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Darkness Over All: John Robison and the Birth of the Illuminati Conspiracy
by Mike Jay
At the beginning of 1797, John Robison was a man with a solid and long-standing reputation in the British scientific establishment. He had been Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University for over twenty years, an authority on mathematics and optics, and had recently been appointed senior scientific contributor on the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which he would eventually contribute over a thousand pages of articles. Yet by the end of the year, his professional reputation had been eclipsed by a sensational book that vastly outsold anything he had previously written, and whose shockwaves would continue to reverberate long after his scientific work had been forgotten. Its title was Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, and it launched on the English-speaking public the enduring theory that a vast conspiracy, masterminded by a covert Masonic cell known as the Illuminati, was in the process of subverting all the cherished institutions of the civilised world and co-opting them into instruments of its secret and godless plan: the tyranny of the masses under the invisible control of unknown superiors, and a new era of ‘darkness over all'.
The first edition of Proofs of a Conspiracy sold out within days, and within a year it had been republished many times, not only in Edinburgh but in London, Dublin and New York. Robison had hit a nerve by offering an answer, plausible to many, to the great questions of the day: what had caused the French Revolution, and had there been any plan behind its bloody and tumultuous progress? From his vantage point in Edinburgh he had, along with millions of others, followed with horror the lurid press reports of France dismembering its monarchy, dispossessing its church and transforming its downtrodden and brutalised population into the most ruthless fighting force Europe had ever seen -- and now, under the rising star of the young general Napoleon Bonaparte, attempting to export the same carnage and destruction to its surrounding monarchies, not least Britain itself. But Robison believed that he alone had identified the hidden hand responsible for the apparently senseless eruption of terror and war that appeared to be consuming the world.
Many had located the roots of the revolution in the ideas of Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, Diderot and D'Alembert, who had exalted reason and progress over authority and tradition; but none of these mostly aristocratic philosophes had advocated a revolution of the masses, and indeed several of them had ended their lives on the guillotine. In the early 1790s, it had been possible to believe that the power-hungry lawyers and journalists of the Jacobin Club had whipped up the Paris mob into their destructive frenzy as a means to their own ends, but by 1794 Danton, Robespierre and the rest of the Jacobin leaders had followed their victims to the guillotine: how could they have been the puppet-masters when they had had their own strings so brutally cut? What Robison was proposing in the densely-argued and meticulously documented pages of Proofs of a Conspiracy was that all these agents of revolution had been pawns in a much bigger game, whose ambitions were only just beginning to make themselves visible.
The French Revolution, like all convulsive world events before and since, had been full of conspiracies, bred by the speed of events, the panic of those caught up in them and the limited information available to them as they unfolded. The Paris mobs, cut off from the outside world by their heavily guarded city walls, had been convinced that counter-revolutionary forces had joined together in a pacte de famine to starve their communes to death. The French aristocracy, in turn, were convinced from the beginning that the King was to be kidnapped and murdered. Rumours swept the army that they were being betrayed by their high command. The cities of surrounding countries hummed with allegations of plots to incite their own peasants to revolt against them. In Britain, enemies of the revolution such as Edmund Burke had claimed from the beginning that ‘already confederacies and correspondences of the most extraordinary nature are forming in several countries', and by 1797 most believed -- and with good reason -- that secret societies in Ireland were plotting with Napoleon to overthrow the British government and invade the mainland. The power of Robison's revelation was that it identified within this buzzing confusion of conspiracies a single protagonist, a single ideology and a single overarching plot that crystallised the chaos into a concerted drama and elevated it into an epic struggle between good and evil, whose outcome would define the future of world politics. ... Read More »
British author Jon Ronson spoke a couple of weeks ago at the Boston Skeptics in the Pub meetup, and happily his 80 minute talk was captured on video and put online. The author of The Men Who Stare at Goats discusses everything from Uri Geller, remote viewing, and the recent movie version of his book, through to Alex Jones, Bohemian Grove, Robbie Williams and his upcoming book on psychopaths:
Perhaps we'll hear from another TDG feature blogger soon to give another perspective on the Goats material...
Previously on TDG:
In 2006 film-maker Paul Kimball made Fields of Fear, a documentary about the mystery of cattle mutilations which focused on rancher and 'mute' investigator Fern Belzil. The entire documentary has now been made available for free (courtesy of Paranormal TV) on YouTube. It's a good, balanced (and well-produced) look at the topic. Be warned though, there are some graphic images:
Fields of Fear also features a few of TDG's good friends in Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern.
Previously on TDG:
In an interview with Dark Horizons about the newly released Dan Brown/Ron Howard film Angels and Demons, Scottish actor Ewan McGregor has dropped a few hints about another movie of interest: The Men Who Stare at Goats. Adapted from Jon Ronson's book of the same title (available from Amazon US and UK) - about the U.S. military's (actual, real-world) interest in 'psychic' technologies - the movie will star McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, and is scheduled for release in December 2009:
On his character in the film based on Jon Ronson's non-fiction book, McGregor revealed: "Well, I play a journalist (Ronson), at the beginning of the film whose wife, who’s also a journalist in this small newspaper in Ann Arbor - The Ann Arbor Daily Telegram - cheats on him with her one-armed editor, Dave. And I see her flirting with him. But then she comes clean, and she’s going to leave me for this one-armed man, Dave. And I, in my misery, take myself to Iraq."
Further, on the setting and story of 'Goats,' McGregor added: "It’s the beginning of the Iraq War. And I go to become embedded, but all I do is end up in a swanky hotel in Kuwait, and can’t get into Iraq. I’m not embedded with any troops, so I’m stuck in this four-star hotel, having wanted to prove my manhood by going to war, you know? Where I meet George Clooney’s character, and we embark on a kind of road trip through Iraq, looking for his buddies in this strange and secret section of the American Army. It’s a very funny film, and I had such a lovely time working with George, and with Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. And it was the four of us, and it was just hilarious. It was great fun."
Jon Ronson has become somewhat of a public interface to the weird world of Grailistic topics: in the last couple of years he's been pop-star Robbie Williams' chaperone at a UFO conference, eviscerated Sylvia Browne, and now has some of the biggest male stars in Hollywood making a film about his book. Even the skeptics love him - he's one of the speakers at this year's sold out Amazing Meeting in London.
We all knew ex-President Dubya had skeletons in the closet...but the skull of Geronimo? The New York Times is reporting that last week - on the 100th anniversary of the death of Apache warrior Geronimo - his descendants filed suit against Yale University secret society 'Skull and Bones', charging that early members of the society robbed his grave in 1918 and have kept his skull in a glass case inside their clubhouse ('The Tomb') ever since:
Geronimo died a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Okla., in 1909. A longstanding tradition among members of Skull and Bones holds that Prescott S. Bush — father of President George Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush — broke into the grave with some classmates during World War I and made off with the skull, two bones, a bridle and some stirrups, all of which were put on display at the group’s clubhouse in New Haven, known as the Tomb.
The story gained some validity in 2005, when a historian discovered a letter written in 1918 from one Skull and Bones member to another saying the skull had been taken from a grave at Fort Sill along with several pieces of tack for a horse.
As I noted in my book The Guide to Dan Brown's The Solomon Key, both candidates in the 2004 Presidential election (George W. Bush and John Kerry) were 'Bonesmen', and both refused to discuss their membership with the media (and I am amazed that the media went along with that!). Will be interesting to see how this pans out, although it should be noted that I posted a news item about this controversy (sans law suit) almost three years ago here on TDG.
Previously on TDG:
In this program, an eye-opening documentary on the National Security Agency (NSA) by best-selling author James Bamford and Emmy Award-winning producer Scott Willis, NOVA exposes the ultra-secret intelligence agency's role in the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent eavesdropping program that listens in without warrant on millions of American citizens.
...NOVA follows the trail of just one typical e-mail sent from Asia to the U.S. Streaming as pulses of light into a fiber-optic cable, it travels across the Pacific Ocean, coming ashore in California, and finally reaching an AT&T facility in San Francisco, where the cable is split and the data sent to a secret NSA monitoring room on the floor below. This enables the NSA to intercept not only most Asian e-mail messages but also the entire U.S. internal Internet traffic.
Thus, since 9/11, the agency has turned its giant ear inward to monitor the communications of ordinary Americans, many of whom are on the government's secret watch list, now more than half-a-million names long.
The entire program can be watched online, but only if you live in the United States due to rights restrictions (which I like to spell A-S-S). As such, I can't tell you much more as I can't see it without some fancy proxy fiddling. But even if you can't watch the program, you can still access some of the extra features on the website, such as this article on the latest technology being used by the NSA to 'read your mind'.
Last weekend Discovery Channel aired a documentary which they claim debunked most of the JFK conspiracy theories (those that dispute Oswald as being the 'lone gunman'), through the use of modern forensics - most especially in this case, blood spatter analysis:
A mock-up of the Dallas, Texas crime scene was set up, including the depository, the "grassy knoll," and other nearby landmarks. Artificial surrogates of Kennedy were placed in a car. Sharpshooters then shot the surrogates from the model depository, the grassy knoll, and four other plausible locations.
Schliebe, along with Tom Bevel, an independent expert forensic investigator, were brought in to examine the simulated crime scene. Both scientists had no idea what the experiment was for or that it was a reenactment of the JFK assassination.
The two experts found a simulated gunshot would to the head that closely matched the wound Kennedy suffered. Most of the simulated body material had spattered forward into the car, consistent with a shot that entered the back of the head and exited toward the front. There was some back-spatter -- material that flew back in the opposite direction of the bullet's trajectory -- but not much.
I didn't see the documentary, so I may be missing something crucial that's not in the story, but I'm finding it hard to understand why the experts picked the 'book depository' shot over the others - were they matching blood spatter patterns to those of the original assassination scene, or matching the wound to Kennedy's, or something else? In any case, sounds like an interesting documentary.
Binnall of America Audio returns this week, kicking off the paranormally-themed podcast's fourth season. First guest of the new season is Jim Marrs, for an extensive chat with Tim Binnall (1 hour, 19 minutes) on everything from UFOs to occult Nazis and the JFK assassination. Sounds like a full season all by itself...
As I've mentioned often, Tim does a great job over at BoA, conducting some of the smartest and most detailed interviews with paranormal 'celebrities' that you're likely to find (check the archives over there for a fair amount of fascinating listening). In return, I think he deserves some support - it's not cheap (on time or money) to run something like BoA...his server costs alone must be astronomical. So if you can afford it, head to the BoA Audio homepage and make a donation via the PayPal button on the right. Alternatively, you can pick up a bit of BoA-flavoured merchandise at their CafePress shop. Most people charge fees for access to these sorts of extended interviews, but Tim doesn't ask for anything. Do the right thing and give the guy something back for his good grace, he certainly deserves nice things to come his way.
Planes falling out of the sky near Australia due to secret technologies. I know, it sounds like something out of Lost, but the real story might be almost as interesting. Last night I was watching the news, when they mentioned that two separate aeroplanes have gone into steep dives due to technical malfunctions, both near the same location in Western Australia. Then they didn't say any more about it. I thought to myself, "that seems rather odd, why didn't they say more about this apparent coincidence?" Then this morning Rick sent this article to me, which suggests that a U.S. military base may hold the key to the mystery:
Powerful signals from a secretive naval base are being probed as a possible cause of a Qantas jet plunge last week... The Australian Transport Safety Bureau today said it would examine whether powerful electromagnetic signals from the communications base could have sparked the emergency.
The base uses powerful low frequency radio transmissions to US Navy and Australian Navy ships and submarines. It is understood to be the most powerful transmission station this side of the globe and includes 13 radio towers, the tallest of which is 387m tall.
...ATSB spokesman David Hope confirmed the new line of inquiry today, after "several" groups had raised it as a possibility. "We're looking at everything as part of a very thorough investigation," Mr Hope said. "That's been raised by a number of people to say that somehow or another this US military base has got a very high frequency signal tower there and that could somehow interfere with electrical devices - so we'll look at it."
Now for your daily dose of strange: I commented to Rick that the story sounds like something the Dharma Initiative would be behind. Then I saw the satellite image of the base. As Scooby Doo might say, ruh-roh...
Okay, so it's an octagon versus a hexagon. Don't spoil my fun dammit! I want to believe!
Almost a year to the date of his disappearance, it appears Steve Fossett's wreckage plane has been found:
Crews conducting an aerial search late Wednesday spotted what turned out to be the wreckage in the Inyo National Forest near the town of Mammoth Lakes, Sheriff John Anderson said. They confirmed around 11 p.m. that the tail number found matched Fossett's single-engine Bellanca plane, he said.
Anderson said no human remains were found in the wreckage.
"It's quite often if you don't find remains within a few days, because of animals, you'll find nothing at all," Anderson said.
It's not hard to foresee many people will still claim Fossett was abducted by aliens, or entered some space-time vortex or whatever; but right now the most important thing would be to confirm this is actually the plane he piloted on that fateful day, to later investigate the cause of his demise.
Hopefully this will bring a much needed sense of closure to his widow and family.