I want to use this blog to shoot down many popular myths about the Illuminati, and Secret Societies in general. (Even that they used the All Seeing Eye and Pyramid as a symbol is one such myth.) I am a Conspiracy Theorist, but it hurts our credibility when we take at face value so many claims without investigating them. I love Alex Jones [Update 2016, used to], he's great at breaking down what's going on in the present. But when he goes back to 18th and 19th century History, he repeats many common mistakes.
In Evangelical Christian circles we want to view the "Illuminati" (which has become a byword for the enemy in general without much care for what the Bavarian Illuminati was) as synonymous with the highest level occult activity, Satanists and Neo-Pagans. And it backs up that desire that the O.T.O and Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn claim Illuminati ancestry. I feel like Occult exposing Christians need to stop believing what the occult groups and Freemasons claim about themselves so much.
The truth however is that while the Bavarian Illuminati's rituals superficially incorporated ritualistic and mythological ideas, Adam Weishaupt was actually a devout "Rationalist" who hated the Esoterisism of the Rosicrucians and more mystical brands of Freemasonry (the real ancestors of the O.T.O and Golden Dawn). This fact becomes apparent studying the diligent research of Terry Melanson author of The Perfectibilists, and Jeva Singh-Anand who recently translated Kingge's book Philo's Reply. Melanson is a fellow conspiracy theorist, Anand is not. They are among the few who research the Illuminati going back to the oldest contemporary documents, most of which sadly aren't available in English yet.
This conflict has some overlap with his hatred of the Jesuits, (pretty much all Continental Rosecurcians at this time were Jesuits). But some of the above historians will overlook how you can be an Esoteric and still oppose the Jesutis and the Catholic Church. Especially those esoterics who were probably in secret serving British Intelligence.
Another important note, Weishaupt's order were not the first to use a name derived from the Latin "Illuminate". Many of the Esoteric groups Weishaupt hated were associated with terms like Iluminees and Illuminisim. This has caused researchers to often confuse references to them with the Bavarian Illuminati. Going back to Barruel and Robinson early on, and still today by authors like Marco Di Luchetti.
I have a theory however.
While the traditional Conspiracy Theory narrative is that the Bavarian Illuminati took over Freemasonry, I'm thinking it might have been the other way around. The Esoteric Masons infiltrated and took over the Illuminati, then after the Illuminati was "disbanded" they incorporated much of the infrastructure and strategy that Weishaupt had devised into their own political machinations they already had planned. Still the claim that the Illuminati took over Masonry has more creditably then it's given credit for, upon studying provable Illuminati members, some either already were or become the highest ranking Masons in their respective countries.
The Strict Observance Rite was a popular mystical Masonic order during the mid 18th Century. This order became a bit of a problem after it's founder died. He had made up a story about mysterious unseen superiors overseeing the order, but it seems they didn't actually exist. It was a strict observance lodge Weishaupt was initiated into in 1777 the year after he founded the Illuminati.
In 1782 Karl Langrave of Hesse-Kassel, who was the second highest ranking man in German Freemasonry, organized a Masonic conference at Wilhelmsbad to decide what to do about the Strict Observance Rite (which was among the many secret societies he himself was a member of). It wound up being dissolved, and as Melenson's article shows many members joined the Bavarian Illuminati either right then or in the coming months. These included Karl of Hesse-Kassel himself, and the highest ranking man in German Freemasonry, the Duke of Brunswick (there were two at this time, don't confuse them as Nesta Webster did, the other was his nephew and not a known Illuminati member or Mason, though he was sympathetic to the Revolutionaries in-spite his involvement in the war against them).
Karl would latter claim in his official memoirs that he joined the order to try and sabotage their political agenda, but I think that was saving face. Karl was very deeply involved in the occult/esoteric side of Masonry. It was he who lodged the Comte de Saint-Germain during the last years of his Life. Saint-Germain first popped up in England, I think he was possibly a British Spy.
But also among the Wilhelmsbad recruits was Johann Joachim Christopher Bode. He was deeply involved in Esoteric Masonry before joining the Illuminati, supposedly he turned his back on Mysticism and became a Rationalist like Weishaupt when he joined the Illuminati. But I have trouble believing that, one doesn't simply reject the Esoteric so easily when they'd been deeply involved in it. I think he was claiming that to gain the trust of Weishaupt and the other leaders of the order.
After the order was "disbanded" in 1784, Bode became the de facto chief executive of the order. It was he who traveled to France in 1787, which I shall expand on in future posts.
Saint-Martin is an important figure in the history of the Occult at this time. He was friends with Nicolas Bonneville (who was an Illuminati sympathizer but not quite a confirmed member, and he also wrote against the Jesuits).
Also important to the History of Esoteric Freemasonry was the order of Memphis-Misraim.
Other known esoterics and occultists who become Illuminati members include Johann Caspar [Jean Gaspard] Schweizer (1754-1811), Count Franz Joseph von Kolowrat-Liebensteinsky (b. 1748), and probably most recruited from the French Philadelthes. I could also mention Goethe but there is disagreement on how active his membership was.