The secret society was first described in 19th century works by Louis Jacolliot and Talbot Mundy. In 1960, Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier wrote about the Nine Unknown Men in their Morning of the Magicians. In their works, they claimed that the society occasionally revealed itself to wise outsiders such as Pope Sylvester II who was said to have received, among other things, training in supernatural powers and a robotic talking head from the group. In more recent times, according to this circle, the Nine assisted humanity by revealing the secret of the Cholera vaccine.
Among conspiracy theorists the Nine Unknown is often cited as one of the oldest and most powerful secret societies in the world. Unusually for conspiracy theorists, the image of the group is largely though not entirely benign. Theosophists also believe the Nine to be a real organization that is working for the good of the world.
Some modern Indian scientists such as Jagdish Chandra Bose were said to believe in or even to be members of the Nine although documentation on this issue is predictably scant. Believers in the Nine also point to the mysterious Iron pillar of Delhi, which they claim to have been constructed at a time before the technology to create it existed in common circulation. However, this is disputed by other scholars and researchers.
The nine books
Each of the Nine is supposedly responsible for guarding and improving a single book. These books each deal with a different branch of potentially hazardous knowledge. Traditionally, the books are said to cover the following subjects:
- Propaganda and Psychological warfare.
- Physiology, including instructions on how to perform the "touch of death." One account has Judo being a product of material leaked from this book.
- Biology, and Hydroponics in order to grow Cannabis for the benefit of society as a whole
- Alchemy, including the transmutation of metals. In India, there is a persistent rumor that during times of drought or other natural disasters temples and religious organizations receive large quantities of gold from an unknown source. The mystery is further deepened with the fact that the sheer quantity of gold throughout the country in temples and with kings cannot be properly accounted for, seeing that India has few gold mines.
- Communication, including communication with extraterrestrials.
- Gravitation (the Vaimanika ṣastra), instructions necessary to build a vimana, sometimes referred to as the "ancient UFOs of India."
- Cosmology, the capacity to travel at enormous speeds through spacetime fabric, and time-travel; including intra- and inter-universal trips.
- Light, the capacity to increase and decrease the speed of light, to use it as a weapon by concentrating it in a certain direction etc.
- Sociology, including rules concerning the evolution of societies and how to predict their downfall.
The Nine in popular culture
Edward Bulwer-Lytton (of "It was a dark and stormy night" fame) wrote a parody of the Nine Unknown Men that many, including perhaps Helena Blavatsky, took as fact.
The society is mentioned several times in The Illuminatus! Trilogy and is a resource card in the Illuminati card game.
Mentioned as well in the Strugatsky Brothers' novel "a billion years before the end of the world" as one of the possible forces behind the mysterious intervention in scientists' work.
Writers and producers of the TV show Heroes have cited the Nine Unknown Men as one of their creative influences.
There is a slight reference to the Nine Unknown Men in the song Putta Block by The Fall.
The fantasy fiction Legend of the 9 paid a homage to the Nine by expanding the story context into a modern setting.