There’s a group out there called the Freemasons. They exist, and they’ve existed for a long time. It’s a secret society, and as one might expect in this information age, it’s not so very secret. As a matter of fact, if you plug “Masonic Lodge” into any search engine, you’ll likely find one or more in your area.
The fact that they won’t tell you the specific details of what they do, however, does NOT automatically mean they’re attempting to rule the world. It does mean they’re creating and funding things like the Scottish Rite children’s hospitals and various Shriners’ charities. And, depending on the Lodge, you may be able to rent it out for wedding receptions and parties.
That doesn’t mean that the Masons were always innocuous. Or that they were the only secret society. There was Adam Weishaupt, for example.
From National Geographic:
Born in 1748 in Ingolstadt, a city in the Electorate of Bavaria (now part of modern-day Germany), Weishaupt was a descendant of Jewish converts to Christianity. Orphaned at a young age, his scholarly uncle took care of his education, and enrolled him in a Jesuit school. After completing his studies, Weishaupt became a professor of natural and canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, married, and started a family. On the surface, it was a conventional enough career—until 1784 when the Bavarian state learned of his incendiary ideas.
Those “incendiary ideas” are generally described in the same article:
Weishaupt was not, he said, against religion itself, but rather the way in which it was practiced and imposed. His thinking, he wrote, offered freedom “from all religious prejudices; cultivates the social virtues; and animates them by a great, a feasible, and speedy prospect of universal happiness.” To achieve this, it was necessary to create “a state of liberty and moral equality, freed from the obstacles which subordination, rank, and riches, continually throw in our way.”
The Illuminati slowly grew in power and influence. Anyone could join, provided they only read the correct books, they were wealthy, their families had influence, and others in the Illuminati vouched for them. In simpler terms, they were… a nascent political party.
In 1784, membership in secret societies became illegal in Bavaria, due to the worldwide influence of the Freemasons. In 1785, the ruler of Bavaria declared that the Illuminati was officially an offshoot of the Freemasons, and the group’s doom was sealed.
The Illuminati could be considered a Freemasonry offshoot under only the most generous of definitions. Weishaupt had investigated the Freemasons and had not liked what he found, and had started the Illuminati as an alternative. But it was still popular with the wealthy and influential in Bavaria, and it had to be ended. By 1787, per Livescience, it was:
In August 1787, Duke Karl Theodore Dalberg of Bavaria landed a final blow to the Illuminati when he issued harsher punishments — including the death penalty — for anyone found to be part of the organization. A handful of later organizations claimed to be descended from the original Illuminati, and some authors have asserted that the Illuminati survive today, but these claims are largely unfounded.
Meanwhile, over in the United States, there were concerns about our own Freemasons. Many of the Founding Fathers were members of the group, including George Washington himself. From Mount Vernon:
During the revolutionary era, masons of note included George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and John Hancock. These men and other leading revolutionaries used masonic lodges as gathering places to discuss the relevant issues of the day, network with likeminded individuals, and plan resistance against unpopular British policies.
If this seems like it’s fertile ground for conspiracy theory, you’re correct. Influential people gathering together to discuss events of the day and ways to control future events? This is the stuff that conspiracy dreams are made of, which is why the Masons, as well as groups like the Bilderbergers and Trilateral Commission today, are said to be associated with a host of conspiracies.
And sometimes they are. Not every conspiracy is bunk – just most of them. All a conspiracy really needs is a bunch of people trying to secretly enact something, rather than just discussing things. And, of course, when you look at it, that’s what sometimes happens. But when most people talk about conspiracies they don’t mean “They’re going to try to raise global interest rates by .25% to stabilize lending markets!”
….and that brings us back to the Weishaupt / Washington connection.
Have you noticed how similar the two of them look, in their facial features?
Maybe they were THE SAME PERSON.
The theory goes that Weishaupt, fleeing Bavarian persecution, secretly migrated to the United States with help of other Illuminati members and secretly killed George Washington, taking his place.
This is a common theory among conspiracists. A sample is here, from a traveller’s blog:
A particularly spectacular theory says that Adam Weishaupt, after the Illuminati were banned by Bavaria in 1785, didn’t stay in exile in Gotha, but went to found the United States and impersonated George Washington (who is pictured on the one-dollar-bill) as their first president in 1789 …
There’s are reasons I gave so much space to explaining who Weishaupt was, though. One is that the scope of the conspiracy is impressive only if you know who Weishaupt was.
The other is that it’s among the easiest conspiracies in the world to debunk, because it can be traced directly to one place:
The Illuminatus! trilogy was written by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, both conspiracy researchers and science fiction authors. They decided that all of the “secrets” out there, especially because many contradicted other “secrets” would make for a fun series of novels. (Actually, they’re intentionally convoluted beyond reason and haphazard… a fun read if you don’t want to take anything seriously, including standard plotting, but painfully disjointed if you’re trying to keep track of storylines and characters.)
In it they joined actual conspiracies, from popular to the fringe, and then added in things they thought would be funny… like Jesus teaching the apostles how to play Bingo to raise church funds. One of the “funny” ideas was that Weishaupt had secretly replaced George Washington. Surely nobody would take that seriously!
It just goes to demonstrate that even those who research fringe conspiracies can fail to recognize human nature.