Monday, November 19, 2012

The Real Illuminati Exposed!

I've decided to try running a new feature here on Augoeides - "Magick Mondays." While I comment on a lot of weird news articles, I'm hoping to get back to writing more original pieces on various topics related to occultism in theory, practice, and history. Last Monday I posted an article on Qabalistic Ritual Construction, and this week I'm writing about the reality behind the dreaded Illuminati Order of Christian conspiracy theorists.

The mysterious secret society known as the Illuminati haunts the dreams of many a fundamentalist fanatic. According to Christian conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati are behind virtually every powerful group and celebrity in all of Western civilization and are busy at work promulgating the agenda of Satan against the true children of God - that is, the aforementioned Christian conspiracy theorists. The Illuminati are obviously involved in anything related to occultism, and my guess is there are readers of this blog out there who consider me one of their agents.

A while back I addressed this in a tongue-in-cheek manner, demanding my millions of dollars from the Illuminati for whom I supposedly work. I figured if I was doing the job, I should get paid for it. And, if the conspiracy theorists are right, the Illuminati are incredibly rich and powerful. They certainly should be able to afford to subsidize my writing and blogging - you know, like the aristocratic patrons of old. That post led to this clever practical joke that I'm fairly certain was pulled by one or more of the members of my magical working group - though none of them have ever fessed up, which I will say is a testament to their power to keep silence.

A number of people over the years have claimed to be former members of the nefarious organization and generally go on to sell books and overpriced seminars to the evangelical Christian crowd. One of the most famous of these was Mike Warnke, whose claims were thoroughly debunked by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. Another is John Todd, mentioned in my original article demanding my Illuminati millions. Yet another is William Schnoebelen, whose grandiose claims have been debunked by the blogosphere's own Frater Barrabbas who studied with Schnoebelen's Wiccan coven in the 1970's.

But who were the real Illuminati, the historical individuals who inspired all of this silliness and paranoia? I recently came across this article which spells out the actual history of the group along with that of various historical associations which traced their lineage to Adam Weishaupt's Bavarian Illuminati. It also explains how the primary critics of the Illuminati came out of the anti-Masonry movement, and as a result played fast and loose with much of the history in order to shore up their own conspiracy theories at the time their works were published.

The two principal critics of the Illuminati, John Robison and the Abbé Barruel 2 both published their accusations, theories and "histories" in English. But it has only been in the last few years that the source documents have been translated, allowing the English-speaking world an objective perspective on the order.

This webpage summarizes what was known about the Bavarian Illuminati to the English-speaking world, up until the mid-twentieth century. Serious students should consult Amelia Gill's 2008 translation of Weishaupt's Die Lampe von Diogenese, Peggy Pawlowski’s 2004 doctoral thesis, ‘Der Beitrag Johann Adam Weishaupts zur Pädagogik des Illuminatismus’, and the works of such German historians as Reinhart Koselleck, Richard van Dülmen, Hermann Schüttler, Reinhard Markner, Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, Manfred Agethen, and Christine Schaubs.

Robison freely admitted that he had scanty knowledge of German and had derived all his information from other writers. 3 Unfortunately neither he nor Barruel were concerned with providing references for their sources. When they do quote from the papers and correspondence of the Order as published by the Bavarian government or the published works of Adam Weishaupt and Adolph Knigge, they also fail to provide context or citations.

One of the alternative theories that I've heard repeated a number of times is that the original Illuminati Order was a secret society for atheists, as to this day one must profess a belief in deity to join the Masonic fraternity and much of the personal networking of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was done in the context of lodges and fraternities. This appears to be incorrect as well, since many of those involved in the original Illuminati order were themselves Masons and therefore not atheists. However, the group was made up of "freethinkers" who rejected superstition and oppression by the church, and my guess is that it included atheists as well as believers among its ranks. One additional point that the source documents make is that the Illuminati rituals were not of an occult nature but in fact rather similar to those of Masonry.

The rituals were of a rationalistic and not occult nature. Status as a freemason was not required for initiation into the Order of Illuminati since the fourth, fifth and sixth degrees of Weishaupt and Baron Adolphe-François-Frederic Knigge’s system practically duplicated the three degrees of symbolic Freemasonry. Although Knigge claimed to have a system of ten degrees, the last two appear never to have been fully worked up.8

"The Order was at first very popular, and enrolled no less than two thousand names upon its registers.... Its Lodges were to be found in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and Italy. Knigge, who was one of its most prominent working members, and the auther of several of its Degrees, was a religious man, and would never have united with it had its object been, as has been charged, to abolish Christianity. But it cannot be denied, that in the process of time abuses had crept into the Institution and that by the influence of unworthy men, the system became corrupted; yet the course accusations of Barruel and Robison are known to be exaggerated, and some of them altogether false.... The Edicts [on June 22, 1784, for its suppression] of the Elector of Bavaria [Duke Karl Theodor] were repeated in March and August, 1785 and the Order began to decline, so that by the end of the eighteenth century it had ceased to exist.... it exercised while in prosperity no favorable influence on the masonic institution, nor any unfavorable effect on it by its dissolution."9

It is also clear that that the original organization, founded in 1776, failed to survive even thirty years. Furthermore, attempts at reviving the Illuminati Order have likewise not outlived their founders. One would expect a lot more from a group that by reputation is backed by the global elite. That goes double for a global elite supposedly composed of shape-shifting lizards with access to advanced alien technology.

The modern version of the Illuminati conspiracy theory likely owes its existence to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's fictional (but awesome) Illuminatus! Trilogy, first published in 1975 - right around the time that the supposed real Illuminati came to the attention of fundamentalist Christianity. Mike Warnke's first book The Satan Seller was published in 1973 and referred to his supposed involvement with Satanism, but contained no references to the Illuminati. However, in the late 1970's and early 1980's the Satanism of Warnke was merged with something akin to Wilson and Shea's Illuminati. This idea of the Illuminati as a widespread, sinister organization was one of the forces that came together in the 1980's to produce the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" panic.

To those familiar with the tall tales of "former members," the concept that small towns where more than a quarter of the population belonged to the Order and controlled the political and law enforcement establishment seemed believable, even though in retrospect is seems remarkable in its ridiculousness. Many lives were destroyed by not only conspiracy theorists but also therapists who put forth the idea of "recovered memories" and were happy to cash the checks of believers in exchange for instilling in them new memories of bizarre and often impossible events. Seeing as the real nature of memory (which precludes the Freudian "repression" mechanism) was not understood at the time, I sometimes wonder how much of this phenomenon to ascribe to ignorance and how much to opportunism, but the fact is that these therapists turned a profit as they tore families apart with wild accusations and provided testimony against innocent people in criminal cases.

In fact, as any author of occult books such as myself will tell you, the number of people who are interested in magical practice is tiny. If it were widespread we would be selling a lot more books and would be able to make a living writing rather than holding on to our day jobs. I realize there are magical traditions in the world that don't have much use for books, but it still seems that percentage-wise the number of magicians in any population is always small - certainly not large enough for the kind of massive infiltration of civil organizations that the Illuminati conspiracy theory would require. The idea that this huge group of people are also "Satanists" as defined in books like the Malleus Maleficarum just insults the intelligence of reasonable people further. There's no historical evidence that the sort of devil-worshiping "witchcraft" outlined in the famous Inquisition manual ever occurred during the middle ages, let alone in modern small-town America.

Reviewing the source documents on the Order shows that the real Illuminati were a footnote on history, not a driving force. An interesting personal note is that in the late 1800's OTO founder Theodor Reuss also founded a group that he claimed was descended from the Illuminati. Furthermore, the OTO's founding documents indicate that the order is a synthesis of ideas from many different occult societies and organizations, one of which is in fact Weishaupt's Illuminati - and the OTO does have a system of nine degrees with a tenth reserved for the heads of the several Grand Lodges. So maybe that means as an OTO initiate I'm the closest thing to an Illuminatus many of you are likely to come across - and let me tell you, there's no salary involved, multi-million dollar or otherwise.

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