When a secretive organisation adheres to a set of principles, was created just to safeguard those principles, then should that set of principles be described as a manifesto, creed or a doctrine? I'm lost on the subtle differences when I look at dictionaries, thesauruses and Wikipedia.

This organisation is not religious, but would probably be recognized as a somewhat evil sect from the outside. They have not publicized any of these principles.

The principles are stated in the same style the Agile Manifesto was originally stated, but it is not made public:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

I'm again getting confused however, as the above lines are now headlined as the Agile Values, rather than manifesto. Perhaps "values" is better than manifesto, creed or doctrine, but the connotation implies something public to me.

Then there are the words dogma and ideology. However, the principles are stated explicitly within the company, principles to live and die by. So the word should indicate a material list of principles within a secret sect-like organisation. It's a word the organisation itself uses to refer to it.

Some insight is greatly appreciated.

/edit: I notice I dodge around the issue by using the word "principle"; I'm not ruling that out either.

  • Cowboys follow the Code of the West. Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


I believe in your instance, Manifesto would be the most appropriate of the words you have chosen to describe the acting code-of-conduct of a secretive organization. Code-of-conduct could also be used to describe such acting practices.

Generally a Manifesto describes not only the way in which someone following it should act, but also describes the motivations behind why the things in question are conducted in that manner. Example writings such as Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto would fall under this umbrella.

A Creed is commonly associated with religions, and are guidelines by which someone chooses to act, sometimes they are single statements such as Googles infamous, "Don't be evil". Sometimes they contain much more.

Doctrines are more formal versions of the above. Such as Military Doctrine, Religious Doctrine, Political doctrine, etc. They are generally more strongly worded than a creed.

However, let me expose an alternative to you. There is another which describes things similarly, The word in question is "Maxim". Maxims are short statements which describe tenets by which an organization operates. One of the more famous examples includes The Seventy Maxims of Maximally effective Mercenaries. from the webcomic Schlock Mercenary.

I would use the term Maxim above the ones you've provided, "The Code" could also be used as an alternative as well.

Codes are generally encrypted, are secretive, and are processed to one another via secret books, pamphlets, or even by word of mouth. They are generally memorized then burned to prevent their methods of being exposed. They would also be good for an organization that prides itself on secrecy.

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