Author of the Month

The Secret History of the World
By Jonathan Black

Jonathan Black

Jonathan Black's new book, The Secret History of the World, reveals extraordinary and thought-provoking insights into the esoteric teachings of secret societies down the ages and offers a radical new (or perhaps very ancient) perspective on human history.

The Secret History of the World

The Secret History of the World, by Jonathan Black, published in paperback by Quercus Books, London, 2008, is available from all good bookshops and from

Alternative History and Esoteric Philosophy

- two portals into the same world?

Something that often surprises me about the opponents of alternative history is how readily they stoop to intellectual dishonesty. Typically the 'scientifically correct,' as I like to think of them, present themselves as high-minded defenders of intellectual rigour. Then they go right ahead and attribute to others claims they have never made just so they can rubbish them!

The 1999 Horizon documentary about Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval was a shining example of this, cut, dried and well documented in the adjudication of the Broadcasting Standards Commission. Maybe it's a kind of tribute? If the scientifically correct were sure of their ground, perhaps they wouldn't feel the need to behave so shiftily?

But they do, more's the pity on several deep and important, levels. Because alternative history often touches on what the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich called 'the ultimate questions' - the questions of where we come from, who we are and what the meaning of life might be. Of course, ideally, these questions should inspire in us a whole-hearted desire to discover the truth. We should be passionately interested yet scrupulously disinterested, setting aside all partisan affiliations, even the desire to be right, because upon the answers we give to those ultimate questions depends the way we choose to live our lives.

Exactly how does alternative history bear on the ultimate questions? I think this is best explained using an example that is central to alternative history. If the Sphinx dates back deep into what's conventionally called the Stone Age, in other words if it is many thousands of years older than conventional, academic history allows, then it follows that we are not who we thought we were. Our history has different patterns to the accepted ones.

This question of the age of the Sphinx is also an example of a curious feature of the human condition as a whole, a feature which is quite remarkable when you come to consider it, but often overlooked:

when it comes to issues like these, we find ourselves dealing with minute fragments of evidence that admit of many different interpretations, sometimes even contradictory ones.

It seems to me to that when it comes both to the great questions of history, and to the great questions of life and death that are tied up with them, the evidence is often not so overwhelming that it imposes an answer on us. We often have great latitude when we choose what to believe.

Perhaps we then choose what we want to believe?

Important then to be aware of which part of ourselves is doing the choosing, that we do not choose unconsciously but bring our full intellect to bear. Is it the part that really wants to know the truth that is doing the choosing? Or is it the partisan, egotistical side that wants to be right or to be on the winning side?

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As I try to show in my book, The Secret History of the World, that fact that we are in a position to consider the ultimate questions in a relaxed a tolerant way and without trying to tear each other's throats out, the fact that a wonderful forum like Graham Hancock's website exists, is in part at least due to the work of the secret societies. In particular the secret societies that lay behind the Royal Society, and therefore the great scientific and industrial revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, created protected spaces - sometimes called lodges - where free-thinking, disinterested intellectual enquiry could take place.

In these spaces people like Newton, Boyle, Hooke and Harvey were not only able to discover and define gravity, formulate the law of thermodynamics that paved the way for the internal combustion engine, invent the microscope and discover the circulation of the blood, they were also able to pursue their interest in alchemy and other arcane subjects. When an outsider questioned Newton about his interest in astrology, he is reported to have replied 'Sir, I have studied it, you have not.' Newton also believed that that we live in a world dense with secret codes - in the laws of nature, in books like the Bible and in ancient monuments like the ones on the Giza plateau. They were put there, he believed, to help draw our intelligence out of us.

The initiates of the secret societies had realized that you get two very different sets of results if you look at the world as objectively as possibly and then on other occasions as subjectively as possible. This realization brought great material benefits to the world, but it also opened up many strange realms of thought…

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