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John Reynolds Secret Societies Inside The Freemasons The Yakuza Skull And Bones

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  • #46
    The Great Depression in the early 1930s sent Germany and the rest of the world on a slide towards disaster. Through a series of political manipulations and the application of brute force, by 1934 Hitler completely controlled Germany, promising to build an intricate system of high-speed highways and launch “a rebirth of the German army.” For the latter, he turned to Thyssen's steel mills, whose profits soared in the following years, overflowing into the coffers of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart in Rotterdam and the Union Banking Corporation in New York.

    Walker and his son-in-law, through their direction of the Harriman financial organization, seem to have tolerated, if not favored, antidemocratic regimes. In 1927, they were dealing both with Italy's fascist leader Benito Mussolini and Russia's Communist party while Stalin held his country in an iron grip. The bank's Russian connection inspired Lord Bearsted of Britain to recommend that Union Banking cease its dealings with Stalin, prompting Walker to retort: “It seems to me that the suggestion in connection with Lord Bearsted's views that we withdraw from Russia smacks somewhat of the impertinent…. I think we have drawn our line and should hew to it.” Business was, after all, business.

    Four years later, Harriman and Co. merged with Brown Brothers, a British-American investment firm, creating Brown Brothers Harriman, whose New York office was managed by Prescott S. Bush.

    Through the 1930s, Bush's involvement with Nazi Germany's finances expanded beyond Union Banking into shipping via the Hamburg Amerika Line, managed out of Bush's office through a wholly owned firm called the American Ship and Commerce Corporation. In September 1933, Bush helped orchestrate the merger of Hamburg Amerika, or Hapag, with the North German Lloyd Company to create Hapag Lloyd. Meanwhile, another spin-off from the same parent firm was set up to coordinate all trade between the U.S. and Nazi Germany, and Bush arranged refinancing for the German-Atlantic Cable Company, providing the only direct communications linkage between Germany and the U.S. The legal details of this latter arrangement were finalized by a Wall Street lawyer named John Foster Dulles, who would later become a hard-line secretary of state under President Eisenhower.

    Union Banking Corporation grew into the leading financial connection between Nazi Germany and the rest of the world, and by the mid-1930s the relationship was bonded at the highest levels. Consider the identity of its eight members of the board of directors:
    E. Roland Harriman
    Skull & Bones, ’17 Vice President, W. A. Harriman & Co., New York
    H. J. Kouwenhoven Member of Nazi Party; Managing Partner, Bank voor Handel Scheepvaart N.V. (transfer bank between August Thyssen Bank andUBC)
    Knight Wooley
    Skull & Bones, ’17 Director, Guaranty Trust, New York (a subsidiary of W. A. Harriman & Co.)
    Cornelius Lievense President, ubc; Director, Holland-American Investment Corp.
    Ellery S. James
    Skull & Bones, ’17 Partner, Brown Brothers & Co., New York.
    Johann Groninger Member of Nazi Party; Director, Bank voor Handel Scheepvaart N.V., and Vereinigte Stahlwerke (steel plant owned by Fritz Thyssen)
    J. L. Guinter Director, ubc
    Prescott S. Bush
    Skull & Bones, ’17 Partner, Brown Brothers Harriman, New York
    Of these eight powerful men, six either belonged to Skull & Bones or were members of the German Nazi Party. And although the parent firm of Brown Brothers Harriman employed several Yale graduates in positions of authority and responsibility, only Skull & Bones members sat on the ubc board.

    Networking, especially among university alumni, is neither new nor, on its own, worthy of concern. The existence of several members of the same university fraternal organization on the board of a company dealing with an international power of such murderous reputation as the Nazis could be a mere coincidence. Alarmists raise another possibility: the networking was agenda-based, connecting successive generations of very wealthy and highly privileged families whose career-oriented sons belonged to a society pledged to exceptional levels of secrecy and focused on financial and political manipulation on a global scale. This would apply if the organization itself were consciously oriented towards these activities or if its interests reflected the agenda of the families who dominated it, especially in the critical years between 1920 and 1980.

    The latter possibility—the idea that an organization could maintain its focus across several generations—raises the specter of a conspiracy among Skull & Bones members to effect its secretive goals. This likelihood is dismissed by skeptics who note that, among the hundreds of surviving Skull & Bones members, many have revealed insights into its operations but none has hinted at such a broadly based conspiracy. Yet, as events such as the collapse of WorldCom, and the exposed relationship between Enron executives and its auditors Arthur Andersen revealed, it takes only a few well-placed individuals to orchestrate an activity that involves an entire organization and benefits a selected few.

    Besides, it's not only the administration by Skull & Bones members of ubc and other organizations that's of interest and concern; it's also evidence of sly manipulation of the media and government, such as coverage of the demise of Union Banking, Hitler's Wall Street financier.

    The year 2003 saw the publication of Duty, Honor, Country, a glowing tribute to Prescott S. Bush by Mickey Herskowitz, a Houston, Texas, sportswriter. Author Herskowitz had produced previous books on celebrities such as cowboy film star Gene Autry, tv commentator Howard Cossell and baseball hero Mickey Mantle, men he admired with a level of adulation matching his apparent reverence for Prescott Bush.

    In glowing prose, Duty, Honor, Country traces the career of this father of one U.S. president and grandfather of a state governor and another president as he blazes the political trail for his offspring, winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1952 and acting as a political confidant for Richard M. Nixon.

    Throughout the tale, the book is an uncritical paean to the Bush family patriarch, one that any Beverly Hills public relations firm would take pride in producing on behalf of a client. In one mild effort to present an objective portrait of his subject, Herskowitz refers to a front-page story that appeared in the New York Herald-Tribune during World War ii, revealing close connections between Union Banking and Nazi Germany. “Thyssen Has $3,000,000 Cash in New York Vaults,” the headline announced, followed by the sub-head: “Union Banking Corporation May Hide Nest Egg for High Nazis He Once Backed.” The article, written by Herald-Tribune reporter M. J. Racusin, provided details of ubc's connection with Thyssen along with the speculation: “Perhaps it wasn't Herr Thyssen's money at all, some persons suggest. Maybe he sent it here for safekeeping for some of the Nazi bigwigs—perhaps for Goering, for Goebbels, for Himmler, or even Hitler himself.”

    Whoever had a right to claim the money—no evidence surfaced to suggest that it was anyone but Thyssen—the revelation was an embarrassment for everyone, especially Prescott Bush who already had expressed his political ambitions.

    According to Herskowitz, ubc president Prescott Bush took immediate action when the story broke. “[He] acted quickly and openly on behalf of the firm, served well by a reputation that had never been compromised. He made available all records and all documents. Viewed six decades later in the era of serial corporate scandals and shattered careers, he received what can be viewed as the ultimate clean bill.”

    Then the fawning Herskowitz notes:

    “Earlier that year [Bush] had accepted the chairmanship of the uso (United Service Organizations). He traveled the country over the next two years raising millions for the National War Fund and… putting himself on the national stage for the first time… [and] boosting the morale of U.S. troops.”

    The records show that Bush indeed jumped aboard the uso bandwagon in the spring of 1942. Unfortunately, Herskowitz makes a critical error of timing in his subject's favor. The Herald-Tribune article, he states, appeared in the summer of 1942, suggesting that Prescott Bush had already assumed an anti-Nazi stance with his participation in the uso several months earlier. How could anyone question the patriotism of a Wall Street financial heavyweight who takes an active role in supporting U.S. troops (the U.S. joined the war effort against Germany in December 1941) well in advance of a revelation that might have put his ethics in doubt?

    But the Herald-Tribune revelation did not appear in the summer of 1942, as Herskowitz stated. It appeared on Thursday, July 31, 1941, a fact that Herskowitz could not have missed, since he quoted directly from the article itself. In that context, Bush made his patriotic move to the uso after the appearance of the story connecting him and his bank with a Nazi regime that was well advanced in its murder of millions of innocent civilians and Allied soldiers. No longer an obvious altruistic enlistment, Bush's move now appears more like frantic fence mending, and Herskowitz's story looks like a conscious whitewash.

    Bush and his ubc cronies managed to sweep other dusty smudges under the rug wherever possible, as indicated by this innocuous one-line announcement that appeared in the financial pages of the December 16, 1944, issue of the New York Times:

    The Union Banking Corporation, 39 Broadway, New York, has received authority to change its principal place of business to 120 Broadway.

    The announcement conveniently ignored the fact that ubc had been taken over by the U.S. federal government under the Trading with the Enemy Act more than two years earlier, and that 120 Broadway was actually the address of the Office of the Alien Property Custodian. By this time, of course, Prescott Bush and his other Skull & Bones cronies had moved on, parading on behalf of Victory Bonds in their starched shirts and wrapped in Old Glory, ready to assume the next stage in their shining careers which, in Bush's case, included election to the U.S. Senate.


    • #47
      It's this apparent financial/political linkage among Skull & Bones members that alarms many people. With so much smoke swirling among both the organization and the U.S. federal service, they contend, there has to be some fire. Predictably, and most disturbingly, the secret Skull & Bones society has made its biggest impact on that most influential of all government-administered secret societies, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

      Consider this partial list of Bonesmen associated with the U.S. intelligence community via the Office of Strategic Services (oss) and the cia during their careers:
      Hugh Wilson ’09
      Robert D. French ’10
      Archibald MacLeish ’15
      Charles R. Walker ’16
      F. Trubee Davison ’18
      Amory Howe Bradford ’34
      Hugh Cunningham ’34
      Richard A. Moore ’36
      William P. Bundy ’39
      McGeorge Bundy ’40
      Reuben Holden ’40
      Richard Drain ‘43
      James Buckley ’44
      George H.W. Bush ’48
      Sloane Coffin Jr. ’49
      V. Van Dine ’49
      William Buckley ’50
      Dino Pionzio ’50
      David Boren ’63
      By definition, Bonesmen are bright, ambitious and, based upon their membership in the secret society, eminently qualified to serve in a covert organization like the cia. On the surface, this makes a good deal of sense. Concerns arise, however, when layers of secrecy concealing many Bonesmen associations and activities are peeled away, revealing suggestions of extracurricular clandestine actions and evidence of remarkable coincidences.

      Remember Russell Trust Association, the official corporate name of Skull & Bones? According to records of the state of Connecticut, where the organization was registered, Russell Trust Association no longer exists. But of course it does, since Skull & Bones remains more active and, apparently, more solvent than ever. The parent organization of Skull & Bones is now known as rta Incorporated, a name it surreptitiously assumed at 10:15 am, April 14, 1961.

      It's an interesting date and time, because less than two hours later the cia launched its self-financed and self-directed invasion of Cuba, resulting in the disastrous Bay of Pigs debacle. The cia's mastermind of this folly was Richard Drain, a Bonesman of ’43. The White House liaison was McGeorge Bundy, Skull & Bones ’40, working closely with his brother William P. Bundy, Skull & Bones ’39, at the State Department. Together, these three cooked up one of the great foreign misad-ventures in U.S. history, boosting Cuba's prestige in the Third World, highlighting Fidel Castro's claims of U.S. imperialism, and leading directly to the Cuban missile crisis, the closest the world has yet come to nuclear war.

      The timing of the change in corporate identity and the Bay of Pigs invasion could be dismissed as coincidence, but with the perspective of history and our knowledge of cia operations over the years, there may be a more practical explanation.

      While no one has revealed the source of funding that enabled 1500 Cuban Americans to launch the invasion, suspicion remains that it was the U.S. government, via a cia operations group. Without a defined conduit, however, a financial linkage cannot be verified. And without an existing Russell Trust Association, any record of a potential involvement of the Skull & Bones parent organization as covert manager of the funds was neatly erased on the morning of the invasion. One fact remains, however: the individual who handled the paperwork on the name changeover and the incorporation of rta was Howard Weaver, a ’45 Bonesman who had conveniently retired from covert work at the cia less than two years earlier.

      Coincidences grow curioser and curioser. George H.W. Bush may or may not have been working on behalf of the cia in the years between 1958 and 1966, encompassing the timing of Bay of Pigs. His official record identifies him only as chairman of the board and president of Zapata Offshore Oil, a company headquartered in Houston, Texas. Without some experience in espionage, however, Bush's selection as cia director in 1974 seems strange to say the least, and more than one reliable source has claimed the Zapata company was a cover for cia operations.

      In any case, Zapata happens to be the cia's code name for the Bay of Pigs invasion and, for an extra measure of conspiracy spice, two of the support vessels for the operation were identified as the Houston and the Barbara. The latter designation is intriguing because, during his World War ii escapades as a pilot, Bush named every aircraft for his wife, the indomitable Barbara Bush.

      Three generations of the Bush family—one senator and two presidents—all proudly declared their association with Skull & Bones.

      Another coincidence involves the same former president George H.W. Bush and the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. One week after that calamitous event, an official fbi document noted that information on possible Cuban exile involvement in the president's death had been received “orally furnished to Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency and Captain William Edwards of the Defense Intelligence Agency on November 23, 1963, by Mr. W.T. Forsyth of this Bureau.”

      When a reprint of this document appeared in the July 1988 issue of The Nation, on the cusp of Bush's run for the U.S. presidency, the cia quickly issued a statement claiming that “Mr. George Bush” was not really the current candidate for the highest office in the land but a different man with a similar name: George William Bush. This appeared to deflect suspicion about the presidential candidate's hidden career as a spook, but only until George William Bush emerged from obscurity to admit that yes, he had once been employed by the cia among other government offices, but only as a low-level research and analyst clerk. He also blew the cia's claim out of the water with an affidavit swearing,

      I have carefully reviewed the fbi memorandum to the Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State dated November 29, 1963 which mentions a Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency…. I do not recognize the contents of the memorandum as information furnished to me orally or otherwise during the time I was at the cia. In fact, during my time at the cia, I did not receive any oral communications from any government agency of any nature whatsoever. I did not receive any information relating to the Kennedy assassination during my time at the cia from the fbi. Based on the above, it is my conclusion that I am not the Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency referred to in the memorandum.

      Which leaves the logical conclusion that George H.W. Bush was a cia operative at a time when he claimed not to be. No surprise there, given the cia's understandable reluctance to admit anything it doesn't have to. But Bush also had, at the time, an alliance with Cuban exiles who were furious with Kennedy's dis-association with the Bay of Pigs failure, encouraging some observers to make a linkage between Bush and two catastrophic events in U.S. history: the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The media chose to discount both connections, leading conspiracy buffs into a round of speculation that has endured for years.

      From time to time, Skull & Bones lashes out at those who dare probe too deeply into its operations, as it apparently did when Netherlands tv producer Daniel de Wit completed a documentary on the group. De Wit's premise connected Skull & Bones with the cia in drug-smuggling activities as a means of financing unapproved covert operations, a tactic confirmed during the Iran-Contra hearings of 1988. Before his production could air, de Wit was ordered by the Netherlands government to remove all reference to the cia and drugs, and soften its criticisms of Skull & Bones. The deletions reduced the program's running time from its original 80 minutes to barely 30 minutes. Completed in 1998, the show was aired once in the U.S. on a Friday at 5 pm when, as de Wit notes, “every possible viewer is in traffic going home.” It was never repeated.

      In August 2003, de Wit recalled his experience with the cia and Skull & Bones, noting, “These… institutions and their members show a brute force and an enormous concentrated power that is overwhelming and could make everyone very cynical very easily. That also must be a reason people like to stay away from these realities.”

      Skull & Bones is no more immune to the passage of time and its changes than anything or anyone else, and whatever influence and impact it had beyond the Yale campus may be waning. The 2004 U.S. presidential election, after all, featured Bonesmen George W. Bush, ’68, against John Kerry. Depending upon your point of view, this proves either that Skull & Bones members dominate the U.S. political arena to an extent no one imagined, or that the vaunted conspiracy did not exist, because why would two conspirators face each other across an ideological divide?

      Whatever the answer, the innermost secrets of Skull & Bones have been leaking through the stone walls of The Tomb for several years now, even as the reality of the outside world has been seeping into it. Surely the most important change occurred in 1992 when, after a bitter rear guard battle by old Bonesmen (one, a prestigious Washington-area lawyer, suggested a coed membership “would lead to date-rape”), the organization actually agreed to admit women. By 2000, six of the fifteen Skull & Bones members that year were female.

      The changes wrought by the last forty years of social upheaval—Skull & Bones now taps Jews and blacks as potential members, something it avoided during the first 150 years of its existence—make it doubtful that many of the old initiation rites, such as relating one's sexual history while stretched out naked in a coffin, are still practiced. With an estimated $4 million in assets in 2000, however, Skull & Bones could still afford to pay the $15,000 stipend and award a grandfather clock at marriage.

      The spectacle of both U.S. presidential candidates being Skull & Bones members may represent the dying echo of the society's excessive influence on the country's political and judicial systems. In a day of hand-held instant messaging, global economics and tech-based fortunes, the networking arrangement that boosted the U.S. privileged class even higher in the pecking order is not nearly as influential or even necessary. The male wasp contingent of American society is no longer as exclusive as a generation ago, and secret societies on campus are considered at best anachronisms, a throwback to days of panty raids and silly rich boys in raccoon coats. Skull & Bones appears to be stumbling towards extinction; in recent years, more Yale juniors have declined the invitation to become a member than have accepted it.

      Yet its influence during the past century deserves consideration. Too many of its “best and brightest” were involved in too many economic and foreign policy disasters, from Bay of Pigs through the Kennedy assassination to Vietnam and Iraq, to assess it as an exclusively campus crowd, a bunch of advantaged young men playing silly games in a dark, tomb-like room. There is more to be told. But by whom?


      • #48

        THE MORE CERTAINTY WE HAVE IN OUR LIVES, THE MORE WE are intrigued by mysteries. Their entertainment value is obvious, but we may also need threats to our security in order to fully appreciate it. In the process, we speculate about things we cannot explain, and often become fixed on threats and events well removed from our day-to-day lives. It's more comforting that way, which perhaps explains why the greatest concentration of secret society concerns rests in urban Europe and affluent North America, whose residents have the most to lose materially and spiritually.

        For those of us detached from direct association with shadow people, it is the secrecy that is most worrisome, and the potential impact on our lives that is most threatening, an attitude that varies according to proximity. To citizens of Calabria and Sicily, the Mafia is a reality that need not be speculated about, because its presence and influence are evident. Similar attitudes may be found among residents of Hong Kong and Macau, who experience Triad activities first hand, and Japanese businessmen encountering crimes committed by Yakuza. To both groups, the “secret” in secret societies is something of a contradiction when their direct impact is confronted daily.

        At the other end of the spectrum, Yak farmers in Mongolia, refugees in Somalia and Inuit on Baffin Island grapple daily with a range of challenges to their survival that middle-class Americans and Europeans cannot grasp. Plotting their very existence occupies too much of their consciousness to speculate about the impact of millennia-old and foreign-based conspiracies, even as entertainment.

        To the rest of us, “secret” denotes mystery, and mysteries demand solutions. Where solutions are unavailable, speculation will do. And when speculation is unleashed from reason and motivated by innuendo, we begin to sense that we are surrounded by conspiracies, believing in their existence even when faced with evidence to the contrary.

        The more comfortable and predictable our lives become, the more positively we react to the notion of widespread conspiracies because their existence provides a resolution to various unsolved mysteries. Conspiracies supply blame for terrible events that remain beyond our ability to fathom them. No better example exists than the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Those who cannot accept that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, could gun down one of the most admired men of his time look for evidence to support their disbelief. In this incidence there may be much yet to be found, as we saw with the examination of Skull & Bones. On a grander scale, we may ascribe the failure of our economic dreams to an unfathomable and shadowy cartel, the defeat of a favored politician to an international cabal, and unexplained climatic events to supernatural forces controlled by covens.

        The growing appeal of secret explanations for catastrophic events has paralleled the impact of contemporary popular culture, with each element feeding the other. Popular novels and movies once dealt with people engaged in direct association with each other; their motivations varied between love and war, often involving both, but they were for the most part open, not shadowy, occurrences. Today's popular culture vehicles find more inspiration not in events we can fathom but in secrets that defy our explanation, held by organizations operating within shadows.

        Consider the mystery novel. Most observers trace its origins back to Edgar Allan Poe's 1843 tale The Gold Bug. Poe's literary descendant Dashiell Hammett created the prototypical private eye to solve crimes committed by individuals whose closest association with an international conspiracy was usually “The Syndicate,” code for the Mafia. Others, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan, Sax Rohmer (creator of Fu Manchu) and Sapper (pen name for Herman Cyril McNeile, author of the Bulldog Drummond series), pursued criminals who functioned on a one-to-one scale with their victims while committing robbery, murder and similar unsavory and intriguing activities.

        Secret societies rarely appeared in popular literature until relatively recently. Readers of Ayn Rand suggest that her novel Atlas Shrugged deals with values associated with the Illuminati, which may explain the basis for the book's popularity. Communists were a familiar target in American novels of the 1950s, but in this case familiarity appears to have bred boredom; communists were an everyday element in news broadcasts, which made them feckless villains in fiction for the most part.

        It took Ian Fleming, and progeny such as Robert Ludlum and John Grisham, to address readers’ fears of shadowy conspirators exerting widespread power over the lives of ordinary people. A variation on this plot device blasted the Harry Potter series into the records as history's most successful publishing phenomenon in children's books and literature generally. At least three secret societies, such as the Order of the Phoenix, are involved in the Potter plots, each threatening not only the hero and his cohorts but the security of the world itself.

        Harry Potter is fun, of course, even when he's scooting over the moors pursued by shadowy villains. This is unusual. In spite of near-farcical aspects of organizations such as the Rosicrucians, likely born of a college-student prank, and the unfortunate death of a Freemason initiate, secret societies are rarely subject to parody in popular culture. On television, Jackie Gleason's early 1950s comedy The Honeymooners frequently included the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons, whose lodge members acted suspiciously like Masons and Shriners, engaging in code words and flapping the tails on their coonskin caps to each other. More recently, and more acerbically, the television series The Simpsons has included the Stonecutters in several of its plots. Clearly based on Freemasonry, the Stonecutters meet weekly in a pyramid-shaped building where they honor their Sacred Parchment before drinking heavily and playing Ping-Pong. For proof of their power, the Stonecutters claim to control the British monarchy and prevent the metric system from being used in the USA. It is an accurate, devastating and hilarious parody of the lighter side of secret societies.

        In a semi-serious vein, film adaptations of Ian Fleming's James Bond series were among the first to spark Hollywood's interest in international conspiracies, partially because Fleming managed to tap the public's fascination with evil secret societies. Bond's nemesis spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) elevated the idea of foreign-accented men with sociopathic qualities and unlimited sources of wealth to an over-the-top level that was consistently entertaining but never within the realm of reality. Similarly, later films based on books by Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton and others usually based their conspiracies and conflicts on clashes between the American cia, the British mi6 and the Russian kgb, with periodic excursions into the realms of Nazi revivals and the Israeli Mossad.

        It took Frances Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy to depict Cosa Nostra with shocking realism, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones series, to explore contemporary antics of ancient secret societies with a healthy injection of clichéd Nazi villains.

        Perhaps because its current existence is, for the most part, unconfirmable, the Bavarian Illuminati often serves as murky villains in movies and video games. The 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider reversed the traditional order of games spinning off movies when it adapted a best-selling video game into a major film production starring Angelina Jolie and John Voight. The plot, not surprisingly considering its source, suggests a new definition for silliness, pitting Ms. Jolie's character against the Illuminati's ability to control time as part of that organization's plans for world domination.

        Another popular computer game, Deus Ex, also features the Illuminati as a secret society controlling the world in company with the Knights Templar. In addition to its political and economic powers, exerted via the World Trade Organization, in Deus Ex the Illuminati maintains a hidden store of viruses to be unleashed on groups or entire countries that fail to meet its demands. The Templars are less clearly drawn, representing one of four forces the player may join to achieve the game's objectives. Neither group, as presented here or elsewhere, bears much similarity to the actual namesake organizations.


        • #49
          Through all of these literary, cinematic and computer game productions, readers and viewers found it easy to draw a distinct line between fantasy and reality. Viewers of The Godfather, for example, left the movie theater feeling they had acquired an insight into the operations of Cosa Nostra, but few felt any new threat to their lives. Both the film and the book it was based upon ignored the historic heritage behind the organization, choosing to focus on actions of ruthless criminals united by blood and marriage who saw their work as simply a means of doing business. The groups were real, but the threat, while also real, remained distant, and the Mafia's historical roots were never addressed.

          Not until Umberto Eco's philosophical satire Foucault's Pendulum, in which three Italian editors become caught up in an apparent linkage between historical secret societies extending back to the Crucifixion, did a major novel deal with historical facts. In Eco's rampant and often hilarious tale, organizations such as the Templars, Freemasons, Priory of Sion, Assassins, Rosicrucians, Kabbalah, Druids, Gnostics—the entire pantry of secret societies and their primary characters—pop up both as historical relics and contemporary participants. Part Marx Brothers movie script, part Robert Ludlum thriller and part philosophical treatise, Eco's 1988 narrative satisfied two widely disparate groups: conspiracy buffs who suspect that 8 billion lives on the planet are controlled by a handful of shadowy plotters, and skeptics who revel in the delight of seeing the emperor's new wardrobe finally being revealed.

          Foucault's Pendulum was clearly inspired by a 1982 book ostensibly published as non-fiction, but widely assessed as a work of fantasy loosely based on fact. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail appeared six years before Eco's opus, and while the latter was amusing and enlightening to readers who could follow its meandering plot and respond to its cynical humor, the former ignited something else among a more gullible public.

          The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was inspired by the experience of a British film producer and former actor named Henry Soskin, whose previous claim to fame had been performing bit parts in the 1960s tv series The Avengers. Changing his name to Henry Lincoln, and changing his position from in front of the camera to behind it, Soskin detected a missing translation of an encrypted message in an obscure book on Rennes-le-Chateau. After researching the tale of Father Saunière and his mysterious wealth, Lincoln produced a documentary film about the supposed treasure, milking the story of every nuance to heighten the drama.

          Some time later, Lincoln encountered a university lecturer and budding novelist named Richard Leigh, who harbored a fascination with the Knights Templar. Perhaps the Templars and the Saunière mystery could be linked together, tracking a tale extending from Christ's crucifixion down to contemporary times. Leigh recruited a former photo-journalist named Michael Baigent, and together this triumvirate invested four years researching, speculating, postulating and finally writing a book that spun 100,000 words of conjecture into a theory connecting virtually every secret society extant, in reality or fantasy, over two thousand years. At the core of the tale were three unproved (and unconfirmable) assertions:

          1. Christ did not die on the cross; an impostor took his place, permitting Christ to escape across the Mediterranean to the south of France.

          2. Christ was not single and celibate; he married Mary Magdalene and fathered at least one child, who accompanied the parents on the journey.

          3. The descendants of Christ's children have been active in determining the fate of the world for twenty centuries.

          As the premise for a historical novel, this is splendid stuff. In the hands of authors as divergent in their periods and styles as Thomas B. Costain or Don de Lillo, it could have been a respectable flight of fancy and an entertaining, even informative, peek at some of history's most interesting events.

          The authors and their publisher did not see it this way. They believed that the impact of a non-fictional hypothesis had a better opportunity of generating interest and sales than a historical novel, and they were proven correct when The Holy Blood and the Holy Grailappeared on the best-seller list almost from the day of its publication in 1982. It also managed to inspire the only book that has seriously challenged the Harry Potter series for sales volume in recent years: Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Until that point, Brown had hardly distinguished himself as a writer destined for greatness. His previous work, Angels and Demons, blended the Illuminati and Syrian Ismailis in a laughingly awkward manner, and included the author's erroneous assumption that Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Iran and India all speak and write the same language.

          Holy Blood and Da Vinci are as closely linked as any literary parent and progeny can be, even to the extent of each mirroring the other: Holy Blood is imaginative fiction posing as reality, and Da Vinci is pseudo-reality posing as fiction.

          Despite his assertions that many of the organizations, characters and events in his book are real, Brown can neatly sidestep criticisms about his novel by pointing at the “fiction” designation. The trio of authors who concocted Holy Blood have no such defense except their protests of unfair attacks by skeptical critics, delivered with great passion and conviction in later editions of their book. But complaints of unfair criticism cannot overcome weaknesses that fail to suspend disbelief among perceptive readers.

          Throughout their tale, the authors frequently pose the query, “What if?” What if the power of the Templars rose to the same extent as a prominent individual who happened to be their contemporary? Does that point to a relationship? Perhaps, but it hardly proves it. Once their “what if?” premise is established, it is treated from that point forward like a proven assertion on which an entire network of suppositions can be strung. The result is a spider web that supports its builder, but is quickly swept away in the first fresh breeze.

          Most serious works of non-fiction base their premise on accessible facts, established by a credible source identified to the reader. The Holy Blood authors take a startling new stance. History can only be seriously interpreted, they claim, when the researcher seeks conclusions from among apparently unrelated events, even when the events are, at best, apocryphal. In effect, they are suggesting that documented facts are no more important—and perhaps less so—than colorful myths. If this is truly the case, an enormous volume of new information awaits discovery by imaginative historians who link, for example, the early-1944 consolidation of Nazi power in Europe with that winter's unprecedented levels of snowfall in North America.

          The analogy of a spider's web may favor the strength of the web over the ability of Holy Blood to sustain close examination, because the authors themselves ask the reader to forgive their frequent sleight of hand. Consider these exit doors for truth, appearing on consecutive pages of the 1996 paperback edition:

          This, of course, was only a speculative hypothesis, with no documentary confirmation. (p. 115)

          The possibility cannot be proved, but neither can it be dismissed out of hand. (p. 116)

          On the basis of these connections, we have formulated a tentative hypothesis. (p. 117)

          Repeatedly, Lincoln et al. seize on colorful speculation that advances their theories while discarding any hard evidence that discredits them. They also proffer, as corroboration for their argument, material that is not only suspect in veracity but often confirmable as fraudulent. Much of their case rests on Les dossiers secrets de Henri Lobineau, supposedly containing detailed lineages tracing the Merovingian dynasty from the fifth-century Frankish leader Meroveus through the mysterious Giselle de Razes to the ninth-century Sigisbert vi. These had already been declared a forgery by the man acknowledged as their creator, the prankster and dipsomaniac Philippe de Chérisy, when he filed court documents suing Pierre Plantard to recover payment for producing the fraudulent documents. Plantard, who declared himself a direct descendant of Dagobert and Giselle, and director of the Priory of Sion, never disputed de Chérisy's claim, although he later concocted the story that de Chérisy had merely copied originals in Plantard's possession. Nowhere inHoly Blood is de Chérisy's lawsuit against Plantard mentioned, nor anything about de Chérisy's questionable background.

          Noel Corbu, who invented much of the fable as a means of building traffic to his hotel and restaurant, is mentioned in Holy Blood only as the purchaser of Villa Bethania, a man left frustrated by the death of Marie Denarnaud before she could relate details of her past. Nothing more is said of him or of the tale played to guests at Corbu's restaurant while they dined. Both facts, of course, would trip up the entire thesis presented by the authors, who prefer that nothing obstruct their claim to solving perhaps the greatest mystery of all time.

          Holy Blood challenges its readers to prove the existence of a negative reality by asking them to show that a hypothesized event did not occur. Proof that something does not exist may work in mathematics, where negatives can be theorized and assessed, but not in history. To demonstrate the vacuity of Holy Blood’s premise, imagine a non-fiction work on the existence of Santa Claus, based upon evidence that no one has yet proven he does not exist.

          This could all be a matter of literary bashing, suitable for bookish nabobs to lob back and forth in The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Review, producing little more than bruised egos and fits of jealousy among authors and editors (“Why didn't Iget the idea for that book!!??”). If this were the sole by-product, none of us would or should give it a thought. There may be more to the picture, however.

          While it may be entertaining to trace the tracks of stampeding minds among historical clues, stitching dozens of links together to create an apparent chain of proof, the practice creates risks from certain unstable members of society. The more outrageous of this group reside on the far fringes of the left and right wings of political thought, who are quick to identify every problem in life, on either a personal or global scale, as rooted in a secret cabal of power brokers. On the surface, this should be of little consequence. Paranoia is not new nor, when spread among groups with nothing better to do with their spare time, is it necessarily cause for concern. Unfortunately, the basis for much of this paranoia is often racial, and that's where the game grows serious.

          If Holy Blood can lend credence to such easily proven frauds as Priory of Sion, it can also convince those who are open to such persuasion that aberrations like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are rooted in reality.

          The Protocols are mentioned in Holy Blood in an unfortunately typical manner. First, the authors disown its veracity (“Experts today concur—and rightly so, we concluded—that the Protocols, at least in their present form, are a vicious and insidious forgery.”). Later, after agreeing with respectable sources that the Protocols are a forgery, they claim this discredited tome is “of paramount importance to the Prieuré de Sion.”

          How and why are they important? No details are given. Almost 230 pages later, the Protocols are mentioned again, but only briefly and for the last time, when a reference to them is used to support the authors’ claim that a new king will carry “the holy seed of David.” If the Protocols are “a vicious and insidious forgery,” why rely upon the document for anything at all? The authors are performing a dance here, waltzing around a scurrilous text while remaining close enough to use it for support when it serves their purposes.


          • #50
            Nothing established about the Protocols suggest they are anything more than a fable presented as fact to achieve questionable, often nefarious, goals. Here, in brief, is their history:

            In 1868 a German novelist named Hermann Goedsche, using the English pen name Sir John Retcliffe, published a novel titled Biarritz. The plot centered on a Jewish cabal intent on taking over the world. Goedsche appears to have been inspired by the French writer Maurice Joly, whose Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu spun a tale based on opposition to Napoleon iii. Goedsche, a notorious antiSemite, lifted Joly's plot device, introducing Jews to the story line as the villains.

            All of this might have slipped out of sight beneath the waves like similar bad writing except for the precarious position of Russian czar Nicholas ii near the end of the nineteenth century. In a move designed to strengthen his hand among the Russian people and weaken his political opponents, the czar demanded a device that would expose his enemies as allies in a conspiracy involving world domination. From our perspective today, the “world domination” motive sounds like a Hollywood scriptwriter's pitch for yet another James Bond movie, but in the heady paranoia of Russia in 1895, it carried enough whiffs of validity to convince some of the people some of the time.

            With the czar's directive, the Russian Okhrana secret police force plundered various sources for inspiration. They found it in Goedsche's novel, and in 1897 published as fact the section dealing with the Jewish plot. Eight years later, the Protocols were translated into English and widely circulated as minutes recorded during the First Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 presided over by “the Father of Modern Zionism,” Theodor Herzl.

            The Protocols, intended to be read like an instruction manual for running the world, are either chilling or absurd, depending on your gullibility and appreciation for black humor. Assisting in the ambitious project of global domination, the documents declare, are the Freemasons, whose agenda is being manipulated by the Elders, and the Bavarian Illuminati, who are either dupes or willing participants.

            Practical lessons in the Protocols vary between chilling generalizations and outright farce. Protocol No. 1, for example, lectures, “Therefore, in governing the world the best results are obtained by violence and intimidation, and not by academic discussions,” while Protocol No. 23 proposes that the general public should be made unhappy, and thus subdued, by passing laws prohibiting drunkenness.

            Many of the most troubling Protocols were adopted by right-wing politicians of their day as a means of motivating their most ardent supporters. By selecting the elements that best served their needs and loading them on the always-rolling anti-Semitic bandwagon, everyone including Adolf Hitler claimed the Protocols were authentic.

            They became a treasure-trove of rationales for racists. “We shall destroy among the masses the importance of the family and its educational value,” Protocol No. 10 declared. Protocol No. 12 promised, “We shall saddle and bridle [the press] with a tight curb…. Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control.” To tighten the thumbscrews a little more, Protocol No. 14 proclaimed, “It will be undesirable for us that there should exist any other religion than ours…. We must therefore sweep away all other forms of belief.”

            In the economic and political chaos that followed World War i and the Russian revolution, it took only the briefest of references to the Protocols for much of American and European popular culture to seize on them as proof of a secret conspiracy. Among the advocates was automotive magnate Henry Ford, who launched the Dearborn Independent newspaper in 1920 partially as a means of disseminating the Protocols, along with periodic attacks on Communists. For a time, Ford clung stubbornly to his opinion that theProtocols were indicative of a Jewish conspiracy for world domination. In an interview appearing in the February 17, 1921, issue of the New York World, Ford said: “The only statement I care to make about the Protocols is that they fit in with what is going on. They are sixteen years old [sic], and they have fitted the world situation up to this time. They fit it now.” Meanwhile, Hitler was quoting the Protocols in Mein Kampf, and selections from the book were being read in the Romanian parliament as a rationale for expelling Jews from that country.

            Theodor Herzl, “the Father of Modern Zionism,” is assumed in some quarters to be the creator of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

            Little by little, thanks to serious investigation conducted by skeptical journalists, the truth of the Protocols’ origins became known. Among the first to expose their fraudulent basis was a London Times reporter named Philip Graves, who traced their genesis back to Joly and Goedsche. Slowly, the weight of proof rose to such a mass that even crusty Henry Ford admitted he had been mistaken. In 1927, in a public retraction, he apologized for his support of the Protocols hoax, blaming his assistants for duping him.

            The perception persists, however. Holy Blood’s weak denunciation of the Protocols before employing them later as support for its premise adds to the suspicion, among those who grasp at any available straw, that such wild speculation bears heeding.

            Among the political and industry leaders who promoted the truth of the Protocols was Henry Ford.

            Hitler quoted from the Protocols in Mein Kampf.

            By inserting the Protocols into their opus, the authors of Holy Blood create the mirroring effect mentioned earlier. In their case, a work of reputed non-fiction treats a fictional event as though it contained vestiges of reality. In his book The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown uses a work of fiction to deride a real organization, Opus Dei, as though it were a threat to humanity as genuine and treacherous as the fictional Protocols.

            Brown's reckless use of facts to add verisimilitude to his work of fiction has been criticized in great detail by numerous critics elsewhere; in this context, only the author's skewed depiction of Opus Dei will be dealt with.

            Opus Dei is the de facto villain in Brown's tale, so dedicated to protecting the secret of Christ's supposed bloodline that it employs hired assassins, at least one of whom is a decidedly sadistic character. This may be suitable for James Bond stories and the fictional spectre, or Len Deighton tales involving familiar evils of Nazism, but ascribing such illusory qualities to an existing organization in support of a fantastic premise strikes many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, as outrageous.

            The Roman Catholic Church is as appropriate a target for criticism as any, and considering many of its less admirable activities over the past millennium, more suitable than most. But the family-oriented agenda of Opus Dei, as much as liberal Catholics may disagree with its conservative bent, is portrayed in an especially bizarre manner by Brown. Key to the author's plot involving a sadomasochistic albino monk is the premise that Opus Dei operates as a monastic order. This is a fabrication and a complete reversal of the organization's actual premise: monks seek holiness by withdrawing from society; Opus Dei chooses to function in the midst of secular society.

            Other aspects of Brown's tale can be considered nothing less than character assassination. These include references to Opus Dei recruits being drugged into silence, the use of a barbed cilice belt as a masochistic tool, and the suggestion that Opus Dei “bailed out” the Vatican when its bank encountered financial difficulties, purchasing special favors from the papal office in the process. In a manic effort to denigrate the organization, Brown even got the entrances to the Opus Dei Manhattan headquarters wrong. Men and women may enter any door to the building they choose, but since the headquarters includes separate residences for celibate men and women, occupants of each section enter through one door or another to reach their own quarters more directly. Brown stretches this to claim that all men must enter through the main door on Lexington Avenue, and all women must enter through a side door. Not only is this gender restriction false, it is backwards regarding the residents: women enter their residence area off Lexington; the entrance for male residents is via the adjoining street.

            Apologists for Brown and his publisher note that Da Vinci is, after all, a work of fiction and carries the familiar disclaimer opposite the dedication page (“All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”). Turn that page, however, and you encounter Brown's claim that the Priory of Sion “is a real organization,” that Opus Dei has been alleged to conduct “brain-washing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification,’” and that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” All three claims are made without any hint of irony.

            How seriously should we take these and other discrepancies in the book? After all, it is merely a novel, and not a very serious one at that. Authors must be permitted the luxury of freedom when giving their imagination rein to create tales whose primary goal is entertainment, whether their basis is a cheap detective novel or a tome worthy of Dickens or Hemingway. This premise will not be challenged in this book or, it is hoped, elsewhere.

            Imagination is one thing; unfairly and inaccurately maligning an existing organization or individuals for the purpose of adding realism is another matter. It is no exaggeration to compare the initial and extended impact of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion withDa Vinci, and their first appearance in a work of fiction; while the Catholic Church is not nearly as vulnerable to the kinds of abuse the Protocols created for Jews, the principle remains unchanged.

            For hundreds of years Masons, Rosicrucians, Druids, Gnostics, Wiccans and others whose practices were benign, if out of the mainstream, suffered attacks from people who see a conspiracy behind every innocent symbol and plots behind every unforeseen event. In many cases, these fringe elements influenced the main fabric of society with unfortunate results. For almost a century now, the hysterical and anti-Semitic scribblings of Nesta H. Webster have been accepted as factual by otherwise astute readers of her bookSecret Societies & Subversive Movements.

            Webster's work, turgid almost without exception, has nevertheless remained in print for almost eighty years. Impressively comprehensive (her references to often obscure sources are exceptional in their scholarly approach), it represents an ideal example of a blend of good academic research leading to a shaky premise and motivated by deeply rooted racism. From her viewpoint immediately following World War i, Webster identified the major threats to world peace as Grand Orient Freemasonry, Theosophism, Pan-Germanism, International Finance and World Jewry.

            As a superpatriotic Briton, her concerns about German nationalism were not quite as prescient as they appear; the entire British Empire remained furious at the inhuman Huns while Webster was writing her book in the early 1920s. Her political stance was extreme right wing, her hatred of any socialist goals was almost palpable, her anti-Semitic stance was unwavering, and her blinkers were large and narrowly set—she made no mention, for example, of Marx, Lenin or any reference to Communism at all, and she continued to insist that the French Revolution was conducted according to an agenda of various secret societies. Interestingly, the American Revolution received as much attention from her as Communism did.

            Secret societies investigator Nesta H. Webster has been praised despite her overt racism.

            Webster had a right to express her views, and readers should continue to maintain the freedom to absorb them. The same freedom, it can be argued, should be provided Hitler's Mein Kampf and Mao's Little Red Book.

            These freedoms must bring with them an appreciation of the risk that social organizations, and individuals within them, may be targeted in a manner that defies their ability to prove their innocence, a principle of freedom of the press that we neglect at our peril.

            On the reverse side of this coin is the risk that truly menacing organizations could be underestimated and disregarded if grouped among the darlings of the fringe-dwellers. Like wolves concealing themselves among the sheep, at least a handful of secret societies may represent a genuine source of concern easily grouped in the minds of the public as either benign or misunderstood.

            It is easy to dismiss these organizations in this manner. It may also be dangerous.


            • #51

              WITH THE EXCEPTION OF EXTREME FUNDAMENTALIST RELI-gious sects, most people assume a laissez-faire attitude towards neighbors and co-workers who profess a belief in fairies, ufos, personal angels or similar entities. As long as the acceptance or skepticism has no impact on our lives, we feel free to harbor our own convictions and tolerate those of others.

              Should our response to a neighbor's belief in secret societies be different? Since most organizations qualifying as secret societies—with the exception of Cosa Nostra, Triads and Yakuza—are for the most part benign fraternal groups, how seriously should we take claims that they are manipulating our lives without either our knowledge or our approval? And how far should we go in investigating the agenda of these groups?

              The latter question is a practical one, with practical limitations.

              Anyone with an Internet connection and a search engine can summon up dozens of societies whose stated beliefs and agenda range from promoting alchemy (Central Ohio Temple of Hermetic Science) and “Benevolent Satanism” (United Luciferan Church of France) to conducting telepathic relations with Mars (Aetherius Society). Many such organizations are, in reality, variations on long-established societies such as Masons and Gnostics, or alternative religions pursuing a belief in karma and reincarnation. Their activities, no matter how much or how little we subscribe to their tenets, should remain entirely their concern.

              From time to time, however, the curtain is drawn back to reveal disturbing, often tragic, activities stemming from a clandestine group. Among these was the Order of the Solar Temple. Its impact may have been minimal and limited, but the lesson of its birth and demise is important if only because it determines the transition point between a cult and a secret society. Solar Temple began as the former, and almost morphed into the latter.

              Solar Temple consisted of several dozen trusting members and their children under the command of two charismatic leaders: Joseph Di Mambro, a French citizen born in Zaire, who became something of an expert in audio-video effects; and Luc Jouret, a Belgian physician who reportedly drew strength to conduct the group's ceremonies from having sex with one of the female members of the congregation. The Order of the Solar Temple was founded by Jouret and Di Mambro in 1984; its formal name, revealed only to the highest qualified members, was International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition. Di Mambro had abandoned his trade as a jeweler after becoming a member of amorc, the dominant Rosicrucian group. He left amorc under circumstances involving a charge of swindling, and in 1970 moved to a region of France near the Swiss border where he posed for several years as a psychologist.

              In 1978, Di Mambro met Luc Jouret, and together they joined the Renewed Order of the Temple, dedicated to Templar and Rosicrucian themes. Jouret became the Grand Master, but within a year he was forced out for, rumor has it, misappropriation of the order's funds. Di Mambro and many other followers left with him, and the ragtag group eventually formed the Order of the Solar Temple with Jouret filling the post of Grand Master.

              Originally a licensed physician, Jouret proved to be a charismatic leader who attracted a number of recruits to the organization during a lecture tour of Switzerland, France, and Quebec, Canada. As the organization grew, Jouret and Di Mambro established three levels of membership. The entry level, Amanta, was for new initiates attracted by Jouret's lectures and seminars. The next level, Archedia Clubs, was reserved for members who wished to further explore the ideas and teachings of the order. The most highly qualified members were added to the International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition.

              The Order of the Solar Temple, founded by Luc Jouret, might have achieved secret society status.

              Jouret continued on the lecture circuit, promoting himself as “Luc Jouret, Physician, Revealing Secrets of Love and Biology.” The sessions segued from “love and biology” to a hectoring message of spirituality and apocalypse, with Jouret warning of volcano eruptions, vanishing forests and other environmental disasters. Only a small core of people physically and intellectually strong enough would survive the catastrophe, Jouret cautioned his audiences. The Solar Tradition was seeking those who qualified, preparing them to inherit the earth when all others were gone.

              In his lectures, Jouret claimed he had been a Knight Templar in a previous life, and asserted he would lead the most loyal of his followers to a planet orbiting Sirius. He also claimed to be a third reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that his daughter had been immaculately conceived. Over time, he and Di Mambro crystallized the Solar Temple's philosophy into a blend of neoTemplarism, New Age philosophy, Christianity and survivalist paranoia. Life was an illusion, members were taught. “Liberation is not where human beings think it is,” Jouret warned. “Death can represent an essential stage of life.” The end was nigh, the world would end by fire, and only the most trusted members of the Solar Temple would escape the flames. Meanwhile, Jouret pledged to lead the group towards a number of vaunted objectives reminiscent of Templar goals, including the following:

              1. Re-establishing the correct notions of authority and power in the world.

              2. Affirming the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal.

              3. Giving back to man the conscience of his dignity.

              4. Helping humanity through its transition.

              5. Participating in the Assumption of the Earth in its three frameworks: body, soul, and spirit.

              6. Contributing to the union of the Churches and working towards the meeting of Christianity and Islam.

              Each ceremony began with a confession of sins. Instead of the privacy accorded to this process in Roman Catholicism, this confession was conducted as guided group meditation, the effect enhanced by luminous particles that appeared to materialize from the participants’ bodies courtesy of video tricks performed by Di Mambro.

              Things grew more bizarre. Before conducting ceremonies, Jouret sought a female member to provide the strength he needed to deliver his lectures by having sex with him. During many of his ceremonies, spiritual beings seemed to appear at Jouret's command, thanks not to Jouret's spiritual powers but to expensive electronic projection devices operated by Di Mambro. While Di Mambro's primary duties occurred backstage, he also was fond of engaging in sexual liaisons with female members of the order, presumably to give him strength to operate the projector.

              Membership grew to about 500 in the early 1990s, which is when trouble arrived. Jouret had advised members to stockpile weapons in preparation for the end of the world, which led to Jouret being charged with illegal gun possession in Canada. Shortly after a member of the order named Tony Dutoit publicly spoke out against the Solar Temple he, his wife Nicky and their child were murdered in their home in Morin Heights, Quebec, killed with shocking savagery—Dutoit suffered more than fifty stab wounds, his wife was stabbed four times in the throat and eight times in the back and once in each breast, and their infant child had been stabbed six times before his body was wrapped in a black plastic bag suspended from a wooden stake. An investigation discovered that Dutoit had told other members that the apparition illusions used in the order's ceremonies were a sham.

              The order began to crumble, with Jouret and Di Mambro subjected to humiliation by defecting members. It was too much for their egos to accept. On the night of October 4, 1994, residents of Chiery, Switzerland, reported fires raging in the area of the Solar Temple quarters. The remains of fifty-three members, including Jouret and Di Mambro, were found the next morning in the building's ruins. Autopsy reports showed that two victims died of suffocation and twenty-one had been administered sleeping pills before being shot in the head. Others were found with plastic bags over their heads, and many showed signs of struggle, indicating that the deaths were not part of a mass suicide pact.

              A year later, the charred bodies of another sixteen members, arranged in a star pattern with their feet towards the source of the fire, were found in a burned-out chalet in the Swiss Alps. The dead included both the wife and son of Jean Vuarnet, who had made a fortune in ski wear and sunglasses. All the victims had been shot, stabbed, suffocated or poisoned. Two years later, a final five lives were taken in St. Casimir, Quebec, in the burned home of Didier Queze, a member of the order. Four bodies in an upstairs bedroom had been arranged in the shape of a cross; the fifth, Didier's mother, was on a sofa in the living room with a bag over her head.


              • #52
                A total of seventy-four members died at the hands of this neo-Templar order. Charges of murder were brought against a Solar Temple member and former symphony conductor named Michel Tabachnik, but he was found not guilty and released. No one was ever convicted, nor were the weapons used to murder the victims located.

                Enough was revealed about the order, however, to generate wild speculation based on minimal facts. Stories began circulating among newsletters and Internet sites that Solar Temple financing had been achieved by running weapons between Europe and South America, leading to claims of a “military-occult complex,” all to achieve goals of “the fascist-Masonic lodge.” Unless, of course, the reader subscribed instead to allegations that Radio Canada reporters discovered the organization actually earned its money by laundering hundreds of millions of dollars through the infamous Bank of Credit & Commerce International (bcci). Closed in 1991, bcci indulged in fraudulent record-keeping, rogue trading, flouting of bank ownership regulations and money laundering within a structure so complex that a complete picture of its activities is still not available. (For the record, no legitimate news source, including Radio Canada, has ever published stories about either activity by the Solar Temple beyond identifying them as “rumors.”)

                Di Mambro and Jouret were disturbed and dangerous men cut from the same warped fabric as was James Jones, who led hundreds to their deaths in the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, and David Koresh, whose Branch Davidians died in a fiery standoff with the fbi in 1993.

                What are we to make of leaders who hold life-and-death control over their adherents, and what happens if these leaders choose to exert their powers on a global stage? The line between cult and secret society grows blurry and indistinct when the organization grows in scope and power.

                Any search for serious threats from secret societies on a wider range could begin, perhaps, with a snatch of dialogue from a 1948 Hollywood western movie entitled Ft. Apache between Owen Thursday, a newly arrived Lieutenant Colonel played by Henry Fonda, and the crusty captain of Fort Apache played, of course, by John Wayne.

                Lt. Col. Thursday: I suggest the Apache have deteriorated, judging by a few of the specimens I have seen on the way out here. Captain Yorke: If you saw them, sir, they weren't Apaches.

                Like the Apaches referred to by Wayne's character, any clandestine group posing a threat to broad sectors of the public will seek to either conceal or camouflage its true motives. Thus, the most dangerous organizations are either unknown or have achieved success at the practice of “hiding in plain sight.” On that basis, “recognizable secret societies” is both an oxymoron and a clue that the danger they represent, if any, is minimal.

                Assessing the risk that each known group represents could begin by categorizing them according to four classifications:
                1. fictional or historical societies that may be operating in a clandestine manner,

                2. organizations whose stated premise is demonstrably benign or non-threatening,

                3. groups whose conspiratorial relationship has yet to be revealed, and

                4. government departments exerting power beyond their formal mandate.

                FICTIONAL AND HISTORICAL GROUPS. Of this grouping, the Bavarian Illuminati draws the most persistent attention from conspiracy advocates, as it has for 200 years. Its founder Adam Weishaupt, an ex-Jesuit who nevertheless is labeled a Jew by some members of the right-wing conspiracy crowd, managed to attract a few prominent individuals to his society before it collapsed, first from suppression by the Bavarian government and later by Weishaupt's own rejection of his philosophy.

                Coincidental with the expansion of the Illuminati came the radical upheavals of the French Revolution, an event so apocalyptic in nature that many conservative observers insist on viewing it as the product of a vast conspiracy. They refuse to accept that common French citizens, outraged at the antics of the ruling class for so many years, could succeed without the aid of powerful assistance from various clandestine organizations. Surely the overthrow of the French throne, they argue, could never spring from the minds and intentions of a mass of near-illiterates, echoing skeptics who reject the notion that William Shakespeare could be so erudite and prolific. The revolutionists, they propose, must have been manipulated by a secret society, and the Number One culprit is the Illuminati.

                Critics of the Illuminati acknowledge that Adam Weishaupt founded the movement, but few know he repudiated it.

                Established as a secret group concealed beneath the skirts of the Masons, and with the success of the French Revolution as assumed proof of its power, the Illuminati became a fixation among conspiracy theorists. No group was more industrious in promoting this idea, nor as classic in its use of the paranoia that secret societies can generate, than the John Birch Society, founded in 1958. Birchers joined the blatantly anti-Semitic Nesta H. Webster in the contention that the Illuminati had masterminded the French Revolution for its own ends. Interestingly, both ignored the fact that the French monarchy was reinstated after the fall of Napoleon in 1815.

                Birch Society founder Robert Welch went on to assert that the Illuminati's agenda had been hijacked in the early 1800s by the Rothschild banking family as a means of controlling U.S. foreign policy. The family's banking success and closed structure provided all the raw material Welch needed. Established in the late eighteenth century by Mayer Rothschild, the financial house owed its success to Rothschild's tactic of installing each of his five sons in various centers across Europe, including Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Naples and Paris. He set up marriages for his sons to various closely related family members, keeping the bank's operations entirely within the family and operating it in a closed, clandestine manner. This latter aspect enabled the company to maintain total discretion about the size of its wealth as well as its multiple business connections and achievements, providing a fertile ground for people like Welch. Meanwhile, the family shield, a clenched fist gripping five arrows, suggested a belligerent attitude not normally associated with bankers.

                Robert Welch lectured John Birch Society members to achieve their goals by operating as a secret society.


                • #53
                  The Rothschild connection, according to Welch and others, also explained how an organization as large and powerful as the Illuminati managed to escape detection for 200 years. Obviously, the wealth of the Rothschilds had been employed, but the group's association with Masonry was at the heart of the cover-up, Welch declared. Various other commentators, from the inexorable Nesta H. Webster to Jacob Katz, author of Jews and Freemasonry in Europe, argued that the Illuminati had assumed control of German Freemasonry and relocated its headquarters to Frankfurt. There, it recruited a number of prominent Jewish leaders and financiers, including Rabbi Zvi Hirsch and Rothschild chief clerk Sigismund Geisenheimer, creating, as one observer described it, “a secret society within a secret society.” Welch put all the weight of his once influential power behind this idea, generating sufficient momentum to keep the speculation rolling fifty years later.

                  The importance we should place on the idea that a society managed to obscure proof of its existence over two centuries while manipulating global economics, politics and armed conflicts is minimal. How, for example, could the Illuminati maintain total secrecy among its members when various elements of the Mafia have divulged that organization's deepest secrets, defying in some cases even blood bonds? Have the lips of Illuminati supporters really been hermetically sealed for over 200 years?

                  Convinced that the U.S. was threatened by the Illuminati, whose goals of world domination included betraying U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations and running the world via a global socialist government, Welch began urging his followers in 1960 to support a “Get Us Out of the un!” campaign. They should, Welch advised, create influential cells of opposition and covert action by “joining your local pta at the beginning of the school year, get your conservative friends to do likewise, and go to work to take it over.” Perhaps only Welch failed to recognize that he was proposing the creation of a new secret society, masquerading as a public service organization to aid the education of children but actually dedicated to effecting its own international agenda.

                  Nothing exists to prove that the Illuminati did not die with its founder, who regretted and rejected the principles originally proposed by him. Until trustworthy evidence to the contrary appears, the Illuminati remains alive only in the fertile imaginations of computer game creators and their players, and in the minds of anyone who still believes wisdom may be found among the detritus of Robert Welch's cold war meanderings.

                  BENIGN OR NON-THREATENING ORGANIZATIONS. Employing a “hide in plain sight” strategy, these may openly declare their membership, announce their intentions, and declare that they function on behalf of the greater good. They may also avoid the trappings associated with “traditional” secret societies, including initiation rites, mystical ceremonies and vows of silence.

                  With so much latitude, every group from the Salvation Army to a neighborhood investment club could qualify as a dangerous secret society in the minds of the incessantly paranoid, but one organization in recent years has led all the rest as a candidate for evil intentions: The Bilderberg Group.

                  Bilderberg is often associated with the Trilateral Commission, founded in 1973 to promote closer cooperation between Europe, Japan and North America; and the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank dedicated to increasing America's understanding of the world. These associations leave the group open to accusations that it is actively involved in various schemes to exert global control of financial, military and diplomatic activities. Those concerned about Bilderberg's objectives note that it is not merely a question of how this control is applied; it's also a question of by whom. Heads of state in democratic monarchies such as Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and others are prevented from playing an active role in the political process, they claim, but Bilderberg provides precisely this arena, subverting the will of democratic nations and recalling hints of the Divine Right of Kings.

                  Decisions made during Bilderberg conferences supposedly include the selection and approval of candidates to run for top political office in all of the world's great democracies; without Bilderberg approval, the argument contends, presidential candidates in the U.S. and potential prime ministerial leaders in Britain, Australia, Canada and other parliamentary countries cannot achieve power.

                  Other condemnations include wide-ranging but nonspecific claims that Bilderberg members pull the world's strings either in concert with each other or in conjunction with the Illuminati, Masons and the rest of the usual suspects. On a bizarre note, the group has been accused of eliminating warfare as a means of controlling and directing nationalistic goals and ideas among European nations, as though substituting warfare with diplomacy were a dangerous activity.

                  Curiously for a society with such alleged power and influence, its members and the locations of its gatherings, where upcoming agendas regarding world domination are submitted and approved, are proclaimed in advance.

                  The Bilderberg Group owes its existence and notoriety to the skill, connections and vision of one man who, almost fifty years after his death, is still referred to as l’éminence grise. Joseph H. Retinger, raised by Jesuits, possessed enormous political instincts, incisive intelligence and much charm, all of which enabled him to influence the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church to the point where he became the key linkage between the pope and the father-general of the Jesuit Order. At Retinger's funeral in 1960, one of the eulogizers recalled: “I remember Retinger in the United States picking up the telephone and immediately making an appointment with the President, and in Europe he had complete entrée in every political circle as a kind of right acquired through [the] trust, devotion and loyalty he inspired.”

                  Retinger's original goals in life attest to a socially conscious system of values. He spent some time in Mexico as a youth, supporting efforts to launch an effective trade union movement there during the 1920s, and convincing the Mexican government to nationalize U.S.-controlled oil interests. If the scant biographical information available on Retinger is true, he was the stuff of legends. During World War ii, he acted as a political aide to Polish general Sikorski, and in 1943, at age fifty-eight, he parachuted into Nazi-occupied territory near Warsaw to direct sabotage missions.

                  Joseph H. Retinger (right): The pope and the U.S. president always took his calls.

                  Retinger's interests and achievements encompassed the revival of devastated postwar Europe, and in 1949 he was instrumental in launching the Council of Europe, headquartered in Strasbourg. As a member of the council's executive committee, Retinger began fulfilling his dream of avoiding conflicts similar to the world wars that engulfed Europe in 1914–1918 and 1939–1945 by creating a European economic, political and military union. One way to achieve this was via international organizations whose long-term commitment to progress would neutralize the short-term ideological conflicts that continually erupted between governments. The benefits, to anyone with the slightest understanding of the morass that sucked nations into World War i, would prove inestimable. A neutral multinational group expressing the will of powerful interests within a multitude of countries could defuse the kinds of outbursts, strung in a chain of explosive treaties and obligations, that detonated war in 1914.

                  Having secured left-wing support from his work in Europe, and employing right-wing connections resulting from his Vatican ties, Retinger was the best man to serve as a catalyst for such an organization. He proved it in May 1954 when he persuaded Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to host a secret conference for representatives of nato countries. The prince, a major investor in Royal Dutch Petroleum, now Shell Oil, chose the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland, as the site. Attendees at the first conference included U.S. general Walter Bedell Smith, director of the cia, and representatives of the Rockefeller family, who controlled Standard Oil, Shell's largest competitor.

                  The group has met almost annually over the fifty-plus years since, their meetings sending conspiracy buffs into a frenzy of speculation with Chicken Little concerns about the sky, and virtually everything else, falling to the ground. Powerful men (and increasingly numbers of women) meeting in luxurious surroundings while engaged in private discussions inspire dark speculation.

                  American critics on the right suspect that Bilderberg attendees are plotting a world government to override hard-earned rights and freedoms. Should the Bilderbergers have their way, they argue, the U.S. would be burdened with a national health-care system and disarmed by draconian gun laws. Meanwhile, the left wing sees Bilderberg representatives manipulating currencies, negotiating resource rights and eviscerating trade unions as a means of tightening their grip on global economics. A few broad-minded (or perhaps merely confused) Web sites support both interpretations of the group's motives.


                  • #54
                    On a more realistic basis, serious criticism of the Bilderberg Group tends to address four specific concerns:
                    They are a supragovernmental organization. All nongovernmental organizations representing international interests deserve monitoring. Other groups in this category might range from opec to university research scientists delving into munitions development and genetic manipulation. A dash of practicality and trust is surely prescribed, however. Given the disdain by democratic governments to recognize long-term global concerns and deal with them in an appropriately expeditious manner, is it surprising that a group such as the Bilderbergers would gather to discuss priorities and exert influence in implementing them?

                    They manipulate currencies and set global monetary rates. Currency manipulation and its impact on markets and individuals may indeed be a legitimate concern. But is it reasonable to expect that discussions on this matter would involve presidents and prime ministers agreeing to any plan that would negatively affect their constituents and thus damage their prospects for re-election? It is more logical—and potentially dangerous to the public—for central banks and others to carry out this manipulation in private than in a session whose location, timing and participants are widely known. Conspiracy buffs counter this notion by suggesting that the election prospects of democratic leaders are tightly controlled by Bilderbergers, eliminating any serious objection the leaders may have to decisions made at the conferences. Perhaps, but a large segment of the world population familiar with machinations conducted during the U.S. presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 are convinced that, if election manipulation exists, its perpetrators likely reside closer to home than among Bilderbergers.

                    They select political figures to become future rulers and target current rulers to be removed from power. A few dozen men and women gathering to name and approve the next president of the United States, the next prime minister of Great Britain, and the next sheikh of Qatar is indeed a chilling prospect. If that's the case, however, the rejected leaders tend to accept their fate with remarkable grace and silence. The Bilderberg gathering that took place in Stresa, Italy, from June 3 to 6, 2004, reportedly included U.S. president George W. Bush, British prime minister Tony Blair and—surprise, surprise—U.S. vice-presidential candidate John Edwards who, along with running mate John Kerry, lost the U.S. election to Bush five months later. Was the decision awarding Bush his re-election actually made on a June day in Italy? Did Edwards meekly accept the ruling, perhaps with the promise of being elevated to U.S. presidential status in 2008? Was Steven Spielberg directing?

                    They decide which countries will wage war on others. The extended period of peace enjoyed by Europe since 1945 is unprecedented given the potential for conflict over those sixty-plus years, and much of the harmony can be directly ascribed to Retinger's vision. Conspiracy advocates may argue that the Bilderberg Group controls the peace as well as the war, but most conflicts since the group's inception have involved nations and communities beyond the group's membership, including Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and other jurisdictions. This does not eliminate the Bilderbergers’ thumbs from these particular pies, but…

                    Some criticisms remain valid, however, and the roots of most can be laid at the feet of Bilderberg participants. Bilderberg founder Prince Bernhard himself identified the source of these concerns when he said, “It is difficult to reeducate people who have been brought up on nationalism to the idea of relinquishing part of their sovereignty to a supranational body.”

                    This attitude, coupled with the scope of the discussions conducted at Bilderberg sessions and the influence of its participants, fosters concern among normally unruffled folk. The Bilderberg Group's agenda, according to available evidence, appears to focus more on the propagation of its own power and the enrichment of its members than on concerns about global health, energy supply, environmental crises and widespread hunger.

                    Supporters of the Bilderberg Group will argue that free-ranging discussions between people of widely disparate views must be held in confidence to encourage openness and honesty. They also point out that all political and business decisions, made in both corporate board rooms and political cabinet rooms, are subject to various levels of secrecy. True enough. It is the international aspect of Bilderberg that disturbs most people. The crux of concern over Bilderberg is this: We like to think that, as members of a pseudo-democratic society, we exert at least periodic control over events within our own state, provincial and national borders, and we are reluctant to relinquish that control to foreigners.

                    GROUPS WITHOUT APPARENT CONSPIRATORIAL ACTIVITIES. The members of Skull & Bones have no influence on matters beyond the campus of Yale while they remain students there. But what of the relationship among members after they enter the business and political world?

                    The concept of networking has existed since humans first organized themselves into tribes. It would be fruitless to monitor and attempt to control activities between fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, lodges, service clubs, Scout troops and similar associations. What happens, however, when members of these organizations operate in collusion, extending the secrecy vows that appeared innocent within a campus environment onto the world stage?

                    Consider a group of bright, privileged men actively seeking high positions of power in order to pursue goals that reflect the values of the closed society to which they once swore eternal allegiance. Then recall the activities of the Bundy brothers, the lineage of the Bush family, and the questionable antics of the Russell Trust and Union Banking Corporation, among various Skull & Bones escapades.

                    It is highly unlikely that middle-aged Skull & Bones members still lie naked in coffins while reciting their sexual exploits to each other (especially now that it is a coed organization), or that they exchange some secret ritual upon meeting without grinning in embarrassment. The idea, however, that men of this high caliber, ambition and focus could easily discard their association when planning international financial and political strategies in concert with each other is equally difficult to accept.

                    OFFICIAL GOVERNMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS EXERTING POWER BEYOND THEIR MANDATE. If covert decisions are made that adversely affect democratic societies, the source may prove to be not secret organizations with centuries-old traditions but powerful interests functioning within government apparatus, their actions concealed beneath the impenetrable cloak of national security.

                    While it may be true that these organizations do not follow practices associated with secret societies, such as elaborate initiation ceremonies, in a world where computer recognition of palm prints and iris patterns instantly identifies a friend or foe, who really needs code words and gestures to confirm identities?

                    The idea that an acknowledged federal government organization such as the U.S. National Security Council (nsc) is subject to assessment in the same context as the Assassins and Cosa Nostra may be offensive to some, and if this were the only point of comparison the criticism would be justified. But on a broader scale, evidence exists that secret decisions made by this organization have greater negative impact than any confirmable act committed by Masons, Templars, Rosicrucians, Kabbalah, the Illuminati and other favorite targets of conspiracy buffs.

                    The NSC has been described as “the ultimate Washington insider's club, a who's who of those with the power to shape history.” Created by President Harry Truman in 1947 as a means of keeping himself informed of international events, the nsc grants membership to a select group of people whose careers have intertwined throughout years of involvement in matters of defense policy, intelligence gathering and diplomatic relations.

                    Dominating the nsc from the first day of his entry into the group during the Nixon administration is Henry Kissinger, a man who has never been elected to public office yet whose forty-odd years of activity in clandestine international affairs qualifies him as the most influential figure of our time.


                    • #55
                      Unlike other U.S. federal organizations, the nsc functions according to an open-ended mandate, its vague purpose supposedly limited to helping the president decide and coordinate military and foreign policy. This intentional haziness permits personalities such as Kissinger and his various sycophants to exert a disturbing level of control over U.S. affairs which, by definition, involve international activities.

                      The pinnacle of Kissinger's power in this regard occurred in the latter days of Richard Nixon's presidency. Crippled by revelations of Watergate and tumbling towards his inevitable doom, Nixon abdicated management of the nsc. Into the vacuum stepped Kissinger, seizing the group's direction and, immediately prior to Nixon's resignation, placing U.S. armed forces on a high defcon (DEFense CONdition) alert status, an act that constitutionally belongs exclusively to the president.

                      This might be considered an aberration, a rare response to an unprecedented situation, but two factors are worthy of concern here. One is Kissinger's widely acknowledged role in illegal international activities including the bombing of Cambodia and the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile. Both are disturbing examples of the power granted to members of the nsc, who lack both the official authority and direct accounting under the country's constitution.

                      The other is the matter of openness and transparency. Supporters of the nsc and Kissinger will argue, with great conviction, that the pursuit of national security demands certain decisions be conducted in secrecy without prior consultation or later confirmation that the decisions were made at all. The same assertion may be submitted by corporate chiefs justifying board room secrecy from shareholders. nsc decisions, however, are often global in impact and influence, well beyond the scope of the largest corporations. Clearly, it would be a more effective application of energies if rabid concerns about supposed power exercised by groups such as Templars, Masons, Illuminati, Priory of Sion and others were applied instead to existing and acknowledged organizations, including the nsc, whose power and potential for abuse are both evident and extensive.

                      The world wobbles. Its lack of perfect balance should alert us to the realization that nothing is as stable and predictable as our senses tell us and our preferences desire. Orbital aberrations and tidal forces occur beyond not only our ability to alter them, but also our means to sense them. We acknowledge their existence and the dangers they represent when catastrophe strikes in the form of an oncoming ice age or a cataclysmic earthquake. Otherwise, we treat such possibilities the same way we treat our own mortality: as a rumor that can only be confirmed when fulfilled.

                      Rather than deal with cosmic risks, many of us prefer to worry about other dangers, including the threat posed by shadowy groups whose existence may be limited to the speculations and imaginations of overly imaginative authors and Web site owners. We can never, it seems, have too many secret societies on which to project our fears, whether justified or not. Nor, it appears, are we prepared to retire shadowy groups whose last acknowledged act occurred hundreds of years ago.

                      New secret organizations germinate each year. Most wither under the glare of study and scorn, but others manage to blossom and survive long enough for ancestors a century or two in the future to name them as sources of evils we cannot imagine today. One near-contemporary example illustrates the origins of secret societies, the events that fertilize their growth, and the individuals who cultivate their ground.

                      The discovery of wreckage on an open ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 proved to be a seminal incident among those suspicious of government conspiracies and the secret societies that foster them. More than half a century after the event, millions of American citizens still believe the detritus was the remains of either a spaceship from another planet or a top-secret military aircraft capable of exceptional flight performance. Both theories, their adherents propose, explain their government's steadfast refusal to reveal details. The actual truth, as available evidence and logic contend, is that a military weather balloon, designed to sample temperature, wind force and other meteorological factors, descended to the ground, as all such equipment will. The military's haste in recovering the material and equipment before a curious heifer stomped it into the soil, or a ranch hand gathered it to display his treasure back in the bunkhouse, is understandable. Military minds are superb at constructing cover fiction in the name of security but this tale had the ring of truth for most people.

                      July 4, 1947: flying saucers are spotted and new conspiracies are born.

                      But not everyone. Legends have been constructed around this otherwise mundane event, and outlandish tales suggest how and why nothing more of substance has been revealed. This has led to the supposition that a secret organization monitors the public's curiosity, maintains necessary secrecy, protects evidence, and deflects any public investigation that comes too close to “the truth.” In this case, the clandestine group is known as the jason Society, supposedly established to conceal evidence of alien entry into the U.S., including the “flying saucer” crash at Roswell.

                      Created by President Eisenhower, the fable goes, jason consists of thirty-two prominent men, many with cia connections, responsible for keeping U.S. citizens and the world at large from discovering the true facts about Roswell, including the “fact” that the bodies of two alien creatures were found among the wreckage. Twelve members of jason, identified by the code mj-12, direct the group's income, which is earned by running most of the world's illegal drug traffic; in this manner, jason is concealed from members of Congress who might be alerted to its existence through budget appropriations. As a byproduct of generating its funds through narcotics, the organization is able to identify and eliminate, if necessary, weak elements of U.S. society.

                      The rest of the alleged actions and attributes of jason provide a clinic in tying together elements of multiple conspiracy theories to create a conclusion that is not only larger than the sum of its parts, but distinctly different.

                      President John Kennedy's discovery of jason, its believers claim, prompted his assassination by mj-12 members within the cia. These cia operatives disagreed with his plans to reveal the presence of aliens, along with samples of their weapons and materials, to the American public, a move that would cut off the group's funding. jason determined that the president of the United States must be killed, and hidden in the jason vaults is a film showing the driver of Kennedy's limousine turning in his seat with a pistol in his hand to deliver the coup de grace while guiding the limo through Dallas streets. Bizarre? Of course. But how much more weird than the idea of descendants of Jesus Christ manipulating world events for 2000 years while managing to conceal their existence? Weirdness is relative, after all.

                      Secret societies prosper when their believers can coalesce around some individual whose unique powers of perception serve as a beacon to his followers. When that leader becomes a martyr, whose violent death serves as proof that he possessed information that cost him his life, so much the better. In the case of jason, this role was played with great effect by Milton William Cooper, who alleged that he owned an immense trove of government secrets regarding the events at Roswell and other actions, including John F. Kennedy being shot by his own chauffeur. Cooper had examined evidence of these events while serving as a U.S. navy intelligence officer with access to top secret files.

                      Believers on the far right fringe of U.S. society, especially those who tuned to Cooper's daily radio show or plodded through his 1991 book Behold a Pale Horse ( Light Technology Publications, 1991), called him “America's greatest patriot,” an accolade awarded even after he claimed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were authentic (although he suggested to his listeners that they replace “Jews” with “Illuminati”). Cooper supported many of his claims by saying he had once been a member of the Order of de Molay, providing him with insight into the secret powers of Freemasonry.

                      Milton William Cooper claimed flying saucers exist, aliens had landed, and he would be killed by the government. Only the last has proved true.

                      Cooper constantly railed against a litany of secret societies, always boasting that he possessed hard evidence of their existence and evil influence. Too bad he didn't possess a world atlas. In attacking the Bilderberg Group, he claimed their headquarters was located in “The Hague, in Switzerland” and pointed out that Switzerland was the only European country that avoided invasion and bombing during World War ii, attributing this fact (which is not entirely true) to the influence of Bilderberg participants. Perhaps he should have acquired a calendar as well, since the Bilderberg Group was not formed until nearly ten years after World War ii ended.

                      Whatever his Masonic credentials, Cooper was no naval intelligence expert. According to official U.S. military records, he rose no higher than a second-class petty officer in the navy before being discharged in 1975. Twenty-five years later, living as a recluse in a remote corner of Arizona, Cooper was killed during a shoot-out with several sheriff's deputies attempting to serve him with a warrant for, among other charges, tax evasion and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

                      Since that day in November 2000, legends have crystalized around Cooper and his revelations. He was killed, the stories say, because he knew too many government secrets. His military records, his followers contend, had been altered to remove any evidence of his intelligence work. The truth about Roswell, the Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 attacks, the jason Group, Richard Nixon's real reasons for resigning, and other events manipulated by secret societies were buried with him, they insist.

                      It is not difficult to imagine Cooper's “martyred” death and his claimed knowledge of dark secrets and dangerous conspiracies evolving over several generations into a foundation promulgating the existence of clandestine plans and treacherous activities, all based on “unassailable facts.” The legend will undoubtedly attract individuals who choose to believe that the failings of this world in general, and their fortunes in particular, are the result not of flaws in our economic system or their own lack of initiative, but the realized goals of covens and committees employing secret oaths and rituals. They will rely upon unproven activities of secret societies that they wish, or even need, to believe in. And they will take comfort in a certainty that exists purely, exclusively, in their own imaginations.


                      • #56

                        AFTERWORD OF DEMONS AND BALONEY
                        I SET OUT TO WRITE THIS BOOK WITH THE HOPE, IF NOT THE expectation, of discovering centuries-old conspiracies among the world's power elite. I hoped to meet shadowy men in subterranean caverns manipulating the world's currencies, concealing proof of extraterrestrial visitors, or confirming the location of Christ's bones. I sought evidence of brilliant minds dealing with eternal questions of the cosmos, or engaged in accumulating wealth and power over a grand scale of time and geography. For the most part, all I encountered was ill-defined paranoia expressed in juvenile babble, supported by sporadic tales in the mainstream media, stories designed to titillate readers and build circulation rather than deliver real news or knowledge.

                        Evil and invisible powers lie at the heart of every conspiracy theory, the tales too often delivered with half truths, outright fiction, and an absurd blend of historical and imaginary events. These wild assertions carry weight because, especially in advanced and industrialized cultures, they tap widespread anxiety over our potential loss of control and identity as individuals. They address the fears many of us harbor, and accounts of their existence, no matter how outlandish, are comforting to some degree.

                        I concluded that buying into these theories without exercising logic and reasoning is dangerous, because it diverts attention from concrete risks. Too many of us spend too much time wrestling with imaginative secret society–based explanations and not enough time probing the validity of false presumptions leading to catastrophic events… or have we forgotten those weapons of mass destruction? Instead of making gullible readers aware of actual risks and providing a means of dealing with them, as conspiracy authors claim to do, their tales aggravate a sense of helplessness while diminishing the ability to deal with serious social and political situations.

                        Amid the myths, a few glimmers of reality appear from time to time. The linear connection between the Assassins and Al Qaeda, for example, is obvious, although whether an understanding of the Assassins’ methods and structure will assist in the battle against extremist Muslim terrorism remains to be seen. The influence of the nsc extends well past the borders of the U.S., and their inclination to act unilaterally in the pursuit of U.S. interests remains a reason for monitoring their power. Beyond these exceptions, our fascination with secret societies appears rooted more in the entertainment value they afford than in the global menace they suggest.

                        It took the esteemed scientist Carl Sagan, in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), to point his finger at the core of the secret society phenomenon. Sagan's primary topic was the enduring fascination with flying saucers in his country and the extraterrestrial demons piloting them, prompting him to note that 95 percent of Americans are scientifically illiterate and seek bizarre explanations for natural events. Instead of parsing superstition-based tales of alchemists and occult masters behind many ancient societies, Sagan suggests, we should pay attention to things even more awe-inspiring and comprehensive that lie all around us waiting to be explored, deciphered and appreciated. “We want so much to be roused from our humdrum lives,” Sagan writes, “to rekindle that sense of wonder we remember from childhood.” Secret societies provide a link with that phase of childhood wonder, but while immersing ourselves in their allure we risk accepting legends of their existence as true and avoid the application of logic and reason. Too often, we settle for superstition instead of scientific analysis.

                        Sagan especially decries a “celebration of ignorance” among those who favor rigid dogma over reasonable deduction. “Sooner or later,” he warns, “this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. When governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic, however sympathetic we may be to those who bought the baloney.”

                        It seemed to me, as I reviewed and assessed all the sources, viewpoints, evidence and opinions regarding secret societies, that it has been a seller's market in the baloney business for some time now.


                        • #57

                          Introduction—Fools, Fears and Fanatics, p. 11

                          An infant covered with their meal, p. 11: Minicus Felix, Octavius of Minucius Felix, Chapter 9. Felix was a Christian, and the quoted passage was from an imagined dialogue between a pagan and a Christian, with the former simply repeating the tales of Christian activities exchanged among the Romans.
                          An Instrument of Torture as Symbol and Identity, p. 14: Christians also used a fish as a symbol, a less threatening depiction of their identity. The fish, however, had long been used by cultures in China, India, Egypt and Greece to designate fertility (again with strong sexual implications). Its use by Christians has never been as pervasive or as unifying as the cross. Have you ever seen a Christian making the sign of a fish?
                          Kabbalah, p. 16: A multitude of spelling variations exists, including Qabbala, Cabala, Cabalah, Cabbala, Cabbalah, Kabala, Kabalah, Kabbala, Qabala and Qabalah. “Kabbalah” appears to have won election, but only with a plurality.

                          1. Assassins—Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted, p. 19

                          He renamed the fortress Alamut, p. 32: It has also variously been identified as Eagle's Guidance and Vulture's Nest.
                          “caused to be made a vast garden in which he had water conducted”, p 33: This description is retold by Thomas Keightley in his 1837 work, Secret Societies of the Middle Ages—The Assassins, the Templars & The Secret Tribunals of Westphalia (Boston: Weiser Books, 2005), p. 74. Keightley's research was impeccable and his conclusions were drawn long before the topic was subject to the sensationalist theories of Hollywood and fact-based fiction writers.
                          And they were the first to be known as the hashshashin or assassins, p. 36: An alternative explanation to the name claims that assasseen in Arabic translates to Guardians of the Secrets. The hashish connection is more widely accepted, however. In fact, this may be a situation of reverse definition, with assasseen derived from the assassins and not the other way around. In any case, assassins was almost exclusively a European term for the group; to Muslims they reportedly were known as Nizaris.
                          Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism , p. 38: Robert Jay Lifton (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).
                          …also called Aladdin (Height of the Faith), p. 41: This is not the Aladdin of the fabled lamp.
                          …where they became known as the Khojas , p. 41: The Khojas are not to be confused with the Thugees, a Hindu tribe of strangler bandits who terrorized parts of India before being hunted down and hanged by British colonial administrators in 1861.

                          2. Templars, Freemasons and Illuminati—The Secret Seat of Power, p. 43

                          …including many signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, p. 43: The number of Masons who signed the Declaration of Independence varies with the teller. Some sources claim that most were Masons. Historian Jasper Ridley, who had unfettered access to Masonic archives, could confirm only nine of the fifty-six signers as members.
                          …the result not of chivalrous intent or even a dedication to the Christian faith, but of feudalist obligation, p. 45: Much of the information on the Templars was obtained from Keightley's Secret Societies of the Middle Ages.
                          …“sweet-tempered, totally dedicated, and ruthless on behalf of the faith…”, p. 50: Robert Payne, The Dream of the Tomb: A History of the Crusade (New York: Stein & Day, 1984), p. 64.
                          “But both names suit them, for theirs is the mildness of the monk and the valor of the knight”, p. 52: Keightley, p. 193.
                          …offering to convert to Christianity if the Templars would forego the tribute, p. 54: F. W. Bussell, Religious Thought and Heresy in the Middle Ages (London: R. Scott, 1918), p. 796.
                          … he faced death by protracted torture., p. 54: Keightley, p. 206.
                          … the Germanic language acquired a new description for a house of ill-fame, p. 55: Tempelhaus : The description of the Templars’ extracurricular activities comes from G. Mollat, Les papes d'Avignon (Paris: Unknown bindery, 1912), p. 233.
                          … they engaged in a battle launched by the Templars reportedly in pursuit of their rival's treasure, p. 56: Keightley, p. 219.
                          “unspeakable apostasy against God, detestable idolatry, execrable vice, and many heresies”, p. 56: Nesta H. Webster, Secret Societies & Subversive Movements (London: Boswell Print & Co, 1924; reissued by A&B Publishers Group, 1998), p. 51. Webster's work is sound in a scholarly manner but her racist views, especially her anti-Semitism, color many of her conclusions.
                          “… should be so forgetful of their salvation as to do these things, we are unwilling to give ear to this kind of insinuation”, p. 56: As quoted by Webster from Michelet, Proces des Temploiers (1841). Some historians claim the Templars left their riches with the French king, but this contradicts the king's later actions against them.
                          “The flames were first applied to their feet”, p. 58: Keightley, p. 326.
                          No fewer than sixteen U.S. presidents have proudly declared their Masonic status, p. 61: But not necessarily concentrated power. In this category, Skull & Bones may well dominate.
                          “Although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the eyes of man…”, p. 62: Thomas Smith Webb, The Freemasons Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry (Salem, Mass.: Cushing & Appleton, 1821), p. 66.
                          “In the bosom of the deepest darkness…”, p. 67: Marquis de Luchet, Eassai sur la secte des illuminees (Paris, 1789).
                          In spite of Washington's objections…, p. 69: Various attributions, including Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma: Of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (New York: Nuvision Publications, 2004). This is from
                          Among the symbols impressed on Washington's street layout…, p. 69: Various graphic interpretations of Freemason and satanic symbols on the street grid of Washington DC exist.
                          ….the initiate experiences the point of a compass being pressed against his chest…, p. 71: There seems to be some confusion about this ritual. Apparently some Mason chapters continue to follow it while others have discarded the practice.
                          Recently, their image has been tarnished by revelations suggesting that barely 25 percent of their $8-billion charity endowment is spent on actual charitable activities, p. 72: TORO magazine, “Black Shadow” (Summer 2005), pp. 41–45.
                          “‘Frater’ meaning male brothers….”, p. 73: Ibid., p. 45.
                          The shots were to be fired by 77-year-old Albert Eid, p. 75: Newsweek (March 11, 2004). Eid pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

                          3. Priory of Sion—Keepers of the Holy Grail, p. 77

                          A Priory is defined as an offshoot of an abbey, whose superior officer is a prior. Sion is the Latin term for Mount Zion, the hill on which David founded Jerusalem.
                          Despite certainty among Christians, Mary Magdalene was no Jerusalem strumpet, p. 78: As noted, multiple variations exist of the tale of Mary Magdalene giving birth in France. The basis for this version came from several sources, most notably Jim Marrs,Rule By Secrecy (New York: HarperCollins, 2000).
                          Thanks to several geographic advantages, Rhaede boasted a population at the time of more than 30,000 inhabitants, p. 80: Details of Renne-leChateau's past were obtained from the town's official Web site,
                          Plantard sometimes assumed the clichéd manner and appearance of French underworld characters, p. 89: Details on Plantard's life were obtained from GNOSIS magazine, “The Priory of Sion Hoax” (Spring 1999), and from the Rennes Observer,“The Templars of the Apocalypse,” by Jean-Luc Chaumeil, (June 15, 1997) pp. 19–20.

                          The latter is easily confirmed via French police archives, p. 90: This information was provided in response to an inquiry concerning a two-page letter dated 8 June 1956 from the Mayor of Annemasse to the Sub-Prefect of St. Julien-en-Genevois, held in the File containing the original 1956 Statutes of the Priory of Sion [File Number KM 94550]: “… in our archives we have a note from the I.N.S.S.E dated 15 December 1954 advising us that Monsieur Pierre Plantard was sentenced on 17 December 1953 by the court in St. Julien-en-Genevois to six months imprisonment for a ‘breach of trust’ under articles 406 and 408 of the Penal Code.” Articles 406 and 408 of the old-style Penal Code correspond to Articles 314–1, 314–2 and 314–3 of the present Penal Code. These articles are classified in Book iii of the Code, “Crimes and offences against property”—theft, extortion, blackmail, fraud, and embezzlement.

                          Evola supported a philosophy similar to the Divine Right of Kings, p. 97: Evola's teachings continue to fascinate fringe groups, including substantial numbers of skinheads and young people caught up in the “Goth” culture. For details on his life and teachings, read Nicholas Goodrick-Clark's Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2001).

                          Correspondence seized from Saunière's church, p. 99: Details of Saunière's mail-order business in masses were provided by Jean-Jacques Bedu in Autopsie d'un myth, published in 1990.

                          The myth lives on, p. 100: A final note to the Priory fable: Two of the most exhaustively researched books on this general topic–Keightley's Secret Societies of the Middle Ages (1837) and Webster's Secret Societies & Subversive Movements (1924)—fail to make any mention of the Merovingian bloodline or the Priory of Sion. Both were published long before Plantard's claim of their existence and their influence on world events. Books published on this topic since 1970, claiming various degrees of authenticity, are legion, of course.


                          • #58
                            4. Druids and Gnostics—Knowledge and the Eternal Soul, p. 101

                            Those seeking to become Druids at the height of the movement's influence, p. 104: The source for this account is Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages—Readers Edition (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2003).

                            Caesar, as talented at observing and recording social structures as he was at commanding armies, p. 106: Julius Caesar, The Gallic Wars, Book 6, paragraph 13.

                            Followers of the Gnostic sect led by Carpocrates, p. 113: Epiphanius (ca. 310–403 ad), Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, provided this commentary. His zeal for the monastic life, ecclesiastical learning and orthodoxy gave him extraordinary authority and may also have encouraged him to exaggerate some of the more licentious activities of the Gnostics whom he undoubtedly disliked.

                            A follower of John the Baptist, Simon gathered his own disciples around him and was viewed, not surprisingly, as a potential competitor to early Christian leaders, p. 114: Simon has his defenders, who note that, as a Samaritan, he was viewed with distaste and suspicion by Jews, and that his words and intentions may have been distorted. The legacy, nevertheless, lives on in English dictionaries.

                            As Christianity grew in strength it became less tolerant of Gnosticism, p. 117: Webster, Secret Societies & Subversive Movements, p. 32.

                            Whether or not Gnostics suffered abuse at the hands of Christians, p. 117: Ibid, p. 32.

                            “In the ancient world,” Jung wrote, p. 118: Dr. Carl Jung, Aion, Collected Works, Vol. 9, 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), p. 10.

                            5. Kabbalah—Origins of the Apocalypse, p. 119

                            In addition to these biblical writings, three other books dominate ancient Kabbalah philosophy, p. 123: Eliphas Levi, The Mysteries of the Qabalah: Or Occult Agreement of the Two Testaments (New York: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1974; reissued Weiser Books, 2000) p. 123.

                            … the “pagans” may well have been Jews seeking to satirize Christianity for their own amusement and ends, p. 123: Hall hints at this theory in The Secret Teachings of All Ages, and then discounts it. Others are not so sure.

                            The base of the Sephiroth (Malkut) represents the world, with all of its flaws and perfections. The pinnacle (Keter) represents God, or the Supreme Crown, p. 124: Spellings and interpretation of the Sephirots vary according to sources.

                            Three triangles are formed by the nine sephirots and connecting pathways above the Malkut. These symbolize the human body; the topmost represents the head, the middle represents the trunk and arms, and the bottom represents legs and the reproductive organs, p. 125: Other methods of interpreting the Sephiroth are promoted by various factions of Kabbalah. One, for example, teaches that the centers are arranged in three columns. The left column is called the Pillar of Severity and represents the female side. The right column is called the Pillar of Mercy and represents the male side. The middle pillar is called the Pillar of Equilibrium and represents the balance between the male and female pillars.

                            According to Webster, the Zohar's original wise counsel has been “mingled by the Rabbis with barbaric superstitions, p. 128: Secret Societies & Subversive Movements, p. 11.

                            “His chamber is lighted up by a silver candlestick on the wall”, p. 129: The Jewish Encyclopedia.

                            From there it was a small step to associate this with the Holy Grail, supposedly possessed by Templars and later Masons, inspiring fresh connections to new galaxies of secret conspiracies, p. 130: The linkage between Kabbalah and the Holy Grail is presented with some detail and a straight face in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

                            Crowley died penniless in 1947, p. 132: Crowley's fame did not entirely disappear, in pop culture at least. His face appears amid the crowd on the album cover of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Jimmy Page, lead guitarist with Led Zeppelin, lives in Crowley's mansion in Scotland, surrounded by various Crowley memorabilia. Most surprising of all perhaps were the results of a poll conducted by the bbc in 2002 to name The 100 Greatest Britons: Crowley was rated 73, ahead of Lloyd George, Chaucer, Field Marshall Montgomery and Sir Walter Raleigh.

                            His name was Feivel Gruberger, p. 132: Details of Feivel Gruberger/Philip Berg and the origins of Kabbalah Center are drawn from several sources, including a lengthy account in the Daily Mail (UK), (May 22, 2004).

                            6. Rosicrucians—The Pursuit of Esoteric Wisdom, p. 139

                            None of these discussions took place during the remarkably long life Rosenkreuz led, p. 140: The actual publication date of the Fama remains controversial. Most sources say 1614, a few suggest 1610, and The Catholic Encyclopedia is adamant that it was published in 1604. This latter date is curious, since it is precisely 120 years after the death of Rosenkreuz, a period of time that bears some significance—it is the number of years that the founder requested secrecy following his death and, as readers of works such as Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum will recognize, it represents cycles of secrecy demanded by Templars.

                            … the man was “unfamiliar with the use of a pen, and it is obvious either that he copied the signature or that his hand was guided while he wrote.”, p. 142: As quoted by Manly P. Hall in The Secret Teachings of All Ages. First published in 1928 (and reissued in 2003 by Penguin), Hall's book is considered a classic of its genre. It includes an extensive discussion of the role of Bacon as the true author of Shakespeare's works and serves as a prime source of the discussion of Bacon as a Rosicrucian.

                            Is it possible that the greatest single fount of English literature is merely a series of envelopes containing clandestine messages in murky codes?, p. 143: The source of these claims (other sources and other claims are legion) is Hall's The Secret Teachings of All Ages, pp. 543–51.

                            In Henry IV, Part One, the word “Francis” appears 33 times on one page, p. 143: The multiple mentions of Francis occur early in act 4, scene 1.

                            “Bacon is not to be regarded solely as a man but rather as the focal point, p. 144: Hall, pp. 548–49.

                            A contemporary of Lippard, Paschal Beverly Randolph, was also acquainted with Lincoln, p. 150: Details of Randolph's life are found in his work After Death, or Disembodied Man (Boston: Rockwell & Rollins, 1868).

                            AMORC takes great pains to identify itself not as a religious order but as “a non-profit educational charitable organization”, p. 153: As reported on the Rosicrucian Order Web site

                            “We do not propose a belief system, nor a dogmatic decree”, p. 153: amorc Web site.

                            “A true Rose Cross does not indulge in secret hand signs or shakes, celebrations, vain displays of wealth”, p. 154: R. S. Clymer, The Rose Cross Order (Quakertown: The Philosophical Publishing Co., 1916).

                            “Unlike Masons, Rosicrucians have no special rings”, p. 154: R. S. Clymer, The Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis (Quakertown: The Philosophical Publishing Co., 1929).

                            Johansson's lengthy and meandering article, readers are informed, was drawn “from discourses presented by the Grand Masters and the Imperator at the World Peace Conference”, p. 155: Data from the Johansson article is from Rosicrucian Digest(No. 1, 2005) p. 10.


                            • #59
                              7. Triads—Cultural Criminals, p. 157

                              For much of the information on triads and tongs, I am deeply indebted to author and criminal investigator James Dubro, who summed up much of the history of these groups in his excellent book Dragons of Crime: Inside the Asian Underworld (Toronto: Octopus Publishing Group, 1992).

                              Resident Chinese usually refer to the organizations as hei she hui , literally translated as “black (or secret, sinister or wicked) society”, p. 162: South China Morning Post, Macau Edition (December 12, 1999).

                              Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators claim 14K and other triads maintain a presence in every Chinese community of substance across North America”, p. 165: rcmp Triad files: ecdp0062.doc.

                              “I was not required to pay any percentage of profits to the 14K leadership”, p. 168: Discussion Paper by the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority (February 1995).

                              One Hong Kong businessman who chose to defy triad threats was sent the severed head of a dog, p. 169: Jan Morris, Hong Kong (New York: Random House, 1988), p. 44.

                              In Britain, the National Criminal Intelligence Service conducted a study of triad activities, p. 170: erri: Evaluation of Chinese Triads in Great Britain—EmergencyNet news Service (July 21, 1996).

                              In 1988, an Australian government study estimated that 85 to 95 percent of all heroin entering that country was controlled by Chinese triads:Asian Organised Crime In AustraliaA Discussion Paper by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority (February 1995).

                              … a U.S. investigation indicated that triad dominance had been reduced by competition from South east Asian countries: Statement of Steven W. Casteel, Assistant Administrator for Intelligence, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (May 20, 2003).

                              “The leaders of the early gangs came out of the aftermath of the Vietnam war”, p. 171: Interview with the author (August 6, 2005).

                              8. The Mafia and Cosa Nostra—Wise Guys and Businessmen, p. 173

                              In AD 1000, a wave of invasions brought Normans, p. 174: Much of the information in this section was derived from Gaia Servadio's excellent Mafioso: A History of the Mafia from Its Origins to the Present Day (New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1976).

                              The code of omerta decreed that any man who appealed for law enforcers to right a wrong was either a fool or a coward, p. 179: Rick Porello, The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia (Ft. Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 1995).

                              A high-ranking Italian government official recently described ’Ndrangheta, p. 180: Italian government news release, Ministry of the Interior (September 22, 2004).

                              “Only blood does not betray”: S. Accardo, as quoted by M. La Sorte, see ff.

                              …in 2004 the Italian government suggested the ’Ndrangheta consisted of 155 family clans and a total membership of over 6000, p. 182: M. La Sorte, The Calabrian ’Ndrangheta (suny: The ’Ndrangheta Looms Large, December 2004).

                              Promoting the region as a holiday destination, the Calabrian tourism office admits “you will find no Florences or Venices in Calabria”, p. 182: Ibid.

                              …you may also enter a Calabrian village and encounter a sight similar to that witnessed by the citizens of Taurianova, p. 182–183: Ibid. from P. Lunde, Organized Crime (New York: dk Publishing, 2004).

                              FBI lurkers heard Deluca instructed to repeat an oath spoken by the boss, p. 192:“fbi tapes offer a rare inside look at Mafia induction,” the Boston Globe (March 27, 1990).

                              D'Amato was head of the DeCavalcante family, the largest in New Jersey and reputed to be the basis of the popular Sopranos television series, p. 193: “Mafia Head Killed for Being Gay, Mobster Testifies,” National Post (May 2, 2003).

                              This was a matter of personal pride that the prospect of having 5000 volts of electricity blasting through his body within a few hours could not divert, p. 196: Interestingly, Buchalter was Jewish, not Italian. It is a tribute of sorts to the power of the Mafia's code that he chose to make his statement and be assessed as a man of honor to the end.

                              9. Yakuza—Traditions and Amputation, p. 199

                              “The nobles, courtiers and even the ladies in waiting of the women's quarters were slashed to death”, p. 202: J. N. Leonard, Early Japan (New York: Time-Life Books, 1968), p. 58.

                              In addition to incomplete pinkies, Yakuza members may be identified by their extensive tattoos, p. 204: Davis E. Kaplan and Alex Dubro: Yakuza—The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1986).

                              The sokaiya are chosen for their vehement style, capable of shouting down anyone who tries to silence them, p. 207: Christopher Seymour, Yakuza Diary—Doing Time in the Japanese Underworld (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996).

                              10. Wicca—The Great Goddess and the Horned God, p. 209

                              “Without witches, some late medieval theologians were left facing their questions as to why bad things happen”, p. 213: Walter Stephens, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex and the Crisis of Belief (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002), p. 100.

                              … celebrated on February 2 to mark the first stirrings of spring and the return of light to the world, p. 223: On this basis, the sabbats do not apply to countries south of the equator.

                              “That was done which may not be done except in great emergency”, p. 227: Philip Heselton, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration—an Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft (Milverton: Capall Bann Publishing, 2003).

                              “witches are consummate leg-pullers; they are taught it as part of their stock-in-trade”, p. 227: G. B. Gardner, Witchcraft Today (San Francisco: Citadel Press, 1954/2000), p. 27.

                              11. Skull & Bones—America's Secret Establishment, p. 229

                              “On the west wall hung, among other pictures”, p. 230: Fleshing Out Skull & Bones (Walterville, OR: TrineDay Press, 2003), p. 473.

                              Howard Altman, an award-winning U.S. writer and editor, reported that in 1989 a man named Phillip Romero visited him, p. 231–232: Ibid., pp. 33–36.

                              Adding to the story's veracity is the reported existence of a privately printed document, p. 232: Rob Rosenbaum, “More Scary Skull and Bones Tales,” the New York Observer (2002).

                              The reward for Bonesmen may have been worth the humiliation, p. 237: Ron Rosenbaum, “The Last Secrets of Skull and Bones,” Esquire magazine (September 1977), p. 89.

                              “We speak through a new publication, because the college press is closed to those who dare to openly mention ‘Bones’, p. 237: Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, pp. 3–4.

                              Prescott Sheldon Bush, Yale ’17, was ideal Skull & Bones material, p. 238: Ibid., p. 40.

                              Hitler mesmerized Thyssen as, in fact, he mesmerized virtually an entire country desperately in need of strong, decisive leadership, p. 239: Thyssen described this transaction, along with his motivations, in his tell-all book I Paid Hitler (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1941).

                              For the latter, he turned to Thyssen's steel mills, whose profits soared in the following years, overflowing into the coffers of the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvart in Rotterdam and the Union Banking Corporation in New York, p. 241: A postwar investigation of the Thyssen family's role in arming Nazi Germany estimated that the family's interests had provided the following proportion of Germany's national output in 1938:

                              50.8 percent of pig iron

                              41.4 percent of standard plate steel

                              36.0 percent of heavy plate steel

                              38.5 percent of galvanized sheet steel

                              45.5 percent of steel pipe

                              22.1 percent of wire

                              35.0 percent of explosives

                              Source: Elimination of German Resources for War, U.S. Congress report,

                              Sub-Committee on Military Affairs (July 2, 1945), p. 507.

                              The bank's Russian connection inspired Lord Bearsted of Britain to recommend that Union Banking cease its dealings with Stalin, p. 241: W. Averell Harriman papers, Library of Congress (September 12, 1927).

                              Consider the identity of its eight members of the board of directors, p. 242: Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, p. 205 and p. 249.

                              The year 2003 saw the publication of a Duty, Honor, Country , a glowing tribute to Prescott Bush, p. 243: Quotations from Duty, Honor, Country—The Life and Legacy of Prescott Bush (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2003), p. 72.

                              Consider this partial list of Bonesmen associated with the U.S. intelligence community, p. 246: Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, p. 9.

                              The individual who handled the paperwork on the name changeover and the incorporation of RTA was Howard Weaver, p. 248: Ron Rosenbaum, The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms (New York: HarperPerennial, 2000), pp. 155–67.

                              Coincidences grow curiouser and curiouser, p. 248: Joseph McBride, “George Bush, cia Operative,” The Nation (July 16, 1988).

                              Zapata happens to be the cia’s code name for the Bay of Pigs invasion, p. 248: Michael R. Beschloss, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960–63 (New York: Edward Burlingame Books, 1991), p. 89.

                              Another coincidence involves the same former president George H.W. Bush and the assassination of President Kennedy, p. 249: The complete document, as provided by Joseph McBride, op. cit., reads:

                              Date: November 29, 1963 To: Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

                              From: John Edgar Hoover, Director Subject: assassination of president john f. kennedy november 22, 1963

                              Our Miami, Florida, Office on November 23, 1963 advised that the Office of Coordinator of Cuban Affairs in Miami advised that the Department of State feels some misguided anti-Castro group might capitalize on the present situation and undertake an unauthorized raid against Cuba, believing that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy might herald a change in US policy, which is not true.

                              Our sources and informants familiar with Cuban matters in the Miami area advise that the general feeling in the anti-Castro Cuban community is one of stunned disbelief and, even among those who did not entirely agree with the President's policy concerning Cuba, the feeling is that the President's death represents a great loss not only to the US but to all Latin America. These sources know of no plans for unauthorized action against Cuba.

                              An informant who has furnished reliable information in the past and who is close to a small pro-Castro group in Miami has advised that those individuals are afraid that the assassination of the President may result in strong repressive measures being taken against them and, although pro-Castro in their feelings, regret the assassination.

                              The substance of the foregoing information was orally furnished to Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency and Captain William Edwards of the Defense Intelligence Agency on November 23, 1963, by Mr. W.T. Forsyth of this Bureau.

                              “I have carefully reviewed the FBI memorandum to the Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State dated November 29, 1963”, p. 249: United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Action 88-2600 ghr, Archives and Research Center v. Central Intelligence Agency, Affidavit of George William Bush (September 21, 1988).

                              In August 2003, de Wit recalled his experience with the CIA and Skull & Bones, p. 250: Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, p. 212.

                              With an estimated $4 million in assets in 2000, p. 251: Yale University archives, Light & Truth's Guide to Society Life at Yale. Interestingly, the competitive secret society Scroll & Key has substantially higher assets of $6 million.

                              12. Secret Societies in Popular Culture—An Endless Fascination, p. 253

                              “Experts today concur—and rightly so, we concluded—that the Protocols , at least in their present form, are a vicious and insidious forgery, p. 262: Baigent et al., The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (London: Arrow Books, 1996), pp. 198–203. All references are from this edition.

                              The Protocals , intended to be read like an instruction manual for running the world, are either chilling or absard, depending on your gullibility and appreciation for black humor, p. 264: Several sources for the Protocols exist. These herein have been selected from Jim Marrs, Rule By Secrecy (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 145–53. The author is a secret societies alarmist, but his work on this topic at least is accurate in its selection of the Protocols contents.

                              The Roman Catholic Church is as appropriate a target for criticism as any , p. 266: For the record, I have no Roman Catholic affiliation—in fact, I have no religious affiliation.

                              13. Critics, Alarmists and Conspiracy Theorists—When Does Paranoia Make Sense?, p. 271

                              The Rothschild connection, according to Welch and others, p. 279: Sources for this section include Jews and Freemasonry in Europe ( Boston: Harvard Press, 1970) and William T. Still, New World Order: The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers, 1990), pp. 104–41.

                              At Retinger's funeral in 1960, one of the eulogizers recalled, p. 281: The speaker was Sir Edward Beddington-Behrens, President, Central and Eastern European Commission, European Movement. The quote is available at dozens of Web sites purporting to deliver the “true” story behind the Bilderberg Group, although most misspell his name.

                              The NSC has been described as “the ultimate Washington insider's club”, p. 287: Dan Dunsky, “Two Degrees of Domination,” Toronto Globe & Mail (June 25, 2005) p. D3.

                              The pinnacle of Kissinger's power in this regard occurred in the latter days of Richard Nixon's presidency, p. 288: A detailed and disturbing examination of the nsc and the risk it poses is available in David J. Rothkopf's excellent Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (New York: PublicAffairs Books, 2005).

                              Afterword—Of Demons and Baloney, p. 295

                              “We want so much to be roused from our humdrum lives”, p. 296: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, p. 123.

                              “Sooner or later,” he warns, “this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces”, p. 297: Ibid., p. 209.