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Here's how to live the good life according to the secret societies
The common teachings that guide the lives of members of various societies
“Secret societies,” in the sense of exclusive, symbolic, ceremonial, initiation-based groups can be traced clear back to the proto-Indo-European warrior groups that served as a rite of passage for some young males. And of course the “mystery schools,” or “mystery cults” of ancient times could be considered a precursor, with initiation, rites, secret knowledge, etc.
And fascination with these societies continued in the middle ages with the Knights Templar and later the stonemason guilds that would became Freemasonry, which can be linked to the Rosicrucians and the Illuminati, which brings us to the modern day, where the Masons are still doing their thing, elite academic secret societies like Skull and Bones still exist, and Illuminati conspiracy theories grip us more than ever.
So with such enduring appeal, what do these societies actually preach as a way to live? What are the philosophies and teachings in these supposedly wise groups about how to have a good life and be happy?
Looking at a variety of secret societies, from the Freemasons, to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, to the Rosicrucians, the Society of Guardians, and more, here are the common threads that I’ve pieced together, which are by no means guaranteed to be accurate. These are surface-level observations and nothing more.
Be a better person
Trying to be a better person is a major thread. The Freemasons believe that through their society, members lives will be enriched, and they will be surrounded by people trying to improve their lives and encouraging others to do the same.
“To help each other become better men ... and strive to apply the timeless virtues of brotherly love, charity and truth to their everyday lives.”
— Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Works of charity and improving society are central to the public-facing side of Freemasonry and its affiliated orders, such as the Shriners.
“The typical Mason wants to continue to grow as a man and to benefit society.”
— Grand Lodge of Mississippi
The Rosicrucians, at least in modern form, go so far as to have a “code of life” packed full of morality:
“Be humanistic. Regard all humanity as your family. Beyond race, culture, and belief, all human beings are brothers and sisters. Consequently, they all deserve the same respect and consideration.”
“Be generous towards those who are in need or less favored than you. Arrange things every day so that you do at least one good deed for someone else.”
— Rosicrucian Code of Life
Rather than charity and living a moral life, the Illuminati may have set out to be a little more influential in their sense of morality, and to push it on the world, with a goal to “put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.” They wanted to take down the man, in a sense. They saw overbearing religious influence as stifling to mankind.
Mental strength and abilities
Second, there is often an emphasis on cultivating mental strength or abilities in secret societies, whether in a more traditional sense, through meditation, or through some kind of mysticism or magic.
“If there is some aspect of my reality that I am not completely happy with, the onus is on me to effect some change in accordance with my Will and Intention. For things’ to change, first I must change. It is a fact of life that any changes anywhere within my being will involve changes in my nervous system - and in like manner, any changes in my nervous system will bring about changes in my whole being.
Of all the things we do, breathing is the one thing which we all normally do automatically, but which any one of us can take conscious control of, whenever we choose.”
— On “Magical Breathing” from The Society of Guardians
Many secret societies emphasize some kind of power, magical or otherwise, that we can tap into or learn, often related to the mind:
“The Master of Hermetics polarizes himself at the point at which he desires to rest, and then neutralizes the Rhythmic swing of the pendulum which would tend to carry him to the other pole ... the Master does this consciously, and by the use of his Will, and attains a degree of Poise and Mental Firmness almost impossible of belief on the part of the masses who are swung backward and forward like a pendulum.”
— The Kybalion
Members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn practice actual ritual magic, drawing (like other societies) from Hermetic beliefs.
A higher purpose
Finally, the belief in a higher power, and the goal of seeking a higher purpose, are very common in secret societies. For the Freemasons, belief in a higher power is mandatory to become a Mason.
And other societies are less strict, but emphasize being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
“Man is destined for a greater, more sublime purpose—to become a conscious vehicle of the cosmic creative process.”
— Paul A. Clark, The Hermetic Qabalah
Whether the society is preaching charity, the influencing of politics, magic ritual, or esoteric study, it’s nearly universal that we have a “higher purpose” here on Earth.
Just like religion. Which, of course, is closely linked to most secret societies, many of which were spinoffs or counter-organizations to organized religion.
But many clearly prefer the open-minded curiosity and “secret knowledge” of some secret societies to the perceived dogmatic, single-minded religious organizations.
So you might say that the good life, according to secret societies, is very similar to the good life according to spirituality, religion, and moral philosophy.
But with a secrecy that perhaps binds members to a common goal in a more intimate way, requiring a major life commitment, and offering knowledge that is unattainable to the uninitiated.