Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries: Uncovering Mysterious Sites, Symbols, and Societies
By Stephen Klimczuk and Gerald Warner of Craigenmaddie
(Sterling Books, 272 pages, $19.95)
Dan Brown's latest fairy tale (def., a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters) audaciously claims, "That the true Ancient Mystery is in fact the realization that people are not God's subjects, but possess the capability to be gods themselves. Once they realize this fact, they will open the gateway to a magnificent future."
Compare and contrast that sentiment with the informed and humble analysis of the brilliant new tome, Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries. It forthrightly and in careful candor traces the origin of basic human instincts to hide away in obscurity, to seek privacy, to experience sanctuary with things divine, and to congregate in exclusive conclaves from which others are "excluded." There is no pretense, no fiction here. This book instead debunks myths like Brown's, and is based on historical fact, rather than inflated lies made up to sell extravagant novels or Hollywood blockbuster movie rights.
Never before have readers been taken, literally taken by the hand, on a guided tour (Führung, in German) of such behavior, past and present. Rarely, has such light been cast on such an astonishing variety of places and instances of worship, conspiracy, defense, and in the case of Nazi atrocity -- shocking mass murders.
The book is quite eclectic, with a wide range of subjects ranging from the (in)famous Knights Templar of crusading fame to California's modern Esalen Institute debaucheries. From the gothic nightmare of Himmler's Wewelsburg Nazi SS castle to numerous jeweled islands of mystery and various holies of holies. It details the (very) private banks as well as various university secret societies, with fondness for Yale's Skull and Bones, that gets, well most of it, right.
The book ends with one of my own favorite subjects: "clubbable" jolly good fellowships -- London's gentlemen's clubs (but no lap dancing please) and other such sanctuaries of tradition. The best American and European private clubs are described and even rated in scrutinized detail. The authors have a flair for good fable retelling and venerable (local) custom.
If you like intrigue, hidden gems and historical treatments about all things "off limits" this book will fascinate you (e.g., Area 51). If you are an intellectual tourist you will doubtless have other places you could add to the authors' already well-traveled list. Besides Bilderberg, why not, Davos, Mt. Pelerin, the Bohemian Grove, Ravenna festival in Italy or new libertarian Burning Man events in the Nevada desert? You will come away with a hunger for yet more (a sequel, perhaps arranged by continent or even other worlds).
Surely, as this book rightly concludes, secret rites and exclusive places or fascinating, exotic get always have been and likely will be a feature of every civilization -- since history has been recorded (thank you, Saint Bede, our first real historian). Human nature itself perhaps predicts, if anything can be forecast, that these curiosities and behaviors will endure as long as the species does, or who knows, far longer, heaven being what it has been described in the biblical Book of Revelation and other shrouded religious texts.
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