I found this interesting. I thought that some others here might also.
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 mysteries, 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 Freemasonry 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 Mafia and the Ku Klux Klan,
under the guise of fraternal benevolence, have defended the interests of
their members by violence. See also fraternal orders, fraternity.
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).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Seventh Edition, 01-01-2002.
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