Customer Review

108 of 127 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How can people praise such dross?, 18 Feb. 2009
This review is from: The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies (Hardcover)
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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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Mar 2009 11:13:16 BDT
exotissima says:
What a stupid review, continually demanding evidence when there's hardly any evidence at all for the history taught at school either. What evidence does this reviewer have for whatever history he DOES believe?!!

Posted on 31 Mar 2009 23:19:44 BDT
Great review, your scepticism expressed intelligently and with examples to forewarn the unwary reader. I probably won't buy the book but I may borrow it from a library just to experience the full flavour of its believer's enthusiasm.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Apr 2009 10:56:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Apr 2009 10:58:10 BDT
DV Barrett says:
Re exotissima's post: There goes someone who has no understanding of scholarship...

It's this attitude of "anything goes" in historical veracity that underlies such dreadful rubbish as Kathleen McGowan's supposedly "true" religious novels; but at least they are fiction, even though she claims otherwise. Jonathan Black claims his book is a factual history, not that it is a symbolic one. He's been an editor long enough he really ought to know better. He should be ashamed of himself. His book is unalloyed balderdash from beginning to end. Simply making up an idea and stating it as fact doesn't make it real. What is sad is that so many readers, like exotissima, seem to think that that's okay.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 May 2009 08:47:50 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 4 May 2009 19:07:08 BDT]

Posted on 17 May 2009 13:23:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 May 2009 13:24:21 BDT
'Tis hard to say, a greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judjing ill;
But, of the two, less dangerous is th' offence
To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss

A. Pope

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2009 12:39:47 BDT
P. Clancy says:
Do you mind me asking what are you talking about Exotissima? I did history at school, and one of the subjects we studied was a small conflict called World War 2 - you may have heard of it. It spread a bit and was responsible for the death of about 50 to 70 million people. I believe the historians have managed to retain a few scraps of evidence that it happened.

History is not a faith.

This was an excellent review by DV Barrett, and accurate. This terrible, terrible book seemed to be the result of the authors wandering mind - written as the outpourings from the unfortunate sufferer of Historical Tourettes Syndrome.

The people who like this book are probably the same ones who accept the film U-571 is a true reflection of how the Americans (not the British, of course) captured the german Enigma machine, or the same ones that accept that Mel Gibson's 'Bravehart' is a historically accurate documentary.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2009 08:39:27 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Jun 2009 08:42:30 BDT
JK says:
Shame on you, DV Barrett, for such a pompous response. It is well known (clearly not by you, though) that "scholarship" is virtually meaningless.

When I state that "scholarship" has little meaning, you need to know that I am a trained scientist (physics at Oxford University) as well as a qualified accountant and lawyer. What is called "scholarship" actually has no intellectual rigour or integrity for the most part. Little effort is made to examine or investigate scientifically and the result is many fairytales foisted on the long-suffering public, including major false and/or twisted aspects of WWII, to take just one example. (Which historian tells you that the same banks lent to both sides of the conflict or explains how this hidden fact changes the entire meaning of WWII?)

I am not alone in these claims, by any means. Terence Kealey a clinical biochemist and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham has observed "Scientists actually treat facts the way barristers treat hostile witnesses... it is a myth that scholars always respect falsifiability. Scientists and scholars often ignore inconvenient findings." Fast growing numbers are realising the dishonesty that exists to protect old ideas. Your precious "scholarship" is not at all what you wish to believe it is!

What this book does is exactly what it says on the tin, namely to introduce a different way of looking at the world. Demanding "evidence" is just another red herring by someone who desperately wants to believe he is "educated" - and indeed just what evidence do you expect from a book that takes such a different look at the entire history of the world? This book is more like the best kind of art and, in such a context, your squeals for "proof" are merely pathetic.

What's worse is that the same people demanding "scholarship" and "evidence" are the very ones who, for instance, accept germ theory without ever having seen a single germ for themselves nor is there any hard proof of Pasteur's claim that germs arise before the disease vs Bechamp's explanation that the disease gives rise to the germs yet Pasteur's theory has been swallowed wholesale by people like you!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2009 08:39:56 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 2 Jun 2009 08:40:24 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2009 14:52:32 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 12 Jun 2009 14:52:51 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jun 2009 14:53:02 BDT
Bravo!
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