Secret societies have flourished throughout history and count Founding Fathers and royals among their ranks. By their very name, secret societies inspire curiosity and fascination. Thousands of these mysterious groups have been formed over time, and many have disappeared. Rich and poor, young and old, white and black people have joined mysterious, sometimes forbidden groups, and for what? In this article, we will shed light on the most mysterious groups and agendas behind them. Read on!
What Is a Secret Society?
A secret society is a club or an organization whose activities, events, inner functioning, or membership are concealed from non-members. Some of the societies may attempt to conceal its existence, others may not.
Alan Axelrod, the author of the International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders, defines a secret society as an organization that:
- is exclusive;
- claims to own special secrets;
- shows a strong inclination to favor its members.
Richard B. Spence, historian of the University of Idaho similarly defined three-pronged characteristics:
- The group’s existence is usually not kept secret, but some beliefs or practices are concealed from the public and require an oath of secrecy to learn.
- The group promises superior status or knowledge to members.
- The group’s membership is in some way restrictive, such as by race, sex, religious affiliation, or invitation only.
Richard B. Spence also proposes a sub-category of “Elite Secret Societies” which are composed of high-income or socially influential people.
David V. Barrett, author of Secret Societies: From the Ancient and Arcane to the Modern and Clandestine, has used alternative terms to define what qualifies a secret society. He defined a Secret Society as any group that possesses the following characteristics:
- carefully graded and progressed teachings;
- teachings are available only to selected individuals and lead to hidden truths;
- truths bring personal benefits beyond the reach and even the understanding of the uninitiated.
Now let’s take a closer look at the 3 world’s most mysterious Secret Societies.
3 World’s Most Mysterious Secret Societies
The first thing you should know about this organization is that it is the main wellspring of clandestine societies. It’s been around longer, has had more members and developed more rituals, rites, secret handshakes, legends and myths than almost any other.
The Catholic Church wishes it didn’t exist. No organization has been condemned by the Catholic Church more than the Masonic Lodge. The Catholic Church has imposed the penalty of excommunication on all Catholics who become Freemasons (or members of the Masonic Lodge). The 1983 CDF declaration states that Catholics “who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”
It’s a little-known fact that Adolf Hitler believed that the Freemasons were a tool of the Jews. In 1935, the German government dissolved all lodges and confiscated their assets. It is believed that the Nazis murdered between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons.
Many of the Founding Fathers (including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin) were Freemasons, as were many of other famous people, including 14 American Presidents, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, John Wayne, Richard Pryor, Wolfgang Mozart, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde.
There are three levels of membership:
- entered apprentice;
- fellow of the craft;
- master mason.
To this day, a Freemason signature is the elaborate secret handshake, or “grip”.
Elements of the order’s visual iconography have become part of everyday life – like the “Eye of Providence” on the back of the dollar bill. Some say the layout of Washington, D.C., is a giant reference to Freemasonry, filled with pentagrams and other Masonic designs.
Over the years, there has been a decline in members. It is estimated there are between 2 and 6 million freemasons globally.
#2: The Illuminati
This mysterious group has been the subject of fearmongering and bizarre speculations more than any other secret organization, though is existed less than a decade.
The story starts with Johann Adam Weishaupt, a law professor at a university in Bavaria, where he was the only teacher who wasn’t a Jesuit priest. In fact, he was so fascinated by Enlightenment thinking that he rejected religion. He wanted instead to establish a secret society of people who had the same views, beliefs, and principles as him, and who might help him advance his ideas.
He couldn’t afford the membership in the Freemasons, so he decided to start his own organization, which he called the Perfectibilists.
Within two years, he had changed the name of the organization to the Illuminati and convinced four of his students to join him.
Weishaupt took a pseudonym Spartacus, and the others assumed names like Ajax, Agathon, and Tiberius.
His goal was to cultivate in his followers a deep belief in the Enlightenment principles of reason, philanthropy, secularity, freedom of expression, individual liberty and morality. They would spread these ideas when they inevitably assumed positions of power.
Essentially, this small group of people in the latter half of the 18th century wanted to take over and rule the world, and they believed they could do it a little bit at a time. One approach was to join other secret societies – like Freemasons, when they could afford to – and to establish sleeper cells within them, recruiting others to their cause.
They were also big on rituals, secret symbols, handshakes, passwords, and initiations. That’s part of what gives the order such a mystique.
At their peak, in the early 1780s, the Illuminati were thought to number between 600 and 2,500 members, most of whom were unaware of each other’s identities.
In 1785, the Duke of Bavaria, fearful of the growing power of the secret societies, banned them all. This brought the Illuminati to the end, less than 10 years after they’d started their existance.
If this organization existed for less than 10 years than why do people still believe in their power more than two centuries later? Well, at least part of the credit for their fame belongs to John Robison, who in 1797 published Proofs of a Conspiracy, a book that claims that the Illuminati had infiltrated other organizations and the rumors of their demise had been greatly exaggerated.
This story spread like wildfire and made its way to America, where George Washington considered it an issue. Around the same time, Charles Brockden Brown was pioneering the American Gothic genre of fiction with novels like Ormond; Or The Secret Witness, which contained clear references to the Illuminati and their sinister activities.
While that panic eventually dissipated, the rumors stayed, mostly in the background. Then, in the 1970s, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson wrote a series of popular science-fiction books known as The Illuminatus! Trilogy that reintroduced the Illuminati to modern readers. The books combined facts with fantasy. The authors found much of their material in letters sent to Playboy magazine’s forum section, which they edited for many years.
Those books elevated Illuminati fever to a new level, one which conspiracy theorists still embrace to an alarming degree, certain the secret Illuminati groups manipulate all parts of mainstream global life.
#3: The Rosicrucians
This is one of the most secretive orders that roots its beliefs back to ancient Egypt. Egypt was the birthplace, not of the Rosicrucians, but of the Ancient Mysteries and the Secret Doctrines, which gradually, slowly and almost imperceptibly, throughout the centuries of time, developed a system that became Rosicrucianism.
The Rosicrucians brought together into one organization the various associations of individuals previously known as the Hermetists, Pythagoreans, Magi, Platonists, Gnostics, Alchemists, and Paracelsians.
The Rosicrucian Fraternity existed in America prior to the First American Revolution. In 1774, the great Council of Three (the Fraternity’s ultimate governing body) was composed of Benjamin Franklin, George Clymer, and Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine was later succeeded by Lafayette, who, like Benjamin Franklin, was a member of the Paris Rosicrucian lodge “Humanidad.” In 1842, the Great Council of Three was revitalized by the novelist, George Lippard, who rewrote the exoteric ritual, giving it a patriotic-Christian basis. During the Civil War this Great Council was composed of Paschel Beverly Randolph, General Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Abraham Lincoln.
The Rosicrucians follow a doctrine that is built on esoteric truths of the ancient past. Those truths apparently include things that the average person cannot see and give believers insight into nature, the physical universe, and the spiritual realm.
They study many theories and beliefs but specifically, they seek knowledge and spiritual wisdom about the true nature of space and time, mystical power, metaphysical laws, spiritual alchemy and others.
They believe that there is one God, the Creator and source of all. That within each of us is buried a particle of the Divine Spark that is our soul. The Rosicrucians teach how to develop this Divine Spark through transmutation of one’s lower nature and increase the feeling of love within. The main goal of their teaching is to help the adherents to build this soul spark into a glorious, conscious Soul that forms a direct link between the individual and God. This state of spiritual development they term as Soul Illumination.
The name Rosicrucian is derived from rosa (a rose) and crux (a cross). The general symbol of the order was a rose placed on the center of a cross. The Rose Cross has a mystical meaning. The fully bloomed rose in the center of the Cross symbolizes illumination of the Soul.
The Bottom Line
These 3 mysterious groups are perhaps some of the most well-known secret societies but there have been and certainly still exist many more. With the explosion of the internet and the vast sea of easily accessible information that has come with it, it has become increasingly difficult to determine fact from fiction when it comes to these mysterious secret societies.
Positives and negatives could come from joining or taking an oath of silence with any group. It’s important before committing to any such action to diligently research to ensure one knows exactly what they are getting involved in and that it’s aligned with their highest good.