Shadow People

Fall 2006 CSANews Issue 61  |  Posted date : Jun 01, 2007.Back to list

Shadow People is an important new expose of history’s most notorious secret societies. In this book, master storyteller John Lawrence Reynolds reveals the origins, rituals, secret signs and famous members from organizations as benevolent and fraternal as the Freemasons, to some fraudulent cults initiated by con men. He also sheds light on some organizations that society has every right to fear.

A case in point is the epic story of how the Assassins of 1191 have morphed over a century, from a group of Muslim killers fighting Crusaders, to the 21st-century, suicide-bombing Al Qaida. This provides valid insights into today’s headlines.

Reynolds presents the clearest explanation I’ve ever read of the seventh-century schism among Muslims, that produced the two warring factions, Shiites and Sunnis. After the death of Mohammed in 632 AD, a bloody debate started and has continued, about the legitimate succession. Sunnis believe that the authority should be passed to the ancestors of the close advisors to the Prophet. They are considered to be the orthodox branch of Islam. Shiites (the underdogs) insist that the bloodline of Mohammed must be rigorously sustained. There is an intriguing tale to explain why young Muslims seem so cheerfully willing to blow themselves up. It all involves fruit, wine and virgins. Reynolds leads us to consider the futility of getting involved in a feud that has been going on for 1,400 years.

The meticulous research done for Shadow People reveals that while most secret societies really began with noble intentions (Triads and Cosa Nostra), there are some that are truly holy hokum. Examples are the Priory of Sion (of Da Vinci Code fame) and the Kabbalah.

Kabbalah is “a system of thought drawn from Jewish theosophy, a secret oral tradition, handed down through generations, to a select few students by the wise men of the day.” Reynolds takes us through generations of colourful con men and eccentrics, each claiming an awareness of the divine life force. Now there are the California-based Kabbalah centres, flourishing around the world, “promising everything from spiritual comfort to better sex.” This latest movement was instigated by a Brooklyn insurance agent, Feivel Gruberger, who went to Israel with his secretary in 1968 (leaving a wife and eight children) and returned to the U.S. as Philip Berg, modern Kabbalah guru, with his“wife” Karen, author of several books on Kabbalah.

Berg and company have been brilliant marketers, producing 20 books and CDs, as well as the famous red string worn on the wrists of celebrity members Madonna, Demi Moore, Paris Hilton, Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor. This red string is sold for $1 per inch and is claimed to have been cut “from a strand once wrapped around the tomb of the Hebrew matriarch, Rachel.” Devout Jews have been appalled by this concept of a “blessed piece of string,” but psychiatrists are not at all surprised at the enthusiasm shown by celebrities for this “pseudo religion.” They note that performers are often enormously insecure over their success, and Kabbalah apparently helps them to deal with their “acquired guilt.” Berg also assures string wearers that they really don’t need to read books, but can absorb the wisdom by passing fingertips over the text, in a process called “speed meditation.” Watch for red strings around campus at exam time.

There are juicy nuggets of information throughout Shadow People, real salacious gossip. For instance, in the chapter on the Yale-based Skull and Bones fraternity, Reynold details the revelations about Prescott S. Bush’s association with the German Nazi party. He intimates that Prescott, father and grandfather of two U.S. presidents, is alleged to have stolen the skull of Apache warrior Geronimo for the clubhouse. It’s interesting to note that both candidates in the last U.S. presidential election, George W. Bush and John Kerry, were “Bonesmen.”

Regarding leaders in secret societies, Freemasons can take pride that their “brothers” have included Winston Churchill, John Diefenbaker and 25 U.S. presidents and vice-presidents, as well as four presidents of Mexico. However to some, the Freemasons are still regarded both with suspicion and as a threat. Reynolds dismisses this paranoia by asking, “How secret can an organization be when its various meeting places are clearly identified”.... And how deadly can the intentions of a secret society be, that includes on its membership rolls, the great Duke Ellington, one of the least likely candidates for performing anything more subversive than a piano solo.

In Shadow People, John Lawrence Reynolds has produced an engrossing read and a valuable reference source.