“Your grandfather was a Freemason. You could probably claim lineage and get in if you wanted.” Lights poured on from the heavens, my eyes were opened, and my life was never the same. Until five seconds later, when I realized exactly what being part of a secret society means: Jack.
We’re all familiar with the concept of “Secret Societies.” The majority of us are familiar with the names “Illuminati,” “Freemasons” and most recently, “Claw and Compass.” Movies like “National Treasure” and books like “The DaVinci Code” are rife with extensive fantasies based on half-truths and coincidences that fuel our imaginations about the influence of these shadow groups. Theorists and conspiracy fanatics point at large companies (McDonald’s) or prominent families (Kennedy and Rockefeller) and align the groups either satanically or with an obscure Christian sect. A simple search online for “secret societies” yields approximately 53.8 million sites. Most of the sites are filled with connections and outrageous accusations one would expect from an inpatient in a psychiatric ward. (There’s even one about Dick Cheney that’s worthy of a romance novel.)
When we take a step back and look at what effect these fraternal orders have had on our society, we realize there’s a great deal of fuss over nothing. I know, I know. “That’s the point. You’re not supposed to see their influence! That’s what makes them so secret!” I think that’s a load of crap. It’s real easy for a society without an official face to be attributed with the sub-surface influence of an event that happened nearly 50 years ago. It’s even easier when they don’t show up to press conferences to deny everything! It seems like the best method for these shadow organizations to gain infamy is, in fact, the distinct lack of coherent evidence connecting them to these events. Without clear connections, conspiracy theorists are free to play the most erratic game of connect-the-dots imaginable. They can and do create the most sordid relationships and the most outrageous networks of spies and brainwashing imaginable. The more far-fetched a connection, the more mystical and powerful these clandestine operations are for supposedly executing them.
Secrecy is the groups’ best weapon. The Skull and Bones is nothing more than another fraternity, giving one another a business leg-up in the world. The Freemasons began in lodges in the United States and operated as a men’s club. The Illuminati were originally a political organization from the mid-1600s. While these groups do have extensive histories, it does not necessarily mean that they are on a mission of world domination. None of these groups actually carry the influence they are supposed to, but because we can’t watch them from behind closed doors, we assume they’re out to control the world.
Try creating your own secret society sometime. Find a group of friends and start meeting in places around campus. Make sure you don’t tell anyone why you’re meeting. Slowly pool whatever measly influence you have for any kind of end and you too can participate in your own secret society! Remember though, mum’s the word. The public will make your society cooler than you could ever hope to do on your own.