The Hidden World Of Secret Societies -- By the Editors of LIFE

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An Illustrated History of the Most Mysterious Organizations.

Throughout history, secret groups of all kinds have met behind closed doors, their mysterious rituals and rules providing endless fodder for wild speculation and inspiring ongoing fascination. The Hidden World of Secret Societies (Time Home Entertainment, Inc.; hardcover; $29.95) opens those closed doors to provide a glimpse inside the world’s most intriguing shadow organizations, from the famous to the obscure, the noble to the nefarious.

Some secret societies have focused their intrigue on altruism or achieving their vision of a better world. The Knights Templar, one of the most renowned secret societies, rose to fame protecting Christian pilgrims and is believed, by some, to have possessed the Holy Grail and buried it in Jerusalem. The Illuminati aimed to perfect human nature, and decided the Catholic Church must be brought down to achieve that lofty goal. Their mission was both ill fated and short-lived.

Secret societies have played a pivotal role in the shaping of American history. The Freemasons began as a labor union and would count as members such disparate figures as Voltaire and J. Edgar Hoover, as well as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other leaders of the American Revolution. The Sons of Liberty – many of them also Masons – were early catalysts of the Revolution. The Molly Maguires fought unsuccessfully to secure labor rights for coal miners and paid with their lives.

Other secret groups were formed explicitly to break the law. The Ku Klux Klan continues to pursue its hateful vision of white supremacy. The Tongs used prostitution, gambling and extortion to gain power and turf – something the Mafia mastered during its domination of the world of organized crime in the 20th Century.
The Hidden World of Secret Societies also explores the mysteries behind the Catholic Church’s Opus Dei and campus groups like Yale’s famed Skull and Bones, as well as some of history’s truly bizarre secret organizations.

Whether these secret societies had religious or political goals, were admirable or evil, or were simply about having some harmless fun, they all share a common trait – they inspire an intense curiosity that continues to this day.

About LIFE
The editors at LIFE vigorously carry on the traditions of excellence in photography, journalism and storytelling about our country and our world, which began with the founding of LIFE magazine in 1936 by editor and publisher Henry R. Luce. They have published books on a broad range of subjects, including New York Times bestsellers One Nation, LIFE Picture Puzzle and The American Journey of Barack Obama. The LIFE channel on TIME.com features LIFE’s legendary photo archives. The acclaimed LIFE for iPad app reached #1 in 33 countries shortly after its November 2010 launch.

The Hidden World of Secret Societies
By the Editors of Life
Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
$29.95; Hardcover; ISBN 1-60320-226-9

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Adam Pockriss
Rubenstein Communications
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