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Secret societies are those which, for one reason or another, try to keep a certain veil of secrecy around their activities.
Some societes such as the the Rosicrucians or The Martinist Order hold part of their meetings away from outsider's eyes although the organisation itself is legally registered and publicly recognised.
Others, however, (such the Prieuré of Saint-Louis) are believed to be little more then legends and stories told by paranoid individuals, or those interested in conspiracy theories.