Becoming Part Of A Secret Society
People are often paranoid about secret societies, however, as a member of a secret society myself, I'm inclined to view secret societies from the perspective of a direct participant rather than as a third-party observer. I have been witness to the operations of a highly influential secret society- and while I cannot divulge any specific details, I can inform you as to the psychological impact of the exclusivity bestowed upon me.
My secret society is similar to the Bohemian Club, the notorious group of public intellectuals and countercultural figures who rose to prominence in the early 1900s in San Francisco, transforming the public consciousness in a process known colloquially as "culture jamming". Of course, mine is less Californian in nature.
Secret Societies have been around for as long as they have in part due to their novelty- I can only imagine that back in the 18th century, the time of George Washington and Jonathan Swift, life must have been extremely dull, and playing make-believe with a close circle of trusted associates would probably have been a welcome respite, a form of escapism whereby you were privy to some hidden knowledge, some arcane lore. Humans have always been particularly adept at maintaining perpetual fiction and, in many cases, manifesting fiction into real events. This is, to be sure, the ultimate goal of any secret society worth their salt.
The lineage stretches up to the group portrayed in Eyes Wide Shut- the horror at realizing that despite we are thoroughly immersed in the digital age, the vast repository of information that is the Internet simply cannot hold all information indefinitely. That's a logistical impossibility. Rather, there are thousands of transactions and meetings held behind closed doors every day which we cannot access, which may hold their own significance and incomprehensible terminology in the minds of those who conduct them, records kept for decades or even centuries for no real public benefit.
Denver is home to several Masonic lodges- the most notable one being on South Broadway near Alameda. it's an imposing structure, old and weather-worn, its tan bricks beaten down by the noontime sun. if you've ever seen Masons entering or exiting their temples, you'll know that most of them are old fishermen, grandfathers who have no better way to spend their time than partaking in a club of fantastic circumstances. One's mind is then called to the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes from the Flintstones- and thereby to the Loyal order of Raccoon Lodge from The Honeymooners. Midlife crises manifest, people without a strong sense of identity or direction, fathers and people with weekends to spare.
The main difference between a cult and a secret society, generally, is that while the ideas espoused by both may be patently ridiculous, and both may have tangible effects on the outside world through incompetence or deliberate interference, cults do not generally attempt to recruit new members, are extremely selective about who they recruit, and are also esoteric in structure, not requiring any specific leader or messianic figure to operate. Secret societies are far more like oligarchies, whereby each member is an equal cog in a larger framework.
My understanding of the world- and my belief in several notable conspiracy theories- has been shifted somewhat by my direct participation in a secret society who will, in the next few years or so, produce tangible effects on the world around you, probably without your conscious recognition. In fact, almost certainly without it.
In a way, that's what the internet used to be (80s-90s). It was a bunch of rich geeks communicating with each other and sharing troves of knowledge with one another, forming self-interest whose actions would spawn satellite hacker communities which are still alive to this day, and whose activities have been used to shame politicians and shape (some) policy.
What do I think of these societies:
- A younger me would be repulsed by them. An exclusionary group that pulls strings in the background without asking anyone who would be affected. It's arrogant, nepotistic, archetypal cronyism.
- An older me is more intrigued. I've seen what democracy, weilded by the ignorant, can lead to and believe that real progress comes in the power of small groups. Not necessarily self-interested groups (which still repulse me), but groups that uphold ideals, almost to religious zeal and are uncompromising in the pursuit of them.
GNU comes to mind, the EFF too, and though I am not part of the internal circles of these groups (though I do financially contribute to both), I like the world that they are trying to build, not just for them, but for everybody.
In summary: what would you do if I shook your hand *LIKE THIS*?
I've yet to meet a human sans patently ridiculous views in one area and/or another, so it makes sense people of similarly patently ridiculous views would rally about them. :-)
It's been decades since I've thought about such: vague memories of touching upon such when reading "None Dare Call It Conspiracy" as a teen. I was fascinated by the notion there might be more intelligent forces guiding a society that seemed a vast sea of idiocy. Something like that.
(Not that that's what your organization is doing.. just saying such seemed an appealing topic to me in my youth.)