Freemasonry, Illuminati, World Domination, Conspiracy Theories Etc.

by W Bro Lindel Smith

From the earliest period of recorded history of man’s dwelling upon the face of the earth, men seemed to have developed an insatiable appetite for conspiracy theories. It seems that we can never be truly comfortable unless we believe that somewhere some person or group of persons are out to get us, to control our minds and to control our world. No such theory however has occupied men’s minds over the last three or four hundred years than the “belief” that Freemasonry and other similar bodies or societies harbour a sinister plan to control the world and lead us all away from the path of righteousness.

I will attempt in this article to give my view on the subject but am aware that a fulsome discussion of so large a topic is beyond the scope of this publication. Nevertheless I will at least try to provide a starting point from which brethren may begin to think about conspiracy theories and to form their own opinion. At some later stage and perhaps in another article I may find more scope to discuss the matter more completely.

Our traditions tell that Freemasonry dates its history from an “immemorial antiquity” and is therefore one of the oldest Orders in existence.  We are also told that “other and inferior orders of more recent origins would appear, in some measure, more or less to have copied” from Freemasonry. 

History confirms that Freemasonry (that is speculative Masonry) existed from around the fourteenth or fifteenth century which makes it ancient indeed and far older than many of the societies and orders in existence today.

While we do not know a great deal about the contents of the earliest rituals and practices, it is I think fair to say that there is every reason to believe that its core principles and practices have not changed much since its inception and therefore its aims and objectives can be said to be same as those set out in our constitutions today.

If this is accepted then we may conclude that Freemasonry has always been concerned with the building of the human character and I could not better sum up its aims and objectives than to direct our attention to the Ancient Charges and Regulations and the Aims and Relationships of the Craft as set out in the Book of Constitutions. For emphasis however I will highlight a few; “You promise not to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against Government, but patiently to submit to the decisions of the Supreme Legislature”; “You are to be a peaceable subject, and cheerfully to conform to the laws of the country in which you reside”; “You agree to pay a proper respect to the Civil Magistrate, to work diligently, live creditably, and act honourably by all men.” And from the Aims and Relationships: “Everyone who enters Freemasonry is, at the outset, strictly forbidden to countenance any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; he must pay due obedience to the law of  any state in which he resides or which may afford him protection, and he must never be remiss in the allegiance due  to the Sovereign of his native land.” …  and “ If freemasonry once deviated from its course by expressing an opinion on political or theological questions, it would be called upon not only publicly to approve or denounce any movement which might arise in the future, but would sow the seed of discord among its own members.”.

It is difficult to see an organization with aims such as these as being involved in an attempt to dominate the world and to attempt to set up this “New World Order” as contemplated by conspiracy theorists.

Does this mean, however, that Freemasonry would not countenance the use of violence or physical force at any time? I think not and I feel justified in this position when I read from the 13th edition of the Royal Arch (Aldersgate) Ritual, “….. The S. and T. were adopted by R.A. Masons to commemorate the valour of those worthy men who assisted at the building of the Second Temple, who, with T. in hand and S. by their side, were ever ready to defend the city and Holy Sanctuary against the unprovoked attacks of their enemies, thereby leaving an impressive lesson to future ages; that next to implicit obedience to all lawfully constituted authority, a manly and determined resistance to lawless violence in the first of social duties.” Thus there may be times when violence may be not only contemplated but required.

Although the history of Freemasonry tends to show an organization which is based on improving the individual and by extension society on a whole, its adherence to secrecy put it at odds, firstly, with some government s and, later, with the Catholic Church and it was the influence of the Catholic Church and in particular its head, the Pope, which provided the greatest currency to the anti-masonic sentiments which developed in or about the 18th century.

A look at sections of the first Papal Bull issued by Pope Clement XII in 1738 is instructive: “….. Now it has come to our ears, and common gossip has made clear that certain Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, congregations or Conventicles called in popular tongue Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons or by other names according to the various languages, are spreading far and wide and daily growing in strength; and men of any religion or sect, satisfied with the appearance of natural probity, are joined together, according to their laws and the statutes laid down for them, by a strict and unbreakable bond which obliges them, both by an Oath upon the Holy Bible and by a host of grievous punishments, to an inviolable silence about all that they do in secret together. But it is in the nature of crime to betray itself and to show itself by its attendant clamour. Thus these aforesaid Societies or Conventicles have caused in the minds of the faithful the greatest suspicion, and all prudent and upright men have passed the same judgment upon them as being depraved and perverted. For if they were not doing evil they would not have so great a hatred for the light. Indeed this rumour has grown to such proportions that in several countries these Societies have been forbidden by the civil authorities as being against public security, and for some time past have appeared to be prudently eliminated….”

You will note from this passage that the Pope had not one drop of evidence to show any wrong doing on the part of these “Societies or Conventicles”.

Bro. Alec Mellor PGStB of the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise (from whose article I reproduced the passage from the Bull) pointed out that when the Roman Catholic Church condemns a heresy it always starts by defining it, if only to enable the faithful to understand. But here it ascribed no positive doctrine to Freemasonry or point to any actual act or wrong. Also, the Papal Bull never actually banned Anderson’s  Constitutions and it said nothing about the rituals. In other words, the action of the Church was based on fear of the “Secrecy” of the organization and to some extent, this might have been justified given the times. We must remember this was the era of the “Free Thinkers”, when men were becoming “enlightened “ and nothing was accepted simply because it came from certain quarters. The divine right of Kings was being or about to be questioned.  The Jacobites were becoming Masons and the “Old Order” was scared to death. But there were those, and in particular the British – a country which did not have a great amount of Catholics,  who did not seem to be too worried about the secrecy of Freemasons and again I borrow from Bro. Mellor who quoted from Prime Minister Lord Townshend’s response when he was told of the presence of Jacobites in the Lodges: “ “They need not be apprehensive of any molestation from the Government as long as they go on doing nothing more dangerous than the ancient Secrets of the Society, which must be a very harmless nature because, as much as mankind loves mischief, nobody ever betray’d them.”

As I noted in the last paragraph, the 18th century was a time of change in the world. It would see the end of the monarchy in France and the birth of the United States of America.

John Wesley was born in 1707 and by 1738 – the year of the first Papal Bull, he had started the Methodist movement, breaking away as it were from the Anglican Church.

Baron Charles Montesquieu was born in 1689 but had strong influence in the 1700s up to the time of his death in 1755. In 1734, he published a book on the Causes of the Greatness and Decline of the Romans.  In 1748, another of his works, The Spirit of Laws, was published. He was a liberal Catholic, admiring British institutions and John Locke. He was a critic of France's monarchical absolutism. He believed that people should think for themselves. A god who directed people as if they were puppets, he opined, would not have produced human intelligence. His Spirit of Laws would go into 22 editions and he greatly influenced the creators of the US Constitution.

Voltaire's book, The Age of Louis XIV was published in 1751.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in 1712 and had published his Social Contract in 1762 after having published his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality in 1754.

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was born in 1757 and was to have an enormous effect on the future of France and the United States in the following decades.

In 1732 George Washington was born.

It was in the 1750s and 60s that the slogan "No taxation without representation" became popular within the thirteen colonies on the American mainland.

In France in 1765, a twenty-eight volume encyclopedia appeared with hundreds of thousands of articles by leading scientists and famous writers. It included an article against slavery and the slave trade. The government banned the book, and the Catholic Church placed it on its index of forbidden books.

The 18th century was a time of great change in Europe, America and even in the Arab world.

The Divine Right of Kings was questioned, the Absolute power and influence of the Pope was challenged, the inherent equality of people was discussed and the right to one’s own opinions was proposed and promoted – the Free Thinkers were turning the world upside down. The Age of Enlightenment had arrived.

It is important to set out the state of the world at this time because without a clear understanding  of this period one cannot fully appreciate the emergence of the movement which became the Illuminati and which today seems to bring fear and trembling in the hearts of many when the word is spoken.

Johann Adam Weishaupt

“1748 – February 6, Johann Adam Weishaupt is born….of Westphalian parents in Ingolstadt, Bavaria…..” (Terry Melanson). This was ten years after the first Papal Bull.

When young Weishaupt was only five years old, his father – Johann George Weishaupt dies. Young Johann was adopted by his godfather, Johann Adam Baron von Ickstatt, a liberal professor and rector of the University of Ingolstadt and a member of the Privy Council.

Young Weishaupt was educated by the Jesuits and had pretty much unrestricted access to his godfather’s private library. He was therefore exposed from a very early age to the views of all the French “philosophers” and the views of all the “enlightened” writers of the period. Some of these I have mentioned already. Most of his reading centered around books which were censored by the University as being inappropriate, blasphemous or dangerous. These, you will recall, are books which questioned the absolute right of kings to rule, the inequality between sections of the society, the relationship of church and state and in particular the power of the Catholic Church and its head the Pope. He would most likely have seen and read material promoting Theophilanthropy (Friends of God and man) – a religious belief which some hoped would replace Christianity. This was a “religious” belief which saw religion as practiced by Christians and others as divisive. Its basic principle was “good”: good is all that tends to preserve and perfect the man; evil is all that tends to destroy or impair him. It is in light of that axiom and not of the Christian standard - in spite of the phraseology - that we should view the commandments concerning the adoration of God, the love of our neighbor, domestic virtues and patriotism. (This is a very simplified explanation of the Theophilanthropism but it would take a more detailed paper to try to explain further).

Weishaupt was a very bright student it would appear, as by the age of fifteen he was allowed to study philosophy and history at the University of Ingolstadt. By 1768, at the age of twenty, he had conferred upon him a doctorate of law and at age twenty four he was appointed as professor of civil law at that university.

In 1773 he was appointed “Chair of Ecclesiastical Law and Practical Philosophy” and became the first layman to occupy the chair of canon law – a position which was reserved for the Jesuits for the previous ninety years.

Weishaupt’s liberal godfather had adopted a very obvious anti Jesuit policy at the University and the liberal views of the both men were very well known. It was no surprise, therefore, that this resulted in an immediate and deep conflict with the Jesuits.

It had been clear from very early that Weishaupt disliked a lot of the teachings and methods of the Jesuits and had clearly struggled with the views of society which allowed for the constant rule of people who, in his view, were not suited to rule merely because of the circumstances of their birth. He did not believe in the inferiority of women nor inequality between men.

In 1775 he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law.

His disquiet with the Society, as it existed, tormented him and, after speaking with some sympathetic friends, he was encouraged to form an Order of sorts to initiate a movement towards the changes he would like to see.

These changes centered around changes in attitude – in the way people think; the things they accepted as truth without question; the way religion was practiced and how it controlled people’s lives. His objective was to enlighten people – to improve their minds thereby improving the whole person and eventually society itself. So in 1776 – the same year the American colonies declared themselves independent - Weishaupt founded the Illuminati with five members – Weishaupt (Spartacus), Franz Anton von Massenhausen (Ajax), Max Elder von Merz (Tiberius) Bauhof (Agathon) and Andreas Sutor (Erasmus Roterodamus).   The members were called “Areopagites” which was the highest degree. He was installed as the chief and the Order was named the Order of Illuminees. This was the first of May 1776. You might recall that there is an Areopagus of Greece and there was a conversion of “Dionysius the Areopagite” to Christianity by the apostle Paul in Acts 17:34.

Although Weishaupt did not like the Jesuits much, he couldn’t get away from his upbringing and so the Order was heavily modeled on the Jesuits. It was secret and hierarchical.

The first choice for a name was not Illuminati but “Perfectibilists” (this speaks volumes to the intention) and had to do with the perfection of man. Some believed this name did not sound mysterious enough (Le Forestier) and so it was changed to Illuminati chosen, perhaps, because of the “image of the sun radiating illumination to the outer circles”. (James H. Billington). The “Logo” of the Order on its communication was a circle with a dot in the center.

The concept of Perfection has existed for thousands of years and is reflected in the thought process of Weishaupt when he started this Order. This concept has been associated with groups like the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Anabaptists, the Quakers and others.

Ten months after the founding of the Illuminati, Weishaupt was initiated into Freemasonry in the Strict Observance Lodge. This was the start of the “link” between the two organizations and the beginning of this “great conspiracy” to take over the world.

None of the five founders of the Illuminati were Freemasons at the time the Order was founded.  After Weishaupt became a Freemason he invented other degrees for his Order and soon all “Insinuators” (equivalent to Entered Apprentices) could not go beyond a certain degree   until they became freemasons).

By 1779 the Insinuators had taken over the control of the Munich Lodge.

The question must be asked: “Why did Weishaupt become a Freemason after founding the Illuminati?” The history suggests an answer. He was a true seeker after knowledge and therefore it is not unlikely that he would wish to know what Freemasons believed, how it differed (if at all) from his own beliefs. He also wondered what he could possibly learn from them and, in particular, how did that Institution resist the destroying hand of time to survive the wreck of mighty empires.

Having being made a Freemasons, he and his fellow Insinuators discovered a few things. He found that Freemasons were disciplined in their approach to Masonry; that they had a strict adherence to the charge of secrecy; and the members were from all areas of power and influence in the society.

He soon discovered that Freemasonry differed from his order in some fundamental ways. It did not have a political agenda or objective, nor did it interfere with the religious beliefs of its members provided that those beliefs were not discussed in open lodge so as to affect the harmony of the Lodge. Freemasons believed in the existence of a Supreme Being and insisted that all members MUST share that belief. The Order sought to make men better but not to displace legitimate leaders of states to replace them with its members.  Freemasonry, therefore, in his mind, would lead to a slower change of society as the Old Order would have to remain until men have become enlightened enough to bring about a natural change.

Indeed, one Illuminatus was recorded as commenting on Masonry in the following terms: They were more interested in eating and drinking and making speeches than doing anything meaningful”.  But he concluded that they were disciplined, were unreservedly obedient to their Master and were good at keeping secrets although he wondered what good it did to commit to keeping a secret which nobody every gives you.

The Illuminatus, however, was certain of one thing, if you take over the Lodges you will be able to take advantage of its widespread membership and slowly convert the members, or some of them at any rate, to the beliefs of the Illuminati and thus spread the message and help to achieve its objectives.

This gave way to the concept of “A Lodge within a Lodge” because it was believed that the members of the Illuminati, once they became Freemasons, would approach certain Freemasons to be part of this objective. These Freemasons would be admitted into the secret plans of the Illuminati while the other members remained oblivious to the existence of this inner grouping. This plan succeeded so quickly that by 1781 – just four years after Weishaupt became a Mason - one Ignatius Franciscus, in a sermon, attacked the Order of the Illuminati and called Freemasons who was being drawn into the Order “Masonic traitors” and “brothers of Judas” who were preparing the way for the Anti Christ.

This quarrel got as far as the Americas and even George Washington was questioned as to whether he knew of attempts of the Illuminati to take over Masonic Lodges.

There were many similarities between the teachings of the Freemasons and Illuminati on things like Virtue and Honour and the like. It was the expected end result of the enlightenment which was different.

The Illuminati intended to see the back of the Old Order. They actively supported the feelings of discontent against the ruling classes and against the unnatural distinctions that existed between members of society. And even though members of the ruling classes were amongst their ranks their objective was to bring about a new dispensation where their enlightened teachings and new ways of thinking on both civil and religious matters would govern.

The question as to whether they were “antichrist” is debatable.  They were undoubtedly against what they saw as the divisions brought about between persons by Christianity and by extension by every other denomination which posed their god as the one Saviour resulting in the alienation of all other peoples if they felt differently.  They, therefore, saw religion as useful if it embraced the worship of GOD and the love of MEN without trying to define and limit God. This view did not go well then and probably would not go well now but it was certainly sacrilegious and labeled all its proponents as public enemy at the time.

When in 1785, somewhat by accident, documents concerning the Illuminati and their plans got into the hands of the Bavarian Authorities, all hell broke loose. Weishaupt was dismissed from his post at Ingolstadt, ostensibly on the grounds of trying to procure “ungodly books” for the university such as Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary and Richard Simon’s writings “which were critical of the Old and New Testaments”.

By March 1785 with the second Edits of Karl Theodor, the ban specifically naming the Illuminati and Freemasonry was complete and that was the effective end of the public existence of the Bavarian Illuminati.

The newly discovered secret papers were interpreted as a conspiracy to dethrone monarchs and to bring in a new world order with the Illuminati or their agents as the new rulers. This, together with their “subversive” behaviour of meeting in private and keeping their deliberations secret, was used as justification for all the actions taken against the Freemasons from the days of the Papal Bull.

The Illuminati has continued in various forms (in keeping with its mode of operation) in many parts of the world. But to what extent its earlier intention of changing the Old Order is still an objective is questionable, as most of the things Weishaupt had wished to see and hoped to achieve have in fact been achieved over time. The vexed issue of Religion and its perceived anti Christ posture is now the main rallying cries of all those opposed to Freemasonry and similar Orders. This debate and difference of opinion will continue forever but, hopefully, as time goes by there will be a greater understanding between the two sides and the virtues of Freemasonry will be recognized by the still unconvinced sections of the religious communities.

At another time I hope to take a look at the rituals of the Illuminati and I feel certain we will find much to be admired in them.  Maybe the “great conspiracy” might have been an act of youthful impatience rather than anything more sinister.

It is worth noting that Weishaupt lived to the ripe old age of 82 years.

I wish to acknowledge the great assistance I had with the preparation of this paper from the works of Terry Melanson from whom I quoted often.