“Did Zanoni belong to this mystical Fraternity, who, in an earlier age, boasted of secrets of which the Philosopher’s Stone was but the least; who considered themselves the heirs of all that the Chaldeans, the Magi, the Gymnosophists, and the Platonists had taught; and who differed from all the darker Sons of Magic in the virtue of their lives, the purity of their doctrines, and their insisting, as the foundation of all wisdom, on the subjugation of the senses, and the intensity of Religious Faith?” – Zanoni, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton
“The governments of the present day have to deal not merely with other governments, with emperors, kings and ministers, but also with the secret societies which have everywhere their unscrupulous agents, and can at the last moment upset all the governments’ plans.” – British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1876
Two very different views of secret societies are revealed in the quotations above. The first describes a spiritual brotherhood pledged to Wisdom and guiding humanity toward the realm of the Infinite; the second seeks to expose the machinations of power-seekers who cloak their manipulative agendas in darkness. In addition to spiritual and political secret societies, one could add criminal secret societies such as the Mafia, or even clandestine elite military units – neither of which will be discussed here.
Taking a Closer Look at the Stories Ignored by the Mainstream Media