America has a history of secret societies known to play an important role in some of the decision-making that has gone (and still goes) on within the United States. Whether organizations contribute to political forces in hopes of having their agenda supported or college groups forming to create strong, influential bonds that last after graduation, secret societies have included the likes of fraternal orders such as the Elks and the Knights of Columbus. This month, a new book titled, “Ritual America” by Adam Parfrey and Craig Heimbichner set out to expose the clandestine organizations that have influenced the United States.
It wasn’t too long ago (about 50 years) that as many as one in three adult American males belonged to a secret society. Today, these groups still exist, but are believed to work under the guise of organization that raise funds for charitable causes or participate on specific projects that serve their communities. You may hear about these groups in passing, the Internet, or on TV ”“ there are fraternal orders out there that restrict who can become a member. Those on the outside can only dream of how these organizations are run and what members are capable of doing. Throughout history, they’ve also played a role in the way American society has been shaped ”“ even from the early start of the country.
The rituals and the majority of their actions are kept a secret within the societies, but they are not completely invisible. We hear about their existence in the news, underground news sources, and those who aim to expose groups with secret agendas. For example, it is believed that 14 U.S. Presidents, 18 Vice Presidents, and 42 Supreme Court justices were a part of the Freemasons. This means that secret organizations have the backing of members that possess a great deal of influence and power.
The rumors, odd rituals, and legends of such organizations are highlighted in the book ‘Ritual America,’ where the authors aim to shed a brighter light on the activities and influence of secret societies. When taking a magnifying glass to important figures and events in American history, you will learn that many people were a part of Freemasonic (or similar groups). For some, membership to these secret societies represented a significant piece of the way they viewed and lived in the country. These orders were less of a secret in the past as well. Many people were well aware of their existence, but have evolved to reach a mythical status associated with conspiracy theories. Because of their affiliation with fictitious accounts, the topic of such secret societies has been an unspoken off-limits subject for members of academia to truly tackle. Not many people have studied or investigated the influence of such societies.
Parfrey is in charge of the small independent press (called Feral House Books) that published this book. Some of the subject matter found in ‘Ritual America’ includes:
- The issue of racist attitudes linked to members of early orders
- The topic of misogynistic viewpoints within some of the orders
- Secrets orders that ‘pose’ as philanthropic organizations
- The ‘violent’ oaths sworn by members of the well-known Shriner’s organization
- The connection between government buildings and secret societies (and their members)
- The Masonic origins of the game of baseball
- Hundreds of rare illustrations pointing to common symbolism associated with secret societies