want to recommend it to. It is a love it or hate it book, arousing strong feelings in readers. I recommend it to everyone who is not afraid to accept that there is only a very thin veil between the world we think we are familiar with and the unseen and unknown worlds which lie just beyond our everyday thought-processes.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars erudite but hugely readable, 17 Jun 2008
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This review is from: The Secret History of the World (Paperback)
I am rather flummoxed by a few of the negative reviews of this book and do wonder whether some readers simply expected a book on entirely different subject matter - for example the reader who complained that it didn't mention the big crime families...this is a book about esoteric beliefs, not a book on conspiracy theories, although naturally the two occasionally coincide.
I am also puzzled by the assertion that the author's pen-name is a 'red flag' (to a conspiracy, maybe?!)since his identity is clearly outlined on the book jacket and, indeed, in the Amazon summary of contents.
Oh well. I thought it was great. I would never normally pick up something like this but fancied something different, that delved a bit deeper into the facts beneath the Da Vinci Code fiction, perhaps. That's exactly what this does. It is obviously the product of committed research,and occasionally one does need to stop and re-read if not familiar with this stuff, but I found it, overall, highly readable and enjoyable. He is very good, I think, at making difficult concepts understandable.
I guess this was always going to be a controversial book, given that people who are very into the subject matter tend to disagree with each-other as a matter of course about the true nature and origin of things that are, by definition, obscure or obscured!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD INTRODUCTION TO ESOTERIC KNOWLEDGE!, 7 Sep 2011
By 
I read this book over a period of four weeks and found it to be very interesting. Black has covered a wide area of esoteric knowledge and managed to cram it in to about 500 pages. He spends about two or more pages discussing the relevance of different ancient Egyptian, Greek, Indian, and many other worldy myths and not just myths but Occult knowledge. From Jesus, Mythra, Krishna to Madusa, from Enoch, Isis and Osiris to Joan Of Arc, from Francis Of Assisi to the Templars he has covered just about everything in this book. He spends a rather short period of time on each myth which is why I say it's a good introduction to esoteric knowledge. I don't think he has tied everything together as well as it could've been. However, buy this book if you are knew to the Occult world as there is some very interesting information in which secret societies have been studying for many years and which could help enlighten the man on the street if he was exposed to it.

Also, one of the points the author makes which I found fascinating was that the type of people who are initiated into these secret societies are not always who you think they are. They are often people who appear quite normal, they could be a cleaner in the back of a class at the local university or a road sweep in your local village. They are highly enlightened individuals around the globe who are working together in harmony with the earth waiting for curious people to reach a certain level in cosnciousness so that they can approach them... These highly attuned individuals according to Black can not be surreounded by dark forces or evil people as they are sussed straight away... I felt this really made sense! There is also some great quotes and information about Meister Eckhart who talked about the demons that we see at the moment of death and that if we could see them with the right eye we would see that in fact they are not demons tearin us apart but angels who are setting us free... I found this perspective rather intriguing I must say!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes you've got to wonder..., 18 Oct 2009
By 
Nezwin (Georgetown, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret History of the World (Paperback)
Nice ideas and if it is ALWAYS remembered that this is a SUBJECTIVE history, based upon what it felt like for humanity to develop through the periods of time discussed in the book, this isn't a bad book.

But....

Don't take it too seriously. Jonathan Black doesn't. If science could back up that it is possible, through developing spiritual awareness, that we can read peoples minds, call fire from the sky and generally manipulate the materialistic world with only our mind, this book would stand up a lot better. Until science finds those loopholes in nature that allow us to be Gods, this is an entertaining read with some nice ideas of how it felt to go through the growing pains into sentient beings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you liked it read the Zelator which is a much better book, 28 Jan 2009
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This review is from: The Secret History of the World (Paperback)
This is the man who urged Mark Hedsel to write the zelator, so I've got to give it five stars, but in reality it could have been so much better if he'd followed his friend's path.plus It's not a poor imitation of Laura Knight-Jadczyk's unrivalled masterpiece, The Secret History of the World (and How to Get Out Alive.
Because
A) Laura Knight-Jadczyk's book is not a masterpiece, in any way shape or form. in fact it's one of the worst esoteric books I've ever tried to read!and ultimately says nothing!!
b) The books have nothing in common. Laura Knight-Jadczyk's book is typically American Channeling drivel!!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Alas, still a secret!, 19 April 2012
I am a scientist with a love of art, religion and history, and have an open, inquiring mind. I approached this book with great expectations of learning something about the history and development of esoteric thought. Alas, I was completely disappointed. The fault is not in my "too rigid academic mind", but in the writer's failings. I am prepared to forgive his obvious and irksome polemical disdain of conventional academic thinking (which I am sure is a belief platform from which the writer can justify a lamentable lack of scholarship), but no genuine student of history, however esoteric his or her leanings, can forgive sloppy thinking, sloppy writing, inconsistent lines of argument, and a total failure to quote references, either for specific statements of history or even for so-called "original" conclusions. As Robert Graves showed over half a century ago (with his "The White Goddess", which is still in print) it is entirely possible for original and unconventional historical ideas to be substantiated (at least in part) by sound historical and literary foundations: as Graves himself so aptly put it, it is important that historians "quarry cleanly" if an historical thesis is to survive scrutiny. Black's quarrying is painfully unclean. Even Lynn Picknett does a better job.

This book is a waste of time and money. I would give it zero stars if I could.
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101 of 119 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How can people praise such dross?, 18 Feb 2009
By 
DV Barrett (London UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I've often wondered, when reading the worst of the pseudo-historical, -archaeological and -cosmological books over the years, who on earth commissioned them, and how the authors got away with their unsupported premises, their dodgy logic and their blatant factual errors. How could any editor possibly have allowed such sloppy and inaccurate writing to slip through? Well, now we know. "Jonathan Black", the back flap usefully informs us, "is the non-de-plume of Mark Booth" who runs Century, a Random House imprint, and has edited many well known speculative historians.

The Secret History of the World purports to be just that: "Here for the first time is a complete history of the world, from the beginning of time to the present day, based on the beliefs and writings of the secret societies." Now, that would be fine if the author were saying "This is what these people claim, these are their beliefs", but no. Black presents everything as fact. Just a few examples from throughout the book:

He refers to Jesus as "Jesus ben Pandira, the leader of the Essenes", but doesn't bother to give any evidence for either assertion. He states as fact that there were two identical Jesus children. He states as fact that the crucifixion was on 3 April AD 3 (does he actually mean 33?).
He makes careless remarks like "from the time of St Paul and St Augustine" - only 300+ years apart!
He tells us that "The stories of the Grail... are based on historical events". Parsival, we're told, "was a man of flesh and blood, a reincarnation of Mani, the third-century founder of Manichaeism". Not "some people believe", but "was".
He asserts that "Saintly individuals can sometimes live on almost nothing but sunlight". Really? Evidence, please!
He makes the common mistakes that Bernard of Clairvaux was the founder of the Cistercians, and that the Friday the 13th superstition is because of the arrest of the Knights Templar. Wrong in both cases.
He states that Oscar Wilde was a member of the Golden Dawn; he wasn't, though his wife Constance was. He states that Bram Stoker and WB Yeats were members of the OTO; they weren't, but Yeats and possibly Stoker were in the Golden Dawn.
And so on, and so on, and so on. Sloppy and careless research.

No sources are ever cited for any of his assertions - not a single numbered footnote. He does have "A Note on Sources and Selective Bibliography", but this just lists people and books he finds influential, especially Rudolf Steiner and GI Gurdjieff - and some current authors, including several of his own: Knight & Lomas, Robert Bauval, David Ovason, Robert Temple, Graham Hancock. The index to this 415 page book is a mere two pages long.

By the time he says of his book, on the last page, "The teachings of the secret societies have been pulled out into the light of day for the first time", one has become just a tad sceptical of such a claim. He then says, "This has been a visionary history..." If by that he means a history that cares nothing for factual accuracy, perhaps he is correct.

If there is any esoteric spiritual message in this book, it is sadly buried under pages and pages of bad argument, confused logic, ludicrous generalisations, lack of clarity and poor exposition of uncertain and completely undocumented "facts". This book commits so many of the classic sins of the stereotypical speculative historian, I kept wondering if it might perhaps be a massive spoof of the genre.

Of the many speculative history books I've read over the years, this has to rank amongst the very worst.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a listen, 4 Jun 2013
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I picked the book up in a store one day and glanced through it. I found it very interesting so bought the audio book but never checked whether it was abridged or not- It is. Some of the stuff I had come across in the paper version wasnt on the cd so that was disappointing but I still found the book worth listening to. Will we ever learn the truth? Probably when we die but some of us arent that patient :-)
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