The Enlightened Ones: The Illuminati and the New World Order
By MICHAEL HOWARD
The world is governed by far different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.
– Benjamin Disraeli, nineteenth century British prime minister, in a speech to Parliament
On 1 May 1776, the year of the beginning of the American revolution against British colonial rule, a young university professor, Adam Weishaupt (1748–1830), from Bavaria, founded the Order of Perfectibilists, later to become world famous as the Illuminati or ‘Enlightened Ones’.
Weishaupt’s family had Jewish ancestry, but he was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and educated by the Jesuits. His father died when he was seven and he was fostered by his godfather, a German aristocrat called Baron Ickstett. Although schooled by priests from the Society of Jesus, the young boy spent hours in his godfather’s extensive library reading learned works on philosophy and science. As an undergraduate at university, Weishaupt studied the ancient Greek Eleusian Mysteries and the mystical doctrines of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Even at this young age he was thinking about forming a secret society based on the pagan mystery schools. He later wrote:
At a time, however, when there was no end of making game of and abusing secret societies, I planned to make use of this human foible for a real and worthy goal, for the benefit of people. I wished to do what the heads of the ecclesiastical and secular authorities ought to have done by virtue of their offices.
Adam Weishaupt became a lay professor in canon law at the Jesuit-run University of Ingoldstat near Munich while still a young man. His sudden rise to prominence in the university and his radical views caused consternation among the Jesuit priests. This led him to become involved in many bitter disputes with them about matters pertaining to religion.
In 1774 in either Hanover or Munich Weishaupt became interested in Freemasonry. However, he was disappointed in what he found, believing the Freemasons did not understand Masonry’s occult significance, and refused to accept its roots in the ancient pagan religions. In 1777, he finally joined the Masonic Lodge of the Strict Observance Rite in Munich, which practised a form of neo-Templar-Masonry.
At this time the Order of Perfectibilists also became known as the Order of Illuminists or the Order of the Illuminati, sometimes known to its members as the Society of the Hidden Hand. Illuminati was the plural of the Latin Illuminatus, from illumino meaning lighten or enlighten, or ‘enlightened one’, a term used to describe the initiates of the pagan Mysteries. At first the Order had only five members who were radical freethinkers, but they soon attracted the attention of Bavarian society and within ten years of its foundation there were over 2,000 members.
Illuminism spread from Ingoldstat all over Bavaria and then to other German regions such as Saxony, Westphalia and Franconia that were at the time ruled by feudal princes. It was also exported abroad to the Austria-Hungarian Empire, France and Italy. The Illuminati’s membership was largely drawn from the middle and upper classes and in this respect it is ironic that revolutionary movements are seldom started by the working-class. Instead, they are usually led by intellectuals and disenchanted members of the ruling power elite.
Members of the Illuminati allegedly included doctors, teachers, lawyer, judges, university professors, priests, police and military officers, and aristocrats such as Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, Duke Ernst of Gotha, Duke Karl of Saxe-Weiner, Prince Augustus of Saxe-Gotha, Prince Carl of Hesse, and Baron Dalberg.
The inclusion of these aristocratic and royal rulers in its membership roll seems strange considering the aims of the Illuminati. Adam Weishaupt’s personal vision was a utopian pacifist society without monarchy, private property, social inequality, national identity and religious affiliation. In this new state people would live together in harmony in a universal brotherhood based on peace, free love, spiritual wisdom, intellectual and scientific knowledge, and equality. According to Weishaupt’s doctrine in his own words:
Salvation does not lie where strong theories are defended by swords, where the smoke of censers ascends to heaven, or where thousands of strong men pace the rich fields of harvest. The revolution which is about to break [the French Revolution] will be sterile. It is not complete.
The Illuminati’s main targets for criticism were the rule of the European royal families, the power of the Roman Catholic Church and the rich landowners who kept the peasants in a feudal state of servitude and poverty. According to its enemies, this doctrine was represented in the oath of allegiance taken by new members when they joined the Order. They allegedly promised to hate and resist, “The altar [the Church] and the throne [monarchy] and to crush the God of the Christians and utterly extirpate the kings of Earth.”
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