Triad of Secret Societies


As a result of research and as a Sinophile, it's become quite obvious that Rohmer's authentic knowledge of the orient was painfully lacking. Clearly, he was not conversationally fluent in Chinese. If Rohmer consulted persons fluent in the language, it's a safe bet they spoke the Cantonese dialect. Whatever resources he may have referenced, they certainly utilized the old Wade–Giles system of transcription, which is to be expected considering that period in history. Furthermore, Rohmer frequently reveals a lack of concern for differences and distinctions between ethnic groups, their nations, histories, cultures, customs, and religions.

Most interestingly, Rohmer's lack of precise and genuine knowledge of his subject matter is openly revealed through his lead characters. The heroes (and readers) constantly ask precise questions. Invariably the heroes receive vague, incomplete, and incorrect answers. Worse yet, readers often receive vague, incomplete, and incorrect answers.

This is a clear indication that, frequently, Rohmer possessed only a vague intuition or incomplete idea of where he intended to take the plot. At times, it seems as though he simply sat down and started writing. Some element would strike his fancy and he'd toss it into the mix without any forethought, purpose, or plan for future development. Considering many of Rohmer's stories were serialized before they were compiled and published as novels, these observations may not be far from fact.

Mind you, I'm not expressing dissatisfaction. I'm simply making specific observations, because these issues create some interesting obstacles concerning serious interpretation and analysis. These issues certainly complicate any attempt to determine author intent. Inevitably, this gives rise to differences concerning interpretation and analysis.

With that said, there seems to be a bit of confusion concerning certain groups and organizations, specifically the Sublime order of the of the White Peacock, the Council of Seven, the Si-Fan, and the Seven Elite Assassins of the Si-Fan. Both Rohmer and researchers tend to refer to these groups nearly indiscriminately and interchangeably. Let's sort it out, shall we?

I suggest the Council of Seven, the Sublime Order of the White Peacock, and the Si-Fan are three separate and distinct individual organizations with shared members and objectives. In support of these claims, I offer the following evidence:

1911
"To Mr. Commissioner NAYLAND SMITH and Dr. PETRIE—
Greeting! I am recalled home by One who may not be denied. In much that I came to do I have failed. Much that I have done I would undo; some little I have undone. Out of fire I came—the smoldering fire of a thing one day to be a consuming flame; in fire I go. Seek not my ashes. I am the lord of the fires! Farewell.FU-MANCHU."

[ The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu ]
Claims:
  • Fu Manchu claims "One who may not be denied" called him home.
Assumption:
  • Reading this, one would assume the "One who may not be denied" is a superior member of some unidentified organization of which Fu Manchu is a member. That is certainly a reasonable assumption. Nevertheless, it is an assumption.
Interesting that Fu Manchu should state "home" not "to China". Could it be a wife, family member, or personal concern calling him home, rather than a superior business associate ordering him to China?

1913
"You come at an opportune time, Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith, and Dr. Petrie; at a time when the greatest man in China flatters me with a visit. In my absence from home, a tremendous honor has been conferred upon me, and, in the hour of this supreme honor, dishonor and calamity have befallen! For my services to China—the New China, the China of the future—I have been admitted by the Sublime Prince to the Sacred Order of the White Peacock." -- Fu Manchu speaking to Nayland Smith
[ The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu ]
Facts:
  • The events detailed in "The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu" take place after the events detailed in "The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu".
Claims:
  • Fu Manchu claims the greatest man in China is visiting him.
  • Fu Manchu claims he is presently a member of the Sacred Order of the White Peacock. 
  • Fu Manchu claims the Sublime Prince admitted him to the Sacred Order in Fu Manchu's absence from home.
Assumption:
  • Presumably, the greatest man in China is visiting Fu Manchu to deliver the news of Fu Manchu's acceptance into the Order.
Therefore:
  • It's not likely the Sublime Prince or some superior member of the Sacred Order had called Fu Manchu home two years past. It's possible, but not likely. 
I suggest:
  • It's far more likely a member from the Council of Seven called Fu Manchu home.
1913
"I always knew and you always knew," interrupted Smith in his short, decisive manner, "that Fu-Manchu, genius that he was, remained nevertheless the servant of another or others. He was not the head of that organization which dealt in wholesale murder, which aimed at upsetting the balance of the world. I even knew the name of one, a certain mandarin, and member of the Sublime Order of the White Peacock, who was his immediate superior. I had never dared to guess at the identity of what I may term the Head Center." --Nayland Smith speaking to Petrie
[ The Hand of Fu Manchu ]
Claims:
  • Smith claims Fu Manchu was the servant of another and not the head of some unidentified organization.
  • Smith claims The Sacred Order of the White Peacock is now the Sublime Order of the White Peacock.
  • Smith claims Smith claims a certain unnamed mandarin and member of the Sublime Order is Fu Manchu's immediate superior.
  • Smith claims he dares not speculate on the identity of the big boss. 
Therefore:
  • Fu Manchu is or was a subordinate to the authority of two separate organizations
  • Fu Manchu had at least one superior in some unidentified organization.
  • Fu Manchu had at least two superiors in the Sublime Order.
I suggest:
  • The mandarin Ki-Ming and the Sublime Prince are Fu Manchu's superiors in the Sublime Order. 
  • The Sublime Order is under the authority of the Council of Seven.
  • As a member of the Sublime Order, Fu Manchu is subordinate to the authority of Ki-Ming, the Sublime Prince, and the Council of Seven. 
1913
"I have selected you, rather than Mr. Commissioner Nayland Smith," continued the mandarin, "as the recipient of those secrets which I am about to impart, for the reason that your friend might possibly be acquainted with my appearance. I will confess there was a time when I must have regarded you with animosity, as one who sought the destruction of the most ancient and potent organization in the world — the Si-Fan." 
As he uttered the words he raised his right hand and touched his forehead, his mouth, and finally his breast — a gesture reminiscent of that employed by Moslems. 
"But my first task is to assure you," he resumed, "that the activities of that Order are in no way inimical to yourself, your country or your King. The extensive ramifications of the Order have recently been employed by a certain Dr. Fu-Manchu for his own ends, and, since he was (I admit it) a high official, a schism has been created in our ranks. Exactly a month ago, sentence of death was passed upon him by the Sublime Prince, and since I myself must return immediately to China, I look to Mr. Nayland Smith to carry out that sentence."
"The Si-Fan," he added, repeating the gesture with his hand, "disown Dr. Fu-Manchu and his servants; do with them what you will. In this envelope"—he held up a sealed package—"is information which should prove helpful to Mr. Smith. I have now a request to make. You were conveyed here in the garments which your wore at the time that my servants called upon you." --Ki-Ming speaking to Petrie.
[ The Hand of Fu Manchu ]
"The story of Fu-Manchu, and of the organization called the Si-Fan which he employed as a means to further his own vast projects, is almost told." --Petrie
[ The Hand of Fu Manchu ]
Claims:
  • Petrie claims Ki-Ming was a mandarin in 1915.
  • Ki-Ming claims the Si-Fan was the most ancient and potent organization in the world.
  • Ki-Ming claims Fu Manchu was a high official in an unidentified organization prior to this encounter in 1913.
  • Ki-Ming claims Fu Manchu employed the Si-Fan for his own ends prior to this encounter in 1913. 
  • Ki-Ming claims a schism has recently developed in the ranks of an unidentified organization.
  • Ki-Ming claims the Sublime Prince passed a death sentence on Fu Manchu one month ago.
  • Ki-Ming claims the Si-Fan presently disown Fu Manchu.
Inferences:
  • Ki-Ming's actions suggest that he follows the Muslim faith. While there were Chinese practicing the Muslim faith in China at this time, Ki-Ming is described as wearing a diamond earring. It is not allowed for Muslim men to wear earrings. Furthermore, Ki-Ming is not a Muslim name. 
  • Ki-Ming's words suggest that he and Fu Manchu are both members of an unidentified organization.
I suggest:
  • Ki-Ming is a mandarin in 1915.
  • Fu Manchu is a high official the Si-Fan in 1913. In fact, Fu Manchu has been the Dragon Head of the Si-Fan nearly since it's inception.
  • Ki-Ming and Fu Manchu are both members of the Sublime Order.
  • Fu Manchu has covertly employed the Si-Fan to his own ends since 1899.
  • A schism has recently developed in the ranks the Sublime Order.
  • Resultantly, the Sublime Prince passed a death sentence on Fu Manchu.
  • Ki-Ming is attempting to seize control of the Si-Fan from Fu Manchu.
  • Ki-Ming's statement about the Si-Fan is utter propaganda.
Rationale:
As previously noted, Rohmer possessed little expertise on such subjects. Rohmer often confused and intermingled details from various ethnic groups, nations, histories, cultures, customs, and religions. Additionally, as previously noted, Rohmer possessed no complete, clear, or distinct picture of these organizations his own mind. Rohmer seemingly refers to these groups nearly haphazardly, indiscriminately, and interchangeably.

When it comes to China, frequently, it can be difficult to discern fact and history from legend and myth. Moreover, Chinese are possessed of a cultural predilection for claiming things are older than they genuinely are.

According to research, the Si-Fan formed in 1899. However, the Si-Fan might claim lineage from the Heaven and Earth Society (1761), The Five Elders of Shaolin (1641), or even the White Lotus Society (1330). After members from the Thuggee Cult of Kali join the ranks of Si-Fan (1903), the organization professes to be older than Buddha (480 - 400 BCE).

Either Ki-Ming is knowingly and deceptively exaggerating the age and status of the Si-Fan or Ki-Ming has been deceived about these matters by Fu Manchu or the Si-Fan themselves. Considering that Fu Manchu has previously attempted to deceive the Si-Fan, the Council of Seven, the Sublime Order with a claim that his daughter, Fah Lo Suee, was the incarnation of a legendary Assyrian - Persian - Hindustani - Tibetan - Mongolian messianic figure destined to rule the world, this argument is not without merit.

1915
"... When you visit the laboratory of our chief chemist in Kiangsu you will be shown the whole of the armory of the Sublime Order... The common black scorpion of Southern India," he said softly. "Its venom is the basis of the priceless formula, F. Katalepsis, upon which the structure of our Sublime Order rests, Dr. Stuart; hence the adoption of a scorpion as our device." --Fo-Hi speaking to Stuart.
[ The Golden Scorpion ]
Claims:
  • Fo-Hi claims Fu Manchu was the chief chemist for the Sublime Order in 1915.
  • Fo-Hi claims Fu Manchu's laboratory was in Kiangsu in 1915.
  • Fo-Hi claims Fu Manchu's F. Katalepsis is highly prized by Sublime Order in 1915. 
  • Fo-Hi claims Golden Scorpion tokens were devices of the Sublime Order in 1915.
1915
"I do not know that. If he is alive, he is in China--at some secret palace in the province of Ho-Nan, which is the headquarters of what is called the 'Sublime Order.' I have never been there, but there are Europeans there, as well as Orientals." --Miska speaking to Stuart
[ The Golden Scorpion ]
Claims:
  • Miska claims the Sublime Order was headquartered in Honan as of 1915.
  • Miska claims Europeans and Orientals are at the headquarters in Honan.
1915
"Let me go on from the time when I saw Fo-Hi in Cairo. He told me that I was a member of an organization dating back to remote antiquity which was destined to rule all the races of mankind--the Celestial age he called their coming triumph. Something which they had lacked in order to achieve success had been supplied by the dreadful man who had entered the room and expressed his approval of me." --Miska speaking to Stuart
[ The Golden Scorpion ]
Claims:
  • Miska claims the Sublime Order dates back to remote antiquity, according to Fo-Hi.
  • Miska claims the Sublime Order is destined to rule all the races of mankind, according to Fo-Hi.
  • Miska claims that Fu Manchu supplied the Sublime Order with something they had lacked to achieve success, according to Fo-Hi.
"For many years they had been at work in Europe, secretly, as well as in the East. I understood that they had acquired a quantity of valuable information of some kind by means of a system of opium-houses situated in the principal capitals of the world and directed by Fo-Hi and a number of Chinese assistants. Fo-Hi had remained in China most of the time, but had paid occasional visits to Europe. The other man--the monster with the black skull cap--had been responsible for the conduct of the European enterprises." --Miska speaking to Stuart
[ The Golden Scorpion ]
Claims:
  • Miska claims the Sublime Order operates a system of opium-houses situated in the principal capitals of the world, according to Fo-Hi.
  • Miska claims this system of opium-houses was directed by Fo-Hi and a number of Chinese assistants.
  • Miska claims Fu Manchu was responsible for the conduct of the Sublime Order's European enterprises.
I suggest:
  • Fo-Hi was the director of the opium den operated near the Rue St. Claude in Paris by a certain Madame Jean and her assistant Chinaman Sen in January 1910. [ The Yellow Claw ]
  • Fo-Hi was the director of the opium den referred to as the Cave of the Golden Dragon operated in London by the man known as Mr. King and his assistant Ho-Pin in January 1910. [ The Yellow Claw ] 

On the Origins of the Sublime Order of the White Peacock

Historical References
According to Daraul, the Order of the Peacock Angel is a Yazidi-influenced secret society. The group subscribes to a belief in a power governing human affairs, symbolized by a peacock. Recruits are instructed through a series of mental and physical exercises intended to place the experience of emotion under control of the will.

In 1913, a version of the cult was brought to Britain by a Syrian whose name is only known to initiates. Daraul claims to have encountered members of this organization in the suburbs of London and attended their rituals. Daraul described a ceremony where robed members engaged in an ecstatic dance in the presence of a large statue of a peacock.

Membership grew to encompass "several hundred members throughout Britain" and "three lodges in the United States". Some members were said to keep live peacocks. As a sign of identification, the right hand is placed, with the fingers spread out (perhaps to represent the tail of the peacock) on the left breast, just above the heart. Daraul appears to be the only source of information for the existence of this group.
[ Secret Societies Yesterday and Today by Arkon Daraul. Subsequently reissued as: A History of Secret Societies. ]

Yazidis are monotheists. They believe God created the world and entrusted it into the care of seven Holy Beings, called the Seven Mysteries. Preeminent among these is Tawûsê Melek, the Peacock Angel.

Tawûsê Melek, or Melek Taus in English publications, is uncontroversially translated as "peacock angel". In art and sculpture, Tawûsê Melek is depicted as peacock. Interestingly, peacocks are not native to the lands where Tawûsê Melek is worshiped.

However to early Christians, the peacock represented immortality. According to folk belief, its flesh does not decay after death. This symbolism passed into Yazidi beliefs. Consequently, peacock imagery adorns Yazidi shrines, gateways, graves, and houses of worship.

Peafowl include three species:
  • Pavo cristatus - the blue peafoul of India and Sri Lanka.
  • Pavo muticus - the green peafowl of Myanmar, Indonesia, and Java.
  • Afropavo congensis - the mbulu peafowl of the Congo Basin, Africa.
White (leucistic) Indian Peafoul
Occasionally, peafowl appear with white plumage. Although albino peafowl do exist, this is quite rare. Nearly all white peafowl are not, in fact, albinos.

White peafoul possess a genetic mutation called leucism. This causes an overall reduction in pigment. In peafowl, this results in a complete lack of plumage pigment. However, leucism leaves peafoul with blue eyes.

By contrast, true albino peafowl feature a complete lack of melanin. This results in white plumage. However, albino peafoul possess red or pink eyes. Furthermore, leucistic peachicks are born yellow and become fully white as they mature.

Chinese Peafoul
At one time, green peafowl might be found in southwestern China. However, it's not likely they were indigenous. It's far more likely they originally migrated from Burma. While the phoenix prominently appears in Chinese art, myth, and religion, the peacock does not.

Conclusions

I suggest:
  • The Council of Seven oversee the operations of an international confederation of powerful secret societies.
  • The Council of Seven provide the top tier leadership and authority for its member secret societies.
  • The Council of Seven functions as a sort of United Nations for secret societies.

  • The Sublime Order of the White Peacock is powerful secret society.
  • Members of this organization embrace an odd combination of religious traditions from Assyria, Persia, Hindustan, Tibet, and Mongolia.
  • While the organization was headquartered in Honan in 1915, it was not a Chinese organization, at least not in origin.

  • The Si-Fan began as a patriotic organization and desired to restore China to the former glory of the Ming Dynasty. 
  • Leadership and control of this organization was quickly seized by Fu Manchu. 
  • The Si-Fan was, is, and forever shall be, Fu Manchu's personal tool - more or less.
At least, that's how these organizations are characterized in their respective early years. Over time, these organizations form complex and intricate relationships. Consequently, their original natures and functions will evolve, as will their membership.

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