Secret Societies

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to Secret Societies: illuminati, Conspiracy theories
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Secret Societies


a late form of men’s societies. Secret societies arose with the decline of the primitive communal system and were used by the clan or tribal elite to establish its domination over the rest of the clan or tribe. The terms “secret societies” and “men’s societies” are often used synonymously.

Judging from extant survivals, secret societies apparently existed all over the world, and many tribes of North America, Oceania, and tropical Africa had secret societies until modern times. As a rule, large expenditures were required to gain admission to a secret society and particularly to attain a high social rank within it; in effect, as secret societies developed, they became societies of the rich, freeing their members from the authority of the clan or tribe and protecting their property and their influential position. This was achieved both by sheer terror and by subjecting the uninitiated to the psychological effect of mysterious assemblies, rituals, and terrifying cults.

Secret societies were among the mechanisms serving to destroy the clans’ and tribes’ system of popular rule and to create a political power separate from the people. In some places, for example in West Africa, secret societies were still retained in the early class societies, where they provided support for statehood, then still weak. At the same time, at all stages of development, secret societies usually retained such functions of early men’s societies as preparing young men for family and public life and ensuring the domination of men over women.


Pershits, A. I., A. L. Mongait, and V. P. Alekseev. Istoriia pervobytnogo obshchestva, 2nd ed. [Moscow, 1974.]
Schurtz, H. Altersklassen und Mannerbiinde. Berlin, 1902.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The book was translated into English by 1799 and was widely read among European leaders, contributing to widespread awareness of the secret machinations of secret societies in those days that has largely been lost in contemporary times.
Freemasonry, which had its own variations of the metaphysics of the Catholic Church, shaped and inspired Balzac's own preoccupation with secret societies. Balzac's first intellectual contacts with the ideas of Gall (phrenology), Lavater (physiognomy), and especially with Mesmer (animal magnetism) are also discussed in this chapter.
While secret societies were nothing new in Connacht during the early nineteenth century, the Ribbonmen seemed to have surpassed any previous groups in their level of organisation and infiltration.
The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians provides a fine history of secret societies and presents the first definitive, in-depth survey of these societies from their German origins in 1603 to their philosophy and development, including coverage of individuals who influenced the movement.
Is Gordon a secret Mason or am I barking up the wrong tree and are there lots more secret societies out there supporting Gordon Brown, and desperate to reward him when he is evicted?
The usurping Emperor, or rather, his father, is head of the great secret societies known as "The Great Sword" and "The Boxers", extending over the provinces of Chih-Li, Shantung, and Honar,members of which recently murdered the Rev Mr Brookes, an English missionary.
Visitors will learn about the estate's rumoured connections with the Holy Grail and links with secret societies. The walk, which starts at 11am, will finish at the Lady Walk Tearoom where soup and cake will be served.
I must, however, say that other readers (including myself) must have been mislead by your use of the term "secret societies" as is widely generalised by mainstream media to mean any closed-door organisation.
YOUR article (May 26) about a Welsh model being invited to strut her stuff at a meeting of the top secret Bohemian Grove society was very interesting; most senior politicians are members of one or another of these secret societies.
His vision was both practical--"formed upon purely business principles" the Knights provided insurance payments to widows and orphans--and pastoral: The group created an attractive alternative to the popular secret societies and lodges that could weaken a man's Catholic identity.
The paranoid tradition that invokes secret societies is particularly problematic in this respect; as Allen's example demonstrates, these narratives have frequently been deployed by archconservative groups with a demonizing, racist agenda.
During its 2002 meeting in Lambeth, the legal advisers of 17 member churches identified 15 current legal issues affecting various provinces of the communion, among them the applicability of civil law standards to the church, arbitrary action by bishops, secret societies, marriage and polygamy, inter-Anglican relations (recognition of ministry and territorial jurisdiction), among others.