Mysteries and Tales Of Secret Sects and Societies
A few us friends were having a heated discussion on topics about Secret sects like Illuminati, Freemasons and ancient wisdom and most of the people present there felt that there had to be something about them for such phenomenon or whatever we call them, to become popular and demand such a lot of public attention and fascination. There is fear mingled with respect when the societies are discussed and spoken about.
I felt I had to do some more research on the subject ( by reading online and get details from some books that I had with me ) and write an article on this fascinating subject. The fact that such societies and sects tend to be secretive only makes them that much more attractive to outsiders.
The origin of secret societies and what lies behind the beliefs and rituals of many of the world’s religions itself is a very interesting subject. It also becomes apparent as we discover that this natural world relates entirely to our belief systems. These beliefs are found and to a certain extent similar the world over and are the basis of secret societies. Many scholars and researchers are of the opinion that the institution of Religion is the basis for most of these societies although some of them tend to be independent of any such beliefs.
However, to understand the language of secret societies and exactly what a secret society is in itself a hotly debated subject and is open to various interpretations depending on regions and also cultural influences. We discover that there have been tales of secret societies throughout history. One can also see that religion is somehow or the other linked to these secret sects and societies.
In India we had Sadhus and Sants and people well versed in magic, black magic and other supernatural phenomena and formed their own groups although it had a few followers probably only those involved in those practices.
But the question here is why these societies had to remain secret ?
According to popular belief, it is because all those meeting in secret and forming secret societies, were Important and influential people, who had a higher goal and were plotting to bring in some major changes to civilization - whether this was through destroying religious institution, mainly the Church or the royalty or in some rare cases through defending the same. Either way these people made a difference and there was a need for secrecy if their plans had to succeed.
This is what happened in Germany and Europe where Illuminati was formed by the most intelligent and learned people as a revolt against the Church which tried to keep people in ignorance and strictly under its control. This was because they did not want anyone to question the role of church and its keepers. Church wielded a lot of power and this power which they got because of faith made them very powerful and they did not want to lose any of that simply because a few people wanted to change the way people thought about Church, God and Religion.
There is a belief that almost all top world leaders are part of one or the other secret society or sect, and this fact gives them immense power because the members always stick together and are able to manipulate every situation to their best advantage. To wield this kind of power and influence also compels these secret societies to remain secret and elitist.
Some of the top Secret Societies
1. The Illuminati
In recent times, the Illuminati have received a lot of attention with many books and movies being written about the organization, the most popular and recent one being Angels and Demons written by Dan Brown and made into a popular film. Unfortunately many of the things that the group has become known for, are mostly based on exaggerated myths. The group is thought to be based on a real organization that existed in Europe in the mid to late 1700s.
However, the group disbanded several years after its organization and is not thought to have continued in any of its past form. However, it is believed that a few intelligent criminal minds tried to reinvent the same organisation and use it to their advantage in the early years of 20th century.
It started as a movement of freethinkers who were the most radical offshoot of the Enlightened people, whose followers were given the name Illuminati. It started basically as a think tank that aimed at enlightening the minds of the people against the church .
According to records the society was founded on May 1, 1776 in Ingolstadt a part of Upper Bavaria in Germany, by Adam Weishaupt who was a law professor and a philosopher. This group is now known as the Bavarian Illuminati. Although it was not legally allowed to operate, many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians were drawn to the society and became its secret members. Although, totally frowned upon by the church, they did manage to function and bring in some changes.
There were some well known Freemasons too among the members, although it was not endorsed by Masons. Illuminati was much ahead of its time and did not require a belief in a supreme being and this made them particularly popular amongst atheists and also the fact that most members were against cruelty inflicted by religion gave rise to a widespread belief that the Illuminati wanted to overthrow organized religion, mainly The Church.
However, Power struggle within and panic over the succession of a new leader, and governmental and attempts by the religious institutions to overthrow the group saw it slowly collapsing in the late 1700s. It was also a fact that Church and its hold was complete over people during those dark ages and societies such as Illuminati could not survive for long .
Despite this, there is firm belief that the Bavarian Illuminati did survive the onslaughter and remains active possibly to this day. However, other than in fiction and writings by some modern day authors, there is very little reliable evidence found to support the idea that Weishaupt’s group survived into the 19th century or beyond that.
However, many people believe that the Illuminati is still operating and managing the main actions of the governments of the world. It is believed that they wish to create a One World Government based on humanist and atheist principles. Alive, functional or not the sect is revered the most among all secret sects and societies to this day and rates number one among all the groups, which I personally think is because there is very little known about its existence and other details.
2, The Freemasons
The case is wholly different when it comes to Freemasons. The Freemasons is one of the most well organized and recognized of the secret societies and it continues to remain active and thriving to this day. There are supposed to be 5 million members worldwide and the organization has lodges all over the world. Officially the society was started in the year 1717. It is organized into a hierarchy of lodges that preside over lodges in its jurisdiction.
I remember how I used be scared of a neighbor supposedly a member of the Freemasons, simply because there were all sorts of mysterious tales floating around, about him and the society he belonged to. Since then, I have been totally fascinated by these secret societies and sects that seem to have grown in stature and mystery over the years. The Freemasons are known for their secrecy in regards to their traditions and rituals. They use secret handshakes and signs to identify other members. This is a secret that they never give out to anyone, not even to their close family members and friends unless the other person too is a Freemason.
There are many famous members of the Freemasons and they include Prince Philip, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill and many other heads of states from all over the world. It is very active in India with many of the top politicians, Industrialists and other celebrities and the rich, famous and the powerful as its active members.
The Grand Masonic Lodge was created in 1717 when four small groups of lodges joined together. There is a clear strata of levels within the Mason society. Membership levels were initially first and second degree, but was later expanded to create the third degree which caused a split in the group.
When a person reaches the third degree, they are called a Master Mason. Masons conduct their regular meetings in a ritualized style. This includes many references to architectural symbols such as the compass and square. Religion and belief in God is very essential and important to Freemasons. They refer to God as “The Great Architect of the Universe”.
The three degrees of Freemason society are as follows
1. Entered Apprentice - This makes you a basic member of the group. You are still at the basic level and need to learn all about the society before you make any further progress.
2. Fellow Craft - This is an intermediate degree in which you are meant to develop further knowledge of Masonry and get to know the intricacies of the society .
3. Master Mason- This degree is necessary for participating in most masonic activities and is reached after having successfully proved oneself.
Masons use signs and handshakes to gain admission to their meetings, as well as to identify themselves to other people who may be Masons. It is also a known fact that these signs and handshakes can differ from one jurisdiction to another and are often changed or updated depending on the need. This is to protect the group from others finding out how to gain admission under false pretenses.
Most of the members of FreeMasons also wear stylized clothing and are well dressed.They normally wear a three-piece suit which practice is apparently based on the clothing worn by masons from the middle ages. They want to make an elegant impression and stand out in a crowd, this is something I have been told by one of the members himself.
In order to become a Mason, you must generally be recommended by a current mason who is at the third degree level. There are cases where members have gained entry only after being recommended three times or more. You have to be at least 18 years old and in good health and mentally fit and alert, also be a believer of god and religion and last but not least you should be a male - no entry for women in the Freemasons society!
Many religions frown upon membership of the Masons, and the Roman Catholic Church forbids Catholics to join, but there are quite a few Catholics who are part of the group such is its pull, attraction or fascination, which is irresistible to many.
3, The order of the skull and Bones
This Skull and Bones organization does not deny its existence, in fact they are happy at being known.The only secret about them is their practices and rituals. Of all the secret societies and organizations that exist at prestigious colleges, Yale’s Skull and Bones is the most well known.
It was started in 1832 and to this day they still meet every Thursday and Sunday. The very name suggests that many of its members are a part of America’s political elite and they include Senators, Presidents, judges, and other highly influential people.
The Order of Skull and Bones which began as a Yale University society, was originally known as the Brotherhood of Death. It is now considered to be one of the oldest student secret societies in the United States. It was founded in 1832 and membership is open to only a elite few. They keep to themselves and conduct their meetings in extreme secrecy.
The society has its own rituals and many of them are apparently inspired from Freemasons. Members of the society meet every Thursday and Sunday of each week in a building that is referred to be ‘The Tomb’ – can there be anything more mysterious?
According to Judy Schiff, the Chief Archivist at the Yale University, the names of the members of the society were not kept secret until the 1970’s. Both of the Bush presidents were members of the society while studying at Yale, and a number of other members who have all been very prominent members of the society.
The society as I mentioned earlier, has always been surrounded by many mysterious theories - the most popular among them was probably the idea that the CIA was built on members belonging to this group. When this rumor began to spread, the CIA released a statement in 2007 ( after a few controversial films were also released that substantiated this theory), in which it denied that the group had anything to do with them.
4, The Bilderberg Group
The Bilderberg group which was formed in 1954 is not so much a secret society as it is a secret meeting of a group of highly influential world leaders. Those attending the Bilderberg meeting do so in complete secrecy. No press is allowed inside and no one knows what goes on inside these meetings.
This has lead to speculations and added on to the mystery. Because of this the group is found at the center of many modern day conspiracy theories due to its members and the secrecy surrounding the meetings .
Although the group has no famous members, the attendees have included the royal families of Spain and the Netherlands, World Bank officials, and representatives from major corporations. They are all influential in their own way. The Bilderberg Group , which claims it is not a secret society, does operate under a similar veil of mystery, which has made it the subject of countless conspiracy theories and criticisms.
The group which was started in 1954 in the Netherlands, since then has convened every year as an exclusive, invitation-only conference of various world leaders, industrial heads, and media moguls – all extremely powerful people from all over the world.
Although initially it began as an anti-American group that spread through Europe , over the years it appears to have transformed itself into a party that has been helping the powerful on reaching mutual understanding between cultures.
By and by over the years, the Bilderberg Group has become controversial and often criticised for one major reason- because no press is allowed in the conference and no significant details or for that no important issue concerning the topics discussed are ever officially released to the public. This kind of utter secrecy, which naturally attracts intense security of the meeting sites and who’s who? Who attend these meetings, has produced a number of conspiracy theories .
The most popular theory that is often put forward by the media is that the group tries to steer the direction of public policy, financial markets, and media in certain prescribed directions of their choosing. There is also another theory which suggests that they have the goal of forming a so called “One World Government “ that is controlled by the members. Naturally, all these claims have been brushed aside by the group, which claims global understanding and the end of nuclear proliferation as its main goals. However, the speculation and mystery continues even as the powerful group meets periodically the discuss and probably deliver what is decided upon in these meetings .
5, The Knights Templar
Probably the least known of all is this group - The original Knights Templar group apparently was a ritualistic religious group which was formed in the 12th century in France and spread to Europe. The group as it is today has its base in Masons group. The Masonic Knights Templar as it called today has no real ties to the original medieval Knights Templar group .
However, it is believed that many of its rituals and traditions are based on the historic Knights Templar. The organization has ties with Masonry, which is what it can be considered an offshoot of. One of the requirements for membership is Master Masonry which goes to show how inter connected the two groups are. Members of the Masonic Knights Templar do not claim a direct connection to the medieval group although they have a borrowed ideas and symbols from the original group. In order to become a member of this group, you must already be a Christian Master Mason.
So basically the two major requirements are that you have to be a follower of Christianity and also be a mason of the highest order. This organization is quite a distinct one, and is not just a higher degree of Masonry. There are many criticisms by the masons themselves against this organisation since they feel it is more a mix of their rituals and customs mixed with the medieval Templar society .
Whether a common man directly gets influenced by these secret societies’ is quite another matter. Many people may not even be aware of their very existence .
However, those of us who remain fascinated and interested, do so because almost all these groups have powerful members who have the clout and influence to bring about changes. Their existence and the manner in which they function does raise many questions in our minds. Importantly are these sects and societies legal? If so why do they function in such mysterious manner?
(Images from wikimedia )
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