THE ORIGINS OF THE ILLUMINIST MYTH: THE FABRICATION OF THE "PROTOCOLS OF THE LEARNED ELDERS OF ZION"
By S.R. Shearer
THE ORIGINS OF THE ILLUMINATI MYTH: THE ABBE BARRUEL
Illuminati enthusiasts and devotees like to paint the myth as extending back into the misty past, but that simply is not the case. The Illuminati Myth did not exist as literature prior to the French Revolution - and even then only as disjointed pieces, not as a consistent whole. Not until 1905 did the myth explode on the world as a coherent body of literature. What anti-Semitic writings that did exist prior to 1797 had nothing to do with the Jews as participants in a revolutionary world-conspiracy aimed at the destruction of Christianity; it was largely confined to religious themes with only the most indirect political overtones. Clearly, the anti-Semitic literature which existed prior to 1797 tied the Jews to the death of Christ, and on that basis they were persecuted; it also pictured them as "moneylenders," and occasionally it linked them to the practice of witchcraft; but it never portrayed them as revolutionaries bent on the conquest of the world. On the contrary, Jews were painted as weaklings and cowards; a people hardly worth even the most indirect kind of political attention - and for that reason, most European armies excluded Jews from military service well into the nineteenth century.
The first disjointed pieces of the Illuminati Myth can be traced back to the French Revolution, specifically to the French cleric, the Abbe Barruel. [Please see Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (New York: Harper and Row)] As early as 1797, nine years after the revolution, Barruel, in his five-volume Memoire pour servir a l’histoire du Jacobinisme, argued that the French Revolution represented the culmination of an age-old conspiracy of the most secret of secret societies. Down through the centuries this secret society had purportedly poisoned a number of monarchs; and in the eighteenth century it had captured the Order of Freemasons. In 1763, the conspiracy supposedly created a secret literary academy consisting of Voltaire, Turgot, Condorcet, Diderot, d’Alembert and other luminaries of the "French Enlightenment." This group of men ostensibly met regularly in the house of Baron d’Holbach and through its publications had undermined all morality and true religion in France. From 1776 onward, Barruel maintained, Condorcet and the Abbe Sieyes had built up a vast revolutionary organization of half a million Frenchmen who were the "Jacobins" of the French Revolution. But the heart of the conspiracy - the real leadership of the revolution - was supposed to rest in a Bavarian group known as the Illuminati under the headship of a certain Adam Weishaupt. To this handful of Germans, all the Freemasons and Jacobins of France owed blind allegiance - or so Barruel thought.
THE STUPIDITY OF IT ALL
It is beyond belief that thoughtful men could possibly accept such drivel! To those possessing even a modicum of knowledge concerning the "Enlightenment" and the French Revolution, such a tale represents absurdity and factual inaccuracy on such a vast scale that it hardly merits attention, let alone serious refutation.
Diderot, Voltaire, Holbach and the other founders of the "Enlightenment" - whose writings in large part produced not only the French Revolution, but the American Revolution as well - were anything but "lovers of the Jews." Voltaire, perhaps the leading figure of the French Enlightenment, was often heard to say that all men were worthy of freedom and the benefits of the Enlightenment except the Jews!! Why? - because "... the Jews were not of the same species as the rest of mankind!" This is hardly a statement which could reasonably be attributed to the supposed leader of the Jewish Conspiracy in France. Indeed, in it one can hear the demonic footsteps of the coming Holocaust echoing up through the corridors of history to lodge themselves finally in the hellish darkness of Hitler's Germany. Similar statements are easily attributable to many of the other leaders of the Enlightenment. But then such facts have never dissuaded anti-Semites before, and they could hardly be thought able to do so today.
To the men and women of the Enlightenment, Western Civilization had taken a wrong turn when it had embraced Judeo-Christianity. To "Enlightenment Man," history had begun with the flowering of Greek civilization in the sunny hills and islands of the Aegian - not the "backwaters" of Judea and Samaria - and had reached its zenith under Imperial Rome and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius - not the "secondary and relatively unimportant kingdom of David and Solomon."
The Ancient World of Greece and Rome had detested the Jews and their concept of "One God." Cicero and maintained, "They (i.e., the Jews) are - all of them - born with a raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be the least surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race."
Voltaire's charge against the Jews - his hatred of them - had nothing to do with the Medieval and Catholic concept that they were the "killers of Christ." Voltaire refused to have recourse to the anti-Jewish position of the "Christian Civilization" that he himself had abandoned. Indeed, Voltaire was as much anti-Christian as he was anti-Semitic; to Voltaire, Christianity was merely an extension of Judaism, a view of Christianity which he had adopted from the Graeco-Roman Civilization he admired so much. Voltaire had instead recast his hatred of the Jews in the anti-Semitism of the Ancient World; he had cloaked his anti-Semitism in the ideas of Tacitus and Horace who had hated the Jews with a hatred older and much more obscene than anything conjured up by the Medieval Church - the pagan anti-Semitism of Greece and Rome.
The fact is, Voltaire's hatred of the Jews went far beyond the more "mundane" anti-Semitism of the church of his day, and there are scholars who argue with considerable persuasiveness that Voltaire's anti-Semitism was of a far more murderous kind than that found in the official church doctrine of his time. He had acquired his hatred of the Jews from the very same people who had supposedly taught him the value of freedom and the worth of man (i.e., the pagans of Greece and Rome). Moreover, it is probably not too much to say that his hatred went further even than the hatred of Cicero, Tacitus, and Horace in as much as he viewed Judaism (and Judaism's daughter, Christianity) of having poisoned the civilization he loved so well. This feeling of contempt and disgust for Judaism and Christianity was the view of the mainstream of the Enlightenment. Montesquieu, Locke, Gibbon, Hume, Rosseau, Mirabaud, Holbach, Voltaire, etc., were all to one degree or another anti-Semitic. The charge that these men were participants in some great Jewish world-conspiracy is so fraudulent and absurd that it hardly bears consideration, let alone rebuttal. It would be akin to seriously arguing with someone who insisted that two plus two equalled three. About all one could do is to shake his head and walk away.
THE FREEMASONS AND THE ILLUMINATI
As for the obscure German group known as the "Illuminati" - it was anything but a sinister group of men bent on a world-conspiracy. It was in fact nothing more than a cluster of "armchair intellectuals" more at home in their comfortable gatherings than in the streets inciting rebellion; they were more like an over-aged "athletic club" whose members could talk a good game, but nothing else. Moreover, they were anything but the leaders of the French Enlightenment, they were rather its timid followers. Indeed, they derived their name - "the Illuminati" (meaning the "enlightened ones") - from the fact that they were followers of the French Enlightenment, not its leaders. Finally, the Illuminati and the other followers of the Enlightenment were not Freemasons at all, but rather their rivals.
The Freemasons were the sworn enemies of the French Enlightenment and were (insofar as the French were concerned) originally Catholic and Monarchists who fought against the Revolution. Indeed, King Louis XVI and his brothers were all Freemasons. Rather than profiting from the Revolution, the Freemasons suffered greatly from its excesses under the Terror which the Revolution unleashed. The Freemasons were hunted down mercilessly and guillotined by the hundreds by the Jacobins. Furthermore, the charge that the Illuminati involved itself in witchcraft is so absurd that it fairly boggles the mind; these men were men who prided themselves on being men of science and rationalism; they everywhere denounced the "medieval" concept of witchcraft as being superstitious. Finally, the thought that half a million Frenchmen would ever under any circumstances "blindly" follow a small group of Germans (Bavarians) is so ridiculous that it is dizzying in its stupidity.