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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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review 2014-03-10 00:14
¡Viva la Revolución!
Counter Revolution of Science - F A HAYEK



Freemasonry and central banks will bring about the apocalypse, of course, but it's interesting to hear that from a book about the evolution of scientific thought from 1700 to 1825, isn't it?

The Enlightenment of the 1600's and 1700's saw more scientific advancement in the West in the space of 100 years than had been achieved by the preceeding seven centuries. Luminaries like Isaac Newton, Karl Gauss, Edmund Halley, Henry Cavendish, Antoine Lavoisier, and others demonstrated the power of observation and the scientific method to unravel nature's mysteries. The rapid developments in the natural sciences at this time is sometimes called "The Scientific Revolution" (in the company of the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution). Two important consequences of this revolution were the advancement of technology (applied science), and its stimulation of market capitalism (and its political symbiote, democracy).

With most revolutions, there is a countercurrent of resistance- a counterrevolution. That's the topic of this book, although it wasn't what I thought it would be. I figured it would be reactionary forces of the Church, or the feudalism rebelling against Science. According to Hyek, the counterrevolution is represented by social philosophers who embraced, but misapplied the tools of science.

As the natural sciences rocketed by them, so-called "social philosophers" of the 18th century struggled to figure out how the scientific method could advance their own fields. These were the early beginnings of Sociology and Political Science. My apologies to any Sociologists or Political Scientists out there, but you should know this book completely rips into the foundations of your respective studies. I don't have a dog in that fight, but Hayek makes some interesting observations:
1) The natural sciences tend to observe behaviors of "the whole" (i.e. macroscopic bodies, such as chemical solutions, individual organisms, planets, etc) and to use these observations to deduce information about the "the components" (i.e. microscopic or molecular bodies, such as individual atoms, organs, etc) Conversely, social fields tend to observe the behavior individual persons (i.e. components) to deduce overarching principles about greater society (i.e. "the whole").

2) One of the premises in studying nature is the assumption of uniformity. Under similar conditions, every hydrogen atom (or whatever) in Wisconsin, in 2014, should be expected to behave exactly the same as every hydrogen atom did in France three hundred years ago. The study of people is much different; observations made about senior citizens in California in the 1950's may have no relevance to observations about senior citizens in New Zealand in 2000. There can be no assumptions of uniformity when dealing with people, cultural values, social mores, etc... which is one of the things which makes "social philosophies" so interesting, but which may lead to flawed conclusions, when rigorous scientific methods are applied. Even the same individual may behave differently, if observed at different times. People are capable of illogical, novel, and inconsistent behavior -a complication which the natural sciences has never needed to control for.

3) Context. One of the great breakthroughs in science has been the practice of making objective observations about phenomena. Observers try to completely divorce themselves from extraneous associations which tend to complicate the formation of hypotheses. For example, when Newton describes the behavior of masses in motion, it doesn't particularly matter whether the mass is a stone or a box full of apples, etc. When studying the behavior of people, it is impossible to remove cultural context from the study, because behaviors are shaped by all sorts of associations which are in part the SUBJECT of the study.

Well, that's interesting and all, but so what? Who cares if humanistic studies aren't as well-suited to scientific analysis as the natural world?

That's what the second half of the book is about. Hayek develops his thesis that it was the misapplication of scientific thinking (or "scientistic thinking", as Hayek calls it) which led influential "social philosophers" like Henry Saint-Simon, Auguste Compte ("Father of Modern Sociology"), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to come to grotesque and flawed conclusions about the nature and fate of mankind. Worse still, just as technology is the practical application of hard science, social policies, "social engineering", governance, propaganda/advertising, and studies of social manipulation are the practical application of social sciences. Resting as they do on a flawed foundation, Hayek takes issue with how these fields have developed.

The idea of looking at individuals as uniform components of a "whole" (society) drew their philosophies away from Enlightenment ideals of individualism and liberty, and towards a worldview where individuals were themselves only consequential as beign part of a medium for greater historical principles to manifest. Saint-Simon's utopianism envisioned a society based entirely on the applied scientific principles of scientistic social philosophy... policies and laws were elements of "social technology", or applied social science, aimed at achieving "scientifically objective" social good (whatever that could possibly mean), with no regard for the desires or aptitudes of the individual, or for cultural values science could not incorporate or account for. What we end up with are grand social engineering schemes, which by their very nature cannot help but be authoritarian.

Sure enough, Hayek links the scientistic misunderstanding of man to 20th century totalitarianism, by showing how profoundly Karl Marx was affected by Compte, Hegel and Saint-Simon. To a lesser degree, "secular humanism" and other philosophical spinoffs of scientistic Sociology are observed in the liberal democratic/capitalistic West.

It's fascinating stuff... a bit out of my area, and very dry reading in parts, but worthwhile food for thought. I'm sure some of this is bound to be controversial, but don't expect me to respond to comments below; I'm not sure how I feel about parts of this book, and I'm definitely not versed in it well enough to engage anybody in debate. Just read it and post your own review.

Oh yeah- the part about Freemasons and central banks bringing about the apocalypse: it's veiled, but it's in there.
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review 2014-01-29 19:31
Hardcore Truth (Thought I added this one already)
The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story - Bob Holly,Ross Williams

The Hardcore Truth is the biography of recently-retired wrestler, Bob "Hardcore" Holly.

During my decades of wrestling fandom, Bob Holly was always in my periphery, never one of my favorites but always a wrestler I knew would deliver the goods in the ring. After reading this, I wish I would have watched Bob more closely.

Unlike a lot of wrestling books, Bob's in the ring by the 10% mark. While I thought his dirt poor upbringing, teenage fatherhood, and fighting in toughman boxing matches in was interesting, I'm glad he focused on what made me want to read the book in the first place.

Bob doesn't pull any punches in the book, as befits his hard-hitting style in the ring. He doesn't glamorize his early days in WOW working for Bob Sweetan, nor his short stint as a job guy in WCW. Unlike a lot of guys other than Mick Foley, Bob says Ric was kind of a dick backstage. From there, Bob went to Smokey Mountain Wrestling for Jim Cornette and wound up dropping out of wrestling for a couple years to be a welder during the week and race cars on the weekends.

Bob eventually got the call from the WWF and wound up working there for 15 years. Remember what I said earlier about Bob not pulling punches? Bob calls it like he sees it and covers pretty much every significant WWF/WWE event from those 15 years, like the Clique running things backstage, Jeff Jarrett gettings special treatment because of his father, HHH holding talent down, the deaths of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, and much, much more.

I can't stress enough how straight ahead Bob is in this book. He talks about drugs, how much people were getting paid, who he liked, who he hated, and what he thought the company did wrong and what they did right. It's a really entertaining read and certainly kept my attention on a snowy Saturday afternoon.

There's not a hell of a lot more I can say about it without spoiling it. If you're at all interested in professional wrestling, you'll want to read this. For years, I have been touting Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom and Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore as the wrestling books to buy. Now I'll have to start recommending this one as well. 4.5 out of 5 stars

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review 2013-09-28 00:00
The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story
The Hardcore Truth: The Bob Holly Story - Bob Holly,Ross Williams The Hardcore Truth highlights two of the most important elements in a wrestling biography. Honesty, and related to this, balance.

The first quality makes the book worthwhile, and the second makes it one of the very best in the sub-genre, right up there with Jericho's and Bret Hart's memoirs, despite all its other flaws.

The book covers Holly's entire life, from his difficult childhood, to his time as a welder, amateur race-car driver, and bar-room fighter in Alabama to his remarkably long run in the WWE, almost 15 years, despite never being a top guy. He discusses everyone from childhood favorite Pat Patterson (who he later threatened to beat up in front of the locker room!) to CM Punk. While non-wrestling material is usually boring filler in such books, that's not the case here. Holly's tales about street fights, racing, and surprisingly, his relationships with women and daughter Stephanie were all genuinely interesting.

There are numerous road stories of traveling with other wrestlers, many of them funny, if told clumsily.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Holly is a lousy author. In fact, he isn't really a writer at all. He narrated his stories to co-writer Ross Williams, who then recorded them. The language and presentation is generally poor, although better than at least one wrestling autobiography I have read. (That would be Bischoff's horrendous Controversy Creates Cash, which I also reviewed on here, published by WWE Press)

Still, passages like the following can be damn jarring;

I decided I was going to go to work, do everything I could as quickly as I could, and then haul ass out of there to go straight to the show. I thought I might get fired but I didn’t care. It was a regular house show and a lot of my favorites were there, including “Playboy” Buddy Rose. The next day, I didn’t get fired but I definitely got in trouble. It was absolutely worth it.

Also, Hardcore Holly has a well-known reputation for being a bully and an asshole, beating the shit out of younger wrestlers if he felt they weren't up to snuff, had done something to offend him, or simply to test them out.

The book didn't change my impression of that. I still think he was wrong to beat up Matt Cappotelli. And yet, I gained something else from reading a book; an understanding and appreciation for the man.

While I still disagree with Holly's actions, and don't buy his self-justification, he isn't entirely wrong, either. Yes, his beating was relatively light compared to many of the difficulties of being a pro wrestler for a living. Yes, clowning around in a wrestling ring is disrespectful and unnecessary.

As wrong as it may sound, there has always been a place for old-school, hard-ass workers like Bob Holly in pro wrestling, and that's not an entirely a bad thing.

And that leads me to the book's two major strengths. Firstly, there is Holly's honesty.

While wrestling autobiographies are supposed to be intimate, tell-all memoirs, much like shoot interviews, over the years shoots become the new works. Far too often, wrestlers are too scared to be completely honest, for fear of pissing off a potential future employer. This was a major problem in Jericho's second book.

That's not a concern for Holly, who is largely done with wrestling, and shoots from the hip. However, this also doesn't mean everything Holly writes is the truth.

In a few cases, he is almost demonstrably wrong, like his claim that Shawn Michaels went from an asshole to a saint after converting to Christianity. There are countless backstage incidents that contradict this, and even Holly's own book later casts doubt on the claim, when he mentions him and Triple H hogging the spotlight in the mid to late 2000s.

But despite this, Holly is unflinchingly honest, even when the truth reflects poorly on himself. He is completely forthright about his steroid and pill usage. While Hardcore Holly never touched a sip of alcohol, and avoided the bar and late night scene so many wrestlers succumbed to, he used the steroids to improve his position in the company, and the pills to control the daily pain pro wrestlers suffer from their injuries.

This is a valuable trait for the book, but it's even better when paired with balance, something I have never seen as clearly as in Holly's memoir, Jericho's and Hart's books included.

It seems that most pro wrestlers, who have spent their whole lives telling stories of "good guy" versus "bad guy", also perceive reality as such. Invariably, everyone they discuss either gets effusive, glowing praise, or else is the biggest asshole imaginable.

The Hardcore Truth is a refreshing contrast. With virtually every person Holly discusses at length, he mentions both positive and negative traits. It's nice to read a discussion of Bret Hart or Rick Flair that isn't one-sided.

And Holly even extends this courtesy to people he despises. Triple H is the big villain of the book. Holly never fails to details his selfishness, dishonesty, meanness, back-stabbing, spotlight hogging, and mockery of wrestlers that looked up to him. Holly also has inside knowledge that Triple H buried him to Vince McMahon, lobbied hard to get Holly fired, and did his utmost to extinguish any career push he received.

And yet, despite that, Holly also admits that Triple H is one of the best in-ring performers in the history of the business. He goes further, calling him a "smart fucker", mentioning his genuinely excellent grasp of the entertainment form, and even details several times where Triple H acted decently towards the talent.

It's impressive to maintain such objectivity when examining something so near and dear to one's heart, and I was shocked that Bob Holly, of all the wrestlers who have released books, pulled it off the best.

Robert Howard, performing as Bob Holly, is a tough asshole who can be a bully and take advantage of people. But he's also a diligent, extremely hard worker who fit well into his particular industry, was never purposely malicious, and is astonishingly level-headed and objective.

Most importantly, he has a damn good story to tell.
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