Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's So Secret?

Secrets. We crave them. Obsess over them. And, we all have them. Knowing secrets produces feelings of power over others, superiority, being special, or being “in.” We love to belong; combining secrets and belonging is very attractive indeed. Being on the other side, not knowing – or rather, knowing that you don’t know – can be frustrating. Not being allowed in can produce feelings of resentment, jealousy, or even anger. 

Even children love secrets. They often form their own “clubs” where only certain kids are allowed in the tent or garage. Some are even shunned, and often the ostracized children ban together and form their own exclusive clubs, telling secrets the “others” cannot know. Schools have drama clubs, honor clubs, and ski clubs, but secret clubs are the most coveted of all. 

Throughout history there have been secret societies, or rather societies that keep secrets. Most people join a club or society that has like-minded members – people whose thoughts principles, politics, religion, hobbies, etc, are the same as their own. Once membership has been granted they have access to “inside” information and the privileges that come with being a member, which could include travel, being in the ‘right’ places, and other group advantages. “It is not what you know, but who you know” is from the 'secret society' tradition. Most of the elite clubs help members advance their careers, meet the right people, and open doors to financial gain. And most keep their membership list under lock and key; sometimes, and in some places, belonging can lead to persecution, or even death.

Not all such societies are secret, if fact, most that are referred to as ‘secrete societies’ are well known and out in the open for all to see. Most ‘secret societies’ are merely societies with secrets; they have secrets, but their existence is not a secret. (This is not to say that all organizations with secrets are secret societies, indeed, every government, business, or family has secrets.) Yet, certainly there are secret organizations. We just don't know anything about them. A truly secret society would not come under public scrutiny, as the public would not even be aware it existed. 

People on the outside of these closed groups tend to have an objection to them for a variety of reasons; they are called elitist and sexist, are considered ungodly or outright criminal, thought to have prejudice ideologies, or even threaten the status quo of society. But in spite of public opinion and the best arguments of theorists, most societies with secrets are not dangerous or malevolent. More likely the organization has charities which it supports and could be considered benevolent in nature. There is always an exception, and as history has shown there are some groups that push their own dubious, if not outright illegal agendas; the Klu Klux Klan and the Hashshashins are two which come to mind. Clubs and societies are formed of groups of people, and although most people are basically good, some are not. 

If a cub or society wants to attract dues-paying members, it must put up an air of secrecy. No one wants to join a club everyone knows everything about. Some initiates once inside, wonder what the big deal actually is. There are those who believe you only find out when you have ‘earned’ the trust to be invited in. More than likely, new members find to their great disappointment, that there are no mystical secrets or great stores of rare information to be had. Although the impression that there was may have been magnified by their own imaginations, the impression was not corrected. The biggest secret of any secret society is their membership list. Many people, especially public figures or media stars, prefer to have their memberships to any club kept secret. 

The success of these groups is usually attributed to a tradition of fear, and this brings more criticism. Yet most religions have fear-based ideologies; blatant threats of damnation to keep parishioners from straying. Membership in some secret societies does require taking an oath which includes severe penalties if you break it; a bone of contention for some, although most of the initiation rituals are symbolic and the intent is to impress upon the initiate the importance of keeping vows and striving to develop a philosophy of loyalty and discretion. Philosophies like those of the Freemasons are designed to encourage and facilitate personal growth, loyalty, and ethical conduct. They value education and learning, and therefore can attract those who are ambitious and goal oriented. Many powerful men in history have been Freemasons. 

A few of the more mysterious clubs, such as the Skull and Bones of Yale and the elusive Bohemians have been blamed for horrendous world events, all supposedly orchestrated to put certain people in positions of unparalleled power and wealth. Even the Freemasons suffer from extreme paranoid opinions that they are behind every modern war ever fought. Elite members of these orders whose identities are viciously protected are suspected of great atrocities. Is that the real reason for the secrecy? Perhaps once in a great while. Or perhaps the escape into “boys night out” and the fellowship that is available in private societies is kept private so as not to damage the reputation of otherwise respectable men who need a chance to behave like teenage boys for a week. It is true that wealthy, well connected males are most likely to reach the inner circles of many private clubs, rubbing shoulders with the wealthy and powerful, allowed to be among the decision makers – even if the decision is where to go on vacation. And it is also true that many of these men are later found among presidents, judges, corporate business owners, successful authors, and other powerful stations in life. 

We all need to be part of something. Is it such a bad thing to belong to a private club? To have a place to meet up with like minded people? To do good works as a group that would be difficult as an individual? Getting away from the usual stresses of life? Most people would say not – no harm done, maybe even some good. But the conspiracy theorist will say that is just what the inner circle of evil-doers wants you to think. 

 About Symbologist Michelle Snyder

Michelle is a professor of mythology and symbolism, an author, blogger, artist, and geek. She earned her post-graduate degree at the University of Wales, decoding prehistoric images and folklore, tracing them to their roots. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from MA to CA. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
     Books by Michelle, available at Amazon:


Symbology ReVision: Unlocking Secret Knowledge  
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: My Art and Symbols 
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered 
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images 
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids 

 Fairy Tales: 
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of  Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book One - The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms: Book Two - The Lost Mermaid
The Fairy Tales: Once-Upon-A-Time Lessons First Book


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