The relationships that people have amongst them are all based upon the precondition that they know something about each other, says Professor Dr. Georg Simmel. He gives the example of the merchant that knows his correspondent wants to buy at the lowest price and sell at the highest or the fact that the teacher know that he may credit to the pupil a certain quality and quantity of information. His examples are to prove that all relationships are biased to obvious reservations, intensity and shading “in the degree in which each unit reveals himself to other through work and deed”.

There are a few steps for reaching the relationship between individuals. One first step is, according to Simmel, the precondition of having anything to do with the other. In this sense, the discussion continues in terms of reciprocal apprehension “If A has a different conception of M from that of B, this does not necessarily mean incompleteness or deception. On the contrary, the personality of A and the total circumstances of his relation to M being what they are, his picture of M is for him true, while for B a picture differing somewhat in its content may likewise be true. It is by no means correct to say that, over and above these two pictures, there is the objectively correct apprehension of M, by which the two are to be corrected according to the measure of their agreement with it”. This is much what happens in the real life, every relationship between individuals causes a picture that is created in the mind of the other.

The importance of acknowledging an interaction unit which Is characterized in its total by the reciprocal relations among its members and added the fact that they are governed by the protective function of secrecy, is the key factor into understanding Simmel’s concept of the secret society. This again is established on a dual contingency:

  1. The members keep safe from the public eye their ideas, objects, activities and sentiments to which they attach positive value;
  2. The members keep their valued elements somewhat protected (through secrecy and censorship) in the sense that they control and decide which and in what amount is allowed for the others to know about them, depending upon the extensiveness of secrecy. Some aspects such as membership, regulations or goals are always kept secret.


Simmel’s propositions function and are applied primarily to the genetic and developmental conditions of the secret society.

Proposition 1

The more value of an idea, object, activity, or sentiment is predicated on the restricted distribution of information about that idea, object, activity or sentiment, the more likely those persons who so define the value will organize as a secret society.

Proposition 2

The more valued ideas, objects, activities, or sentiments of the members of a social unit are perceived as disproportionately threatened by those of nonmembers, the more likely the members will organize as a secret society.

Proposition 3

The greater the tendency toward political oppression and totalitarian regimentation in the larger society, the greater the tendency toward development of secret societies within the larger society.

Proposition 4

The greater the value of the ideas, objects, activities, or sentiments that constitute the focus of secrecy, the greater the tendency of the secret society toward total inclusion of its members’ activities, sentiments, ideas and objects, and the greater the members’ isolation from other interactional units.

Proposition 5

The greater the tendency toward total inclusion, the more the organization adopts characteristics of the larger society.

Proposition 6

The greater the tendency toward the total inclusion, the more likely the members possess aristocratic self-conceptions.

Proposition 7

The more extensive the secrecy of the secret society, the greater the tendency toward centralization of authority.


Some of the most well-known secret societies are laid down to question even today and they continue to create controversies. Here are top 5 secret societies:

  1. Freemasons – Officially started by Freemasons in 1717 and dating until the present, it is a secret society counting approx. 5 million members with lodges all over the world.
  2. The Illuminati – Based on an organization established in Europe in 1700s. The attention was drawn towards this particular group as many of videos of celebrities like Beyonce, Jay-Z or Rihanna were thought of being part of the society. The Illuminati is considered of not existing anymore even though rumors are spreading.
  3. Skull and Bones – Started in 1832 at Yale University, the secret society with hidden practices and rituals does not deny her existence today.
  4. The Knights Templar – A Masonic secret society with an ideology based upon the history of Knights Templar.
  5. The Bilderberg Group – the secrecy of its meetings are standing at the center of people’s urge to know more. It’s a society consisting of highly influential world leaders.



Andra Tirnovan

Journalism Year III




Georg Simmel. American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jan., 1906), pp. 441-498 Web. Last accessed June 09, 2015.


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