The Mother of all Conspiracy Theories
For anyone who has been in the Craft for even a short time, you have heard the old saw “Freemasons control…everything” of “Its the Illuminati” or maybe some connection to The Bohemian Grove. Whatever it is it’s usually repeated with breathless excitement by the theorizer. They always seem to think it’s some new revelation.
Times being what they are and the propagation of the Internet and apps like YouTube and alike have allowed these Conspiracy Theorist (CTs) to reach millions more then they could in the decades prior. One of the difficult challenges to overcome is the “I read it on the Internet, so it must be true” crowd. It it sometimes painful to watch when you actually discuss their ‘new’ theories and ideas about “secret societies” and alike when you crush their intellect by telling them their “theory” has been around for centuries and is nothing new.
So where and when did all this malarkey start? Well we all know that Freemasonry has been around as we know it today for 300 years, happy B-day Freemasonry! The Conspiracy Theories about Freemasonry and anything it may or may not be connected with started almost at the same time.
Early in the history of the Premier Grand Lodge of London and Westminster (known today as the UGLE), shortly after the first few Grand Lodge sessions were held (1717-1728). A rival group formed called the Gormogons. The Gormogons are first heard of in a notice published in the London Daily Post for September 3, 1724:
Whereas the truly ANTIENT NOBLE ORDER of the Gormogons, instituted by Chin-Qua Ky-Po, the first Emperor of China (according to their account), many thousand years before Adam, and of which the great philosopher Confucious was Oecumenicae Volgee, has lately been brought into England by a Mandarin, and he having admitted several Gentlemen of Honour into the mystery of that most illustrious order, they have determined to hold a Chapter at the Castle Tavern in Fleet Street, at the particular request of several persons of quality. This is to inform the public, that there will be no drawn sword at the Door, nor Ladder in a dark Room, nor will any Mason be reciev’d as a member till he has renounced his Novel Order and been properly degraded. N.B. — The Grand Mogul, the Czar of Muscovy, and Prince Tochmas are entr’d into this Hon. Society ; but it has been refused to the Rebel Meriweys, to his great Mortification. The Mandarin will shortly set out for Rome, having a particular Commission to make a Present of the Antient Order to his Holiness, and it is believ’d the whole Sacred College of Cardinals will commence Gormogons. Notice will be given in the Gazette the Day the Chapter will be held.2
Many believe that they we almost entirely made up of expelled Masons or those rejected from Freemasonry. We do know the founder of the group was none other than Philip, Duke of Wharton who was an expelled Freemason.
Fast forward a few more years and or decades to mid 18th century and Freemasonry has spread quickly to the Continent. There were no less detractors in France and Germany as Freemasonry spread and grew.
Shortly after Anderson’s Constitutions (1728) was published, it was quickly followed by it’s first published expose. Samuel Pritchard’s Masonry Dissected (1730). The fact that this book quickly became a bestseller, especially among Freemasons of the day is evidence that it was fairly accurate in the ritual portion and many Freemasons used it like a modern day GL ritual book. The irony of this fact always amuses me to no end.
Along comes a young man by the name of Adam Weishaupt, son of A law professor at the University of Ingolstadt. Young Adam lost his father early, about 5 years old and he went to live with his god-father who was also a law professor at the same university. Adam grows up to also be a law professor at the same university. He actually becomes the first full tenured professor who is not clergy at the prestigious Ingolstadt University.
In time Adam Weishaupt develops some strange ideas about equality and ridding the land of the rigid class system and the aristocracy, not to mention the monarchy. In this time in history and in this place these are dangerous thoughts and ideas that could not only get you imprisoned or banished but summarily executed was not that far fetched.
So Adam Weishaupt starts with a premise after he reads about the mysterious Freemasons. He will start an organization, modeled on Freemasonry called the Perfectibilists.
At a time, however, when there was no end of making game of and abusing secret societies, I planned to make use of this human foible for a real and worthy goal, for the benefit of people. I wished to do what the heads of the ecclesiastical and secular authorities ought to have done by virtue of their offices – Adam Weishaupt
Weishaupt tried Freemasonry first and found it to be expensive and no open to most of his ideas. This period of the enlightenment had many ideas being discussed but openly speaking of revolution was frowned upon. To make a long story short as this piece is not about the Illuminati per se, it’s about what they started in the CT arena. Weishaupt wrote his manifesto and one of his closest confidants (who happened to be an aristocrat) suspected or guessed Weishaupt’s real goals with the Illuminati and
turned him into the Imperial Authorities. Weishaupt fled Bavaria, leaving all his possessions and writings behind. The authorities discovered them and published them, which was widely mocked and ridiculed. The Illuminati ceases to exist in 1786 as the group’s plans and members are exposed and the edict by Karl Theodore bans all secret societies, excluding Freemasonry.
Now fast forward another decade and a brilliant Scot by the name of John Robison. Mathematician and physicist, as well as a professor of philosophy, writes a huge tome dealing with the notorious Illuminati and all the enlightenment chatter going around Europe in the day…with an even bigger title; Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free-Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, etc., collected from good authorities. Or “Proofs of a Conspiracy” for short. His book published in 1797, neglects to mention that the Illuminati are long dead in Europe. However I suspect that since Weishaupt was still alive and in exile he believed he was still a threat.
In 1798 a copy of Robison’s book is sent by the Reverend G. W. Snyder to George Washington for his thoughts on the subject in which he replied to him in a letter:
It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.
Washington’s language on the matter is interesting and by modern standards seems to agree with the sender. However the use of some words in period belie that notion and actually the statement disagrees with the sender, as only a polite gentlemen could (keep in mind that this is Washington’s second reply to the good reverend on this subject).
Some would say that the government of the U.S. is the great “Masonic” Experiment. And the CT would go further to say that it is the great “Illuminati” experiment. In a way Weishaupt had many good, albeit radical ideas. Had he come to the colonies with them, no doubt history may have viewed him differently.
In the end when it comes to Conspiracy theories of Freemasonry, they all seem to originate from Robison’s book, or most of them so. Most later authors who write about Freemasonry negatively refer back to Robison’s book either with or usually without notation or citation. One interesting point to make about all this is that even Robison admits in his book that the Freemasons in England are OK and not involved in the plots that the Freemasons on the continent are. So when confronted with CT nonsense and you have read or familiarized yourself with Proofs of a Conspiracy, you are well armed to defend the Craft.