Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 11.djvu/500
poses, or by their initiative character. That they can build themselves up with such characteristics is possible, however, only under the presupposition of an already existing society. The secret society sets itself as a special society in antithesis with the wider association included within the greater society. This antithesis, whatever its purpose, is at all events intended in the spirit of exclusion. Even the secret society which proposes only to render the whole community a definite service in a completely unselfish spirit, and to dissolve itself after performing the service, obviously regards its temporary detachment from that totality as the unavoidable technique for its purpose. Accordingly, none of the narrower groups which are circumscribed by larger groups are compelled by their sociological constellation to insist so strongly as the secret society upon their formal self-sufficiency. Their secret encircles them like a boundary, beyond which there is nothing but the materially, or at least formally, antithetic, which therefore shuts up the society within itself as a complete unity. In the groupings of every other sort, the content of the group-life, the actions of the members in the sphere of rights and duties, may so fill up their consciousness that within it the formal fact of socialization under normal conditions plays scarcely any rôle. The secret society, on the other hand, can on no account permit the definite and emphatic consciousness of its members that they constitute a society to escape from their minds. The always perceptible and always to-be-guarded pathos of the secret lends to the form of union which depends upon the secret, as contrasted with the content, a predominant significance, as compared with other unions.
In the secret society there is complete absence of organic growth, of the character of instinct in accumulation, of all unforced matter of course with respect to belonging together and forming a unity. No matter how irrational, mystical, impressionistic (gefühlsmassig) their contents, the way in which they are constructed is always conscious and intentional. Throughout their derivation and life consciousness of being a society is permanently accentuated. The secret society is, on that account, the antithesis of all genetic (triebhaft) societies, in which the unifica-