Jim's Reviews > A Brief History Of Secret Societies

A Brief History Of Secret Societies by David V. Barrett
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Read from February 21 to July 19, 2010

A Brief History of Secret Societies, by author David V. Barrett is an extremely well-researched look at secret societies in the modern world. Barrett has amassed a collection of facts and hypotheses regarding the esoteric movements and their connections throughout the history of Western culture, in particular Freemasonry.

Barrett begins his book by setting up some ground rules, if you will, about where he stands on politico-religious philosophy and terminology. This is to set up the foundation for the rest of the references throughout his book. He then goes on to give his best explanation as to where esoteric beliefs originate, beginning in the cradles of civilization, to the Egyptians, Greeks, Zoroastrians and others. But he glosses over centuries worth of important people, places and movements, giving them a small page or two for their contributions to what this book is actually about: Freemasonry. This book is essentially the history of the Freemasons. References to the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians and Cathars are made, but often just in how they relate to Freemasonry. Barrett makes almost invisible mention of others such as the Golden Dawn, the KKK, secret government agencies, and so on, and really should have just omitted those sections. He finishes with a bit of a paranoid ramble of why secret societies may be in danger and should remain secretive.

My chief criticism of this book is its lack of impartiality. During the introduction on page XX Barrett claims:

"I am not acting as an advocate for Freemasonry,"

and:

"I am not personally either approving or antagonistic towards any secret society, or any branch of Christianity or any other Religion."

Yet seeing these preemptive defensive claims at all, especially before the book had even begun, was a bad omen for me and it should be for you, too. Fair or not, intentional or not, this book is essentially one long Masonic apologist and anti-Fundamentalist Christian text. It's the author's prerogative to express these ideas, but he should represent it as such and not try to play the impartiality ticket. Barrett spends an inordinate amount of time on the benevolence of the Freemasons and his fear of extreme right-wing conservative fundamentalist Christians, in particular the American branches. Barrett simply can't help himself from interjecting his own political agenda and it detracts from his self-proclaimed effort to be objective and scholarly, and it blurs out the supposed purpose of the writing itself - secret societies.

In his defense his research seems impeccable, and he is dedicated to debunking myths and negative attitudes toward secret societies. But if you have a moderate, fair mindset and were hoping to find a book based more on history and less on politics you have to take 'A Brief History of Secret Societies' with a grain of salt. His anti-Evangelicalism and anti-Americanism boil over too frequently, even to the point of insinuating that Evangelicals and conservative Americans are becoming hate groups that may return to the actions and methods of the inquisition to wipe out modern secret societies. Of course making claims like this is nothing more than classic politicking and fear mongering. By the end of the book it really just comes out as typical liberal British elitist rhetoric. I get it. He opposes the Fundamentalist Right and he's on the Elitist Left. He fails to recognize what moderate and independent thinkers have known for centuries: they're both just sides of the same coin.

I must also take a brief moment to mention David V. Barrett, the author of this book, and author of other books, has this strange (and sometimes hard to read) habit of using, far, far too much -if not excessive- amounts of punctuation in his writing, which may, or may not, distract you (and other readers) from reading his work/writing/book. So, unfortunately, for him (and you), his actual style, as a writer, is rather annoying. There's not much flow, if any at all, if flow is the correct word to use, to his sentences. The book reads, extremely, choppy (and dry) - but now I, and this review, digress.

Ultimately I gave this book a 3, but I really could have gone lower. I enjoyed his thorough research, his accuracy and many of the quotes and references he makes throughout. The book was informative and interesting, if not a bit dry. But sadly the other authors' quotes turn out to be some of the best writing in the book. If you are a right-wing conservative you'll hate this book because he'll challenge your point of view frequently. If you are a left-wing liberal you'll love this book because he just blows on about what you want to hear. If you have more of a moderate mind, and can overlook Barrett's political agenda there is some great historical and factual value to this book. I would recommend it for anyone who can tolerate the politics, regardless of your affiliation, and focus on the excellent research that has been compiled about the Freemasons.
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message 1: by Lynnette (new)

Lynnette Haggerty Great review, loved the second-to-last paragraph :)


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