An Investigation into the Role and Structure of Secret Societies


Secret societies are an aspect of the society that has been attracting a great deal of attention from the academia in the recent times. They are an important part of the society and barely one comes across a culture without secret societies. Their members could range from the powerful elites to peasants. This study aims at analysing the role that secret societies have played in different communities and unveil the reasons for their existence.


Secret society can be described as a social group whose activities and ideologies have been maintained as secrets. Their beliefs and the issues that they represent are kept secret, known only to their members. According to Reynold (2006), the secret societies have been treated with suspicion of the view that if they were involved in something good, then there would be no justification for their secrecy. He further points out that the secret society has changed over time to accommodate varied objectives. Initially, the secret society was primarily linked with religion and philosophy. In the contemporary world, however, it is difficult to describe the secret society without mentioning the perceived political and economic influence that they possess over institutions, governments, and even individuals.

Across the world, various groups have formed societies with specific agendas that are kept secret from non-members. Membership in these societies is not usually open and one has to bear specific qualities to be allowed into the group. The secret societies have been in existence for a long time. According to Sora (2003), the secret societies have been in control of human destiny since the onset of civilisation. The societies, this study argues, were in existence at the onset of the last millennium. It claims that the Templar knights, one of the earliest and most established secret societies, was operational and had a substantive influence as well.

According to Van Helsing (1995), however, the secret society can be traced back to over 300,000 years back. He points out to a society that had formed under the name The Illuminati in Mesopotamia. This group had initially labelled themselves as the Brotherhood of the Snake and was discredited harshly for misusing their agendas. Van Helsing is keen to point at the involvement of the secret societies in the control of influential sectors in the society. The activities they engage in to control the societies have varied over time, but have proven to be successful. He further points out their involvement in the major world crises that have seen countries rise against each other, resulting in the mass loss of lives.

In the prologue of the Da Vinci Code, the secret society is described as the Priory of Sion that has existed since the year 1901. This European society was one of the alleged elite secret societies where such prominent personalities like Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo were members. The existence of such a society was kept a closely guarded secret and only came to be unearthed following the discovery of scrolls with details about their various meetings and undertakings.

This study aims at evaluating the extent to which the secret societies are involved in the today’s society. Various secret societies are highly spoken of in the society and have influenced various aspects of the society in varied ways. According to numerous studies, the extent of their involvement may range from passive to direct and explicit interference in the society’s affairs. The study will concentrate on finding out various ways in which various secret societies have influenced the society.

This paper also purports to find out if there exists any link between different secret societies or whether they have ever been in conflict. As different studies have posited, secret society’s existence in the contemporary society has been generally accepted. Consequently, understanding their operations may not necessarily lead to any actions against their operations, but rather may help individuals to become aware of their influence. It aims to provide insight into individuals so that they can be aware of situations where they are being subjected to secret society’s policies; a phenomenon popularly referred to as brainwashing. In addition, this paper seeks to evaluate the extent to which the secret society has influenced people’s perceptions on such cultural aspects like politics and religion.

Secret societies that have been in existence vary both in the composition of their members as well as their objectives. According to Reynold (2006), various secret societies in existence operate under a diverse set of objectives that are tactically orchestrated to be successfully realised. There are secret societies that were formed specifically to gain control over the political society of the world. Such secret societies ceased to be ‘secret’ once they became open for everyone to join in their expeditions. According to Griffin (2011), such secret societies were formed around specific political ideologies and in most cases were meant to oppose then existing political ideologies.

For instance, Griffin brings into the picture the Fabian society, which shares almost the same ideologies as the Marxism-Leninism regime, but differs in their accepted strategies towards achieving these goals. Concerning the Fabians, Griffin argues that they are opposed to engaging in violence in order to solve the society’s problems whereas the Marxist-Leninist groups did not have any problem in calling on their supporters to engage in violence for the sake of achieving a greater good. Such societies aim only at shifting the politics in the contemporary world and may not necessarily be concerned about their founders’ financial gains.

There is another form of secret societies greatly addressed by scholars, which were formed on the grounds of religion. An ideal example is the Templar Knights, which was originally formed to protect Christian pilgrims while worshipping in Jerusalem. This society is probably one of the oldest and longest surviving secret society. According to Sora (2003), the society’s activities cannot be said to have been secretive unless one would be addressing its founders’ real motives as well as their ideologies. This society engaged in various warring expeditions where they engaged in war with the Muslims trying to drive them out of Jerusalem. Their successes in these expeditions gave them control over massive economic resources, which can be attributed to the subsequent shift in their objectives to pursue economic empowerment. Their involvement in the political scene was limited as they only answered to the Catholic Church’s pope.

The other types of secret societies are those driven by a motive to control the economic resources of a region, a country, or the world. Such societies have been the most influential in the recent times as they have been linked to manipulating the masses to engage in civil strife with them. According to studies by Reynold (2006) and Sora (2003), there are two prominent secret societies that have been linked to pursuing economic dominance of the world. These are the group best known as the Illuminati as well as the Elders of Zion who are also called the Learned Elders of Zion.

These secret societies can only be distinct during their formation, as it has been seen through various studies. As the secret societies progress, their objectives shift more toward economic and political dominance. This perhaps can be attributed to the fact that any organisation requires money for it to run smoothly whereby cheaper ways of acquiring the money necessitates one to have political power or connection.


Secret societies are formed by the founders having different objectives. Most of these goals that the societies seek to achieve eventually get intertwined. The one factor that cuts across the formation of all the secret societies is the need to have or to wield more control over the external environment. According to Griffin (2011), such societies like the Fabian society and the Marxist-Leninist followers aimed at enabling equality in the society. What this means is that they sought to enable both the proletariat and the bourgeois to have equal control over the resources available in a country.

The Learned Elders of Zion had clearly mapped the path that they were to follow in order to control the fortunes of the world (Van Helsing, 1995). Van Helsing points out to various protocols in which the group of Jews, having met in Frankfurt, had drawn as a guideline for them as well as for the future generations. By strict adherence to these guidelines, the society was sure to control the world fortunes by orchestrating several world wars where they would be the sole benefactors. Helsing links this secret society to the World War I as well as World War II.
The other society that has been prominently featured is the Templar Knights. According to Van Helsing (1995), this secret society was formed by nine knights who had the objective of providing the worshipping pilgrims in Jerusalem with the protection against the Muslims. This seemed like a noble cause to the pope and consequently they were commissioned as the temple knights. They recruited members into the group on the basis of one’s level of dedication to protecting their Christian faith. This implies that the society was formed as an extension of the Christian faith and was as a result purely religious. In the society’s initial expeditions, they were only involved in the war against the Muslims where they sought to drive them out of the Holy Land of Jerusalem (Simmel, 1906).

In evaluating the specific goals and objectives that the secret societies pursued, it is vital to restrict the study to a specific number of secret societies. The societies tackled in this study are those that aimed at achieving control of the political scene, the economic resources, or those pursuing a religious mission. Under these varied fetes, several secret societies may stand out as prominent. However, there is also the possibility of identifying a link between the objectives of the secret societies as well as the societies themselves.


Under the section of societies focused on economic dominance, there have emerged many secret societies, but the notable ones are the Learned Elder of Zion and the Illuminati. According to the study by Van Helsing (1995), the group of Jews who had met in Frankfurt designed a strategy that would allow them to control the world’s resources. Mayer Amschel Rothschild was one of these Jews who had aimed at gaining control over the world’s resources. Rothschild created the bank named Rothschild Bank that amassed a great deal of wealth following his approval by Prince William X of Hesse-Hanau (Simmel, 1906).

Rothschild was later to join twelve other rich and influential Jews to form the pact labelled The Learned Elders of Zion who drafted strategies on how to gain ultimate control over the world’s riches. Van Helsing (1995) points out to the involvement of Rothschild in the Freemasons meetings with Prince William. This points out to the fact that the secret society that Rothschild was a member to was motivated purely by economic gains where it is later alleged that in his will he directed how the family wealth was to be handled in the future while keeping all the affairs secret.

The other type of secret society was propelled by the desire to gain political dominance. The secret society that stands out in this category includes the Fabians as well as the Assassins. The Fabians’ motives were to achieve the acceptance of socialism into the world’s politics. They consisted of the elite who were either from the upper or the middle social classes. They were different from the Marxist-Leninist politicians in that they chose to achieve their fete through gradual processes unlike the Marxist-Leninists who incorporated violence (Griffin, 2011).
The Assassins was another secret society motivated by political gains. According to Reynold (2006), the Assassins was formed by Dai-el-Kebir who managed to inculcate in the youths the teachings that had been developed in Cairo by certain Ismailis. These Ismailis had devised a system called the Abode of learning where they promised their followers that they would teach them new ways of serving Allah. It was through this system that they recruited assassins who operated in the capacity of today’s suicide bombers.

Hasan Sabbah, a cunning, but intelligent descendant of one of the remnants of the Ismailis who had gone through the Abode learning (Reynold, 2006), later used this secret society. Hassan having fled from the Persian King to Cairo was keen to use the knowledge he had of the Abode Learning to create himself an army. Hasan’s quest became very successful so that his descendants continued with their political dominance in the Middle East long after he was dead.

The other issue that propels individuals to form secret societies is their religion. Religion has formed a major part of people’s culture. Consequently, it has formed the basis of how individuals interact and also forms a main cause of conflicts. One of the major secret societies that had religious motives was the Templar Knights. Studies by Reynold (2006) place the origin of this society back in the 12th or 13th century. It was formed originally by nine knights who sought to protect Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. This secret society, however, has been linked with the formation of the Freemasons believed to have converted after the French King outlawed the Templar knights and their foundations (Sora, 2003). Templar Knights changed into an organisation that pursued economic empowerment over time and remains to be profoundly involved in the political scene of the developed nations in a bid to remain economically powerful (Sora, 2003).

Secret societies have been noted to play a role in the moulding of the society to achieve what the society is today. Under their various objectives, secret societies have influenced the social, political, and economic structures of many countries. The changes in the society can be attributed to the secret society in varied degrees. For instance, it is clear that much of the economic power that is vested in the developed nations is controlled by the secret societies (Southwell & Twist, 2007). This means that they are responsible for ensuring that the economies are stable to avoid incurring huge losses.

The contemporary society has evolved over time to accommodate diverse views into cultures. Over time, the cultural aspects of most societies have undergone changes to accommodate various aspects of foreign cultures as well as modifying the existing cultures. Secret societies can be linked to the changes that have occurred in the society’s view of politics, economics as well as religion.

Griffin (2011), for instance, has linked the Fabian society with the British political scene. The fact that most Labour Party members are members of the Fabian society or were the Fabians implies that the country has continuously drifted towards the society’s ideologies. The religion of the people has also been influenced owing to the involvement of such societies like the Templar Knights as well as the Freemasons. According to the study by Sora (2003), the Freemasons are aligned as a religious cult. Their use of a Freemason bible as well as using various symbols, like wearing aprons, suggests that they are religious. This achieved a fete that changed the people’s religious views.

A secret society can also have a link in both the political as well as the religious aspects of a society. The Templar Knights, for instance, influenced both the religious aspects of the Christians as well as their political ideologies. Through their various engagements in activities like piracy and smuggling after the French King Philippe IV outlawed them, they had an impact on the political stability of many European countries. According to Van Helsing (1995), the secret society went underground to fight injustices and to push for the recognition and upholding of the human rights.

According to Sora (2003), most of the government officials were a part of the secret society, which meant that they received protection. He further points to the fact that even though they engaged in most of these immoral activities, they were responsible for the establishment of various governments as well as various institutions. Webster (2007) quotes the works of Barruel who argues that the Freemasons in England were all good citizens whose only aim was to help each other in attaining equality. This study is consistent with other studies by Simmel (1906) and Southwell & Twist (2007) who attributed the growth of democracy in America to the secret societies.