Secret societies thrive on success of bestseller

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The Independent Culture

Secret societies such as the Knights Templar, which features in The Da Vinci Code, are experiencing a huge increase in popularity because of the success of the book. The magazine Freemasonry Today says that membership of these semi-masonic groups has risen by more than 20,000 in the past two years.

Secret societies such as the Knights Templar, which features in The Da Vinci Code, are experiencing a huge increase in popularity because of the success of the book. The magazine Freemasonry Today says that membership of these semi-masonic groups has risen by more than 20,000 in the past two years.

There are at least 18 "other orders" affiliated to freemasonry, including organisations such as the Rose Croix and the Red Cross of Constantine. Numbers are said to have reached 100,000 - a year on year rise of more than 12 per cent. The greatest rise has been with Christian orders which uphold ancient traditions and rituals based on moral principles.

This is despite a decline of freemasonry in Britain. The organisation - which originates from medieval stonemasons - has been accused of being elitist, secret and having too much influence in the police and the judiciary.

Freemasons must declare a belief in a Supreme Being to join but this does not have to be a Christian god. However, such bodies as the Knights Templar, the Rose Croix and the Red Cross of Constantine require members to be Christians.

Retired businessman Keith Jackson, a freemason and "Knights Templar" member (the original order, of course was suppressed in the 14th century), said the rise in membership was partly down to people's need for greater meaning in an increasingly materialistic world. "People are no longer sure where they come from or where they are going and there is an emptiness."

Michael Baigent, editor of Freemasonry Today - and co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which first popularised many of the themes found in Dan Brown's book - said: "A lot of people who join are looking for an additional journey. It's easy to become selfish but morality and charity are supremely important."

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