faith and culture
Angels & Demons: The Dark Path of the Illuminati
By Dr. Corne Bekker
CBN.com - Dan Brown’s book and now blockbuster movie, Angels and Demons, tells a fictional story of a violent confrontation between the Roman Catholic Church and a secret society called the Illuminati. But not unlike Brown’s more well-known work, The Da Vinci Code, the line between reality and fiction is once again blurred and used to further Brown’s ongoing creation of an alternate world filled with world-wide conspiracies of domination and Gnostic truths that must be uncovered by his protagonist, the Harvard University professor and symbologist (a fictional discipline created by Brown), Robert Langdon.
As with The Da Vinci Code, the Vatican and Roman Catholic Church are once again depicted in Angels and Demons as a suppressive and autocratic power that hides truth and fights any scientific and historic efforts to further human understanding and knowledge. It is only through Langdon’s deciphering of cryptic clues in the Roman architecture and symbols left by the Illuminati that the existence of this fictional and age-old fight and struggle for truth is uncovered.
The Illuminati, a word that is a derivative from the Latin that means the enlightened ones, historically refers to several groups, some historic and some fictional. The first group in history to use the name Illuminati was a collection of freethinkers led by the Law professor Adam Weishaupt in Ingolsadt, Germany in the year 1776. Freethinkers held to a philosophical viewpoint named Freethought that believed that truth can only be uncovered by the use of logic, reason and science. Freethinkers opposed any religious dogma, tradition or faith and proclaimed that historic Christianity obscured the human quest for ultimate truth and progress. This group came to be known as the Illuminati Order or the Bavarian Illuminati and even though it was ultimately banned by the Bavarian ruler, Karl Theodor in 1784; is suspected by many historians as instrumental in the overthrow of many European governments.
Several contemporary secret societies have adopted the philosophies, symbols and name of the Illuminati; groups such as occultist Aleister Crowley’s Order of Oriental Templers (a group connected today with the resurgence of Gnosticism and the Occult) and David Goldman’s Grand Lodge Rockefeller (a group related to contemporary Freemasonry). These groups are deeply taken and engaged by the humanist and materialist aims and tenants of the original Illuminati. Many theorists, such as David Icke and Morgan Gricar, have argued that the contemporary adoption of the name and philosophies of the first Illuminati groups by current secret societies means that they also might harbor aims and efforts of manipulating and controlling world events as the first Illuminati groups did.
Alan Axelrod, author of the International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders, defines a secret society as an organization that is exclusive, claims secret knowledge (a basic tenant of Gnosticism), and shows a determined effort to favor and facilitate the societal progress and advancement of its own. David Barrett, author of Secret Societies: From the Ancient and Arcane to the Modern and Clandestine, adds to Alexrod’s definition by highlighting the role of secret rituals in these groups that serves to initiate their members into occult-like ecstasies and “higher-order knowledge”. Secret knowledge that these secret societies claimed would assist their members to climb the social and economic ladders in their world.
The public origins and claims of Christianity stand in stark contrast to the secretive nature and obscure operation of these secret societies. Jesus of Nazareth deeply valued and promoted the open declaration of truth for his disciples and followers:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)
For Jesus, truth was absolute, coming from God through Him and available to everyone who desired to know:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
Gnosticism, as a religious and philosophical belief of secret knowledge only known by a view, is not new. The early Church battled this destructive heresy on a continual basis. The authors of the Canonical Gospels in response to Gnostic heresies in their own day boldly declared the public nature and accessibility of truth in the miracle of the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 14, NIV)
Dan Brown’s depiction of the Illuminati in his book Angels and Demons is historically inaccurate. What he does get right is the secretive ways and extreme humanist and anti-religious philosophies of these secret societies. But what is more troubling is Brown’s solution in his hero, Professor Robert Langdon. Langdon uses secret knowledge (with Brown’s fictional discipline of symbology) to uncover hidden and secret truths in the Roman architecture of Catholic churches (again a complete fabrication of Brown’s behalf) that initiates him into higher-order knowledge so that he can save the church, the Vatican and ultimately the world. This is simply the age-old lies of Gnosticism served up as current truth. Jesus taught and showed a different way, a clear and redemptive way to truth that is open and accessible to all. Jesus declared:
“In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37, NIV)
Dr. Corné Bekker is an associate professor in the Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. He previously served as the Assistant-Dean of Rhema Bible College in Johannesburg , South Africa. Dr. Bekker in an ordained minister and has traveled in Africa, Europe, the East and North America to present at churches, ministries, seminars and academic conferences on the subject of Christian spirituality and leadership formation.
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