I stumbled in late last night from Kodiak, Alaska and eagerly tore into the box that arrived from the Masonic Book Club. Actually, two boxes, for somehow I received two copies (neither one numbered as in the past 30 some years). The selection was no surprise, as I had heard about it some time ago: Diogenes Lamp ("Die Leuchte Des Diogenes") by Bavarian Illuminati founder Adam Weishaupt .
I am not really about trashing the work of others, and if someone has done good solid work and been a little sloppy in its presentation, I'm not such a tweedy, patches-on-the-elbows sort of critic who snorts insults through my tendrils of pipe smoke. But the truth is that this volume is a disgrace.
The two introductory sections are written by "Sir knight Mark Bruback." (See photo) Just from a purely technical standpoint, the text is loaded with spelling and formatting errors (and the most irritating elementary school convention of using "&" instead of "and"). While he would have done service to readers by discussing in a rational manner the modern day Illuminati accusations of alarmists like Lyndon LaRouche and David Icke, referring to them only as Mr. LaDouche and Mr. Icky is appallingly juvenile.
There is no explanation about "Sir knight Mark's" role in bringing this text to light, other than a brief allusion to his procuring the German translation services of Amelia Gill, or why he was chosen to write this appalling introduction (He does explain it a bit on his MySpace site). Indeed, it would have been nice to know Ms. Gill's background and translating experience, because Bruback's errors and inappropriate goofiness call into question the accuracy of the Weishaupt text itself. And Bruback's inclusion of lines from Aleister Crowley's Thelema writings for no apparent reason adds an OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) element to the book that comes totally out of left field.
One of the biggest benefits of the previous editions from the MBC was the production of hard-to-find older works, enlightened by a modern, well-written preface. By publishing this volume under the imprint of the Masonic Book Club, it calls into question their editorial judgement and expertise in a very big way. (And could they have picked a more unreadable typeface to print this in?)
The Bavarian Illuminati writings have never been available in English, as incredible as that may seem. With all of the Illuminati hysteria that has occurred all the way from the Illuminism scares in the 1790s, through Robert Anton Wilson's reintroduction of the Illuminati in his peculiar and satyrical trilogy, along with Icke's own "reptilian" brand and LaRouche's anti-semitic version, it has taken the threat of a movie based on Dan Brown's Illuminati story Angels & Demons to at last bring forth this one small volume of authentic Illuminati philosophy.
Bear in mind that "Die Leuchte Des Diogenes" was originally published in 1804 in Regensburg, long after Weishaupt was chased out of Bavaria and the Illuminati was exposed as a group of anti-clerical and anti-monarchial revolutionaries who were infiltrating Masonic lodges. Their organizational documents were well publicized by the Bavarian government (again, we have no English translations of these, even though they exist). So Diogenes Lamp may simply be Weishaupt's weepings on what might have been, and why the Illuminati was really just a lovable bunch of harmless fuzzballs.
The text of the work itself turns out to be—nothing special. It is a distillation of Enlightenment philosophy, relying on quotations from other writers and philosophers and darlings of the period. No irony that Weishaupt would have more than a few quotes from Shakespeare's "misunderstood" characters of King Richard II and Brutus, given his recent troubles in his home country. But again with a problem of this edition: why translate the Weishaupt German text, but leave as untranslated long quotes from French and Latin sources?
I know there are texts that actually lay out the Illuminati's rituals and organizational structure that researchers would love to have available in English (and not just John Robison's descriptions of them, or Albert Mackey's and Abbe Barruel's descriptions of Robison's descriptions...) The Illuminati has been erroneously tied to the Freemasons by anti-Masonic critics for 200 years, and I was applauding the publication of this book before I saw it. The good news is that we at last have the first book of authentic Illuminati writings translated into English. The bad news is it's this one.
Robin Carr retired last year from the Masonic Book Club, and I realize there's a steep learning curve for any new management team. And the publishing business has its own special hurdles to overcome. One of the biggest raps against the club over the years was the total lack of communication to members. You simply sent in your money, and eventually a book would come. Hopefully, this will be addressed, and I hope next year's selection is an improvement over this one. The Masonic Book Club has a good reputation from the past, but this volume is a step backwards.