Illuminati Roots and Offshoots

 Knights Templar

Knights Templar

Perhaps more astonishing than Abbe Barruel's claims at the time of the survival of The Illuminati under the cloak of Freemasonry, was his claim of an ancient pedigree for the Order – a claim not so far-fetched as his critics have argued, based on the evidence of the Roshinaya.

Westhaupt did not originally found it in 1776, he declared. It had existed for centuries in a number of guises - stretching back to the Order of the Knights Templar, founded in 1118 ostensibly to guard the pilgrim routes to the Holy Land. He also highlighted Templar links with the Assassins. Today they survive as the Druze of the Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. This fits with the links it has now been possible to establish between the Bavarian Illuminati and the Roshaniya. In 1306 Pope Gregory IX threatened the Knights Templar with excommunication because they had been negotiating a treaty with the Assassins. A sect of the Ismailites, the Assassins believed the Deity was incarnated in a series of ‘teachers’. This teacher, who headed the cult, was known as The Sheik-al-Jabul – the Old Man of the Mountains. On his instructions members of the lower orders of the cult would assassinate whoever he deemed as an enemy- their courage fortified by hashish. The highest degree was that of Da’is, or Masters, followed by those of Refigs, Fedais, and Lasigs, or Novices.

Theories persist to this day that the Knights Templar were privy to some esoteric knowledge - the nature of which no one can say for certain.

Many groups today claim a Templar pedigree and insist they are the inheritors of this strain of arcane knowledge. To many, in common with Abbe Barruel, this 'Templar' knowledge is in effect 'Illuminati' knowledge. Following their proscription by Papal Bull in the early 14th century the order survived in another guise - Freemasonry - and for Freemasonry, it is argued, read 'Illuminati'. Illuminati - the Enlightened Ones - those who have achieved 'illumination' through access to arcane wisdom and the utilisation of that wisdom.

One reputed member of The Illuminati was Giuseppe Balsamo, better known to history as Count Alessandro Cagliostro. This physician, necromancer, and alchemist travelled the length and breadth of Europe claiming he was able to turn base metals into gold and that he possessed an elixir of eternal youth. Cagliostro, who claimed a Templar pedigree, had been initiated into Freemasonic Lodge No. 369, in London, in 1777. He was responsible for what he termed the Egyptian Rite of Masonry. It was because of practising this rite that the Inquisition arrested him in Rome in 1789 and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the fortress of San Leo, where he died.

Rosy Cross

Another body with claimed Illuminati links - a body that, in various guises, still flourishes throughout the world today - is the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, commonly known as the Rosicrucians. The brotherhood is reputed to have been founded by one Christian Rosenkreutz, born in Germany in 1378, and who, after travelling extensively throughout the Middle East accumulated a vast store of esoteric knowledge.

The legend holds that after Rosenkreutz's death in 1484 his body was embalmed and sealed inside a seven-sided vault. In 1604, 10 years before the publication of the first of the Rosicrucian Manifestos, the tomb was discovered by chance, its location having been kept a secret since it was sealed.

Claiming that through the knowledge, or enlightenment, they held the Brethren of the Rosy Cross could offer "a universal and general reformation of the whole wide world", many were drawn to Rosicrucian thought - including Descartes, who had to defend himself against charges that he was a Rosicrucian after French Jesuits claimed the Brotherhood was a secret society of sorcerers.                   


More claimed Illuminati links surface with Eliphas Levi, born in France in 1810, and who gave up studying for the priesthood to concentrate on the study of the Cabala. The Templars, he believed, had been privy to secrets locked within the Cabala - secrets which had been filtered through to Illuminism/Freemasonry.

The Cabala is founded on the first five books of the Bible and is regarded as the mystic side of Jewish religion. The legend is that God taught it to a company of angels and that it was later taught to Adam, Eliza, Moses, David, and Solomon. Cabalists claim the first five books of the Bible cannot be understood without knowledge of the Cabala - that it provides the key to unlock its mysteries.

There are four classifications of the Cabala - the practical, the literal, the unwritten, and the dogmatic.

The geomatria is based on the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and through its system every letter corresponds to a number and every number corresponds to a letter. Notariqon has two parts - one in which the first letter of every word is taken for the initial, or abbreviation, of another word, or, in which the last letter of every word is taken as the initial, or abbreviation, of another word.

Thus Cabala, using the Hebrew alphabet, would be Ch KMh NSThRh - chockhmah Nesethrah - meaning 'the secret wisdom'. Under temura, letters are permutated to a certain pattern. The tradition is that Shimeon Ben Jochai did not write down - the Cabala - until the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. After his death, his son, secretaries, and disciples gathered all his written work and composed it into the Zohar - Book of Splendours.

A Golden Dawn

 The Goat of Mendes

 The Goat of Mendes

The doctrines of the Cabala, the late 19th century occultist and Cabalist S.L. MacGregor Mathers claimed, are designed to solve the problems of the nature of the Supreme Being, cosmogony, and creation.

Claiming a Templar/Illuminati pedigree and influenced by the writings of Levi and the Cabala, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was formed at the turn of the 20th century. It had been in 1886 that Dr Wynn Westcott, a London coroner, discovered a number of manuscripts, which, he claimed, were the framework for the performance of magical workings. The manuscripts also contained the address of a female adept of the magical system - Fraulien Anna Sprengler, of Nuremberg. Later corresponding with Sprengler, Westcott obtained her permission to form a lodge of the Order in England.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn - the Illuminati in splendid guise as some would have it - was to flourish, listing among its members the poet William Yeats, the horror writer Algernon Blackwood, and Dracula author Bram Stoker.

Yeats joined the Order in 1890, taking as his magical motto "Demon est Deus Inversus" - "The Devil is God inverted".

In addition to degrees awarded to only ‘inner’ members of the Order, the main degrees of the Hermetic Order of the Golden dawn were:

Neophyte 0=0

Zelator 1=10

Theoricus 2=9

Practicus 3=8

Philosophus 4=7

Degrees of a higher order within the Golden Dawn – the Mysterious Third Order of the Silver Star, were:

Templi 8=3

Magus 9=2

Ipsissimus 10=1

As the Order became riven with internal jealousies and strife - particularly after Aleister Crowley was admitted to its ranks - Yeats and other influential members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, formed a new order – the Order of the Morning Star, or Stella Matutina. The English occultist Arthur Waite, not satisfied with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, created his own Independent and Rectified Rite. It was his conviction that the true nature of Freemasonry had become hidden, and that it had lost its way. A contemporary of Waite was the Edinburgh lawyer John William Brodie-Innes who, in common with Waite, believed in a hidden stream of knowledge, which one could only become familiar with by passing through several initiatory grades, or degrees. Through the Scottish Lodge of the Theosophical Society he created the Amen-Ra Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and, in 1896, his own Solar Order. It was also in 1896 that Theodor Reuss and Leopold Engel jointly founded The Theosophical Society of Germany. In 1880 Reuss had founded, in Munich, an Order of The Illuminati, while in 1893, in Berlin, Engel had founded a World League of Illuminati.

Let There Be Light

Brodie-Innes, in common with other occultists, believed the secrets of the path to true illumination could be traced back to the esoteric philosophy of ancient Egypt - to be found in the body of writings known as the Trismegistic Book - named after the Egyptian deity Thoth (Hermes is the Greek equivalent, while Trismegistic means 'thrice great'.)

Thoth was the moon-god who presided over scribes and knowledge. One inscription to him, which has survived, is "Lord of Khemennu (Hermopolis), Self-Created, to whom none hath given birth, God One." As Lord of all Knowledge and understanding both Isis and Osiris regarded Thoth/Hermes as their teacher - being older and wiser than themselves.

The Trismegistic writings tell us his "knowledge and powers of calculation measured out the heavens and planned the earth, and everything which is in them; his will and power kept the forces in heaven and earth in equilibrium; it was his skill in celestial mathematics which made proper use of the laws (maat) upon which the foundation and maintenance of the universe rested; it was he who directed the motions of the heavenly bodies and their times and seasons; and without his words the gods, whose existence depended upon them, could not have kept their place among the followers of Ra."

Rituals developed by Brodie-Innes borrowed heavily from Egyptian ritual. Initiation into the Egyptian mysteries involved being 'Osirified', being resurrected symbolically as Osiris was resurrected. Initiation involved three 'planes' or regions; Rusta, the territory of initiation, Aahlu, the territory of illumination, and Amenti, the place of union with the unseen father. Hermes/Thoth was the guide, or conductor, through all the stages of initiation.

At a certain stage in Aahlu, the purified, or Osirified, soul would achieve the Passage of the Sun - that it had passed beyond the 'mortal mind-plane', the gates of the celestial Nile would then be opened and the Osirified would be granted a Crown of Illumination - denoting he had achieved Perfection.

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