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Secret society

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Membership has its privileges. Dancers of the Duk-DukWikipedia's W.svg secret society of New Britain.

A secret society is a society whose membership, proceedings, or teachings are secret: concealed from non-members or otherwise not open to the general public.

Secret societies typically accept new members only by initiation rituals, which frequently bind the initiate by various oaths not to reveal the secrets of the society to non-members. The initiations are sometimes multiplied, so that there are a variety of degrees or additional credentials that the members can achieve or progress through, These may take the form of an inner circle or group of adepts or the elect, sharing further secrets that are not communicated to other members. Secret handshakes, passwords, and other symbols are taught to the initiates, to enable them to be recognized by others without giving away the secret.

Secret societies also frequently feature social networking, and membership in the society acts as a recommendation to members and may cause the members to be preferred over non-members in employment opportunities and appointed positions. Because of these features, secret societies often figure in conspiracy theories.

Organized crime associations such as the Mafia sometimes operate as secret societies.

Mystery schools[edit]

A variety of mystery religions existed in the ancient world, such as the mysteries of Demeter at Eleusis, of Mithras, and of Orpheus. Initiates underwent a number of secret rituals to join these cults, swearing terrible oaths to keep the proceedings secret and inviolate, and as a result the substance of their beliefs and the nature of their ritual has been almost entirely lost. The gap in knowledge generates a great deal of speculation. Early Christianity, with its initiatory ritual of baptism, resembled these ancient mystery religions in some ways; in which case it is the only widespread survivor.[1]


Actual secret societies[edit]

Alleged secret societies[edit]

Further reading[edit]