Jun 1, 2007
What is the Illuminati? Few single questions elicit so many different answers. Because over time fact and fiction have become blurred regarding the Illuminati, providing a universal definition for them in this day and age may not be possible.
Perhaps it would be best to start with the traditional meaning of this title and work from there. Simply speaking, the Illuminati were those who communicated directly with the gods or spirits. With this in mind one can maybe get a somewhat coherent idea of what the Illuminati was and now is.
The gods of myth and religion have since the earliest times been described as extraordinary beings who travelled in bright crafts that lit up the sky. As well as their crafts the gods themselves were often said to be personally luminous. Either eminating a bright glow from their bodies or eyes or adorned in rainments that shone with dazzling light. The bright visage of the gods was often referred to as their "glory" and the glory of the gods was an astonishing but dangerous thing for a human to behold. In Roman mythology the god Jupiter was prone to assuming different forms and taking human women for lovers. One of his lovers was a woman named Semele whom the god granted a wish. Against Jupiter's pleas, Semele took as her wish the request to see Jupiter in all his glory. Jupiter eventually conceded, and upon seeing Jupiter's brilliance Semele was burned to ash. Modern religion continues the tradition of glorious divinity. In the Bible God travels amidst bright manifestations of fire and lightning. And when communing with Heaven Jesus Christ would transfigure himself into a glorious, shining form.
These brilliant entities were considered the source of all knowledge and knowledge began to be symbolized as light. According to "myth" the gods would speak to select mortals to whom they would bestow knowledge. These mortals were thusly said to be illuminated because they'd been given light from the gods. Though called different names in different tongues, these elect people are now collectively referred to in the modern era as the Illuminati. The plural form of the Latin term "illuminatus". The knowledge granted by the gods was to help civilize Man and in some cases to help men defend themselves from other gods. This was particularly the case in ancient Mesopotamia where these beings from the sky were often acknowledged by the people as being hostile toward humans.
Perhaps the first Illuminati were the seven great pre-Flood sages spoken of in Mesopotamian legend. They were known as the "abgal" in Sumer and as the "apkallu" in Akkad. In the legends these sages spoke directly with the gods, particularly Ea, and were the teachers of civilization as well as council to the kings. Such personages written about from pre-Flood times are considered mythological by scholars, but after the Flood more of these sages appear and are associated with acknowledged, historical kings of Mesopotamia. (1) The Mesopotamian god Ea or Enki could well be considered the patron god of the Illuminati. This deity with "shining eyes" not only gave the great sages vast knowledge of Heaven and Earth but would also instruct men on how to survive various calamities created by the gods against them.
In the vein of helping humankind, the knowledge and teachings of the Illuminati were structured into various school systems so that they could be maintained. These were called by the Greeks mystery schools or simply "the Mysteries" so that is how they are most commonly referred to today. The ancient Greeks were very enamored with the mystery schools of Africa and many of the famous Greek philosophers so reknowned today gained their insights and knowledge from the Egyptian Mysteries. Chronicled Greek students include such well-known thinkers as Plato, Thales, Eudoxus, Solon, and Pythagoras. (2) At least two are reputed to have become Illuminati.
Initiation into the Mysteries was required before earning the right to communicate with the gods. There the initiates would be educated in the sciences including astrology and mathematics and also the arts of magic. In ancient Egypt there were three types of student in the initiation system:Mortals, Intelligences, and Sons of light. The mortal was educated in the physical sciences. The intelligences further developed their inner vision and consciousness. The sons of light were the final level and learned how to connect with and speak to the gods and spirits.(3)
The ultimate goal of the Illuminati was deification by elevating their consciousness above the constraints of physical existence. By doing this they would become godlike and be able to communicate with the divinities on even footing. The Great Pyramid of Giza was a site where Illuminati initiation rites were performed. An aspiring Illuminatus would be laid down in one of the chambers of the pyramid for 3 days as the high priests conducted ceremony. During these 3 days the initiate's soul was said to leave their body creating a form of death. Then it travelled through the realms of the supernatural and communed with the entities therein. On the third day the initiate is "resurrected" and was said to have conquered death and become like one of the gods(4).
The ancient Illuminati were usually priests and some were said to be divine. They held great status and were second only to the regent of a land if even him. In Mesopotamia the high priests and priestesses usually came from elite families. They were the only ones allowed to enter the temples which were said to be the physical residence of the gods on Earth.(5) In all lands the sacred knowledge of the Illuminati was said to give them numerous powers very much like those of the deities who illuminated them. Healing, astral projection, control over forces of nature, and other amazing abilities have been attributed to the Illuminati.
Underlying the Illuminati is the conflict between the gods about whether certain levels of knowledge should be available to Man at all. The majority were against it as knowledge could make men like deities themselves. But some dissenting gods felt it was wrong to keep men ignorant. This disagreement is expressed in familiar stories of rogue illuminator gods enlightening mortals, sometimes resulting in severe punishment by the other gods.(6) And as the gods conflicted on the issue of whether or not knowledge should be shared so too did the Illuminati. Some felt they should spread their knowledge openly while others fought to keep it hidden.
Without much doubt the strongest painter of the Illuminati's image today is institutionalized religion. And perhaps none have changed the public status and perception of the Illuminati like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The advent of these three religions(hereby referred to as "the Church") would alter the mindset of society toward the esoteric. Their doctrine was fundamentally opposed to the mystic ideals of the Illuminati, and as the Church grew in influence the previously revered Illuminati would come to be despised. The Church's attack on mysticism was an agressive one. Their writings made specific point to belittle the esoteric practices of other peoples. Mystic practioners from Africa and Mesopotamia appear in a number of stories in the Bible where they are usually depicted as confounded or inept. Their mystic abilities and wisdom are paled by the people of Yahweh who are superior to them many times over. (7) It's important to point out that the Church writings do not say that the magic of these high priests and mystics doesn't exist or isn't real. On the contrary. The Illuminati-esque priests of Egypt featured in the Bible were quite powerful. But practicing their arts are forbidden because Illumination can only come from the Church. Everything else is from the darkness.
It must be noted here that many have theorized that these religions were actually created by certain Illuminati themselves as a means of control. That by instituting these strict belief systems the mind of the general public would remain locked, keeping the knowledge and power of the Illuminati safely amongst the elite. Regardless of why or by whom one believes they were started, what is for certain is that these religions condemn Illuminati practices with great clarity and emphasis. In the teachings of the Church communication with spirits, magic, and even astrology are specifically declared sins and abominations to God. (8). Therefore through the lens of the Church the Illuminati are viewed as pure evil. But it wasn't a matter of simple public disapproval that the Illuminati faced. Practicing Illuminism became punishable by severe torture and/or death.
With their public position supplanted by the Church the Illuminati faded from the forefront. But they would remain active, residing in the highest levels of various secret societies created to preserve their ancient knowledge. These societies were structured into different levels like the mystery schools of old, with the most profound knowledge reserved only for the top initiates. Esoteric teachings were often transferred through these secret societies in the form of symbols, metaphors, and allegorical tales. This method served at least two significant purposes. One, to convey the information on multiple levels of consciousness. And two, to prevent the uninitiated from understanding or identifying it. This was especially important during the extreme religious threat of the first milennia.
But despite the danger and hostility against it Illuminism lived on. Obstensibly lesser orders of Illuminati boldly calling themselves by name began to spring up in Europe and the Middle East. The three most noted were the Roshaniya of Afghanistan, the Alumbrados of Spain, and the Illuminaten of Bavaria. Many sources claim that these groups are unrelated but similarities between them appear to belie this notion. Each of these groups:
- rejected the authority of the Church and government
- believed Illuminism equated to being "perfect"(presumably in the Biblical sense)
- believed any act done in the spirit of Illuminism was justified
- claimed to be sects of the local religion of the land
- formed shortly one after another
The purpose of masking Illuminism under the guise of whatever the local religion was was two-fold. To aid in acceptance of their teachings and also to avoid persecution. In the case of the Alumbrados, a sect started in the 15 century, this strategy wasn't very successful. Various magical powers have been attributed to the Alumbrados such as healing the sick and the ability to see the future. But their most noted practice was entering into trancelike states known as "ecstasies" where they claimed they could achieve direct communication with God.(9) But their Christian face wasn't enough to grant them a pass on their mystic practices and the Alumbrados became targets of the Inquisition. The final edict against them was issued in 1623 which effectively suppressed the sect in Spain. But some believe the Alumbrados were not totally destroyed and that they moved on to France where they resurfaced as the Ilumines.
Founded in 1560, the Roshaniya were a mystery school, political movement, and army all rolled into one. While an Islamic sect on the surface the Roshaniya operated under a highly mystic doctrine and it's founder, Bayezid Ansari, was known as the "Apostle of Light". Similiar to the Alumbrados the Roshaniya also had a practice of intense meditations known as "khilwats" where they proportedly were able to communicate with the Supreme Being(10) and recieve premonition. Ansari wrote a number of books and raised his Illuminati up in arms against the Mughal empire. Branded a religious heretic, Ansari was mockingly dubbed the "Apostle of Darkness" and the Roshaniya movement is said to have ended in 1736 with the death of their last leader. However, Roshaniya teaching says that the spirits of their deceased members would remain to enjoy time on Earth with full knowledge of their past lives and the ability to act through the bodies of still living members.
The Illuminaten of Bavaria was created by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 and are by far the most controversial sect of the Illuminati. Depending on who you ask, they were either one of the most the most powerful secret societies of all time or one of the most impotent. They were either the "real Illuminati" or poor imitations of the real Illuminati. They were either quashed 1786, or they are still in operation today. Much literature on this order is slanted to the point of being nearly worthless. But fortunately there are many writings from the Illuminaten themselves available. The book "Proofs of a Conspiracy" by James Robison republishes numerous letters of correspondence between members of the Illuminaten where their goals and plans are outlined. Founder Adam Weishaupt, known in correspendence as "Spartacus", describes how the mainly academic and political Illuminaten was structured in the image of a mystic sect. Weishaupt envisioned himself as the creator of a new religion. The holy faith of Reason.
It's been joked that Weishaupt's Bible was the encyclopedia.
Popular Illuminati conspiracy theory says that the eye atop the pyramid on the American dollar bill is a Satanic symbol placed by the Illuminati to mark their work. This eye is said to be the all-seeing eye of the pagan god Horus. According to the theory this eye represents the evil Illuminati or Satan watching everything you do. The eye on the dollar bill actually looks nothing like the eye of Horus, but let's assume for a moment that this theory is true. Pagan gods, Satanism, and evil eyes. It all sounded quite sinister to me when I first encountered it until I paused and remembered my mythology. Which made me ask a very simple question about this theory:"What's Satanic about Horus?". I feel the answer to that question goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to the modern perception of the Illuminati.
Who is Horus? Horus is an Egyptian solar deity. In prominent mythologies Horus was the son of the virgin goddess Isis. Isis was impregnated by the spirit of the god Osiris and Horus was born as the Light who fights against Darkness. Horus is much more parallel to Jesus than Satan. Ironic as it may seem given the conspiracy theory, the eye of Horus was a symbol used to ward off evil. So the question remains. What's Satanic about Horus? One possible answer is that common Church belief is that anything that does not come from Church doctrine comes from Satan. From this perspective otherwise benevolent concepts are viewed as stemming from darkness and evil. All pagan(which simply means not of the Church) ideas fall into this category including the protective eye of Horus. While this is fine if those are your beliefs, a person or researcher hearing these charges without understanding why they are made can be easily mislead to false views of the Illuminati.
Yet perhaps even more distortive than tagging Horus as Satanic is the claim of researchers that the Illuminati openly admit to the worship of Satan when speaking amongst themselves. The irony in charging an Illuminatus with Satanism is that, as an Illuminatus, he's unlikely to even believe in strictly Church concepts like Satan. Much less worship him. Closer examination of this claim reveals that what are mistaken as admissions of Satanism are actually referrences to Lucifer. Contrary to popular misconception, Lucifer and Satan are not the same person. The association of Lucifer with Satan comes from a misunderstanding of verses in the Bible which use the epithet of "Lucifer" in regard to the king of Babylon falling from prominence(11). This passage was mistaken to be a referrence to Satan falling from Heaven and that quirky misbelief has persisted to this day.
In actuality, Lucifer represents the ultimate source of Light and not the Prince of Darkness. His name means light-bearer, from the latin words "lux"(light) + "ferre"(to carry). Due to this misunderstanding of context the Illuminati's quest for enlightenment is repeatedly claimed as a worship of Satan. It's troubling to think that such a simple error can snowball like it has. But with the tone information on the Illuminati is usually presented it's easy to be so shocked that you don't think twice about it.
Perhaps that's by design.
Unfortunately much of the work available on the Illuminati comes from a less than objective source. Often full of misapprehensions and sweeping generalizations. And even those researchers of the Illuminati who are not looking at them from a Church standpoint directly will still likely get much of their information from Church sources. Unwittingly absorbing their slant in the process. Alarming words like "Satanism" can skew the perspective of even the most casual believer attempting to examine Illuminati.
This is not to say one way or the other that the Illuminati are good or evil, however such subjective terms are defined. I would submit that knowledge is neutral. It is also not to say that there aren't dark occultic forces active in society. The Illuminati like any other group of people are not homogenous. They use their knowledge and power in different ways. They have differing, individual views just like anyone else. Even the much maligned Bavarian Illuminati wasn't the Satanic hive-mind it's portrayed as. As different members had different beliefs ranging from atheist, to deist, to Christian.
But one thing that's for certain is that the Illuminati can't be generalized as an evil cabal of men that want to install the antichrist. And many would undoubtibly be surprised to read the ideals of the Illuminati from their own mouths in contrast to what is said about them. Ultimately, each curious soul should try to cut through the propaganda and form their own opinion. Whenever examining a controversial subject like the Illuminati there is a very simple but wise saying one should always remember.
"Consider the source."
1. "The Legacy of Mesopotamia" by Stephanie Dalley
2. Plutarch amongst others record the training of the Greek philosphers in Egypt
3. "Hermes Trismegistos nach Aegyptischen, Griechischen und orientalischen Ueberlieferungen " - a dissertation on the African origins of Hermes Trismegistus by Dr.Richard Pietschmann
4. this rite is described in both "Pythagoras:Mathemagician" by Karim El-koussa and also in "Secret Teachings of the Ages" by Manley P. Hall which cites a manuscript by Plato translator Thomas Taylor as the source
5. "Daily Life in Mesopotamia" by Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat
6. such as the myth of Prometheus
7. Genesis ch. 41, Exodus ch. 7, and Daniel ch. 1 among others show high priests and wisemen outdone with ease by the Hebrews
8. Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Leviticus 20:27, etc.
9. "Inquisition of Spain" Book VIII, ch.5 (http://libro.uca.edu/lea4/8lea5.htm) by Henry Charles Lea
10. "Secret Socities" by Arkon Daraul
11. "Some Light on Lucifer" (http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/christ/xt-ibel2.htm) by Ina Belderis