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Saturday, January 8, 2011

(Romans were almost beyond belief the members of this secret group, it was said, were cannibalistic, eating human flesh and drinking human blood during secret rituals, and their gory feasts often included newborn babies.
They promoted sexual orgies among brothers and sisters)
They were among the most frightening of early secret societies a furtive group both feared and hated by citizens of the Roman Empire. Many suggested killing every man, woman and child who were members. Others proposed caution, having heard tales of bloody vengeance taken against enemies of the group. Some grew worried that their own neighbors might be society members, infecting their children with dangerous ideas and engaging them in revolting practices. A few were fascinated by the outrageous antics attributed to this secret organization; their curiosity piqued, their imaginations running rampant, they asked themselves: could these people really be so depraved?

Tales exchanged among the Romans were almost beyond belief the members of this secret group, it was said, were cannibalistic, eating human flesh and drinking human blood during secret rituals, and their gory feasts often included newborn babies.
They promoted sexual orgies among brothers and sisters, and engaged in bizarre ceremonies, met in clandestine locations, avoided contact with respectable society, and identified themselves by flashing the image of an instrument of torture when they met.
“An infant covered with their meal that it may deceive the unwary,” one Roman wrote, “is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites. This infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily—O horror!—they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness they are covenanted to mutual silence. Such sacred rites as these are more foul than any sacrileges”

Throughout the Mediterranean region during the first century of the first millennium, especially among Romans, who valued nobility above all qualities, these stories were equally repulsive and fascinating. Roman politicians began demanding elimination of the sect, without question or exception. Most citizens agreed and crowds began to gather in the marketplace where they exchanged tales, confirmed evidence, and embellished the more unpleasant aspects of the secret society’s behavior. Over time, a consensus was reached: something must be done to break the cult’s bonds and rein in these scoundrels, these perverts, these insurgents, these . . . Christians.

Two thousand years later, the tales of disgusting Christian practices sound like propaganda created by members of the Roman senate as a strategy to eliminate the
Sect Perhaps by spreading vile stories among the populace, we assume, citizens would be dissuaded from joining the ranks of Christians, and Rome’s harsh treatment of the new religions followers would be supported.
In reality, the Roman senate had little to do with the outrageous tales while the general populace may have been scandalized by reports of cannibalism and incest, public opinion mattered little to politicians, who were concerned with more practical matters including the refusal of Christians to worship the emperor.
Tolerant of religious disparity generally, Rome’s major objection addressed this single unacceptable behavior, considered an act of disloyalty to the Empire. When Christians began converting others to their point of view, their actions represented an insurgency that could not be ignored. At that point, Roman leaders encouraged stories of their scandalous activities, employing them as a weapon to suppress the movement.
But Rome’s senate and other leaders did not originate the stories of bizarre behavior by Christians.
These yarns, spun in the imaginations of ordinary citizens, were based on information provided by Christians themselves—information subject to exaggeration and alignment that grew directly out of the twin mills of ignorance and suspicion. Consider the clues that inspired the tales secrecy
Christians kept to themselves, did not admit strangers to their ceremonies without the approval of a known member, and demanded that new members undergo a test of faith before being admitted. But there were valid reasons for all these actions.
Following Christ’s crucifixion, declaring that you were a Christian was akin to signing your death warrant. When Christians began concealing their activities in response, paranoia over their goals and practices grew deeper and more widespread, stimulating a more desperate need for members to mask their identity.
And so spun the cycle of oppression, leading to deeper secrecy and generating greater paranoia, inviting new oppression Cannibalism

Didn’t Christians conduct ceremonies in which they consumed the flesh of a man, and drank his blood? Of course they did to Christians, the Communion sacrament represented an allegory of oneness with the spirit. To unbelievers, it sounded suspiciously like repulsive reality.

Eating babies

Lacking effective methods of contraception and abortion, poor Roman citizens set unwanted infants outside to die of starvation and exposure. As abhorrent as this may be to modern sensibilities, it was acceptable practice in a culture where unwanted mouths to feed presented a major burden on the family. When Christians began rescuing these infants from certain death, baptizing them into their faith, Romans grew confused. Why would someone choose to raise another’s child? The idea defied logic. Or perhaps they were not being raised at all.
Perhaps, given their practice of consuming flesh and blood, Christians gathered abandoned babies as a source of raw material for their disgusting ceremonies. The fact that these children were being cared for and raised as Christians was not considered plausible. Nor, of course, was it nearly as intriguing.

Orgies and sexual incest

When reports of Christians engaging in Love Feasts began spreading among the Romans, it was an easy leap to assume that the “love” aspect was not entirely spiritual in nature. Certain Gnostics, another secretive society, participated in ritual sex and regarded semen as a sacred fluid, consecrating each member’s status with it. Christians and Gnostics varied widely in their beliefs and practices, but it’s easy to imagine an average citizen of Rome shrugging and commenting the Latin equivalent of, “Christians, Gnostics, what’s the difference?
They’re all the same.”
The incest factor
It grew from the practice of Christians referring to each other as “Brother” and “Sister” in expressions of fondness and support. In other cultures, sisters and brothers were born of the same parents, an undisputed fact, and no allegorical reference applied.

An instrument of torture as symbol and identity

In Roman times, the cross was a widely employed instrument of torture and death. To Romans, there was nothing reassuring about displaying a cross or drawing its shape in the air with your hand, a gesture that could be interpreted as a threat. Visualize a modern-day clandestine group of people employing a hangman’s noose, a guillotine, or an electric chair as a symbol of unity and values, and imagine your reaction.

This view of Christians as a menacing secret society remains as fitting a lesson about collective fear and repulsion today as it was then. In spite of advances in technology and communication, our fascination with secret societies remains powerful and abiding.
When prodded and inspired by popular culture’s twisted depiction of esoteric organizations in films and novels, our belief in their existence and dangers may match or exceed the flawed visions Romans harbored about Christianity.

As the Christian example proved, the most common responses to secret societies by outsiders are suspicion and fear, born in the belief that anything that is good should not be kept secret, and anything kept secret cannot be good.
We crave secrets, along with societies to maintain and perpetuate them, as much as we desire honesty in our dealings with others.
We expect important business and military decisions to be made in secrecy. We accept back-room politicians arriving at decisions about candidates and policy while striving to remain anonymous.
And we harbor secrets from our friends, our children and our lovers. Yet we also strive to fathom all the mysteries affecting our lives, demanding access to information that has been denied us, whatever the motive. If secrets are being kept from us, we insist, they must be shared. And if they are being shared by a definable group exclusively, the group’s motives must be suspect.

Secret societies have changed, gradually but significantly, over time. In the ancient world they were primarily philosophic and religious in nature. By the medieval period, politics began to replace the philosophical quotient, although religion remained the dominant element. By the mid-eighteenth century, the societies had evolved in one of two directions: either towards political and fraternal associations, retaining remnants of philosophical and religious trappings from the ancient world; or in the direction of outright criminality, using secrecy to achieve clandestine ends and acquire enormous wealth.

The differing objectives influenced the manner in which the societies were constructed and operated, because their secrecy became necessary either as a means of creating exclusivity for members or as a defense against discovery and harassment. Among members of fraternal organizations, exclusivity added distinction; for organizations subject to harassment by law enforcement or society as a whole, secrecy became a tool for self-preservation. Either way, the effect was to generate mistrust among nonmembers.
Mistrust led to assumptions, the assumptions were invariably negative, the negative perceptions aroused hostility, hostility strengthened the organization’s secrecy, and the circle revolved ad infinitum little has changed.

This circle of suspicion and response launches a fever of assumptions that resists any attempt to insert a dose of reality, a process as powerful and predictable today as it was when Nero took music lessons. Secret societies, you will be lectured by adherents of conspiracy theories, control the world’s destiny.
The declaration of wars, the onslaught of global epidemics, the election of national leaders, and the presence of alien life on earth are controlled by societies whose power and purpose are as rampant and evil as any James Bond villain concocted by Hollywood. Fanatics trot out and display proof with all the authority of a prosecuting attorney making a case to a credible jury, while serious objections are twisted into evidence that the Devil’s power is so all-embracing he can convince you that he does not exist.
Its fine entertainment for those who suspect that their lives are manipulated by unseen powers.They seek evidence like seedlings craving light, even when the source of light is somewhat less illuminating than the sun. According to conspiracy buffs, every decision regarding your economic well-being, your position in society, the condition of your health, and the institution that governs your life rests in the hands of enigmatic men—they are almost always men—whose identity is either concealed from view or hidden behind a mask of benign public service.
Nothing you think or do is yours alone to decide, you will be lectured.
The world’s destiny is determined by Freemasons or Gnostics,Wicca or Druids, the Bilderberg Group or the Illuminati, the Mafia or members of Skull & Bones. Economic disasters?Vanishing resources?Wars and famine?
Only fools believe these occur naturally To conspiracy theorists, they are the result of conscious actions taken by robed grandmasters, Sicilian warlords, plotting Rosicrucians, followers of Kabbalah, or other menacing factions.

The most rabid believers assume that all groups are equally involved, exchanging responsibilities like merchants in a marketplace of schemers. Most people are more sanguine. Many secret societies, they point out, are benign or even beneficial. Others
may be deceptive, although this doesn’t mean they are dangerous, just fraternal. Some, admittedly, are utterly treacherous in intent, but the risk they represent may be minimal. Should we worry about the Ku Klux Klan, for example, a once feared gang of lynchers that has morphed into a ragtag assembly of racist fools? Not very likely Yet it would be foolish in the extreme to treat every clandestine group as though it were nothing more than a collection of adults playing childish games. If the price of liberty is indeed vigilance, then the prudent ones among us should be aware of societies that may be acting entirely in their interests and totally against our own.

The challenge lies in knowing who is who or what taking the long view we will examine in this category the most prominent secret societies that have endured down through the ages.
In every case their influence, and at least vestiges of any notorious actions, exists today. As we’ll see, most are fraternal and benign, several remain tantalizingly suspicious, and some deserve to have their dark cloak of secrecy yanked away with a brilliant light shone upon them as they wriggle and squirm in an unfamiliar beam of exposure.


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