Monthly Post

Knock and Give the Password

Over the the course of the last year we’ve explored quite a bit of the magical history of America, from colonial times up to the coming of Theosophy and the dawn of the golden age of American occultism.  Before we go deeper into that golden age in all its weirdness and wonder, it’s time to glance back and take a look at some of the other things that made it what it was. Occultism never exists in a vacuum. It always draws on other themes and currents in the culture that surrounds it, and it always influences the culture around it, sometimes obviously, sometimes less so.

One of the currents that played an especially important role in the magical history of America also has useful lessons to teach in other contexts, and though it’s largely forgotten these days, it still has a lot to offer. Yes, it’s time to talk about secret societies.

It’s one of the weirder features of today’s culture that people who think about secret societies rarely know enough history to get their facts straight, while those who know something about history generally ignore the role that secret societies played therein.  So let’s start with that mainstay of rhetoric around secret societies:  a revolution planned and implemented behind lodge doors. No, we’re not talking about the French or Russian Revolutions—we’re talking about the American Revolution.  Think of the Boston Tea Party, the famous ride of Paul Revere, the battle of Bunker Hill.  Do those make you think of figures in dimly lit rooms, plotting in secret?  It should.

Bro. Revere’s thinking again. The British will not be happy.

The American Revolution was planned and organized by one secret society, and its opening moves on the rebel side were carried out by another. The first of those was the Committees of Correspondence, a secret network of influential colonial citizens who started by organizing resistance to British laws that penalized the colonies unfairly, and from there moved step by step into planning a revolution.  The second was the Sons of Liberty, which started out as a protest group and from there moved step by step into becoming a covert army.  When Paul Revere saddled up and rode through the night, calling out “The redcoats are coming!  The redcoats are coming!”  he was alerting his fellow Sons of Liberty that the balloon was going up.

Linked with both these societies, of course, was a third organization, the Freemasons. Masonry wasn’t directly involved in the Revolution—plausible deniability was already a thing in 1776—but if you look in the minutes of a certain Boston lodge for the meeting that was scheduled for the night of the Boston Tea Party, you’ll find a note saying that the lodge was adjourned early because of, ahem, “pressing business elsewhere.”  Many of the members of the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty were also Freemasons. Were all Freemasons in favor of American independence?  Not a chance. There were British regimental lodges in the colonies, and there were other lodges whose members were mostly Tories. That’s why colonial Masons interested in revolutionary activities founded other organizations.

Pretty impressive for a lodge hall.

And when the war was over, did the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty become secret organizations controlling the new republic?  No, not that, either. The Committees of Correspondence had already morphed into the Continental Congress, which became the Congress we have today.  The Sons of Liberty morphed, too; we call it the United States Army today.  In other words, your congresscritters and the men and women on duty at your nearest Army base all belong to organizations that started out life as secret societies. Meanwhile Freemasons kept on being Freemasons, which meant pursuing the odd but traditional mix of charity, networking, and personal improvement that is Masonry’s stock in trade.

Three crucial points can be drawn from this review of history.  The first is that people in secret societies don’t run the world; they belong to political secret societies because they want to have more influence than they do. More generally, secret societies are a tactic of choice when for one reason or another, you don’t have (or choose) the option of taking action in a more direct way.  When political secret societies have done their work well and the situation turns in their favor, they ditch the secrecy and become political parties, armies, or governments.

The second crucial point is that the fact that two people both belong to a secret society doesn’t mean they’re on the same side. More generally, it’s a mistake to think, as the conspiratorially minded are too prone to think, that all secret societies are on the same side, or that they’re all sock puppets of some uber-society that rules them all.  Not so. Arkon Daraul’s famous quote—“the history of the world is the history of the warfare between secret societies”—is an overstatement, but it catches a detail that too many other people miss: secret societies very often go after each other with whatever weapons they have to hand.

When the original Bavarian Illuminati was trying to drum up recruits in Germany in the late 1770s and early 1780s, for example, their main opposition came from the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross, the most influential conservative secret society of the time.  When the Ku Klux Klan was making its bid for power in 1920s America, one of the things that tripped them up was pushback from anti-Klan secret societies—the Knights of the Flaming Circle, the All-American Association, the gloriously named Order of Anti-Poke-Noses, and more.  In Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, dozens of secret societies pushed their agendas, made temporary alliances with other societies and then stabbed their erstwhile allies in the back when conditions changed. We haven’t had anything quite that colorful in the United States, but now and then it’s come close.

No match for the Order of Anti-Poke-Noses.

The third crucial point, and the one that matters most for current purposes, is that not all secret societies are interested in politics. Some are into it up to their eyeballs, no question, but there are many others that are serenely uninterested in politics, and go out of their way to exclude political discussion from their meetings, because they have other purposes in mind. We can explore one such set of purposes with the aid of a man named Thomas Wildey, who emigrated from England to the United States in 1819.  In England he had been a member of an organization called the Order of Odd Fellows—and thereby hangs a tale.

Back in the Middle Ages, every skilled profession had its own guild, which provided social services to its members.  The guilds had three levels of membership. Apprentices learned the craft from a master; fellows or journeymen—terms differed—had finished their apprenticeship and worked as employees of a master until they could create a masterpiece (yes, that’s where the word comes from) and set up as a master themselves. Later on, as the system became corrupt and dysfunctional, the masters stopped letting fellows qualify as masters, and became employers hiring fellows for as little as they could get away with paying. The fellows then organized their own quasi-guilds.  Some of these quasi-guilds accepted fellows from any trade—that is to say, odd fellows. When the guild system finally fell apart, these odd fellows’ societies survived, because they provided a social safety net for members.

Bro. Wildey in Odd Fellows regalia.

So Wildey decided to found a similar organization here in the United States. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the organization he launched, was for many years the largest secret society in North America:  bigger than the Freemasons, bigger than anybody.  Its modus operandi was simple. When you belonged to an Odd Fellows lodge you contributed 25 cents (in today’s money, a $20 bill) every week to the lodge benevolent fund. In exchange, if you became too sick to work, the lodge would provide you with sick pay—employers didn’t do that back then—and if you died, the lodge would pay for your funeral and make sure your widow and children were taken care of. That wasn’t just rhetoric, either.  When my great-grandfather John W. Greer, an Aberdeen, WA police officer and an Odd Fellow, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1921, his lodge saw to it that his widow was taken care of for the rest of her life and their thirteen children all got a good education and all their needs met until they turned eighteen.

Still going strong in the African-American community.

At a time when a week off work due to sickness could land a family on the street, this was unsurprisingly popular, and within a short time hundreds of other secret societies copied the scheme. Not all of them, by the way, drew members from among the light-skinned. African-Americans were even more active in founding lodges than their white neighbors—of the 3500 secret societies (not individual lodges, whole societies, some with tens of thousands of lodges) active in the United States in 1900, 1500 were African-American organizations. Immigrants were also at the cutting edge of the fraternal benefit movement, which is why you can still find organizations such as the Sons of Norway and the B’nai B’rith in ethnic neighborhoods all over the United States. Most of them aren’t secret societies any more, but they started out that way.

Sick pay and the like weren’t the only things benefit lodges offered. Many of them also provided health care:  the lodge hired a doctor and a couple of nurses, who got a monthly salary, and would be hired again for the next year if the service they provided was up to spec.  In exchange, the doctor and the nurses provided health care to all the members of the lodge. It was called “lodge trade” and it was the bread and butter of many thousands of physicians, especially young doctors who needed the chance to build up a clientele.  (It doesn’t exist any more because the American Medical Association put decades of hard work into abolishing it—lodge trade gave patients rather than doctors control over health care costs and quality, which was and is utterly unacceptable to the medical profession. Not coincidentally, it was right around the time that lodge trade was finally destroyed that health care costs started heading for the stratosphere.)

A little less wild than they once were.

Now of course not all lodges  were into such serious matters. Another set, the Elks, the Moose, the Eagles, and many more, are drinking lodges; their lodge buildings have bars inside. The Masons, the Odd Fellows, and many other lodges banned alcohol inside their lodge buildings, so brothers would attend the lodge meeting and then head elsewhere for liquid refreshment. In at least some states it was standard for Masons to join the Elks, Odd Fellows to join the Eagles, and members of other lodges to join the Moose. Because there’s an odd sort of suction that attracts lodges to charitable causes, or vice versa, all these ended up with their own well-funded philanthropic activities; the same thing happened with the Shriners, which started out as a party-hearty club for the hardest of hard-drinking Masons, and turned into an organization that funds an impressive network of free hospitals and burn clinics for children.

Back when I discussed this sort of thing in talks to various groups, it’s about here that someone would stick up a hand and ask why, if secret societies were doing all these laudable things, were they secret?  The answer’s twofold. The first is that old-fashioned lodges had constant problems with freeloaders—people who wanted to get lodge benefits without helping to support the lodge fund that paid for them—and also with entryists—people who wanted to weasel their way into lodges to take them over for some other purpose. (The two groups who did that most often back in the day were the socialists and the Ku Klux Klan; go figure.) Passwords, handshakes, and a variety of subtler tricks were part of what screened such people out.

Doesn’t look like a place for strange transformations, does it? Think again.

But there’s more to secrecy than that. One potent psychological effect of secrecy is that it makes it easy to think thoughts that your society doesn’t usually think. That’s one of the things that gives secret societies their power. The claim that politics is downstream from culture is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough; both politics and culture are downstream from the realm of myths and symbols—in less gnomic terms, the realm of emotionally charged narratives and images that people use to give form and meaning to the inkblot patterns of experience—and those can be worked with very effectively with the tools of lodge ritual. Behind lodge doors, you can say and think things you wouldn’t risk elsewhere; you can formulate those into narratives and images, and use them to reshape your own vision of the world; and once there, by the subtle connections that link all of us together, the myths and images flow out to shape the world

Thus lodges routinely drove change in potent and unexpected ways.  An order for working men called the Knights of Labor, for example, ended up evolving into the first labor union, and providing the pattern that all later labor unions followed.  That’s the reason why old-fashioned labor union initiation rituals look like any other lodge ritual. One item in my collection of bootleg lodge rituals is the ritual book of the Women’s International Auxiliary of the Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America, originally published in 1939; it’s got the standard lodge ceremonies—opening and closing for meetings, initiation for bringing in new members, memorial service for saying goodbye to old members, and installation ceremony for inaugurating each year’s elective officers. It was still in use in 1969—the copy I have has some official correspondence from that year tucked into it.

Then there was the Grange. Its official name is the Patrons of Husbandry; it was founded in 1867 as a lodge for farmers, and (unusually for the time) accepted male and female members on an equal basis. It spread through the farm belt, and then things got strange. If you think there’s anything new in a handful of huge corporations leveraging their control over new technology to amass gargantuan fortunes and play political games, I have news for you; the railroad barons of the late 19th century were just as corrupt, egotistical, and maniacally greedy as certain internet moguls we all could name.  Among the victims of their extortionate practices were farmers, who were charged wildly inflated prices to ship their crops by rail to markets.  The railroad barons profited, politicians took their bribes and did nothing, and farm families starved—again, it’s a familiar refrain nowadays for anyone who’s been paying attention.

The Grange is meeting again. The railroad barons will not be happy.

The Grange decided to fight back.  They didn’t waste their time going to Congress—in those days, Congress was gaudily corrupt and subservient to big-money interests, which has admittedly been its normal condition for most of this nation’s history.  They targeted state legislatures and courts instead, pushing pro-farmer candidates in election after election, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, and bargaining with state politicians in the mutual backscratching that makes for effective politics. It took most of two decades and the victories were won piecemeal, but the railroad barons were forced to back down; competition drove down freight costs, and farm country entered a boom that didn’t finally end until the runup to the Great Depression. (No, you won’t find this out in most school textbooks about the late 19th century.  I’ll let you guess why there’s a lack of interest in teaching people that they can solve their own problems by grassroots organization, rather than waiting for the government and the comfortable classes to set up one more well-paid bureaucracy with the ostensible purpose of helping them.)

Still active after all these years.

Granges did a lot more than that. They founded cooperative businesses, organized barn raisings and sewing bees, lent their Grange halls to members for wedding receptions and other events, and during the Great Depression, had weekly potlucks so that everyone got at least one really good meal a week. They also kept a beady eye on the shenanigans of state governments.  To this day every Grange is supposed to have a legislative committee, whose chairperson reports at each meeting to keep the members posted about what the legislature is up to this time.  It’s an effective system, and played a large role in keeping conditions in farm country less ghastly than they could have been—and again, I’ll let you guess why the schools, the media, and other vendors of prechewed pseudohistory never, ever mentioned any of this to you.

And of course there was more than this, much more—and this is where we begin to circle back to the magical history of America.

Secret societies have a galaxy of potential uses, and one of them is that they’re very handy if you want to teach occultism, especially if some of the people who want to learn it don’t necessarily want their involvement to become public knowledge.  That’s why in its earliest days, when Helena Blavatsky and Emma Hardinge Britten were circling each other like angry cats, the Theosophical Society used secret handshakes, opening and closing rituals, and the rest of it, and why local Theosophical organizations are still called lodges. It was in the wake of Theosophy’s rapid spread, however, that occult lodges popped up like mushrooms all over the United States and elsewhere, and played a massive role in the golden age of American occultism.

A few of those still exist today.  Most do not, and even in those that still exist, very few know how to use the toolkit that was so effectively deployed a century and a half ago. There’s a reason for that, and it bears directly on the broader theme of this blog.

Traditional American initiation rituals? We have them.

Back in the 1990s, when I was active in a variety of old-fashioned secret societies in Seattle, an African writer named Malidoma Somé was popular in New Age circles; one thing he wrote that got a lot of air time was his quite sensible claim that people need initiation rituals in their lives. You constantly heard people talking about how sad it was that American society no longer had any initiation rituals. Care to guess what happened when I and other people who were members of lodges pointed out that there were plenty of traditional American initiation rituals waiting for them, if they simply did what their great-grandparents did and joined a lodge?

You got it.  They gave us a blank thousand-mile stare, and went on talking about how sad it is that there aren’t any traditional American rituals. I’ve noted before that from the perspective of occultism, the normal state of human consciousness is a shallow doze haunted by vague dreams.  Nowadays, most people in that condition don’t even dream their own dreams—they dream the dreams that were put in their heads by the corporate mass media.

Secret societies don’t have a place in those dreams. At most they appear as something for the faux-sophisticated to laugh at, as Fred Flintstone’s Order of Water Buffaloes or stereotypes lifted current debates between conspiracy theorists and their opponents. Paul Revere isn’t included, nor are Grangers listening intently to the news from the state capital, nor is my grandfather, on his way to school in the morning because the Odd Fellows made sure he didn’t have to go to work to support the family at age thirteen.  Nor, of course, are the occult lodges we’ll be talking about in posts to come, which put the same toolkit to work to pass on the subtle and powerful arts of practical occultism to three generations of earnest seekers, and in some cases are still at it today.

It’s as though all this is still hidden away behind a lodge door, and you have to do the classic thing, knock on the door, and murmur the password once the strangely robed person inside opens it just a little.  The password?  “I know you’re in there.”  What else is in there with them—well, we’ll get to that, or some of that, in future posts.

208 Comments

  1. One of my tasks at the Fed was to answer inquiries on secret societies usually it devolved into some sort of conspiracy theory involving bankers. I know bankers are secretive by nature but I never heard of an “Official” secret banking society. The ones I knew about had bankers as members but also other folks. The Trilateral Commission and the like. I do not think that they had initiations though.

    I am curious as to what does classify as a secret society – do you need an initiation of sorts? Or just keep secrets or what?

    Do you know how secret societies became thought of as political and governing the world?

  2. How to have a secret society, in this day and digital age .. when nothing is secret no longer?? Ah .. there in lies the rub!

  3. Whatever their value in actual physical altercations, martial arts schools–staples of strip malls everywhere–yet provide an initiation experience for many Americans out there.

    Some of them (capoeira, hint hint) even provide an occult framework…

    Axé

  4. I forget where I heard this and you can say if it’s right or not. At one time there were no black American Masons because no white American members would bring them in. They ended up being initiated by British army officers and there’s been largely separate traditions since. They’ve started to blend together more recently but some people are against that. Not out of prejudice but because both evolved their own distinct cultures and they don’t want to mess with them. Is that accurate?

  5. Great post! I imagine this will inspire some folks to join a lodge. Since I moved last year, there are one or two local societies I’ve been eyeing, but it hasn’t really been the year for joining groups!

    There is one more kind of American secret societies that you left out, that is Greek Societies, or College Fraternities and Sororities. When I went to college, I ended up joining one for that reason you stressed at the end: initiation. There was a lot of drinking and partying and so un, but at the core there was also real ritual work that gave structure to the whole thing.

  6. Great post. I’d give just about anything to find a virtual secret society of the like-minded (God knows I couldn’t hope to find any physical gathering of the like-minded nearby in meatspace). That desire seems to be a feeling that’s increasingly common across the class strata in America, if the growth of QAnon (low class) and activist movements (upwardly-aspiring class) is anything to judge by.

    The question dogging me now is what a “lodge” might look like in the 2020s?

  7. I’ve really been noticing the effect of a personal vision effecting the external world in my own life. In a MM I asked about dealing with positive evil from a family member. All I did was dedicate one 10 minute walking meditation to understanding why they were behaving negatively to me. After that, they 180’d and started being positive and much more enjoyable to be around. They even show signs of shedding some of the beliefs of scientific materialism, and other negative aspects of mainstream culture.

    All this to say – I can see how a large group of people getting together and crafting a vision of society would spread to society at large via the subtle planes, even if the group kept their vision a secret. Maybe keeping the vision a secret makes it even more powerful!

    I use the metaphor of “losing steam” through sharing stuff like this. I’m not perfect at keeping things to myself all time by any means, and I decided in a meditation that it’s not always beneficial if you can’t handle the energies of an idea/experience internally.

    Thanks for the post!

  8. In the graphic novel Persepolis the Shah has to turn down a potential prime minister for being a Freemason. It also mentions Freemasonry in Iran as a significant book for understanding the history of the country. If you know the international history, what was going on there?

  9. This is a fascinating post, thanks. Now I have a question: to what extent is all this Protestant? Or is this sort of thing just as common in Catholic and Orthodox countries/cultures? What about non-Christian ones?

  10. I always did wonder what made Odd Fellows so – odd. So Odd Fellow basically translates to tradesman in today’s parlance. I see those Masonic lodge buildings and they rarely ever have any windows on them, just 4 bare walls with siding and that symbol attach near the roof. I wonder why they have no windows.

    The way I like to put it is your average human has a time window going back one week into the past and extending one week into the future and if it happens outside that window it might as well have never happened or will never happen. Your “shallow doze and vague dreams” is more poetic.

    So, thinking about the Hammer and Sickle(tm) a bit more, if you took the Odd Fellows and merged them with the Grange and turned that into a political party, I wonder who would come out of the woodwork to stop it.

  11. Oooh, excellent! I’m really looking forward to the discussions about this. Almost all of my forebears in the 1800s belonged to one or another of these lodges (or to their women’s auxiliaries), and sometimes to more than one: Odd Fellows, Freemasons, Woodsmen of the World, the Dania Brotherhood (for Danes in America), and so on.

    There is another thing, in addition to the fraternal (and sororal) lodges, that Malidoma Somé overlooked in his discussion of initiation rituals in American culture.

    In the African rituals that he describes, young men are removed from their families, and spend time together far away from their homes under the leadership of tribal elders. They are deprived of enough sleep and food, and given hard–and sometimes scary–tasks to complete. They ingest mind-altering substances and have weird, unfathomable experiences. They are entrusted with various elements of esoteric tribal knowledge. The survivors–almost always some of therm die during these initiations–are eventually brought back to their village as adults, children no longer.

    We do much the same thing here, though it takes four years and now often costs a great deal. However, the initiands don’t get all that much effective personal guidance from their tribal elders any longer; and otherwise things are handled quite badly by the standards of non-European cultures. So, perhaps, a greater percentage of our young initiands don’t survive the experience, or survive it only as crippled quasi-adults.

    We call it the undergraduate college experience. I saw it from the inside for nearly forty years at my Ivy-League university, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It wasn’t about passing on knowledge, not really. Most of the undergraduates I have kept in touch with have retained hardly any detailed, deep knowledge from any of the courses they took. I have to conclude that college isn’t really all that much about what the student learns, but about something else instead. Initiation, badly done, seems to me to be that “something else.”

  12. I was in a college fraternity. There was indeed a secret handshake. It seems that with so many secret societies, you’d soon run out of unique ways to shake hands. Unrelated to this, do you know much about Skull & Bones in the context of your post?

  13. The Protestants in Northern Ireland have the Orange Order and Apprentice Boys of Derry amongst others. Each area has their own lodge. They form a united network of effective political resistance groups to a united Ireland, or have done so in the past. The British government would have handed the province over to the South long ago, I think, but for the Protestant’s community’s ability to mobilize very quickly grassroots support. Ian Paisley started his own independent Orange Order. I have been told they resemble the free masons in some respects, and many are members of the free masons too. You are not allowed to have militias in the uk, but they are sort of militias without guns. I think this way of thinking is really something that should come back into fashion in the USA, bearing in mind how the future looks to be shaping up.

  14. Timely for me, since I was able to join my Sisters and Brothers in meeting for only the third time since March last night (Order of the Eastern Star).

    My suspicion is that because for most lodges there must be some acknowledgement of the would-be initiate that humans are not the top of the world, some acknowledgment that the initiate’s oaths are bound by a greater power, a supreme being, and this runs directly contrary to the current belief in Materialism, wherein Man serves the role both of savior and destroyer, Man the all-powerful. (Or Woman, or whatever flavor of non-gender-specific or gender-specific noun referring to people is preferred by the follower of the doctrine, for if Man rules all, then Man determines the words and their meanings. You can tell I’m prematurely curmudgeonly and like ‘Man’ for my non-gender-specific catch-all-humans noun. It’s short.)

    Given that traditional lodges tend to right out ask about belief in a higher power in so many words, this puts us at odds with the modern age. But is that enough to explain the decline?

    My Sisters and I were discussing (as usual, I was the youngest by some decades) why we do not advertise our works. The conclusion was that it’s “just not done”. Secret societies have, in my book, perhaps taken secret a step too far, so that when I invited friends and family to my sons’ installation as the three councilors in our local DeMolay chapter earlier this month I had to answer the “what is this?” question starting from the Shrine Hospitals and working back, because that’s all (including my cousin, also the great-granddaughter of our shared past Worthy Grand Matron great-grandmother) they’d ever encountered.

    May I request here that if the readers have youngsters in their influence, that they would consider encouraging those youngsters to join one of the youth auxiliaries to the adult lodge the readers join or are members of? They will learn all the useful skills adults learn, and will have the benefit of having those in their toolkit early, as well as adult mentors.

  15. One of the many benefits that secret societies provided to civil society as a whole was training in leadership and governance. A man might have been a streetcar driver in his working life but could hold any number of high offices at the odd-fellows lodge where he could be responsible for the medical program or the upkeep of the lodge in his secret society life. I belonged to a greek fraternity in college that was entirely run by the members. One member was responsible for building menus and buying food for the cook ( who was hired). Another was entirely responsible for the financial operations of the house from dues, to room and board payments to all fees for food.

  16. If anyone wants a good story about a secret society that really conspired to overthrow the French government in 1820, even though not all of its members agreed upon what would replace the government when it was overthrown, I recommend to you this just-released podcast/blog about the French Charbonnerie.

    Having heard the Charbonnerie story, it is not apparent to me that secret societies have a political function in the 21st century. A lot of the appeal in 19th century France was about the need to *communicate* popular sentiments you weren’t allowed to say in public. While there are still things you can’t say in public today, the climate seems different to me.

  17. Wow! About 15-20 years ago, when I was less encumbered by family responsibilities, I used to go on drives, and I would spy those Odd Fellow buildings. Sometimes in rural villages where they seemed out of place. I always found them vaguely unsettling. Nice to hear that they actually have a positive historical connotion!

    As for the term “masterpiece” – you mean it doesn’t mean “the pinnacle of life’s work”, but merely “the FIRST of a series of quality works”? Incredible!

  18. Could you share the books or other materials you used for sources of the early grange and other societies? I’d like to acquire copies if possible and write some history of this as well just for my state. The current trend of looking at history as a battle between skin colors completely buries what you shared here about how people worked together to effect change.

    I did manage to find a set of teaching materials from the 1980’s that gave tools to evaluate the social economic class of people in the past. I was so excited to find it and actually found a woman to interview about how to evaluate headstones and placement in a cemetery for class status. People have lost the concept of how stratified society was. People also think people in the past operated as rugged individuals just moving around independently everywhere. The idea that people moved as a group to a new location or already knew extended family before moving makes their brains short circuit.

    Wasn’t part of the reason the mafia got started similar to the reasons you gave for secret societies? Obviously more focused on wealth creation than ceremonies, but they functioned as a way to protect ethnic groups from other ethnic groups I think. I need a decent history on these too if anyone has recommendations.

  19. It seems like a very long time since there has been an “Ask me Anything” Post. Will there be one of these soon?

  20. Wonderful post! My small hometown (5,000 people) had a thriving lodge scene when I was growing up and it seems to be doing relatively well today. Masons, Eastern Star, and Rainbow (of which I was a member); Moose, Eagles, and Grange; plus the military-related groups, like the VFW and American Legion, and civic groups like Rotary and Jacyees. The Moose holds Friday fish frys during Lent, the Eagles host the costume party after the annual Halloween parade, Rotary sponsors the youth soccer league, etc. I think that the despite a small population, the lack of modern diversions likely strengthens lodges and societies–no movie theater, no bowling alley, no stores open in evenings. Although, to be fair, my town did have those things back in the heyday of societies.

    I have been looking into groups near me now, in the urban mid-Atlantic. Interestingly, from what I can tell, the Odd Fellows here seem to be the most racially integrated and feature a wider range of ages. There are also younger members of the Grange. The Masonic groups in my city are more segregated along race lines and tend to skew a bit older. And, now I probably need to stop researching and just make the jump into a group. Where’s the listing of secret societies one can join today? 😉

  21. Thank you for a highly informative post, answering handily those vague questions about Mooses, Elks, etc, that, having seen them mentioned, I had never made the effort to follow up.

    I’m fortunate enough to have the beautiful tree-calf binding my great-uncle made in the 1930’s when his apprenticeship ended, protected in a real slip-case (not those flimsy card publisher things!)

    But the binder who taught me was compelled to watch his apprentice book be thrown against a brick wall – very hard – by the foreman, as part of the ritual of passing to be a journeyman.

    There were two purposes in that: don’t be vain about your work, and does it stand the punishment? ! He always emphasised to me that a good binding is protective before it is anything else.

    He would never wash his hands once the day’s work had started, lest he ‘lose the luck’, and old proverbs and a certain mindset certainly went with his teaching. Craftsmen, after all, do have time to think…..

    I have to say, I was far prouder of being approved to bind books by him than any of my academic degrees, as that was a real struggle to learn, (and also lost me the feeling in one thumb for several years!)

    Nice quote from ‘Arkon Daraul’, too. I believe it is said that esoteric activities also lie behind many of the great tile and ceramic workshops of the past – the perfect cover from repressive religious orthodoxies, as well as making useful artefacts.

  22. Neptunesdolphins, what makes a secret society secret is that its members have things — passwords, symbols, rituals — they’ve promised not to talk about to people who aren’t members. It doesn’t matter if people outside the society can get those things — the secrets of Freemasonry, for example, have been splashed across the media in various forms since before the first Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717. What matters is the discipline of silence on the part of the members; it’s an effective tool for the transformation of consciousness, with fascinating results. As for when secret societies started being blamed for running the world, after the French Revolution a lot of conservatives found it convenient to blame secret societies for that — after all, the French people couldn’t possibly have had any reason to want to overthrow the most corrupt and ineffective monarchy in Europe. Of course that habit got picked up by others — and it also happened promptly thereafter that people who wanted to overthrow governments read the resulting diatribes, said, “Oh, that’s how you do it!” and organized political secret societies of their own.

    Polecat, the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Grange, and a good many other secret societies still exist, and some of them are thriving. As I just noted to Neptunesdolphins, it doesn’t matter if the secrets are publicly available — it’s the discipline of choosing not to talk about things that gives them their power.

    Fra’ Lupo, in a sense, yes. Not many of them still retain a ritual dimension, though, which is why their initiatory effect is so limited.

    Yorkshire, that’s basically correct. In American society for many years there were two parallel sets of Masonic lodges, one which accepted white, Asian, and Native American members, one that was pretty much exclusively African-American. Starting in the 1970s, both sets started admitting members of all ethnic backgrounds and skin colors, but by that time they had different traditions and neither one was willing to abandon its heritage and merge with the other. So in every state where I’ve ever been a Mason, there are two sets of lodges — “regular” and “Prince Hall” are the usual labels — which accept each other’s validity; members of each side can and do visit the other’s lodges, and the grand panjandrums of each body on each side attend the grand sessions (annual state meetings) of the other side; we all call each other “Brother,” and I’ve sat in lodge with African-Americans who were regular Masons and white guys who were Prince Hall Masons.

    Isaac, yes, I left college fraternities and sororities out, mostly because I was running up against limits of space. I also left out a bunch of other things! American lodge organizations cover a lot of ground.

    VV, why do you think there’s no lodges around you in the physical world? As for what lodges might look like in the 2020s, my guess is that they’ll look much the way they looked in the 1920s, and the 1820s, and the 1720s…

    Youngelephant, indeed it does: “…and be silent” is part of the basic formula of power.

    Yorkshire, fundamentalist Islam condemns Freemasonry, and the Shah was increasingly threatened by the rising tide of fundamentalism that eventually overthrew him. One of the things I like to point out to Mason-bashers is that Lenin, Hitler, and the Ayatollah Khomeni all banned Freemasonry as soon as they seized power — is that the kind of company they want to keep? 😉

  23. Random thing I’ve been pondering….we’ve shifted to social custom to treat others in person as secretly diseased beings who could kill you if you don’t stay away from them and wear a mask. This feels like some sort of government propaganda program to keep people away from each other. Certainly for people under 25 years old who are normally very together, they have been told that any togetherness they enjoy is selfish and will kill everyone they know (dramatic but I’ve seen it repeated often).

    I’m GenX and was told repeatedly that my generation was trash and would never amount to anything. Now GenZ (not the Millenials which I believe is GenY) is being told they are diseased. Feels like this will affect culture for decades to come.

    One way to stop a populist movement would be to keep the population from meeting in enclosed spaces. How far into wacko conspiracy theory am I? Do I need a tinfoil hat?

  24. Fascinating post John. As I was reading it I was immediately reminded of my time in the Boy Scouts as a young man, an organization rife with rituals, uniforms, merit badges, pledges, laws we had to memorize, secret hand shakes, etc., etc. The Boy Scouts (originally called the Woodcraft Tribe) borrowed heavily from Native American culture (especially the Order of the Arrow, a secret society within the Boy Scouts) and has been accused of cultural appropriation (which it most certainly was guilty of.) That may be why people are reluctant to talk about it as a “traditional American initiation ritual”- it’s still a hot button issue among Native people today (the Cleveland Indians have only recently agreed to change the name of their baseball team, which Native Americans, given their history, find insulting and demeaning.) At the time of the founding of the Boy Scouts (early 1900s) young Native American children were being forced to attend boarding schools, where they were subjected to harsh punishment, forbidden to practice their culture or speak their languages in an attempt to assimilate them into (white) American society. Strange then that so many white, male children wanted to play at “being Indian” (I sure did.) It was just so much fun- my first camping experiences and my introduction to wilderness ethics, which stay with me today, began in the Boy Scouts…

  25. This post was timely. Last time this discussion came around, I was getting ready to for some extended travel. Now, I’ve just settled down and joining a lodge makes some sense again — the difficulties in joining anything or gathering anywhere right now notwithstanding.

    I’m curious to hear how other people chose which lodge was the most appropriate for them: beyond reading their websites and reading brochures and newsletters, how can someone with no existing connections make a good choice?

    Some links to lodges mentioned in the post, to get started:

    Grange: https://www.nationalgrange.org/
    Odd Fellows: https://odd-fellows.org/
    Freemasons: https://www.freemason.com/
    Friends of Eagles: https://www.foe.com/
    Elks: https://www.elks.org
    Moose: https://www.mooseintl.org/

    and @irena: Knights of Columbus is explicitly Catholic: https://www.kofc.org/

    anyone have more?

  26. A few of the Magic Monday quotes have been about how individuals should make the best of whatever life they find themselves in. The Grange making the best use of what they had seems like the same thing at a higher level of organisation.

  27. I copied your paragraphs about the Grange into a post on my Tumblr. (Yes, I put a link to this blog at the bottom.) Some of my followers run serious anarchism/mutual aid/DIY blogs, so I figured they’d find this information valuable.

  28. I like that small bit about the masterpiece. Over the years we have acquired a small but decent amount amount of antique furniture. Sometimes you can obtain those for a ridiculous price and will have a wonderful piece of furniture if you are willing to put a modest amount of work into it. It’s fascinating to see, say, a 150 years old oaken trunk, functional, simple but elegant – the wooden parts joined so tightly as if they had grown that way, no nails, no screws and after all these years as good, as if it was new. And this is still far from being a masterpiece. Even in the very high priced segment I haven’t seen anything comparable so far. The same applies to most other trades, too.

    I think being a master in former times wasn’t only a question of skill and practice but also of access to certain tools and techniques – which might be where guilds had played an important role, too.

    Cheers,
    Nachtgurke

  29. Hmm, the Order of Anti-Poke-Noses. I might like that organization! But I’ve never been one to be a joiner, I suspect because of my introversion. The exceptions were a couple of times I joined churches, and well, that went south in both cases due to me being rather independently minded and letting my thinking lead down different paths than the ones the denominations were traveling. Plus, I had really negative vibes in high school where there were younger versions of the college fraternities and sororities. Hearing the girls talk about “Hell Week” and seeing some totally inane and embarrassing stunts some were made to do, all in order to prove their loyalty and willingness to follow orders, was too much for me. I saw it also as a vehicle for the more upscale kids, so I had no interest in it at all. That followed me into adulthood, as I’ve usually thought of Masons and other societies as being the forte of those in the business and high culture classes.

    However, your descriptions of different societies in previous posts and comments piqued my interest, and I recently did a search for any Odd Fellows in my area since they take both men and women as members. I know many lodges have fallen by the wayside, but I was surprised to find none at all in my city of 100,000 and only a handful in my whole state. That’s sad, as they must have been quite active in the area because there used to be a large multi-storied building downtown called The Odd Fellows Building. I remember as a child going there with my father when he did business in town. Sigh… I miss the echo of footsteps on the tiled (granite?) hallway floors, the shine of brass in the elevators and mail drop box…heck I even miss the slightly stale air of the halls, as if someone earlier had smoked a cigar there (they probably had, this was the 60’s and still allowed). A beautiful 1920’s building now gone, demolished and replaced in the 80’s with a modernesque bank building. Ugh.

    Joy Marie

  30. JMG, After reading your post this week I couldn’t help but think what an efficient way to deliver a mass vaccination program the lodge doctor/nurse system would have been. They now seem to be planning to privatize the entire process by having big pharma ship directly to mega-chain pharmacies to accomplish the upcoming vaccination program. This of course makes everything much more complicated as they are having to develop special computer programs to make sure those involved get the original and the booster in the right sequence. How much more efficient it would have been in time, money, energy and conviviality to just have all the members and their families get pricked during the course of regular lodge activities.

  31. Inspired by @Denis, on the Mafia:

    This organization started up as a resistance movement against foreign occupiers. The word means something like “hideout.” Of course, Sicily has usually been oppressed by some foreign power or other – Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Saracens…It was the Normans who triggered the regrowth of the Mafia we know today. If you don’t know about the Sicilian Vespers, that would give you the feeling of what can be accomplished by a secret society that gets mad. Naturally, they resorted to shakedowns and banditry to raise funds, and soon came to terms with the local landlords. It became hard to get any local advancement without Mafia patronage, and many ambitious young people left.

    What triggered me to write about this, even though I have no sources to point to, was the similar Spanish organization, the Mesta. This shepherds’ guild supported the Reconquista, often acting as the scouts of Catholic forces going south, and were fervent royalists once the Spanish monarchy began to coalesce. The Crown in turn supported their main policy demand, which was to break down the irrigation systems of Moorish Spain, making farmland into sheep pasture, and lowering the rural population by something like three quarters. Large parts of Spain, which are greening up again now, had been arid for 400 years.

    If I have any conclusion, it is that having one big lodge organization can be as bad as having none at all, and neither being rebels nor being government loyalists is an advantage. We were on the right track in America, with thousands of societies, most supportive of society but sceptics of and keeping their distance from the government.

  32. Irena, it was Protestant originally. In America, there are Catholic lodges such as the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of St. Peter Claver, but I don’t think those have much of a presence in Europe; as for the Orthodox countries, I have no idea.

    Owen, there are no windows so nobody can see into the lodge room, of course. That’s part of what makes it a secret society!

    Robert, one of the secrets of the American secret societies is that you don’t have to spend all that time away at once. You can do it on the installment plan, one night a week, and a variety of ritual methods were used to produce the same sense of distance without the casualties.

    Phutatorius, I know about as much about Skull & Bones as anyone outside it can. It’s a college frat for the very rich — think Animal House with a much bigger budget.

    Naomi, yes, I’m familiar with the Orange Order — and yes, some aspects of it are very closely modeled on the Masons. (Other bits are borrowed from the Odd Fellows.) Back in the day, there were also Irish Catholic secret societies — most of them ended up being drawn into the Fenian Brotherhood — another good example of secret societies at war.

    BoysMom, that’s certainly part of it. Another part is the propaganda that saturates the media, insisting that secret societies are (a) absurd, (b) evil, (c) useless, or (d) all of the above — and another part is the conviction on the part of so many people that the government ought to take care of everything, so why should we bother doing it ourselves? I’m glad to say, though, that in some areas lodge membership is increasing steadily, especially among young men — they’re given no positive role models at all these days and hunger for those, and your local Masonic lodge in particular is good at providing such things.

    Clay, another excellent point. If you know how to run a lodge meeting, you can run any other kind of meeting, and that opens the door to community organization and empowerment.

    Avery, the Carbonari (the broader organization of which the Charbonnerie were the French branch) had a remarkable impact on 19th century politics. As for the climate being different, I disagree — there are plenty of things you can’t say in public today, and the list is growing rapidly. Nor are secret societies limited to that one function…

    Matt, exactly. Your masterpiece was the piece of work you did to prove you were qualified to become a master — it was the beginning of your real work, not the end of it.

    Steve, okay — I don’t know the movie.

    Denis, I got that information by being active in the Grange — I don’t know where you’d find it outside of Grange circles. As for the Mafia, exactly — one of the other things that sometimes happens to secret societies, unfortunately, is that they turn into criminal organizations. The Mafia has its own initiation ritual and its own code of secrecy, like any other lodge.

    Lydia, not before February. I had a lot to cover before year’s end, and I’ll be taking January off.

    Ip, the list is secret, of course! You can contact the Odd Fellows and the Grange quite easily by doing a search using the name of the organization and your state; that’ll give you the state website, which has a listing for active lodges. As for bowling alleys and theaters, nope — those thrived when lodges thrived, and began to decline when lodges began to decline…

    Xabier, most trades had their own secret societies back in the day, so tile and ceramic workers doubtless had plenty.

    Denis, I doubt it’s quite that intentional, but it will likely have that effect.

    Kurt, no, it wasn’t cultural appropriation. Ernest Thompson Seton asked for, and received, the permission of Native American elders before he introduced any of those things to Woodcraft — in fact, he had their enthusiastic encouragement, as the elders figured that teaching the Wasi’chu such things was one of the few things that might make us a little less clueless. Woodcraft itself was rather different from the Boy Scouts, not least in that in a Woodcraft tribe, the kids ran things under the supervision of the adults, instead of having the Scoutmaster and the other adults telling the kids what to do.

    Shoemaker, I joined the Odd Fellows first because I’d learned about my great-grandfather. A Grange met in the same building, so I joined that, and there were Masons in both organizations, and I ended up becoming a Mason because the Masons I knew were amazing guys. As for other orders, don’t forget the Foresters, the Woodmen, the Royal Neighbors, the Knights of Pythias, the Orioles, and the Ancient United Order of Druids! Here’s a useful website covering some of the details from a historical perspective.

    Yorkshire, it does indeed.

    Tom, thanks for this.

    Joan, thank you! I hope they make good use of it.

    Your Kittenship, nope. I’ll be on a complete break from the internet.

    Nachtgurke, of course! Guilds kept a lot of technical methods to themselves, and part of your job as a master was to pass those on only to those you considered qualified to learn them.

    Joy, yeah, that happened in a lot of places. There’s a lot of rebuilding ahead.

    Clay, it was a much better system in almost every sense but one — lodge trade imposed hard limits on profiteering on the part of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, because it gave consumers a voice in setting prices and determining who was doing a good job. (If a doctor lost his contract with a lodge for giving bad care, every other lodge in town knew about it promptly.) That’s why the medical industry set out to destroy it. I’ve often thought that the best way to get started bringing it back would be to establish such an arrangement with an alternative health care provider — a naturopath, an acupunturist, or what have you — and let the MDs stay on the outside looking in, until they’re willing to behave a little less arrogantly.

    John, that’s very true. Secret societies, like churches and businesses, do the most good when there are lots of little ones, and the most harm when there’s one and only one choice available.

  33. @JMG:

    That’s definitely a reason why the lodge system works so well, and the college system doesn’t. (In the African initiations, the initiands were away from their village for weeks only, not for months or years.)

    @everyone:

    Here’s another very interesting work on what lodges still did (and still do): Mark Carnes, “Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America” (1989).

  34. Your account of the “Committees of Correspondence” brought to mind the history of the “London Corresponding Society” which (I would guess deriving inspiration from the American Revolution in 1776) was formed in 1792. According to E P Thompson (Making of the English Working Class):

    “In the first month of its existence the society debated for five nights in succession the question — “Have we, who are Trades- men, Shopkeepers, and Mechanics, any right to obtain a Parliamentary Reform?” — turning it over “in every point of view in which we were capable of presenting the subject to our minds”. They decided that they had.”

    Reading E P Thompson’s history, which goes into an enormous amount of detail on the workings of those secret societies which were formed to give people space to speak their minds on political matters, during the period that interested him, such as this one, there appears to be a third consideration, as to “reasons to keep your society secret” – in addition to the two you mention (freeloaders and entryists). Because, it so happens that a very large amount of the material Thompson was able to draw on when writing his history, was contained in the reports of undercover spies planted in these societies, which are now available to researchers in government archives. So, a secret society needs to guard against freeloaders, entryists and also (possibly) hostile undercover agents.

    As to the conflicts between secret societies, there is a ballad called “The Battle of Garvagh” which records an armed clash that occurred in 1813 at Lammas fair time between two secret societies (The Ribbonmen, who were established to protect Catholic sharecroppers and rural tenants from eviction, and The Orangemen, who were established to protect Protestant planters from encroachments into their industries and territories). The “troubles” did not start today, nor yesterday.

    For myself, I find the idea of healthcare organised on the secret society model you discuss here, extremely attractive, I must say. And, I cannot help thinking that at this particular junction in the annals of medicine, where doctors increasingly function as technicians, delivering a set “standard of care” that has been bureaucratically determined by committee and is enforced through the arrangements a doctor’s income is tied into, there may be many doctors who would be only too delighted to be hired by a group of people who paid a regular salary, and who would trust them to exercise their trained professional clinical judgment.

  35. The comment by @youngelephant is so intriguing to me. Yes, a secret can ‘lose steam’ through being shared, which is why, on the one hand, it’s better not to talk about one’s efforts at training the will, and why, on the other hand, naming and verbally processing a trauma can be so powerfully healing, under the right circumstances. On the one hand, you want to conserve the power of the secret, on the other hand, you want to be free of it.

    It’s extraordinarily helpful to think of a secret as a sort of build-up of energy. The question for the person trying to live consciously is: do you want to carry around this build-up? And if so, toward what end?

    This will bear a lot of further meditation for me.

  36. JMG, it’ll take you through February to catch up the e-mail! 😄

    My job required a lot of e-mail. Once I was gone for 5 weeks for foot surgery and I think I had around a thousand when I returned. Fortunately I was able to delete all but the most recent 10 days. About 90% of our work was unnecessary so if you waited a couple of weeks you would never hear about it again because the problem would have solved itself.

    I always thought businesses should have to pay by the e-mail. Back when they had to type up a form, stuff it in an envelope, and put it in the out box, we got many, many fewer pointless requests. E-mail seems to encourage sending without thinking.

  37. Back when we were discussing the coming abundance of lemonade, I mentioned I was reading Jonathan I. Israel’s “The Enlightenment that Failed: Ideas, Revolution, and Democratic Defeat, 1748-1830”

    You don’t get very far, before you start hitting mentions of secret societies. Spinoza was involved in at least one. It hasn’t gone into too much detail yet, but it is obvious this is how people got “illegal” ideas published and circulated without being executed for sedition. The Dutch were relatively tolerant, but not completely so, and that tolerance could vary a lot depending on who was in charge at any given moment.

  38. Like Liam Neeson’s character in the film Taken, I have a very particular set of skills. Mine aren’t as dramatic as the ones used in the movie (he’s a trained assassin). I am an expert music arranger and music theoretician. I am trying to cultivate one of my brightest students as an apprentice: every week I give her small music notation assignments that she is to complete and upload to her own SMPPress sheet music store. I myself have a thriving SMPPress sheet music store here: https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/publishers/kimberly-steele-sheet-music/3003094?ac=1

    As you can see, I have at least a hundred tunes for sale. This month my profits from this form of intellectual property are already in excess of $160. I think I will net my best sheet music sales month ever and I anticipate earning $250 or more by the end of this month. Keep in mind I make only 10 percent of each sale (the commission ratio sucks) so I’ve actually sold more like $1600 worth of tunes at this time.

    I’m a believer in intellectual property and I guess you could say I’m a “master” at arranging sheet music. To the Ecosophians out there: if you are interested in being my virtual apprentice, meaning I can give you weekly music arranging assignments and advice so you can sell sheet music or arrange it like I do, I would be delighted to do that. Being a music teacher is my thing this lifetime and it’s what I love to do. I learned to do what I do because I had the privilege of earning a four year music school degree. I spent many weekends arranging sheet music as a young adult to get that degree. A typical assignment would be “Here, take this Bach chorale and arrange it for string bass, clarinet, oboe, and flute.” Any error in it was an automatic minus of a letter grade…harsh! Meaning if you used the key signature for A major when it was supposed to be D, it was a grade off. I won’t be as mean to my apprentices… unless they need it. When you are at this level, it’s lonely. I know it’s an amazing skill. It’s not about the money for me and I don’t care at all if my student technically becomes my competition. I would like others to develop the skills I have; I know they take lots of work.

    Just putting that out there. My contact information is K Steele Studio at G Mail dot com.

  39. Hi JMG,

    This was a great post. In case you didn’t see it, there’s a post up today at theconservativetreehouse written by Sundance. He discusses covid lockdowns and the closing of bars and taverns. He mentions the Sons of Liberty and touches on some of the points in your post as well as discussing broader implications. I’m guessing you didn’t coordinate with him(?) but I know he recently had to change platforms involuntarily as he was in violation of WordPress policy. He seems to be on the radar of important people. Just thought you’d like to know.

  40. These lodges really do sound a lot like motorcycle clubs, you got the clubhouse, initiation rites, club rivalries with other clubs, there’s a badboy reputation they all have, most of it not warranted (the whole 1% speech). It’s like they’re biker clubs, without the bikes. Or the club jackets. I doubt there’s ever been a biker club that’s provided health care for its members though. Or life insurance either.

    I have heard rumors about what goes on behind those walls of some Masonic lodges. What goes on in the lodge stays in the lodge. Then again, perhaps it’s like that 1% comment with biker clubs too.

  41. Denis,

    Not only are you not in wacko territory, it is very obvious to me that we are on the precipice of a globalist tyranny. That people buy the nonsense is a source of despair to me. I’m sorry to hear of the awful things said about the younger generations. What an era of unbridled hatred we are in. Such negativity!

    What is being done to children and young adults is particularly worrisome. Yes, it is deliberate. I research.

  42. Owen –
    You wrote, “I see those Masonic lodge buildings and they rarely ever have any windows on them, just 4 bare walls with siding and that symbol attach near the roof. I wonder why they have no windows.”

    I’m a member of the Weston, Vermont Historical Society; our museum occupies the oldest house in the village, the Farrar-Mansur House, built in 1797. It is called that, because only two families ever lived there, the Farrars, who built it, and from the mid-19th century until the Great Depresson, the Mansurs.

    Oliver Farrar erected the original portion of the house, essentially a large kitchen and a small adjacent bedroom. A few years later his wife, Polly, daughter of New Hampshire innkeepers, asked him to build an addition so that she could open a tavern. Weston – way off the beaten path nowadays – was on a busy stagecoach route at the time so she knew it would be a lucrative endeavor. Oliver did build her a tavern with a cage bar and, across the hallway, a drawing room for the ladies, who did not spend time in taverns. In the ladies’ parlor, which is quite lovely, there are special wooden panels that slide into place to cover the windows, thus obscuring the interior of the room. This was done to accommodate the local Freemasons, who held their meetings in this room of the house during much of the 19th century. I suspect that the Farrar-Mansur Museum is not the only period building like this.

  43. JMG,

    Very interesting.

    We have a couple of IOOF buildings here in Melbourne. They are actually the more interesting buildings on the city skyline. I didn’t know labour unions came out of secret societies. The labour unions were historically a very strong political force here in Australia. In fact, one of our main political parties is named after them. So, I’m guessing that the idea of sick leave, unemployment benefits, which are now law here, actually came from secret societies. Of course, the government now takes the credit for those and a lot of people seem to think that if the government came up with such wonderful ideas in the past we can trust them to come up with equally wonderful ideas in the future (despite all evidence to the contrary!)

    Cheers,
    Simon

  44. Brother Greer – thanks, as always, for providing this harbor.

    @ VV,

    You talked about finding a “virtual secret society of the like-minded,” and as an alumnus of a Greek fraternity and a Freemason, I can say that perhaps looking for “like-minded” brothers is something of a contradiction in terms. My experience with undergraduate fraternity life was most of the most truly diverse and inclusive, in terms of political and religious perspectives, class background, ethnicity and race, and even sexual preference. Many of my brothers remain dear friends three decades on. What we were like-minded about was that we were proud to call one another brother, usually because of lessons vividly learned in the ritual. In these days of politics ruining everything, not all of those fraternal bonds have remained (usually, sadly, because the more progressive brothers defriend the more conservative ones on social media), but I’m astonished by how many have survived, and even thrived. A score of us plan to Zoom over beers this weekend — not exactly the same type of support afforded to JMG’s grandfather’s family by his brethren, but a powerful form of support nonetheless in these times of social isolation.

  45. JMG. I have a question about how secrecy can positively transform people. How does that work? What are the effects? I am working through the will training exercises and I plan on continuing them for a good long while. I have told nobody I am doing this. I did that so I am not motivated by anyone’s praise. Will this secret possibly have a similar positive effect as lodge secrets.

  46. I want to say Thank You for being one of the very important people in my life who helps me to really understand things in a way I could never arrive at alone. Within you resides the very real power of Vac. Thank you:)

  47. @JMG at least in Canada, can’t speak for the US, but the kids are supposed to plan and lead the meetings and adventures.

    In my Group the Venturers and Scouts are capable of doing this, the Cubs a bit, but the Beavers are not. The Scouters are just supposed to be there to do the extraordinary mounds of paperwork associated with any outing; however, now with Covid, a trip to the in town park requires the same the sets of emergency plans and evacuation maps as a week long camp used to, and we’re down to three kids in each section because Scouts has much more strict rules than any health authority, and had shut down when all sports activities were still open. I think it’s partially cover for the fact the “restructuring” planned for all the properties is mostly to sell them off.

    I confess to being shocked and at a loss still about how incapable the kids are, actually. I had gotten ahold of the old books from the locker, and the stuff that Scouts can do now (with intense adult supervision) is in the Beavers book. The other Scouters had told me not to be too ambitious about their ability to pay attention for more than five minutes, or follow more than two steps of directions, and I thought that was just their low expectations, because their own kids were rather skirt holders, but… No…

    So we’ll see if we can pull it through the rough patch, and hope that they decide a better way to save money is to axe the strangling amount of administration… Live in hope…

  48. Than you-so interesting and informative, as always!

    An interesting drama has been playing out in a local Grange here in Western Washington and it even made the front page of the Seattle Times last week:

    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/far-right-group-stakes-claim-at-whidbey-island-grange-stoking-angry-debate-and-exposing-political-divides/

    An example I guess of how one type of ambitious group can infiltrate a society and take over a declining and slumbering group. I’m curious how the National Grange organization feels about this…

  49. @Robert Mathiesen:

    I heartily agree with your analysis of the undergraduate experience. I arrived at a similar conclusion by the time I’d finished my four years, and it’s heartening to hear it confirmed from the professorial perspective.

    I skipped out on my own graduation ceremony because I suddenly realized how little I actually understood about the black robes, arcane certificates etc. that were to be conferred on me in this ritual, and that made me deeply uneasy.

    One thing that helped me at that time to see the whole undergrad experience as a watered-down initiation process (with graduation as the culminating ritual) was Ivan Illich’s book ‘Deschooling Society’, in which he describes all formal schooling in almost exactly those terms. I drop Illich’s name frequently in these comments because I’m fascinated by how often he reaches the same conclusions as JMG, but from a traditional Catholic point of view.

  50. Archdruid,

    You know another thing about secret societies, besides all the neat things they do like political conspiracies and what-not, they’re just really a fun idea. All the secret hand-shakes, rituals, and clandestine stuff just seems like a great way to get together with people. I remember when I was a kid, my friends and I ran our own little secret club out of a closet, who wouldn’t want to continue doing that as an adult?

    Regards,

    Varun

  51. I’m not sure you got all the details on the Freemasons right, JMG. You see, I consider myself to be an expert on the subject: after all, I watched the “documentary” on the Freemasons by Monty Python! 😊 (Just joking; hats off to your scholarship)

    More seriously, I am intrigued by the story of The Grange. Interestingly enough, Canada’s highly influential social democrat movement started out in farm country (Saskatchewan, if I recall correctly). I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t either have secret society roots or took a page from The Grange’s book. I should try some digging around if I can spare the time…

    I can’t say that I’ve ever been part of a secret society – but for a couple of years I belonged to a secret religious group. During the time I was living in one of the “gulf” countries, where practicing anything other than Islam was punishable by imprisonment. A small group of us held non-Islamic religious prayer meetings and study circles a couple times every week. We randomly rotated the locations and made sure that we gathered and dispersed in a staggered manner. Breaking the law had never been so fun! We even prepared and delivered food in large quantities to labour camps out in the desert where labourers lived in absolute squalor: again, highly illegal since everybody living in the country was being fed under the benevolent auspices of His Highness the President Sheikh so-and-so. Ah, those were the days!

  52. Christophe, you’re most welcome.

    Robert, quite a few things in Western alternative ritual culture were reworked from top to bottom by the need to have something you could do one night a week in a rented room!

    Scotlyn, every secret society ends up with government informers. I’m pretty sure that one guy I knew in a certain lodge in Seattle was sent there by the FBI. (It wasn’t random; one of the other lodges in that order suffered entryism from the extremist right, enough so that the lodge had to be shut down by the state Grand Lodge, and I’m pretty sure that the point of the informer was to find out if other lodges were in the same condition.) If you know what you’re doing, you use your informers as a backchannel way of communicating with the government — in our case, making sure that the FBI knew that we weren’t interested in politics — and go from there.

    Dylan, good. Yes, those are all important factors.

    Your Kittenship, no doubt!

    Russell, interesting. Thank you.

    Anonymous, it certainly wasn’t coordinated, but I’m not surprised. Since speakeasies are already springing up to allow people to socialize in defiance of virus restriction, secret societies are the logical next step. (So is getting onto your own paid server so you don’t have to deal with deplatforming by corporate Stalinists…)

    Owen, there are Masonic motorcycle clubs — the Widow’s Sons are probably the best known. So the connection may be closer than you think!

    Simon, exactly. A vast number of ideas in the modern Western world started out as ideas being talked about in secret societies. I sometimes wonder how much the decline in secret societies has to do with the shortage of constructive new ideas…

    Will O, you’ll find an entire chapter about that in my book Inside a Magical Lodge. Yes, one of the reasons to make your magical practices secret is because they empower you!

    Dennis, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Pixelated, interesting. Your Scouting may be closer to Woodcraft than ours.

    Linda, might be entryism, might also be the simple fact that a lot of people in rural Washington are very far to the right of the Seattle Times…

    Varun, and of course that’s also part of it. It really is enormous fun!

    Ron, most of the Masons I know love that Python episode. As for your secret adventures, as Varun noted, it’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?

  53. My father was an odd fellow. He died in 2009. The lodge (in Victoria, BC) was full of almost nothing but old men. The remains of the lodge system were dying. The freemasons, as you know better than I, are a shadow of their former selves. It always makes me sad when I see one of their magnificent buildings being used a shopping mall or something.

  54. Hi Everyone,
    I am a member of two secret societies. That means I can’t tell you about the secret handshake and can’t tell you about the exams. The rest is all up for discussion but I don’t talk about it often as one of the things we do not allow is proselytizing.

    I had to show a ritual to one friend who was afraid I was practicing Black Magic. She watched me do a Grove Opening from outside the circle. Stayed to the end and said, “That was nice!”

    Anyone wanting to become a Druid can find out all they would ever want to know by looking at the websites of Druid organizations.

    I would love to join one of the traditional secret societies but we are so far from any towns that it would be a major trek to get to any of their meetings. I am hoping to start a magical lodge on the little island where I live.
    Maxine

  55. The Grange vs. the Railroad Tycoons certainly wasn’t in any textbook I was assigned. But I’m currently reading Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris, and the successful Grange tactics came up among several RR owners and J.P. Morgan, who were meeting to discuss sudden growing anti-trust sentiment against the largest “combination” yet, Northern Securities. This against a backdrop of a coal miner’s strike, the vote on the Panama Canal, and the after-effects of the Spanish American War, among other things. A lot going on around that fin-de-siecle.

  56. My wife is one of the very few non-members to see the inside of the tower clubhouse and some of the rituals of the 2nd most influential of the Ivy League Secret Societies. As a freshman she was invited to join the “”Queen Bee” sorority at Cornell even though she was the daughter of Maui sugar cane plantation workers. She was very reluctant as this blue blood world was very alien to her. To help convince her to join a few of the sisters kidnapped her in the middle of the night and deposited her at the door of the secret elevator and removed her blindfold. The door opened and she was taken to the ornate room at the top of the gothic tower. This was supposed to demonstrate to her that this sorority had the “juice” to get her in to “Quill and Dagger” at the end of her junior year. But the sisters did not consider that the naive girl from Hawaii had no idea why this was important, and that given her upbringing in the Protestant church she should view the occult iconography, the daggers everywhere, the dark robes, and the drinking from skulls as some form of devil worship. This society was and is one of the few to induct women counting both Janet Reno and the late RBG among its members. Luckily they had forgotten to remove the key from the lock on the elevator ( the only access to the tower) and she escaped feigning the need to study. She said they seemed dumbfounded that anyone would turn down such an invitation to the inner sanctum of wealth and power in America. I am certainly glad she did ,as such a path would have precluded her from associating with an Oregon farm boy such as myself.

  57. Thanks John.

    The healthcare aspect of lodges brought to mind a 4chan screencap (for all its faults, I have found a wealth of information there that the “vendors of prechewed pseudohistory” never cover).

    https://imgur.com/6Ti5TID

    (Apologies for it being in image form, but this comes with the 4chan territory of screencaps being the preferred way to drop red pills).

  58. @Onething,
    If I may. I am glad to see you participating this week. I keep adding you to my prayers and am grateful for the addition information you gave two weeks back to Patricia Matthews. How are you doing?
    I am in agreement with your reply to Denis. Everyone I talk to, if they have any curiosity beyond the mainstream media, is worried deeply about a global tyranny enabled by surveillance technology–the Trojan horse nearly everyone has bought into, with worrisome rantings by billionnaires that the holdouts will be forced to accept this technology to protect “the herd.” Plenty are also worried that a genocide may occur. Of course, we must note massacres go on all the time outside the Anglosphere for the benefit of mega-corporations. We ignored this for decades if not longer. Now the chickens are coming home…

    @JMG

    I will pass along this week’s post to the conservatives in my family, encouraging them to read through it no matter what they think initially of secret societies. It may spark ideas that will help them cope with what is at hand. In due time the progressives will probably find themselves in a corner where this could help them, but not now.

    In Japan, the old system of “houses” which evolved into their modern day corporations, was probably the closest thing to this, but it was impossible to join one outside of birth, marriage or adoption. Or perhaps you know of something I don’t? Religions such as Shinto played a role liek this, but much more limited, and in recent years, they have mostly fallen into decay as everyone’s attention is riveted to screens. One member of the Fuji Faith said recently that he was finding interest among young people in meeting up with others in the context of studying aspects of religion as a way of coping with the loneliness and anomie the current social isolation is causing.

  59. Hey Kurt,

    I’m kind of a contrarian and buck against the tide of political correctness. You say Native Americans find naming sports teams after them insulting. Well, no doubt now in this era of victimhood training, you could find a couple of such, but these names for sports teams, of decades duration, are nothing but a compliment. If I’m not mistaken, the word brave was an Indian word that meant “man.” You see what it now means in our language.

    Consider the Couer d’Alene tribe, named by the French. It means ‘hearts of steel.’
    Have any men ever paid to other men a greater compliment?

    I’m aware of the horrors done to native children in the schools – but human relations are complex, containing both good and bad. How is expressing admiration bad? I wonder if NA’s really feel demeaned or do some whites assume that?

    As to cultural appropriation, sure it can be done badly now and again, but mostly that is what humans do, have always done and always will. People learn everything from one another. Music would be a good study of that topic. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, how did this notion that cultural appropriation is some kind of sin come from?

  60. Hi JMG,

    Fantastic post this week. Looking forward to others on this topic, as the vacuum created by the oppression and propaganda of our overlords is going to leave much opportunity for being filled by these types of various (and local) organizations. I hadn’t thought much about the concept of rites being an important factor in social interaction, but certainly the bonding that results is a big part of what many seek today in our often shallow existence.

    It just clicked for me how a subtle turn in life can be a major influence. My father was very active in the Masons in the 1950s just before I was born, and was being fast tracked to become 33rd degree, partly due to his skills, and partly due to the prominence his father had in the Hall. My father balked at the time commitment though, and then moved our family to a new city for a better job. When I came on the scene in late 1961, my father’s social life included playing bridge, coaching Little League and participating in a trap shooting league to augment his duck hunting skills. I never knew he was in the Masons until just recently.

    Ah, to ponder now on how things could have been different.

  61. In South Africa the National Party government (mainly Afrikaner) used to rail against secret societies like the Freemasons and the Sons of England, accusing them of plotting to bring back British rule. Meanwhile, it turned out that all the top Afrikaners were members of the Broederbond, a secret society that had been working since the 1920s to advance Afrikaner rule and strict Calvinist and separatist policies.

  62. @Onething My hope is that since those born in 2000 and later (GenZ) don’t take anything too seriously that they see on the internet and think adults in charge are universally incompetent, that the effects of being told they are diseased and dangerous won’t be too long lasting.

    One of the appeals of secret societies is the idea that experienced members are raising up new members. We seem (in the US at least) to spend a lot of energy on identifying how horrible and irredeemable the next generation is. No wonder I still see those slogans everywhere on t-shirts and notebooks about being wonderful and special.

    It just seems like if you wanted to weaken a country, one step would surely be to tell the up and coming generation that there is no hope, they are fundamentally terrible, and everything around them is broken. Oh, and you’re all going to die from climate change. Somehow I don’t think Chinese students are getting this messaging from their parents, media, and government.

  63. Thank you for letting me know your sources were people. I’ll see what I can suss out in old newspapers about the Grange in particular. The OCR technology allowing searches of any words makes research fairly easy. I’m thinking some of these rural counties with chatty newspapers would be good resources.

    I know my great great grandfather had a dairy outside of Philadelphia and he formed an organization with other small dairies to work together for better pricing. He ended up in some county level court cases but I’ve yet to pull those papers since the county balked about pulling them from the archive last year (and they’ve been closed since March ugh).

  64. Do Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step groups fit into this category of secret societies?

  65. Quite a fascinating post, thank you so much.

    I believe that societies and orders thrived in 18th, 19th and early 20th Century USA as a way to give a sense of community to our restless and nomadic population. Thousands if not millions of new people blow into a new town – how else could they all establish themselves and stave of loneliness and isolation?

    Over my life I’ve been involved in several societies, secret and open, and I agree with you on how satisfying it is to climb through these organizations and attain whatever it is that they offer. To me, the ritual and the ritualized community is what stands out. And, upon reflection, I have been involved with several.

    Many readers have already listed some of mine:

    The Boy Scouts, though not secret, with its complicated rank and achievement structures. (Though I am enraged with what they have become. One of my old Scout Masters back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was listed in the “Perversion Files” a few years ago and is still in the can for child molestation, unrelated to the BSA.) The BSA also includes the parallel the native-American-based secret societies – Order of the Arrow and the Tribe of Micosay.

    College Fraternities – lots of ritual but really, what can a 21-year-old really bestow upon someone who is 18? Though I loved the access to booze and girls that came along with membership.

    I would add Toast Masters to the list. They have a business-like initiation ritual and a complex set of ranks and tasks for members to achieve. During the course, true knowledge and skills are learned and demonstrated. And my chapter, prior to COVID, served as a real community.

    Here is my question: can organizations like AA, NA, Al-Anon, Alateen and other self-healing groups step into the arena of ritualized societies. I’ve never been involved in these, but I know them through friends and popular culture.

    Speaking of Popular Culture, I really miss the TV show, Lodge 49.

  66. East Coasters, how much snow did you get? My uncle & family in Connecticut, about 20 miles from NYC, were expecting between a foot to 18 inches last night. 😳

  67. A few random notes:

    It seems there are two types of “secret” societies: one where the rituals are secret, but membership is not (Masons can tell you they are Masons), and one where membership is secret also.

    The Knights of Columbus were a secret society in the first sense until this summer (I’m a fairly active member), when they changed the initiation structure and made it public. The decision was not exactly popular: I’d say the Knights are often great at the local level, but the national organization has been more concerned with numbers and influence than with tradition for some time.

    I would also argue that the Ku Klux Klan in its first incarnation was a remarkably effective secret society–one of the very few successful anti-colonial movements of the 1800’s. It was a secret society in the second sense–for obvious reasons, if you remember that it was a resistance movement in an occupied territory. That’s the point of the robes and hoods–just like antifa masks, it makes it difficult to identify the members. And like all armed resistance movements I know of, it had a targeted goal of making the local civilian population unwilling to work with the occupiers in any way.

  68. Hey, I don’t know if anyone asked this in the many comments above, but are there good reading on this history. It’s pretty fascinating.

    And or are you going to write one? 😉

  69. What a timely post! I’ve been rather quiet lately, in a way doing my workings and making things happen. I still don’t officially practice magic, but have certainly been inspired every day by the posts and comments here.

    So it happened, I’m no longer in the SF Bay Area. I bought a house in my chosen town not knowing at all how I would pull off the move, and within 2 weeks of closing on the house I had a job 1 mile from my new door. We are selling the CA house, my husband is quitting his job and will be here for Christmas, and I start my new life in January 2021. I have been saying over and over and over again for a few years I wanted out of CA in 2020, way before covid. I never thought it would happen but then things just started…happening.

    I guess it’s that “will” thing? The way things have lined up it certainly feels like some sort of divine intervention. As a recovering liberal atheist it feels strange but right. Has this ever been a year!
    So just as I am considering what church or community organization to join, here comes this topic. My question is, how does one chose? There are several here, Moose, Elks, Grange, etc. The Moose lodge is a very short walk from my new house, so that appeals to me. But I also want to make sure it’s a fit for us. Any suggestions?

    And once again, thank you to everyone on here, you all inspire me in so many ways.

  70. “More generally, secret societies are a tactic of choice when for one reason or another, you don’t have (or choose) the option of taking action in a more direct way. When political secret societies have done their work well and the situation turns in their favor, they ditch the secrecy and become political parties, armies, or governments.”

    I know of at least one peculiar counterexample for that. In the late Ottoman period, a revolutionary organisation – the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) / İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti – was organised in Masonic lodges that were affiliated with an irregular rite, because the CUP was not able organise freely as a legal party during the reign of despotic sultan Abdülhamid II. After the Second Constitutional Revolution in 1908, the CUP took over the political power and became a legal party, but its Freemason members (including the majority of its leading cadre) kept their affiliation with Freemasonry intact, instead of ditching it. I find this very strange. Maybe, they somehow realised the subtle benefits of occult secrecy, like the ability of building a strong egregore and using it to cause changes in society’s consciousness more efficiently in a secretive setting.

  71. @Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat,

    Here in South Central New Hampshire we had 28″ as of 10:45 (my last measurement), and it’s still coming down crazy hard at 11:45, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach 30″. We were smack in the middle of the notorious “persistent band of heavy snow”. But I think it will stop fairly soon and suddenly. I, for one, have had enough.

    @JMG, how are things in Providence? Did it stay all-snow?

  72. >My question is, how does one chose? There are several here, Moose, Elks, Grange, etc. The Moose lodge is a very short walk from my new house, so that appeals to me. But I also want to make sure it’s a fit for us. Any suggestions?

    I think it’s the Elks, not sure, I’d have to look it up to make sure, BRB. Yeah, it’s the Elks. Not sure about the other lodges out there. But if you’re a member of the Elks, you have permission at certain lodges (not all, you need to check) to park your RV in their parking lot. Not sure that’s something you’re looking for or if any of the others do that too.

    But I could see if you had to go homeless and all you had was an RV, that an Elks lodge membership might be a good thing to have. Step up from the Wal-Mart parking lot anyway.

    I could definitely see myself joining one if they brought back that old medical system JMG was talking about. Man, anything to avoid the hospitals is a good thing IMHO. Bloodsucking car dealers.

  73. @Darkest Yorkshire

    Looks like you and I asked the very same question, one right after the other! Either great minds think alike or fools seldom differ. Take your pick. 😉

  74. Ian, did you ever consider helping to reverse that by joining a lodge? Every lodge I know that’s in good shape now — and there are quite a few of them — began its revival when one younger person joined.

    Former M, yep. It was a busy time, and one that has a lot of lessons for the present.

    Your Kittenship, nah, Heracles had the right idea — flush ’em all.

    Clay, interesting. Thanks for the story!

    Rajesh, thanks for this — that’s an excellent summary of lodge practice and what happened to it. Could you drop a suggestion to someone involved? An expanded version of this, posted as an article to Quillette or some other lively alternative press venue, could go off like a bomb underneath the medical industry…

    Patricia O, traditional Japanese culture didn’t really have or need an equivalent — the lodges in America thrived because the social bonds of a settled society didn’t exist in a nation of immigrants, and they thrived in Britain because the old social structure was shredded by the industrial revolution and the enclosure acts. If I had to name something that was close to fraternal orders in old Japan, the pilgrimage societies are probably the nearest equivalent, and they’re not that close.

    Drhooves, and of course that’s an issue — at the ordinary-member level, lodges don’t call for that much of a time commitment, but if you get seriously involved it can eat a lot of evenings. (And the old guard isn’t always reasonable in its idea of how much time you should put in…)

    Martin, of course! Secret societies are like alternative sexualities — the people who rant about them the loudest are either doing the same thing in secret, or desperately wish they had the nerve to do so.

    Denis, you can also contact the Grange organization and see if they can point you to something. They tend to be very proud of their heritage and eager to share it.

    Yorkshire, are there actual initiation rituals — as distinct from “something that can be called an initiation if you cross your eyes and squint hard enough” — and are members expected to keep things secret? If not, no.

    KevPilot, that’s doubtless part of it, but we’re no less nomadic now than people were in the heyday of the lodge system. As for Toastmasters, it’s tolerably close, though not secret.

    Your Kittenship, here in Rhode Island it looks like we got about a foot. The winds are still high and it’s fairly cold by local standards, meaning 23°F as I type this.

    SamChevre, it’s more of a spectrum. Some secret societies are more secretive about their membership than other secret societies, I’m sure everyone in your average Georgia town in 1868 knew exactly who was in the Klan, they just didn’t let the Yankees know.

    AtaraxJim, I spent a while a couple of decades ago trying to interest publishers in such a book. The response was remarkably hostile, so I gave up on the project.

    Tude, congrats on your escape from Gulagfornia! As for which lodge to join, once things open up again, spend some time looking into them. Visit local and national websites, check out the local news, see if any of them have public events. Once you’ve got some sense, contact one and let them know you’re considering the possibility of joining. They’ll want to meet you just as much as you want to meet them, and once you know them a little you can make your decision.

    Minervaphilos, the same thing happened in the US — once the Revolution was over, Paul Revere et al. remained active in the Freemasons. It was the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty that morphed into a government and an army respectively, not the Masonic lodges as such. One reason to keep in mind is that a lot of guys enjoy being Masons…

    Scotlyn, of course. He was almost certainly taking gold-based alchemical medicines to prolong his life.

    Owen, you know, bringing back lodge practice will only happen if a lot of younger members join lodges and start moving them back to their old roles in the community…

  75. Lady Cutekitten:

    Here in the mountaintop village of Andover, in southern Windsor County, Vermont, we got 4 feet of snow since last night. The top of the 48″ fence around the chicken’s outside yard was just peeking through an hour ago and now it’s covered. We were supposed to get 18″ to 24″ – at least that’s what the best weather minds were telling us last night – but my aching back confirms they’re wrong. We have to dig a path about 15 feet long just to get into the garage to retrieve the snow blower; I suspect that we’ll be moving snow for the next couple of days in order to get it cleared in time for the next storm around Christmas. My husband’s pickup truck has completely disappeared under the snow along with the beehives.

    The livestock is unimpressed by the snow total; the cats are happy the woodstove is burning.

  76. One thing, I’m praying for you too.

    Tude, good for you for getting out. I’m still here (1/3 of the family remains a holdout), but about six or eight months after my dropping the phrase, “I’ve heard Providence is nice,” the other hoping-to-leave family member “came up with the idea” herself and now works to convince the holdout. We’ll see.

    ***
    Thanks for this post JMG, I hope to join a fraternal organization at some point, though neither of the two I’m interested in (so far) exist in my town. Or maybe I should consider starting a new one (or at least starting a grange in my town) because I’ve long felt that something like 4-H for adults would be a very good thing.

    I suppose 4-H and Master Gardeners (of which I’m one, but I find it falls short
    in some ways because all things must be university based) are non-secret societies that do some of the things the secret ones do and there might actually be something to learn from their organizational histories, goals, structures, etc.

  77. I was initially surprised to discover that the National Grange offers online memberships:

    “E-Membership is a new class of membership that keeps you informed of legislative work from a non-partisan point of view as well as keeping you up with the latest achievements of the Grange. E-Membership gives you access to many of the quality financial benefits that Grange members have traditionally enjoyed. It also gives you the opportunity of being an important part of America’s oldest family based organization” (https://www.nationalgrange.org/join/).

    But then I learned that the society no longer meets in secret:
    https://www.documentarytube.com/articles/national-grange-secret-society-going-public

  78. Hi JMG,

    Another gem in this series…thank you for your work in preserving and framing this important history. My grandfather (b. 1893) was a Freemason and always proudly wore his ring, which greatly impressed me as a child.

    I’ve always been intrigued by the Odd Fellows, mostly by noticing their old buildings here and there. Your mention of them sent me on a modest bender looking in to their history, which is really fascinating (at least to a history nerd like me). I’ve only gone to the Wikipedia page so far but was especially impressed by their many halls all over the US. Apparently at the end of the 19th century it was the largest fraternal organization in the country and had substantial wealth and influence. Perhaps you’re familiar with the once-grand hall right in your town: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Odd_Fellows_buildings#/media/File:Oddfellows'_Hall,_East_Providence,_RI_2012.jpg

    The Grange story is also wonderful…could the Grange be in for a revival in the coming decades as we re-localize, grow smaller and more self-sufficient? Sure makes sense to me…I love the still-in-use old Grange Hall in my western MA town. It’s quite grand, built in the Greek Revival style that was popular here in the 1870s.

    Lastly, I’d like to remind all my fellow Ecosophians to go outside and view the amazing Jupiter/Saturn conjunction. You need a clear view to the south/southwest horizon at twilight and it’s a spectacular view…brighter and closer than it’s been in hundreds of years. They’re setting at this hour so you need to go out early…late twilight is ideal. Truly a marvelous celestial event to behold!

    Winter Solstice blessings to all.

    Jim W

  79. It’s a fascinating piece particularly when most of my exposure to secret societies has been through the medium of comedy. I’ve not seen the Monty Python skit but the Simpsons’ Stonecutters episode is legendary. Also Pratchett’s “Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night” which pokes a little gentle fun at long question response passwords and indeed, the notion of secrecy.

    …and so, over the festive break I’m going to have to grapple with the idea that secret societies have their uses after all. Coincidentally, I did look into the possibility of joining an actual craft guild earlier today – on the face of it, the one I looked at now seems to be a way of extracting fees for not much in return. It’s the first time I’ve done any research on the subject and this one is only a few centuries old; there may be others with a better story out there.

    @Kimberly

    This is off topic, but I must say that I’m very proud of having wasted hundreds of man hours earlier today by drawing people’s attention to this:

    https://artsandculture.google.com/experiment/blob-opera/AAHWrq360NcGbw?hl=en

    I spent about 10 minutes playing with it, so did a lot of others.

    Andy

  80. I don’t know about the rest of the Catholic world, but here in Brazil there used to be an institution that served most of the functions you ascribe to secret societies. It was the “brotherhood” (irmandade, in Portuguese).

    The brotherhoods were formed with the explicit aim of revering a saint, but, like the secret societies in the US, provided healthcare, funeral aid, education aid, aid for widows, festivities, shared symbols and rituals, secluded places for discussion, built chapels and churches, and so on. There were brotherhoods for every one, from the richest to the poorest, including the slaves. The slave brotherhoods, for instance, helped slaves buy their freedom, filed complaints against abusive owners, helped freed slaves establish themselves, etc.

    They were not secret, though. The brotherhoods had to submit their rules (compromisso) and be approved by both the Church and the State. Here’s an article in English about slave brotherhoods, in case anyone is interested: https://www.jstor.org/stable/981269

  81. Not so young any more (52), but might consider joining a lodge. Never been much of a joiner, but as I get older I see what I missed because of it (as well as, to be fair, what I gained.)

  82. PatriciaOrmsby,

    If it looks like death is imminent I will most certainly say good-bye. I appreciate all prayers.
    I feel quite lousy due to going on a chemo pill that makes me very weak. I do have a couple other tricks up my sleeve as well. Typing is difficult as my right arm and hand are bad. Still can’t really tell if this med is working but I am getting a lot of stinging and burning pain in certain areas that have cancer. Feeling lousy tends to reduce cheer…

    I hope that many people are worried! I wonder a lot about percentages. I suspect as little as 30% really buy the narrative. The sudden uptick in censorship is quite something. The chickens coming home we all need to think about. As we learn about the election fraud via voting machines, we are finding that our deep state players have used them abroad and so its no great leap to use them here. Dishonorable behavior!

  83. Denis,

    Every generation is composed of better and worse individuals. I worry about young people who are immersed in this culture of division and condemnation without any memory that this is actually quite new. But this generational slander – is it American? It does look diabolical. Those who should naturally love one another are instead taught resentment and contempt. I have come to think that the false idea that men and women are essentially the same is a love preventive, esp for women.

  84. Onething – re:
    “Consider the Couer d’Alene tribe, named by the French. It means ‘hearts of steel.’”

    Ummm #1, it’s spelled Coeur

    Ummm #2, “coeur” is certainly “heart”,
    but “alene” is “awl”, as in sailmaking and leather working tool, or “bodkin” – blunt needle with large eye.

    “acier” is French for “steel”.

    The tribe’s website says they were named by the French trappers for their sharp/shrewd trading practices.
    https://www.cdatribe-nsn.gov/our-tribe/history/

    One may infer the name alluded to “pointed hearts” or “hearts [as sharp as] an awl”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeur_d%27Alene_people#History

  85. Thanks for a very fascinating post! I didn’t know the full story of the Grange’s struggle with the railroads-one of my high school history textbooks had a chapter on farmer-led efforts at reform in the late 19th century, but (as I recall-its been a while) the chapter in question was structured to give the impression that the farmer’s efforts had mostly flopped, and real reform had only been achieved by the Progressive movement. Looking back, I wonder how much that textbook’s choice of narrative had to do with the fact that the Progressives were urban and (ideologically and culturally) much closer to today’s Liberals than people like the Grange…

  86. Never mind, Onething; I was reading from the bottom up. We are praying for you.

  87. Thank you, JMG. Because of this column I went in search of Australia’s fraternal history. A lot of it seems to be hidden in the union movement, according to Dr Bob James and his book, “They Call Each Other Brother”. His theory is that the Australian principle of ‘mateship’ is fraternalism with its origins obscured.

    A lot of our benevolent societies closed up when the government started regulating them like banks because they took deposits and paid out benefits. A few like the Odd Fellows have mutated into credit unions. There must be a way to run a mutual aid society without having to take deposits … hmmm …

  88. Oh, I’ve actually interacted with the Shriners before! When I was younger, I had trouble with my leg due to a flat foot and twisted tibia, and it was the Shriners Children’s Hospital we went to to discuss treatment. They were nice, but I was completely unaware that they started out as a drinking lodge. Presumably, they wouldn’t really feel comfortable with discussing that element of their history.

    On the subject of lodges as a whole, I’m curious how long they’ll take to become mainstream again. Although I’m not American, and thus can’t speak for their system, news about government stimulus and welfare programs hasn’t seemed very good, and is probably only going to get worse as oil prices rise and the pandemic continues. There would seem to be a niche for welfare-style lodges again, assuming that legislation along the lines of what banned the lodge healthcare system was repealed. How long do you think it’ll be before lodges return to their old status, JMG?

  89. JMG,

    I think the early days of IT would also count as a secret society. Not on purpose, but almost by default because of the technical barriers to entry and the nerd culture which grew up around it. This is especially true of what you might call ‘real IT’ which is the open source world that still powers much of the internet. Most people probably think that Google or Facebook keep the internet up and running when, in fact, a very large proportion is maintained by what is essentially a secret society with very strict barriers to entry. The cynic in me sees the ‘diversity’ push in IT as a way to break up those ‘secret societies’ which makes perfect sense from a corporate point of view as you can accrue quite significant power if you’re the only one who understands how to keep an important system up and running.

  90. Temporaryreality, I strongly advise joining an existing lodge first, even if it isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, and learning how it’s done. A lot of the traditions are counterintuitive to people with a modern upbringing and it’s a lot easier to learn by doing.

    Eugene, that doesn’t surprise me. The National Grange has been pushing the technology envelope for a while now.

    Jim, well, are you going to join any of these organizations? It seems to me that the answer to your question depends on how many people do so.

    Andy, one of the reasons I find Pratchett dull is that he recycles the conventional wisdom so obsessively. Of course he pokes fun at such things — so did The Flintstones and a gallimaufry of other media products, decades before Pratchett started to write. Familiar tropes dressed up in funny clothes never really did it for me.

    Kuabypyrama, I’m delighted to hear this. Those were called “confraternities” in medieval and Renaissance Europe, and had the same functions; in a very real sense, lodges like the Odd Fellows came into being in Protestant countries to replace them.

    Ian, “young” in Masonic parlance means below retirement age!

    Tolkienguy, exactly. The last thing the managerial classes want to talk about is a bunch of farmers getting together and solving their own problems without going to the experts!

    Kfish, there are indeed a variety of ways, but you’ll want to look into local laws and figure out how to avoid the unwanted “help” of the government. Giving it a name that doesn’t reference mutual aid is probably a good idea.

    Ethan, that’s still impossible to say. The sooner people start joining lodges, the sooner it will happen.

    Simon, in a certain sense, but not in the sense that matters — those “societies” didn’t have the ritual and the other features I discussed in the post, for example.

  91. Just considering lodges from a purely practical application in a society, they provided a very useful avenue for socialization, one of the things our technology fraught society seems to make it easier and easier to abstain from. Learning that the lodges then helped promote local businesses, such as bowling alleys and other venues for socializing entertainment, and how that directly relates to the number of towns without such venues is worth a ton of consideration. It also wouldn’t surprise that me that lodges helped in the engagement of many couples who would have otherwise never met.

    Ultimately, the lodge seems like one of the core yet most overlooked catalysts in a democratic society to help encourage social responsibility, and the beauty of it all is how they are grassroots and on a local level. Who better than to know the help a neighbor needs than their neighbor, and often those same neighbors have enough personal knowledge of the situation to best help in a way that allows not only getting out of the struggle but perhaps even prospering.

    I guess it is no wonder that lodges have been discouraged from, not necessarily one direct means, but multiple avenues.

  92. @Ian I happened to look up the Odd Fellows Victoria branch last month – they had four different meeting night sections listed in the hall, so I had thought they at least seem to have a lot of old men (and one woman at least as secretary). Aside from the eastern stars I could find no information about, they appear to be the only ones that accept women around here.

  93. Dear Mr. Greer, et all – Some of the later episodes (I was kind of past it, by then. Just caught a few glimpses) of “Little House on the Prairie” had Pa Ingalls, involved in the Grange. Even went to the national conference, in Chicago.

    Re: AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Well, as far as initiation goes, there’s always a First Step Meeting, for a new comer. And then it’s strongly suggested that someone goes to 90 meetings in 90 days. And, get a sponsor. Then there’s the secret handshake and magic decoder ring … so I’ve been told 🙂 . Lew

  94. Mr. Greer,

    This reminds me of a what was once a fun anecdote from the legal world. During the height of the Depression, the State of Minnesota– largely at the prompting of organizations like the Grange– suspended the foreclosure on farm mortgage notes. Minnesota did this (1) because it was manifestly unfair to the farmers under the circumstances and (2) sensible governors were afraid of a bank-driven famine. The banks sued on the theory that the State breached the Contracts Clause of the Constitution– which was a correct interpretation in normal circumstances. However, the Supreme Court held that, because the emergency was what it was, that the State was within its rights to “de minimus” intrude upon the right to recover in contract. In fact, banks were allowed to have their interest as before, but they simply were not allowed to foreclose for a specified time (i.e. two years).

    At the time, it was a clear victory for the people over and against the right of big business to seek economically “correct” results despite the obvious tragedy of the commons problem the situation triggered. I always liked that chestnut in jurisprudence. Until, of course, that case was trotted out as an excuse to unemploy thousands of service workers during a pandemic that, admittedly rough, still only portends an over 95% survival rate. People have a right to work and to travel under the 14th amendment, and the lockdowns surpassed a de minimus intrusion, to my mind, probably sometime in mid June. I know that survival rate does not capture the real cost in terms of disability, pain-and-suffering etc. Nonetheless, it irritates the conscience to withhold people’s livelihoods and dignity in the face of such an unworthy opponent.

    The legal cite is Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S. 398 (1934).

    End rant,

    –Anonymous Millennial

  95. @Onething You are surrounded in love and prayers. I hope that you can feel it.

    I also hope that you are preserving your insights in a non-electronic form for future generations. Some of my favorite items I’ve read are everyday people’s personal thoughts of about their times. Us commoners have a lot of untapped insight!

  96. I thought this journal article on fraternal societies and the impact of insurance on communities was interesting. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2762534 (free access)

    The author in 1907 gives examples after example of how effective these societies were in supporting their members. But he keeps going back to the fact (without any evidence) there needs to be more centralization and government oversight in insurance and how these societies function. Interesting in that by 1912 public schools were centralized at the state level, and we got birth and death certificates issues by state governments about the same too. Hmmmm…..

    Is this the time period when non-profits got created? They serve the function of these societies but without the ritual. Every non-profit I’ve been involved with has just been full dull, bitter, self-serving individuals. All they do is complain that they don’t have enough members or money to do the things they really want to do. And of course the members who are involved are told they are never doing enough. There’s no community feeling.

  97. I wonder how do lodges stay honest? Unions have a similar setup where union dues come in and then the corrupt union leadership skims and siphons it all off while selling the workers they represent down the river. The dues are supposed to get saved up to pay for strikes and such and sometimes it is but not always.

    After all, there’s not a lot of – transparency – when it comes to secret societies….

  98. Hi John Michael,

    Yes, I agree. There are plenty of things that cannot be spoken about nowadays, and down here the legal system is often used as a very blunt and brutal instrument to ensure that it stays that way.

    The image of people being dragged from their homes by police earlier this year just for saying stupid things on the interweb about wearing masks due to the health subject which dare not be named was at best troubling, whilst at worst…

    I can well understand the appeal of secret societies.

    And dunno about you, but I rarely, if ever, speak about my personal goals on the interweb.

    The summer solstice is almost upon us down here. Hope it’s not too cold up your way?

    Cheers

    Chris

  99. Going back to the topic of occult figures – was this religious leader Elihu Palmer influenced by occultism? This book came across my email and it looks super interesting. The summary in the table of contents link seems to describe a Calvinist turned occultist but the author of the biography is unfamiliar with occultism?
    https://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/16133.html

  100. John, et alia–

    Last night I attended the public installation of the 2021 officers of the local Masonic lodge which I recently joined. (The Grand Lodge has, as of last month, given the go-ahead for limited degree-work, so I’m looking forward to getting started on that progression early next year.) The ceremony was very efficient and much slimmed-down due to That Which Shall Not Be Named (and there was no meal for the same reason) but I’m learning to keep an eye out for the magical symbolism in the proceedings. On that point, John–I have a copy of Inside A Magical Lodge, but was wondering if there were other key ritual magic texts that you would recommend as a foundation for that aspect of the Craft? (Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual, for example?)

    The lodge itself is a wonderful building–an original Masonic hall built in 1924–but most definitely in need of TLC. The nearby lodge in Sheboygan, from the conversations that were going on, is going to be sold because of rising upkeep expenses (and the recent death of their boiler). I’d hate to see such a thing happen to this hall.

    On a more humorous note, on the bulletin board outside the meeting room, I spotted a clipping posted that showed Grover and Oscar (the former wearing a Masonic apron) with the caption: “Sesame Street Lodge #123. Today’s meeting has been brought to you by the numbers 3, 5, and 7, and the letter ‘G’.”

  101. A comment on medical care, if I may. You cannot run modern medicine on a lodge system. 🙂 A century ago, it may have been perfectly possible for a lodge to hire a doctor to take care of its members, and even today, it might be possible for one to hire a GP (or an acupuncturist, as our host suggested, or perhaps a massage therapist) for that same purpose. But if a member needs heart surgery, or brain surgery, or chemotherapy, or dialysis, or an organ transplant, or etc., well, it’s not going to work. Not unless your lodge is at least the size of Luxemburg (and preferably just as rich). Such medical services simply didn’t exist circa 1900, and that’s the main reason why medical care was so much cheaper. That is not to deny that the US has a hopelessly dysfunctional medical system. Of course it does, and anyone who needs convincing should just take a look at France or Germany. And yet, France and Germany also have very expensive medical systems. Yes, they’re both better and cheaper than the American version, but they’re still very, very expensive. Because, well, brain surgery is expensive any way you cut it (no pun intended).

    To be sure, as the world deindustrializes, most of these medical goodies will go away, and then something like the lodge system of medical care may become fashionable again. But only because we’ll have said good-bye to open heart surgery and all the rest.

  102. No one will ever know if, in its time, ancient Newgrange was the gathering place of a secret society… 😉

    However, there will be livestreaming of the winter solstice sunrise from within the chamber starting at 8:45 UTC on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd of December.

    In every other year thousands of people put their names in for a raffle held to allocate scarce places to view the sunrises in person, but this has been cancelled this year.

    Details on how to tune in are here – https://www.gov.ie/en/news/eea6b-winter-solstice-at-newgrange-2020/

    (Apologies for a lame attempt to stay on topic…)

  103. @JMG Re: Pratchett, His writings has given me a great deal of (I hope innocent) pleasure over the years, but of course they were completely conventional. The Discworld material started as a broad parody of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd+Gray Mouser stories. I think yourself said that fantasy tropes were endlessly copied by other less talented authors in the 70s so I suppose Pratchett went back to one of the better sources. You can’t parody a thing and move too far from the source material so he was stuck there.

    I’ve finished my little bit of research into fraternal orders and guilds on this side of the ocean. As far as I can tell, what remains of the guilds in London have been completely co-opted into the City’s establishment. There are a few newer ones but they are essentially companies in slightly medieval costume. There were a number of friendly and benevolent societies prior to the First World War but they too seem to have been swept away in the aftermath. What remains is now “regulated” by financial law and effectively shut down. I doubt they did much in the way of ritual even during their most popular. With the exception of the Masons, there no obvious secret societies at all. Or at least, they are so secret that a casual search like mine isn’t spotting them. I accept that that is the point of course.

    …and come to think of it any really secret societies that really did exist in modern day mainland Britain would probably be regarded as terrorist organisations.

    This is probably my last chance before the Mutation and festive break to wish you and everyone else here happy holidays and once again thank you all for the very helpful (some of it lifesaving) advice I’ve been given here over the last twelve months. It’s all very much appreciated.

    Andy

  104. Kfish – sell patches to be put on club jackets that you need to buy every year to be accepted as a current member. You’re not making deposits, you’re buying a patch. You could turn that into a marketing tool – look at how many patches that guy has, he’s been around for a while. None of that will matter though if the gov’t doesn’t want you around, they’ll find some other way to harass your club. They’ll just keep moving the goalposts around. Although there are a lot of outlaw motorcycle clubs still around, they must do something that works. I’d look at what they do to survive and copy that.

  105. Two comments:
    Someone suggested above “virtual (online) secret societies”. How, exactly, would that work? (1) if you’re online, you’re not secret and (2) it seems to me that real initiation requires the actual real presence of other humans (the church I attend seems to have lost a great deal of power since the Great Plague of 2020 switched it over to live-streamed broadcast of liturgy. Even tho we are now allowed to meet in properly-socially-distant limited numbers, something has definitely faded)

    Also – Master Gardeners was mentioned. Ummmm, no. Definitely no. If you join Master Gardeners, you are expected to be a shill for the local Extension Service, which is an arm of the Corporate-sponsored University. I contemplated joining at one time, as I am a gardener, and several members of the garden club (read: bored retired rich ladies) to which I no longer belong (neither rich, nor retired, nor bored) are members and encouraged me to join. When I read in the handbook the part that said “When acting as a Master Gardener, you are required to present protocols as taught by the Agricultural Extension Service. You may not introduce other practices, for example, ‘Organic’ farming”. Yes, they specifically target and exclude organic practices, and anything other than teaching people what chemicals you should spray and when. I walked away and never looked back (tho I noticed that after I had stated my reason for not joining in public (at the garden club) several times, the handbook became no longer freely available online. You had to join to get access)

  106. @Irena
    It is true that modern institutional medicine is beyond the reach of individual lodges. However, collective insurance policies that are not tied to your employment status are a good thing to have.

    Not only this policies are cheaper than individual ones, but the insurance company is more willing to work with you in the case of medical abuses. I recall this one time when the insurance company noted that our job policy had excessive claims considering the average age of our work force. The worker representative explained that our insurance was able to crack the numbers and trace this back to one or two individual ophthalmologists that may have been performing unneeded eye surgeries (in truth, it is also possible we nerds were expending too much time staring at screens, but other ophthalmologist did not prescribe surgery as often). In any case, a clause was promptly added to our contract that would only pay emergency cases in the hospital where these individuals worked. We were instructed to, may the need arise, seek other treatment options as soon as we were stabilized enough to transfer elsewhere.

    Now, the insurance company was willing to put this effort because ours were a policy covering 300+ employees (plus families, potential claimants totaling in the high hundreds). Had it been just me and my family, the company would have simply up my premium and be done with the problem.

  107. Dear Pixelated and JMG,

    On scouting:

    My experience (as an Eagle Scout in the U.S.) is that some troops are much better than others at maintaining the youth-led model, while many others have slipped into the adult-run model JMG describes (and rightly excoriates). Ultimately it’s a matter of goals and priorities: if you (or, gasp, your parents!) are focused on collecting the ranks and the merit badges in the shortest time possible, the most efficient way to do that really is via an adult-led merit badge factory, that trims out so much of the actual but unquantifiable value of scouting in terms of learning about leadership.

    Also, I don’t know how it may have changed in the last very few years, but at least through the 1990s, the Order of the Arrow prided itself on being entirely youth-run (“youth” here going up to age 21), in a way that even the best individual BSA troops rarely were.

  108. Dear Owen,

    Two things to remember, on the difference between lodges and trade/labor unions:

    1. In a lodge, there’s nothing holding me there. If things irreparably go south, I can simply walk away, and join (or start) another lodge somewhere else. Whereas with a workplace union, while in theory I might look for another job, in practice, it’s quite likely that walking away would mean losing my paycheck. So corrupt union leaders have a captive pool of workers, in a way that corrupt lodge leaders would not.

    2. Well-run lodges are only secret to those on the outside. The members can all look at the books, elect the officers, etc. And the Grand Lodge (or equivalent body) will be looking over the shoulders of the local lodges, and will have its own comparably democratic safeguards.

  109. That makes sense. I wouldn’t have a clue how to effectively start one on my own.

    My nearest granges are 26 miles in one direction and 30 in the other. Odd Fellows is 12 miles in a third direction and Order of the Eastern Star 21 miles in yet another. Phooey!… I guess it’s a good thing I drive, but gee, I live in a town of ~60,000 people. Maybe they’re all Elks and Lions.

  110. @Irena, I am not sure I agree that most of modern medical care is outside the potential realm of a lodge medical system. Because modern “sick care” systems have become loaded with so much administrative overhead and profit-taking we assume that an MRI scan must cost $4000. But if one looks at the actual cost of a machine and the overhead to run one and divided out over a good size patient base ( lets say all the lodges in a county in a coop type arrangement) than the MRI scan can cost as little as $250. That is in fact what you can get such a scan for if you travel to Japan and pay cash . Even serious heart surgery is not beyond the pale as we are just talking about a few hours of wages of a couple of doctors, a couple of nurses and some special equipment. These sorts of procedures are being done all over the world for costs that are a mere fraction of what they cost here. There are of course some things beyond the realm of what even a coop of lodges could provide, but when we get to things like 6 months of care on a ventilator or separating co-joined twins a more realistic approach to our fear of mortality is needed. And of course that leaves out the health benefits of easy access to a doctor who actually takes an interest in seeing his patients stay healthy.

  111. Owen,
    There is an instruction manual for motorcycle gangs called “How to start and run your own motorcycle gang : a psycho-social primer”, but the only library copy I’ve found is in the library of a school of Economics in the Czech Republic. Perhaps our frequent poster Irena could check it out for you.

  112. Hello JMG,

    What a wonderful write up. I wonder what people of right mind and common intent are going to do in our current and future decline. I know a lot of people who fall into the “grey tribe” – rationalists, pragmatics, tech and engineering minded folks, are looking to escape the madness of the current Narrative and dialogue that’s out there. I am hearing there is gradual transition to substack – which is a monetized model of blogging, and of course, unmoderated comments (because people have to subscribe), or to Slack channels and Telegram and a host of smaller tech communication channels. This seems analogous to the Committees of Correspondence.

    On another note, I’ve been meaning to ask for half a year about astronomy/astrology. It was eerie to see the baleful gaze of Mars on the horizon every evening leading up to the election, and then of course we have the Christmas star conjunction lining up on the solstice. Momentous events! This is the first time in my adult lifetime where the planets have cut through the light pollution of the city and REALLY made their presence known. Could you enlightened the un-initiated with a comment or two? What’s your read on the stars?

  113. How many secret societies were involved in strikebreaking? I browsed Stephen Norwood’s Strikebreaking and Intimidation again and…American labour history is weird. There was the Black Legion, a Midwest offshoot of the Klan that hated trade unionists above all others. At one point even the Boy Scouts were union-busting. 🙂

    Owen, I’m reading Ghost Dancers, the last part of David Douglass’ autobiography. It’s mostly about Yorkshire miners and is one of the best histories of the 1984-85 strike (along with his articles for the Weekly Worker, a publication I once dismissed as the gossip column of the radical left). 🙂 But just as interesting are the union shenanigans that went on in the years after the strike. Reading about that, the same question came to my mind.

  114. Prizm, exactly. That’s why people who realize that the existing system is stacked against them might find joining an old-fashioned lodge one way to contribute to pushback.

    Lew, interesting. No wonder they cancelled the show.

    Millennial, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Denis, and it was the government oversight, of course, that choked the fraternal movement. As for nonprofits, yes — and it was the exclusion of ritual from the nonprofit sector that made so many of them such flops.

    Owen, lodges that handle significant money have a financial committee elected by the members, who audit the books and announce the results publicly at every meeting. Each lodge also makes an annual report to the Grand Lodge and the financial side of that report is gone over by a professional auditing firm. Since it’s normal for a lodge to have a different presiding officer every year, and the financial committee also has a rotating membership, it’s easier for members to keep the more egregious abuses in check.

    Chris, it’s 23°F right now, and will be 14° tonight. Dunno if that counts as cold from your standpoint, but it’s c-c-c-cold enough for me. 😉

    Denis, hmm! I’m not familiar with him at all. Interesting.

    David BTL, yes, that sounds like Masonic humor!

    Irena, sure you can run modern medical care on a lodge system. Something like 99% of all doctor’s visits are for simple conditions that a general practitioner and a couple of nurses can take care of. If a member needs more than that, you have an old-fashioned catastrophic-care insurance program: everyone in the order (that is to say, not just the one lodge, all the lodges of the Stonecutters or whoever in the state) pays in a modest premium, and those who need care from specialists get it paid for by the organization.

    Scotlyn, it was the lodge hall of the Ancient Order of Megalith Builders, of course! Thanks for this.

    Adwelly, I found the first Pratchett Discworld book funny precisely because it was a broad parody of fantasy; if Bored of the Rings had run to all those volumes, it would have gotten just as dull. As for British secret societies of the kind I have in mind, the British term for them is “friendly societies.” Here’s a good intro to them. Many of them turned into insurance companies over the course of the 20th century, but some still have local lodges and rituals.

    Barefootwisdom, thanks for this. I’m glad to hear that the OA kept its Woodcraft roots.

    Temporaryreality, you could always check out the Elks! 😉

    Phil, next week’s blog post will be on the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, so stay tuned…

    Yorkshire, right-wing secret societies sometimes were, just as left-wing secret societies routinely supported strikers.

  115. @clay dennis

    Oh, I completely understand that costs in American hospitals are bigly, hugely, and enormously bloated! I’m not arguing about that. But it’s not a matter of paying for just one heart surgery. For that one heart surgery to be possible, you need to have an entire hospital in place, with proper equipment, and with specialists whose training may take over a decade (and for a good reason). A lodge (or even a hodgepodge of lodges) will not support that sort of infrastructure. The system of insurance that the United States has is, I suppose, an attempt at something of the sort, and as far as I can tell, it works very, very badly. Countries in which it works better all have nationalized health care.

  116. I did (cursorily, by looking at their website) – sadly the only thing they listed as going on (two years ago) was “Girls Knight Out” for $25 cocktails and dinner. Not exactly what _I_ might be looking for, even in less socially distanced times, though it seems some people were in 2018.

    I’ll keep mulling.

    As for Master Gardeners – I think the “hew to the University/Extension” ethic depends on which state and county you’re in. The driving principle (where I am) is that you have to answer questions posed by people with “research-based” answers. Here organic counts as research-based, as does integrated pest management, we’re also prohibited from endorsing products by brand or company-name, so nobody promotes chemicals in general. Anyway, that’s not really relevant to the topic at hand, other than that Roberts Rules of Order are about the extent of ritual to be found at an MG meeting. I have to admit the symbolism I’ve chanced upon related to the Grange excites me more than the secular-MG format has.

  117. @JMG

    You’re certainly right that a large majority (I don’t know about 99%, though) of “doctor’s visits are for simple conditions that a general practitioner and a couple of nurses can take care of.” Indeed. But if you need/want stuff like brain surgery, you are going to need to have proper infrastructure, with an army of specialists, in place. I simply don’t see how a system of lodges will support that. In the long (and maybe not even that long) run, though, it’s going to be a matter of developing “a more realistic approach to our fear of mortality” (thanks, clay dennis). Lemme guess. Brain surgery will be performed far more rarely and far less well in 2100 than it is today, and it won’t be performed at all in 2200.

    As for the “far less well” part: if brain surgery is only ever performed on the rich, then your brain surgeons will lack practice, and they’ll perform accordingly. There simply aren’t that many rich people in need of brain surgery!

  118. Thanks, Peter!

    “How to start and run your own motorcycle gang : a psycho-social primer” was a Loompanics publication. All their titles turn up sooner or later on ebay, often for modest prices. Some of them are extremely good; others, just so-so. I have all the ones by “Eddie the Wire” on lockpicking, which are little masterpieces of that dark art.

    Loompanics also kept the Principia Discordia in print for so many years!

    What a loss to the counter-culture it was when Loompanics finally closed its doors! Some of its titles were picked up by Paladin, but IIRC that odd publisher has gone under now, too.

  119. @Peter Van Erp: “Perhaps our frequent poster Irena could check it out for you.”

    Ha! I don’t think I could get it, though! I would guess that only employees and students of that university have access to that library.

  120. Since the topic of the Winter (or Summer, in Chris’s context) Solstice has come up a couple of times this week, I’ll mention that part of my recognition of the solstice is to throw a little something into this blog’s tip jar. “On the solstices” seems to be a memory device that works for me. If each of the 1600 or so subscribers to this blog kicked in just $1 per week, it would be a nice supplement to the book royalties.

  121. I’ve often wondered whether the lack of windows in Masonic Halls was due to conflict between the Masons and the Glaziers. The Masons just get by the best they can without having to call in anyone from the window-maker’s guild. 😉

  122. This post sparked some thought in me of parallels in other cultures: Chinese secret societies for one, and maybe even Indian tantric lineages. With regard to Japan, I think the traditional guild/lineage system plays a similar role in traditional occupations ranging from rakugo to tattooing to martial arrs. I know a white American tattoo artist in Kyoto who was initiated into a traditional tattoo lineage.

    I grew up in Singapore, and what we were taught in school was that secret societies were gangs, which truthfully, they seem to be in their modern incarnations. But I wonder if they did fulfill some of the same roles in terms of support for members’ families earlier on.

  123. Kfish, regarding avoiding having to take deposits – given the rate of money-printing in recent months we’re likely going to see a bit of a renaissance for alternative currencies. Many of those are also, perhaps fortuitiously, quite interesting to young people, appealing to whom is a theme that’s come up in this context a few times. Telling anyone that the last chance to make a positive difference in the world was squandered before they were born is never going to be that appealing of a marketing campaign after all…

    One model you might find interesting is the lending or tool library – it has great practical value and opportunities for sharing skills or effort, and they tend to build a decent reserve of embodied energy fairly quickly as people donate tools they’d like to see used. I volunteered for one for a while and I imagine some secrecy rules would have just improved an already positive experience.

  124. “Could you drop a suggestion to someone involved? An expanded version of this, posted as an article to Quillette or some other lively alternative press venue, could go off like a bomb underneath the medical industry…”

    It turns out the text was from an already-written article (disclaimer: I got this by doing a Google search of a random phrase from the text, and know nothing about the web site which published this).

    http://freenation.org/a/f12l3.html

  125. I remember reading a history of friendly societies that was snarky about the ritual aspects: ‘The man had a dagger pressed to his chest and pomised not to reveal the secrets of the order. It should be remembered that this man was supposed to be buying an insurance policy!’ There was another history of an early trade union that raised a phenomenal amount of money and spent the surplus on secret society paraphenalia. Double-headed axes were a favourite at the time. I was thinking their wives must have been furious about that. 🙂

  126. JMG,

    You know, I didn’t really think it was about pushing back, but as I thought more on it you, as usual, really keyed in on the point. Society has a way of forcing people to do things, and secret societies offer an approach to pushback against those societal forces. Granted, the pendulum could always swing too far the other way, but having other secret societies and lodges, along with the usual power hunger in society is often enough to temper it.

    Your Weird of Hali series really provides some great examples of the possibilities that secret societies can offer. Now, as I am reading the Providence edition, seeing the opportunities that Starry Night and the Dagon societies offered to other follows of the Elder Gods, and how they were able to use the communities developed to deal with an economic crisis which tore apart the rest of society really sets some gears into motion within my mind. There really are limitless possibilities when communities with similar values find a way to work together. Or perhaps better put, when people with similar values overcome differences to establish communities, many more and possibly endless opportunities open.

  127. Hi JMG. I’d be interested to hear your take on how their founders established the various secret societies. I have a feeling that such information might be useful in the short to medium term. Cheers! Paul

  128. Hi JMG

    Very interesting yor explanations about secret societies in your country, in my country these groups are quite rare (I think so), most people joint “hermandades” y “peñas” for religious, charity or sport activities, and also others civil organizations, but I think secret organizations are rare, may be because our history of political prosecution of secret societies; the spanish Inquisition was a quite efficient political control body, anyway it ordered to kill around only 3.000 people in 350 years (with investigation, in a trial with lawyers to defend the accused, in the open and all recorded), because was more a political control organization than a radical religious one. It killed 12 witches in its long history, because the very rationalistic iniquisitors simply do not believed in witchery (they thought all hysteria around witches was invented by Luther and Calvin and their extreme puritanism); in comparison the more “ethical”, “modern”, “free”, Switzerland in the XVI and XVII century killed (burned) around 6.000 “witches” (mainly without trials, lawyers, etc…).
    But it is true that the church and mainly the state supressed many secret societies, as freemasons and others, in our history.

    Anyhow the kind of social safety nets were very present in Spain throughout its history because it was a peasant country until recently, of course that has changed from the last 50 years, but still we have the strong extended family bonds that make the economic and social crisis less hard for the people (that is also changing with the huge demographic crisis). The poorer neighboors and families preserve better these peasant traditions than the richer ones.
    For example, between the measures to stop the Covid pandemic the bars and restaurants must be closed at 6 PM, and if you walk in the more wealthy neighborhoods they are almost deserted, few people walking quickly to their homes, but if you walk in neighborhoods of workers you will see the “beer circles” where people gather in the plazas, drinking cans of beer, smoking, talking, making jokes, etc…maintaining some distance (to not be punished), I think that is a good solution to our extreme mediterranean agora-philia.

    On the other hand, a bit off-topic, but what do you think about the following events that happened recently?:

    a) A very big hack of many US security and strategic organizations; the deafening silence of the White House and his minions is, for me, suspicious (of course I do not believe a iota about the usual russian hoax)

    b) The sudden halt of all the Pentagon transition meetings between the current and future Biden administration teams, that was not common at all in the past in this period.

    It seems to me that the two factions of the the security apparatus (Trumpists and Bidenists) are in a kind of underground cyber civil war.

    Have you see this? : #CrossTheRubicon, it is trending topic in Twitter, cause, as you know, from a “Julius” to a “Caesar” only a river crossing is needed.

    (It seems that people are learning quickly classical history in your country)

    I remind that Trump has not concede the election even after the Electoral College declared Biden the election winner and the Scotus rejected all the electoral fraud allegations.

    Cheers
    David

  129. So, how come two of my comments vanished? Is lodge-based financing of medical care off topic this week? (I only joined a pre-existing conversation…) I’m reasonably sure my comments were polite enough.

  130. Funny how nobody calls a bicycle club, a “gang”, even though people form them much for the same reasons as the motorbikers do. Same reason you see them out riding together too. I’d say cyclists work harder when they’re out riding for sure. Those motorbikers have it easy.

    I will say this. If there is a solution to everything-that’s-not-working, it absolutely has to exclude the corporate and government bureaucracies, because all they do is increase the net misery in the world. Maybe the old lodge systems are the answer? I suppose it is something that worked at one point in time, although I think it would be good to understand how it failed later on. Without knowing that, it’s likely to fail again.

    And I would say instead of getting insurance for the times you actually need a hospital, save even more money, charter a plane and fly your members to a foreign hospital where the same service is much cheaper and there are no car dealer type markups or haggling. Which would leave a residual amount of insurance for things like car crashes, etc. I’m not a fan of insurance, they tend to find any excuse to weasel out of their obligations. The less insurance you need to carry, the better.

  131. Should I volunteer myself as the Official Mom Of Ecosophia, since I hand out lots of reminders? Not to mention kittens. 😄

    Also, we really should give cute puppies equal time—does anyone want to be in charge of a monthly cute puppy? Assuming our tolerant and broad-minded host agrees.

  132. Temporaryreality, a lot of lodge websites aren’t even remotely up to date. A call or a letter to the lodge will get you a better idea of what they’re up to.

    Lathechuck, thank you! As for the glaziers, no doubt. 😉

    Alvin, Chinese secret societies have some remarkable parallels to Western lodges. Some of them have indeed become criminal gangs, but not all; a friend of mine who’s deep into one of the traditional taijiquan lineages was initiated in Taiwan into a secret society that’s associated with that school of martial arts, and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with criminal activities. Fringe religion? Now you’re talking…

    Rajesh, many thanks for this. The website’s the archive for a libertarian periodical that was very active in the 1990s; now that I have a web version, I can get it some publicity… (rubs hands together and cackles softly)

    Yorkshire, that kind of snark is very common — it’s part of the systematic denunciation of ritual in our society. (Can’t have anyone else using the same tools that corporate advertising exploits!) Those axes and other symbolic items, used effectively, will have strengthened the collective consciousness of the organization, and made it more effective in getting its wider goals met; I doubt the womenfolk had anything to complain of in the long run. (And once that union got its own women’s auxiliary and they started raising funds for ritual gear, it would have balanced out…)

    Prizm, good. The various hints and murmurs about secret societies in those books were of course quite deliberate on my part…

    Bootstrapper, you’ll find a complete discussion of that process in my book Inside a Magical Lodge, which is about to appear in a new edition from Aeon Books.

    DFC, violence against secret societies in Spain happened considerably more recently than that: Franco’s regime rounded up thousands of Freemasons and executed them. As for the business with Trump et al., well, we’ll see.

    Irena, thanks for alerting me. I have no idea how they got into the trash — I didn’t put them there, as far as I know. I’ve just restored them. Ah, the joys of the internet…

    As for your question about brain surgery, I’m baffled by what you’ve said. How would it decrease the availability of brain surgery to have every member of a lodge paying into a health insurance plan that would pay for their brain surgery if they need it?

    Your Kittenship, I’ll take your application as Official Mom under advisement. As for puppies, I’m not much of a dog person, you know, and if I allow puppies as well as kittens doubtless someone will begin militating for weasels, or wombats, or naked mole-rats, or shoggoth broodlings, or what have you. A kitten a month will have to suffice.

  133. @JMG

    Thanks for fishing out my comments! (The joys of the Internet, indeed…)

    Re: brain surgery

    The question is this: who owns/runs the hospitals and trains the doctors? Are lodges (or orders, whatever) supposed to own these hospitals for the benefit of their members? Or is this just an insurance scheme (like many that you have in the United States, only – hopefully – a bit less greedy)? If the latter, you might indeed be able to get brain surgery, but I’m not sure the system would run any better than what you have now. If the former, then you’ll simply lack the economy of scale.

    A quick Google search gave me this article:

    https://thejns.org/view/journals/j-neurosurg/130/4/article-p1142.xml

    From the abstract:

    “Data for 198 countries were collected (158) or interpolated (40). The global total number of neurosurgeons was estimated at 49,940. Overall, neurosurgeon density ranged from 0 to 58.95 (standardized to per 1,000,000 population) with a median of 3.56 (IQR 0.29–8.26). Thirty-three countries were found to have no neurosurgeons (zero). The highest density, 58.95, was in Japan, where 7495 neurosurgeons are taking care of a population of 127,131,800.”

    So, the country with the *highest* neurosurgeon density in the world (Japan) was a little under 60 neurosurgeons per million people, or approximately one per 17K people. Now, I have zero medical training, but I’m pretty sure neurosurgeons aren’t interchangeable. Some specialize in spinal chord injuries, some specialize in brain tumor removal, etc. So, for any particular kind of neurosurgery that you might need, you’re going to have a lot fewer than one per 17K people capable of performing the said surgery, and to train that one person, you need to have a major university hospital (financed by whom?) in place to train people like that. Add to that the need for highly specialized equipment, specialized nurses… I simply don’t see how a lodge/order would support that. Yes, an order can finance GPs, and even such miracles as appendectomies (nothing to scoff at), but if you want cutting-edge modern medicine, you need to have a state or something just as rich behind it.

    The fact that not much of cutting-edge modern medicine is likely to survive catabolic collapse is a separate matter. The fact that microbes are winning the war against antibiotics, and that in the absence of antibiotics, any surgery (even an appendectomy) is a high risk procedure, is yet another matter. For the time being, though…

  134. @Patricia The link and the website – does Buzzfeed run that history website? Article titles with 5 or 10 things, and “that will surprise you” message implied….as my kids term it – it’s written by millennials for a boomer audience who wants to feel like they are still hip.

    In terms of the content of the article, there is a difference between noting that the younger generation is unaware, naive, or full of ego, and being told that they have no future and are worthless. It seems like the article was more of the former and not the later.

    I’m thinking more of this interactive monstrosity from the New York Times “Gen X is a Mess” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/14/style/generation-xers.html

    In terms of how people talk about the newest generation of adults age 18-22, well….that’s more on social media rather than traditional media. Just scroll through people’s Facebook feeds to see what they say about them. I’ve saved screenshots of how professors talked about their college students during the pandemic, but not enough of them. It was disgusting and absolutely bigoted. But apparently socially acceptable to do.

    People complain that they don’t get respect, but one has to give it to get it. Older generations just don’t have a lot that they offer to younger generations either. My own parents just feel like to spend time with my children is a chore and a burden. They’d rather go to their Florida beach and Disney World.

    I suspect that this dehumanizing of the young and the filling of time with pleasure activities by the old is disguising the fact that there is nothing to pass on to younger people. No traditions, no stories, no proud accomplishments, no family homestead. At least that’s what come to me when I’ve journaled about it.

  135. I loved this post, it was so interesting and informative! I also expand my vocabulary every time I read one of your posts too as I inevitably always have to look some words up. It also reminded me of the fantastic class you taught at the retreat in which we created a one time mock lodge – The Lodge of the Three Ravens – of which I still know the password 🙂 As a side note, recently I was watching on Amazon one of my favorite shows from my teen years, Eerie Indiana, and the entire time I was watching the Episode “The Loyal Order of Corn” I thought you’d likely find it amusing.

  136. And now those highly qualified, professional doctors who thought “lodge practice” dragged their profession down, have been reduced by the insurance companies four generations later to the very wage slaves their forebears disdained. Quite equivalent to what Clark Noyes was trying to do do the professors at Miskatonic University. And the balance of the wheel goes round and round…..

  137. To put this into perspective by looking at another (and for Americans most interesting foreign culture), the Chinese have in their history multiple secret societies, with a documentation going back to at least 200 AD. It was a way to not only do what you describe of having democratic discussions within but also to organise salt distribution (which in many eras were controlled by different notabilities/warlords, and heavily taxed) and mobilise uprisings (which could get troublesome, in particular if there were few resources to mobilise with). It is the take I got from Jean Chesneaux “Popular movements and secret societies 1840 – 1950” from 1972. He credits this development with taoism and buddhistic influence coupled with interests of farming communities. Another writer of this is Edgar Snow who also point to several examples in Chinese history.

    If you look at the leadership in the turbulent 20th ct. in China, many of them were members of often several secret societies – Sun Yat-sen and the republicans who replaced the last emperor in 1911 were members of several societies. The communists could at a first glance be seen as an exception to this, but the Chinese communist party started as a student movement in the 1920’s. Later the communists survived the exiled years in the countryside as a form of a secret society among the farming communities. Oh, the egalitarian ideology was a core component in the Chinese secret societies, none of the communist slogans were that different from what was championed in the societies. The communists were popular by fighting to unite the country and stave off external enemies, opening schools and so on – most of the republicans were too split into different factions to organise across a larger space. Several of the communist generals were also members of different secret societies. Much of this rapport between the communists and traditional secret societies didn’t change to the worse until at the end of the 1950’s when the state decided to industrialize by the Great Leap.

  138. JMG/Irena,

    “How would it decrease the availability of brain surgery to have every member of a lodge paying into a health insurance plan that would pay for their brain surgery if they need it?”

    Now you’re talking about an insurance plan? How is that an improvement?

    Actually, I think that what we had in America decades ago was superior to Europe’s national health plans. The care was as good or better, it was affordable, and doctors freer. I have noted that medicine is under even more govt control in Europe than the US and there is increasing bureaucracy and medical nonsense like billions spent on bad drugs like statins.

    The problem is in American life that corruption, scheming, law-fixing, secret pricing, insurance middle men and on and on are the reason medical prices are so out of control.

    Meanwhile, it might surprise you, Irena, but there is a hospital somewhere in the midwest, I don’t think they take insurance but I’m not sure, they do many surgeries and so forth, at a fraction of the usual cost. Wish I remembered the name. With a will, they simply stepped outside the game. There’s no secret pricing and all the nonsense.

  139. Your Kittenship, I have it on good authority that they value their privacy.

    Irena, oh, for heaven’s sake. Please go back to what I’ve written and show me where I said that I was proposing getting rid of hospitals, medical schools, et al. All I’m proposing is a change in how people pay for their health care.

    Nbuffi, glad to hear it. I’ve done that particular lodge workshop half a dozen times now, with a different lodge name and password each time.

    Temporaryreality, ssshhh! It’s a secret.

    Patricia M, yep. I bet plenty of young doctors these days would be delighted to start up a lodge practice if they could.

    Herman, very true! I’ve read Chesneaux’ book, among other works on Chinese secret societies; it’s a very colorful subculture.

    Onething, er, I don’t think you can have read my comment in context. Do you remember old-fashioned catastrophic-care plans, from the days when most medical care was cheap enough to pay for out of pocket? That’s what I was talking about. You have to take it together with lodge trade to see how it works.

  140. @JMG: “All I’m proposing is a change in how people pay for their health care.”

    Okay, got it. So, you’re proposing a different kind of insurance scheme. I rather doubt it would work much better than what you have now, but if you can convince enough people to give it a go, who am I to object?

  141. In her book about Chinese food, Jennifer 8. Lee opened the curtain on the secret society of people who work in Chinese restaurants. They post openings in places known to the workers, they have their own bus routes,they help out new people in town with food and lodging. I think the rest of us can learn from these people, and also from the Mormons.

  142. @Irena

    I think you’re missing the distinction between brain surgeons, who most people will never need and the remainder will need only once or twice in their lives, and the sort of general practitioner people see when they have a bad cold. I think what JMG is suggesting (correct me if I’m misunderstanding you, JMG), is that the General Practitioners be hired as part of lodge practice, and that the lodge should also set up a fund to pay for brain surgery or any other highly specialized medical care should any members need it (and that this fund be administered on a national rather than local level so it has more resources). I don’t see how that amounts to abolishing doctors. (And I’m not sure about Europe, but one of the major drivers of increased health care costs in the US is overtreatment-the way insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid are currently set up encourages doctors to give more prescriptions/surgeries/etc. than patients actually need.)

  143. Irena, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I really have no idea why you seem to be having reading comprehension problems all of a sudden.

    Your Kittenship, fascinating. True enough!

  144. Hey, wait a minute, JMG! If shoggoths are a group organism, how can they value their privacy? Thought you’d sneak that one past me, didn’t you?

    I can’t remember the title of Jennifer 8. Lee’s book, but I think she’s the only American author with a middle number instead of a middle initial. I must caution you that, as far as I know, she’s still with us.

  145. When talking to members or browsing the library or archive of secret societies, have you ever come across totally original information, way of looking at the world, or some really novel technique? Something truly unique to that group? As long as that isn’t a secret too. 😉

  146. @JMG: “Irena, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I really have no idea why you seem to be having reading comprehension problems all of a sudden.”

    Hmm… You have an order, and that order has a bunch of lodges.

    Your lodge hires a GP and a nurse. They are now your employees, and they treat only lodge members and perhaps their families. Right?

    Next, your order (optionally, if it’s big enough) owns a clinic that can take care of appendectomies and such. Right?

    But, what your clinic does NOT own is a large hospital that takes care of open heart surgeries, head trauma, brain tumor removals, dialyses, chemotherapies, etc. For that, your order serves as an insurance provider. Every member pays a premium, and then when necessary, your order pays the hospital for the service. So, from the point of view of the hospital, your order is simply a mini-version of Aetna, but with less bargaining power (since you’re so much smaller). So, there is nothing to stop the hospital from charging you exorbitant fees.

    What am I missing?

  147. @Irena – if I may

    It seems very obvious to me that there is an ocean of difference between an insurance company – ie a corporation – on the one hand, and a friendly or secret society – ie a commons – on the other.

    I wonder that you cannot see these as utterly distinct both in character, in orientation and in effect and by almost every other conceivable measure.

  148. Your Kittenship, where did you get the idea they were a group organism? They’re very close to their broodmates but rather shy around others.

    Yorkshire, yes, and it’s secret.

    Irena, what you’re missing, of course, is that the vast majority of people in the scheme get 100% of their health care at a reasonable price, and the rest have an insurance policy at a reasonable price to cover the rest. Most people never need high-end medical services. The order can also make deals with individual hospitals — we’ll send you our elective surgeries if you agree to put a lid on costs — and if the order’s of any size, it has enough clout to do that. (If the order’s small, it can group with other small orders to have the same effect.) Why is this hard to understand?

  149. @JMG

    Okay, I understand. Though I’m not convinced it would work as advertised. Sure, you might get most health care at a more reasonable cost (which is certainly something), but it’s the high end stuff that forces people into bankruptcy, isn’t it? I’m not convinced your scheme would do much about that part.

  150. @Scotlyn

    If the society is small, then it won’t be able to cover very expensive treatments, should a member need one. And if it’s large, then I suspect it would simply turn into another corporation.

  151. @Lady Cutekitten

    Chinese given names are sometimes simply numbers. Such a person, living in the West, will often use a Western given name as well, simply for convenience. And Lee, of course, is a very common Chinese surname.

    (Roman given names were often just numbers, too: Primus, Secundus, Decius, and so forth.)

  152. @JMG

    Here’s another question to ponder: how would your handle requests for treatment that is simultaneously very expensive, not terribly likely to succeed, and yet the only hope that the member making the request (or worse: the member’s child) has to remain alive? The rational way to handle it would be to simply say “no.” But in a culture in which living fewer than 70 years is seen as a horrible injustice, wouldn’t such a refusal weaken loyalty to the order and possibly destroy it?

    Here’s a concrete example. I’ve mentioned before that I’m originally from Serbia, though it’s been a while since I last lived there. I still read the news, though, and a few years ago, there was a case like this. A young girl (eight years old at the time) had a very serious heart condition that could not be treated in Serbia. Some hospital in the United States (in Houston, I believe) had an experimental treatment to offer. Price? One million US dollars. Odds of success? They weren’t publicly advertised, but the hush-hush version was 5% (i.e. 1 in 20). So… Plenty of people donated money, the sum was raised, the child was flown to that hospital and died a few days later.

    So… If a member requested that the order pay for treatment like this for himself or a family member, the order would do – what?

  153. @JMG

    Just one more thing: I actually think that hiring a GP and a nurse to treat lodge members is a great idea. I just don’t think your scheme would work very well if you need/want big guns. (Obviously, not everyone who “needs” big medical guns wants them. As I see it, the most neglected field of medicine is palliative care…)

  154. >So, from the point of view of the hospital, your order is simply a mini-version of Aetna, but with less bargaining power (since you’re so much smaller). So, there is nothing to stop the hospital from charging you exorbitant fees.

    Ah, the car dealer business model of the Murican Medical System. You need the insurance to shield you from the predatory nature of the hospital. The question of why you’re trusting a predator with your life never does seem to enter the conversation though for some strange reason. If you were a hen, would you trust St. Fox Medical Center to patch you up? Why?

    Which is why I was making the humble suggestion of chartering a plane to bypass the terminally fouled up medical system here and go somewhere else where the hospitals don’t have a car dealer mentality for the times when you need what a hospital provides you. If there’s one thing capitalism does well, it’s competition and competition keeps a certain level of honesty among the actors. Make the hospitals compete and maybe they’ll stop playing car dealer. One can hope anyway. Or sponsor laws to stop you from chartering planes.

    And for those disaster cases where you don’t have a choice in the matter like a car accident, carry the insurance for that, mainly because you have no other choice.

  155. Irena, I take it you’re unfamiliar with the concept of catastrophic-care insurance. The basic idea is that most people never need the sort of high-end medical care that drives people into bankruptcy, but a small minority of people do. So everyone pays modest premiums into a non-predatory insurance fund, and when one person out of that very large pool does need high-end medical care, the fund pays for it and nobody has to declare bankruptcy. That used to be quite common here in the US before the insurance industry, the medical industry, and the pharmaceutical industry colluded with one another to drive up prices to the stratosphere and make everyone dependent on medical insurance even for routine care.

    As for your what-if, at this point you’re just quibbling — fishing around for examples so you can say “Ooh, look! I’ve found a one-in-a-million case your scheme won’t fix!” That’s a common bit of rhetorical gamesmanship these days, and it’s normally used to try to obscure the fact that a given scheme really would help all but the one-in-a-million case (which wouldn’t be any better off under current conditions, you know).

  156. @JMG

    Okay, enough it is. 🙂 I do recommend the article that Owen linked to, though. Most relevant (thanks, Owen).

    Owen, have you read _Being Mortal_ by Atul Gawande? It’s a book-length treatment of the same topic.

  157. “Make the hospitals compete and maybe they’ll stop playing car dealer.”

    The problem is that in most of America by geography, there is only one hospital in town. There is barely enough demand to keep that going. They have a monopoly for routine and ER services.

    It’s much the same for schools. Where I grew up there were two high schools, the public one and the catholic one. There was no fuss about bussing or desegregation because everyone had to go to one of them. Where I am now there is “The High School.” Your choice is to go there, or do home schooling. Interestingly the local high school has a 90% graduation rate even in an area where there are still agricultural jobs for dropouts.

  158. Denis –

    The article is something I found searching online – yes – a bit of a fluff piece, but it did get the general idea across. I didn’t look to see if was from BuzzFeed or whatever, it was closest to what I was looking for that didn’t need registration. The article I wanted to find seems to have disappeared (it’s not even behind a paywall) – it was considerably more in depth and also had pithy quotes from the younger generation about their elders.

    I think much of the generational divide is created or exacerbated by main stream media, as with many other issues. Keeping people apart seems to be the goal.

    People here (where I live) for the most part seem fairly respectful of others, regardless of age / generation. Part of the prevailing culture. I think also because income levels are lower here so families have to pull together, also there’s a greater sense of tradition, religious values and tolerance*. I feel very fortunate.

    I wish I could spend more time with my grown children and help out, but it’s not possible for me to move closer at the present time. They had to move to where they could find work.

    PatriciaT


    * This is obviously a generalization. This place is far from perfect and certainly has problems.

  159. On the topic of health care, I think one very important reform is giving people the option to opt to go without it. In Ontario where I live, any family member has the authority to overrule a decision an individual makes to refuse medical “care” if the patients life will end without the treatment; DNRs are not legally binding, which leaves paramedics in the awkward position they are required to perform resuscitation on people who’ve made their wishes clear; and anyone who knows how to perform CPR has a legal obligation to do so when someone falls unconscious, even if they asked when the person was conscious and the person said they didn’t want it.

    The laws are all slanted in favour of taking action, which is fine for those who want it, but not everyone wants to live with the consequences of modern medicine in every case. That should be an option, and in fact I think a lot of the conflicts would die down if people had the option to refuse treatment.

  160. I am very late to this party, but since you’re discussing the Grange, I’d like to put in a plug for the Oliver H. Kelly farm, located about an hour northwest of Minneapolis. Kelly was one of the founders of the Grange, and his farm is now a working ‘historic’ farm owned by the Minnesota Historical Society. They raise historic breeds of chickens, cattle, horses and sheep; maintain educational gardens; and host historical re-enactments on the weekends. It’s a fun field trip to a pretty part of the state.

    Interestingly, the website for the farm specifically mentions Kelly’s experience as a Mason being one of the inspirations for the foundation of the Grange: “[Kelly] tour[ed] the South in 1866 to aid irrigation and agricultural reconstruction after the Civil War. Kelley, a Mason, noted how fellow Masons welcomed him in the South, despite post-Civil War tensions. He began to imagine a similar brotherhood for farmers around the country.” (https://www.mnhs.org/kelleyfarm/learn/oliver-kelley)

  161. This healthcare topic is getting into some interesting paradoxes, ones which are ripe for disagreement. I remember well in the mid-to-late 90s and all the hoopla around Dr. Death, and the euthanasia topic. The decision that people couldn’t choose death when by modern science death had already chosen them was I think very important to what has happened next. Around the world, healthcare has become a right of many countries. Along with it, many laws, as Anonymous points out, basically making it illegal to refuse the service of said social rights. While the topic is obviously a heated one, I do find it centrally related to the broader theme of this blog. How does one life in harmony with ecological wisdom of the world? One answer is obvious: death is imminent. That is built into any ecology. To what extant do we prolong it, choose to prolong it, chose to succumb to the natural will, or choose to embrace it head on? Those choices, especially in the USA, should be the right of the individual. How they fit into other individuals and societies choices should be the choices of said places. That fits in excellently from an ecological perspective, and from the perspective of a community such as provided by secret societies.

  162. With the Long Descent picking up speed, I’m thinking the medical and financial industries, which have grown from lower single digit percentages of the economy to 20+ percent each in the last 50-60 years, will be candidates for the most contraction in the next couple of decades. The numbers just don’t work out.

    Medicare and Medicaid were on pace to bankrupt the Federal government by 2025 or so, and that was pre-Covid. The religion of progress will get a serious gut check in the next few years, as the economy falters, and cash flows into tax receipts, discretionary income, and other mechanisms that prop up what we consider “modern life” go the way of the dodo.

    My grandparents homesteaded in the 1920s up in North Dakota, on a farm with no electricity or running water, and about a 50-50 split between subsistence and commercial production. Since an economic emergency entails a pendulum swing over-correcting to the collapse of the artificial processes created by humans, and runs into the natural limits of overshoot, I think a return to the 1920s (for carbon footprint measurements) is on deck for many in the U.S. by 2040…

    It won’t matter if you need brain surgery or a heart transplant a decade from now – the resources just won’t be available except to the wealthy. The extremely wealthy. Organizations like the Odd Fellows and The Grange have the potential to provide a minimal social safety net, and at this point that’s about the best we can hope for….

  163. Irena: I heartily concur with your recommendation of Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal”–accurate, humane, and written so well it is a joy to read.

    William Allen

  164. @JMG, regarding the pilgrimage societies of old Japan, in fact the Fuji Faith was the most popular of these probably throughout Japan’s history, with several dozens of branches of Fuji Confraternities during the Edo Period, mostly in the area around present Tokyo. The Bakufu authorities tried to shut them down, fearing the amount of power they could organize. The authorities passed law after law restricting or banning their activities. Each time, the faithful would comply with the letter of the law and reorganize their activities, but they kept going. From the start, the Fuji Faith supported the Bakufu government, who had finally put an end to the centuries of civil warfare. The people of Japan were willing to tolerate quite a lot of abuses (laws that make the response to COVID look like a walk in the park) on account of that alone. The founder of the confraternities was a merchant in Edo, with the Fuji Faith splitting into two mutually respectful branches in the 1700s, one for rich elites and the other for normal urbanites, which was more focused on deeply spiritual unity with nature, with a Fuji pilgrimage being a once in a lifetime, powerfully meaningful experience. A friend now in her 90s said her grandmother had been invited to climb (for most women it was part way up, but there were exceptions being given permission to dress as a man and go),and it was the most meaningful experience in her life. These societies were never secretive as far as I know, but to join (which I managed to do) required quite a bit of determination and a sponsor. There may have been induction ceremonies in the past, but everyone is too old now even for the lake pilgrimages. I did receive a name, though, one of the letters of which means “ascetic practice” (I think all of the Fuji Faith names have that.) Actually, there is one element of secrecy–the elite branch that I joined is the keeper of the original scripts–the treasure–and scholars have remarked that these people (friends of mine) would not let them be photographed for study. They are a tight-knit bunch of people. I suppose in many ways very similar to secret societies in the west.

    The weather you all are reporting from New England sounds a bit like what we are “enjoying” in Japan, but ours is a Nor’wester by the name of Kogarashi (tree-witherer), who normally gets his start in mid-October, and like an air conditioner that someone forgot and left on, he blows and blows and blows. This time, it seems, he took a really deep breath and then let us have it all straight out of Siberia in mid-December. The Japan Sea-side prefectures are experiencing record snowfall, and more than 2000 vehicles got stuck on the expressway from Niigata to Tokyo, some of them for nearly 48 hours, and that is still closed to traffic. With freezing temperatures and clouds scudding across a blue sky on the Pacific side, I managed to find a spot on the Kuji River in Ibaraki for a misogi today, after which I gave a winter solstice prayer I’d composed based on a scholarly prayer for recovery from the earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima getting onto ten years ago, written by one of my teachers. I fixed it up with words of prayer regarding our current worldwide crisis, which I likened to the result of tinkering by an overly self-confident but clueless sorcerer’s apprentice.

  165. @Lathechuck Thank you for sharing your link of solstices to the tip jar. That works for me too! I’d be so much more affected by the mess if it wasn’t for this blog, the former ADR, and JMG.

  166. @Patricia Thank you and keep me posted if you find that article. I run into the same issue not being able to find things I could before. Even with bookmarks, articles get moved around. I started saving some webpages I need for work specifically as pdf files on my computer. Even then, I still struggle to find things!

    I agree that income affects the respect level. Also just having children! I think a lot of the journalists out there don’t have children and think themselves above the concept of family too. Shame that they get to glorify their viewpoints to large audiences.

  167. I guess all the rumors about the Masons aside – if they really were as powerful and influential as they’re made out to be, they would’ve carved out a privileged exception or three for themselves when it came to all the choking regulations that Congress pukes out periodically. Congress routinely exempts themselves from what they dish out.

    Just the fact that they had to give up their lodge doctors tells me all I need to know. Just the fact they’re not exempt from all the asinine rules around PPACA tells me what I need to know. And I bet those face diaper rules – they’re not exempt from those either, although who knows what they do once inside those windowless walls.

    I wonder – how are the lodges near those deep blue places like NYC faring under all those plandemic edicts?

  168. Blacks have their secret societies: the Underground Railroad and other African-American secret societies. It’s interesting that the Underground Railroad provided cooperation between Black and White citizens.

    For music, it’s interesting that the Jazz Age and to some extent country music brought both ethnic groups together.

  169. JMG: when I was at Baylor hospital as a patient, there was a display in the in house museum, where Baylor had started one of the first medical insurance (local) for patients. The premiums were pennies on the dollar, a month, & enabled people to have what they needed. Naturally, of course, it couldn’t last once it got caught up in national trends, but how hard would it be to duplicate those “feats”, back in the “medical stone ages” (1920s,,, etc.).

  170. The Saker has just posted an article/interview with astrologer Vanessa Guazzelli about the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn, the “Great Reset, and the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

    Antoinetta III

  171. @ JMG
    Yes, you are right Franco was obssesed with masonry, he compared the risks of freemansonry as that of communism in his “crusade”; and nobody in the right wing factions thought that way (falangistas, tradicionalistas, army, etc…did not perceive the same threat from freemasonry).
    The brother of general Franco, Ramon Franco, who was the first pilot to cross the South Atlantic with the plane “Plus Ultra”, was, in fact, a freemason (he was the “famous” of the Franco brothers those days), and Franco tried not one but two times to be accepted in one Logia and was not accepted because was not trusted by the members (even his own brother Ramon thought that), he was too thirsty of power, and betrayed some comrades in the Marroco wars; he was full of rage when they didn’t admit him twice, and later in the civil war, he put freemasons high in the list of people to be executed.

    @ Onething
    I, again, wish you your health to improve.

    About the situation in USA, here all the MSM think Trump is a clown that cannot admit he was defeated clean and clearly by Biden, and he is busy inventing conspiracy theories one day and another with the rest of his delirant minions as Giuliani and Powell, and all rejected by the justice as baseless.
    Some of them say also that Trump will end his days with an orange suit matching his hair

    These is all about control of information, the “Trusted News Initiative” was founded in March-2020 to avoid “fake news, electoral lies and manipulations” and is signed by the more loyals to truth you can find in the world: FP; BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Facebook, Financial Times, First Draft, Google/YouTube, The Hindu, Microsoft , Reuters, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Twitter, The Wall Street Journal.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2020/trusted-news-initiative

    As an example of “Love to Truth” look for the 19 editorials of Wapo and similar of NYT about the “Inquestionable risks of WMD of Saddam Hussein” in the months before to the 2003 invasions, fully supported by Joe Biden, of course.

    “Con la Iglesia hemos topado amigo Sancho” (El Quijote, Cervantes)

    Cheers
    David

  172. In the Haliverse how long does it take to get to level 10 in the Starry Wisdom Church?

  173. I ordered the book on Elihu Palmer, “American Freethinker” and will let you know how it is. I love reading the stories of these unusual Americans who aren’t necessary famous now, but were in their day.

  174. Anonymous, an excellent point.

    Stephanie, I hope to have the chance to visit there sometime!

    Drhooves, a case could be made for that.

    Patricia O, thanks for this! My main exposure to the pilgrimage societies is via Carmen Blacker’s book The Catalpa Bow, which puts more emphasis on the pilgrimage to Mount Haguro, so this is welcome information.

    Owen, exactly. Right now most Masonic lodges in the US are shut down — mine certainly are — and the almoner’s fund, the fund that provides help for brothers and their families who are in financial trouble, has had to ask for donations rather more than once. It’s a difficult time for the Craft.

    Jenxyz, er, did you miss my discussion of African-American secret societies in the post?

    Arkansas, that’s a great example. Get kleptocratic profiteering out of medicine and you really can provide it for a reasonable price.

    Antoinetta, yes, I saw it. I wasn’t impressed — instead of discussing the chart for the Mutation, it’s all psychobabble about the age of Aquarius and the black moon Lilith. What about the condition of Uranus, the dispositor of the conjunction? What about the square between Sun and Moon? I could go on. Fortunately I’ll be posting my own interpretation on Wednesday.

    DFC, I didn’t know those details about Franco, but they don’t surprise me at all.

    Yorkshire, there is no level 10 in the Starry Wisdom church. There are seven degrees, and it took Owen almost twenty years of patient, steady work to reach seventh degree.

    Denis, many thanks!

  175. John, something akin to the lodge trade was tried recently, but failed due to the current health insurance model.
    The modern doctors hoist on their (ancestor’s) own petard!

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2017/10/24/primary-care/?sh=324d69612c0f

    The doctor behind it is still pushing for reform:
    https://zdoggmd.com/about-z/

    While he’s mostly video oriented, when accessing the videos from his site most have a transcript one can read. He one of the better sources I’ve found.

    I know you don’t video, but some of your readers might enjoy his music video parodies.
    This one “Ain’t the Way to Die” concerns end of life directives (and the lack there-of!) and over-treating patients at end of life. Hope it inspires some to get their affairs in order.
    https://zdoggmd.com/aint-the-way-to-die/

    A salubrious solstice to you and yours.

  176. I am utterly convinced that much of what passes for health care is in fact a weird 20th/21st century ritual for the dying. It used to be that when death was near, they’d call the priest. Now they shuffle you from one surgery to another and drag you into the ICU. You wind up just as dead, of course, but it’s far more traumatic (at least while you’re conscious) and massively more expensive.

    It indeed may be possible to provide health care (i.e. stuff that actually cures people or at least significantly improves their quality of life) at a reasonable price. Maybe. But I maintain that this type of ritual for the dying is going to be very, very expensive, no matter how exactly it is paid for, and no matter which bureaucracy you have or get rid of.

  177. For a vision of what healthcare was, you can see it on the TV. I watch one TV show at a time just to stay somewhat current with whatever our culture is. My husband and I picked the latest season of Fargo which takes place in Kansas City in the 1950’s. The care received was shockingly minimal. No machines to monitor any vital signs, the bed had patients lay flat (hello pneumonia!), and nurses basically just came in and visited, no monitoring of vitals and charting.

    I could see the lodges paying for that level of care easily. The high tech care we have now with the (as Monty Python said) machines that go beep!, there’s no way it could be covered. I wonder how much of health care is driven by lawsuits and lawyers, and maybe we don’t need all the machines that go beep! except to certify that people obeyed the machines.

    Anyway if the show writers got the historical setting right, its a stark vision of the future of healthcare. I’m enjoying seeing life lived with no plastics, and everyone’s outfits in the show. Of course the show involves murdering people every episode and I do not understand how killing people became central to entertainment.

  178. The Masons have even posted a billboard on Interstate 95 in Providence, inviting potential members. I hope it works. I don’t feel that I’m young enough to join anymore, on the cusp of eligibility for Medicare (that’s 65, for you not familiar with the convolutions of the American system).
    @ Yorkshire & JMG: Regarding the degrees in the Starry Wisdom Church: Obviously the levels above 7 are so secret that not even the Creator knows of them!

  179. @Anonymous is Ontario – I am SO glad I don’t live in Canada! To the best of my knowledge, Florida respects an Advance Directive – and I know my daughters, who have copies and who have my Medical Powers of Attorney – would not go against my wishes, clearly expressed therein. In fact, I think they would whole-heartedly agree with it. But then, the local daughter is an MD; the Albuquerque one is married to an MD. And both have a full dose of GenX hard-headed practicality.

  180. It occurs to me that the conjunction between health care and secret societies is a society which would promise to assist with compassion at the end of life (whether or not it’s legal). Those few most highly initiated could serve as “visiting angels of Death”. You can bet that would be kept a secret, except, perhaps, for trusted workers in the health care industry who would provide secret referrals.

    When I think back on the circumstances of my ex-wife’s death, after a long struggle against cancer, it seems that her last hours were perhaps too predictable to be entirely natural, and for that I am grateful. Her illness was prolonged, but not her dying. (Incidentally, our relationship improved substantially after the divorce, with me taking her to numerous medical appointments and making hospital visits with our son. The end of a marriage is not necessarily the end of a relationship.)

  181. 19th century healthcare is depicted in Tolstoy’s story, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” That’s a fictional version of dying at home from cancer. A real life version is to be found in the Swafford biography of Brahms. You get an occasional visit from your physician to see how you are doing. Otherwise, friends or servants look after you. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily. At least it doesn’t cost a fortune.

  182. @Irena (and also to Owen for the link on doctor’s attitudes towards end of life care).

    “I am utterly convinced that much of what passes for health care is in fact a weird 20th/21st century ritual for the dying. It used to be that when death was near, they’d call the priest. Now they shuffle you from one surgery to another and drag you into the ICU. You wind up just as dead, of course, but it’s far more traumatic (at least while you’re conscious) and massively more expensive”

    I could not agree more, and my early lesson in this took place at the Massachusetts General Hospital, when I worked there as an “EKG technician” in the summer of 1979. It was a summer job, it took about an hour for a co-worker to “on the job” train me, and I was one of a pool of technicians who spent around 6 hours of a shift travelling to a daily list of bedsides, and taking EKG readings from the patient lying there, using our mobile EKG trolley units. For the last 2 hours of our shift, we typed the doctor’s reports on the readings.

    One day I was sent to the bedside of a sweet and very old man (bear in mind I was around 19), who was extremely upset at what I wanted to do (take his shirt off, administer various spots of gel, attach electrodes, and run the reading). He was actually crying, and an abrupt mannered nurse was standing beside him being insistent, and so I felt like I had no option to stand up to her and refuse. I carried out my mission, feeling the whole time like I was torturing him, while a mobile X-ray technician waited her turn to follow after me and Xray him, and a phlebotomist was waiting behind her to take his blood. The whole scene unnerved me very much, and when I finished my shift I decided to go back and see him and ask forgiveness, but when I reached his room they were cleaning it out, as he had died within an hour or two of our little convoy of medical abuse. To be honest, I never could feel 100% ok with my role in that man’s last hours on this earth, nor could I feel ok about a medicine that could not see that some peace and quiet was what was indicated for that man, and not a bunch of random and uncomfortable tests that were useless.

    I light a candle in his memory sometimes, and hope he found a place of peace thereafter.

  183. Does anyone know anything about the lions club? Do they count as a secret society? They seem to be about the only thing I have in my area.

  184. Peter Van Erp, I knew it! 🙂

    Interestingly they did an experiment with controlled remote viewers aiming at works of art. One was a painting of a secret society with figures in robes. Their reports described not only what was in the picture, but what was going on out of frame, as well as things like motivations. They asked the artist and she said wherever it came from, it wasn’t from her. It wasn’t part of any backstory she had in mind. It could have all come from viewers’ imaginations as that’s a well known risk of the process. On the other hand it could suggest artworks take on a life of their own beyond the creator.

  185. Irena re what medicine was, is, and may be

    comments from a doctor involved in Health 3.0
    https://zdoggmd.com/health-3-point-0/

    The transcript is below the video if you don’t do video.

    health 1.0 – the not so golden age, doctor as high priest.
    health 2.0 – medicine as machine, big corporate medicine, over-managed, commoditized
    health 3.0 – medicine repersonalized and transcendent

  186. I really connect with your perspective on the role that secret societies or fraternal orders have played/can play in the individual lives of its members, and society at large. It feels like a mostly untapped resource in imagining a different kind of society. Even if the current vestiges of America’s initiatic/collectivist orders don’t survive, I think there is a lot to be learned about how they operated and the power that they had. For instance, I didn’t even know about the lodge trade in regards to health care.

    Inside a Magical Lodge helped put into context my own experience of joining my local Masonic lodge. This article is a great addendum to that book, which I assume is the point since the reissue is coming soon 😉

    Is there any chance I could persuade you to give a presentation on this subject for my lodge on one of our online meetings? In any case I plan to email this article out to our members and have a discussion.

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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