A secret society, as the name implies, is meant to be something the public knows nothing, or little, about. It wouldn’t be a secret otherwise! However, the existence of these societies is not secret from the public, only their actions, sometimes their mission, and usually their inner rules and activities. Occasionally, we as ‘normal people’ get a glimpse of what such a secret society does. This is usually when the society in question takes a measure against society, and usually, these confrontations are not too pleasant.
But that aside, secret societies are timeless and come in all shapes and sizes. Nowadays, it is easy to maintain an international society; after all, the Internet gives access to everything and everyone worldwide. However, limited communication via pen and parchment did not prevent societies from spreading worldwide in the past. Below we mention ten great societies that our history has known (and some of them have been around for centuries, and still are!)
10. Ordo Templi Orientis
We start with a ‘youngster.’ The Ordo Templi Orientis is new-age esotericism that focuses on finding your own identity. Members perform rituals and other occult acts to rise the ranks of the Ordo. A well-known Ordo member was Aleister Crowly, who wrote the manifesto Mysteria Mystica Maxima for the Ordo Tempi. After his death, however, the Ordo Tempi declined in popularity. They still exist, but to a small extent, mainly in the United States and England. They have also become increasingly open in their practices, although those practices are not diminishing in strangeness! At the Ordo Tempi, for example, they have a strange fascination with sexuality and the ‘magic of masturbation.’ What can be magical about such an act?
9. The Bilderberg Group
We take a broad interpretation of ‘society’ for a moment because the Bilderberg group is, in principle, not a society, but a group of like-minded people. They are, therefore, no less mysterious, which is why they deserve a place on this list. It is a group of people that meet every year (you must have an invitation!). Only world leaders, media moguls, and SEOs from multinationals receive such an invitation. This group has been meeting since 1954 (first meeting was at the Dutch Bilderberg hotel in Oosterbeek, hence the name). Their official agenda is to discuss the integration of different cultures around the world. That, anyway, is what they claim to be doing. However, no one knows what is being discussed, and the media is not allowed, nor do the guests talk about their findings after the meetings!
It is difficult not to form suspicious feelings about this. The most popular theory (but by no means the only one) is that during these gatherings the aim is for world domination by one government. But no one knows the truth! Except, of course… the invitees!
Health! We go back in time, about seven centuries ago, but love. Hashshashin means assassin, and the members of this living in the Middle Ages. They were Muslims, but a group that had split from the others because they disagreed with how they handled their affairs. These Shia Muslims thought it would be a good idea to establish their utopian state. However, their numbers were small, so they needed all kinds of military tactics to keep things under control and keep their enemies out of their utopia.
Therefore, they did not shrink from sabotage, espionage, and mainly political assassinations. But don’t judge them too harshly, because the members of the Hashshashin were known for the minimal civilian casualties they managed to make!
Sadly, they were brutally wiped out by the Mongols, who conquered almost all of Europe around that time, led by Genghis and grandson Kublai Kahn. Unfortunately, their library, containing precious manuscripts of their doings, was totally destroyed. However, it is rumored that members used drugs during their attacks. Hashshashin could mean ‘hashshash-in’ or, hashish-taker. However, the original meaning, “murderer” is really the more credible interpretation for most historians!
7. The Black Hand
Pietje Bel had a youth gang with this name, but The Black Hand, translated ‘De Zwarte Hand,’ was a society of a slightly different order. It consisted of anti-imperialists and revolutionaries in Serbia and dated back to 1912. The idea: a united Slavic people. Their goal: to split the Austria-Hungary monarchy. The plan: instigate a war between Serbia and Austria, so that the areas where Slavic peoples lived could be reclaimed.
Perhaps the group would have fallen into obscurity had it not been for the decisive role in the murder of Franz Ferdinand, the start of, yes, the First World War. However, this war did not get the members quite what they wanted, and instead ended up, through World War II, in Russian rule for over 30 years!
6. The Knights of the Golden Circle
A century before the Black Hand and on the other side of the world, the Knights of the Golden Circle were active. This group of men was active during the American Civil War. This society, however, was not limited to mysterious gatherings and rituals. They formed an outright guerrilla army with which they, sometimes successfully, made the enemy’s life miserable. Unfortunately, we don’t know about their internal rituals, but because they have a brilliant name, they still deserve a mention on this list!
Many societies are accused of having malicious intent, but this one is one of the few where there is evidence that this was actually the case. Its origins lie in Germany, just after the First World War. They soon developed a focus on the Aryan race, and began to discriminate against Jews and other “less fortunate.” In 1919 they started a political branch called the German Workers’ Party. Rumor has it that Adolf Hitler was a member of this society. At least he was a member of the party! In fact, he gradually took over the party …
4. Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty, not so much one central society, as an agglomeration of smaller groups operating more or less under the same heading. All this just before the American Revolutionary War (War for Independence from England, 1775–1783). They met around an elm, and this elm is now known as the freedom tree. There they discussed their plans to promote resistance (against English domination). They are particularly known for their saying “no taxation without representation” or “no taxation without representation” (but of course it sounds much nicer in English). Another world-infamous act of the Boston’s Sons was the Boston Tea Party, where they dumped a whole load of tea into the harbor dressed as Indians. Now English can have a lot,
3. Skulls and Bones
Translated, this is the Society of ‘Skulls and Bones’, and both Presidents Bush (Senior and Junior) are members, as is John Kerry! It’s a university student organization (exactly one of those infamous student clubs). New members are sought every year, and the only requirement to participate is that you are a campus leader. In other words, only top athletes, members of the student council, and other presidents of distinguished clubs are eligible. Very open, and yet a little bit limited …
To the disappointment of conspiracy fanatics, it appears that few occult rituals are performed during the club’s weekly meetings. In any case, nothing of this kind comes out! As an initiation, members must submit their sex history to the entire club, and be given a nickname based on that. That is how Bush Senior would be called ‘Magog’. Well, with such a nickname this society deserves a nice third place.
They are the subject of a very successful book, and perhaps an even more successful film adaptation, but it is not all fiction that Dan Brown wrote. The actual organization is from Germany, from 1700, and consisted of a group of enlightened free-thinkers. The media, however, turned their back on them and they were soon seen in the eyes of the common people as dissidents and rioters who wanted to sabotage the government. Shortly after, the group broke up, but thanks to their constant attention in popular media, they are far from being forgotten.
Some conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati has not disappeared but is simply in hiding. As a real secret organization that is of course possible. After all, they are only really good secrets if we don’t know about them. The Bush family, Obama, Churchhill, all would have been members! As long as they are a truly secret organization, however, we will never know for sure. Because they are so popular in the media, and because everyone knows them, this officially non-existent society gets a well-deserved second place here.
1. The Freemasons
Perhaps no longer as secretive as it used to be, this is one of the oldest, widely distributed, and once secretive organizations in the world. It is estimated that about 5 million people are members of the Freemasons today. They started small, of course, in 1717, although it is suspected that something was going on much earlier. Some historians believe they can find documents as far back as 1300!
The central idea was the need for moral uprightness, agogy, and charity work. However, conspiracy theorists suspect that this much goodwill never is possible, and that is why there are rumors that the Freemasons participate in all kinds of occult rituals. One of the few rituals that have been confirmed, however, is that you cannot join until another Freemason recommends you. Art, with 5 million members…
They deserve the top spot because of their size, and because they have had an aura of mystery around them for so long.
As the Illuminati illustrates, it is difficult to say which secret societies exist in the world; after all, the “good” secret societies are unknown to us. However, the less ‘secret’ secret societies, those societies that exist openly and are secret only with their practices; those societies have been reviewed here. That is to say, a very small selection from a huge number. In any case, as far as societies are concerned, secret or not, occult or not, past or present, there is something to suit everyone’s taste. And if not… then you create your own society, right?