Home -> Encyclopedia -> Timelines – Secret Societies
Inception of Secret Societies
The inception of secret societies traces back to antiquity. They originated as brotherhoods, guilds, and sects that were often religious or professional in nature. For example, the ancient Greek society, Eleusinian Mysteries, was established circa 1600 BC providing initiates with mystical knowledge.
Emergence of Illuminati – late 18th Century
The Illuminati was formed in 1776, in Bavaria, Germany. Adam Weishaupt, a law professor, created this organization with the vision of free thought. The Illuminati quickly grew in size and influence, but faced opposition from religious organizations, eventually leading to its banishment.
Freemasonry – 18th and 19th Centuries
In the late 18th and 19th centuries, a significant milestone was achieved with the growth of Freemasonry. Freemasonry, with roots dating back to stonemason guilds of the Middle Ages, championed enlightenment values such as constitutional government and equal rights. They used secret signs, symbols, and rituals to identify members and to educate and improve their members.
Formation of Skull and Bones – 1832
An important event in the history of secret societies was the formation of Skull and Bones at Yale University in 1832. It was a secret collegiate society in the United States with a powerful alumni network.
The Mafia – late 19th Century
The Italian Mafia blossomed in the late 19th century, originally as a secret society meant for protection and self-control in the face of Sicilian tyranny. The mafia evolved to use their power for illegal activities, creating notable influence in crime circles worldwide.
Formation of the Bilderberg Group – 1954
In the post-World War II era, an influential secret meeting of Western intellects was the formation of the Bilderberg Group. Their goal was to promote dialogue between Europe and North America, and although not a society per se, its secretive and exclusive nature invokes comparisons.
Scientology’s Sea Org – 1967
Sea Org, a secret group within the Church of Scientology, was established in 1967. Sea Org has been a controversial entity and a subject of various lawsuits and controversies due to their secretive activities and treatment of members.
Anonymous – Early 21st Century
In the digital age, online hacker collective Anonymous represents an evolution of concept of secret societies. Anonymous, established in 2004 on the imageboard 4chan, operates in a decentralized manner to maintain internet freedom and carry out direct action.
Today, secret societies exist in various forms worldwide, whether rooted in tradition, like the Freemasons and the Illuminati, or tied to institutions, like Skull and Bones. From clandestine political bodies to covert online communities, their presence in society consistently sparks curiosity and suspicion.