The world’s most mysterious secret societies

The Eye of Providence
The Eye of Providence has its roots in Christianity but is now widely associated with the Illuminati | Image: Shutterstock.com

Secret societies have been around since the beginning of time. They have flourished in many different places, with secrets, intrigue, and plenty of mystery keeping them on the periphery of our consciousness.

Do these secret societies really control our governments? Are kings and queens from around the world actually signed up as members of some of these clubs? To get in the spirit of Summer of Secrets, let’s look more closely at four of the most mysterious secret societies and the secrets they hold.

1. Illuminati

The Illuminati was established in Bavaria, Germany, in 1776. The founder was Adam Weishaupt, who began the organisation in opposition to the powerful Catholic Church. Weishaupt wanted to cast aside organised religion and introduce the new concept of “illumination through reason”. He grew his movement quickly, drawing inspiration from other organisations, including the Freemasons, Jesuits, and the Mysteries of the Seven Sages of Memphis.

Weishaupt worked hard to recruit members, even infiltrating Freemason lodges to bring people over to his movement. The secrets of the Illuminati remain hidden with the use of cyphers and codes for all communications and classical-inspired nicknames for all members. The founder was known as ‘Spartacus’ amongst members, and his mysterious secret order inspired Umberto Eco’s famous novel, Foucault’s Pendulum.

2. Bilderberg

The 1954 Bilderberg Meeting brought together some of the world’s most powerful politicians from across Europe and North America. It was named after the Hotel de Bilderberg where it took place and was initially organised to improve relations between Europe and America. Bilderberg meetings are completely private but not strictly secret like the Illuminati or Freemasons. The meetings have attracted many high-profile attendees over the years, from Margaret Thatcher to Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair to Bill Clinton.

Members are bound by the Chatham House Rule, meaning they cannot share anything that happens in the meetings. Conspiracy theories are awash with what major political decisions may have occurred at each Bilderberg get-together. Some argue almost all political alliances between Europe and America are made and broken at Bilderberg meetings.

3. The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar was disbanded hundreds of years ago...or was it? It was initially a band of warriors dedicated to protecting the Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. It was founded in 1118, and members were bound to a very strict code of ethics, including no gambling, alcohol, or profane language. Legend tells us the Knights Templar was dissolved in 1312 due to pressure from the French Crown.

However, people argue to this day that there may still be members operating around the world. Conspiracy theories suggest the Knights Templar still has members guarding invaluable Christian artefacts such as the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Grail. Dan Brown’s hugely popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, brought the mystery of the Knights Templar back into the public eye.

4. Freemasons

Seemingly innocent and all about fraternal friendship, the Freemasons are perhaps the most famous secret society ever to have existed. The organisation was founded in 1717, and members argue it is not a religion, although they are encouraged to believe in the existence of a “Grand Architect of the Universe”. This puts them in direct contention with religious organisations, and the Catholic Church first condemned the Freemasons in 1738.

The Freemasons have regularly been accused of wanting to start their own world order, but their members always refute this. The shrouded secrecy of their meetings and get-togethers suggests we’ll never really know what goes on behind the closed doors of masonic lodges. If you do want to find out more, as the Freemasons say themselves “All you have to do is ask”.

Secrets and intrigue are at the heart of these societies, and that’s how their members want it to stay. Even organisations that claim to have disbanded may still be continuing their work, but we may never know exactly what’s going on, which just adds to the mystery!