Harvard Historian Niall Ferguson on the Illuminati

…by Jonas E. Alexis

Niall Ferguson of Harvard agrees that there was indeed “a secrete network that tried to change the world” known as the Illuminati in his recent book The Square and the Tower: From the Freemasons to Facebook.[1]

The Order’s founder declared that his goal was “to give reason the upper hand” and to dispel “the cloud of superstition and prejudice.”[2] The General Statutes of the organization stated that “the sole intention of the league” was “education, not by declamatory means, but by favouring and rewarding virtue.”[3]

Yet even Ferguson himself admits that

“the Illuminati were to operate as a strictly secret fraternity. Members adopted codenames, often of ancient Greek or Roman provenance: the founder himself was ‘Brother Spartacus.’ There were to be three ranks or grades of members—Novice, Minerval, and Illuminated Minerval—but the lower ranks were to be given the vaguest insights into the Order’s goals and methods.

“Elaborate initiation rites were devised—among them an oath of secrecy, violation of which would be punished with the most gruesome death. Each isolated cell of initiates reported to a superior, whose real identity they did not know.”[4]

So the goal of that secret society could hardly be compatible with reason precisely because it was, well, a secret society, where death would follow those who abandoned their post. Ferguson writes that “the Illuminati had ceased to function by the end of 1787. Nevertheless, their infancy long outlived them.”[5]

By 1797, the prodigious Scottish physicist John Robison released his Proofs of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, in which he argued that:

“through a course of fifty years, under the specious pretext of enlightening the world by the torch of philosophy, and of dispelling the clouds of civil and religious superstition,’ an ‘association’ had been ‘exerting itself zealously and systematically, till it has become almost irresistible,’ with the goal of ‘rooting out all the religious establishments, and overturning all the existing government of Europe.’”[6]

The former French Jesuit Augustin de Barruel said almost the same thing in his book Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jocobinism, which was also published in 1997. The Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke agreed with these allegations.[7]

Here we are in complete agreement with Ferguson. It could also be argued that the Illuminati as a secret organization is essentially dead, though one can perhaps say that its tentacles can be seen in the work of Jay Z and the late Peaches Geldof.[8]

But Ferguson moved on to make some of the most ridiculous arguments ever made by a scholar of his reputation. He argues that conspiracy theorists who believe that the Illuminati still exists are not only crazy but they are the same people who believe that

“the current financial crisis was secretly orchestrated by a small group of Wall Street bankers to extend the power of the Federal Reserve and further their control of the world’s economy.”[9]

Ferguson even insinuates that people who believe that the Iraq War and the event leading up the 9/11 attack were hatched by a small group of people who want to destabilize much of the world is again conspiracy nuts.[10] Nothing could be further from the truth.

The sad thing is that the scholarly literature is widely available, and Ferguson simply cannot wiggle out of the situation by simply saying that he didn’t know that the Iraq War itself was an essentially Neoconservative and Jewish enterprise. This is not conspiracy theory; this is a scholarly judgment.[11]

It is also a scholarly judgment to say that the Neoconservative ideology brought perpetual wars in the Middle East, which created chaos in the region.[12] Perhaps it is time to bring in Thomas Friedman of the New York Times once again in our discussion here. Friedman declared that the plan for war in Iraq

“was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history.

“They believe that the right political idea entails a fusion of morality and force, human rights and grit. The philosophical underpinnings of the Washington neoconservatives are the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Edmund Burke.”[13]

It is this Neoconservative doctrine that led America into the war in Iraq—a doctrine that, in the end, proved to be detrimental to the nation at large. Wolfowitz was so aggressive about invading Iraq that one Republican lawmaker declared Wolfowitz “was like a parrot bringing [Iraq] up all the time. It was getting on the President’s nerves.”[14]

After one such meeting in Washington, we are told that Colin Powell rolled his eyes, declaring, “Jeez, what a fixation about Iraq.”[15] Kenneth R. Weinstein of the Hudson Institute, a neoconservative think tank, noted that in May of 2003, “we neoconservatives were hailed as great visionaries.” But when the war turned out to be a disaster, “Now we are embattled, both within the conservative movement and in the battle over postwar planning.”[16]

It would be really stupid of Ferguson to say that he had no knowledge of the fact that the Neoconservative ideology devastated America’s image in the Middle East and elsewhere.

As the Guardian itself put it, Ferguson is an “imperial mischief maker,”[17] and that is one reason why he cannot historically criticize the Neoconservative ideology because imperialism and the Neoconservative movement are essentially concentric circles. Listen to Ferguson very carefully here (April 27, 2003)

“Let me come clean. I am a fully paid up member of the neo-imperialist gang. Twelve years ago—when it was not fashionable to say so—I was already arguing that it would be ‘desirable for the United States to depose’ tyrants like Saddam Hussein.

“Capitalism and democracy are not naturally occurring, but require strong institutional foundations of law and order. The proper role of an Imperial America is to establish these institutions where they are lacking, if necessary by military force.

“Today this argument is in danger of becoming a commonplace…. Max Boot has gone so far as to say the United States should provide places like Afghanistan and other troubled countries with ‘the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.’ I agree.”[18]

So Ferguson was in cahoots with the Neoconservatives in 2003. That is why he cannot formulate two coherent thoughts together when he comes to criticizing the Neoconservative movement.


  • [1] Niall Ferguson, The Square and the Tower: From the Freemasons to Facebook (New York: Penguin, 2018), 3.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Ibid., 4.
  • [5] Ibid., 5.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] For a thorough study on this issue, see E. Michael Jones, The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History (South Bend: Fidelity Press, 2008).
  • [8] See Richard Price, “Forget Scientology, celebs are now falling for an even more sinister ‘religion’: Introducing the Satanic sex cult that’s snaring stars such as Peaches Geldof,” Daily Mail, April 22, 2013; Harriet Arkell, “From Scientology to libertine cult Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO): How Peaches was obsessed with the occult and spiritual study,” Daily Mail, April 8, 2014.
  • [9] Ferguson, The Square and the Tower, 5.
  • [10] Ibid., 8.
  • [11] See for example Murray Friedman, The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); for a history of the movement, see Alan M. Wald, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left From the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Alexander Bloom, Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons (New York: Anchor Books, 2008); See for example John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Farrar & Straus, 2006); Paul R. Pillar, Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); John J. Mearsheimer, Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); for a very short version of this  issue, see Francis Fukuyama, “After Neoconservatism,” NY Times, February 19, 2006.
  • [12] See for example John Hagan and Joshua Kaiser, Iraq and the Crimes of Aggressive War: The Legal Cynicism of Criminal Militarism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Mark Kukis, Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).
  • [13] Ari Shavit, “White Man’s Burden,” Haaretz, April 4, 2003.
  • [14] Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby, 246.
  • [15] Ibid., 247.
  • [16] David R. Kirkpatrick, “Lack of Resolution in Iraq Finds Conservatives Divided,” NY Times, April 19, 2004.
  • [17] Jeevan Vasagar, “Niall Ferguson: admirable historian, or imperial mischief maker?,” Guardian, June 18, 2012.
  • [18] Niall Ferguson, “The Empire Slinks Back,” NY Times, April 27, 2003.
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