Make no mistake—the original Bavarian Illuminati, founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776, did desire social change through revolution and knowledge. Nothing esoteric about that. They sought the overthrow of the ‘throne and the altar’—that is, monarchy and organized religion. When the aristocratic regimes of Europe and the Catholic Church discovered their existence, it’s no surprise the Illuminati were declared illegal. Its demise in 1785 wasn’t a watershed event, nor was it mysterious.
Free thought and progressivism have always been under attack throughout history. Nothing has changed. But why do the Illuminati still receive so much notoriety and blame? They have become the conspiracy theorist’s whipping boy. This tradition has survived through the years, but what I really wonder is: do the Illuminati’s original goals still make people uncomfortable? Is that why they continue to be reviled?
Those goals were to resist superstition and ignorance, overthrow state power and religious dominance, and make an attempt at exploring women’s suffrage, gender equality, and ending prejudice.
Doesn’t sound too bad to me. These goals are fairly respectable ones. Ones that I still hope our civilization will aspire to. Though progress has been made since 1776, many of the things Weishaupt rallied against still plague us: state power, ignorance, racism, sexism, and negative religious influence.
Oh, but tradition (read: conspiracy nuts) claims the Illuminati were (are?) bent on world domination—that ‘New World Order’ nonsense. There is indeed a cabal of powerful individuals who control most people’s lives on this planet, but I seriously doubt they call themselves the Illuminati. Instead, they call themselves extremely wealthy—the 1%, lording their dominance of wealth and greed over the rest of us. And we let them do it. I fail to see why the Illuminati, even if the secret organization still existed, would have anything to do with that.
State power has reached immense proportions since Weishaupt’s day. You only need to read the headlines (NSA, global surveillance, cell phone tagging) to comprehend that. If he were alive today, I think Weishaupt would adore people like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. They have spoken truth against state power—something the original (and only) Illuminati would have advocated. Instead these brave individuals have been persecuted…again, something the Illuminati suffered in common.
Even the conspiracy buffs will admit, though, that the Illuminati are anti-religion. Weishaupt, like myself, was an atheist. We, like a growing minority, wish to see a firm line drawn between Church and State. Freedom of religion, yes—but also a freedom from its influence over society and politics. Reason and rationality should be the guidelines we go by. Not the beliefs of Bronze Age sheepherders .Yet just like sheep, the gullible will follow anything. Religion is a sharp and dangerous political tool…a fact not lost upon Enlightenment thinkers such as the Illuminati. Again, read the headlines—and not just those concerning the so-called ‘War on Terror’—to see my point. Suicide bombings, abortion doctors slain, books banned from public schools. Yes, those things still go on. The ignorance factory of religion still operates, its black smoke blotting out the sun.
Then we have gender and racial equality. The two things our world still cannot work out. True, headway has been made here too—at least people of different color can now drink from the same water fountain in this country—but much remains to be done. I fail to see why a secret society that is supposed to be cold and callous as it takes over the world would care about equality. Rather, to remain in power, these issues are often played upon to keep people divided. This is a tactic the original Illuminati would have frowned upon.
So why does the conspiratorial tirade continue against these deceased thinkers of the Enlightenment?
In 2002, an Illuminati pyramid was tattooed on my right arm, complete with the All-Seeing Eye atop the capstone. I thus branded myself, to any who understood, as a seeker of knowledge, and an opponent of ignorance, oligarchy, bigotry, and religious fanaticism. No doubt any who’ve seen it think I’m an occultist, or just plain strange. Thankfully I’ve never paid attention to what others think of me.
Some point to the All-Seeing Eye as a sign of the Illuminati’s occult (and thus evil) leanings. Its appearance on the U.S. dollar has sparked controversy and speculation over the years. Its presence is also linked to the occult, Masonry, or world domination. For some, this proves that the Illuminati are a version of Big Brother, spying on everyone. Like Sauron in Lord of the Rings, the Eye sees all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though its iconography originates in ancient Egyptian religion, the All-Seeing Eye in the Illuminati’s context represents an open eye. An eye opened from the darkness of ignorance, to gaze into a world illumined by knowledge and understanding.
Some people don’t want their eyes opened. Many are resistant to change, even when it benefits others. Ignorance is bliss, they say. But it is a lazy bliss; the shabby intellectual abode of the conformist, the believer…the follower. I want my eyes open, even if the light of truth renders me blind. I would rather know, than not know. What we don’t know can certainly hurt us, after all.
This is why I think the Illuminati still receive a bad reputation. Naysayers and critics claim this organization wanted to destroy religion, government, ingrained social traditions—all the imagined apparatuses of a successful civilization. To eliminate these things is to eradicate ourselves…or so the Illuminati’s detractors would have us believe.
In time, I hope this milking of the Illuminati boogeyman will give way to rational thinking. Those tenets set down by Weishaupt and his compatriots might find support in a world reeling from constant warfare, climate change, economic disparity, racial hatreds, religious bias, and overbearing state authority.
Maybe one day, people will stop blinding the All-Seeing Eye with the failures of the past, the pettiness of the present, and open the Eye to what will bring success to all our futures.