A secret association or society is an organization concealing both its existence and the identity of its affiliates from the outside world, whether not even to its own members. The reasons behind such secrecy, which is usually kept from the State or any alternative constituted authority, can be political, economical, religious or philosophical.
For example, the Carbonari society was born within the Kingdom of Naples at the beginning of the XIX century, to promote liberal and patriotic values, which the then constituted order believed to be revolutionary and adverse to its own existence. Also for political reasons, the so-called Thule-Gesellschaft association, featuring a manifest racist and antisemitic bent, was born in Munich in 1918, as the original core of the soon-to-appear Nazi party. The Society of the Bavarian Illuminati of the XVIII century, instead, was created for economical purposes aiming at the monopoly of the global market, same as the Priory of Sion, born in France in 1956, which became the protagonist of various conspiracy theories. As for the religious purposes, many various secret societies appeared to contrast the religions of state of their time. Suffices to think of the Christians during the Roman Empire and all the related persecutions. Last but not least, among the philosophical-religious associations, it is worth remembering Rosacrucianism, born in Europe in the XVII century, but also the philosophical-scientific secret society News Protected, founded by Leonardo Da Vinci to allow all scientists to pursue their studies independently from the state authority of reference.
E’ evidente che, nel caso di uno scopo politico, l’associazione segreta nasce solitamente nel tentativo di sovvertire l’ordine costituito, ad esempio preparando una rivoluzione, atti di guerriglia, di terrorismo o di resistenza. Ovvio che in tali circostanze si rende necessario il mantenere riservata nei confronti dello Stato sia l’identità dei propri aderenti (talvolta anche ai membri stessi dell’organizzazione), sia l’esistenza stessa dell’associazione e i propri scopi.
Le leggi di diversi Stati europei (tra cui la Polonia e l’Italia) proibiscono tutte le società segrete, senza tuttavia definire esattamente cosa si ritenga con il termine di “società segreta”. In particolare, per quanto ci riguarda, è la Costituzione Italiana che stabilisce nell’articolo 18 il diritto all’associazionismo libero, mentre vieta le società segrete.

Art. 18. «I cittadini hanno diritto di associarsi liberamente, senza autorizzazione, per fini che non sono vietati ai singoli dalla legge penale. Sono proibite le associazioni segrete e quelle che perseguono, anche indirettamente, scopi politici mediante organizzazioni di carattere militare.»

In assenza di una definizione stringente di società segreta, la Massoneria è stata considerata come tale per molto tempo, nonostante le sedi delle istituzioni siano regolarmente denunciate in questura e gli elenchi degli iscritti siano depositati presso le prefetture e, quindi, considerati “pubblici”, per quanto la loro accessibilità sia giustamente limitata dalle leggi sulla “privacy”.
The still often popular perception of Freemasonry as a “secret society” comes from the fact that it was in fact so up until the Risorgimento, as it was covertly operating to promote national unity against the previously existing states. And it also remained concealed during Fascism, which oppressed it violently.
Furthermore, the scandal following the discovery of the members' list of the secret lodge known as P2 (Propaganda 2), founded in 1877 and affiliated to the male institution of the Grande Oriente d'Italia - acronym G.O.I. - has also contributed to stirring things up even more. As it appears, during the leadership of the entrepreneur Licio Gelli, the P2 lodge had been long drifting away from the Order's statutes, thus acquiring manifest subversive intents towards the Italian Judicial System, which lead to the lodge being suspended by the G.O.I. itself on July 26th 1976. Later, the parliamentary commission in charge if the inquiry, named Commissione Anselmi, closed the P2 case denouncing the lodge as an actual “criminal and subversive organization”, which led to its termination thanks to a specific law – nr. 17 of January 25th 1982 - promulgated with the purpose of giving some definition of secret association.

Legge n.17. «Secret associations, as forbidden by art 18. of the Constitution of Italy, are defined as those which, by concealing their existence, even within acknowledged associations, and therefore by concealing their purpose and social activities, namely enshrouding, whether partly, entirely or mutually, their own associates, operate to interfere with constitutional bodies, public administrations – including those acting under autonomous law - public and economic authorities, and essential public services of national interest, in the exercise of their duties.»

As the G∴L∴D∴I∴ imposes its associates the primary duty to respect the law of their State, a cultural association parallel to the ideal one and yet entirely complying with the Italian regulations has been created a long time ago. Its name is Centro Sociologico Italiano and it has its headquarters in Via S.Nicola De Cesarini n.3, in Rome, which is also the national seat of the Obedience. The lists of the affiliates have always been available to the national authorities of competence. Therefore, the G∴L∴D∴I∴ cannot be considered a secret society.
Human beings have always felt an intrinsic need for creating long lasting structures, able to overcome their mortality. The inclination to form associations is at the root of any people, and legal systems cannot either ignore it or fear it.
The Serene Grand Master Antonio Binni is currently striving to ask the Italian Parliament for a law that regulates the associations – similar to the French one, promulgated in 1902 – to plant a seed of hope for the freedom to exist and be acknowledged by the community. In fact, it is vital to understand that every freemason in their lodge is invited to become aware that they are part of the community they live in and therefore must always prove to be careful citizens, respectful of the law, aiming at becoming rightful people, who do not rise walls but instead work within themselves to build humanitarian bridges, which are necessary now more than ever, not just in Italy but in Europe also. Ultimately, as the Serene Grand Master Antonio Binni likes to remind everyone, freemasonry is not about power, but about service.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King

«The notion of obligation is above that of right. In fact, no right can be exercised if not in force of its correspondent duty. Every right can exist only because of an obligation to respect it. A right which is not acknowledged is worthless. This is why a State which did not support and protect human rights would be illegitimate and corrupt. Obligation, on the other hand, needs no acknowledgement since it is based on universal conscience. Hence why obligation is eternal, unconditioned, universal and superior to right. Freemasonry is the kingdom of obligation, which dominates every right, by definition not only related but also subordinated to a duty.»