This society, probably the most pernicious association which has ever existed in Europe, was, or is-for we have no proofs that it has ceased to exist-an association of blacklegs, thieves, extortioners, rogues and villains of every kind... -from "The Camorra" From the modern intrigue of conspiracy theories to the immense popularity of The Da Vinci Code, the fascination with secret societies-and their arcane knowledge and power-has never been so rampant. This monumental, encyclopedic work details the initiations and ceremonies, the codes and customs of mysterious organizations from ancient times to the modern world. First published in 1875 and completely revised and updated in 1897, this remains the definitive, authoritative guide to secret societies... and to the spiritual evolution of humanity they represent. Volume I explores: the Magi and the Mithraics . Egyptian priests and kings Chinese metaphysics . the Druids . Cabbalism and Gnosticism pagan rites and myths echoed in Christianity . heretics the Assassins and the Dervishes . chivalrous knights the Inquisition . Alchemy . the Mafia . the Illuminati and much more. Also available from Cosimo Classics: The Secret Societies of All Ages & Countries: Vol. 2. British historian and author CHARLES WILLIAM HECKETHORN (c. 1826-1902) was born in Switzerland but emigrated to England as a child. Among his writings are a novel, a book of verse, translations of Scandinavian folklore, and the travelogues Italian Lights and Shadows, London Souvenirs, and London Memories.