One of many political movements with secret society roots, synarchy was the creation of French occult philosopher Joseph Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (1842–1909), perhaps the most influential figure in the French occult underground of his time. Alongside contemporaries Joséphin Péladan and Stanislaus de Guaita, Saint-Yves broke with the mostly liberal or socialist politics of earlier French occultists such as Eliphas Lévi, and launched the occult conservatism that dominated western esoteric circles until the 1960s. Synarchy was Saint-Yves’ major contribution to this movement and became a major force in European politics in the twentieth century.

Drawing on the ternary logic central to nineteenth-century French occultism, synarchy sees human society as composed of the three interdependent spheres of religion, politics, and economics. In society as it existed in Saint-Yves’ time (and exists today), these three spheres conflict with one another, resulting in the decline of all three, and ultimately leads to anarchy. The synarchist answer to this dilemma is the establishment of an inner circle of initiates who have positions of influence in the three spheres. This inner circle, working in secret, would coordinate the activities of the three spheres, resulting in peace. Synarchy, Saint-Yves argued, was thus the opposite of anarchy.

Like most nineteenth-century occultists, Saint-Yves also wove his theories into an alternative vision of world history. Synarchy, he believed, had been the governing system of the world under the great Universal Empire, which was founded by Rama in 6729 BCE, but had been lost when the Universal Empire fell. The great spiritual leaders of all ages – including Moses and Jesus – had attempted to re-establish it, and the Knights Templar had come close to the synarchist ideal in the Middle Ages. Saint-Yves claimed, though, that the only nation governed on synarchic principles in his own time was the underground city of Agharta, hidden deep beneath the Himalayas. Saint-Yves’ book Mission de l’Inde en Europe (The Mission of India in Europe, 1910) described this hidden city in lavish detail. Its ruler was the Supreme Pontiff or Brahmatma, the head of the religious sphere, assisted by the Mahatma and Mahanga, who headed the political and economic spheres.

Despite the more colorful dimensions of Saint-Yves’ theories, synarchy found a ready audience among French conservatives in the first half of the twentieth century, and its influence remains strong throughout the European far right today. The Cagoule, the most powerful of the French fascist movements before the Second World War, drew heavily on synarchy, and important policies of the Vichy regime in occupied France during the war copied synarchist ideas. Propaganda Due (P2), the rogue Masonic organization that dominated Italian politics in the 1970s, was nearly a textbook example of a synarchist organization in its attempt to bring the Italian political system, the Catholic Church, and the Mafia-controlled drug economy into an alliance that could resist Italian communists. By way of the French comparative mythologist Georges Dumézil, who projected Saint-Yves’ threefold division of society back onto the ancient Indo-Europeans, synarchist ideas have found their way into a handful of modern Pagan traditions too. It remains an influential theory in many places in the world of secret societies today.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006