Dark Realms Magazine - Issue 15

Dark Brotherhoods: History's Sinister Shadow Societies

They meet in secret and their goals are cloaked in shadows and rumors. Their founders claim to possess mystical, esoteric insights into the universe that could change of perhaps desroy the world. They gain a sometimes unwanted notoriety at certain times in history, and then they seem to vanish or simply retreat further underground. They are history's dark brotherhoods clandestine groups and shadowy societies, many with vaguely religious overtones, all wielding a surprising influence on the world at large.


While groups like the Knights Templar, the Illuminati and the Freemasons are more well-known to the world, history is filled with numerous lesser known cult- like societies. One of the most intriguing is the Order of the Rosy Cross, more familiarly known as the Rosicrucians.

Though there exist documents that indicate that an Order of the Rosy Cross was founded in 1188 by a former Knight Templar named Jean de Gisors, the Rosicrucian movement didn't truly begin to flourish until the early 1600s, when two tracts suddenly began circulating in Germany. The documents allegedly written by a mystic named Christian Rosencreutz, chronicled his travels through the Holy Land and the Mediterranean, where he claimed to have come into possession of sacred Eastern knowledge. However, it is more likely the tracts were penned by Johann Valentin Andrea, a German cleric who wanted to create a brotherhood that would challenge the theological authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rosicrucians mysteriously made themselves known in Paris in 1622 and scattered posters throughout the city overnight, declaring that they were now among the Parisian citizens to save them from the error of death. In the seventeenth century, The Rosicrucians claimed to have accomplished the alchemical transmutation of metals, the means of prolonging life, the ability to detect secret and hidden objects, as well as the ability to see and hear what was occurring in distant places.

The Rosicrucians' body of secrets seemed to have originated from ancient Egypt, and in general their beliefs were an innovative blend of ancient mysticism, scientific inquiry, mathematics and rational philosophy. If this wasn't enough to incur the wrath of the science-hating Church, another Rosicrucian document, a bizarre fantasy called The Chemical Wedding, was filled with many overt symbolic references to the Knights Templar, a secret society outlawed by the Church when it began to grow too rich and too powerful. Many historians believe that the Rosicrucians were simply the Templars operating under another name. Whatever the truth is, the Rosicrucians, like the Templars, were banned by the Church and their members burrowed deeply into the ranks of Freemasonry, influencing that secret society's direction. In fact, it is widely thought that Freemasonry, a still-active organization with mystical beliefs relating to geometry and science, received a lot of those doctrines courtesy of the Rosicrucians. Moreover, Rosicrucianism is credited as being one of the factors that eroded the Church's influence and helped fan the flames of the rationalist movement in Europe.


A less benign secret brotherhood was the Thule Society, a German cabal that arose in the dawn of the twentieth century. Founded in 1919 by Baron Rudolf Freiherr von Sebottendorff, The Thule Society was an anti-Semitic, pro-Aryan order that believed in the existence of the legendary Ultima Thule, an icy Atlantis- like island near the North Pole that was the alleged home of an extraterrestrial super-race that interbred with humans over the years. The grand, ancient wisdom of Ultima Thule's civilization could be channeled through elaborate occult rituals, which could put members of the Thule Society into spiritual contact with Ultima Thule's ruling entities. These "Ancients," or "Masters" as they were called could enlighten the initiated and endow them with supernatural abilities. Membership into the inner circle of the Thule Society was closed to women and those who did not meet a certain "Aryan" pedigree.

One of the more prominent Thulists of the time was Dietrich Eckart, a poet and newspaper publisher with a fervent desire to use the Thule Society as a means to control Germany and eventually the world. During the tense years in Germany after World War I, when Germany's economy was faltering and various political factions vied for power, the Thule Society exerted its influence by expelling the Communists from Munich and helping to create the German Workers Party. With the Thule Society's behindthe- scenes maneuvering, the German Workers Party gained political clout and popularity, but Eckart shrewdly saw that the party needed a dynamic leader if it was to survive and lead Germany into better days and world prominence. He found that leader in an amateur Austrian painter and World War I veteran named Adolf Hitler, who, like Eckart, had an interest in spirituality and the occult. As the saying goes, the rest is history, and if there are any doubts as to the Thule Society's influence on world events, one need only look at another piece of evidence: in 1919, well before the formation of the Nazi Party, the group's logo was a swastika.


Though every college has its share of beer- drinking and girl-chasing fraternities, few are as strange and as legendary as Yale University's Skull and Bones. Established in 1832, this dark brotherhood was founded by Yale student William H. Russell, an obscenely wealthy young man whose family's riches were derived from opium smuggling. Many believe that Skull and Bones was actually just the American branch of an older German secret society, which some researchers speculate is the Illuminati, an ultra-secret sect of mystics seeking to eradicate the power of existing religions and governments in Europe in order to forge a new unified world government... one led covertly by the Illuminati themselves.

The Skull and Bones order, like the Illuminati, has a skull and crossbones emblem, and the group also seems to share the Illuminati's preoccupation with shaping the political destiny of the world. The membership of Skull and Bones is a veritable who's-who of American politics, past and present: McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser to Lyndon Johnson; both President George W. Bush and his father, President George Herbert Walker Bush; Senator John Kerry; Alphonso Taft, Secretary of War under President Grant; and numerous officials in the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Over the years, the order has become a secret haven populated by America's wealthiest blue-blood families—the Rockefellers, Whitneys, Harrimans and others—leading many critics to believe that Skull and Bones is simply a de facto aristocracy whose members have infiltrated the highest ranks of government and business in order to turn the country into a personal buffet for the wealthy American elite.

Each school year at Yale, fifteen juniors from the appropriate rich families are offered membership in Skull and Bones for their senior year. Their initiation rites into the fraternity take place in the so-called Tomb, an on- campus building with no windows that serves as the group's headquarters. One of the group's most treasured artifacts that resides within the Tomb is a human skull said to be that of the Apache chief Geronimo. The macabre relic was reportedly stolen by Prescott Bush, George W.'s grandfather.

Skull and Bones initiation rituals include sleeping in coffins and confessing sexual indiscretions to fellow Bonesmen (presumably to give the fraternity potential blackmail material if a recruit falls out of line). Once indoctrinated into Skull and Bones, members can look forward to profitable futures in government, finance, business and publishing, any arena in which it is possible to influence American culture, for good or for ill.


Another extremely influential group with interests in managing the world's affairs is the blandly named Council on Foreign Relations, or the CFR, which was established in New York City, immediately following World War I, by Colonel Edward House, a top-level adviser to Woodrow Wilson. Finances for the CFR came from: J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, among other wealthy philanthropists. The CFR and its British counterpart, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, are populated by thousands of leading players in politics, business, academia and the media. Ostensibly holding regular—and very confidential—meetings to innocently discuss major world issues, the CFR is thought by many to be dedicated to gradually creating or helping to create acceptance of a single world government, a goal eerily reminiscent of the Illuminati's desire for global domination. Nearly every American presidential administration since Wilson has been filled with CFR members, and policies discussed in the CFR's clandestine gatherings have invariably become legislative reality.

In order to establish a unified world government, barriers between nations have to be eliminated, and perhaps the CFR's influence can be seen in the North American Free Trade Agreement, in which trade barriers between the US, Canada and Mexico were relaxed. In Europe, the creation of the European Union and the adoption of a single currency could also be seen as yet another step toward a single global government. Perhaps the CFR's behind-the-scenes stage management is present here as well.

There are many more examples of shadowy organizations that have worked to shape our culture, our beliefs and our laws. Members of one group are often members of others, and certain secret societies are often just offshoots of previously existing sects. Though their goals may not always be sinister, the fact that these brotherhoods shun publicity and thrive on secrecy suggests that their doings may not always be ethical or noble. Anything that feels compelled to reside in the shadows usually has something dark or unsavory to conceal.