Mike Gleason


The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pawels & Jacques Bergier © 2009 Destiny ISBN: 978-1-59477-231-1 480 pages Paperback $18.95 (U.S.)

I must say at the outset that I was a bit disappointed with this reissue of a classic in the field of “Ancient Mysteries.” It was first published in France in 1960, and I was hoping that there would have been some revisions and updating done. This was not the case. It is a simple reissue of the original English translation.

This does not mean that it lacks value. There are obvious incongruities in this book, viewed through the lens of past events. Given the progress (???) that has been made in nearly half a century – politically, scientifically and culturally – there are obviously dated references which some younger readers may not understand. At the time this work was produced the Cold War was in full swing, the “Summer of Love” was unimagined and nuclear energy was only a dream (although nuclear weapons were already a nightmare).

Much of the information in this book is severely dated, as is to be expected after nearly half a century, but by the same token, much of it is still relevant. It follows in the footsteps of Charles Fort (Book of the Damned) and lays the ground work for Douglas Kenyon’s “Forbidden” series of books (Forbidden History, Forbidden Religion, and Forbidden Science) which draw attention to those events, beliefs, and phenomena which are routinely dismissed by “the authorities” as being mere anomalies, and therefore unimportant.

As an example of how our knowledge has expanded, the authors write concerning a secret Order unknown to the specialists – The Golden Dawn. They say that the Golden Dawn had one member (Florence Farr), while we now know that there were others (Dion Fortune, Anne Horniman, and Moina Mathers among others).

On the other side of the coin, they write from personal experience when dealing with the horrors of the Second World War, and the apparent motivations of some of the major players. This lends a sense of, if not urgency, validity to their observations.

Their speculations regarding man’s progress were perhaps a bit optimistic (or maybe we just aren’t aware of some of the research which has been undertaken and which continues within undisclosed locations). Their stated purpose in making these speculations public was to encourage research, and I am sure that many of their lines of investigation have been pursued, even if the “man on the street” isn’t aware of such investigations.

While I was hoping for more current data, this is a book which I recommend for two very important reasons. First, because it brings to the attention of the average reader information which has probably not bee seen before. And, second, because it is sure to inspire at least some readers to go further, and learn more about the anomalies in our world and how they affect the world in which we live.

The Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale © 2004 Arcade Publishing ISBN: 978-1-55970-889-0 248 pages Hardbound $25.00 (U.S.) $28.00 (Canada)

The author of this book has advantages which most other author writing about the Templars do not. The least of these advantages is that she is a specialist in the field. However, the primary advantage she has is access to primary documents. She is a historian on staff at the Vatican Secret Archives.

Her approach is that of good, basic, solid historical research. There is reference made to a document which most had assumed had not survived into the modern era (The Chinon Parchment). Surprisingly, not only had it survived, it has hidden in plain sight, the victim not of a conspiracy, but of simple bureaucratic slip-ups. It had been inadequately described when it was filed away in the archives, so no one recognized it for what it was.

This is not a romanticized look at the Order. There are no flights of fancy or unsupported speculations between these covers. Oh, there are occasional presumptions made, but they are based on the facts as they are known and are mostly restricted to the events leading up to the final years of its existence.

Ms. Frale displays a familiarity with the overall organization of knighthood in general (not surprising in view of her specialization in Templars and the crusades) which helps to make this story come alive. She understands the motivations and temptations of the knightly life and the conflicts with monastic life which they engendered. The presentation is not a dry recitation of facts, but is interlaced with observations which put a human face on the past.

Aside from the revelation of the survival of the Chinon Parchment, the only truly unexpected item in this book is what that document said. It was the record of an inquest “in the diocese of Tours.” It was no less than the record of the trial of the leaders of the Knights Templar by the personal representative of the pope and the results of that inquest.

As a result of that trial the Grand Master and other high-ranking Templars were found innocent of heresy and other, lesser, charges, and were fully restored to the Catholic community. While this is not exactly earth-shaking news (it was discussed in the media when it was discovered in 2001), it does undercut the conspiracy theorists who insist that there was an organized opposition to Christianity with the ranks of the order.

What motivated the move against the order by Phillip the Fair (Phillip IV of France) in 1307? Was it mere greed for the treasure held in trust by the Templars? Was it politically motivated by a desire to bring the order under his personal control? Was he manipulated by outside forces? Lacking definitive proof the answer cannot be stated beyond question. The motivation may be in doubt, but the result is not. Through manipulation, misrepresentation, and outright lies, one of the two most powerful religious/military organizations in the Western world was brought down. And the groundwork was laid for unsubstantiated speculation, fears of the destruction of social order, and wild claims which have lasted for 700 years.

Ms. Frale’s analysis of the order benefits from her ability to assemble a compendium of the testimony as it existed over the complete course of the trail. This allowed her to compare behavior based on region, rank, and situations which may be unique in the history of investigating the order.

This is not a book aimed at historians. It is intended for the average reader. There is a great deal more which could be said on the subject, but that would make this book far more extensive (and expensive) than it is. This book presents an easily understood presentation of the basic facts, and serves as a valuable starting point for those who wish to learn more about the historical Knights Templar and their ultimate destruction. I recommend it highly.

Wellspring of Magic by Jan Fields © 2007 Annie's Attic ISBN:
978-1-59635-147-9 120 pages Paperback $5.99 (U.S.)

I don't know if you believe in coincidence or not. In fact, I'm not sure how I
feel about the idea myself. In any case, my daughter and I had been one of our
periodic discussions about the appearance of magical-themed books in the
mainstream bookstores when an offer arrived for my wife to join a "crafting
club" (scrap booking, jewelry making, etc.). Included in the package was this
book, aimed at 7 to 12 year-old girls. So of course I pounced on it (she wasn't
interested in joining, but the book was way too providential to pass up).

Admittedly, the book is aimed at encouraging the target audience to get involved
in day-to-day crafting activities, but it still tells a magical story. And its'
encouragement to look at things creatively is a lesson we can all profit from.

Although the story is fairly simple, and the plot line is uncomplicated, this is
not a boring book. It grabs the reader's attention and engages her feelings.
Along the way it shows potential conflicts; grants resolutions, and makes you
care about the characters.

I'm reasonably sure this is the start of a series and, while I doubt I will be
seeking out additional titles (I'm not in the target audience, nor do I know
many in that range) I have no hesitation encouraging parents to pick up copies
for their daughters. Even if you are not interested in stimulating their
creativity (what kind of parent are you?) you can encourage them to read, and
this book will help.