For thousands of years secret societies--guardians of ancient esoteric wisdom--have exercised a strong and often crucial influence on the destiny of nations. Though largely ignored by orthodox historians, the Freemasons, Knights Templar, and Rosicrucians affected the course of the French and American Revolutions as well as the overthrow of the medieval feudal order. Inevitably, the true ideals and esoteric practices of these societies have, at times, been perverted by self-serving individuals. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks, British security forces, the founding fathers of America, and the Vatican have all justified their actions--for good or for ill--by claiming the mystic ideals of secret societies.
Michael Howard explores these connections, tracing their effects in politics and statecraft from the time of ancient Egypt up to the present. He sheds light on the influence of secret societies on governments and in the lives of many well-known figures, including Frederick the Great, John Dee, Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Comte de Cagliostro, Helena Blavatsky, Rasputin, and Woodrow Wilson. He contends that the recent formation of the European Union was directed by an umbrella group of secret societies and reveals that though secret societies have been persecuted throughout history, they have survived and continue to operate powerfully in world affairs today.