The Sages of France: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 137-139

September 21, 2022 Leave a comment

The German Union conspiracy is in full description, and again, I have to comment that it is about damn time. The entire book has been about tracing relationships, the neophytes in Continental Masonry, and gossip about Weishaupt’s failed Illuminati, but it’s been lacking in an actual conspiracy. Sure, there have been the occasional comments that they were spreading documents relating to the falseness of Christianity or the Church; and documents concerning the virtues of democracy; that however is not a conspiracy as they did this in the open. 

Now, Robison from his seat in Scotland is going to discuss a German reading society that wants to expand literacy throughout the German-speaking states. Remember, this is the conspiracy–and it has to be a conspiracy because some of the documents that they will encourage to be read will be banned by order of whatever regional monarch is in charge. Their plan is also to set up an interconnected library system to facilitate reading. 

Robison gives us the descriptions of the various ranks and duties of the members of this German Union: Alderman, Mesopolites, Men, and Cadets. Each of these has a varied role but it is as uninteresting as what a normal alderman does so the various ranks I’m skipping over. 

Robison references the book (which if we remember from last week he admits is incomplete) and its list of names. The list though is surprising because we should not have expected certain names to be one the list, but also that there were names left off the list. Robison clearly has an idea of who he thinks is supposed to be part of this vast campaign of literacy and document sharing. The documents that this union is going to publish and share are the works of the Enlightenment–as I have discussed, Robison does not like the ideas of the Enlightenment. Perhaps my favorite reason is that the women attend the Opera bare-armed in France. 

The list of names cannot be confirmed. One person on the list, the only woman, swore that she had nothing to do with it. She could be lying, but I’m more of the disposition to believe her. This list comes from a work that Robison admits is incomplete, that appeared at the publisher anonymously, and may just be a list of people that whoever wrote it would like to slander. We have no way of knowing who wrote it. 

What’s also of interest is that Robison again tips his hand: 

Some of these (authors) have in their writings given evidence proofs of their misconception of the simple truths, whether dogmatical or historical, of revealed religion, or of their inclination to twist and manufacture them so as to chime in with the religion and morality of the Sages of France.”

The “Sages of France” is telling. He can only mean a few people like Diderot, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. These were the people whose writings influenced the revolution in France and the American Colonies (especially the latter two). There is not a group of thinkers more infamous for the criticisms of autocracy, theology, and the relationship between the two. Rousseau wrote that man is born in liberty, but is everywhere in chains. Montesquieu believed that a separation of powers through the law was the only method to maintain liberty. Diderot wrote, “let us strangle the last kings with the guts of the last priests (though he is popularizing a sentiment by Jean Meslier who wrote a similar idea about fifty years prior that Voltaire had published). Voltaire himself had no love of the church or the kings; it was he that wrote that “if they can make you believe in absurdities they can make you commit atrocities (borrowing a sentiment of the Roman Lucretius).” 

Would the writings of the German Union try and emulate the style of the French philosophers? YES. They would do so during this time period because the dominance of German philosophy is still in the precooking phase (yes yes, Kant is writing about this time, but his work isn’t going to catch on for a little bit–Kant still needs to read Hume in order to get inspired). The intellectual force in Europe at this period is in France. Unlike other intellectual circles, the French philosophers had a very tangible impact in the Revolutions that even people who would normally ignore such things were acutely aware of. The Scottish Enlightenment is going to create such revolutionary ideas as Hume’s skepticism and Adam Smith’s capitalism–and is in direct competition with the French. This is probably another reason that Robison is singling them out. 

He then moves on to the most important document from the book. Number 5 (V). And I’m…not impressed. This most important document concerns the group addressing how they are going to pay for all of this. This is the important part? Uh, ok. The biggest problem is that the group recognizes that all of this printing is going to cost money and that there should be some sharing of this burden. This solution comes from the entire group as a conference…and I’m super confused as to why this is the important part. Is Robison objecting to proto-socialist solutions to a group’s economic issue? That would be silly, but then again, he is objecting to learning that is outside the approval of religious authorities.  

This book is really failing at providing a conspiracy qua conspiracy. The closest we are getting right now is this reading society. I’ll take it because we are only halfway through the book but for something that is so influential, I still think we should be getting more out of it. Though I am entirely convinced that even Nesta Webster has not read it.

The Plot: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 133-137

September 14, 2022 Leave a comment

 I’ve often wondered in my many readings of these types of conspiracy theories how the conspirators recruit their employees. If, as the Flat Earthers claim, there is an ice wall and that wall is guarded; then who is guarding it? Where is that recruitment drive? Does it pay well? As an academic I get lumped in as one of those leftist-socialists-gay indoctrinators that are paid to promote climate change, the homosexual agenda, and the idea that Christianity is stupid–but I assure the reader, the meager wage that I am paid is not reflective of my place as a cog in the wheel that grinds white Christian America into dust. As a person who could use the cash and actually does teach that the science for climate change is legitimate, that gay people are people, and that Christianity has some evidence problems I could use the cash. I protested Trump at the March for Science and according to Alex Jones that was a George Soros-led initiative but I never got my check. Is there a form to fill out? What is happening with that? 

Kidding aside, how does the Illuminati recruit members? Well, Robison, has the answer through this German Union. Apparently, you just send them some money and they send you a recruitment pamphlet. That’s it. I don’t know what I was expecting in the 18th century but that kind of recruitment seems awfully anti-climactic. Robison gives us the rundown but first, we need a little background. It would seem that a couple of books appeared for sale; one called “Archives of Fanaticism and Illuminatism.” This book, Robison claims was “slight and unsatisfactory.” I can guess why, one of the great humor of studying this subject is that the word “Illuminism” and “Illuminati” are so close in spelling but so far in meaning. The latter is our esteemed superconspirators the former means “occult.” Robison I’m sure grabbed this book thinking that it was going to be about the zealous and unscrupulous nature of the Illuminati only to read a book about the 18th-century mystics who still preferred alchemy, Kabbalah, and hermeneutics. He tossed that aside in favor of a book titled “More Notes than Text, or The German Union of XXII, a new Secret Society for the Good of Mankind.”

This book, Robison admits is wanting in a few respects but is the more thorough of the competing works so he’s going to base his conspiracy on this one. One quick question is how he knows that one book is lacking information. I know when a copy of the Republic is lacking because I can compare it to another version of the Republic. Robison doesn’t have this ability. He can only compare the conspiracy work to other conspiracy works but, and this is really important, these books are appearing anonymously. No one knows if a crank is writing them, or just a bored guy having a bit of sport with the gullible. 

The book begins by explaining that a vast undertaking exists against the tide of Reason and the suppression of education. We know this part exists because Robison has been railing again teaching reason, and he’s even lauded the ability of local regents in enforcing only one kind of education. Whether this is a coordinated affair across Europe is a different story though. The way I understand it to be working is that each local principality is going to do the exact same thing for their own self-interest, but would not need to coordinate with each other on how to do it. If the Bavarian King and the Bohemian King are both suppressing education, they might pass notes to each other; but then again, if one is Lutheran and the other Catholic they would not. The Catholic king would look at both of them as heretics likewise the Lutheran King. 

The recruitment advertisement then claims that they represent a council that would seek to become a bulwark against this plot (a plot that, mind you, only the document claims exists), and for the price of a rix-Dahler; one can join the association and oppose the suppression of reason. A rix-Dahler is a Swedish coin, which amounts to about 1/6 of a Kroner; which has no equivalent today because of the EU. It’s a small amount but not so small as to be inconsequential. Today, and I’m guessing here, it’s probably about 9.99. Just enough to make it worth it for both sides.

Upon payment, one receives the oath of the association and a membership form to fill out and send back. Upon receiving this, the German Union then sends the applicant “the Plan.” All of these are printed on a 4to sheet (this is a 19 x 24-inch sheet folded four times to produce an eight-page book), “For the price of a couple cups of coffee, you too, can join the worldwide struggle…”

I don’t want to call this a scam because you are getting a few little booklets out of it, but there’s very little here which makes my skeptical brain think this is evidence of the Illuminati in Germany. Now, I don’t think that there is anything here. There is perhaps a group that is opposed to the theocratic monarchy in the German-speaking states which realizes that the suppression of education is a bad thing. The entire oath, and what Robison has reported from these 4to sheets is too long to quote, but it reads like someone trying to start a new political party: once they get enough members they will reveal themselves and begin setting up a formal system. 

Robison’s at-length quote also details the secrecy of this order. They are going to claim that they are merely a reading society in order to hide from the public. While I’m sure that this is going to be taken as nefarious by the average reader; we must also consider that organizations that sought to instruct the population on the principles of the Enlightenment would run counter to the wishes of the local aristocracy and would thereby be banned and the members possibly imprisoned. There would be a need to hide as something which would look as harmless as a reading society. 

The reading society angle is the lynchpin in the entire organization. They would create magazines and gazettes; recruit booksellers and publishers in order to disseminate their works. I see this as a good use of the media of the day. Today, the German Union would probably recruit bloggers and web designers; create podcast networks, and some tik-tokkers in order to spread their message. 

This is stage one of the plan. It’s a good plan too, but importantly for our reading of this book, it is a plan. It’s only taken about 137 pages until we got one, but here we are. The plan is to create an organization that will recruit people in order to teach them the principles of the 18th-century Enlightenment movement. We must also consider a comment I made earlier, this could be a scam. This entire thing could be the work of an individual trying to profit off people wanting to join the academic fad that was sweeping through Europe. Ben Franklin was, in every conceivable way, a celebrity of rock star proportions at this time; and this recruitment pamphlet could be seeking to profit off of this in much the same way that numerous products with the “i-” prefix appeared when the iPod hit the peak of its popularity. 

To repeat though, at least we are getting a plan. 

Libraries: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 128-133

September 7, 2022 Leave a comment

 What’s old is new again. In this section, we get insight into what the “German Union” actually is and how conspiracism hasn’t changed in two hundred years. As I mentioned last post, the Illuminati had been effectively disbanded in the area we know as Germany. The Bavarian government had outlawed them, and their membership went off to do other things. Weishaupt tried to restart the group, but most people just wanted to be Masons which they felt that the Illuminati was merely an imitation of anyway. The Illuminati only live on in the minds of conspiracy theorists like Robison. 

It’s not hard to see why either. Conservatism throughout history has difficulty with change, that is, after all, what it is conservative about–the old ways, the status quo, etc. When the change comes, ushered in by some kind of Kuhnian paradigm shift, it’s usually not considered a natural change. It’s something else that is causing it. This presents a rather difficult issue for the conservative,s especially in terms of development in media: do they adopt the new media for its practical use but then decry it whenever anyone else uses it? Or, do they remain consistent: either calling for its ban or keeping quiet? It’s almost always the former.

The early concern over the internet was that the devil would ensnare kids, but that didn’t stop conservatives in the early days from using it to spread their message. The printing press was much the same pattern. Spreading literacy was a bad idea…but then it is an easier way to print Bibles. Robison is continuing this effort, only his target–the same as it is today–is the libraries. 

The modern reaction against libraries and Robison’s reaction against them are the same. The libraries have books that they don’t like so therefore we must defund the libraries, ban the books, and send men with weapons to disrupt their events. The move here by Robison is based entirely on religious belief. This is very interesting to me because I did not start reading this book as a book to debunk for the atheist reader. I’ve done that kind of thing before, and while I was expecting some mention of religion; I wasn’t expecting it to this level. The entire chapter so far, the entire end of the last chapter on the Illuminati, is laser-focused on the idea that this group is going to argue against religion. 

Robison also plays here at connecting the dots. Like a true conspiracy theorist, he begins claiming that any news editorial or anything which seems to challenge the authority of a King is now evidence of the Illuminati’s secret operations. He’s not shy about this either as he states, “This is surely a strong instance of the machinations by which the Illuminati have attempted to destroy the Liberty of the Press…”

The “this” in the quoted line is allegedly a manuscript written by Dr. Stark, which was an expose in the new Illuminati. This is a specious claim because Robison claims that the work was never published due to the Illuminati stopping it. If this is the case, then how does Robison know what is contained in the book? If he has a copy of the manuscript–then he needs to mention it. He doesn’t, because, I suspect this is merely a story this Dr. Stark told concerning the reason that no one will publish his book. Surely, Robison could have helped with the publication of it. 

As for the assault on the liberty of the press, Robison has to prove that they stopped the publication of the book. The publisher itself claimed that there was a libelous passage about a woman and some indelicate treatments of religion that prevented the publication for which they reached out to the author and were awaiting a response. This seems more plausible than a defunct secret society reaching their black hand to an obscure publisher in Leipzig and crushing their will. 

The real assault comes next. It would seem that an agent of this Dr. Stark found people in coffee houses in Leipzig and Halle discussing how advantageous public libraries were to the general public. These libraries helped provide the uneducated with the opportunity to learn what were new modes of thought in the learned world. Even the agent of Stark could not help but agree. Yet this agent then hears of a plan to make an association, “which should act in concern all over Germany, and make a full communication of its numerous literary productions, by forming societies for reading and instruction, which should be regularly be supplied with every publication.

This association seems pretty awesome. I have this now: if my local library doesn’t have a book we can order it from a different branch. They are all connected to each other and yes, this does allow everyone the advantage of every publication that the entire system has. This is a bad thing how? Well, it’s bad because this will facilitate the German hoi polloi in getting some book that may give them dangerous ideas. They may get the idea that superstition isn’t rooted in anything but traditional. Even more dangerous, they may read that people who are different from them…(are you sitting down?)…are still people. They may get all kinds of ideas about representation and that a person isn’t better or worse than another by virtue of their birth. 

This association is called the German Union, and it is ambitious indeed if it wants to create a library system that would cross political boundaries. Robison believes it to just be another head of the Illuminati. The important point though is that the evidence for this evil institution is that they want to build more libraries. 

The German Union: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 126-128

August 31, 2022 Leave a comment

I was all prepared to write about some historical context here. To spend an hour or so working on a brief history of the German states until their unification in 1871. I was going to talk about how it may seem weird to the reader that Weishaupt could flee Bavaria for the next town over and be in a completely different legal jurisdiction, but that’s only because we view Germany as a single entity now. This week’s selection begins with a new chapter titled, “The German Union;” so I assumed that we were going to talk about Germany. Instead, we’re still reading about the Illuminati. 

What I have to discuss, is a meta-problem with conspiracy theories in general. The problem can be indicated by Robison’s words, “Weishaupt said, on good grounds, that ‘if the Order should be discovered and suppressed, he would restore it with tenfold energy in a twelvemonth.'”

I need to dispense with something right away, Robison is claiming that Weishaupt said this? No, unless Weishaupt was fond of referring to himself in the second person as the quote uses the pronoun “he.” Clearly, Robison is quoting someone inside a claimed quote that Weishaupt made. 

The meta-problem is that conspiracy theories give their conspirators ultimate and unlimited authority and power–but only when it suits the conspiracy theory’s need. We’ve read fifty pages of Robison calling Weishaupt a cheat, liar, and someone that was clearly full of himself–but now that we need the specter of the Illuminati to still exist, he’s unambiguously truthful in both the planning and the execution in establishing the Illuminati again. What the average skeptic has to do is pin the theorist down with one question, “Which is it?” 

Is Weishaupt the Illuminati mastermind capable of bending men’s thoughts to his will, or was he a charlatan? Is the Illuminati the omnipotent mastermind of the world’s events or can they really be beaten by a guy on the radio selling alt-med? Either George Soros is so powerful that he controls elections and the courts or he’s so weak that a nobody pointing him out can foil his plans? 

Historically, the Illuminati die when Bavaria outlaws them. It dies, because too many of the members were looking for the pageantry of Masonry without all of the education and goals. They wanted a place to hang out and cosplay like wizards. This was something that they could get at regular Masonry. The first few pages of this chapter pull a bait and switch. Robison talks about the plans of Weishaupt and his alleged communications with other people (I say “alleged” because unlike the previous chapter, Robison mentions letters without quoting them or providing a date and time); and then acts as though those plans have already happened. Perhaps, the planning was real–it is very possible that once kicked out of Bavaria, Weishaupt communicated with some people about rebuilding. In fact, this is not only possible but I would grant that it is very likely. The likelihood of planning such a thing has no impact on whether it happened. 

The evidence that Weishaupt presents for this infection of Illuminati; is that there was an arms race in the various religions over which could offer the most liberal version of their faith. This is a very telling statement, because the Illuminati conspiracy theory is always fostered by the generation’s conservatives against perceived liberalism. As I have written many times in the walkthrough of this book, and the last book; Robison can see the growing liberalism in Masonry, religion, and society; and it must be the fault of someone or something that isn’t just a general growth of society. As evidence of my position, “The freedom of enquiry, which was supported by the state in Protestant Germany, was terribly abused (for what will the folly of man not abuse) and degenerated into a wanton licentiousness of thought, and a range for speculation and scepticism on every subject whatever.” 

Here, Robison is complaining that the government’s support of knowledge and education was the problem because it led to people looking into things that Robison didn’t agree with. It’s the colonial period’s equivalent of American conservatives who support the 1st Amendment but only when it comes to books they approve of. The very next sentence laments that the struggle used to be between Catholic and Protestant interpretations of religion but now, “had changed, during the gradual progress of luxury and immorality, into a contest between reason and superstition.”

Robison is making a good case, but not the one he intends to make. The “problem” in Germany is that life became a bit too easy. It was no longer the perpetual struggle against starvation that it had once been. This fact, in turn, led to a bit more leisure time, and coupled with growing literacy and access to books…superstition begins to look a lot more like just something that older people told you was true. We saw this with the birth of the internet and the growth of irreligion. In that case, however, it was not just access to information it was also access to other people for support. In many places in the US, a non-believer is an enemy and people just faked it. Knowledge increases in times of luxury because the people have time to not die. Agricultura in Egypt created the “Schola” class, which were the mathematicians and natural philosophers that allowed Egypt to dominate their region for a few thousand years. 

Hypatia of Alexandria: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 123-126

August 24, 2022 Leave a comment

 Robison’s big worry is that women will no longer have the same place in society that they do in his time (18th century) if the Illuminati take over. He frames this as a concern that their place will get worse. Though I’m very puzzled as to how this would be possible. Short of making women literal slaves, there is not much “down” it can get. He’s worried about their modesty, and how the French women are showing their arms (and presumably shoulders) at the opera. 

This entire section reminds me of Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s book Herland. The book portrays three men who stumble upon a civilization of only women (they reproduce via magic–it’s sci-fi the author gets to break one rule). The narrator is the “good” one, who thinks women are people; but the other two (Jeff and Terry) are misogynists. Terry is the obvious one, he thinks that women are incapable of doing the work that went into building the civilization, and he tries to force himself on one of the women after they have a marriage ceremony–only to find out that the women of this world are able to defend it and themselves. However, Jeff treats the women around him “great.” He never lets them do work, opens doors for them, and only speaks of them in the highest praise. However, he’s just as misogynistic as the other man–it’s just that it presents in the opposite manner. He also doesn’t think that they should work because they are too delicate and lithe to handle. He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t think women should vote because they shouldn’t have to worry about things like that; whereas his compadre doesn’t think women can worry about things like that. 

Robison is the type of misogyny of the latter person. He might even really believe that Christianity has been protecting women, but he’s factually incorrect about this. Especially here, when he’s going to compare his Christian Women with the women of ancient times. I’m not going to pretend that the ancient world’s women had it much better than the 18th-century woman. I will say that because of the pantheon of religions in the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds; there was a slight chance that they could have it better. 

What’s more puzzling is the example he trots out: Hypatia of Alexandria. Hypatia of Alexandria is a character in history that I’ve become a bit more familiar with in the last few months. The daughter of Theon of Alexandria–they were both philosophers, astronomers, and mathematicians in the city of Alexandria (long after the great library existed). Hypatia was known for being a great teacher who seamlessly took over her father’s school and was well-liked and popular with the local ruling Roman government. Robison is using her as an example of a Greek Philosopher who personifies the qualities of Christian female virtue; but the trouble is, that she existed in Christian times. Here is what he says of her, “we read of Hypatia, daughter of Theon, the mathematician at Alexandria, who was a prodigy of excellence, and taught philosophy, i.e. the art of leading a good and happy life, with great applause in the famous Alexandrian school.–but she was also in times of Christianity, and was the intimate friend of Syncellus and other Christian Bishops.

That’s the total of his commentary on her, we can’t blame him for the succinctness–nothing of Hypatia’s original works has survived and all we have are the glowing accounts of her intelligence and beauty from contemporaries. There are a couple of problems even in these few sentences though, first astronomy and math were the same at this period of time; ok, not a real problem but a little nit-picky for me the philosophy professor. Secondly, philosophy at this point means any kind of thing that isn’t math or war. What Hypatia is teaching is Neoplatonism–a relatively obscure philosophical school that taught that physical reality was a shade of the One. There are some teachings within Neoplatonism that could lead you to believe that Hypatia taught the ways to a good and happy life, but that is all conjecture. We know, from contemporary accounts, that she was an astronomer/philosopher whose teachings of the natural world directly contradicted the various Christian doctrines at the time. No one cared though, because Alexandria was one of the most cosmopolitan cities at the time. 

Hypatia’s role in Robison is difficult because of how she meets her end. It is due to a Christian Bishop in a power struggle with the Roman prefect of Alexandria, Orestes. Hypatia was an advisor to Orestes, and the Bishop, Cyril–was struggling to gain power. He disliked the pagans and Jews living in the city viewing them to be affronts to his religion; Orestes seemed to not care in the true Roman style of “believe what you want, but pay us our tax.” Hypatia was not only an advisor but it is argued by some historians (Haas 2006) that the friendship was cultivated by Orestes in order to secure the Pagan block of citizens. No matter the case, the Bishop eventually gets tired of this philosopher and drums up a riot amongst his most fervent of followers led by a lector named Peter. They attacked her caravan, and butchered her with oyster shells (which are extremely sharp), taking her body parts, and burning them outside the city walls. 

Gibbon, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” claims that her death was because she was a pagan and created the myth that she was a martyr of philosophy. This is partly true. In Alexandria, at the time, a philosopher was untouchable. The mobs left them alone but would harry their supporters. Her ideas got her killed, but only because she advised Orestes; had she not done that, it is likely that eventually she would have been exiled from the city as Cyril gains power. 

Modern feminist interpretations claim that she died because she was a woman with authority. Again, this is partly true. It was easier for Cyril to rile up his followers by claiming that she was a pagan witch who “beguiled” Orestes. However, she was able to teach in Alexandria as a woman and run her father’s school by herself for a few years before her murder. The manner of her death–being stripped naked and then carved to pieces is probably influenced by her sex; but I’m willing to entertain that there is probably some meaning behind it that is lost to history. In some cases, the manner of the death is a message as well.

What matters is that a Christian Bishop upset at the influence a Pagan Philosopher had in Roman Alexandria–had her murdered after a long smear campaign calling her a witch; this is the example that Robison wants to use to explain how virtuous Christianity holds women. The rest of the chapter is about how women will lose their perfection if the Illuminati’s teachings infect them. Like Jeff from Herland, the women are not people but delicate treasures to be appreciated and then put away. The Illuminati are seeking to end that, and Robison is appealing to the men (not the women) to shock them into action in the fear that women will start getting bad ideas like those bare-armed harlots attending the French Operas. 

And finally, this chapter ends. We start chapter III, and the German Union; and just maybe we will get our conspiracy. 

Women Trouble: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 113-123

August 17, 2022 Leave a comment

We ended last week with Robison’s very long and circular fallacy of the appeal to false authority. To recap, he lauds Newton–as he should–but then claims that because Newton believed in god we all should too. In fact, all of the smart people in his time believed in god, so therefore…that belief is what made them smart. It’s a long fallacy that is seeking to discredit Weishaupt on intellectual grounds because it looks like that is what he was doing. It’s a sleight of hand trick that works in person, but when we read this kind of trick it is more confusing than anything else. As I wrote, and repeatedly said, “why are we talking about Laplace again?” 

By this point in the work, we are aware that Robison does not like the Illuminati and he’s laid out their case of Deism/atheism. In the 18th century that should be enough, so this roundabout tactic is unnecessary. It’s especially redundant because Robison can trade on his name if he wants. It is the only reason that anyone is buying this book and the only reason anyone is reading it, “Hey, the Scot who invented the siren says X…” Bringing other people into it is just piling on and it is especially annoying because it doesn’t work.

The subversion of Christianity, the overthrow of the monarchy, the injection of general chaos into Europe? Is this the worst possible future for Robison? No. 

There is nothing in the whole constitution of the Illuminati that strikes me with more horror than the proposals of Hercules and Minos to enlist the women in this shocking warfare with all that is, ‘good, and pure, and lovely, and of good report.”

In the end, it always comes down to something like this. When violence and anarchy won’t grab someone’s attention sex always will. Let’s make a mistake here, this is about sex more than it is about women. Robison warns the women readers that they risk their “dignity, and for their rank in society,” if they fall in with these Illuminati. Robison claims that “if they are remiss, and yield to the seduction, they will fall from that high state to which they have arisen in Christian Europe, and again sink into that insignificancy or slavery in which the sex is found in all ages and countries out of the hearing of Christianity.”

I’m going to get the apologetic out of the way right now, yes 18th-century women in Europe had it better than 18th-century women in China. That’s only because of the footbinding, because other than that–someone needs to tell me the difference. An 18th-century woman in the UK cannot vote, she cannot own property without a strange sequence of events, she barely chooses who she can marry, there are no protections against marital rape. I suppose she is allowed to speak without having permission granted, but the “woman” is only not a slave in terminology. 

Any rights she has scraped together is not because of Christianity but in spite of it. 1 Timothy 2:9-15  declares that a woman shall not teach a man nor hold power over him. She must dress modestly and that because Eve sinned before Adam women are forever inferior to men. Their only saving grace is child bearing. 

That’s Christian doctrine. It’s not better before that letter to Timothy, and will not get better after this part of the Bible. The problem that exists here is that Robison is afraid that his place is going to get lost if the Illuminati were to have their way. Let’s be clear about what he claims that the Illuminati want: they want women to teach other women their precepts of deism, equality, and rationalism. Now, they would not let the women run their own school, there would be a male prefect or something in charge. So clearly the Illuminati aren’t the modern progressives, but they are leaps and bounds above Robison is denigrating them with the label the “fairer sex.” He goes to great pains to discuss how delicate, polite, and friendly. He even quotes a Mr. Ledyard (I assume the explorer John Ledyard), who has been around the world and met all kinds of women and they all had the traits of being “civil, obliging, tender, and humane;” 

Robison claims that the Illuminati will do away with this gentle disposition of women all in the name of equality. Which, he sees as a bad thing. Instead of the docile friendly woman, you would have an equal with their opinions who may or may not be friendly toward you. This future Illuminated woman might show up to the opera with other beautiful women, “laying aside all modesty, and presenting themselves to the public view, with bared limbs, a la Sauvage, as the alluring objects of desire.”

This fear is written because that’s what was reported to be happening in France after the revolution. Women were showing up to the opera, without male accompaniment, and with bared arms. Those dirty sluts! What horror if such a thing were to spread. It must be stopped and the chain of religion can restrain the women from such expression (but didn’t Christianity make them free?). Robison continues in such a long rant about the worth of women and how her rights are indebted to religious moralism that one might be under the impression he was writing to women. 

No. This section is not for women, it is for men who are worried about losing their position. It is through Cicero’s attack on the Epicurean school that we learned about the Epicureans. Here, it is through Robison’s attack on the proposal to educate women. We learn that the Illuminati wanted to educate women in the enlightenment values and that this was a threat. However, it wasn’t a threat to the women, they could still be affable, friendly, comforting, etc. it’s just that their place in society would be different. They didn’t have to be those things and that is what scares Robison. People don’t get worried for other people in this manner unless they are concerned that their existing relationship with them will be changed. Allowing women to vote gave them a say in how they are governed, which is why so many people opposed it. Yes, no longer can frivolous gossip occupy their time amongst the upper classes, now they get to participate in the political discussions because they can change it. The Illuminati is going to harm women by educating them–people that agree with that statement, those are the ones that he is writing to. 

Robison then goes on with a comparison between women of the ancient world and those of his UK. That will be interesting and for next week. 

Newton: Proofs of a Conspiracy pp. 107-113

August 10, 2022 Leave a comment

 Now we deal with Newton. Sir Isaac Newton, to be more specific. This is going to be a very interesting section for the reason that I’m a bit familiar with Newton’s natural philosophy (re: science). Yes, of course, we are all familiar with his mechanics and gravitational theory. Newton also believed in the aether, committing to the claim that, in the words of Greek Philosopher Parmenides, that which is not, is not, and cannot be. Newton means that the void is impossible. There cannot be space that is truly empty, there always must be something that fills it, to provide the action at a distance of gravity. The Earth and the Moon are locked in a gravitational dance, but the force of gravity has to work through something. That something is the quintessential ether (that’s a word joke as “quintessential” means “fifth element”). 

Robison has just come off a long rant about how the Illuminati was going to refrain from teaching the truth of religion (he means Christianity, but he doesn’t explain which Christianity he wants them to teach). So then a sharp pivot towards introducing Newton whom he introduces, “Our immortal Newton, whom the philosophers of Europe look up to as the honour of our species…”

And it goes on. 

Newton’s gravitational proof overturned Aristotle’s claim that things fell because they were heavy. Up until Newton, one should remember, Aristotle’s Physics held for over two thousand years. Newton’s held for a couple of centuries until Einstein. These three each shifted the paradigm for natural inquiry. Newton cannot be praised highly enough for this…but I’m wondering what he’s doing here. Before we move on, I’ll offer a guess–Newton was in a kind of controversy over his discovery and some religious figures who didn’t think gravity gelled with the Bible. I think Robison is going to argue that gravity proves god. Newton’s controversy was very minor, and Newton reasserted his religious allegiance (he was a doomsday nutter and an alchemist too) and everyone left it aside.

Robison, after a bit of lauding the gravitational discovery of Newton, quotes him at the end of his work. I’m not going to reproduce the quote in its entirety, because Robison uses a three-paragraph long quotation where Newton talks about his love for god, and how we can not perceive how god perceives in the same way that a blind man cannot perceive colors. 

This quote comes from the appendix to the second edition of Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” called the “General Scholium.” This is Newton appending his scientific work with his views on how it works within theology. Alright, let’s put a pin in this and continue on with the work. 

Robison then moves on to a Delaplace, which I think he means Pierre Laplace, who expanded on Newton’s work. Laplace was an interesting fellow who once claimed that if he had perfect knowledge of one particle he could derive the entire past and present of the universe. This is impossible of course, because that kind of knowledge doesn’t exist, but it’s an interesting claim about a deterministic universe. What is Laplace doing here? 

Robison leaves Laplace with another long quote, in this Laplace comments that it is a folly that man believes that he is at the center of all the motions of gravity and the planets. That our greatest mistake is in assuming that all of the creation is for us. We are no more important to nature as a citizen of Pelew (he means Palau) is to France (Palau was a Spanish-controlled colony at the time). Laplace goes on, “Far be from us the dangerous maxim, that it is sometimes useful to depart from these, and to deceive men, in order to insure their happiness; but cruel experience has shewn us that these laws are never totally extinct.

Laplace’s point is that we should never forget that we are not the center of nature, and pretending that we are in order to keep people happy may be useful but it is incorrect. Again I ask, what is Laplace doing here? 

From Newton to Laplace to David (king of the Jews). David here reiterates his place in the order of the world, saying that people are just lower on the hierarchy than the angels. Ok, I’m still confused but no matter as Robison name drops Francis Bacon, John Locke, and then another mathematician Daniel Bernoulli.  

He stops name-dropping here and eventually gets to the point. These four pages were all set up to the conclusion that Adam Weishaupt is wrong because these five men believed in an afterlife. My earlier guess was wrong because I was giving Robison too much credit. Robison writes, “Were this a proper place for considering the question as a question of science or truth, I would say, that every man who has been a successful student of nature, and who will rest his conclusions on the same maxims of probable reasoning that have procured him success in his past researches, will consider it as next to certain that there is another state of existence for rational man.

Let’s dispense with this right away, and reject the premise. Robison asks if this were a proper place for considering the afterlife as a matter of the science of truth. It is not. It is not a scientific question in that it cannot be answered with objective means. We will all find out, but we aren’t going to be able to tell anyone about it. Secondly, the methodology by which Newton, Laplace, Bernoulli, etc. became successful cannot be honestly applied to theological questions as they are non-overlapping magesteria. The person to ask would be someone with a doctorate in theology, which we have in Adam Weishaupt, for whom Robison is rejecting. 

The larger point that Robison is trying to make is that Illuminism is terrible because it dashes the hope that people place in the afterlife. While that may make people turn away from the Illuminati it does not make them wrong. The existence of Hell is a similar dashing of hope but I’m not seeing Robison chiding that for putting people off of the idea that the God of Christianity is about vengeance not justice. 

Even if, Robison was correct, this is just a polemic playing on the religious sensibilities of the reader. Robison should just be content that people will look at the Deistic doctrine of the Illuminati and say, “not for me;” condemning the group to a slow death in the marketplace of ideas. Where I thought he was going was to use Newton’s order of the universe to make an argument from design. This argument would be bad and as much of a non-sequitur as the one Robison does present, but it would have been a much more apt use of Newton and Laplace than the “well they think there’s an afterlife too” argument that is thrown in here.

I still don’t know what the point is though. Why go to this trouble when Robison still hasn’t proven the conspiracy itself? The most that we have gotten is from the title thus far. and we are approaching the half way point. 

The World We Live In: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 102-107

August 3, 2022 Leave a comment

I’ve long claimed that Robison’s complaint is that the world is changing around him and he wants to blame the Illuminati for it. Finally, he comes to a summary about the Illuminati itself: “The objects, the undoubted objects of this Association, are surely dangerous and detestable; viz. to overturn the present constitutions of the European States, in order to introduce a chimera which the history of mankind shows to be contrary to the nature of man.”

This brings to mind the writing of Thomas Hobbes who, on the day the Spanish Armada was set to invade England was born. Hobbes claimed that it was his mother’s hearing of the alarm bells that began her delivery, “my mother gave birth to two things that night, myself and fear.” 

He was fun at parties.

Anyway, the political writings of Hobbes claim that human beings need order and without an order force life will be (in his most famous quip) “nasty, brutish, and short.” Hobbes’ philosophy claims that surrendering all rights to violence to a central figure, the sovereign, would be the only way human civilization could exist. Otherwise, it would be a violent state of nature. Total anarchy, and a “war of all against all.” 

Hobbes’s philosophy has some problems: his view of human nature is utterly negative and can be contrasted with Locke’s state of nature in which everyone lives peacefully. Both are incorrect but what is important is that Hobbes–was influential. Hobbes was also used as an excuse by those in support of monarchy to justify their position. Hobbes would claim that without a divinely appointed monarch, society would collapse turning on itself–they would say (he actually didn’t care what the sovereign power was, just that there was something). 

Robison is echoing this idea. Chaos can only result from the Illuminati’s efforts because people need a monarch to keep them in line. Even if the Illuminati got their way it couldn’t stand according to Robison because it is human nature, “All their professions of the love of mankind are vain; nay, their Illumination must be a bewildering blaze, and totally ineffectual for its purpose, for it has had no such influence on the leaders of the band; yet it seems adequate to the effects it has produced; for such are the characters of those who forget god.”

The problem of the Illuminati is that they think human morality can exist without god. Which is a strange contradiction that Robison posits. People cannot be good without god, but in a state of nature, they will immediately turn on each other? The Illuminati cannot remove god from a person’s belief system, they can only–not teach it. Lots of Christians get this wrong–you can’t teach atheism qua atheism, you can only not actively teach god stuff. The Illuminati was not going to teach religion, but unlike Robison’s claims, you can still teach morality. His claims are odd given that at this time period Kant’s ethics are ripping through Europe while a proto-Utilitarianism is being developed in England. There’s no reason, other than an appeal to tradition, to think that without a divinely appointed monarch would society crumble into blood-fueled anarchy. The Illuminati is pledging to instruct people in rationalism without theism and Robison is afraid of this. This is one of those things where the fear is very telling–shouldn’t god be able to withstand a movement by a bunch of 18th-century book nerds? The answer is apparently “NO” which is why they must be stopped at all costs. 

Robison goes on to complain that the Masonic lodges were being filled with youthful, lazy (no one wants to work anymore), literati; who have no knowledge of the world. This is more neophobia and this kind of “kids these days…” argument I would rather have at family functions so I’ll move on.

Robison complains more about the Illuminated’s rejection of god and how their teaching will ultimately fail. I don’t know if he means that overall teaching or something specific. I assume it is the general claims but Robison appeals to some Illuminati method but fails to make specific claims against it. Then Robison returns to more god stuff, claiming that the grand secret of the Order is that “there is no such superintendence of the Deity.”

That’s it? That’s the grand secret that the Illuminati were not atheists but Deists. Deism, I’ve explained before, is the religious belief that god is a clockmaker who winds the clock and never pays any more attention to it. Sure the deity may look at the clock once in a while, but will never interfere or touch it again. I’m rather meh, about this secret. 

Yet the problem, Robison correctly identifies, is that once Deism is accepted–the rest of religion were only “old wives tales” or fables. Which, yes, they are. That’s true Robison, once you take the religion out of the picture, you are left with a bunch of stories–most of which do not make any sense and are terrible. The only reason we think that they are any good is that they held divine backing. Remove that, and you’re left with some bad stories about talking donkeys and a guy that ties torches to the tails of foxes. 

This deism is so offensive to Robison that it warps the judgment of men and gives “quite another appearance to the same object.” 

I don’t know what this means, but Robison begs us to give him leave to expound on this at length. I will give him that leave since we’ve basically decided that there is no more conspiracy and this is now a philosophical work. Next week we’ll tackle this expounding as he begins with a possible attack on Isaac Newton. It’s been a while since I’ve looked forward to a section but I’ll have to do that. 

Origin Story: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 77-102

July 27, 2022 Leave a comment

This book is trying my patience. I was expecting conspiracy claims here and instead, I’m getting gossip stories about a nerd club that only existed for a brief period. It’s frustrating because I was promised this book showed the Illuminati’s secrets. I am beginning to think that none of those later conspiracy theorists have actually read it. Aside from the overall lofty goal of teaching the ideals of the Illuminati, the code names, there isn’t a conspiracy here. There’s nothing but a group that would be nothing more than a humanist activist group today. 

Gary Allen’s book, “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” was boring, but it was boring because he went into tedious “detail” about how one rich guy knew another. This book isn’t even that. While Allen and the John Birch Society are conservative conspiracy theorists, they seem to be motivated by a fear of communism. Now, I need to be clear; they are not afraid of real communism, they are fearful of the made-up version of Communism that they’ve created in their heads. The world in which Richard Nixon, is too liberal. This book comes across as just an old man yelling at a cloud. 

I’ve mentioned this feature before. Robison’s problem at the beginning of the book was that Masonry was changing from when he was a member. Well, he never really was a member, he just hung out there a few times, knew a bunch of people, but never got into it. Now with the Illuminati, he seems to be complaining that this new group, spawned from the membership of German Masonry, has ideas that he doesn’t like. The abortion scandal from last week’s post is no longer mentioned, just dispensed with as though Robison didn’t try and muster moral outrage about it. It’s so in the past for this book that I almost wish I hadn’t written about it last week. 

This week he brings up that Weishaupt had promised to introduce the concept of materialism (the philosophical concept that we are made only of matter and nothing else) as well as explaining that atheism was friendly to society. Then, in Weishaupt’s Apology, he claims that his opinion of teaching newcomers these concepts was retracted. Robison claims that this is a lie because Philo had to step in and prevent the teaching of “bare of flat atheism” at the lodge in Regensberg. Putting aside the concept of “bare atheism” my question is: why am I supposed to care? The point that Robison is making is nothing more than to shock his audience into realizing what the dirty atheists are about. 

The second moral shock is that, are you sitting down? You should sit down and take a shot of some brandy before you hear this. Ok, are you ready? I’ll quote directly from the letter from Minos to Sebastian that Robison cites:

The Proposal of Hercules to establish a Minerval school for girls is excellent, but requires much circumspection. Philo and I have a long conversed on this subject. We cannot improve the world without improving women, who have such a mighty influence on the men…” 

The Illuminati was going to teach women! That’s it. The entire reason that this letter is brought up is that they are planning on teaching women. The letter has some old-time misogyny in it, but it comes across as downright progressive for the 18th century. Minos writes that women are fickle and may not want to keep with it. Also that the women would not be in charge of their school. Philo’s wife would be in charge but he would be in charge of her. The interesting part of this is that the men of the group would be forbidden from being members of this group. I wonder if this was a suggestion to protect the women from the lechery of the men. The letter concludes: 

“Nay there is a risk that they may take it into their heads to give things an opposite turn, and then, by voluptuous allurements, heightened by affected modesty and decency, which give them an irresistible empire over the best men, they may turn our order upside down, and in their turn will lead the new one.”

So there’s a bit of forecasting that the women could take over. This is not presented as scary or a dreadful consequence by the writer of the letter. Robison just cuts it off there so I have no idea if this is fear or something the Illuminati were looking forward to. Robison doesn’t even comment on it after presenting the letter, apparently just showing that they planned on teaching women should have been shocking enough. 

What follows is more tedium. There is a description of the ranks of the Illuminati from the lowest Preparation (this is the first rank) to the Greater Rex (the highest). Then a deep dive into the rank of the Scotch Knight (or Illuminati Dirigens). The Scotch Knight is to never bend the knee to another man, and his indoctrination into the rank is called the love-feast, and Robison provides a description of that ceremony. 

It’s very boring. It’s just the weirdness of Masonry married to the rationality of the enlightenment. If you like this kind of stuff or are engaging in some kind of Illuminati Cosplay, read pages 80-87. It reads like the price of corn in Adam Smith, someone is interested in these details. I would be if I were going to compare the claims of someone like Alex Jones to the actual Illuminati, but otherwise, it’s just trivia. 

Robison then details a series of questions that members are asked and none of these are objectionable. The questions concern whether the member thinks that a king’s power could be abused or whether the emancipation of women would be a good thing. They stress the clandestine nature of the group and how their strength would be in recruiting members from all walks of life. 

I’m going to close this week’s post with this final point. We’ve covered 28 pages today, but of that, Robison has barely written anything. What he’s done is quote large swathes of this section with a sentence here and there introducing the quotes. In this respect, Robison is setting up the template that conspiracy theorists are going to use until the present day. Just cast suspicion on someone then cherry-pick a quote and let the reader do all of the work for you. On top of that, just carpet bomb them with needless details so that the reader loses focus and then closes with “and that’s why it’s bad.” Sure the details of the dinner called “the love feast” were good to know, but it serves no purpose other than bewilderment.  Shameless self-promotion aside, Robison thinks all of this is proving his point, but I still have no idea what the point is. By page 102 he should have made it, all I know is that he doesn’t like the Illuminati and doesn’t like that they want to teach women. 

The Abortion: Proofs of a Conspiracy…pp. 73-77

July 20, 2022 Leave a comment

This is a weird coincidence that I could, in no way, have planned out. I do not do a lot of planning ahead for this blog. I preview each section a week ahead of time but there is no schedule. I do not have a calendar (July 20th, discuss abortion), because I do not know two weeks ahead of time what I will be covering. All of that being said, this would have been one hell of a coincidence if the topic came up three weeks ago.

(International readers: the US effectively outlawed federal protection for abortion rights three weeks ago)

One of my character traits is that I don’t gossip. I’m not bragging, it’s just that I don’t see the point. I can see that some people may get a certain catharsis from gossiping, I can also see that some people may use other people’s foibles to launch into larger discussions. In the case of the last viewpoint, I make up issues for my ethics courses that would be the stuff of gossip to discuss ethical issues concerning lying or cheating. I am not taking a moral high road against cheating, in my mind, one is presented with two options: you can be someone who gossips or you can be someone that keeps secrets. I chose the latter. 

Of course, there is a certain case of the gossip monger. Someone that spreads rumors and repeats every salacious detail can simply for the reason that they have that information. This person, I believe has a place in hell according to Dante (circle 8 bolgia 9 perhaps), needs to gossip because it makes them feel better about themselves. Jen and Nick’s divorce is just fodder for them because they get to tsk tsk about the divorce but they also get to feel important for knowing about it. 

This is going to cleave together my second introduction topic (well, third actually), which is the ad hominem fallacy. The fallacy of ad hominem is when you attack the arguer rather than the argument. Instead of dealing with what the person is saying, I just attack their character and call it a win. This happens all of the time, and I’m not going to detail the fallacy or the construction of it; because I do that at my other job.

All three of these topics come together in a letter from Spartacus (Weishaupt) to Marius (I forget) dated September of 1783. Weishaupt writes, “I am now in the most embarrassing of situations…What think you–my sister-in-law is with child.”

Ooops. Weishaupt knocked up his sister-in-law. Though I think that the term actually means something else in his day because he’s trying to get a marriage license to legitimize the baby. Unless he means his brother’s wife’s sister–but my brother’s wife’s sister isn’t my sister-in-law. Weishaupt complains that he’s always been so careful in the past, but this time, well Weishaupt has an oopsie-baby on the way.

Robison, thinking the reader is a dullard, sheds light on the situation by referencing a different letter. This one is also from Weishaupt but to Cato (Zwack–one of the other higher-ups in the Illuminati) dated about the same time, but Robison never provides us with a date. In this letter, Weishaupt asks Zwack if Zwack finds it agreeable to have Weishaupt as a brother-in-law. 

Robison seems confused about this as well. He describes the situation as the woman being either Weishaupt’s former wife’s sister (his first wife had died) or the widow of a deceased brother. In either case, it seems like Zwack is the brother of the woman, and thus by 18th century standards needs to give permission for the woman to marry. Weishaupt attempts to procure the solution, which is a medically induced abortion but we are not left with an answer as to whether he was successful. The issue seems to just vanish and we are left with no conclusion. This, however, does not stop Robison from offering a different end to the story, “I meet with another account, that the sister of Zwack threw herself from the top of a tower, and beat out her brains..”

Let’s be clear, Robison made this story up. There’s no information or letter which describes the death of a woman by suicide. In fact, Robison claims that the woman and child were fine. The woman became a midwife and the baby, “who now lives to thank his father for his endeavors to murder him.” 

What’s fascinating is that the pro-forced birth position has not changed in centuries. What is also left out of the story is the woman’s point of view. Which is another example of the forced birth side of things never changing. Did she want the child? Did she want to get married? We can assume that she wanted to avoid the scandal as much as Weishaupt…perhaps even more, but what matters here is not the situation, it is why we are reading about it. This has no bearing on the conspiracy itself or the allegations of conspiracy. It’s just gossip. In the kingdom of Bavaria Weishaupt’s attempt to procure an abortive remedy may have been illegal–but that has no bearing on the Illuminati. 

This is just moral outrage fodder for the gossip mongers reading the book. It is such an ad hominem because it completely ignores the position that the Illuminati was taking with regard to the effect of the church on the state. In fact, it is plain that it ignores it since the entire concept of the scandal is only based on the cultural pressure of children only being permitted within wedlock. Robison continues to miss the point when he compares the ideals of Weishaupt and how he seemed to be repulsed at Cato’s licentiousness. I don’t see the contradiction, Cato’s prodigal ways were scaring off some men of influence they had hoped to recruit, and Weishaupt admits that he had always been careful but this time the woman still became pregnant. The fact that he had to get married, despite his objections to the church isn’t hypocrisy to his ideals if that’s the only way forwards as a legitimate person. The only way that the child isn’t a bastard is if they are married. The only way the woman isn’t a whore is if they are married. Weishaupt is just playing ball here. Weishaupt also admits, according to Robison, all of the facts of the case.

Robison seems to take offense at Weishaupt’s excuse of needing to maintain a legitimate standing in society, but I fail to see why he is offended. The only reason that Robison brings it up is to discredit him and it seems to have worked. So yes Robison, the very fact that you are using this saga to belittle and discredit both Weishaupt and the Illuminati is the reason the Weishaupt attempted to hide it.