6 JANUARY 1923, Page 30


THIS book is an endeavour to synthesize the myriad occult sciences and religious systems of mankind. While working with the methods of the folklorists, the author has not their detachment. His work is more than a study ; it is the mani- festation of a faith, and in consequence has a very personal purpose. Like all zealots, he seeks to prove that the object of his worship is the bedrock of all religious idea. " From the commencement of the world," he quotes from a writer of the early nineteenth century, " we may trace the foundation of Masonry. Ever since symmetry began, and harmony displayed her charms, our Order has had a being. During many ages, and in many different countries, it has flourished. No art, no science, preceded it. In the dark periods of anti- quity, when literature was in a low state and the rude manners of our forefathers withheld from them that knowledge we now so amply share, Masonry diffused its influence. This science unveiled, arts arose, civilization took place, and the progress of knowledge and philosophy gradually dispelled the gloom of ignorance and barbarism. Government being settled, authority was given to laws, and the assemblies of the frater- nity acquired the patronage of the great and the good, while the tenets of the profession diffused unbounded utility."

In his effort, to accomplish this tremendous task, the author has found it necessary, "as a background, to survey the ancient Magian schools, an inheritance from the earliest prehistoric times, and to trace their influences, in Arabia, Persia, and Egypt ; on the early Syrian Gnostics, and on the Jews during their Babylonian captivity, whence they evidently derived their Kabalistic philosophy. We shall have to glance," he adds, " if only cursorily, at the doctrines and practices of sects which, at first sight, may appear to have so little in common. These include the Druids, the Manicheans and Gnostics, with all their developments traceable through to the Pythagorean system : the Templars, the Essenes, Thera- pcutae, Nazarenes, and their modern representatives, the Mandaites, or Christians of St. John ; the Sabeans, Nabath- eans, and Samaritans ; the Sufeites, and the various Dervish orders ; the secret sects of Islam, the Ismaeli, Batenians, Karmatians, and Metawileh ; the Lodge of Wisdom at Cairo, the Assassins, the Nusairis, and the Druses. The links in each case have lain ready to hand throughout the ages. All

• Secret Sects of Syria. By Bernard H. Smingett. London : Allen and iinwin 112s, dd. net.]

that was needed was some loving and careful hand to attempt to weld them into a homogeneous chain, strong enough to bear the strain of keen criticism from the majority of my Masonic brethren which I am willing and prepared to brave, in the hopes that some, perchance, may be strengthened in their own convictions by the perusual of these pages." Those would be valiant critics