An organization that hides its membership and activities from non-members is termed as a 'secret society'. It is expected that the members take an oath not to reveal the society's secrets. Also, they have to negate that they are members if interrogated by outsiders.
The following can be categorized as secret societies:
- Harmless college fraternities
- Fraternal organizations conducting secret ceremonies
- Mythical organizations having self-sufficient political and financial agendas, potency, and worldwide reach to be involved in conspiracy theories
Some Not-So-Secret Societies
Though by and large secret societies do not wish to reveal their intentions, but their acts bring them into the limelight, for good or for worse. Here is a brief list of secret societies that did not remain so secret.
- Propaganda Due
- Scroll and Key Society
- Secret societies in Singapore
- Knights Templar
- Know Nothing
- Ku Klux Klan
- Ordo Templi Orientis
- Irish Republican Brotherhood
- Golden Dawn
American Protective Association
This was active from 1891 to 1897. It was an anti-Catholic society which had Irish protestants, German and Scandinavian Lutherans. It had the following objectives:
- Expelling Catholic teachers from public schools
- Restricting Catholics from public offices
- Hindering Catholic immigration to America
- Adding English as a prerequisite to obtain American citizenship
Associations of the Polish Youth
This was a secret association of Polish students at the universities of Russia, Austria, and Germany, as well as other European universities where there were a large number of Polish students. It desired to group talented youth for three purposes:
- As pro-Polish agitators
- As civil servants in a future Polish state
- As community leaders
This organization was started in Krakow by Zygmunt Balicki. Further, it spread to Moscow, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Paris, Zurich, Geneva, etc. The following activities were carried out:
- Discussions of Polish history
- Instruction of Polish language
- Publishing secret magazines like Teka, Wici, etc.
- Conspirative military training in Germany
Bishop James Madison Society
This was started in 1812 in the College of William and Mary in Virginia. It was a posthumous tribute to the life of Bishop James Madison, a cousin of James Madison, the US president. The Bishop was also the eighth president of William and Mary.
During the American Civil War, William and Mary was occupied by the Union troops, and the society was closed. In the twentieth century, it was restarted. The activities were intended to enhance the joy, pride, and reputation of the college community.
This was also called the Cambridge Conversazione Society. The founder was George Tomlinson. He started it in 1820 as an elite intellectual secret society at Cambridge University. Initially, the members were from King's College and Trinity College. Undergraduates, graduates, as well as university and college incumbents have been the members.
As there were twelve founders, the nickname 'Apostles' was used. The active and generally undergraduate members are called 'Apostles', while senior members are referred to as 'Angles'.
Fraternity of the Inner Light
Dion Fortune started this group in 1922. Later, it was called 'The Society of the Inner Light'. The initial training was offered by correspondence courses. If this was completed successfully the aspirants were promoted to 'Lesser Mysteries' and further to 'Greater Mysteries'.
Sons of Liberty
American patriots formed this secret organization in the Thirteen colonies prior to the American Revolution. Their aim was to oppose the British Crown. They attacked the gentleman's houses, East India Company Tea and Customs officers of the British Empire. The British authorities called them as 'Sons of Violence' and 'Sons of Iniquity'.
Some other secret societies are:
- The Gun Club
- Union of Prosperity
- Z Society
- Porcellian Club