A Metaprogrammer at the Door of Chapel PerilousIn the literature that concerns the Illuminati relentless speculation abounds. No other secret society in recent history – with the exception of Freemasonry – has generated as much legend, hysteria, and disinformation. I first became aware of the the Illuminati about 14 years ago. Shortly thereafter I read a book, written by Robert Anton Wilson, called Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. Wilson published it in 1977 but his opening remarks on the subject still ring true today:
Briefly, the background of the Bavarian Illuminati puzzle is this. On May 1, 1776, in Bavaria, Dr. Adam Weishaupt, a professor of Canon Law at Ingolstadt University and a former Jesuit, formed a secret society called the Order of the Illuminati within the existing Masonic lodges of Germany. Since Masonry is itself a secret society, the Illuminati was a secret society within a secret society, a mystery inside a mystery, so to say. In 1785 the Illuminati were suppressed by the Bavarian government for allegedly plotting to overthrow all the kings in Europe and the Pope to boot. This much is generally agreed upon by all historians.1 Everything else is a matter of heated, and sometimes fetid, controversy.That short excerpt is perhaps the most honest and succinct introduction to the Illuminati as you’ll ever come across. So it is more than a bit ironic that Wilson, throughout the rest of the text, proceeds to perpetuate and expand upon similar myths, and in the process manages to take it to a whole new level.2 In the end, the Illuminati had mystified Wilson as much as anyone in the preceding centuries.
It has been claimed that Dr. Weishaupt was an atheist, a Cabalistic magician, a rationalist, a mystic; a democrat, a socialist, an anarchist, a fascist; a Machiavellian amoralist, an alchemist, a totalitarian and an “enthusiastic philanthropist.” (The last was the verdict of Thomas Jefferson, by the way.) The Illuminati have also been credited with managing the French and American revolutions behind the scenes, taking over the world, being the brains behind Communism, continuing underground up to the 1970s, secretly worshipping the Devil, and mopery with intent to gawk. Some claim that Weishaupt didn’t even invent the Illuminati, but only revived it. The Order of Illuminati has been traced back to the Knights Templar, to the Greek and Gnostic initiatory cults, to Egypt, even to Atlantis. The one safe generalization one can make is that Weishaupt’s intent to maintain secrecy has worked; no two students of Illuminology have ever agreed totally about what the “inner secret” or purpose of the Order actually was (or is . . .). There is endless room for spooky speculation, and for pedantic paranoia, once one really gets into the literature of the subject; and there has been a wave of sensational “ex-poses” of the Illuminati every generation since 1776. If you were to believe all this sensational literature, the damned Bavarian conspirators were responsible for everything wrong with the world, including the energy crises and the fact that you can’t even get a plumber on weekends. (pp. 3-4)
Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) is an enigma in his own right: an archetypal Trickster in the tradition of Aleister Crowley or Timothy Leary, both of whom he greatly admires.3 The Cosmic Trigger Trilogy is meant to awaken the reader to multiple mind-blowing streams of thought and completely shatter preconceived notions of perception, time and space – much as the writings of illuminists themselves. Herein lies the seed of speculation to the effect that he must surely be in on the conspiracy – some have gone so far as to believe he’s the Grand Master (or inner head) of the Illuminati himself. Wilson has always toyed with the accusations, and in typical RAW fashion, he’s never denied it outright.
Cosmic Trigger wasn’t the first book Wilson dedicated to the theme, however. Two years earlier, in 1975, RAW and co-author Robert Shea popularized the modern wave of Illuminati conspiracies with the publication of the novel Illuminatus! Trilogy. A veritable cult classic, Illuminatus invigorated the underground market and spawned a whole new generation of conspiracy authors. One cannot read any of RAW’s material without a healthy sense of humor, though, and Illuminatus is definitely no exception. Written between 1969 and 1971 it reads like a subversive anarchist manual, yet satirical and surreal at the same time. The cut-and-paste job of excerpts right into the flow of dialogue – from books and pamphlets on a wide range of conspiracy theories – probably boosted its appeal from the beginning.
Any researcher investigating the Illuminati today would be remiss not to mention RAW – especially in a book or document purporting to cover the subject in detail. With the exception of Myron Fagan, “Wild” Bill Cooper,4 the John Birchers and Biblical endtimes literature, the formation of the current mythos surrounding the subject has a lot to do with the popularity of Wilson’s books: have you ever seen the Illuminati and the star Sirius mentioned in the same paragraph?
Before plunging headlong into the history of the Bavarian Illuminati, it might be useful to have a look at Wilson’s diagram – his interpretation (at the time) of the “occult conspiracy” as it has been transmitted through the ages (Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati, p.188):
New Promethean Possibilities
“European aristocrats transferred their lighted candles from Christian altars to Masonic lodges. The flame of occult alchemists, which had promised to turn dross into gold, reappeared at the center of new “circles” seeking to recreate a golden age: Bavarian Illuminists conspiring against the Jesuits, French Philadelphians against Napoleon, Italian charcoal burners against the Hapsburgs.”The Bavarian Illuminati originated during an age replete with the growing belief in the acquisition of truth through observation and experience. The Age of Enlightenment was in full swing and by the end of the Eighteenth Century an explosion of natural philosophy, science, the resurgence of hermeticism and occult experimentation, all competed directly with the traditional teachings of the Church and the Jesuit monopoly in the Universities and Colleges.5 Numerous ideologies owe an intellectual and political heritage to this period: skepticism, rationalism, atheism, liberalism, humanism, reductionism, modernism, communism, nihilism and anarchism – among the most apparent.
- Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith, p. 6
As the Eighteenth Century came to a close Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), Voltaire (1694-1778), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794), Comte de Mirabeau (1749- 1791), David Hume (1711-1776), Adam Smith (1723-1790), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) were famous in their own time. The instrument of reason became a new faith, no less susceptible to its own breed of dogmatism. The philosophers of the Enlightenment reasoned that the physics of Newton might become applicable in all fields of endeavor: the fundamental cosmic laws of nature could transform society and man himself into a “noble savage.”6
The idea of a “glorious revolution” attained widespread acceptance, but during Weishaupt’s time it was still a relatively new concept to link political change with social change. The “imminent revolution of the human mind,” promulgated by the “radical Bavarian Illuminists,” coincided with Mirabeau’s doctrine of a coming secular upheaval and universal revolution. Mirabeau proclaimed Prussia to be the most likely place for the start of the revolution, with the “German Illuminists as its probable leaders.” History records, however, that it was Mirabeau himself who became one of the main catalysts to spark the “fire in the minds of men” during the French Revolution.7
At about the same time Weishaupt was embarking on an academic career two important figures entered the world stage: Thomas Robert Malthus,8 born in 1766, a major influence on Darwinism, population control and the eugenics movement; four years later we see the birth of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in Stuttgart Germany, the inventor of what would become known as the “Hegelian Dialectic.” “For Hegelians,” Antony C. Sutton reports, “the State is almighty and seen as ‘the march of God on earth.’ Indeed, a State religion. Progress in the Hegelian State is through contrived conflict: the clash of opposites makes for progress. If you can control the opposites, you dominate the nature of the outcome” (Introduction to the 2002 edition of America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones, no pagination PDF copy).
Revolutionary radicals were impressed with the proof-of-concept displayed by the ruthless conspirators in France. Malthusian and Hegelian dogma became equally influential for anarchists, communists, the intelligentsia and the new breed of revolutionaries that surfaced in the 19th Century: Young Hegelians such as Bakunin, Proudhon and Marx took up the cause in the “spirit of the times” to “destroy in order to build.”
The Bavarian Illuminati: The “Insinuating Brothers” of ?
Weishaupt . . . proposed as the end of Illuminism the abolition of property, social authority, nationality, and the return of the human race to the happy state in which it formed only a single family without artificial needs, without useless sciences, every father being priest and magistrate. Priest of we know not what religion, for in spite of their frequent invocations of the God of Nature, many indications lead us to conclude that Weishaupt had, like Diderot and d’Holbach, no other God than Nature herself. From his doctrine would naturally follow German ultra-Hegelianism and the system of anarchy recently developed in France, of which the physiognomy suggests a foreign origin.
- Henry Martin, Histoire de France depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’en 1789, XVI. 533.9
Do you realize sufficiently what it means to rule – to rule in a secret society? Not only over the lesser or more important of the populace, but over the best of men, over men of all ranks, nations, and religions, to rule without external force, to unite them indissolubly, to breathe one spirit and soul into them, men distributed over all parts of the world? . . . And finally, do you know what secret societies are? What a place they occupy in the great kingdom of the world’s events? Do you think they are unimportant, transitory appearances?A quick perusal on the World Wide Web will show the disparity of opinions and irreconcilable differences about the history of the Illuminati – Bavarian or otherwise. It’s getting better though, a recent article published by the American Atheists11 – The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The Illuminati – has solid documentation and thorough references for those inclined to investigate further into primary and secondary source material; the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon has uploaded part of Vernon L. Stauffer’s New England and the Bavarian Illuminati; John Robison’s classic, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe has been posted; the Catholic Encyclopedia has long had a good, but short, article; Nesta Webster’s Secret Societies & Subversive Movements has been posted; three important chapters from Rabbi Marvin S. Antelman’s To Eliminate the Opiate Vol. I;
- Adam Weishaupt, Nachtrag von weitern Originalschriften, II, pp. 44, 51.10
If you never buy a single book on the Illuminati, and just read the internet references cited above, you would have an excellent grasp – much greater than your average conspiracy theorist – on the facts (as we can safely say) concerning the rise and fall of the Bavarian Illuminati. I have taken it a bit further, however. For the last six months I’ve engaged in a crash course on the Illuminati and related subjects: absorbing and taking notes from Proofs of a Conspiracy …, and other internet references; buying Barruel’s Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, Billington’s Fire In the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith, Webster’s Secret Societies & Subversive Movements, Antelman’s To Eliminate the Opiate Vol. 1, Yates’ The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Fulop-Miller’s The Power and Secret of the Jesuits, Carr’s Pawns in the Game; and at the same time consulting other works, in my own personal library, when needed.12