“Master Conspiracy” Redux

Monday, June 15th, 2009 | Illuminati myths

Seal of the Illuminati-controlled Munich Lodge St. Théodore du bon Conseil (St. Theodor vom guten Rat), c. 1780. Of note, top center, is the owl of Minerva, the symbol of the Illuminati

Seal of the Illuminati-controlled Munich Lodge St. Théodore du bon Conseil (St. Theodor vom guten Rat), c. 1780. Of note, top center, is the owl of Minerva

by Terry Melanson (15/6/2009)

The New American website has posted a slightly redacted version of William H. McIlhany’s 1996 article which appeared in the September 16, 1996 issue of The New American. (The original can be read here, which, in turn, appears to be based on one of McIlhany’s presentations).

I first became aware of McIlhany’s writings on the Illuminati in 2000. At the time I was very impressed by what I read, and immediately realized that his information on the real Bavarian Illuminati was more thorough than most. However, my own knowledge on the subject is a bit more advanced than it was some nine years ago. So with that in mind, here are some exaggerations and/or misrepresentations which struck me as I reread the article at The New American for the first time in years.

“Kölmer” and the Origin of the Lesser and Greater Mysteries of the Illuminati

According to McIlhany, Weishaupt was “instructed by a mysterious occultist named Kölmer.” The only problem I have with this statement is that it is not qualified with “alleged” or “purported.”

The Kölmer legend first appeared in Volume III of Abbé Augustin Barruel’s tome against Philosophes, Freemasons, the Illuminati and the Jacobins. He related it rather tentatively as a rumour going round, and as a possible way of explaining the ostensibly advanced nature of Weishaupt’s mysteries.

It is not known, and it would be difficult to discover, whether Weishaupt ever had a master, or whether he is himself the great original of those monstrous doctrines on which he founded his school. There exists, however, a tradition which on the authority of some of his adepts we shall lay before the reader.

According to this tradition, a Jutland merchant, who had lived some time in Egypt, began in the year 1771 to overrun Europe, pretending to initiate adepts in the antient mysteries of Memphis. But from more exact information I have learned that he stopped for some time at Malta, where the only mysteries which he taught were the disorganizing tenets of the antient Illuminees, of the adopted slave; and these he sedulously infused into the minds of the people. These principles began to expand, and the island was already threatened with revolutionary confusion, when the Knights very wisely obliged our modern Illuminee to seek his safety in flight. The famous Count (or rather mountebank) Cagliostro is said to have been a disciple of his, as well as some other adepts famous for their Illuminism in the county of Avignon and at Lyons. In his peregrinations, it is said, he met with Weishaupt, and initiated him in his mysteries. If impiety and secrecy could entitle a person to such an initiation, never had any man better claims than Weishaupt. More artful and wicked than Cagliostro, he knew how to direct them among his disciples to very different ends.

Whatever may have been the fact with respect to this first master, it is very certain that Weishaupt needed none.

- In Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, Real-View-Books reprint (1995), pp. 402-3.

Unfortunately, Barruel gave no citation nor provided a single clue as to which of Weishaupt’s adepts had recounted the story. Furthermore, Barruel’s book is the first instance in print of the Kölmer speculation, and all subsequent authors afterwards who have repeated it are relying solely on this one passage. Count Le Couteulx de Canteleu’s Les Sectes et Sociétés Secrètes draws attention to it (adding that Kölmer may be identical to Cagliostro’s alleged Master, Altotas), while Nesta Webster reiterated both Le Couteulx de Canteleu and Barruel.

In any case, Barruel was correct when he added the caveat that, in truth, Weishaupt needed no Master.

We now know much about Weishaupt’s influences - from philosophers such as Wolff, Leibniz, Bonnet, Locke, Meiners and Feder; to the precise number of books (4212 volumes) he had full access to in the library of his godfather Ickstatt - that “a Kölmer” is totally unnecessary. Ickstatt’s library may have been one the largest personal collections in Europe. Having free roam amongst the stacks, Weishaupt became an eclectic and a precocious bibliophile (see Perfectibilists, p. 16 and n.6 on p. 41).

Meiners, Christoph (1747 Warstade, Germany – 1810 Göttingen, Germany) Noms de Guerre: Dicearch/Belisar (December 1783, Illuminatus Major)

Christoph Meiners (1747 Warstade, Germany – 1810 Göttingen, Germany) Noms de Guerre: Dicearch/Belisar (December 1783, Illuminatus Major)

Books were constantly being recommended to his initiates. Most of his “mysteries” had in fact been culled from choice sections among the writings of Meiners and Feder (who in turn became Illuminati themselves), Rousseau, Leibniz and Wolff. And while Nesta Webster gives credence to the Kölmer myth on the basis that some of the Illuminati mysteries reference such things as Fire Worship, Zoroastrianism, and the Mysteries of Eleusis; the plain fact is the very idea for such a thing stems from the contemporary religious studies of Meiners, a fellow philosopher whom Weishaupt admired.

German Illuminati expert Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, writes:

From the outset, the Illuminaten Order evidently regarded itself as a competitor in an emporium … Between 1777 and 1779, Weishaupt developed the foundations of a grade system, initiatory rites, and a language using geographical and historical terminology…

For this purpose, two texts on the history of religion by the Göttingen professor of philosophy Christoph Meiners (1747-1810) were fundamental, namely Über die Mysterien der Alten, besonders über die Eleusinischen Geheimnisse (1776) and De Zoroastris vita, institutis, doctrina et libris Commentatio prior (1778). Meiners portrayed the ancient mysteries as a double initiation of believers. Superstitious notions were conveyed in the “Lesser Mysteries”, while in the “Greater Mysteries” the veil of superstition was torn away and those deemed worthy were initiated into the truths of rational understanding of God. Weishaupt accordingly drafted first texts for the Lesser and Greater Mysteries of the Illuminaten – “The religion of reason” as a mystery of an esoteric league –, and this idea was the starting point of the Illuminaten “order-system.”The presentation of the mystery grades, above all the form of the initiations and the temple, was conceived as an adaptation of the “fire-worship” of Zarathustra. The worldly struggle of the Illuminaten was related to the dualistic struggle between good and evil as cosmic principles. In June 1778, Weishaupt first dated an Order letter from “Eleusis” rather than “Ingolstadt”; simultaneously he began to use an ancient Persian calendar for dates. In this early phase, when Weishaupt was solely in charge, the secret society of the Illuminaten was conceived as a mystery league on the basis of the Enlightenment’s understanding of the history and criticism of religion.

- Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, “Illuminaten” entry, in Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Brill Academic Publishers, 2005, p. 593.

As early as January, 1778, we find Weishaupt recommending Meiners to his trusted student/disciple/initiate, Franz Xaver von Zwack (Cato). “[R]ead … Various Philosophic [Writings] from Meiners, in three parts,” Weishaupt writes. “In the latter, one finds a treatise on the Eleusinian mysteries, that will bring you great enlightenment” (in Einige Originalschriften des Illuminatenordens, pp. 198-9).

The entire nomenclature of the Lesser and Greater Mysteries of the Illuminati follows the pattern of what Meiners had written on the subject, who thought that it was only the Epopt of the Greater Mysteries who finally became privy to the final secret, lifting the veil of superstition: that the Gods were only men who had become deified.


McIlhany writes that members entered the “top-level circle of initiates as an Illuminatus Major, just below the position of Rex held by Weishaupt.”

Illuminatus Major wasn’t a top-level degree. They were the Masters of the Minervals, but that is about it. After that came Illuminatus Dirigens, Epopt, Regent, Magus, and then Rex or Man-King (Docetist). Weishaupt’s position was General, below that was his Areopagites, National Superiors, Provincials and Prefects.

Insinuating Brethren

McIlhany: “The secret police of the Order killed anyone who tried to inform the authorities about the conspiracy. This band was known as the ‘Insinuating Brethren’ and had as its insignia an all-seeing eye.”

1) The Illuminati did not assassinate anyone; there were quite a few defectors and denunciators, who did quite a bit of damage, but no one was murdered because of it. 2) I’ve searched for any reference, but of all the primary material - contemporary and reliable secondary ones (Le Forestier, Schüttler, Dülmen, Engel et al.) - consulted, the all-seeing eye is never once mentioned, let alone suggested that the Bavarian Illuminati had adopted it as a symbol. On the contrary; the sigil of the Illuminati was the owl of Minerva. Other prominent symbols included a pyramid painted on the floor of the Lodge during Minerval ceremonies, elements from Egypt, Greece and Rome intermingled, and the seven stars of Pleiades with the crescent moon.

Violence and Insurrection?

The “original writings of the Order,” says McIlhany, “included detailed instructions for fomenting hatred and bloodshed between different racial, religious, and ethnic groups … instructions about the kinds of buildings to be burned in urban insurrections.”

How can I say this politely? Absolute 100% bunk!

I wonder which “original writings” McIlhany has read, because the real ones do not include anything about insurrection, violence, or racial strife. The original writings contain directives that are subtle. Things like tactics for infiltration and methods of subversion. Even when revolution is hinted at, it is only in the context of a gradualist scheme. In fact, in the degree of Illuminatus Major, Weishaupt explicitly says that sudden upheaval and violent means are to be avoided in favour of infiltrating and occupying the state from within:

…it will be necessary [sic] to divest vice of its power, that the honest man may find his recompense even in this world; but in this grand project, we are counteracted by the Princes and the Priesthood; the political constitutions of nations oppose our proceedings. In such a state of things then what remains to be done? To instigate revolutions, overthrow every thing, oppose force to force, and exchange tyranny for tyranny? Far be from us such means. Every violent reform is to be blamed, because it will not ameliorate things as long as men remain as they are, a prey to their passions; and because wisdom needeth not the arm of violence.”

“The whole plan of the Order tends to form men, not by declamation, but by the protection and rewards which are due to virtue. We must insensibly bind the hands of the protectors of disorder, and govern them without appearing to domineer.”

“In a word, we must establish an universal empire over the whole world, without destroying the civil ties. Under this new empire, all other governments must be able to pursue their usual process, and to exercise every power, excepting that of hindering the Order from attaining its ends and rendering virtue triumphant over vice.

“This victory of virtue over vice was formerly the object of Christ, when he established his pure religion. He taught men, that the path to wisdom consisted in letting themselves be led for their greater good by the best and wisest men. At that time preaching might suffice; the novelty made truth prevail; but at present, more powerful means are necessary [sic]. Man, a slave to his senses, must see sensible attractions in virtue. The source of passions is pure; it is necessary that every one should be able to gratify his within the bounds of virtue, and that our Order should furnish him with the means.

“It consequently follows, that all our brethren, educated on the same principles, and strictly united to each other, should have but one object in view. We must encompass the Power of the earth with a legion of indefatigable men, all directing their labours, according to the plan of the Order, towards the happiness of human nature—but all that is to be done in silence; our brethren are mutually to support each other, to succour the good labouring under oppression, and to seek to acquire those places which give power, for the good of the cause.”

- Translated by Barruel, op. cit., pp. 458-9 [emphasis in the original].

It is true the later degrees of Epopt and Regent expressed outright hatred of the established order with a view toward an anarchist utopian-primitivist solution. But short of taking control of the machinery of the state (gradually, methodically and surely), there was nothing in the original writings that could be construed, even by the most zealous opponent, as instructions for “fomenting hatred and bloodshed” or “about the kinds of buildings to be burned in urban insurrections.”

On the other hand, just hinting that civil society needed to be reorganized – changed, subsumed, and replaced – is akin to advocating revolution whether explicitly professed or not. And no doubt there were some correspondences and writings that did in fact go much further, but which were never discovered. We do known, for example, the most damning evidence was quickly burned before the authorities had a chance to get their hands on them.

McIlhany touches a bit on what he believes to be Illuminati influence upon the French Revolution, but of all those he mentions – Mirabeau, Orléans (Philippe Egalité), Brissot, Condorcet, Savalette, Grégoire, Garat, Pétion, Babeuf, Barnave, Sieyes, Saint-Just, Desmoulins, Hébert, Santerre, Danton, Marat, Chenier – only one was actually a bona fide confirmed member of the Illuminati: Charles-Pierre-Paul Savalette de Langes (1746-1797), Master of the Amis Réunis and of the Philalèthes.

That last revelation is part of the new evidence discussed in my book Perfectibilists.

Two years before McIlhany wrote that article for The New American, Hermann Schüttler, the world’s foremost expert on the Illuminati alive today, published for the first time the forgotten diary of J. J. C. Bode (1730-1793), the de facto second head of the Illuminati. For the first time in 200 years we now have explicit details as to what Bode was up to in Paris just two years before the Revolution, and, by his own admission, precisely who he had initiated into the cause.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Comments to “Master Conspiracy” Redux

June 29, 2009

Thanks for this article. I just got the book two weeks ago and was planning to ask you about the Kolmer legend.

If I’d had PERFECTIBILISTS when I was a Birchite Conspiracy-buff in high school & college (1978-1982), I’d have been much more insufferable than I already was. *L* This book is the most reliable I’ve ever read on the Illuminati, and it amazes me on how much Conspiracy lore it does support, if not confirm.

Terry Melanson
June 30, 2009

Thanks, I appreciate it.

The thing about the Illuminati is that the real story is so spectacular in the first place that embellishment or exaggeration is not needed anyway.

July 4, 2009

So what I want to know is when are you going on the talk radio circuit- especially Coast to Coast AM?

Terry Melanson
July 4, 2009

I’m not much of a talker. I prefer to let my work speak for itself. However, I have been interviewed on a bunch of radio programs in the the US and Canada since the book release, and I would do Coast to Coast if they would have me on. My publisher has actually been trying to get me on there, so we’ll see.

July 5, 2009

Occasionally, C2Cam will respond to audience requests for guests. I’d be glad to write them to recommend you.

Heck, I still need to put a review up on Amazon, now that I think about it.

Has anyone from the JBS/The New American approached you for an interview? I’m surprised PERFECTIBILISTS hasn’t been added to their bookstore. They publish Robison & Barruel, and have in the past distributed Nesta Webster’s books. Your book definitely trumps Webster’s for sheer information not to mention that one recommend your book without adding a caveat about needing to ignore the anti-Semitism. *L*

Terry Melanson
July 5, 2009

No contact with JBS.

They would be remiss not to acknowledge it in some manner - especially since it includes new evidence that supports the initial speculation of Barruel, Robison and Webster.

July 10, 2009

I caught a couple of your radio interviews on the Net, as well as a print interview. Your foray into Illuminism was much like mine, via the study of Bible prophecy. For me, it was the mid-70’s, so my main prophecy dude was Hal Lindsey, though I also faithfully listened to the Van Impes, Pat Robertson, Falwell, and to mix it up a bit, Garner Ted Armstrong, and attended a Christian & Missionary Alliance Church. The first time I ever heard of the Illuminati was through an Indianapolis Star article on John Todd speaking in some independent fundamentalist church in Indiana. I didn’t delve much into it at the time & then ran into other references, finally reading a copy of None Dare Call It Conspiracy that Dad had been given by a co-worker years before. I was hooked. Fortunately, I never bought into John Todd’s shpiel!

On the other hand, I was a fan of Mike Warnke. *sigh*

Terry Melanson
July 10, 2009

Funny you mention Impe. I talked to a friend of mine the other day, who still watches the show, and he told me that lately everything that comes out of their mouths is Illuminati this, or New World Order that (replete with mentions of CFR and the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group). Having not witnessed the return of Christ yet - preaching about it for over 50 years - he has now segued into a veritable conspiracy theorist!

July 11, 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve caught the Van Impes. But the couple of times I have over the past year, while there have been enough NWO references, I haven’t heard any specific groups like the CFR or TLC mentioned. Instead, I’ve heard a lot of Rapture, some 2012, and occasionally a mention of Christians having their beloved pets join them in the Rapture/Resurrection.

August 23, 2011

Hi Terry,
I have a few questions for you. Many websites mention that the seal on the dollar bill is an illuminati seal. I haven’t been able to find any proof of this yet, although a 5year old documentary called “Angels and Demons Revealed” makes that claim.
They also claim that Adam Weishaupt called for a New World Order. Again I haven’t managed to find anything to substantiate that. Did he?
When it comes to the Jesuits, it seems too coincidental that the actions of the illuminati aided the Jesuits in their endevours to have their Order restored. Alongside the fact that Adam Weishaupt was Jesuit trained (Some websites claim he was formerly a Jesuit Priest?) and Baron Knigge accused him of being a secret Jesuit, it seems to me that the illuminati may have been a front for the Jesuit Order? The Jesuit Order and the Knights of Malta still wield power.
Lastly, I am related to Condorcet, the French Enlightenment philosopher. I know Weishaupt studied the Enlightenment philosophers. Their philosophy on the surface seeemed to support the people. Did Weishaupt use these methods as a ruse. I know he admitted that his mysteries were a ruse. Do you think his promotion of Liberty for all men was a ruse?
I also think there is a Rosicrucian element with the “Age of Reason”, the “Goddess of Reason” put in Notre Dame during the French Revolution, the Statue of Liberty (Phrygian caps), Weishaupt’s “Religion of Reason” and the Georgia Guidestones dedicated to an “Age of Reason”.

I would be most interested in any comments you may have.
I love your website and the original documentation.


December 23, 2013

“It is true the later degrees of Epopt and Regent expressed outright hatred of the established order with a view toward an anarchist utopian-primitivist solution.”

I would Love to read more about this, any references and quotes on this political view of weishaupt.

I red in Webster’s book some Reausseaean Ideas he had resembling the noble savage, and restoring that state which he said was pure “liberty and equality”. but how was it to be organized? was it a platonic republic? just plain anarchy reduced to the statment “liberty & equality” or more?

+ I read in webster that he also like reausso and even similar to nietzsche dispised the sciences which contributed nothing truly to happiness of man. the way he talks about happiness sounds alittle like the will to power, but nietzsche would probably hate his insisting on equality.

this last thing i mentioned actually, also, kind of gives a post-modern notion to weishaupt, and i believe him and his order to be proponents in a way to Post-modernism, at least in some. though from what i read from his influences you mentioned, he was an ardent rationalist, in fact basing much on leibniz as one of the core roots of his philosophy, but i think leibniz would have never agreed to his two statements iv’e mentioned.

plz, share with me what you know,

thank you very much you do amazing job.

all the best.

June 4, 2014

I personally have a theory that the Kolmer legend may have been merely a fictional replacement he taught to some adepts for either British or Venetian spy who was Weishaupt’s handler. And that Balsamo/Caiglostro may have been another asset of the same spy, but he was less useful.

Voltair can definitely be connected to British and Venetian Intelligence.

But I agree, Adam needed no mysterious mentor for the religious aspects of his doctrine.

June 9, 2014

Paul Feval was an interesting 19th Century French Writer, a devout Catholic and Royalist. I love his fiction been though I hardly agree with philosophy. The oly of his Non-Ficiton works ever translated into English thus was was “The Jesuits” in which he hilariously defends the Jesuits. I haven’t read the whole thing, don’t think I cold manage it, but I read the opening and closing chapters. He makes the following interesting assertions about the Revolutionists. On pages 336 and 337

“The smallest fault of Voltaire’s posterity is, that
it has never read Voltaire, nor Rousseau, nor any one
else who is worth reading : it reads the daily papers.
Voltaire and Rousseau made the Revolution, I do not
gainsay it, but on the other hand the Revolution
made them, and the obligation was about the same
on both sides, for the Revolution as little knows
what it is doing in worshipping Rousseau and Voltaire,
as Voltaire and Rousseau knew what they were
doing in preparing the Revolution.
Voltaire, not to speak of his fawning, was a most
determined aristocrat, and Rousseau himself was an
eloquent opponent of democracy in great countries.
At the most, he might have tolerated the democratic
republic of Monaco.”

Since your more intimately familiar with these writers then I am, perhaps you could give me your opinion on how accurate you think Feval’s accusation here is.

Terry Melanson
June 9, 2014

He’s smart to point out that both were taken out of context and twisted into something they were not. It happens to all philosophical writers once they are dead and can’t defend their positions.

Most of what Fundie Christians think they know about the Illuminati comes from the John Todd/ Lance Collins malarkey of the 1970’s. It’s good you’re debunking it.

Leave a comment