Wellness

Does the Illuminati Still Exist?

From websites, videos, and books, to a wealth of online chatter, the Illuminati, a purported collective of influencers working to create a better world for the good of humanity, would appear to be a thing. But whether or not the group even exists is up for (heated) debate. What historiography supports is not its modern existence, but rather its place in the past–and also how it has shaped and inspired many forms of modern alternative movements. Robert Howells, author of The Illuminati: The Counter Culture Revolution–From Secret Societies to Wikileaks and Anonymous, became interested in secret societies, heresies, and revolutionary cultures during his days as a manager at Watkins Books, an old mystical and spiritual bookshop in London. There he encountered alleged members of various underground societies; their stories fueled his interest in looking deeper. We talked to him about the history of the Illuminati, how the group gained and lost momentum, and why many believe in its modern existence.

A Q&A with Robert Howells

Q

What is The Illuminati?

A

The term Illuminati belongs to two different groups: the original Illuminati, formed more than two centuries ago as a secret society aimed at undermining corrupt governments and the religious intolerance that dominated society at the time, quickly dissolved into myth. Today, that myth is linked to the idea of a New World Order, an alleged underground totalitarian global government that conspiracy theorists believe is controlling the world.

Q

What gave rise to the original Illuminati?

A

It was created as a Masonic group in 1776 by German philosopher Adam Weishaupt, with the intention of liberating humanity from all forms of political, mental, and physical bondage. As the name implies, they were intent on guiding individuals towards enlightenment, but found society was restricted by those in power who wished to maintain control and did not care about individuals’ well-being. Having recognized the corruption of politicians and nobility and how organized religion held back science and spiritual development, they set out to rid the world of these institutions.
 

Q

Can anyone join? How are members thought to be selected?

A

Members were initially recruited from within Masonic lodges but later expanded to include anyone whose ideals were aligned with the Illuminati’s goals of equality and social justice. At their peak, they controlled Masonic lodges and many other groups across Europe, Asia, and America.

If the Illuminati existed today, their beliefs would be aligned with the online communities of hacktivists, pranksters, political petition websites, and social networks to expose and challenge authority. The online collective Anonymous is an example of a modern Illuminati that was formed in the discussion forums frequented by hackers.

Q

How do members of the Illuminati rebel against establishments—and how do they express their ideas?

A

In the late 1770’s, the group developed subversive rituals that were designed to liberate initiates from the mental constraints of political and religious influence and to undermine the patriotism that kept the royal families of Europe in power. Once initiated, these individuals were instructed to infiltrate other groups or maneuver themselves into positions of influence where they could subvert or direct power away from the ruling elite and back to the people. They also published political satires and propaganda to make the public aware of crimes committed by the ruling classes.

This is mirrored today, for example, with WikiLeaks providing a platform for whistle-blowers to anonymously release information directly to the public. This undermines state influence over mainstream media and is a step toward making governments transparent and accountable.

Q

Is the work or intention of the Illuminati about making broad changes in the world, or is it more specific?

A

In the wider sense, the intention of the original Illuminati was to liberate humanity from physical, mental, and spiritual bondage. They believed in the struggle against inequality and corruption. They identified opportunities for change in society, and worked to support them. For example, they capitalized on the growing unrest in France by distributing anti-monarchist tracts, ultimately helping to provoke the French Revolution. In recognition of their influence, the British Monarchy banned secret societies in the UK, but the influence of secret societies continued well into the 20th century.

“The original Illuminati formed more than two centuries ago as a secret society aimed at undermining corrupt governments and the religious intolerance that dominated society at the time.”

Even today some of the most powerful men in the world meet in secret to perform rituals at Bohemian Grove. As they enact a mystery play beneath a giant stone statue of an owl that was once the symbol of the Illuminati, it’s easy to see why so many people believe the Illuminati still exist.

Q

Have the goals and intentions remained the same or have they evolved over time?

A

Corruption, oppression, and inequality are still major challenges for society, but there has been a shift in power from monarchies and religions, as politics has become a tool for corporations to put profits before the needs of the individual. Only now, through the disruptive technology of the internet, there is a platform for individuals to demand accountability and to choose ethical alternatives if they are unhappy with how a company, politician, or another figure in power conducts itself. The internet was created for sharing and collaboration, and this is reflected in the emerging online culture that can be seen in campaigning websites, alternative currencies, and Kickstarter-funded projects.

While the original Illuminati disappeared into the mists of history, they left many other societies to continue their work. The spirit of the Illuminati can be found today in the online dissent and counter-culture groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks, and many other proactive communities helping to progress society. Through online communities, there is an opportunity for every individual to become an agent for positive change. Today, anyone can form their own Illuminati and become an agent for change, and if we work collectively for the good of everyone, we have the potential to counteract the more destructive aspects of modern society.

Q

Why all the secrecy?

A

When faced with inevitable persecution, the original Illuminati abandoned their name to take refuge within a myriad of other societies, so as to continue their work from the shadows. The question remains whether these groups survived—though certainly the spirit of the Illuminati has lived on in counter-culture.

Q

How do the worlds of religion, spirituality, government, and health interact in The Illuminati belief system?

A

Politically, the original Illuminati recognized that those who seek power are rarely suited to wielding it, so they called for a meritocracy, a government based on aptitude and expertise rather than privilege. In a meritocratic government, instead of a random politician taking control of the nation’s healthcare, the role would be appointed to an expert from within the health industry. For religion, they advocated allowing a natural spirituality to emerge in children, instead of the dogma mandated by organized religions. For health matters, they were supporters of scientific methods, but also shared members with the original Rosicrucians, a philosophical society famous for having members who were gifted natural healers.

 

Q

What is the difference between the Illuminati and the New World Order?

A

The New World Order would be better described as “The Old World Order,” as it is comprised of old banking families and aristocracy. Many conspiracy theorists maintain that the New World Order is the current incarnation of the Illuminati, but their aims are the antithesis of the original Illuminati, who valued individual freedom above all forms of control. If a New World Order exists and aims to control society, it will always be challenged by those who are willing to fight for equality and freedom.

Robert Howells is an author and researcher who has spent more than twenty years investigating secret societies (including the Priory of Sion, the Freemasons, and the Order of Lazarus), counter culture movements, and conspiracy theories. His latest book, The Illuminati: The Counterculture Revolution—From Secret Societies to Wikileaks and Anonymous, was published in November 2016.

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