Secret Societies

by  John Roland Stahl
May, 2009

      There are so many popular books out there, titles beyond number, detailing the accounts of Secret Societies throughout the ages.  In almost every case, the authors of these volumes try to convince themselves (and, as an afterthought, their readers) that these Secret Societies have endured intact throughout the ages, still retaining their Secrets, and still carrying on their secret activities in furtherance of their special agenda.  

     I have made it a major part of my life’s work to examine these Secret Societies, ancient and modern, along with their doctrine and their secrets.  I have studied from original sources, as well as from private initiation into the mysteries from old sages, masters, and adepts.  I would like to present my findings here.

     There are, broadly, two kinds of Secret Societies – political, and philosophical.  In many cases, of course, societies whose major activities are political hide these activities under the cover of a purely philosophical society.  

     According to the Grand Conspiracy Theory, all of these Secret Societies, throughout the ages, have been interconnected – essentially, variants of One Big Mother of All Conspiracies.  While many of these secret societies have had specific political aims, e.g., the destruction of the French monarchy conspired by the Masonic Lodges during the days leading up to the French Revolution, the main and obvious goal of all of the politically motivated societies has always been the simple and happy thought of Ruling the World.  

     My first conclusion has to do with the continuity of these societies, both political and philosophical.  Yes, in just about every case there has been direct continuity of these secret societies from the very earliest times up to the present day.  However, this continuity has not been through the numerous outward forms.  Many thousands of Secret Societies have come and gone, over the years, and the names of many old ones have been applied to new incarnations, but these societies, as formal structures, have been continuously evolving and changing, and most of them have had significant periods during which the formal structure has not survived; but the real transmission of the ancient knowledge, mysteries, and secrets has always been through the direct instruction of old sages, masters, and adepts to new students and initiates.  

     In this way, the most important aspects of the intercommunication of these holders of the ancient wisdom have been comprised more of the mycelial connections which pervade the substrate, rather than the more visible occasional fruiting bodies of the formal Secret Society.  

     To continue the analogy of the mushroom, the “occasional fruiting bodies” of this underlying mycelium perform a very important role: that of scattering seeds far and wide, and finding candidates.  Thus, the proposition is that the really important repository of ancient wisdom (or political conspiracy) has never been the occasionally manifesting Secret Society, but rather the presently living body of sages, masters, and adepts (under which I include many others using other titles – altogether different titles in the case of political conspiracies, of course) which has continued as a kind of living organism within the much larger organism of all life.  

     So, let us get right to the point, focusing first on political conspiracies: is there some Secret Society of persons who meet, either in smoke filled rooms or conclaves at the grotto, and control the world by their actions?  Sure; there are lots of them!  But is there one, or even some few, of much greater importance, whose members really do exercise the dominant controlling hand over the evolution of life on earth?  That answer has to come in two parts: in the main, no: there is no one minding the store; they have all gone fishing, or they are Out to Lunch.  No one really knows what is going on!  There are so many influences all along the way from every quarter that trying to figure out what is happening and what is going to happen is hard enough, let alone making any effort to control it.  This world is careening along at haphazard, with no one at the wheel; it is stumbling and blundering in the dark, and unfolding into chaos on all sides.

     But, on the other hand, there are lots of people who band together for a common purpose, and there is a way that their “secret society” forms itself into a matrix of mycelial connections that, here and there, rears its head as a Conspiracy mushroom, spreading seed to new ground.   When it comes to the Conspiracy to Rule the World, what does it take to become a Member?  The answer is that it takes a significant portion of Wealth and Power to accumulate influence.  So, like any Masonic Lodge, the higher degrees are composed of those of progressively larger shares of Wealth and Power, up to those who are most powerful at the top.  

     This concept organizes the formation of a structure that is far more important than any specific collusion in conspiracy for particular advantage.  It creates the imperative for every level to maximize the rate at which the Wealth and Power is further accumulated into the hands of the Wealthy and Powerful.  

     This Beast, too, is a living organism.  It has been in existence since the days of Cain and Abel, and has been the cause of the perennial belief in the Grand Conspiracy.

     The problem is that the goals of this living beast, of maximizing their own advantage for their own benefit, are in conflict with the survival of life on earth.  That is why I propose that the political authority be taken out of the hands of the Wealthy and Powerful, and put into the hands of those who will guard it as a sacred trust for the survival, health, and flourishing of life on Earth.  

     But the Secret Societies which hold the transmission of the ancient wisdom have always seemed more interesting than political societies.  Secret Societies are hierarchical and are arranged as a series of concentric circles through which the candidate proceeds towards the center, where the final secret is held.  The whole point and essence of a “secret” society is that there is some Secret that they have and guard, that other people don’t know.  This principle is so fundamental that it really doesn’t matter at all whether there is a secret or not.  The old Master of the Secret might finally whisper to the candidate for the thirty-second Masonic degree, “Ivory Soap floats!”  That isn’t the Secret, but it would satisfy the requirement just as well, since the vast majority of seekers never get anywhere close to the center, where the true mysteries and secrets are held (even when they think they have, or have been told that they have).  

     In the case of the Freemasons, Hermetic Philosophers, Rosicrucians, Cabalists, Gardeners, and others, there is a Secret, although at all times and places there have always been only a very few who have known it.  In many cases, the Guardians of the Secret don’t even understand it themselves, but faithfully transmit all the Keys with which their Society has been endowed in hopes that some future scholar, philosopher, adept, and/or visionary might rediscover the Secret.  There remain many such Keys to which the Secret has been lost, such as the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Name of God, the meaning of which has been revealed in our own work (vide: Patterns of Illusion and Change).  The Secret is the final resolution of the Mystery of Life which illuminates the nature of being.   I have expressed it as a picture of the Third Arcanum.

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