Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Brother Asks: Secret Society

A Brother Asks: Are we members of a secret society?

Coach: You bet we are!
Brother: But how could this be?  We are not unknown.  Anyone can look our organization up in multiple ways and find us.  Our buildings are clearly marked and identifiable.  How could we be considered part of a secret society if our society, our meeting places and our meeting times are known and able to be pointed out or found out readily?
Coach:  That's because most people have no clue what "secret society" actually means.  This includes many members of our organization!
Brother: But doesn't "Secret" mean "not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others"?
Coach: Yes.  It does have that meaning.
Brother: Then how can we be a part of something that most anyone can find out if they don't know?  Would you please explain further.

Coach: Sure. Most all of the confusion stems from "semantic drift" and context usage. 
Brother: Semantic Drift?
Coach: Yes.  Words change meaning over time and within the context of how they are used. 
Brother: Context?

Coach: Yes.  Many words change their meaning depending upon how it is .  I can secret something away to keep it a secret.  The word changes meaning depending upon how it is used.  It also changes meaning when it is used as a noun, a verb or an adjective.
Brother: Okay.  So, the word "secret" has changed its meaning and can change meaning depending upon use.  The most common usage of the word is along the lines of what I shared, "not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others". However, within the context of being an adjective describing a society, it has an utterly different meaning. Right?
Coach: Yes.  The word didn't always have the common meaning used today.  It used to mean "separate; distinct"[1]. These days, its meaning has drifted and the original use has become obsolete and unknown. Its meaning has drifted so far from the original use that most of society has no idea what it actually means.
Brother: Yes.  I can see this occurring every time the term is "secret society" is brought up, even within the fraternity.   You would not believe the arguments that I been witness to. 
Coach: I would.  I've seen them as well.  The fact of the matter is, we "set ourselves apart" from the un-separated masses the moment we step through that inner door, enter the temple and remove ourselves from the profane world.
Brother: Okay.  I get it.  Although the existence of our organization is not unknown, as in, not a secret, by belonging to it, and setting ourselves apart by being members, we are members of a society that sets itself apart thus being a secret society.
Coach: Yes, you do get it.  Kudos!
Brother: Thanks!

Coach: Furthermore, if you want to call me "secretive", I accept this as a compliment, even though it is implied by the un-separated masses to be a dark stain upon my person due to their ignorance of the term. 
Brother: And those who reside within the fraternity who don't get it?
Coach: All we can do is provide them further Light and hope that they come to understand it also.
Brother: I agree.
Coach: Joining this secret society is opting to be set apart for all the right reasons.  Membership is a badge of honor, one that I wear with pride.

Brother: I agree with this as well!  But what do we say to those Brothers who insist that we are not a secret society; we are a society with secrets?

Coach: We tell them that we are a well-known secret society with secrets and we make no effort to hide these facts.  It may cause them to pause and reflect.  They may actually laugh at the implied irony they assume is present.  They might even reject it saying that the statement contradicts itself. 

Brother: I don't think they'll understand it though.

Coach: Maybe not. But they'll likely never understand it until they are faced with the opportunity to think differently about it.  The point is to get them thinking and talking about it. 

Brother: Agreed!  What about those people outside the fraternity who call us a secret society?

Coach: Give them a chance to get educated?

Brother: How do we do that?

Coach: Start by saying exactly what you said to me early on.

Brother: What 's that?

Coach: How can the fraternity be a secret society when you and so many others know about it?

Brother: Ah!  Give them an opportunity to think about what they are saying?

Coach: Yep.  And if they take that opportunity, they might likely learn a thing or two.


Brother Coach John S. Nagy

[1]  (obsolete) Separate; distinct. [origin] late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart,’ from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift.’


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