The Dentith Files – The Illuminati – Fiction or Fiction?

Between 2008 and 2010, Matthew Dentith first joined 95bFM’s Simon Pound, then José Barbosa, on Sunday mornings to talk about conspiracy theories. Listen, as they say, again!

Well, that was the last (for the time being) Simon-hosted ‘Dentith Files.’ I’m not sure what is happening with my slot, as in whether it will continue under the new host or be moved or simply be cancelled (for reasons of Conspiracy…). More news on this as it comes to hand.

As usual, a link to the recording and then the prepared notes. We got through a lot more than usual and in a shorter time; I’m sure that if Simon had stayed on in six months time we’d be able to a critical examination of a Conspiracy Theory in under a minute.

[Link – well, it would be here if the bFM website had been updated. I’ll link to it when the MP3 becomes available…]

Notes on the Illuminati

Founded by Adam Weishaupt, a professor at the University of Ingolstadt on May 1st, 1776. Suppressed, 1786 by edict of the Bavarian Government. Originally conceived as an organisation designed to better men through a liberal curriculum, Weishaupt created the Illuminati after the suppression of the Jesuit Order in 1773. In a fiercely conservative country Weishaupt was an adept of such liberal philosophers as Diderot, Voltaire and other French Enlightenment thinkers.

Sought to create a Bavarian utopia based upon a humanist philosophy.

The Illuminati actively targetted the socially prominent, seeking to guide key members of society to positions of prominence. They began infiltrating Free Mason lodges, seeking to dominate them, but as the Illuminati grew larger their veil of secrecy began to slip and their agenda became known, leading to them failing to take over the deteriorating Strict Observance in 1782.

The Bavarian Government became concerned over the actions of Weishaupt and his colleagues and proclaimed secret societies illegal in 1784. In 1785 they specifically made the Illuminati illegal and the order disbanded with Weishaupt retiring/fleeing to Gotha where he took a ducal pension and wrote about the Illuminati and its ideals.

Conspiracies

The Illuminati are often taken to be the archetypal conspiratorial order. Because they were a secret society that infiltrated other secret societies you essentially get an unfalsiable claim that the Illuminati are still a) around and b) in charge of everything. It didn’t help that they corresponded in code, used cyphers and assumed names and generally acted suspiciously to the powers that be. To be a secret society within a secret society must have scared the political elite; you couldn’t tell if your cabal was being spied upon or whether what you were doing was simply the agenda of another party.

The Illuminati themselves weren’t evil or malacious; Weishaupt’s liberal agenda was in conflict with conservatism but it was bad, per se, just not the cultural norm. However, because it stood for something different and was maligned it comes out of history looking ‘evil.’

Three years after the disbandment we get the French Revolution, which, because it shares the same ideals as the Illuminati, becomes an event orchestrated by it. Certainly, proponents of Weishaupt’s ideals were associated with the Revolution but, at the same time, Weishaupt’s ideals came from French Enlightenment writers. A two way street.

To a certain extent the Illuminati were blamed for the Revolution because a) monarchical writers couldn’t understand why the general populace might want to overthrow a wasteful and useless aristocracy and b) English Freemasonry wanted to be disassociated with the ideals of the Revolution and so blamed the tendency of French Freemasonry to support the Revolution on the infiltration of the Illuminati.

A lot of anti-Illuminati sentiment came out of anti-masonry.

A lot is made of the fact that Washington and Weishaupt looked very similar and some have suggested that he switched with Washington (who perhaps died or was killed) and masterminded the formation of the USA (thus, if you think the Illuminati are synonamous with the New World Order, gives a handy ‘the USA has always been evil’ backstory.

Some links to David Icke’s reptiles and, of course, Robert Anton Wilson’s famous ‘Illuminatis!’ trilogy draws on a lot of the mythology of the Illuminati to provide a humourous, sometimes telling, book.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.