Dark Realms Magazine - Issue 5
Secret Societies: The Truth Behind History's Most Mysterious Orders
Throughout history, secret societies have risen and flourished. Their meeting places are concealed in shadows and their clandestine rituals are as shrouded in secrecy as those of a witches coven. It is this aura of mystery that has made these secret organizations so compelling to those fascinated by the darker realms of culture. The Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar... the names are familiar, but the agendas and histories of these cabals remain cloaked in rumor, contradiction and legend. More organized and intellectually more sophisticated than the average religious cult, these societies are also distinguished by their influence on global affairs and, in some instances, their longevity through history. This brief introduction to some of these groups will attempt to part the shadows and bring to light some of their origins and motives.
THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
In 1118, nine French Crusaders requested permission from King Baldwin of Jerusalem to become protectors of pilgrims sojourning to the Holy Land. Baldwin agreed, and the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon—an unwieldy name quickly condensed to Knights Templar—was born.
The Templars' headquarters in those early years were the ruins of Solomon's Temple, which they began excavating. Their avowed mission to guard the roads into Jerusalem was simply a cover story; their true goal was the buried treasure and artifacts rumored to be concealed under the site of the Temple. This hidden cache supposedly held scrolls of ancient, divine knowledge as well as such fabled artifacts as the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant.
The Templars must have found something, for this nine-member order of soldiers quickly grew in number and in wealth. In 1128, the door to even more wealth was thrown open when Pope Honarius II gave them official recognition by the Church, meaning that the Knights Templar were now a body to whom contributions could be given with the blessing of the Papacy. Such contributions were often extravagant, like the King of Aragon's gift to them of a third of his lands.
During the thirteenth century, the Templars became a major military and political force. Their wealth was immense. They had their own navy. They coerced King John of England to sign the Magna Carta. But great power begets great jealousy, and King Philip IV of France (who in his younger days was denied membership in the Templars) became so jealous of the Templars' wealth and influence that he convinced Pope Clement V to help destroy them.
The Templars were arrested on Friday, October 13, 1307, "a date which from that time onward brought a sinister connotation to any Friday the thirteenth," writes journalist Jim Marrs (Rule By Secrecy). They were charged with various heretical crimes including sorcery and they were interrogated, tortured and in some cases burned at the stake. Templar leader Jacques de Molay reportedly met this grisly fate, although one intriguing theory suggests that his interrogators actually crucified him, and his burial shroud became supernaturally imprinted with his image and survives to this day as the famed Turin Shroud. The Templar knights are also credited with bestowing the original designs for Gothic architecture to Saint Bernard.
After 1307, surviving Templars took their wealth and secrets and went underground, hiding themselves in the secret societies of various countries, influencing those groups with whatever ancient knowledge they unearthed at the Temple Mount centuries before.
The Freemasons One of the societies the Templars are alleged to have sought refuge in was the order of Freemasons. Freemasonry's origin is murky, but guilds of stone masons have been around since even before the time of the Pyramids. These weren't simply labor unions; the knowledge of ancient geometry and architectural techniques were said to bestow an almost magical power on the masons. This veneration of math and construction is seen in the traditional Masonic emblem of the letter G (representing geometry) inscribed under a builder's compass.
Authorities say that while these guilds have been around for millennia, Freemasonry as the modern world is familiar with it didn't emerge until 1717 in England. Masonic lodges soon blossomed in Scotland, France and the rest of Europe.
In general, Masonry is a pyramidal organization of thirty- three levels or degrees; the newest initiates are 'Entered Apprentices' at the bottom of the pyramid while those at the top have ranks such as 'Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret' (at the thirty-second degree) and 'Grand Inspector-General' (thirtythird degree). What 'secret' is so 'grand,' you may ask, that it requires so many levels of initiation? Some argue that there is no secret, that Freemasonry is essentially a series of empty, quasi-mystical rituals whose original meaning has been lost over time. Others insist that there are closely guarded secrets to which only an elite few Masons will ever be privy, and these secrets concern ancient science and math (suggested by Masonry's description of God as "the Great Architect") as well as the true origins of humankind.
The mysterious practices and doctrines of the Masonic brotherhood are closely guarded secrets, not meant for the uninitiated. Traditional Masonic temples and halls are constructed without windows, so that their inner sanctum cannot be penetrated by the prying eyes of outsiders.
Popular works of fiction cast the Freemasons in a macabre light. In Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, a madman gains the trust of his intended victim by revealing that he belongs to the brotherhood of Masons. After being lured through an underground network of musty and long-forgotten catacombs, the victim is walled-up, alive—a fate befitting one of the order of bricklayers. The graphic novel and subsequent film, From Hell, links the freemasons of Victorian England with the grisly crimes of Jack the Ripper. Some of the sinister overtones of the Masons may be deserved as they are based on documented facts. Renowned occultist and author of the Satanic bible, Aleister Crowley, was head of the Masonic order, Ordo Templi Orientis.
Whatever lies at the veiled core of Freemasonry, it cannot be denied that it's legacy is everywhere apparent. Most of America's founding fathers, including George Washington, were Masons. It is interesting to note that, though these men sacrificed their lives to break free from England's ideals of government and ruling class, they remained loyal to the Masonic brotherhood and allowed it to flourish in the New World.
The Egyptian obelisk design of the Washington Monument is intentionally Masonic, for Freemasonry holds the designs and geometry of ancient Egypt in the highest esteem. American currency is peppered with Masonic motifs such as the dollar bill's incomplete pyramid topped by the 'All-Seeing Eye.' Author David Ovason (The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital) argues that Washington, D.C. itself was planned according to a Masonic astrological design that aligns certain buildings with certain stars at significant times of the year. Freemasonry, it seems, has woven itself into the fabric of our country.
THE PRIORY OF SION
Another secret society allegedly influenced by the Templars is the Priory of Sion, perhaps the most secretive and ominous clandestine organization in history. It is so secret that even historians debate whether or not it truly exists. Formed in France and supposedly dating back to the eleventh century, the Priory has had Templars as members and throughout the centuries has had eminent personages such as Leonardo da Vinci, Victor Hugo and Isaac Newton as Grand Masters.
The secret aim of the Priory is to restore the Merovingian bloodline to power in Europe. The Merovingians, driven from the French throne in the Middle Ages, were believed by the Priory to be direct descendants of the children of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Such a belief, shocking and blasphemous even today, would have been dangerously heretical in the Middle Ages, when the Church was at the zenith of its often tyrannical power. The extreme stealth and discretion of the Priory are thus easy to understand.
It is alleged that the Priory is active even today, its ranks filled with leaders in the realms of international finance and politics. Perhaps the recent formation of the European Union with its common currency of the Euro is a first step in their program to put a Merovingian at the head of powerful, united European kingdom.
One of the more famous (or infamous) secret societies is the Illuminati, formed in Bavaria in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt but hearkening back to even older secret groups with similar aims. Weishaupt was a law professor who became disenchanted with the Church's power in Europe and who championed not only rationalism and humanism but also the ancient mystical knowledge of Mesopotamia. One didn't need the Church to find God, he believed, one needed only to be initiated into long-suppressed mysteries and rituals to become 'illuminated.' This seemingly contradictory adherence to both rationalism and ancient mysticism was, of course, a danger to Christian dogma, and the Illuminati were naturally harassed by government and Church authorities until their organizational demise in 1790.
But did the group really disappear? In constructing the Illuminati order, Weishaupt cunningly advocated a method of secrecy that included having members 'hide' in other competing societies like the Masons, and he advised his upper echelon men to deceive even their own subordinates as to the order's plans and motives.
In this way, only an elite few know the whole story, and those few lurk like double agents in other groups, subtly and stealthily influencing them to serve the ultimate goal of the Illuminati, a unified world government controlled by them. Secret societies have existed for centuries, and their elusiveness makes it difficult to determine how much of an influence they've had on life and culture as we know it. These groups, with their often heretical beliefs and ideals, form the shadow side of our more familiar religions and institutions. Knowledge is power, and the knowledge these groups claim to guard is so explosive and threatening to the status quo that concealment seems to be in their best interest... and perhaps in ours as well.
For further study, consult these books:
Freemasonry and its Ancient Mystic Rites by C.W. Leadbeater
Rule By Secrecy by Jim Marrs
Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln
The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital by David Ovason.