secret society


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Related to secret society: Freemason

secret society,

organization of initiated persons whose members, purposes, and rituals are kept secret. Human groups throughout history have maintained secret societies. The ceremonies of initiation into such a society typically begin with an oath pledging secrecy as to all proceedings of the society, ascribing special obligations to its members, and assenting to penalties for violation of the oath. This is followed by tests of the candidate's worthiness, including physical courage and even painful mutilations. A dominant theme in the initiation trials of most of these societies is the symbolism of death and rebirth. After the candidate has passed the prescribed tests, the secret knowledge is transmitted to him. Secret societies have served as schools in which the elders instruct the young men in the ways of their society. These initiations are reminiscent of coming-of-age ceremonies. Women have comparable societies, but theirs have never matched those of men in number. (A notable exception was the Hung Society of China, a secret society of women that lasted over 1,500 years.) The mysteriesmysteries,
in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults. The conventional religions of both Greeks and Romans were alike in consisting principally of propitiation and prayers for the good of the city-state, the tribe, or the family, and only secondarily of the person.
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, or secret rites and doctrines, of the Egyptians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and other ancient peoples were transmitted solely through secret societies. In modern civilizations secret societies such as FreemasonryFreemasonry,
teachings and practices of the secret fraternal order officially known as the Free and Accepted Masons, or Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Organizational Structure
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 are numerous. They usually offer various types of mutual aid for their members; there are, for example, special obligations to members who are ill and to the families of deceased members. Some historic secret societies, such as the Bavarian Illuminati, have been the object of massive paranoid speculation, accused of conspiring for world political domination; but the model of the secret society, with its emphasis on absolute commitment and secret truths that set the initiate apart, has been used to explain various political groups from terrorists to Cold Warriors. Some secret societies, e.g., the MafiaMafia
, name given to a number of organized groups of Sicilian brigands in the 19th and 20th cent. Unlike the Camorra in Naples, the Mafia had no hierarchic organization; each group operated on its own.
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 and the Ku Klux KlanKu Klux Klan
, designation mainly given to two distinct secret societies that played a part in American history, although other less important groups have also used the name.
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, under the guise of fraternal benevolence, have defended the interests of their members by violence. See also fraternal ordersfraternal orders,
organizations whose members are usually bound by oath and who make extensive use of secret ritual in the conduct of their meetings. Most fraternal orders are limited to members of one sex, although some include both men and women.
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, fraternityfraternity and sorority,
in American colleges, a student society formed for social purposes, into which members are initiated by invitation and occasionally by a period of trial known as hazing.
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.

Bibliography

See J. H. Lepper, Famous Secret Societies (1932); A. Daraul, A History of Secret Societies (1962); J. M. Roberts, The Mythology of the Secret Societies (1972).

References in periodicals archive ?
Gowdy didn't expound further on the text but questioned "what the secret society was all about," (https://edition.
Bush also mentioned the society in his autobiography: "My senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society, so secret I can't say anything more.
A couple of wooden figures, Enrico David's Spring Session Men, 2003, seemed to be caught up in a mysterious dance in front of a huge table piled with documents about an imaginary male secret society.
The researchers discovered the document's initial 16 pages describe an initiation ceremony for a secret society that called itself the high enlightened oculist order of Wolfenbuttel.
However, this reviewer is not certain that selfish and opportunistic motives were the sole reasons for joining a secret society in the early nineteenth century.
Frankie's opportunity to make her point comes with the discovery of a secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds.
MY WEEK Punting high The stars must have been in a very strange alignment at the end of last week for me to be tipping and backing winners and England to be finishing off Australia in the Ashes Punting low After the celebration comes the hangover Recent eyecatcher Secret Society keeps travelling so strongly.
The handicapper has reacted by putting Secret Society up 6lb for that run, but this is less competitive and Secret Society is taken to return to winning form.
The mysterious title Puritas Cordis comes from a secret society which seems to be behind all the problems.
Secret Society carries a very tall home reputation and can win the Spring Family Fun Day This Saturday Maiden Stakes.
Secret Society put up a much better effort on his next start at Folkestone, though, when second only to Galpin Junior, pulling six lengths clear of the third.
Secret Society put up a much better effort on her next start at Folkestone, though, when second only to Galpin Junior, pulling six lengths clear of the third.