Book Review | The Secret History of the World

I have always been fascinated by the mythical and magical. There is something in the “down-to-earth” “one-with-nature” supernatural that has always intrigued me and inspired me. 
I used to think that if I wasn’t Mormon, I probably would have been a Christ-believing Wiccan (I do have friends who are this). No wonder I love Arthurian lore and write high-fantasy!
Well, as I continued my studies in history, especially medieval to Renaissance European history, I became intrigued with the Medieval Church and art history. There were all these symbols and secrets. Then, Sherlock Holmes (starring Robert Downey Jr) came out with a secret society. 
As Borders Books was closing, my roommate and I would go at least once a week for a couple weeks to get bargain books. I came out with Sir Mallory’s La Morte d’Arthur, an encyclopedia on Secrets, Signs, and Symbols, as well as this book:
You can tell where my interest was that summer!
Well, as long as my to-read book list was, I finally finished this book yesterday! It took me about 9 months to read it (of course, I was busy being a first-year teacher and graduating from BYU) but it is a very, very interesting book. 
What this book does is try to find one “truth” of the history of the world. We all know that history was written by the victors, but we have different variations of factual historical events as well as prehistorical events and what is to come. These different versions come from different cultures, different religions. What Mark Booth tries to do is find the similarities and ties between all of these to one truth. This is what caught me, because, as a Mormon, although we believe our church is the one true church, we also believe that all religions and beliefs have some light and truth to them as well, just not the fullness. Booth sets out to find that fullness from before the world was created to the end of the world by looking at esoteric traditions and interviewing many of his colleagues that were part of secret societies. Now, Booth wasn’t part of a society because then he would have had to take an oath of silence, and he was much to curious. 
If you are to read this book, which I highly suggest you do, I caution, take what he says with a grain of salt. A lot of it, you will agree with. A lot of connections will be made and you will start seeing connections you never saw before and thinking of events, religions, philosophies, art, and literature in ways you never did before. However, there are some theories he records from these esoteric traditions that, as average Christians, or average people from the West (hemisphere) that you may think are just plain weird or crazy.
Booth is very engaging in his topics and he reminds us a lot that he is just doing research and trying to find connections…he doesn’t necessarily believe this and isn’t telling us to believe in it either. He is also very good at telling where he is getting his sources–if it be from the Bible, or Sufi scrolls, or Buddhist teaching, or a Freemason colleague of his, or a girl he knows who is a mystic and “speaks with angels.” 
However, there are a few things I didn’t like…no, not what he had to say, because again, he is just discovering and showing his discoveries. He isn’t trying to say it is absolute truth or trying to convert us. But, just the way it was written. First of all, there are a few words he uses over and over again that he never really defines, expecting us to already have a knowledge of them:
esoteric: secret or private knowledge reserved for and understood by a select few (initiates)
exoteric: suitable for, communicated to the general public
Cabala: a system of esoteric theosophy and theurgy developed by rabbis, reaching its peak about the 12th and 13th centuries, and influencing certain medieval and Renaissance Christian thinkers. It was based on a mystical method of interpreting Scripture by which initiates claimed to penetrate sacred mysteries. Among its central doctrines are, all creation is an emanation from the Deity and the soul exists from eternity.
(Now see, he mentions the Cabala and cabalistic traditions for about half his book, but he never really describes what is listed in the Cabala as he does for other sets of doctrines.)
Booth also loves to go off on tangents. Of course, who wouldn’t when you have found such an interesting topic to research and discovered something amazing about it–you definitely want to share it, but you aren’t sure how or where to put it in your paper.
There is one thing that I really did appreciate about this book. This book was written by a British professor in 2008, just as Obama was being elected president. He mentions about the prophecies of the Anti-Christ and says that 2012 wasn’t the right date, but more of a period of time 1980s-2020s. He mentions how during the 2008 campaign, a lot of very right-winged, conservative Republicans held slanderous campaigns claiming Obama was the Anti-Christ. He points to different prophecies and different descriptions and plainly states that according to these, from different Christian (and even non-Christian) theologies, there is no way Obama could be the Anti-Christ. Thank you Booth! 
One thing that surprised me was the lack of mention of Mormons. I mean we have the Book of Mormon, so our view on American history differs from other Christians. Also, like other Christians, but different as well, we have our own traditions and ceremonies and rights of passage. I won’t go into a discussion as to what they are because most are sacred, but there is a lot of speculation that they are pretty similar to Freemasonry. Well, it floats around that Joseph Smith was a freemason. Although Mark Booth mentions Freemasons a lot, he never once mentions Mormons, or their believes, or their temples. But then again, he is English and the Mormon population in England isn’t that large. But now, it makes me want to go read this book:
All this stuff is just so interesting to see how truly connected we all are! Whether or not Booth’s “history” is the history, it just solidifies the belief that we are all connected and all came from one belief.

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • Hey Tayler, my redheaded ginger friend. I am also a natural ginger! We rock!

    I am also SO big on history and learning about the past as well as other cultures and religions. I'm not religious but I really like learning about all of the different types especially Mormonism which I find fascinating. This book sounds SO GOOD! I definitely will be picking this up.

    I'm really into art history and literature too. I like that you say that the reader will begin to see things differently and connect the dots from various historical perspectives. Can't wait.

    Ginny
    http://www.buttergirldiaries.com

    • You should stay and be part of this site! I would definitely read the book and maybe even check out mormon.org!

      Gonna check out your blog!

  • So I'm assuming you've read all the books by Dan Brown? 🙂

  • I'd be interested in reading the book on Mormon and Masons. I always hear the J.S. was a free mason, and that there are a lot of similarities but never from anyone credible or who has done research of any kind.

  • Absolutely going to check this book out! There is a great video series on youtube pertaining to an LDS man and his studies in Kabbalah. Very fascinating.

    • It's definitely got me interested in the Cabala more, especially cuz Mormons have special ties to Judaism.