If someone holds court on the New World Order, the Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Club of Rome, the World Government Summit, the Bohemian Grove, the Freemasons, or any other purportedly elite puppet masters who arrange the world like a deliberately planned game of three-dimensional chess, sooner or later they'll utter the word 'Illuminati.' It's popular because people desperately want a chaotic and unpredictable world to be more easily explained with a simple set of white-hatted good guys and black-hatted (or hooded) bad guys, like an old Western. But it just isn't true, and it never has been.
There really was a genuine organization called the Illuminati, founded in 1776 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria by a young university professor of Canon law named Adam Weishaupt. That original group never attracted more than about 2,000 members across Europe in its heyday, and it really did die out by the mid-1780s after being publicly exposed. Weishaupt and his co-creators left behind reams of writings that detailed their lofty goals, their evolution, and even their secret rituals. And thanks to a dedicated group of researchers in the last twenty years, much of that information that has always existed in the German language has been translated into English and given wider circulation.
But reality has never kept a good scary monster story down.
The film premieres at select theaters around the U.S. on Tuesday, July 30th.
Royal is a tremendously talented filmmaker, and Illuminated is a combination of documentary and re-creation that results in a concise, yet atmospheric, telling of the organization's authentic history and rituals. He has interviewed some of the top experts on the topic, including Josëf Wäges, Reinhard Markner, Adam Kendall, and Olaf Simons, among others. Significantly, Wages and Markner have recently published the translated rituals of the Illuminati, along with an extensive collection of Weishaupt's philosophical writings, making them accessible to a wide audience at long last.
This is a thoughtfully crafted film from top to bottom. In addition to Johnny Royal's direction, Daryl Gilmore's stunning cinematography also deserves strong mention. Illuminated differs enormously from the usual spate of bad History or Discovery Channel exposés because it is not out to be sensationalistic. Just the opposite. There are no breathless cliffhangers or hyperbolic claims designed as the video version of clickbait to lead you on until the last seven minutes of factual information. It chronologically and methodically explores Weishaupt's life and philosophy, the Enlightenment-era political, literary and religious world he inhabited that spawned his group in the first place (originally called the Perfectibilists), their goals and methods, their fans and detractors, and the development of the various Masonic-influenced degrees they created. All of that needs to be seen and comprehended in context before anyone can properly understand just what the Illuminati really was, and why it came about when it did.
Once it goes into wider release as a DVD, screening the film will make an outstanding evening of education for your lodge. But if Illuminated is playing near you, make the effort to see it in theaters. Watching it on a computer screen alone does a disservice to the film, as it deserves to be seen on a big screen, and with an audience.
Sadly, the true believers that The Illuminati™ still exists today, pulling the strings on the world from behind their velvet curtain, will continue to delude themselves about the death of the group. It's almost tragic these days that every time I post a story in this blog that mentions the word Illuminati, I get deluged with scores - and often hundreds - of spam messages attempting to separate a gullible public from their cash with promises of actually joining them. They promise untold riches, power, influence, physical beauty (!), unbridled success, and the secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything if only the starry-eyed, duped pigeon just forks over some cash - often lots of it. It's not true, it's never been true, and those "Join the Illuminati" messages in your incoming messages are the modern-day update of the old Nigerian email scams.
Hopefully, Illuminated will finally provide more people with the true history and reality behind this shadowy set of boogeymen instead of the pop culture image that's been cultivated ever since the day they were disbanded.
We can at least hope.