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The Shining Ones

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Success Stories

by Philip Gardiner


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ISBN 1 904126 00 6
Published by Radikal Phase, 2002
304pp, paperback
Retail price 12.99

If I'm honest, I must say that neither the cover of Philip Gardiner's The Shining Ones, nor the blurb ("The most sensational investigation in years") filled me with enthusiasm for the anticipated contents. At best, I expected something eccentric; at worst, something cranky. I was therefore pleasantly surprised at how easily the chapters sped by, the friendly typeface and unpretentious style making reading almost a pleasure. The text, packed with factual information and punctuated with appropriate black-and-white illustrations, is exemplary in non-fiction terms. It begins with a history of religion designed to lead up to the book's main thesis: the idea that our world, and most of what happens in it, is ruled by a secret society that has been in existence since the dawn of human civilisation.

Unfortunately, the standard of writing and, in particular, the relevance of the illustrations, deteriorated noticeably as the book proceeded. The jacket claims that it was "released without over zealous editing", which is clearly true but perhaps not something to boast about. My gut feeling was that the editor, if there was one, got careless about halfway through. At the outset, I had been very hopeful. The author seemed to have done lots of research, and was promising to reveal hitherto unknown secrets about the history of religion. No doubt, in later chapters, all would become clear.

By the last chapter, I was simply baffled. As the author himself admits in the final pages, the mystery he has uncovered was written about by Edward Carpenter a century ago. Mr Gardiner does not, however, seem to recognise the irony in the words of a Cambridge theologian who commented, on hearing his idea for the work, "Oh dear, you're going to let the cat out of the bag."

Presenting facts, in however lively a style, is not the same as presenting an argument. Mr Gardiner makes much of the common linguistic roots of various terms relating to religion, but elsewhere reveals a limited knowledge of the development of language: "Simon the Magi" [sic]. Less forgivably, many of his statements in support of his ideas are complete non-sequiturs. For example, speaking of Silbury Hill, he says, "There is nobody buried beneath this great mound, so it must have been a temple." Could he really think of no other explanation? "Jesus and his entourage took their supper in what must have been a huge room." Why must it? It is hypothesised that the place where Jesus died was not the Jerusalem we know today, but some other place with the same name. Jesus did not, in fact, die, but either was taken down from the cross while still alive or perhaps a substitute took his place.  His resurrection, like everything else in his life, was the product of a massive conspiracy.

If I sound sceptical, it isn't because I don't believe in Philip Gardiner's individual findings. There is virtually nothing in The Shining Ones that I found hard to swallow. All the theories were at least plausible, all the facts apparently correct. It was the quantum leap from these individual statements to the final, all-embracing conclusion that was difficult to accept. A further volume is planned, taking us from the ancient history which forms the basis of this first book, on into the Middle Ages, so that we can see how this immensely powerful group of priest-kings continued to keep its hold on the minds and hearts of ordinary people, and established itself as the controlling force in modern civilisation.

I look forward to reading Volume Two. At the same time, I hope it will be written with more regard for logic and reasoned argument than Mr Gardiner has managed here. It needs to be, if he hopes to convince me or anyone else of the continued existence of a coherent group identifiable as "The Shining Ones".

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

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