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Categorization of Secret Societies I

For centuries, secret groups have existed. Whether they have been motivated by politics or believe in the same religious doctrines, organizations have gathered to share in the same principles or philosophies. In this article, you will learn about some of the different categories that secret societies fall into, such as fraternal and religious.

Fraternal Secret Societies

In a wider sense of the term, ‘fraternal’ means that members of the group are encouraged to show mutual support for one another and lend protection and understanding when needed. It isn’t really a term used exclusively to refer to all-men groups, but many secret societies only admit men into their organization, such as the Masons. Traditionally, the Masons placed a great deal of emphasis on the moral asset of fellowship amongst members. For example, when a husband died, a collection could be taken up to support the widow and children. If a member was sick, members would also offer their support.
Another example of a fraternal group was the Oddfellows, which followed the traditions of a Masonic-like secret society that was once quite popular amongst the Anglo Saxons. They actually set up insurance services for their members.

Religious Secret Societies

When religion is at the center of a secret society, members typically share the same beliefs , yet they usually tend to sway on a more radical path of worship. The Templar groups are an example of a religious secret society that has ties to Freemasonry. Known as one of the most famous of the Western Christian military orders, the organization was in existence for about two centuries during the Middle Ages. The Templars were also known as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple.

Mystical Secret Societies

A lot of secret societies focus on religious philosophies but pursue their beliefs in an unorthodox manner. They tend to incorporate their personal experiences and are different than groups that follow the more mainstream religious practices. The divine and spiritual aspects of the society can take a radical turn.

Esoteric Secret Societies

Philosophers of the past often had a great deal of influence on religious and political movements. Some created groups that centered on their basic teachings that gathered a following of believers. The most common philosophers to have a following include Pythagoras, Plato and other philosophers that expanded upon their beliefs. Some of the work or teachings associated with such scholars include alchemy, Kabbalah, symbolic architecture and math, Tarot, and Hermetic lore, gemetria, which was a system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase that could have a connection to people’s ages or the calendar year.  Secret societies associated with an esoteric view of the world were said to reveal the teachings of a philosophy that were hidden and not taught in the typical schools of thought. They also felt that they knew secrets linked to history, mathematics and science that others were not aware of. Many times, members of such groups have been viewed as being mystical or part of the occult.