The Layperson’s Guide to Lucifer, the First Illuminatus

For many who believe in a global clandestine cabal as nefarious and elaborate as the Illuminati scheme to destroy religion and establish a one-world government,[1] the conspiracy’s level of malevolence naturally implies an even fouler origin: the Devil himself.

The Illuminati conspiracy theory is possibly the most well known and widely adapted of its kind. Consciously and unconsciously, centuries of Illuminati paranoia has rooted itself deep into the American psyche, producing a robust myriad of modern iterations ranging from notorious conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ rants against the “globalist agenda,”[2] to CBN founder and doomsday preacher Pat Robertson’s predictions of an imminent Satanic “New World Order,”[3] as well as a never-ending list of alleged celebrity memberships—not to mention an extensive pop culture resume.[4]

George Johnson—in his still disturbingly relevant classic, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics—describes a pervasive Illuminati legend developed through decades of folklore, which has influenced American right-wing conspiracy theories across all political and religious factions.[5] For a certain subtype of conspiracists, this omnipotent organization has roots in the Christian tradition’s conception of pure evil; the Illuminati’s ambitions to simultaneously secularize the planet while concentrating all power in the hands of an international elite is a clear sign that only the ultimate supernatural villain could be behind the wheel, sending humanity on a collision course to straight to hell.

As is a common practice among conspiracy theorists (and arguably all human beings), the desire to uncover secret patterns that may apply a sense of order to our seemingly chaotic existence leads to leaps of logic, which in turn often blend together otherwise independent, even contradictory ideas. The Illuminati legend is the perfect example of this phenomenon; its diverse adaptations have brought together religious fundamentalists and ardent atheists under a common belief: the Illuminati threat is powerful and unmistakably evil.

 

A Brief History of the Illuminati Legend

“Illuminati” (sing. Illuminatus) is a Latin term meaning “enlightened.”[6] The secret society known as the Illuminati is typically traced back to an Eighteenth-century Bavarian organization founded by Adam Weishaupt, a law professor at the University of Gottingen. Weishaupt established the Order of the Illuminati (or the Order of Illuminists) in 1776 as a subversive political group founded on the principles of rationalism and at least somewhat influenced by Freemasonry,[7] and the Jesuit model.[8]

Essentially, the Order was a political reform movement; it opposed the Catholic Church’s influence over the Bavarian monarchy, viewing both as highly oppressive.[9] The Order was created as a secular organization, with the stated aim of freeing the world “from all established religions and political authority,”[10] however, like the Masons,[11] Weishaupt deliberately interwove elements of religious mysticism into the Order’s organizational structure.[12] This bizarre practice of mixing of secularism and religious ritual spurred centuries of suspicion and uproar against similar secret societies from religious institutions and the general public.

However, many conspiracists reject this history. They do not believe that the Illuminati ended in 1787, when the duke of Bavaria issued a final edict banning the group.[13] The Illuminati’s growing influence over the past few centuries is allegedly visible in esoteric symbols left in plain sight, the most famous example being the Eye of Providence on the back the US one dollar bill along with the motto “Novus ordo seclorum,” which, according to conspiracists lore, does not mean “a new order for the ages,” as it is commonly translated, but rather “New World Order.”[14] According to this theory, the contemporary Illuminati have been striving for centuries (even millennia) to create a godless one world government and enslave the human race,[15],[16] or have possibly already completed much if not all of their perverse to-do list for world domination.[17]

Even more, some conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati’s roots can be traced back much further than 1776, to the beginning of time—the beginning of everything.

An Introduction to the Fallen Angel Lucifer 

Lucifer is often translated as “light bearer,” and associated with the Christian tradition’s concept of the Devil—an amalgamation of various oppositional biblical characters that include the angel Lucifer, Satan, the Serpent, the Dragon, Beelzebul, etc.—prior to his fall from heaven. Lucifer’s name appears only once in the Bible, in the King James Version (KJV) of Isaiah 14:12,

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

Taking directly from the Latin Vulgate, the KJV adopts “lucifer” as a translation of the Hebrew word heylel, which roughly means the “morning-star” or the “shining one” and in context literally refers to the King of Babylon.[18] The Latin name is not used in the New Revised Standard Version[19] and, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the name Lucifer (and therefore Satan as well)[20] is only “metaphorically” connected with the Isaiah passage, which more accurately describes the human king of Babylon.[21]

Despite its shaky textual foundation, the myth of Lucifer has developed into a rich cultural tradition. This is likely due to the KJV’s unmistakable influence on western culture and language[22] spanning centuries of popular readership[23] and the preferred status the KJV still enjoys among English-speaking Protestant denominations today[24]—its many linguistic faults notwithstanding.[25],[26] While the myth of Lucifer existed prior to the creation of the KJV,[27] the translation granted greater the character greater independence and centrality within the Devil narrative.

According to this extracanonical tradition, the story of Satan (the Devil, etc.) begins in heaven, where the eventual foe of God is but his humble servant, an angel who later rebels against God and is then punished for his prideful transgression.[28] He is described as the leader of the demons, or “fallen angels” as they are often called, and rules over the realm of the dammed while waging an ongoing epic war between good and evil on Earth.[29] Along with the Isaiah passage, many point to Ezekiel 28:14-19 (which makes reference to the king of Tyre) as evidence of the Devil’s cherubic origins,

“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned […] Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground […]”[30]

From this reading and its ensuing cultural narrative, Lucifer’s “wisdom” and “brightness”—his enlightenment—was his fatal flaw. Many interpret this to mean that Lucifer, sometimes called God’s favorite angel or the wisest or most perfect of the angels,[31],[32] desired knowledge and power greater than that of God.[33] Or according to one very detailed interpretation,

“Lucifer spent a lot of time with God the father and Jesus Christ. They met together frequently to share ideas and make plans. They were very close to each other and were in perfect harmony. Just over 6,000 years ago God and Jesus had a private meeting and Lucifer was not included. Lucifer became jealous. He set out on a campaign to prove that he was above Jesus. Lucifer began to be proud of his own glory and wisdom. […] Eventually Lucifer became entrenched in his pride and God could no longer influence him. God reluctantly removed Lucifer from his position of Chief Covering angel. Lucifer was thrown out of heaven, along with the angels who had chosen to follow him.”[34]

Interestingly, it has been suggested by biblical scholars that the fallen angel legend may have alternative roots in Canaanite mythology.[35] 

Where The Two Come Together

On their surface, the two terms share a common root in the Latin word for “light” (lux),[36] and both stories include enlightenment symbolism with an important lesson in morality. In these myths, it is either sinful or foolish to pursue knowledge beyond what is appropriate—a blatant irony that seems to go over the heads of anti-Illuminati conspiracists, who decry the desire to accumulate certain esoteric knowledge while working to uncover and widely disseminate other secrets.

However, that’s where the objective link ends and the conspiracy theory begins.  According to Johnson, who studied the Illuminati-Lucifer conspiracy theory in the 1980s,

“Since Lucifer couldn’t rule heaven, […] he fled to earth and schemed to make it his own. The name Lucifer comes from the Latin word for ‘bearer of light.’ Since the first days of creation, he has seduced men with the notion that by becoming enlightened—whether with philosophical learning or occult powers—they could lord it over their fellow beings and challenge the wisdom of God. With Lucifer, the Angel of Light, began the Illuminati conspiracy, an attempt by evil elites to exploit the masses by tricking them into worshipping those who claim to possess extraordinary powers. From the days of the Garden of Eden, Lucifer has been behind the conspiracy.”[37]

In fascinating detail, Johnson outlines the remaining storyline: Lucifer teams up with famous Bible characters, ancient rulers, and later the Jesuits and Freemasons, plotting with bankers and warlords to destabilize the globe and steadily prepping society to welcome a Satanic New World Order.[38]

Modern Expressions

Thirty years later, charges of a marriage between the dark lord of the dammed and the evil hand of the Illuminati are livelier than ever. After all, Johnson didn’t have the endless expanse of the Internet to explore, where there is no shortage of variants on the Illuminati legend molded to accommodate all types of beliefs, from ancient aliens[39] to hip hop fandom (or more likely criticism).[40] There are even several organizations claiming to be the contemporary inheritors of Weishaupt’s Bavarian Order of the Illuminati.

One of these not-so-secret societies describes itself as, “an elite organization of world leaders, business authorities, innovators, artists, and other influential members of this planet,” assembled in order to “further the prosperity of the human species as a whole,”[41] and appears to be quite well-financed, with a array of merchandise available for purchase.[42],[43] The organization claims that, in 2013, it authorized the creation of a “Department of Citizen Outreach,” in order to cultivate a stronger relationship with its “citizens.”[44] Germane to this discussion, the group asserts,

“For anyone to claim that the Illuminati is affiliated with a religious belief — be it God or Satan, Baphomet or Baal — undermines the very purpose of our independence from human divisions. […] Even more heinous rumors have been attributed to our organization, including human sacrifices and violent rituals. While our individual members are allowed to serve any deity they choose, the Illuminati as a whole is only dedicated to the preservation of the human species. Therefore, human sacrifices or any practice that does not serve the betterment of mankind would counter everything we represent, and are thus prohibited.”[45]

However, these accusations do persist, not so much against this particular incarnation of the Illuminati legend, but as a major part of the myth itself—against shadowy unknowns and those in the public eye who are unlucky enough to get tangled up in this web of paranoia and predetermined conclusions.

According to a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey, 28% of US voters believe that “a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order”; 25% answered “not sure.”[46] With 70% of Christians (roughly 58% of all Americans)[47] believing in the existence of Hell,[48] the two motifs are bound to cross paths often.

Luciferianism (not to be confused with Satanism) is a belief system that venerates the angel Lucifer (or rather his archetypal characteristics) as a benevolent and misunderstood figure whose quest for enlightenment should be imitated, not condemned. Those accused of being members of the Illuminati are often also alleged to be worshippers of Lucifer[49],[50] (including now former President Barak Obama[51] and his wife Michelle,[52] the United Nations, Hollywood elites,[53] the Israeli Government[54]—the list does not end) and, once in power and using whatever devilish means necessary,[55] the Illuminati plan to establish Luciferianism as the official religion of planet Earth.[56]

Alex Jones’ infowars.com is a Christian conspiracist’s dream. A favorite[57],[58],[59],[60] of perhaps the only conspiracy theorist more famous than himself: Donald J. Trump,[61],[62],[63],[64] Jones describes his mission in the “About” section of the InfoWars website as “connecting the dots, peeling back the onion,” and selflessly[65] “seeking the truth and exposing the scientifically engineered lies of the Globalists and their ultimate goal of enslaving humanity.”[66]

I starting browsing InfoWars articles and counting every time I saw Satan and the Illuminati mentioned in the same piece. I got up a to a few dozen before giving up and calling it a night.[67] But from what I’ve seen, Jones’ “news” outlet is completed obsessed with the trope, and not just as it relates to politics; most of what I read were attacks on pop stars and rappers, all what seemed like slight variations on the same article over and over again. According to the site, Katie Perry,[68] Kim Kardashian,[69] Kanye West,[70] Jay-Z,[71] and Lady Gaga,[72] just to name a few, all dabble in both Satanism and Illuminati war games.

These loose connections highlight the only true connection between Lucifer and the Illuminati: they are both perceived as evil. But even more than malicious intent, both of these myths are terrifying in the scope of their perceived threat; they are both believed to be so powerful that they could genuinely affect the fate of the whole world.

  

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