Theirs and mine…
Many so called secret societies figure in conspiracy theories as bodies, secretly ruling the world. But do you think some of these societies accomplished something really significant in reality? Or are they only ordinary groups of people with common interests who maybe sometimes delight in being seen in mysterious way?
The heyday of secret societies occurred during the 18th Century. We see the birth of Freemasonry-proper along with its enumerable offshoots or extensions, as well as the more socio-political variety represented by the Bavarian Illuminati. But, all of them - without exception - as you say - “delight[ed] in being seen in [a] mysterious way.”
The Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Criticism also gave birth to the modern conspiracy theory. And this is due, in large measure, to the very real machinations of the Bavarian Illuminati. When John Robison wrote Proofs of a Conspiracy in 1797; a more apt title there was not. Through defectors from the secret society itself to the confiscation of internal correspondences by the government, it was learned that the Illuminati’s sole raison d’être was infiltration and subversion – a conspiracy through-and-through. One did not need further “theorizing,” for the Illuminati was a concrete manifestation of everyone’s worst fears.