Secret Societies. We have all stumbled upon this term somewhere or sometime in our lives. Whether you are a Dan Brown worshipper visualizing every bit of detail he has to give about the Illuminati and Opus Dei or a movie buff watching the Order of Phoenix come to life, you have surely experienced what secret societies offer best: intrigue, fascination and curiosity. To some, the name invokes the visual of a shady yet elite encrypted meeting behind closed chambers, discussing world domination strategies. For others, the image of weirdly clothed men and women performing eccentric ceremonies comes to the mind. For ages, these societies have been rumored to coexist with the ordinary parallel world and, ever since the start, they have been shrouded in mystery and distrust. Secret societies have continued to emerge, with different agendas, motives, and target groups, across the world and have names like Leonardo da Vinci, Issac Newton, Galileo, Ashoka, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc. associated with them.
Conspiracy theories have surrounded them for centuries, mainly because of their discrete nature, and some conspiracy theorists have even gone to the lengths of linking events like the French Revolution, JFK’s assassination to secret societies like the Illuminati. There is no evidence to validate such myths till date. Recently in 2016, with the sudden death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on a West Texas Cibolo Creek Ranch, a report by Washington Post reignited the discussion on secret societies by associating him with the International Order of St. Hubertus, a secret society for elite hunters. Again, the truth of it can’t be validated as a part of it has surely departed with the dead and the other part of it remains concealed by the rest. Here are some of the most mysterious societies that have existed.
The Knights Templar
A Catholic military order founded in 1119, with its headquarters on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, was committed to the task of protecting pilgrims during the crusades. Also known as the Order of Solomon’s Temple or Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ, the temple pledged to live a life of celibacy, obedience and destitution, desisting from wagering, liquor and even cursing. Apart from their military prowess and moral lifestyles, they became famous as the first international banking institution in the world as pilgrims would deposit money in their home country and could withdraw into the holy land. In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a Papa Bull Omne datum optimum, exempting them from paying taxes. It was also decreed that they would be answerable to none other than the Pope himself. Their riches were flourishing and they were even lending to the kings. However, with the end of the crusades, they withdrew to Paris and focused on banking. In the early 14th century, Pope Clement V, under pressure from the French crown, formally dissolved the order and redistributed its wealth. It’s said that King Philip IV of France was deeply in debt to the order and unable to pay back the debt and, on being denied further loans, caused the extermination of the Knights Templar in 1312. Dan Brown, in his book “The Da Vinci Code”, has kept the mystery revolving around the Knights Templar alive, who apparently continue to guard ancient artifacts like the Holy Grail and the Shroud of Turin. Movies such as National Treasure, The Last Templar, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are also based on the secret order. With far reaching military missions and extensive financial resources at their disposal, the Knights Templar funded a large number of building projects around Europe and the Holy Land, many of which continue to stand till date. The Temple Mount of Jerusalem, Gastria and Kolossi Castle in Cyprus, Temple Church in Bristol are some of the many templar sites. The Cross of Lorraine was used as a symbol of the order and Second World War, it was also used as a symbol of French resistance to Nazi Rule.
Skull and Bones
Founded by William Huntington Russell at Yale University in 1832, this secret society was inspired by an occult society he had visited in Germany. It is also known as The Order, Order 322 or The Brotherhood of Death. The prominent list of Bonesman, as the members are called, includes several presidents and power brokers. Every year, 15 seniors at Yale are selected to be a part of Skull and Bones. Their names are published in Yale Rumpus. No one knows what happens behind the closed doors of The Tomb, the windowless meeting space where Bonesmen gather twice a week. Members are supposed to take an oath of secrecy. Graduate members are called “patriarchs,” while those undergoing initiation are called “knights.” Outsiders of the group are “barbarians.” There have been rumors that Skull and Bones is a branch of the Illuminati, having been founded by German university alumni following the order’s suppression in Bavaria by Karl Theodor. Some believe that Skull and Bones itself controls the Central Intelligence Agency and that their ultimate objective is world domination. In her book , “Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power”, Alexandra Robbins writes that “New members reportedly divulge intimate personal details, including their full sexual histories, before they’re inducted. They also agree to give part of their estates to the club. But, in return, they receive the promise of lifelong financial stability – so they won’t feel tempted to sell the club’s secrets”. US President was one of the last of a long line of bonesmen in his family. You can read more about Skulls and Bones here.
Freemasons are an integral part of US history. 13 of the 39 men who signed the US constitution were masons. Known as one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, it was formed in the Middle Ages in Europe by a group of men who were skilled builders. Starting from cathedral builders, this secret club went on to include some of the greatest men as its members, including monarchs, politicians, founding fathers. Wondering how the likes of Mozart, Voltaire and Oscar Wilde got to join their ranks ! You might be surprised to know that 14 US Presidents are known to be its members including the great George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR. The earliest reference to masons is made in the Regius Poem/Halliwell Manuscript (1390), but Freemasonry as we know currently, was instituted in 1717, when four London lodges merged to form England’s first Grand Lodge. Freemasonry quickly spread across Europe and to the American colonies. They are not a religious organization per se, but they have been at constant loggerheads with the Catholic Church since 1738 when the church issued 20 decrees against them. The conflict arises mainly due to their secret rituals as well as their masonic temples. Freemasons continue to exist today and have a great public image, all thanks to the extraordinary charity work done by its subsidiary order known as Shriners/ Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The rituals and the initiation ceremony is still shrouded in mystery and no one outside of the order knows exactly what goes on in the smoke-filled chamber. However, The Simpsons took creative liberty to parody their rituals in one of their episodes. You can check it out here. The symbol used by Freemasons is “The Square and Compasses,” which depicts a builder’s square joined by a compass. The “G” at its might mean God as “Grand Architect of Universe” or “Geometry”. The other popular symbol used by the Freemasons is the “All-Seeing Eye”, which might be used to highlight the omniscience of God. If at all you wish to join the guild, just so you know, their motto happens to be “All you have to do is ask”. Membership is open to all males over the age of 21, and women can join an associated group known as “The Order of the Eastern Star”.
Rumored to be the driving force behind both the American and French revolutions of the 18th century as well as both world wars, this secret organization was established in Bavaria in 1770 by Adam Weishaupt, a Jewish convert to Roman Catholicism who sought to cast aside organized religion in favor of a new form of “illumination” through reason. “The overall goal of the Illuminati was to establish a free and just society, without ecclesiastical or political tyranny in which both men and women were considered equal, and church authorities had no say. To this end, they allegedly sought freedom of speech and a complete overthrow of existing power structures ” All communication was in cipher and members had classical nicknames. Weishaupt was called Spartacus. They flourished until 1787, when Duke Karl Theodor of Bavaria issued an edict declaring illuminati membership as punishable by death. Did it dismantle after that or continued to grow in secrecy ? No one knows. There have been conspiracies of the Illuminati being linked with the assassination of John F Kennedy as well. Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” talks about the illuminati “as a secret society committed to scientific truth”. Remember the canister proving the existence of dark matter aka god particle ? If not, go read the book now ! Another amazing read on the illuminati, which brought cult society back in vogue is “The Illuminatus Trilogy” written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. You can read more about it here. If you wish to visit the very halls where this enlightenment took place, check out this article by BBC.
If you are a gaming freak, then you must know that the game Assassins Creed is based on them. You might have also seen their killing finesse in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
During the Islamic war of succession between Shias and Sunnis, Al-Afdal the Grand Vizier who effectively controlled the government, organized a coup and installed the younger son Al-Mustai’li as Caliph, as he could control him. However, a group of people supported the murdered prince Nizar’s house later known as Nizari Ismailis. The movement was led by Hassan-ibn-e-Sabbah, the founder and leader of the secret order of Assassins. Sabbah established his headquarters at Alamut. It’s often speculated that Hassan’s cult of Assassins was named Hashashins as they used to get high on hashish or opium and carry out assassinations.
“In present times, they have a global presence. They are led by their Imam Prince Karim Aga Khan. There are almost 15 million Nizari Ismailis who live in different countries throughout the globe. Although they are not militant now, the self-sacrificing Fida’i predecessors are still an important part of their history and shine brightly in their memories.”
“Though the last of the Hashashins died over six hundred years ago, their presence still lives on to this day, embodied in modern terrorist organizations, rogue mercenaries and military juntas—embodied in the very heart, brains and sinews of anyone who would seek to control, dominate and tyrannize through the means of force, bloodshed and menace to pursue any political, religious or economic agenda, regardless of faction or sect. In fact, their very name lives on to this day, entered into everyday language: assassin.”
The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World
According to a 1907 report by Seattle Republican, “it is claimed by members and officers that The Order of the Elks is one of the most thriving secret societies among Afro-Americans of this city.” This African-American fraternal order was established in 1897 in the United States. According to latest available information, it has 500,000 members and 1500 lodges in the world. It allows any American citizen, 21 years or older, who believes in God to be invited to join its ranks. You can find out more about them here.
Convened by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1954 at the Hotel de Bilderberg in the Netherlands, this gathering of powerful politicians from North America and Europe went on to become the Bilderberg Conference. With attendees like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger—and its use of the Chatham House Rule where no one is allowed to talk about the details of the meeting and no journalist is allowed to report on it, it becomes shrouded in mystery. According to a report in New York Times, there are several conspiracies around this meeting which included creation of European Union, Invasion of Iraq and Serbian bombing, and theorists have often speculated on their intentions of building a new world order and global dominion. You can read more about it here.
Books on Secret Societies
If this write-up spiked your imagination and curiosity, then you can also go for further reading. I am suggesting a list of books that I have come across regarding the same. It’s not a sponsored post and all the books I mention are chosen by me solely based on interest.
- Non Fiction
- “The World’s Most Dangerous Secret Societies” – James Jackson
- “The Real History of Secret Societies” – Professor Richard B. Spence
- “Secret Societies – The Complete Guide to Histories, Rites and Rituals” – Nick Redfern
- “Ancient Aliens and Secret Societies” – Mike Bara
- “Secret Societies: GARDINER’S FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE” – Philip Gardiner
- Dan Brown Books –
- The Da Vinci Code
- Angels and Demons
- The Lost Symbol
- “The Parting Glass” – Gina Marie Guadagnino
- “Labyrinth” – Kate Moss
- “The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud” – Julia Navarro
- “The Seven Dials Mystery” – Agatha Christie
- “The Alchemist’s Secret” – Scott Mariani
- “Ninth House” – Leigh Bardugo
- Dan Brown Books –
 Excerpt From: James Jackson. “The World’s Most Dangerous Secret Societies: The Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group, Knights Templar, The Jesuits, Skull And Bones And Others.” Apple Books.
Excerpt From: James Jackson. “The World’s Most Dangerous Secret Societies: The Illuminati, Freemasons, Bilderberg Group, Knights Templar, The Jesuits, Skull And Bones And Others.” Apple Books.