|Red Men Certificate|
An example I am particularly familiar with is bicycle clubs. Among cyclists, there is deep and specific knowledge of all forms of two wheeled self propelled transport, and likewise there's deep knowledge about the preparation of both of the body and the machine that's required for racing. Out of the billions of people in the world, there are only thousands, or maybe tens of thousands who know these things, yet there is a relatively large industry that supports them, and the cyclists work to promote the sport and to exert political influence, even though their actions are not coordinated in a significant way. Indeed, in cycling, there's even more esoteric knowledge that was and is practiced by the elite athletes in the sport. It's the knowledge of doping, which is like the black magic of cycling. (Read Tom Danielson's deposition for the insider view.)
There's a long history of fraternal orders, some just simple drinking clubs, and others that served financial purposes, like providing life or health insurance to members. The value and influence of these organizations can wax and wane with the tectonic forces of the day. For example, the Order of Red Men and Tammanies formed at the end of the colonial period. The Freemasons formed at the dawn of the Enlightenment. Indeed, maybe the arrival of new ideas spurs the creation of these groups--the new thought, and the reaction to the new thought.
We are currently living through such a time. The systems that were fashioned around the turn of the century are failing (the supposed New World Order), and a new order is emerging. For example, the Eurozone and the Euro currency is a total failure. The long con that made the dollar the reserve currency of the world is failing, and the Federal Reserve is shown to be nothing more than Three Card Monty, bolstered by Nobel prize winner shills, and ivy league shill factories.
The late 19th century and early 20th century were when German philosophy came to America. German philosophical thought is really central to system we live in today.