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review 2017-06-27 16:04
Secret handshakes, etc.
Occult Theocrasy: Vol. 1 - Edith Starr Miller

I'm not sure how best to characterize this. It's more elaborate and narrative than a catalog, but less detailed, unified, and coherent than you would expect from a history.

 

This is a reprint from a 1922 text documenting, supposedly, at least fifty secret societies throughout history and around the world. If there is a thesis or overaching theme here, it's that all of these societies are interrelated, have complicated intermixed histories and lineages, that they sometimes fight sometimes cooperate, and that they sometimes serve (wittingly or unwittingly) important political and social/religious functions which have largely gone undocumented in mainstream history. 

 

It starts way back with religious groups... the Vedic origins of Hinduism, the evolution of Brahminism and Jainism acting as a sort of a reforming counterforce/resistance offshoot (like Protestantism to Catholicism).  On to a whole bunch of mystic religions, cults, and deviant variations of better-known religions: Zoroastrism, Cabalistic Judeasm, weird sects of Islam (most famously the Assassins), Druidism, Gnosticism, and a bunch of Egyptian pseudo-religious underground secret societies- which seem to probably have begat Freemasonry. The common thread here is that these cults, etc were not well-received by the mainstream of society, so had to worship underground, establishing a lot of methods of secret communication, ways to identify each other in public, ways of compartmentalizing their organizations so the whole thing would not be compromised if one member went astray or if the group was infiltrated by a spy, etc...

 

Having established all these secret methods, there was a natural evolution for some of these to use their framework of secrecy to enrich the group or its members, or to achieve political ends. The Knights Templar evolved a sort of secret banking protocol which became useful for funding covert operations during the Crusades. The Knights of Malta too. They also seemed to operate a private spy organization (?) Freemasonic lodges have been hotbeds of subversive political activity in Spain, England, Scotland, and the USA. They may also have been a means of funding and otherwise supporting early figures in the Protestant Reformation. It's kind of surprising to me, but the book maintains there was a robust secular resistance to the power of the Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages, which was only able to evade discovery and destruction through the international web of Freemason lodges throughout Europe. (Freemasonry's cover story, and probably once legitimate function, was as a trade guild for builders and stone cutters... a growth industry in the 11th and 12th century when a surprising amount of European GDP went towards cathedral construction.)

 

The Illuminati have lately made a big splash in popular culture... the originals were in Bavaria, but were discovered and broken up. They resurfaced as the Jacobins (named for Knight Templar Jaques de Molay), whose role in the French Revolution is pretty well documented and accepted. Not only were the Jacobins a supply and information network for anti-monarchical French revolutionaries; they were also a financial network through which British money flowed from sources offical and unofficial, who felt a destabilized and war-torn France was in British best interests.

 

Later in the 19th century, Italian Freemasonic lodges seemed to play a large role in the political maneuvering leading up to Italian unification. There are a large number of political assassinations tied to Masonic groups. I was surprised to learn that the Mafia didn't (doesn't?) have a monopoly on hitmen in Italy.

 

It's interesting stuff, but impossible to verify. I have no idea how much of it is true, beyond the well-known mainstream religion stuff. Of course it is no secret that the Masons still exist, and we at least know of the existence of other secret societies, like the famous "Skull and Bones" club, whose exact purpose isn't clear, but which seems to involve installing its members as Presidents of the United States. 

 

Popular media loves to make fun of stuff like this; to laugh at it in smug self-assured tones, and to mock it as "crazy conspiracy stuff", but there's really no reason to think any of this is implausible. People act in their self interests, and clubs of all sorts thrive. If a person could get a business edge by joining a corny club with funny hats and secret handshakes, hey why not? If disenfranchised people in nations which deny them access to meaningful political participation can effect changes they want by joining a lodge with secret initiation rituals, why wouldn't they?  With money, politics, and secrecy in the mix, who can be surprised if some of these groups go off the rails into criminal activity, violence, and even revolution?

 

Could groups like this shape our world in ways we don't immediately appreciate, or which are kept secret from us?  Why the fuck not? You've heard of the Bilderberg Group, haven't you?

 

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text 2017-06-05 20:52
Death Trance - Graham Masterton

As president of one of Tennessee's largest companies, Randolph Clare is outraged when arsonists destroy one of his Memphis plants. But then his wife and children are savagely murdered. All thoughts of vengeance are drowned in his grief.

Desperate to see his loved ones again, if only to bid them farewell, he enlists the aid of an Indonesian physician who claims that he can help Randolph enter the world of the dead. But, the doctor warns, ravening demons wait for those who dare the voyage. Not only Randolph's life will be at stake, but the souls of his family.

 

Really enjoyed this, as one of the first book's i've read of Graham Masterton's I have to say I was impressed! The plot flowed and the location's!! wow! graham has a way with word's that makes you feel as if you're there in the location he's writing about. I went to Tennessee and Thailand! Really spooky read into the world of occult Buddhism.

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review 2016-10-02 09:13
The Raven's Head - Karen Maitland

This was going to be a three star rating until the last page, then it became a four star because the ending wasn't happily-ever-after fuzzy-wuzzy but chilling and I like books like that. The story itself was quite gruesome and dark like other reviewers have said, this is probably the author's darkest story yet but there were no great surprises, hence the initial three star rating.

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review 2016-09-26 19:09
On Her Majesty's Occult Service / Charles Stross
On Her Majesty's Occult Service - Charles Stross

James Bond meets H.P. Lovecraft, with a strong dose of Dilbert. Try being a geeky Bond-wannabe, saving the world from the tentacle monsters, while fending off the pointy-haired boss.

A lot of mileage is made with the requirement to fill in multitudinous forms in triplicate, having to account for every last paper-clip even when saving the world, and other tasks which any office drone (including myself) can identify. (As in Dilbert, when the boss proclaims that all passwords must contain letters, numbers, doodles, sign language, and squirrel noises).

This is a combined volume of the first 2 installments of the Laundry Files, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. I had to order it on interlibrary loan, which is why I chose the combined volume, just being my usual efficient self. However, I think the two volumes could have used a bit more breathing room between them. TJM was a definite improvement over TAA (the use of Nazis in the first book put me in danger of getting my eyes stuck back in my head due to frequent eye-rolling).

I was amused and will probably continue on with it at some point. In the meantime, I have developed a strong desire for some calamari.

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text 2016-09-08 15:46
TBR Thursday
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
The Dinosaur Knights - Victor Milán
On Her Majesty's Occult Service - Charles Stross
The Raven/The Monkey's Paw: Classics of Horror & Suspense - Edith Wharton,Charles Dickens,Wilkie Collins,O. Henry,Saki,Ambrose Bierce,W.W. Jacobs

 

Next up, once I finish Miss Zukas and the Library Murders.  I had to order Miss Zukas as an interlibrary loan (I'm on a kick of reading books about libraries & librarians).  I noticed the other day that the paperwork with the book says it's due on Sept. 24, but the library website tells me I have until Oct. 8.  I decided to get it read & returned well before either date, just to be safe.

 

I've had The Dinosaur Knights out of the library for ages now (I think I've renewed it 3 times).  Time to get busy and read it. 

 

The House of the Spirits and The Raven and the Monkey's Paw are both for the Halloween Bingo.  Yay!

 

Another interlibrary loan, On Her Majesty's Occult Service is actually two books in one, the first two volumes of Charles Stross' Laundry Files.  Calgary Public library has some of the later volumes, but not these first two.

 

Happiness is....lots of good books!

 

Happy Thursday!

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