This week I’ll be reviewing British author Philip Gardiner’s Secret Societies: Gardiner’s Forbidden Knowledge: Revelations about the Freemasons, Templars, Illuminati, Nazis, and the Serpent Cults (New Page, 2007). The book is a collection of essays which examines whether a secret cult of Shining Ones has left a trail of mysteries through history that only Our Hero, Gardiner, can unravel with the help of secondhand research from Zecharia Sitchin, Laurence Gardner, Graham Hancock, and more. This is part three.
PART II: SECRET SOCIETIES
12. The Knights Templar
What to say about this? Gardiner summarizes the history of the Templars, as drawn from Andrew Sinclair, so it includes a number of wild suppositions and imaginary ideas. He claims, for example, that the Templars used the symbol of a man with snake legs called Abraxas who is also the “Sumerian” god Oannes. Oannes was not a snake-footed man but a man wearing a fish suit, and he wasn’t Sumerian but Babylonian. Abraxas, a composite of rooster and scorpion or snake, was a Gnostic god of wisdom, and the Templars adopted the symbol, along with many others (including the Dome of the Rock, lions, and a griffin), for various officials’ seals, akin to personal coats of arms.
Most scholars trace the (probably fictitious) Templar idol Baphomet to a common medieval European corruption of the name Muhammad (attested in non-Templar materials), but Gardiner instead says that it was a chant (Bahamoot!) of an Arabian desert people during rituals to cure snakebites; therefore, the Templars were part of the Shining Ones’ snake cult. He ties this to other Near Eastern material, including the Phoenician craftsman god Taautus (equivalent to Thoth) reported by Sanchuniathon. On the strength of this he makes Thoth, Taautus, and Tammuz into equivalent gods whose names, all starting with “T” (though only in English—Thoth starts with a theta in Greek, and Tammuz’s original name was Dumuzi!) meant that “T” was the Mark of Cain and the symbol of serpents. He ties this to the swastika and then weirdly claims that all of this is symbolized in the Templar name, derived from “temple” and thus from tempos or time, indicating the “true” eternal temple within the soul. Nice try, but temple come from an Indo-European root related to cutting (as in the ritual cutting used for consecrating ground), not directly from the word for time.
13. The Da Vinci Code Fiasco
It’s always interesting when “open minded” alternative authors start criticizing each other for being wrong. In this chapter Gardiner savages the Holy Bloodline school of Templar conspiracies, not in service of truth so much as in defense of his alternative origin of the Templars and Freemasons in serpent cults. He claims that the Holy Bloodline myth must be false because, following the Victorian Christ Myth school, Jesus and Mary Magdalene never existed. He then discusses Apollonius of Tyana, but on the authority of that old fraud H. P. Blavatsky, with the claim (if I understand correctly) that the historicity of Apollonius proves Jesus was a myth and therefore the Gnostic religion is true and serpents give us enlightenment. He concludes the chapter by calling the Catholic Church “evil” and informing readers that our unconscious minds give access to an inner world that uses “subatomic particle[s]” to connect to the “entire universe,” a concept lifted, I imagine, from the quantum crap of the New Age like the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? (2004). According to Gardiner, the ancients “perfectly understood” this unconscious quantum world and passed on the secret in myth.
14. The Illuminati
This chapter starts by summarizing the history of Freemasonry and then claiming that the Italian Risorgimento was a “classic” Masonic revolution against the Catholic Church. I imagine the Habsburgs and the King of Naples would disagree somewhat. He then claims the Illuminati merged with the Masons, and then he tries to turn the Rosicrucians into a world-bestriding colossus on the authority of Max Heindel’s 1909 Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, a book I’ve discussed before because it’s actually a Theosophical tract on ancient astronauts from other planets. He leaves this part out (or just doesn’t know) because it doesn’t agree with his theory. Besides, Hargrave Jennings was a Rosicrucian, and he took the same serpent evidence Gardiner is working with and instead concluded that the secret was in fact a global cult of penis worship. We get the usual blather about Illuminati followed by a “quotation” from Abraham Lincoln on the Jesuits that’s actually a secondhand Victorian fabrication by anti-Catholic propagandist Charles Chiniquy in his Fifty Years in the Church of Rome—not the Gardiner bothered to check. Again, Chiniquy was making it up twenty years after the fact. The rest of the chapter is a bizarre regurgitation of anti-Catholic propaganda and Illuminati conspiracy literature.
15. The Nazi Code
This chapter asserts that Nazism was developed as a conspiracy by the Thule Society, operating secretly as a branch of Sufi Islam. The Nazis were many things and endorsed many ideas, from Catholicism to paganism, but they were not secret Muslims. The banality of Nazi occultism was well explored in Christopher Hale’s Himmler’s Crusade (2003) as well as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism (1993), and there’s no point in reviewing the material again. Just because the Nazis believed a wide range of pseudo-historical ideas doesn’t make them the culmination of a conspiracy by those forces—any more than Giorgio Tsoukalos is the result of an alien conspiracy. (Well, OK, maybe that one’s true…) Gardiner ties this occult material in with more anti-Catholic conspiracy theorizing and concludes that Nazism was the Catholic-Freemason (yes, he thinks they’re linked via the Illuminati—news, again, to the Pope crushed by the Risorgimento Gardiner just attributed to the “Masons” and the Habsburg monarchs who banned the Masons) efforts to destroy world Jewry. The question of the Church’s role during the Nazi period is enormously complex—whole books have been written about it—but Gardiner simply declares Catholicism an evil conspiracy of Freemasons to impose fascism.
16. Secret Societies Today
This chapter provides a secondhand summary of the “best of” conspiracy theories: The Bildeberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Rosicrucians, the Golden Dawn, Opus Dei, etc. He claims that the Freemasons are “Protestant” even though they are officially open to any faith (and were previously asserted to be an outgrowth of Catholicism), and he ties all secret societies back to the Essenes—well known, you will recall, in conspiracy literature as the secret cult of Jews that fabricated Christianity in order to seize control of Rome (a few centuries later) to put in place Jewish World Domination. Wait… didn’t Gardiner just say that the Freemasons were trying to kill all Jews? It’s so confusing… Oh, right, he gets around this Elders of Zion nonsense by substituting the imaginary Shining Ones for Jews because the Jews were duped, too, by the “Sumerians.” He concludes that the Catholic Church is a world conspiracy to control all global governments, accumulate all world wealth, and suppress the people with Sumerian cult rites. This is all crap taken from anti-Catholic pseudohistory dating back to Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons (1853/1858), which claimed to “prove” that Catholicism was a continuation of Mesopotamian religion. This book was a fraud based on misunderstandings of Babylonian religion, but anti-Catholic groups, Protestant extremists, and Philip Gardiner treat it down to this very day as a serious historical inquiry and a revelation of fact.
17. The Holy Vehm
Well, what are we to make of this? In the Middle Ages the nobles of the Holy Roman Empire usurped the emperor’s power to issue the death penalty except in Westphalia, where free judges in the Vehmic Courts formed a guild and exercised judicial power under direct imperial authority. They eventually spread throughout Germany as the only really effective, if harsh, justice system. After abusing their power, they were subordinated to the civil courts by Emperor Maximilian and later turned into a type of police force. Napoleon’s brother Jerome eliminated them altogether while serving as King of Westphalia in 1811. According to Gardiner, this was a secret society bent on world domination, and he claims that they (a) still exist and (b) were collaborating with the Nazis to kill Jews. He claims to have met some members of what is, by his account, either the Vehm or a “modern recreation” of it. And of course it’s all hush-hush so no details can be divulged. But of course. Meanwhile, in reality, scholars have been arguing since at least 1820 that the Freemason parallels are inexact in that the Vehm were not a secret cult, that their powers were proscribed by law, and that their actions were authorized and accountable to government.
18. White Powdered Gold
Finally! I’ve been waiting the whole book to get to the menstrual blood guzzling and the gold eating! Sadly, though, Gardiner doesn’t want anything to do with Laurence Gardner’s fetish for monoatomic white gold, the supposed food of the extraterrestrial ancestors of Jesus and the Stuart dynasty. Gardiner wants to take the non-existent Orbitally Rearranged Monoatomic Elements (ORME), also called ORMUS, and pretend they are “another name” for Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god, because a Greek transliteration of the god’s name was Ormazd. Whatever. The acronym didn’t come from Zoroastrianism and I doubt the huckster who fabricated the nonexistent monoatomic elements even knew about “alternative” names for Ahura Mazda. The only useful thing in the chapter is Gardiner’s reprint of a letter from Hal Puthoff disclaiming ever having agreed that white monoatomic gold bends space-time and levitates rocks. Gardiner then blathers on about salt (which he says is the real white gold—not that Laurence Gardner’s white gold has any independent existence), linking it to worms and serpents and wisdom (on account of its value in ancient times) and concludes that the Ark of the Covenant did not float on white gold (who besides Laurence Gardner said it did?) but on salt water, like the Dead Sea.
Gardiner concludes with a recapitulation of his views about secret societies and his disdain for them because he feels that they are controlling society and keeping individuals from achieving self-actualization. He also disclaims any personal sense of gain, reminding us that he has “turned down” honorary degrees because he is so humble and declined multiple offers to join the secret societies he apparently knows nothing about.
Our masters feed us filth and keep us in the dark. We are told what to be like, what to buy, what to do and say. We no longer need to know ourselves, the television has all the answers. But the fact is, what we see on the television is a reflection of greed, money and capitalism and these can easily be the dark forces of human nature. […] I am not a communist, I am a realist and the reality is that while one man has, another does not. My evolutionary instinct is to gather goods, property and wealth for the bad times ahead, to see me through the winter or the coming storm. (p. 221)
But this is no Social Darwinist nightmare. He suggests that while Social Darwinism (not that he uses, or could use, the term) or the unfair accumulation of resources by secret societies can upset the balance between light and dark and destroy civilization, a humble attitude, middle class Western values, and love of family can overcome the evil power of the Catholic-Freemason-Templar-serpent conspiracy. Aw. Isn’t that cute? So, yes, as this book closes, it is revealed as yet another gasping cry to seek in alternative history a spiritual path toward the “right” religious values that can somehow undo the massive social and economic changes of the past half century or so.
So what have we learned?
Go back to part 2.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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