Chapter 5: Introduction

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In this chapter a number of secret societies will be examined that have fueled the imaginations, fear, and envy of those on the outside of the mysterious organizations for hundreds of years. One of the favorites of paranoid conspiracy theorists, the Freemasons, while once powerful and influential throughout the Western world, is today regarded by many as little more than a social relic of the past. Another secret society, the Illuminati, deemed by many conspiracy buffs to be the most insidious of all, faded into obscurity in the late eighteenth century. For conspiracy enthusiasts, however, both societies remain a threat to individual freedoms, allegedly operating in the shadows, silently infiltrating political organizations, secretly manipulating every level of government and every facet of society.

Almost without exception, each of the secret societies presented in this chapter began with serious religious aspirations, which slowly disintegrated into political ambitions, and eventually deteriorated into criminal activities. The Garduna and the Holy Vehm had their birth in mystical visions and a passion to defend Christianity from those who would seek to destroy it. Regardless of its founders' noble intentions, both groups were used to further political ambitions and soon become nothing more than outlaw gangs. The Chinese Tongs and Triads began as protective associations for merchants and laborers who were being exploited by the ruling establishment or, in the United States, by the dominant white society. In some cities the Tongs remain primarily private social clubs engaged in such victimless crimes as illegal gambling. The Triad, however, has grown into one of the largest of the worldwide crime organizations.

There will always be those envious and unsuccessful individuals who believe that the rich and successful have acquired their wealth and power only through their possession of secret formulas, utterance of magical words, and performance of supernatural rituals. Those same individuals will seek desperately to become members of groups that they believe have such mystical powers or they will become obsessed in their efforts to destroy them. The Knights Templar gained status as an order of knighthood because of the selfless actions of a handful of knights who vowed to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. In the beginning, these pious and valiant knights were so poor that they had to share the same horse and take turns riding it. Centuries later, when the Knights Templar had become the wealthiest and most powerful order in all of Europe, it was decided by church and state that the once godly Christian soldiers had acquired their earthly treasure and power by worshipping Satan and committing the most foul acts of desecration and blasphemy. The order of knights that had once served as the bulwark of Christianity during the Crusades to protect the Holy Land was ordered disbanded by papal decree, and its members tortured and burned at the stake. History has not yet determined the degree of their true guilt as heretics, but it is unlikely the Knights Templar deserved such an ignoble end.

While there was never any clear evidence to prove that the Knights Templar committed the acts of human sacrifice of which they were accused, the members of the Leopard Cult of Africa were responsible for many such ritual murders on their jungle altars and left hundreds of mutilated human corpses to prove their guilt. The Thuggee of India, who committed more murders than any other secret society, allegedly dedicated the lives of the thousands of victims which they strangled to death to their goddess Kali.

Of all the secret societies examined in this chapter, only the Tongs and the Freemasons remain in existence in the twenty-first century. While some contemporary metaphysical groups proclaim that their philosophical heritage may derive from the Knights Templar or the Rosicrucians, there is little to substantiate such claims other than an admiration for their precepts and ideals. On occasion, international law enforcement investigators may see elements suggestive of the Thuggee or the Assassins involved in certain murders or assassinations, but there is little evidence that these societies still exist as forces to be feared. On the other hand, there are those who insist that the Illuminati is working behind the scenes to bring about a New World Order that will enslave most of the world population.

The most secret of all mystery groups remains the Rosicrucians, whose manifestos helped give birth to many of the most liberating ideals of the European Enlightenment. Although one may see advertisements in magazines inviting the reader to fill out a coupon and become a member of the ancient order of the Rosy Cross, the modern organization exists as a homage to the original anonymous followers of the mysterious Illumined Father Christian Rosencreutz, for no known member of the original group that surfaced in the early 1600s was ever identified.

Delving Deeper

daraul, arkon. a history of secret societies. new york: pocket books, 1969.

heckethorn, charles william. secret societies of all ages and countries. kila, mont.: kessinger publishing, 1997.

howard, michael. the occult conspiracy: secret societies

their influence and power in world history. rochester, vt.: inner traditions, 1989.

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Chapter 5: Introduction

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Chapter 5: Introduction