Birth of the Illuminati

In DarkLore Volume II, an anthology of writings on high weirdness and secret history, Mike Jay lays out the birth of the Illuminati conspiracy at the end of the 18th century. The Daily Grail has just published the article, which tells how the modern myth (?) began with a society floundering to understand the French Revolution. From "Darkness Over All: John Robison and the Birth of the Illuminati Conspiracy:"
 Wp-Content Uploads 2009 12 Illuminatibill At the beginning of 1797, John Robison was a man with a solid and long-standing reputation in the British scientific establishment. He had been Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University for over twenty years, an authority on mathematics and optics, and had recently been appointed senior scientific contributor on the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which he would eventually contribute over a thousand pages of articles. Yet by the end of the year, his professional reputation had been eclipsed by a sensational book that vastly outsold anything he had previously written, and whose shockwaves would continue to reverberate long after his scientific work had been forgotten. Its title was Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, and it launched on the English-speaking public the enduring theory that a vast conspiracy, masterminded by a covert Masonic cell known as the Illuminati, was in the process of subverting all the cherished institutions of the civilised world and co-opting them into instruments of its secret and godless plan: the tyranny of the masses under the invisible control of unknown superiors, and a new era of ‘darkness over all'.

The first edition of Proofs of a Conspiracy sold out within days, and within a year it had been republished many times, not only in Edinburgh but in London, Dublin and New York. Robison had hit a nerve by offering an answer, plausible to many, to the great questions of the day: what had caused the French Revolution, and had there been any plan behind its bloody and tumultuous progress?

Many had located the roots of the revolution in the ideas of Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Diderot and D'Alembert, who had exalted reason and progress over authority and tradition; but none of these mostly aristocratic philosophes had advocated a revolution of the masses, and indeed several of them had ended their lives on the guillotine. In the early 1790s, it had been possible to believe that the power-hungry lawyers and journalists of the Jacobin Club had whipped up the Paris mob into their destructive frenzy as a means to their own ends, but by 1794 Danton, Robespierre and the rest of the Jacobin leaders had followed their victims to the guillotine: how could they have been the puppet-masters when they had had their own strings so brutally cut? What Robison was proposing in the densely-argued and meticulously documented pages of Proofs of a Conspiracy was that all these agents of revolution had been pawns in a much bigger game, whose ambitions were only just beginning to make themselves visible.

"Darkness Over All: John Robison and the Birth of the Illuminati Conspiracy" (Daily Grail)

DarkLore Volume II (Amazon)


  1. Would you like to join the Illuminati?

    1) Send me your name and address
    2) Go into your backyard and bury $2,300.00
    3) One of our representatives will be in touch soon.

  2. Oh I don’t know, “under the invisible control of unknown superiors” seems increasingly accurate, with the power of organisations such as the CFR and the Bilderberg Group for instance, whose last meeting was sadly not even mentioned here on BB, even after setting up their official website and despite Cory submitting fairly regular articles for the Guardian newspaper who covered the event, secrecy and aftermath rather extensively.
    But is it a conspiracy?
    I believe that prosperous, power-hungry and politicised people are perfectly pleased perpetuating the propaganda.
    ie: It distracts from the real issues if anyone questioning such things is associated with so-called loons.

  3. “…subverting all the cherished institutions of the civilised world and co-opting them into instruments of its secret and godless plan…”

    Daily Kos!

  4. What a bunch of crap, anyone with half a brain knows that the System of the World revolves around Half cocked Jack Shaftoe, Eliza, and Daniel Waterhouse.

  5. By 1797, Robison’s character had taken a grave and saturnine turn, far removed from the cheerful and convivial temperament of his youth. In 1785 he had begun to suffer from a mysterious medical condition, a severe and painful spasm of the groin: it seemed to emanate from behind his testicles, but its precise origin baffled the most distinguished doctors of Edinburgh and London.

    What is located behind the testicles? Did he suffer from visits by Popobawa?

  6. Hail Eris!

    Behind the testicles, arguably, is the perineum, or, mystically, the seat of kundalini. One would expect the rites of Illumination to overlap or subsume raising of this potent mystical energy.

    Props to JDMcDonnell for saying fnord first!

    Anyone interested in this stuff really, really, really can do no better than Robert Anton Wilson’s and Robert Shea’s “The Illuminatus Trilogy”. Sure, recent research may be more recent, but RAW&RS hit the sweet spot on this flavor of crazy. (I fondly recall the joy at realizing many of the reference materials mentioned in that series are real publications [e.g., “Secret Societies” by Darul]).

  7. So, there are groups of people who are secretly running the world and they have, in one form or another, been doing it for ages. — Wow. Knowing that changes everything.

  8. I started reading this book yesterday– and with hindsight you see that Robison was right. But the question is, is what happened really a bad thing?

    A group of philosophically minded people infiltrated freemasonry to promote the concept of increasing human happiness… they worked to reduce the power of the monarchy and of religious leaders… they worked to create equality between women… and they encouraged the concept that merit is what makes a person valuable, not their stature in society.

    So, is that a bad thing? Nowadays we just call this liberalism.

    If this great conspiracy still exists, it’s perhaps the biggest let-down of all time… and as their efforts ramp up, they will increasingly fail, because it is based on bad methodologies and bad philosophy… good intentions, scheming, wealth, and networking can only get you so far.

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