Illuminati and O.T.O.

Theodor Reuss (1855-1923), founder of the O.T.O., was also a key figure in the short lived effort to re-establish the Bavarian Illuminati.

Theodor Reuss (1855-1923), founder of the O.T.O., was also a key figure in the short lived effort to re-establish the Bavarian Illuminati.

Conspiracy theorists love lumping the Illuminati and the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) into the same pot. Some go as far as saying that the Illuminati run the O.T.O., while others say it is the other way around. Conspiracists have used this connection to argue not only that the Illuminati still exist, but that they use occult rituals to further a sinister, possibly even a satanic agenda. While the O.T.O.’s spiritual beliefs and practices may not be what one may encounter in one’s neighborhood Presbyterian church, they most certainly are not a satanic organization. Curiously, the O.T.O. claims to have the “concentrated the wisdom and the knowledge” of the “Order of the Illuminati,” and the O.T.O.’s ecclesiastical arm, the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica lists Adam Weishaupt as one of its saints.

However O.T.O. and the Illuminati are two entirely different organizations with very different philosophies, visions, and practices. For one, we can say with certainty that the Illuminati no longer exist. Leopold Engel, in his Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens, sets the date of the Illuminati’s end at around 1785, about one year before Charles Theodore’s last prohibition against the Illuminati, while Peter Koenig claims the Illuminati ended in 1793, when Johann Joachim Bode, who took over the Illuminati’s reins from Weishaupt, died. And Terry Melanson, author of Perfectibilists, has stated that the last traces of the Illuminati disappear around 1820. The O.T.O., on the other hand, is still very much active, with local bodies worldwide. It remains a favorite target of the notoriously vicious British tabloid press.

The O.T.O.-Illuminati connection stems from Theodor Reuss’ and Leopold Engel’s reconstructive endeavor in the 1880s. Reuss abandoned his efforts with the reconstructed Illuminati and founded the O.T.O., while Engel, on the other hand, continued his reconstructive efforts, but within the context of esotericism — a move that certainly was at odds with the original intentions of Adam Weishaupt, who decried esotericism as fraudulent.

The similarities between the O.T.O. and the Illuminati are few. A stated goal of both organizations is the emancipation and enlightenment of the human race. We can also find similarities in the degree structure. However, the differences between these organizations are by far more striking.

In the O.T.O., spiritual progress ultimately leads to a state of gnosis, or union with deity, brought about by dramatic ritual, spiritual exercises, the practice of theurgic magick, and the discovery of one’s true will, or purpose. Although these practices occur, as much as it is feasible, within the context a supportive fraternal organization, spiritual progress is ultimately regarded as a matter of personal choice and responsibility, and so is every person’s course of action once this state has been achieved. Those who are familiar with initiatory traditions or belong to one can appreciate the transformative power of dramatic ritual.

To the Illuminati, it was not so much dramatic ritual and spiritual exercises that led to a state of enlightenment, but the continuous education of the heart and mind and the improvement of one’s moral character. The Illuminati did not consider this a matter of personal preference; a member’s progress, character, and conduct was under constant scrutiny by his superiors, who would share their observations, encouragement, reproaches, and suggestions in private as well as in their assemblies. The goal was to shape a member into a moral and ethical person, who would be able to help other persons become good and moral persons. A humanity whose majority would consist of the wise and virtuous would have regained its original virtue and thus be reconciled with the creator.

Further, the Illuminati rejected esoteric/occultist practices. Weishaupt wrote in Pythagoras, oder Betrachtungen ueber die geheime Welt- und Regierungskunst (1790) (Pythagoras, or Observations on the Secret Art of World Politics and Government) that he had become thoroughly disillusioned with esoteric speculations. In addition, many Freemasons joining the Illuminati had become wary of “unknown Superiors” offering occult knowledge for the exchange of money. Several such scandals had created shockwaves throughout the once influential Strict Observance Rite, which lay in its death throes at the time the Illuminati rose to power. The Illuminati’s stance on esotericism is expressed in the lecture given during the initiation the Presbyter or Priest degree.

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19 thoughts on “Illuminati and O.T.O.

  1. It seems that the OTO has brought it upon themselves. By their own account they claim to be the Illuminati, whether directly from Weishaupt’s group or not. The OTO, and other esoteric bodies, actually confer degrees upon initiates that tell them they are now a part of the Illuminati. In this sense then, when rogue members turn coat – a Bill Schnoebelen or a Leo Zagami etc – and tell a credulous audience that they are former Illuminati members; technically they are correct. Correct in the sense that they were indeed a part of an organization who told them that they were the Illuminati.

    I once saw an interview on CNN international in 2009 in the run up to the Dan Brown Angels and Demons movie. On TV he flat out stated that he in fact was a member of the Illuminati. I knew exactly what he was talking about, though not the specifics; either the OTO, or the Martinists, Mizraim, or some faction of the Rosicrucians,- they all have teachings that confer Illuminati degrees in some manner or another.

    I found his email and exchanged words with the guy, and got into heated arguments with him about silly semantics that I thought important. About how he had to be a scammer because Weishaupt’s group was long dead; how could he go on tv and lie about it when he knew he was full of it? Long story short … the guy turned out to have some really dark connections in the world of black ops. For real. After he proved it to me, he started to threaten me and I knew he could follow through with it, so I backed down real quick.

    To wrap up, there are people out there who claim to have been initiated into the Illuminati and who actually have been. Further, some of those people aren’t just eccentric occultists but work in the international security business, train people how to kill, sell arms, deal drugs, and are called upon by the world’s secret services to get the job done and keep it off the books.

    Kind of sounds like what the “conspiracy theorists” have been harking on for some time, no?

    I’ve been researching into P2 for a while as well. I found that Licio Gelli was an initiate of the Great Work, by his own admission. He has also been linked to people who were players in the suicidal Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS), who were into heavy magick but whose political agenda was synarchy.

  2. Personally, I think it’s petty that someone would make a credible threat against you over an email argument. I also think it’s unwise for someone belonging to a secret cabal sending you proof of his capability of backing up his threat, especially after making an appearance on CNN. Still, it’s always pretty freaky to be threatened.

    Brian Ennis, a now retired Vancouver, BC detective, has done a lot of research on Schnoebelein.

    Since Reuss and Engel collaborated on reviving the Illuminati and Engel’s “Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens” is so well-researched, relying on authentic documents, it is conceivable that Reuss was better informed than someone who’d only read Barruel and Robison — which makes the disconnect between the O.T.O. (which is by no means as scary as a lot of people claim) especially interesting.

    Which groups call themselves Illuminati and why is another question altogether.

  3. Valuable article. Yes, the notion of a modern Illuminati movement is myth. I would say the Illuminati’s influence ended when their member Montgelas fell from power as ruler of Bavaria in about 1817. Montgelas brought the early French Revolution policies from above -as ruler — until he was deposed.

  4. I agree the modern Illuminati (from Weishaupt) is myth, but certain esoteric groups who’ve perpetuated this myth shouldn’t be surprised when conspiracy theorists run with it. I suspect some even relish in it.

  5. Wasn’t RAW a member of OTO? There’s an example of someone who exposed people to every outlandish claim about the Illuminati, and who, arguably, had a much wider influence than a Nesta Webster in her day.

  6. Thank you, Marco. There are so many avenues to research. Right now, I’m looking at the relationship between the Illuminati and Freemasonry in the context of the collapse of the Strict Observance Rite.

  7. Terry, I think many O.T.O. members are not all that bothered by being associated with the Illuminati. I think, many wonder what exactly the connection is and what the Illuminati were really about. I’m not sure, if Wilson was a member, but I think he was. I found his “Illuminatus! Trilogy” a pretty potent inoculant against the whole conspiracy scene.

    Yes, there will always be powerful and wealthy people and groups who will cut shady backroom deals a the expense of others, but I just can’t subscribe to the popular “grand conspiracy” schemes.

  8. Cosmic Trigger trilogy is what I’m thinking about. He made sure to voice his opinion of other theories at variance with his own (Birchers etc) but had also promoted his own “grand conspiracy” schemes about what the Illuminati may or not be.

    It’s only after RAW that the whole OTO = Illuminati had even entered the picture as far as Christians were concerned. RAW had a chuckle every time he would posit one theory or another but he’s responsible for some of the narratives circulating in fundamentalist circles.

    • I’m pretty sure Nesta Webster, Lady Queensborough’s “Occult Theocracy”, & the books of “Inquire Within” all connect the OTO & the Illuminati, along with a massive dose of “Protocols of Zion” nonsense.

      • “Inquire Within” did for sure. You’re right. I think RAW even mentions it somewhere. Haven’t looked much at Queensborough. Every time I tried all I got out of it was Jew this and Jew that on every page. Nesta Webster seems like a card-carrying ADL member by comparison.

      • The good news is that we no longer have to rely on sources like Queensborough and Webster. A free google ebooks search for “Illuminaten” will give anyone enough to read for years. Heck, I won’t live long enough to translate everything I have already downloaded to my computer.

  9. I let out an involuntary chuckle when you wrote that you can say “with certainty” that the Illuminati no longer exist, which is like me saying I can say “with certainty” that my neighbor’s dog never peed in my yard.

    Yes, they exist. Of course they do. What do you think constitutes an “authentic” Illuminati lineage? An ideological “baton” passed from person to person traceable all the way back to Adam Weishaupt, and if you don’t find it or you find batons missing, then the Illuminati don’t exist?

  10. Terry, you stated that Bill Schnoebelen and Leo Zagami were former O.T.O. members. I am familiar with Schnoebelen, and have been for a few years. He tried to become a big wheel in the New Age/neopagan/Wiccan community back in the seventies and made himself unpopular with a lot of people, such as Morning Glory Zell of the Church of of All Worlds. People like Kerr Cuhulain (Brian Ennis) have caught him in several lies.

    Schnoebelen has never been a member of the O.T.O. proper, although it is likely that he was a member of Kenneth Grant’s organization, the Thyponian O.T.O. We are talking about two separate organizations who don’t have a whole lot of love for each other. There are four organizations in total who claim the name O.T.O. with some degree of legitimacy.

    I looked at Leo Zagami’s page, and to be honest, I won’t even bother finding out if his alleged O.T.O. past is legit.

    I respect your research on the Bavarian Illuminati, and it’s okay that we arrive at different conclusions. After all, this is still such a wide open field.

    • “OTO, and other esoteric bodies” is what I said.

      Zagami’s nuts and Schnoebelen is a liar at best. But I do believe that they were involved with occult groups who had in fact told them that they were in the Illuminati – which was the point of my comments. Much like the Strict Observance, the Golden and Rosy Cross and the Bavarian Illuminati of the 18th century, the game of the mythical “Secret Chiefs”/”Unknown Superiors” controlling the entire esoteric edifice continues, as does the indoctrination thereof. Money is fleeced and minds are warped, as it has always been.

  11. You are right, Terry. I apologize. It’s Schnoebelen and Zagami who claimed to have been in the O.T.O., not you.

    Schnoebelen’s involvement with the occult scene is corroborated by people who are still in it and have worked with him. And professional “ex-warlocks” (e.g. Mike Warnke or Eric Pryor) or whatever they call themselves often have a strained relationship with the truth. And you are right, Zagami’s nuts. O.T.O. folks who are familiar with the name only groan when it’s mentioned.

    Generally, people in the O.T.O. have a lot to say about former members who get thrown out or leave and then do something like become evangelists.

    Whether anyone suddenly dropped the bomb on them they now belong to the Illuminati is a question well worth pursuing. The O.T.O. doesn’t keep its connection to the Bavarian Illuminati a secret. All you need to do is visit the O.T.O. website. It’s right there, for everyone to see. However, what that connection exactly is, apart from historical coincidence, remains a mystery.

    Someone claiming association with S.O.T.O. (Societas Ordo Templi Orientis) posted a pirated copy of Brubak’s translation of “Diogenes’ Lamp” on scribd, and the website referenced says S.O.T.O. is the real Illuminati. They’re one of the four groups I mentioned earlier.

    Why esoteric bodies would want to claim lineage to an organization that would have frowned on their practices is still a mystery to me, especially since Reuss and Engel must have had access to much, if not all of the ritual material.

  12. Why do the Rosicrucians like to claim Illuminati membership of Saint-Germain? Why do some factions even claim decent from the Illuminati? Obviously, in the context of the war between their real antecedents and the Bavarian Illuminati, it’s almost laughable that they would suggest it with a straight face. But they do.

    Best guess is that those who travel in esoteric circles read material written from a mythological perspective, not factually based history books written by specialists who devote decades to one subject.

    Many a conspiracy theorist suffers the same affliction and get their history of esoteric societies served to them – ironically enough – by the likes of Manly P. Hall, Albert Pike and Eliphas Levi or even the traditionalist camp or Theosophy and the perennialists. Much of the evidence touted for a grand occult conspiracy – by Christians in particular – derives from the “admissions” and mythological speculations of such authors, misinterpreted as real history!

  13. Zagami is a low-level dropout of the United Rite O.T.O. and is now soliciting minimum donations of $7,500 for some obscure arctic survival package, offering business proposals for medium and large sized companies.

    With both guys, it seems to be all about money and resume-padding. There is no money in being a professional Wiccan or Hippie. But there are plenty of business opportunities for professional ex-occultists. And “Former Illuminati Grandmaster” is a heck of a lot more impressive that “Wrote books about crystals and UFOs back in the Seventies” or “Dropped acid and founded a religion based on ‘The Matrix.’”

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