Secret Societies are groups who have decided to keep their activities, events, rituals, members, and even membership secret from those who aren’t invited or allowed to join. Some of these secret societies may even try to keep ‘regular’ people from even knowing they exist. This secrecy has long led many of these societies to be viewed as evil or destructive; conspiracy theorists love to pin all the world’s troubles on these societies. For example, everyone knows that the Illuminati control the banks of the entire world and we are just working, like little ants on an ant farm, while they reap the profits and leave us with barely enough to scrape by.
Historically, however, secret societies were less about overthrowing the world governments and more about getting together in groups of like-minded people in order to share in mutually enjoyed hobbies and even to gain knowledge through esoteric education. The International Order of St. Hubertus, for example, was a secret society formed for hunters. Freemasonry was started by stone masons who originally were part of guilds.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the formation and joining of these sorts of societies hit a peak. Going to a secret society meeting meant getting together with other like-minded men (and occasionally women) in order to discuss everything from education to religion in a place that was safe from those who might seek to persecute them for thinking differently. This was the search for hidden sacred knowledge.
Seeking universal truths was a huge part of these organizations and this esoteric education often took a front and center role. It’s not so much that these organizations had hidden truth and forbidden knowledge that they were hiding from people outside their ranks, but more that they were having discussions about life, the universe, the existence of God and what it all means. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why do bad things happen? Many secret societies even today require that new members have a belief in a Divine being. Historically a belief in a Supreme Being, the great creator of all the universe was seen as absolutely necessary if you were going to honestly try to figure out all the great mysteries of life.
Today there are only a handful of these Secret Societies left in our modern era and even fewer have any real membership and are still active in their communities. Most people recognize the Order of the Elks, and the Moose Lodge, but we still have Freemasons and one of their sub-organizations the Oriental Shrine (you’ve probably seen Shriners in your local 4th of July parade), and even some college groups such as The Order of Skull and Bones.
Despite the mystery and rumor that surrounds these groups, they are not as scary as conspiracy theorists would have people believe. Many of our secret societies are simply groups of people that enjoy getting together, exercising their minds with special rites and rituals, and then spend time coming up with ways to help improve their community and the world around them. Check out your local newspaper or community group and chances are you’ll find something going on at a local secret society temple that you can participate in and maybe you’ll be able to learn what secret hidden knowledge they have.