No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

The Secret and the Secret Society

Knowledge of others and trust play crucial roles in social interactions. Our understanding of others forms the basis of our interactions. Relationships are built on mutual knowledge, allowing for communication and interaction. Our perception of others is influenced by both objective facts and subjective interpretations. Human knowledge is inherently limited, and we often present a curated version of ourselves to others. Truthfulness and falsehood play significant roles in social dynamics, affecting trust and the structure of society. Trust in modern society is influenced by factors such as objectification and specialization.


Different types of relationships require varying degrees of personal knowledge and trust. Relationships differ in their level of intimacy and in the boundaries of self-revelation and discretion within these relationships. Acquaintance is a superficial level of knowing someone, where only external aspects are recognized, and the deeper layers of personality remain concealed. Discretion is emphasized in these interactions, respecting the privacy of others. Friendship is a deeper bond where mutual understanding and self-revelation occur, albeit with varying degrees of intimacy. An ancient ideal of friendship is the seeking of complete mutual understanding. Modern tendencies towards more differentiated friendships focus on specific aspects of personalities. While modern marriages aim for comprehensive sharing of life's aspects, including emotional and psychological, maintaining a degree of reserve can be essential for preserving the vitality of the relationship. Secrets are significant in both personal and societal contexts. Secrets create a sense of ownership and exclusivity, while also carrying the potential for betrayal. Secrets contribute to individualization and differentiation within social structures. The evolution of society influences the nature of secrecy. Secrecy plays a role in governance and business too. As society becomes more open in certain respects, individuals may seek greater privacy and concealment in their personal lives.


Secrets are both a form of protection and a means of forming exclusive communities. Secrecy operates within these societies, and trust and the ability to keep silent are of importance. Secrecy is enforced through oaths and punishments. Secret societies can either reinforce individualistic tendencies or promote a sense of collective belonging. The hierarchical structure often found within secret societies, shows that they are meticulously organized and governed by a system of ranks and divisions.


Ritual serves to create a cohesive and autonomous social structure within secret societies. Rituals serve as a unifying force, forming a distinct identity for these societies and reinforcing their sense of exclusivity. The secrecy surrounding rituals is crucial, as it not only enhances the unity of the group but also adds to its mystique and perceived power. Secret societies form within broader societal contexts and tend towards autonomy and freedom. Secrecy functions as a means of achieving autonomy and separating from the larger society. In such groups, secrecy has aristocratic and moral dimensions. Initiation rituals create and maintain a hierarchical structure within secret societies. They contribute to the protection and preservation of the group's innermost secrets.


Secret societies exhibit a form of group egoism, pursuing their own objectives with little regard for external structures. They justify their actions morally and tend to exclude those not expressly included. Societies operate on either the principle of inclusion by default or exclusion by default. Secret societies fall into the latter category, excluding those not expressly included. Secret societies demonstrate high cohesion and obedience to leadership, especially in criminal contexts. Centralization and anonymity of leadership intensify obedience. Members of secret societies often lose their distinct personalities, becoming mere numbers or roles within the group. This depersonalization reduces individual responsibility. Secret societies are viewed with suspicion by the larger society, often perceived as threats to existing powers due to their secretive nature.


Simmel, G. (1908), Das Geheimnis und die geheime Gesellschaft, in: Soziologie - Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.