Joseph K_____, around his twentieth birthday, learned the existence of a secret, very secret society. It truly resembles no other association of this kind. It is very difficult for some people to join. Many, who ardently desire to, never succeed. On the other hand, others are in it without even knowing. One is, by the way, never quite sure of belonging; there are many people who think themselves members of this secret society, and who are not at all. It makes no difference that they have been initiated; they are members even less than many who do not even know of the society's existence. Indeed, they have undergone the test of a bogus initiation, intended to throw people off who are not worthy to really be initiates. But to the most authentic members, to those who have attained the highest grade in the hierarchy of this society, even to those it is never revealed whether their successive initiations are valid or not. It can even happen that a member has attained some real status, in the normal way, following authentic initiations, and that, afterward, without having been warned, he is submitted to bogus initiations only. The object of endless discussion among members is to find out if it is better to be admitted to a low but authentic grade than to occupy an exalted but illusory position. In any case, no one is sure of the stability of his grade.
In fact, the situation is even more complicated, because
certain applicants are admitted to the highest grades without having undergone
any test, others without having been informed. And to tell the truth, there is
not even any need to make application; there are people who have been given very
advanced initiations who did not even know of the secret society's
The powers of the highest members are limitless, and they
carry within a powerful emanation from the secret society. Their mere presence
suffices, for example, even if they do not show themselves, to transform a
harmless gathering, like a concert or an anniversary dinner, into a meeting of
the secret society. These members are responsible for making, upon all sessions
which they have been present, secret reports that are examined closely by other
members of the same rank; there is in this way a perpetual exchange of reports
among the membership, permitting the highest authorities in the secret society
to keep the situation well in hand.
However high, however far initiation goes, it never goes so
far as to reveal to the initiate the aim pursued by the secret society. But
there are always traitors, and for a long time it has been no mystery to anyone
that this aim is to keep things secret.
K_____ was very frightened to learn this secret society was so powerful,
spreading so wide that he could perhaps, without knowing it, be shaking hands
with the most powerful of its members. But unfortunately, one morning, emerging
from a painful sleep, he lost his first class ticket on the Metro. This bit of
bad luck was the first link in a jumble of contradictory circumstances that
brought him into contact with the secret society. Later, so as to protect
himself, he was obliged to take steps to be admitted to this formidable
organization. That happened a long time ago, and it is not yet known where he
stands in his endeavour.
Jean Ferry - Satrape du Collège de 'Pataphysique