Conspiracy of Enlightenment: Augustin Barruel and his “Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism” (pt. 3)

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In the third episode of our series on first real conspiracy theory we come to the moment you all have been waiting for: occult lodges of Freemasonry and their role in the French Revolution, as depicted by Barruel.

But not just yet …

Namely, Barruel is not interested in demonstrating that certain political and scientific ideas are congruent to Freemasonic teaching – as most “conspiracy theorists” of today tend to do – but precisely the opposite: how certain, predominantly political, ideas had crept into this society or network of societies.

Although “Memoire Illustrating the History of Jacobinism” is widely regarded as an “anti-Masonic conspiracy theory”, Barruel is ambiguous and plainly uncertain about the real relationship of the occult lodges and Enlightenment radicals. Namely, he treats the Freemasons at the same time as dupes of philosophes and originators of their ideas.

This contradiction probably stems from the fact that the author enjoyed English patronage and his livelihood was wholly depended on generosity of his hosts, so he wasn’t able to be completely open about relation of continental and British Freemasonry, which he exculpates from guilt on rather flimsy arguments.

We are presented with rather strange chicken and the egg dilemma: are philosophes originators of revolutionary ideas or were those ideas already present in the catechism of speculative Freemasonry. Barruel seems to be advocating the affirmative answer in both senses simultaneously which doesn’t so much ruin his evaluation of causes of Revolution, as it displays his need not the tell the whole truth. However it is patently obvious that Freemasonic “myths of origins” as he sees them, certainly do indicate to the same underlying political, completely secular, ideas that surfaced in the wake of French Revolution.

In the first half of the podcast we explore Barruel’s criticism of Montesquieu and Rousseau, thinkers he considered predecessors of subversive movement that bring about Revolution.

In the second half, we focus on Barruel’s analysis of occult lodges of Freemasonry, and the lost name its initiates seek, which, surprisingly enough are precisely equality and liberty of Enlightenment; things the modern man seems to value the most.

(correction: at 53:00 it’s Comte de St Martin, not St Simone)

Part 1., Part 2.

Branko Malić

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