Holy Blood, Holy Grail

holy-blood-holy-grailHoly Blood, Holy Grail – Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
Dell – 1983 (First published 1982)

I finally bit the bullet and read Holy Blood, Holy Grail. This very stupid pile of shit is perhaps best known today as the blueprint for Dan Brown’s the Da Vinci Code, but it was a best-seller on its release and has had a huge effect on the formulation and popularization of conspiracy theories ever since. I never expected it to be any good, but I thought that I should read it to familiarize myself with modern grail lore before beginning some of the more dubious texts on that subject.

The main idea here, and we’ve all heard this one before, is that Jesus had a kid. The authors claim that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalen and that this pair had a child. Personally, I see absolutely no reason for the historical Jesus to have remained celibate. We don’t know where he was or what he was doing during his 20s. What do most people do in their 20s? They go out and ride whatever they can get their hands on. It would have been weird if Jesus was a virgin. I don’t need the evidence in this book to convince me that he might have had kids. I would be more interested in sensible reasons to believe that he didn’t. And less than 50 pages of this 450+ page book are actually spent discussing the evidence for a horny Jesus. The other 400 pages are taken up with the authors making complete idiots out of themselves.

So one of the authors, I can’t remember which one, read a book on his holidays one year in the early 70s. This book was about Berenger Sauniere, a priest in the south of France who had suddenly became rich in the late 1800s. There were all kinds of rumours about Berenger having found treasure of some kind, and the lad reading the book thought this was pretty interesting and decided to do some research on the mystery of the priest’s wealth. He went over to France and started looking for clues. While he was over there, somebody gave him an anonymous tip-off that there was a dossier of curious documents in a library in Paris that might contain information pertaining to this mystery. Sure enough, he goes to the library and there, in this dossier, are a bunch of cool documents that keep mentioning a weird sounding secret society. Convinced that he’s onto something big, the lad makes some photocopies, goes back to England and starts mashing his pieces of the puzzle together. A few weeks later he gets another call from his anonymous informant who tells him that a few more very interesting documents seem to have shown up in the secret dossier in the library. Our boy is on the next ferry over to France, and what do ye know, when he gets to the library, the dossier is looking thicker. This happens a few times over the next few years, and by the end, his friends and he have managed to piece together the peculiar history of the Priory of Sion, a mysterious secret society that has links to the Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties of Medieval France, the Knights of the Round Table, the Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons.

The authors use all the evidence from the secret dossier and a generous dollop of imagination to argue that the Priory of Sion is a secret society devoted to protecting the bloodline of Jesus Christ in the hopes that they will someday be able to reinstate his descendants as the rightful rulers of civilization.

The problem here is that the Priory of Sion is completely fake. It was made up by Pierre La Plantard, a dodgy Frenchman who believed that he was the descendant of some medieval French Kings. Him and his friends had been the ones putting the documents into the secret dossier all along. The whole thing was a load of absolute bollocks. Now, Pierre’s claim was that he was of Merovingian descent, but the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail were claiming that he was the direct descendant of Jesus Christ. He got a bit embarrassed about this and renounced the book. His mates that were involved the hoax came forth and acknowledged that they made up the whole thing. (As far as I can tell, the authors’ response to this was to maintain that their claims were true and to claim that La Plantard was lying about having lied.)

pierre-le-plantardPierre La Plantard (AKA Pierre Christ)

I knew that the Priory of Sion was made up before I read this book, and that made it a fairly excruciating experience. The ‘evidence’ presented in here is taken from novels, legends, the bible and hearsay, and the authors’ reasoning is absolutely infuriating. You’ll see their approach criticized in any review of this book; it really is terrible. It made me recall that of the protagonists in Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. (And I would find it very surprising if that novel, written in 1988, was not written partly in response to this book and how it had been received.) Leigh, Lincoln and Baigent accept any tangential idea that pops into their heads as long as it can not be immediately disproved. I have adopted a similar approach below to prove that Adolf Hitler was a descendant of Count Dracula:

Transylvania was under Austrian Hapsburg Rule between 1699 and 1867. This would have meant that things and people from Transylvania would sometimes have found their way back to Austria.

Count Dracula, Transylvania’s most infamous resident, although made famous in an 1897 novel, was actually based on a real person, Vlad the Impaler. Vampyrism is probably not a supernatural condition but some kind of hereditary disease, and so Vlad’s descendants would also have been vampires if he was one, which he probably was.

Did the bloodline of Dracula find its way into Braunau am Inn, the birthplace of Hitler?

Well that would explain a lot. We know that Hitler’s mother was born of peasant stock and had a thing for older men. (Hitlers dad was 23 years her senior.) Would she have been able to resist the charms of a tall, dark stranger with a mysterious foreign accent? I think not. If Vlad, or one of his descendants, had shown up on her doorstep, she would have let them drain her right then and there. Ok, I know at this point our argument might seem a bit tenuous, but if we continue with this line of reasoning, a lot of things begin to make a lot of sense.

Ok, so Hitler’s mother was definitely drained by a vampire, thus becoming a vampire herself. She got pregnant with a vampire baby. She tried to pass it off as her employer’s, but this baby had dark hair, like his real father.

Hitler was certainly responsible for a lot of bloodshed. Think about it dummy: Vampires love blood! Was his body ever found? No; he flew off into the night!

At this stage, anyone with an ounce of sense will agree that Hitler is a vampire and probably still alive. It would be utterly ridiculous to claim otherwise.

I did that in about 10 minutes, and I reckon it’s probably more entertaining  and no less sensible than the work of Leigh, Baigent and Lincoln.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail is a pile of shit, freshly emitted from a large hairy anus. At least the Da Vinci Code was superficially entertaining. This is just embarrassing. I wouldn’t recommend it.

This post marks two years of this blog. I’m going to become a dad at some stage in the next month, so things on here might be a bit slow for a while. Make sure you like the facebook page for future updates. Thanks for all the interest.

Illuminati Confirmed! – New World Order (The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies) – William T. Still

nwoNew World Order (The Ancient Plan of Secret Societies) – William T. Still
1990 – Huntington House Publishers

After a very boring introductory chapter, this book contains about 70 pages of tolerably silly conspiracies, but then it gets very, very boring. Just from the cover, I expected something similar to  Ed Decker’s Dark Side of Freemasonry, and I wasn’t far off. This is a book of conspiracies from the point of view of a conservative Christian author.

As far as these things go, it was fairly well researched. William T. Still is clearly a nutjob, but he’s competent enough to provide his references. The book contains nothing I haven’t come across before, but it was novel to see how the author managed to link the Atlantean origins of secret societies, William Shakespeare’s true identity, and the Freemason’s involvement with the Jack the Ripper murders. Still is the kind of wacko that Umberto Eco was making fun of in Foucault’s Pendulum.

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The central idea behind the book is that the Illuminati is a Luciferian/Satanic cult dedicated to exterminating religion, taking over the world, and bringing about the reign of the Antichrist. If America doesn’t adopt conservative politics and good old-fashioned family values, the country is going to allow itself to be taken control of by a small group of the super-wealthy who don’t care about anyone but themselves. The scary thing about this book is that you know that the people who read it and have taken it seriously are the exact same people who are going to vote for Donald Trump.

The Illuminati has recently reentered the public consciousness. Nearly every teenager in North America has seen the ‘Illuminati Confirmed’ memes. Why now? Maybe it’s because the idea of a small, faceless group of the super wealthy being in charge of America is actually less frightening than the faces of the small group of the super wealthy that clearly are running the country.

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco

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Ballantine – 1990 (Originally published in Italian in 1988)

Most of the books that I review here are either too shit or too enjoyable to be clever. This one however, while it is rather enjoyable, is a rather astute piece of writing.

The plot is surprisingly simple. I’ll outline it in a way that won’t ruin the story for you: 3 book nerds, for a laugh, decide to patch together a ridiculous conspiracy theory. After a short while, they, and others, start to take their conspiracy too seriously and things get fairly messed up. That’s it. But if that’s the whole story, why is the book 500+ pages long? Well, Eco goes into detail, a LOT of detail, on the conspiracy that his characters are creating.

While the book is filled with interesting facts from what must have been an absolutely enormous amount of research, it’s not so much the conspiracies that are of interest as it is the psychology and biology of conspiracies and arcane ‘knowledge’. To put it another way, this is not a book about conspiracy theories in the same way that the Da Vinci Code is; this is a book about how conspiracy theories work. (Eco, when asked if he had read the Da Vinci Code, claimed that Dan Brown was one of the characters in this book.) While this book will satisfy readers of conspiracy fiction by mixing and matching their favourite secret societies and magicians, it will also force that reader to contemplate how silly most conspiracies really are. The way Eco engages with conspiracies only to end up making fun of them is really tactful. He never denies that they’re fun and interesting, indeed he would have had to have been a severe masochist to have thought that and written this book, but ultimately, he gives very little credence to any of them. Ah Umberto, a man after my own heart!

I really enjoyed this book. The subject matter is precisely the kind of crap that I like reading about, and the characters were great too. It does get a little heavy on the details at times, and I’d recommend having a decent understanding of who the Rosicrucians, Gnostics, and Templars were before you start. If you do decide to read it and feel like you’re getting bogged down in the details of the eclipse that occurred during the 14th birthday party of the blind translator of a coded manuscript detailing the fate of an obscure heretical sect from Southern France, you can probably just skim through those paragraphs without missing out on crucial plot details.

The book opens with the narrator snooping around the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris. He has an appointment at midnight under the Foucault Pendulum housed therein, and he is trying to find a place to hide where he will not be noticed by the security guards as they are closing up. When I discovered that my University also houses a Foucault Pendulum, I determined to recreate that scene to the best of my ability.

I waited until the 23rd of June, the same day that the book’s narrator goes to see the pendulum in the Conservatoire. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to sneak effectively, as there were very few people around to be suspicious of me. Regardless of this, I surreptitiously tip-toed into the building, constantly casting glances behind me in the hopes that I was being trailed. When I got to the pendulum, Disaster! Somebody else was standing there looking at it. I contemplated asking if he was there for the same reason as myself, but in the interests of my own personal safety (and dignity), I decided against doing so. I pretended that I wasn’t interested in the pendulum; I walked straight by it, exited the building, and bought a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe. I waited maybe 10 minutes and returned. The coast was clear, so I took the following video and ran for it.

I fear they may have seen me leave the campus. I am in hiding now, but I know that they will find me eventually. All I can do is wait. I might as well sit here and look out the window at the willow tree in the garden outside.

It’s so beautiful.

 

7 Footprints to Satan – A. Merritt

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Orbit/Futura – 1974

About a year ago, I was in a second-hand book-store when I came across a little black book titled 7 Footprints to Satan. It looked fucking deadly, but it was 30 dollars and I thought that was a bit much to spend on a book I hadn’t heard of. I came home and found a copy online for less than a tenner. The seller provided no image, and I presumed the cover would be the same as the one I had seen in the shop. Can you can imagine my absolute joy when the package arrived and I first saw the above cover?

Look at that thing! It’s some kind of snakey, arachnid alien holding some jewels, a bloody heart, and a hot drink. Book covers do not get much better than that! Now a person who has not read it might presume that the entity on the cover is the Satan referred to in the title of the book, but a person who has read it will have absolutely no fucking idea of what that thing is supposed to be. I doubt that the artist who drew the spiderbaby had actually read the book. Unfortunately, the story didn’t quite live up to the cover, but the cover lives up to itself even after having finished the story. Just looking at it now makes me want to read the book again even though I know how little they have to do with each other. Take a moment there to scroll back up and really soak that image in. Fucking deadly.

So, the book starts off with a lad being kidnapped by a bunch of weirdos who manage to convince the police that he’s a mental patient. They take him to a mansion owned by a chap who claims he is Satan, and that’s where the fun begins. Satan runs a weird culty mafia thing, and he forces his followers to gamble with him on his 7 footprints game. Like all good cult leaders, Satan is a massively tall freak with an enormous head who can’t be killed by bullets. He knows everything about everyone, and he has a seemingly infinite amount of power and wealth. It’s never made definitively clear whether or not he’s really the Devil, but every time that you think that he’s actually just a fat Chinese drug dealer who picked a cool name for himself, something weird happens that suggests he at least has some connection with the archfiend. It wouldn’t be accurate to describe this as supernatural horror, but it does feature individuals with superhuman strength,  doppelgängers, and even telepathy.

It also features plenty of casual racism, but this seems to have been a trend in early 20th century horror. I’m sure that there were plenty of racist authors outside of the horror genre in that era, but I think that the ways in which race is presented within the texts written to frighten people is quite telling of the real fears of the readers of the day. (Maybe some day I’ll write a blog post, if not a master’s dissertation, on that topic.) Some of the stuff in here is pretty rough; there’s a passage that reads:
There was a Hebraic delegation of a half-dozen on their way home to the Bronx, a belated stenographer who at once began operations with a lipstick, three rabbit-faced young ‘sheiks’, an Italian woman with four restless children, a dignified old gentleman who viewed their movements with suspicion, a dumb-looking black…
Pretty good right? Within the space of a single sentence he’s managed to be nasty about three different ethnicities. At another stage, he refers to a black guy as an ‘ape-faced monstrosity’, and at the point when Satan admits to having killed his daughters, the protagonist has an Ah-Hah! moment and explains that Satan must be Chinese. Oh! and there’s also a scene featuring the most offensive stereotype of all! In the second chapter, Officer Mooney appears. He’s a New York cop with a ridiculous Irish accent that is made visible in the text; “Sure,lad. Ye’re in no danger, I’m tellin ye. Would ye want a taxi, Doctor?’ (Admittedly, that accent is entirely accurate.) The thing is though, that I wouldn’t even call this is a racist book; it would be more accurate to call it a book with some racist parts, and that’s actually worse when you think about it. The racist parts don’t add anything to the story. I’m not saying that it would be excusable if the racism were a motivational force in the plot, but that would at least give an understanding of the author’s purpose. As it stands, it looks like Merritt was just throwing his bigotry in for a laugh. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t pay for a book that contained that kind of nastiness if I thought the author was going to get any of my money, but my copy is second-hand and the author died 70+ years ago.

I read this in two sittings, and I had a dream about being stuck in Satan’s mansion after reading it. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. Merritt wrote some other books with equally cool titles, and I doubt that this is the last book of his that will appear on this blog.

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side of Freemasonry – Ed Decker

Huntington House Publishers – 1994

About 20 years ago, a bunch of evangelical christians met up somewhere in the backwards part of the southern US and had a symposium on the evils of Freemasonry. Most of the attendees were former masons, mormons and muslims; the kind of people who jump ship at the drop of a hat. This book collects the speeches that they gave. A lot of it is the kind of thing you’d expect (“Freemasons worship the Devil!” stuff). Other chapters are outright ludicrous (Freemasons are trying to destroy the US education system!), and one of them is a fairly interesting account of famous occultists and their links and opinions on masonry.

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(If anyone can fill me in on the relevance of ‘The Wayfaring Man’ within Masonic ritual, it would be greatly appreciated. I own the above copy of a book with that title by George Estes. It was published in 1922, and it’s very definitely a Masonic text. I don’t want to read it until I have some context.)

I’m not a Freemason, and I don’t feel any great desire to defend Masonry, but most of this book is silly nonsense. Several of the papers claim that most Freemasons aren’t aware of the occult influence on their organisation because they never bother to read the literature. I’m not interested in refuting this claim, but I found it hilarious to see christians criticising others for blindly accepting dogma without having read the literature.  Have you seen that awesome video of christians reading passages from the Bible for the first time and being repulsed?

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Whoever owned this book before me took it pretty seriously. They seemed to have been upset by this image of Baphomet. Also pictured is the bookmark that was hidden inside when I bought the book. I looked it up, and the christian bookstore it came from has shut down. Yipeeee!

Yeah, this book was crap. I only read it because I don’t want to get into anything too interesting while I’m in school. It came with the two books from my last blog post, and I promise it will be the last christian book that I review for a while. I got a great haul of books off craigslist the other day, and I’m hoping to read a few of those over the christmas break. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I’ve created a facebook page so that people without a wordpress account can stay updated on this blog. The link is here and also in the menu in the top right. Give it a like if you’re so inclined.

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The X-Files Haul
A guy was selling most of his book collection on craigslist, and I nabbed these absolute classics for a measly 8 bucks. I had to take three buses to get out to meet him in front of a drugstore in the middle of nowhere, but it was totally worth the opportunity to pretend I was Mulder meeting up with some shady character to obtain esoteric information.

Mysteries of the Unknown – Time Life (Part One)

2015-08-21 21.17.48I didn’t want to review these until I had read all of them, but that will probably never happen. This is a 33 volume collection of books on the ‘mysteries of the unknown’. Some of the books are very cool, but a lot of them are extremely lame. (I’d say about half of them are about psychics.) They contain a nice mixture of essays and articles, and they’re all full of fancy pictures. It’s a really nice set to have, and I got mine for fairly cheap. I find that they’re quite good if you read them as primers before getting stuck into more difficult/older books on the same topics. I’m going to briefly review three of them today, and I’ll do some more in a few months. 20150821_210412The full collection

Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects
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I read this one a good while ago. It’s probably the best introductory book on secret societies that I have read. That’s not saying much really, as I have only read three such books. What I am trying to say is that this is a far better introduction to secret societies than Arkon Daraul’s piece of shit. It goes into detail on the assassins, the masons, the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn. I thought it was pretty enjoyable.

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This is some bullshitty Golden Dawn picture from the book. The bird at the bottom has serious attitude and the lad at the top is wearing a wiggy.

Speaking of the Golden Dawn, I went to the Yeats exhibition last time I was in Dublin, and I took some pictures of his occulting stuff. Here they are:
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Sorry William, but that Angel is fucking lame.

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Another notebook and some dodgy tarot cards.

Transformations
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This one was pretty good too. It’s mostly about vampires and werewolves. It discusses the potential causes of vampirism and lycanthropy without getting too bullshitty. There was also a nice section on Vlad the Impaler, and it has lots of cool pictures, including this saucy snap of Theda Bara.
20150821_211030What a babe!

Mysterious Creatures
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This one mainly focuses on Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. I like the fact that these books give fairly objective accounts: They don’t try to disprove anything, but they don’t feel bullshitty either. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster at all, but I do think that Bigfoot COULD exist.
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This lad also made a brief appearance. He is wrecked.

My lovely wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary in Harrison, British Columbia. Harrison is a bigfoot hotspot and home to Sasquatch Park. We didn’t see one while we were there, but it’s a really nice place. I would definitely recommend going if you get the chance.
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20150817_173920The entrance to our suite

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These were in our hotel room. They give some background information and tips on what to do if you encounter a Sasquatch.

 

A History of Secret Societies – Arkon Daraul

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Citadel – 1997

I’m not really interested in secret societies. There’s a few interesting ones, but they’re mostly pretty boring. A few months ago,  I saw this book for sale on craigslist for fairly cheap. I wasn’t really bothered, but I was reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy at the time, and when I saw it mentioned therein and recalled the craigslist ad, I took it as a sign that I should buy it. (Coincidences don’t exist.)

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Why I bought this piece of trash. Note the misspelling of the author’s name.

I decided to read the book because I am currently reading Zanoni by Bulwer Lytton, and as that book is about Rosicrucians, I thought this would complement it well. It’s certainly as fantastic; in fact, there are more references in Lytton’s work than there are here. Arkon Daraul is full of shit.

This book is garbage. It doesn’t seem reliable at all. Daraul’s choices of which secret societies to discuss are completely arbitrary. There is a lengthy chapter on peacock worshippers in modern England, but there’s no chapter on the freemasons. Admittedly, I was relieved that I didn’t have to read the same crap about freemasons that I have already read in 10 other books, but it did seem a little odd that the most famous secret society of all were barely mentioned in this “historical account”. Also, Daraul doesn’t really bother to distinguish between secret societies and cults.

I don’t really have much else to say on this book. It was crap. The cover (Is that Satan?) makes it look way better than it is. There were some interesting parts, but there are lots of other books on the same topic that are much better. I reviewed a shitty little book on this kind of crap before that covered more ground and was way less bullshitty.
Don’t bother reading this one.

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The best part about this book was this prayer leaflet that the previous owner had left in it.