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World Conspiracy, Historical Relic, or Some of Both?
on September 12, 2002
In "Secrets of the Tomb," Alexandra Robbins repeats, and dismisses, many of the claims made by conspiracy theorists like Anthony Sutton about the Yale University senior society Skull and Bones. She also calls into question the authenticity of Ron Rosenbaum's account of a Skull and Bones initiation, suggesting that it was not authentic, but rather a skit contrived and performed by members who knew that Rosenbaum was eavesdropping on them.
In the stead of such "exposés," she provides a history of early Yale and the peculiar social climate in which this society came to be. The truth is as interesting as any of the fantasies. ... Skull and Bones (as well as several other similar societies) reflect today what was once a much broader system of college clubs that served to reinforce institutional culture. Of course, that culture has changed with the passage of years; the successful (i.e., surviving) societies have adapted to change even as they resisted it.
We don't learn much more about the German connection or the ritual background of Skull and Bones here than we do from Sutton. The German university corps from which the Yale society emanated as a chapter is not identified; Ms. Robbins has not said which German university Gen. Russell visited. If naked mud wrestling or lying in a coffin are not (at least now) parts of the ritual, drinking simulated "blood" out of a skull is, which suggests von Hund's masonic Templars as a ritual source. The presiding officer is named "Uncle Toby," apparently derived from the character in Laurence Sterne's novel "Tristam Shandy," and the mysterious number 322 from the date of Demosthenes' death. The Skull and Bones library contains an Aldine edition of Demosthenes and a first edition of "Tristam Shandy," both great bibliophilic rarities. Many Latin tags about bones (ossis), as well as macaronics on "bonis" (the good), reflect the past importance of the classics in a university education. (Conspiracy theorists may wish to note that, if Mimmo Siclari's lyrics can be trusted, the legendary founders of the Mafia were named Ossu, Matrossu, and Carcagnossu - which may be translated as "Bones," "Mother Bones," and "Burdened Bones," respectively.)
While Ms. Robbins discounts wild claims of world conspiracy, she does portray a club the members of which have historically been drawn from a monied and socially influential background, and who have been assiduous in promoting each others' interests. This has taken place within a prestigious and influential university that itself has drawn its students from a highly select pool. The author's lipservice to the shibboleths of political correctness, exhibiting fashionable condemnation of "élitism" and "tokenism," ring rather hollow in view of her indication that she belongs to another Yale secret society (the name of which she does not disclose). It is hypocritical posturing to denounce élitism and tokenism when one has already derived their benefits....
...If Ms. Robbins has not learnt that at Yale, I'd say her tuition was a great waste of money.