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The Real History of Secret Societies

Season 1
In 24 eye-opening episodes by Professor Richard B. Spence, investigate the fascinating, mystifying, and sometimes disturbing world of brotherhoods, sisterhoods, orders, cults, and cabals that have influenced culture from ancient times to the present. With help from the archives of HISTORY®, you’ll gain insights into groups like the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Mafia, and the Knights Templar.
201925 episodes
13+
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Episodes

  1. S1 E1 - Small-Town Secrets
    August 15, 2019
    5min
    TV-PG
    Get a brief introduction to the realm of secret societies you will study throughout this series as seen through the personal experience of Professor Spence in his home town of Taft, California. Often demonized by their enemies and misunderstood by outsiders, many secret societies have become the stuff of myths and conspiracy theories. #History
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  2. S1 E2 - Secret Societies: The Underworld of History
    August 15, 2019
    25min
    TV-PG
    Willa Rhoads was 16 when she died. The discovery of her body five years after her death opened the door to a public awareness of the Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven, also known as the Blackburn Cult. Professor Spence uses this obscure story to introduce you to the idea that secret societies come in many forms and operate under many names.
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  3. S1 E3 - The Knights Templar
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Uncover the story behind the Knights Templar: a military monastic order founded during the Crusades who persevered through time to become the subject of so much rumor, speculation, and outright fantasy that it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction. Are they guardians for a holy bloodline? Secret devil worshippers? Are they connected to the Kabbalists?
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  4. S1 E4 - Masonic Revolutions in America and France
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence looks at the secret societies behind the Boston Tea Party and Bastille Day. Explore the roles that the Sons of Liberty, the Society of the Friends of the Constitution (the Jacobins), the Nine Sisters Lodge, and other groups played in these important revolutions and learn how Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founders were involved with secret groups.
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  5. S1 E5 - Bolsheviks, Masons, and Russian Revolution
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Were the Bolsheviks a political movement or a secret society? Dive into this question as you survey the rich history of governmental secret societies who combated revolutionary conspiracies with their own conspiracies. You will gain a vivid appreciation for the allure of the elite and the power of conspiracy, and you’ll see that there is no better active minority than a well-oiled secret society.
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  6. S1 E6 - Adolf Hitler and the Thule Society
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    Start with the history of the smaller secret societies that were popping up all over Germany at the end of the 19th century. Then look at how the larger societies and individuals, which have already been covered, will weave through the background of Hitler’s rise to power. Then explore how the Nazi leader came to embrace secret-society methods for his own purposes.
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  7. S1 E7 - Synarchy, Schemers, and Vichy France
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    The 1930s saw economic crisis, the rise of Hitler, Stalinist terror, and the general decline of democracy. Were the events coincidence or consequences? Was there a hidden hand at work undermining democratic institutions and encouraging dictatorship? And was this hidden hand something called Synarchy? Dive into the movements and events that have been tied back to various Synarchy ideas.
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  8. S1 E8 - Ancient Mystery Cults
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    Travel back to Ancient Greece to hear what we know of the Eleusinian Mysteries, among the most ancient and prestigious of the Greco-Roman world. This first secret society, which had endured for almost 2,000 years, counted among its members the likes of Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, and Cicero. Professor Spence also considers if secret societies ever die or if they just change into something else.
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  9. S1 E9 - The Islamic Assassins
    August 15, 2019
    27min
    TV-PG
    Travel to a historic empire that stretched from Anatolia to Central Asia as you get to know The Assassins, whose roots reach back at least as far as the beginning of Islam in the 7th century. See how “assassin," our generic term for professional killer, is linked to the asaiyun, who were notably the cause of 200 years of terrorism and murder.
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  10. S1 E10 - The Medieval Cathars
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence starts with the 1244 fall of Montsegur, which most history books note as the Cathars' last stand as an organized movement. Yet, as Professor Spence demonstrates, this influential group shows up over and over throughout history. See how the Cathars inherited and adapted much older beliefs, and how they undoubtedly influenced other groups to come.
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  11. S1 E11 - The Rosicrucians
    August 15, 2019
    33min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence introduces you to The Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis, which might be the first commercially marketed secret society. During the early 20th century, the mystical order’s grand imperator, H. Spencer Lewis, claimed that “The Secrets Entrusted to the Few,” including skills like levitation and telepathy, could be yours for a low price.
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  12. S1 E12 - The Illuminati
    August 15, 2019
    28min
    TV-PG
    Explore the roots of the 28-year-old Adam Weishaupt’s secret society, the Order of Perfectibilists, which later became the Order of the Illuminati, or, in German, the Illuminatenordern: The Order of the Enlightened. Discover how Weishaupt envisioned nothing less than “A New World,” which necessitated destruction of Christianity and all other forms of religion.
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  13. S1 E13 - The Freemasons
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    The Freemasons don’t hide their existence. However, they did popularize the idea of secrecy: adopting a clandestine set of identifying factors, ensuring their rituals and initiations are complicated and intimidating, and even having a term for outsiders or non-members. Discover the multiple evolutions and adaptions of Freemasons, which have helped to keep this group shrouded in mystery.
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  14. S1 E14 - Ireland’s Secret War for Independence
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    The Irish Republican Army was a tightly organized secret society battling the greatest power on Earth, the British empire. But they were not the first secret society to practice resistance in Ireland. Professor Spence introduces you to The Whiteboys, the Peep o’Day Boys, the Orange Order, the Sons of the Shamrock, Young Ireland, the Molly Maguires, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and more.
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  15. S1 E15 - Debunking the Elders of Zion
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence opens the door on secret-society conspiracy that permeated across countries and decades, with each iteration more complicated and bizarre than the last. The Learned Elders of Zion never actually existed, but to this made-up secret society was attributed a real-life protocol to take over the world, which caused (and continues to cause) incalculable harm and religious intolerance.
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  16. S1 E16 - Mafia! Criminal Secret Societies
    August 15, 2019
    29min
    TV-PG
    Do criminal gangs really qualify as secret societies? Yes: They’re selective in membership, require oaths and initiations, and members usually advance through grades or ranks. From the early 20th-century Thuggees of India to the modern-day mafias that have arisen in cities all over the world, you’ll get to know the seedy underbelly of society like never before.
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  17. S1 E17 - Aleister Crowley, Occultism, and Espionage
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    In this episode that focuses on the worldwide impact of Aleister Crowley, Professor Spence highlights the murky connections between secret societies, occultism, and espionage. You may be surprised to see the number of world-changing events Crowley (credited with being "the wickedest man in the world") had his hands in.
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  18. S1 E18 - Red Octopus: The Communist International
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Discover how some politically driven secret societies have far-reaching impact, as Professor Spence dives into a period of time when America was full of Soviet espionage and clandestine communist activity. Through a number of interlinked histories, he demonstrates how the Communist party relied on proven secret-society techniques, such as selective recruitment and fanatical loyalty.
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  19. S1 E19 - Japan’s Black and Green Dragons
    August 15, 2019
    32min
    TV-PG
    Examine how the Black Dragons had a huge impact in pushing Japan into fanaticism, militarism, and a devastating war. Then, explore additional Asian-based groups, including the Green Dragons and the Genyosha (or Dark Ocean), and how they dabbled in everything from major bombings to a plan to assassinate Charlie Chaplin.
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  20. S1 E20 - Italy’s Secret Government: The P2 Lodge
    August 15, 2019
    33min
    TV-PG
    Propaganda-Due, or P-2 , an Italian pseudo-Masonic organization, has been tied to a number of shady crimes and mysteries, including corruption, bribes, and even murder. Yet it was made up of senior military and police officers, parliament members, journalists, and the heads of all three of Italy’s intelligence agencies. Learn how this organization grew to include such important figures.
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  21. S1 E21 - From the KKK to the Black Shriners
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence turns his focus to the United States and uniquely American secret societies, including the sham group known as the U.S. Secret and Civil Service Society, Self-Supporting Branch. He also covers the disturbing emergence and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan. Discover how the secret societies that emerged during this period acted as a reflection of America at the turn of the century.
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  22. S1 E22 - Bohemian Grove, Bilderbergers, and Elites
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Get to know the elite secret societies that only recruited members who were already (or would likely be) rich or influential, including the Bohemian Club, the Schlaraffia, the Sath-Bhai or Asiatic Brethren, the FOGC, the Skull & Bones Society, and more. These primarily men-only clubs are rumored to have dabbled in black arts, unusual rituals, and conspiratorial agendas.
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  23. S1 E23 - Secret Societies for Aging Swingers
    August 15, 2019
    31min
    TV-PG
    Professor Spence introduces you to a crazy-sounding story about Aleister Crowley’s secret society, Ordo Templi Orientis, as he debates the merits of truth around it. From there, hear some fantastical stories about UFOs, the Priory of Sion, the American Heraldry Society, the Society of St. John of Jerusalem, and other groups and events developed from hoaxes designed to distract and mislead.
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  24. S1 E24 - Terrorism’s Long Trail of Secret Cells
    August 15, 2019
    33min
    TV-PG
    From the 1920 Wall Street bombing to the events of 9/11, see where secret societies have embraced terrorism as a mind game throughout history. Most secret orders are more or less harmless, but Professor Spence peers inside some which have used violence to further their agendas, including the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Army Faction, the Weathermen, and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
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  25. S1 E25 - Secret Societies: The Never-Ending Story
    August 15, 2019
    36min
    TV-PG
    Taking an in-depth look at The Order, FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready), the Silver Legion of America (Silver Shirts), and others, Professor Spence demonstrates how so many of these secret societies begot, influenced, or resulted in other ones, keeping the tradition going and suggesting that there are hundreds, if not thousands, more that have remained secret.
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Extras

Bonus

The Real History of Secret Societies
The Real History of Secret Societies
1minTV-PG
In 24 eye-opening episodes by Professor Richard B. Spence, investigate the fascinating, mystifying, and sometimes disturbing world of brotherhoods, sisterhoods, orders, cults, and cabals that have influenced culture from ancient times to the present. With help from the archives of HISTORY®, you’ll gain insights into groups like the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Mafia, and the Knights Templar.
In 24 eye-opening episodes by Professor Richard B. Spence, investigate the fascinating, mystifying, and sometimes disturbing world of brotherhoods, sisterhoods, orders, cults, and cabals that have influenced culture from ancient times to the present. With help from the archives of HISTORY®, you’ll gain insights into groups like the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Mafia, and the Knights Templar.
In 24 eye-opening episodes by Professor Richard B. Spence, investigate the fascinating, mystifying, and sometimes disturbing world of brotherhoods, sisterhoods, orders, cults, and cabals that have influenced culture from ancient times to the present. With help from the archives of HISTORY®, you’ll gain insights into groups like the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Mafia, and the Knights Templar.

Details

More info

Content advisory
Violencesmokingfoul languagesexual content
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish Dialogue Boost: MediumEnglish Dialogue Boost: High
Subtitles
English [CC]
Producers
The Great Courses
Starring
Richard B. Spence
Studio
The Great Courses
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