Book Review – English Illuminati

A more commercially minded publisher would have titled this Final Secret of the Illuminati.

Whether that’s accurate or not, this book gives us a deep look into the European occult revival of the late nineteenth century and some of its key figures—practically all of whom were connected to the Theosophical Society. 

English Illuminati: Including the History of the Order of the Illuminati and the Mysteries of the Illuminati

by Alistair Lees

Lewis Masonic (2019)
English
Hardcover: ‎ 232 pages
ISBN: ‎ 978-0853185451

Reviewed by Richard Smoley

This review was originally published in Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America. Reproduced with permission.

The story starts in 1776, when Adam Weishaupt, a law professor at the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, started a quasi-Masonic secret society called the Illuminati.

The society’s goal, among others, was to promote liberal ideals in an age when monarchy and ecclesiastical dominance were crumbling rapidly.

These aims did not suit the Elector of Bavaria, who had the organization shut down only a decade later, in 1786.

But he failed to extinguish rumors about the Illuminati, and in the subsequent decades, authors such as the Abbé Barruel and John Robison blamed them for the French Revolution and related social unrest.

Twentieth-century conspiracy theorists asserted that the Illuminati were a secret elite bent on world domination. (You can draw your own conclusions about these claims.)

In 1880, a German esotericist named Theodor Reuss tried to revive Weishaupt’s Illuminati. 

NAME

Theodor_Reuss

He succeeded for a couple of decades.

In 1900, he even managed to interest William Wynn Westcott, an English physician, Mason, and Theosophist (best known as cofounder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn), into creating an English branch.

This volume centers on the rituals for the English Illuminati, which Westcott had translated and adapted from Reuss’s rituals.

These papers had been buried unknown for decades in the archives of the British Masonic organization Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, but were accidentally discovered by author Alistair Lees.

In this volume, Lees publishes the papers, along with a fascinating array of other material about the ins and outs of the Masonic organizations, lodges, and degrees that proliferated at the time.

In the end, nothing came of the English Illuminati project. In a 1902 letter to Reuss, Westcott wrote;

“The Illuminati system as a whole may suit your country, but I could not work it here.”

Lees explains:

“England did not traditionally have such a rich tapestry of haut-grade or high grade orders and rites such as Europe had enjoyed for the previous three hundred years.”

This, at any rate, is a bare-bones account of the panoply of figures, degrees, organizations, charters, and paraphernalia that appear in this book.

It is ideally not for beginners but for those who already have some basic idea of these figures and their milieu.

Readers interested in Masonic history will find it most valuable.

For others, one of the most useful sections is Reuss’s history of the Illuminati, which he portrays not as;

“a new creation of this man [Weishaupt] but rather as an institution which we can trace back to the oldest time.”

He cites connections ranging from Moses and the ancient Mysteries to the Spanish Alombrados and the Rosicrucians of the early modern era.

Another useful part is a series of short biographies of the leading figures in the book, including Westcott, Reuss, the English Mason John Yarker, and Gérard Encausse (Papus), founder of the Martinist Order in France.

The book has its drawbacks. There are many typos and glitches in editing, and it is often frustrating to have Lees jump back and forth between the story of his own discoveries and the historical narration.

But it is richly illustrated and gives the reader an idea of the visual aspect of these lodges—their documents, paraphernalia, and diagrams, many of them elaborate.

Many of the rituals and documents are reproduced, but they do not reveal a great deal of esoteric knowledge to the reader.

There are small items here and there.

The ceremonial of initiation to the Rose-Croix Grade, for example, tells us that the word INRI has several meanings:

– its familiar one (an acronym of Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”);

– a more esoteric, alchemical one (Igne Natura Renovatur Integra: “By fire is nature restored to wholeness”);

– and a yet more esoteric one, “the climax of all occult sciences according to the poem of Hermes”: Ioithi, Nain, Rasith, and Ioithi, referring respectively to the “active creative principle . . . the passive principle . . . a combination of the two principles, and the constant eternal transformation of all created things,” and “again the creative, godly principle as a symbol of the eternal circle of the world and all things created.”

This resembles the exposition of the Tetragrammaton YHWH in Papus’s Tarot of the Bohemians.

The book does not answer the chief question it is likely to raise: what were all these men on about?

Why did they chase back and forth across Europe, exchanging degrees and initiations (many of which they had invented themselves) like boys swapping Pokémon cards?

The interchanges are so intricate that Lees had to create two detailed diagrams just to show the flow of orders in 1901 and 1902.

The answer—that they were simply charlatans—does not hold up.

They did not profit from these degrees, and most of them had prominent and successful careers outside the initiatic world. 

Nevertheless, I think the answer is partly sociological.

No one today can imagine the hold that titles of nobility held over nineteenth-century Europe.

I suspect that one motivation for this panoply of quasi-Masonic titles and degrees was to create a kind of alternative aristocracy, because the conventional aristocracy was nearly impossible to enter.

In addition, the Western esoteric traditions, after centuries of repression, were beginning to shake themselves and move into the present.

Because Masonry was no doubt the key inspiration for this awakening, many of the newly proliferating forms used Masonic terms and titles.

Today there seems to be a revival of interest in fraternal orders, especially Masonry, among those with serious esoteric interests.

This is no doubt to be welcomed. Lees’ book illustrates how those esoteric lodges functioned in the past—as well as mistakes that lodges of the present can avoid.

Find out more about the Theosophical Society in America and Quest magazine

https://www.theosophical.org/

Article by: Richard Smoley

 

The English Illuminati

By: Alistair Lees (Author)

 

Recent Articles: book reviews

Book Review - A Path to Providence: The Creation of the Middle Chamber Program

Masonic Education has regrettably been reduced to teaching protocol, traditions, and catechism while ignoring the esoteric essence of the ritual. By Shaun Bradshaw (Author), Ben Wallace (Author), Flynn Ryan (Cover Art)

more....

Book Review - A Glossary Of The Craft And Holy Royal Arch Ritual Terms

This handy little book describes the origins and original meanings of the sometimes obscure words used in our ritual by Brigadier A.C.F. Jackson

more....

Book Review - Making A Daily Advancement

In this work the author brings together a whole range of Masonic facts including the origins of our customs, our rituals and our practices, by Michael Lawrence

more....

Book Review - Nobly Born: An Illustrated History of the Knights Templar

The Templars were an unusual Order in that they lived both an active and contemplative life; making them effectively the first warrior-monks in the western world. by Stephen Dafoe

more....

Book Review - A Deserving Brother: George Washington and Freemasonry

Like several of America’s founding fathers, George Washington was a Freemason. In 'A Deserving Brother', Mark Tabbert presents a complete story of Washington’s known association with Freemasonry.

more....

Book Review - Taken by Surprise

Never again will a Freemason be caught out by a last-minute request to make a response. - Taken by Surprise by Yasha Beresiner

more....

book review - Whence Come You

The message of the book is essentially one of Freemasonry being unequivocally esoteric – spiritual – and that is something that many Masons may balk at but it is a topic that needs discussing rationally.

more....

Book Review - The Other Brotherhood: When Freemasonry Crossed the English Channel

An excellent book, being perfect for Freemasons and non-Freemasons alike who want to explore the origins of Freemasonry and to examine how it influenced French thought in the eighteenth century

more....

Book review - The Tracing Boards of the First Degree

The Tracing Board is a picture that encloses the quintessence of the ritual of the Degree and transmits it through symbols and images. By Enrico Marcia

more....

Book Review - Becoming a Craftsman -The Masonic Tutor's Handbooks: Volume 3

Becoming a Craftsman -The Masonic Tutor's Handbooks: Volume 3 - The relationship between a Fellowcraft and their Master is how the traditional wisdom of our Craft is passed on.

more....

Book Review - Freemasonry in London from 1785

This book is a well-researched study by a competent masonic scholar who has welded links from the changing scenes that arose in an era in which the most important step forward in organised Freemasonry was taken…

more....

Book Review - Meditations of a Flawed Ashlar

Many readers will probably be familiar with Bill Hosler – he is a much-respected and veteran American Freemason and a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog.

more....

Book Review - The Masonry of the «Moderns»: History and Rituality

The Masonic ritual world dates back to the 18th century, both from England and from France, which is still our most valuable reference.

more....

Book Review - Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality - Angel Millar

Angel Millar is a well-known lecturer on Freemasonry, initiation, and esotericism as well as an artist and student of the martial arts. The author of several books.

more....

Book Review - The Rite of Seven Degrees

This book examines the deeply esoteric eighteenth-century Rite of Seven Degrees.

more....

Book Review - The Green Book of the Elus Coens

The Green Book of the Élus Coëns is the most fascinating insight yet into the secrets and mysteries of the eighteenth century’s most esoteric of masonic societies – The Order of Knight-Mason Elect-Cohens of the Universe.

more....

Book Review - Freemasonry for the Heart and Mind

Freemasonry for the Heart and Mind: A glance at Freemasonry during the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions.

more....

Book Review - The Masonic Pageant

The Masonic Pageant is published by Cornerstone Book Publishers and features a nice foreword by Chris Hodapp, 33°.

more....

Book Review - Invisibles

It is reasonable to suggest that when published, Invisibles was the most comprehensive, comparative study, to date, of the Rosicrucian mega-meme.

more....

Book Review - Mnemonic Methods

Within this book 'Mnemonic Methods by Robert Fludd', translator Paul Ferguson introduces us to the English translation of two of Fludd's short treatises on memory

more....

Book Review - English Illuminati

This book gives us a deep look into the European occult revival of the late nineteenth century and some of its key figures…

more....

Book Review - Emulation: A Ritual to Remember

How does one begin to review a masonic classic which has faithfully served generations? Perhaps starting with the title Emulation: A Ritual to Remember.

more....

Book Review - The Rosslyn Hoax

Robert Cooper asks, would you like to know the truth about Rosslyn Chapel ?

more....

Book Review - Mastering Masonic Ritual

Mastering Masonic Ritual is focused on preparing for a successful and fulfilling journey around the floor to the Chair.

more....

Book Review - Companions of Christian Rosenkreutz

A review of Companions of Christian Rosenkreutz - Collected Papers 2008-2016

more....

Book Review - Freemasonry: Material Moral and Mystical

A review of Freemasonry: Material, Moral, and Mystical by Tony Baker

more....

Book Review - Three Distinct Knocks - John Meeks

"Why don't these new guys come back?" This is the question I often hear; and it is this same question that pushed me to write this book. - John Meek

more....

Book Review - Soldier and Mason

Soldier and Mason: The Life of Charles Warren Napier-Clavering

more....

Book Review - Bohemian Masonic Glass

A completely unique narrative publication mapping the phenomenon of glass production for the needs of Masonic lodges

more....

Book Review - This Chequered Existence

Gerald Reilly reviews this new book covering the near-modern history of Freemasonry in England and Wales during the 20th-century.

more....

Book Review - The EA, FC, MM Handbooks

Essential reading for every Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason - these seminal books by J.S.M Ward are what every Mason needs!

more....

Book Review - The Freemasons who won America's War for Independence

Find out who were the Freemasons who won America's War for Independence

more....

Book Review - Black Freemasonry: From Prince Hall to the Giants of Jazz

A book review of Black Freemasonry: From Prince Hall to the Giants of Jazz by Cécile Révauger 

more....

Book Review - Cagliostro the Unknown Master

The book review of the Cagliostro the Unknown Master, by the Editor of the book

more....

Book Review - Crime and the Craft

Crime and the Craft reveals that the Freemasons have been involved in treason, murder, conspiracy, fraud, and scandal from the time of the English Civil War to the 1980s.

more....

Book Review - Focus on Ric Berman

Focus on Ric Berman a British historian who writes about the intersection of freemasonry, politics and society.

more....

Book Review - The Temple That Never Sleeps

Freemasons and E-Masonry Toward a New Paradigm

more....

Book Review - The Secret School of Wisdom

The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati is a pioneering text

more....

Book Review - Charles Warren: Royal Engineer in the Age of Empire

Sir Charles Warren, the Police Commissioner who failed to catch 'Jack the Ripper'

more....

Book Review - Freemasonry and the Press in the Twentieth Century

During the latter part of the twentieth century, the Press and Freemasonry had a tense relationship.

more....

Book Review - Who was Hiram Abiff?

Every Freemason must have at some point asked himself the above question.

more....

The Masonic Book Club (MBC)

The new MBC will have a different business model than the old.

more....

Book Review - Jesse James and the Lost Templar Treasure

Lost Templar Treasure: Secret Diaries, Coded Maps, and the Knights of the Golden Circle 

more....

Book Review - The Enigma of the Royal Arch

Holy Royal Arch What's it all about

more....

Book Review - The Craft

Review of the new book The Craft by John Dickie, Professor of Italian Studies at University College London

more....

Book Review - For Hills and Valleys

For Hills and Valleys, Mobile Schools and Republicanism in the Zêzere Valley By Aires Henriques

more....

33 and Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry

33 & Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry, is perhaps the most fascinating and important documentary ever made on the on the subject matter of Freemasonry.

more....

Book Review - History of Freemasonry in Bessarabia

Book review by guest reviewer Gheorghe Bichicean on the History of Freemasonry in Bessarabia by Alexandru Rufanda

more....

Game Review - On The Square

A new board game based on The Freemasons

more....

dvd review

A MIGHTY GOOD MAN / THE TRUE STORY OF THE ROSICRUCIANS (double dvd)

A drama-documentary of the life of Elias Ashmole including a reconstruction of the first personally recorded Free Masonic Initiation into a Lodge anywhere in the world.

more....

Prestonian Lecture 2020/21

This year's Prestonian Lecture - ‘A System of Morality – Aristotle and the Making of the Ritual’ - is authored, and presented by Professor G.R. Boys-Stones PAGDC.

more....

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry

Introduction to The Lost Keys of Freemasonry by Manly P. Hall

more....

Book Review - History of the Grand Orient of Italy

In depth book review in to the History of the Grand Orient of Italy by the author

more....

Book Review – Freemasonry It's Hidden Meaning

Youtube Book review by Baruti KMT-Sisouvong

more....

masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Share this article ....

Contents