Synopses & Reviews
Secret societies—now a staple of bestseller novels—are pictured as sinister cults that use hooded albinos to menace truth-seekers. Some conspiracy books claim that fraternal orders are the work of serpentine aliens and interbred humans who wish to supplant earth of its energy, and later, its very existence.
On the other side of the aisle, books by high-ranked Freemasons—skeptical in tone but no less partisan in approach—protect their organization's public image by denying the existence of its most contentious ideas.
Ritual America reveals the biggest secret of them all: that the influence of fraternal brotherhoods on this country is vast, fundamental, and hidden in plain view. In the early twentieth century, as many as one-third of America belonged to a secret society. And though fezzes and tiny car parades are almost a thing of the past, the Gnostic beliefs of Masonic orders are now so much a part of the American mind that the surrounding pomp and circumstance has become faintly unnecessary.
The authors of Ritual America contextualize hundreds of rare and many never-before printed images with entertaining and far-reaching commentary, making an esoteric subject provocative, exciting, and approachable.
"There have been hundreds of clandestine clubs in America, but as Coleman notes in the foreword, we ' not know much about the hidden landscape in which we live everyday.' In unmasking this 'widespread covert reality' — a motley group of secret societies from Elks and Masons to the Ku Klux Klan, the Bohemian Club, and the Rosicrucians — Heimbichner, a contributor to Paranoia magazine, and Parfrey (editor of Apocalypse Culture) survey secret passwords, garments, handshakes, songs, and initiations to show how these offbeat orders and brotherhoods have shaped America. The pages are packed with unusual images, many not previously printed, in paper ephemera, postcards, cartoons, sheet music, and art by numerous illustrators, along with kooky costumes and helmets. Controversial figures such as Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard and 'Masonic Pope' Albert Pike are profiled. One bizarre section has ads for items (like axes) used in hazings and sadistic initiation pranks. The military is described as 'a bastion of Masonic membership,' and a dubious connection is drawn between waterboarding and 'fraternal traditions.' The total effect is that of a tattered, bulging scrapbook of outre oddities on high-quality slick paper with an attractive graphic design." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Ritual America is an impeccably designed and wide-ranging survey of the topic that indulges in neither sensationalism nor extreme skepticism. Parfrey and Heimbichner cover Freemasons and Oddfellows, Jesters and Rosicrucians. They mine the possible Masonic roots of Mormons and magic. Brian Doherty, Reason.com
An engaging, humorous, and startling look at how fraternal orders and secret societies shaped American life.
About the Author
Craig Heimbichner has contributed to Secret and Suppressed II (Feral House), and The Paranoia Conspiracy Reader. He recently appeared on "Decoded" (History Channel) analyzing The Bohemian Grove.
"Secret society historian Craig Heimbichner follows the Middle Path to wisdom. He stays awake when we are all asleep. He works the graveyard shift in the secret lodge. He break-dances with the skeletons in the closet. He does the hokey-pokey with his whole body in. He shakes it all about. He turns himself around. And he tells us what "IT" is all about." Joan dArc, Paranoia The Conspiracy Reader
Adam Parfrey wrote and edited Apocalypse Culture, Cult Rapture, Apocalypse Culture II, It's a Man's World, and The Secret Source. Steven Heller lionized Parfrey and Feral House in the Winter 2010 issue of Print Magazine, and The Seattle Weekly featured Parfrey and his publishing in a November 2010 cover story in Seattle Weekly magazine.
In Apocalypse Culture, Parfrey introduced readers to freemasonic inquiry, leading to such pop culture manifestations as Marilyn Manson's song, "Kiing/Kill 33"...