& Demons: Shedding light on the Illuminati
are a controversial secret society, said to be the true rulers
of the world. But are the allegations of the conspiracy theories
true, or more imaginary than fictional plotlines?
“Angels & Demons”, Dan Brown promotes a secret
society known as the Illuminati into a group that have been fighting
the Vatican for centuries, trying to promote science over faith
and the suppression of knowledge. In other movies, such as “Tomb
Raider”, it is not Robert Langdon but Lara Croft who takes
on the Illuminati; here, they are seen as the secret controllers
of the world – a role they also play in various conspiracy
historical Illuminati were found by Adam Weishaupt, a professor
at the University of Ingolstadt, on May 1, 1776 in Ingolstadt.
Illuminati means the enlightened, and the movement is believed
to have been a vehicle for freethinkers, seeing Weishaupt was
the first lay professor of canon law and therefore very much a
sign of his times – one that saw the worldly power of the
Church slowly waning. However, the organisation did not have a
great or long future: in 1784, the government of Karl Theodor
banned all secret societies – including, of course, the
Illuminati. The end… or not?
In death, the Illuminati have become far more famous than they
ever were in real life. They have, in fact, become the subject
of near-endless speculation. Specifically, some argue that the
movement had from the very start a political agenda, namely to
infiltrate and overthrow the government and that this is why Theodor
banned all secret societies. Furthermore, that the Illuminati
had prepared for this possibility and had therefore made plans
for their own survival. It is this scenario that Dan Brown toys
with in this novel, and which likes at the basis of many conspiracy
Brown plays with the historical Illuminati, and lets Langdon discover
that rather than extinct, the organisation is still very much
alive. Their mission, as Langdon realises, is that within 24 hours,
the Illuminati will strike at the heart of the Vatican, where
they have placed a quarter of a gram of antimatter, stolen from
CERN in Switzerland. However, it needs to be underlined that few
readers of the book seem to have fully grasped the notion that
Brown’s book reveals that there are, in the end, no Illuminati
at all. Instead, an evil manipulator, working alone, has used
Illuminati imagery and like, thus making people believe that the
Illuminati are still active, while he is actually solely responsible…
and the secret society is indeed long dead.
choice of name for his organisation was not original. In fact,
the first recorded reference to a group of enlightened ones comes
from the 2nd century AD, when it was adopted as the title of a
group founded by Montanus, a former priest of the Cult of Cybele.
He had converted to Christianity and then began his movement.
The group included prophetesses known as Priscilla, and Maximilla.
The members underwent frenzied religious experiences, regarded
as messages from the Holy Ghost. Hence, no doubt, why they believed
they were “enlightened”.
Centuries later, there was a Spanish group known as Alumbrado
– the Enlightened. They existed in the 16th century and
claimed that a soul at one point of development could enter in
direct contact with the Holy Ghost. A French group known as the
Illuminés settled in France in 1623, arriving from Seville
in Spain. But France had a more famous movement, known as the
Illuminati of Avignon. Founded by Don Antoine Joseph de Pernetti
and the Polish Count Starost Grabianca in 1770, it moved to Montpellier
in 1778. Although some claim that they still existed in 1812,
most agree they disappeared at the time of the French Revolution
of 1789. Weishaupt’s Illuminati was therefore contemporary
with those of Avignon, and it is also clear that rather than being
truly unique, Weishaupt’s group was just one in a longer
series of “enlightened” groups.
many conspiracy theorists use the term “Illuminati”
rather loosely: rather than any particular secret society, most
use the term as a fashionable word for “them” –
the secret masters, the manipulators behind the scenes, the ones
who dictate commands to our politicians. As such, the choice of
settling on the term Illuminati is rather disappointing, for immediately
discredits the conspiracy theorists in the eyes of academics and
critics. Though the historical Illuminati had appeal, they were
never in any position to go against the Church or Bavarian government.
They themselves clearly never suffered from this delusion –
though some of the modern more outlandish conspiracy theorists
Today, the “Illuminati” – as opposed to the
historical Illuminati – are seen as those trying to establish
the so-called “New World Order”, which is clearly
not a theme used by Dan Brown in the strictest of concepts. But
with the success of “Angels & Demons”, it is clear
that the historical confusion and the fame of both the Illuminati
and the “Illuminati” will only broaden – just
as it happened with the Priory of Sion in the case of “The
Da Vinci Code”.
Today, there are, of course, enlightened ones, and people who
have ambitions that the conspiracy theorists see as objectionable.
That is their privilege, but they should not pretend it is a “secret”.
For example, the American banker David Rockefeller joined the
Council on Foreign Relations as its youngest-ever director in
1949 and subsequently became chairman of the board from 1970 to
1985; today he serves as honorary chairman. None of this is secret.
In fact, in 2002, Rockefeller authored his autobiography “Memoirs”
wherein, on page 405, he writes: “For more than a century
ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum
have seized upon well-publicized incidents ... to attack the Rockefeller
family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American
political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are
part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the
United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’
and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more
integrated global political and economic structure – one
world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty,
and I am proud of it.”
It is a fact that the likes of Rockefeller have donated large
sums of money to see their ideas fulfilled. Their family is not
alone. In “Angels & Demons”, Langdon includes
the Bilderberg Group as a possible financier of the Illuminati.
And with the Bilderberg, it becomes more interesting – and
Bilderberg Group meets once a year and is seen as a who’s
who of politics and industry convening in secret – not often,
however, with much success, seeing a small but dedicated group
of protesters uses the meetings to make their opinions known about
the group. The meeting is seen as a brainstorm session about the
challenges and opportunities of international politics and economics.
Seen as the brainchild of Joseph Retinger and Jean Monet and convened
by the husband to the Dutch Queen in 1954 in one of the hotels
of the Bilderberg chain – hence the name – it is less
known that the idea – if not financing – came from
the CIA. This conclusion has been reached by Dr. Gerard Aalders
of the Dutch Institute for War Documentation. Aalders claims that
Prince Bernhard was used by the CIA and he claims his research
is the first time physical evidence has been uncovered that shows
the hand of the CIA in the meeting’s organisation. However,
Aalders has so far been unable to prove that Bernhard knew of
the CIA’s support, though he argues it is more than likely,
if only because the Prince was very close to two successive Directors
of Central Intelligence.
The 1954 Bilderberg meeting was attended by the likes of David
Rockefeller, C.D. Jackson, Denis Healy and Gen. Walter Bedell
Smith. The latter was Director of Central Intelligence and it
was he who asked Eisenhower adviser to develop the idea.
Their annual meeting is attended by ca. 130 of the world’s
leaders, yet no official list of invitees is produced; no reporters
are invited; no press conferences are organised; no meetings are
taken. With no paper trail, no wonder the set-up is an invitation
for conspiracy theorists. But perhaps those conspiracy theorists
should realise that they are being set up, and that this aura
of mystique is precisely what the CIA always wanted it to be?
Disinformation, after all, is a prime preoccupation of many intelligence
the novel, Langdon claims that Freemasonry, no doubt one of the
most controversial secret societies, was created to shield the
Illuminati when they were being persecuted by the Church. Weishaupt
did become a Freemason at a lodge in Munich in 1777, suggesting
the creation of his secret society opened certain other doors,
which he walked through. But if Langdon/Brown was correct, it
only had partial success, for the Vatican eventually stated that
no Catholic was allowed to become a member of Freemasonry –
a directive not always followed to the letter and since overturned.
Langdon is also able to uncover the Church of Illumination, the
headquarters of the Illuminati, located inside the Castel Sant’Angelo,
within spitting distance of the Vatican. The castle was originally
the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian and was renamed the Castle of
Angels in the 6th century, when Pope Gregory the Great witnessed
a vision of St Michael that ended a terrible plague. He also made
it into fortress and constructed a tunnel from it to the Vatican,
in case of…
Few have observed that the castle has a highly geometric design:
the exterior is a pentagram, with the construction of the castle
itself a square, with a circle inside. We are therefore squaring
the circle, inside a pentagram. One would think both conspiracy
theorists and symbologists like Langdon (read: Brown) would make
something more of this?
In the centre of the “bottom” of the pentagram, is
the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Bridge of Angels, decorated with
works of angels, including one sculpted by Bernini, that other
hero of “Angels & Demons”.
also leaves an interesting connection unexplored – no doubt
because he was unaware of it. In “The Da Vinci Code”,
he uses St Sulpice and the gnomon inside as a “red herring”
in the hunt for the Grail. But St Sulpice is seen as the headquarters
of an “Angelic Society”, a group of people –
dare one call it a secret society? – who had a special bond
with their guardian angel; specifically, each member had manifested
their guardian angel, as written down by several French writers
like Maurice Barrès and Anatole France, and also visible
in the works of e.g. Jean Cocteau – claimed to have been
a secret grandmaster of the Priory of Sion. In fact, the famous
quote of ET IN ARCADIA EGO was said, by the likes of French writer
Maurice Barrès, to have been a “call sign”
of those that were members of this Angelic Society.
Interestingly, in the novel, the English poet Milton is said to
have written the verse that will solve the mystery of the location
of the Illuminati Lair in Rome. In reality, Milton himself had
a strange fascination with the Angelic Society.
attempt to unravel the Illuminati plot also leads to some deaths
inside the Swiss Guard. Commander Olivetti of the Swiss Guard
is initially sceptical of Langdon’s conspiracy theory; his
second in command, Captain Rocher, is killed by Lt. Chartrand,
a young Swiss Guard, who believes that Rocher is an Illuminatus.
Shortly before Brown wrote the novel, the Commander of the Swiss
Guard – and his wife – had indeed been murdered by
a young Swiss Guard, who then committed suicide. The tragedy was
immediately ruled as a personal vendetta between the two men,
but this propaganda soon began to disintegrate – though
has not received the full publicity one would expect to see from
a rare and most interesting murder in the Vatican. At this moment
in time, most of the researchers into this crime are convinced
that the young Swiss Guard was carrying out a secret investigation
into the Commander, who had just been elected, and who was believed
to have connections with Opus Dei. It is believed that “factions”
– some pointing the fingers to “the Freemasons”
– wanted to stop the progress of Opus Dei within the walls
of the Vatican, and therefore disposed of its plant. But, by touching
upon Opus Dei, of course, that brings us back to “The Da