And yet, despite their piety, their certainty in their faiths, no one knows the hidden meaning of the Dark Time, the real Reason For The Season. That deep, esoteric knowledge is preserved only by the cryptic Order Of The 23rd Degree.
A deep gasp of recognition, almost reflexive, goes through the readership. Yes, it is dared to be written: The Order Of The 23rd Degree. That legendary cabal, near-obscured yet always lurking on the edge of consciousness, its lethal tendrils reaching into every corner of the civilized world. The conspiracy to trump all conspiracies, the secret society whose secret is the Truth.
Many are the solid, unimaginative citizens who have lived their entire lives faithfully fulfilling their societal, familial, even spiritual duties, duly observing home, occupation, fraternity and church, and gone to their eternal rest never suspecting their collusion in this, most arcane of the arcane, most occult of plots (for no matter what has occurred throughout history, rest assured that the Order had a hand, or is it claw, in it). Despite their best intentions, they have been drawn into its web of reality.
The first degree of initiation comes early, before the growing mind develops the power to resist the lure of facts, of logic and reason. Then follow the degrees of reading and writing, of cold arithmetic calculation so alien to the warm glow of blind faith. With ill luck and aptitude come degrees of advanced study and practice, the pursuit of obscure principles and fanciful knowledge, until at last the ultimate secret is revealed, the eldritch study of astronomy. And the 23rd degree is reached when all veils are swept aside, the mind laid bare in the numbing chill of eternal interstellar night, there to contemplate the soulless clockwork of the celestial orbs, the dead mechanical tilt of the axis of the earth that gives rise to the seasons.
But even the initiate willing to bear the crushing weight of understanding that the 23rd degree imparts can have no notion, no inkling of the yet more titanic revelation, which may only be hinted of in so public a document as this, of the 23rd and one half degree...
Awww... lighten up everybody, it's Christmas!
Or, you know, whatever...