Brothers of the Shadows A Perspective on Conspiracies

Brothers of the Shadows

A Perspective on Conspiracies

By Sevak Gulbekian

In his book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace Gore Vidal suggests that the American public has been conditioned to respond to the word ‘conspiracy’ with a smirk and a chuckle. Conspiracy, in other words, is for the nuts and the loners, and is not to be taken seriously. In this way, he argues, through the media’s association of the concept of conspiracy with fringe or extreme elements, the real conspirators go unnoticed.

It is a vital point, and Vidal courageously chases and exposes genuine conspiracies by politicians, the FBI, lobbyists for the tobacco companies, and so on. But the flip-side of the conspiracy coin is the proliferation of fanciful and fantastic theories that now crisscross the globe in seconds with the help of electronic media.

The spread of the internet has democratised conspiracy theory. Millions of people now have the means to publish their own unique analysis of what is going on. A necessary consequence of this massive growth in personal digital publishing is that it is getting to be much more difficult to find the pearls among the rubbish. Someone even observed that, in the age of the internet, if you want to keep something secret you make it public…

Amidst the more fantastic theories of UFOs and intergalactic lizards, certain core themes do persistently reoccur in the mass of ‘conspiracy theory’ material now available. Principal among them is the idea that a shadowy elite is seeking to enslave humanity under the auspices of a single, centralised world government. The name of the mysterious ‘Illuminati’ is most often associated with such a group, although what is meant by it is frequently ill defined. The Illuminati are, supposedly, a cabal of top bankers, politicians and businessmen seeking to create the aforesaid all-powerful government.

What is the truth of all this? I do not propose to give a full answer here, but would like to introduce a perspective on the theme – one that has generally not been given serious consideration – taken from the research of Rudolf Steiner. In the second part of the article I will try and relate Steiner’s ideas to other more familiar conspiracy research.

So why Steiner? Because, if for no other reason, his pronouncements and indications on practical areas of life have borne such remarkable fruit, testimony to which are thousands of Waldorf schools offering a new kind of education, farms successfully practicing bio-dynamics, clinics dispensing anthroposophic medicines, and so on.

As a profound clairvoyant, Steiner claimed to investigate other dimensions of reality for insight into the human condition. His legacy is hundreds of volumes of published talks and written works on a cornucopia of themes. However, as mentioned above, his work – in contrast to that of many other spiritual teachers and gurus – has shown itself to have practical applications in all areas of life. This in itself does not provide ultimate evidence for the truth of his work, but it does correspond to the biblical dictum: “[B]y their fruits ye shall know them.”

In 1916 and 1917, in the midst of the catastrophic First World War, Steiner gave a series of 25 lectures to a group of his followers who gathered together at their centre in Dornach in neutral Switzerland. These lectures, since translated and published in English,1 offer a unique reading of contemporary events.

Behind the outer façade of world affairs, suggested Steiner, the machinations of occult groups or ‘brotherhoods’ were at work. Certain of these brotherhoods had wanted the Great War to take place, and had manipulated events to bring it about. In doing this, they sought to protect the dominant economic position of the English-speaking world, and in turn to crush the ‘mediating’ role of Central European powers such as Germany, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and so on.

These occult brotherhoods – small groups of men who met together in ‘lodges’ and practiced ceremonial magic as a means of achieving certain goals – originated from the English-speaking (Anglo-Saxon) world and were allied, in particular, with Anglo-American interests. Their aim was to extend Anglo-American influence across the globe, and to ensure the predomination of Anglo-American culture. Furthermore, they sought to extend its superiority into the distant future; essentially to ensure that the present state of affairs continues evermore.

According to Steiner’s research, human evolution goes through ‘great periods’ of development. During each of these periods, a particular people is given the task of leading humanity in a spiritual sense. Over the millennia, it has been the destiny of different peoples to bring specific qualities, in a benevolent way, to the whole of humanity. Particular periods of history are thus led by particular nations. This does not imply a form of political control or empire – and is certainly not a theory of national or racial superiority – but is referring to a spiritual form of authority.

Steiner suggested that the Western world, and in particular the English-speaking peoples, have been given the task of getting to grips with the material world – of becoming comfortable on Earth and developing in harmony with it. In this specific sense, the West was to introduce a certain kind of (beneficial) materialism into human development. But this materialism was only meant to be developed up to a certain point. It was necessary in order for humans to become fully part of the earthly world, and to help introduce an individualised consciousness (the ‘I’). But beyond that it had the potential to be destructive. Materialism as a philosophy, which shuts out the possibility of soul and spirit, is retrogressive, asserted Steiner, and works as an evil in human evolution.

The Anglo-American brotherhoods that seek dominion over mankind know this, and hence today are deliberately sponsoring various kind of materialism in the hope of halting and trapping humanity at the present stage of its development. They don’t want humans to progress beyond the present stage of immersion in the material world. In other words, they don’t want us to reconnect in a free way with our spiritual ‘I’, because they know that their grip over humanity would then be lost. Human progress is dependent on spiritual knowledge, and thus the occult brotherhoods work against it.

Steiner explained further the brotherhoods were aware that the Slavic peoples were to be given the task of leadership on behalf of humanity during the next ‘great period’ of history. For this reason, the Anglo-American brotherhoods not only sought to dominate the present great period of human development, but – knowing that the Slavs had an important mission in the future – sought to gain control over the Slavic peoples (Russia in particular) in the present, in order to interfere with or even put a halt to their coming task. In this way, the Anglo-American brotherhoods could extend their control over human development into the distant future.

Steiner later claimed that the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which led to the creation of the USSR and the 72-year cultural, intellectual, economic and political repression of the populations of its various peoples, was masterminded and sponsored by these same brotherhoods as a means of controlling the region and its peoples.2

What is the evidence for Steiner’s analysis? Apart from anything else, it is interesting to note the present state of world affairs, and how – since Steiner spoke about this topic in 1916-17 – Anglo-American culture has come to dominate the globe in tandem with American economic and political influence (with the enthusiastic support of British politicians). The assertion of unilateral military action by the United States and Britain in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – in the face of almost total global opposition – was a good example of this formidable power at work. However, admittedly these observations do not provide ‘proof’ in a strict sense.

Another source of evidence is the remarkable research of Prof. Carroll Quigley (1910-77) who wrote two substantial volumes, The Anglo-American Establishment (1949) and Tragedy and Hope (1966),3 on the secret network which emerged from the enterprise of Cecil Rhodes. Quigley characterised the power of this group through its influence in politics, culture and social life as “terrifying”.

It is important to note that Quigley was no crazed and paranoid conspiracy nut, but a respected Georgetown professor, and even the teacher of Bill Clinton. (How such networks might be related to the brotherhoods Steiner is talking about will be considered later.) Other authors have followed Quigley’s lead and complemented his studies with contemporary observations. A few have even related Steiner’s ideas to Quigley’s research.4 In this context, however, I would like to mention only two external ‘symptoms’, which, at the very least, offer circumstantial evidence for Steiner’s diagnosis.

In 1893, an Englishman called C.G. Harrison delivered six lectures to the Berean Society, a mysterious group of ‘Christian esotericists’. A record of these lectures is to be found in Harrison’s remarkable book The Transcendental Universe. Little is known about the Berean Society or Harrison, although he wrote two further books in his lifetime. What is clear is that Harrison, who speaks in defense of the “high” Church, had access to a phenomenal store of esoteric thought, and was furthermore privy to a certain amount of inside knowledge. In his second lecture, he spoke not only of “the next great European war”, but also of the “national character” of the Slavic peoples and its ability to “enable them to carry out experiments in Socialism, political and economical, which would present innumerable difficulties in Western Europe”.5 Remember that these lectures were given in 1893, 21 years before the First World War and 24 years before the Bolshevik Revolution!

While Harrison claimed to be a “theoretical occultist” as opposed to a “practical” one – i.e. he did not practice magic or ritual, with the implication that he was not a member of a “lodge” himself – from his work it is evident he represents an esoteric strain of thought which clearly defends the English establishment. How could he know about the forthcoming War as well as the “experiments in Socialism”, which would take a grip on Russia and its surrounding states for most of the twentieth century? If he was not, as he claimed, a “practical occultist” himself, it is reasonable to assume he had contact with people who were, and who had access to the malign plans of such secret groups referred to above.

The second significant piece of evidence which offers some backing for Steiner’s claims of occult interference in world politics is to be found in a special edition of the satirical weekly The Truth, published at Christmas 1890. Under the heading ‘The Kaiser’s Dream’, the magazine featured a cartoon map of Europe together with a humorous commentary. Many observations can be made of the map, but the most pertinent point to note in relation to the above is that all the countries of Europe are shown as republics with the exception of Russia and its neighbouring states, over which are written the words “Russian Desert”. In addition, Germany is identified with the words “German Republics”! This map signifies not only a foreknowledge – similar to Harrison – of the fate of Russia to become a cultural as well as an economic ‘desert’, but also of the future splitting of Germany into ‘republics’. The magazine’s editor, Henry Labouchère, was a Freemason. Was his remarkable foresight pure luck, or once again did he have some inside knowledge of future plans to shape the world?

It is of course possible that the above examples are merely coincidences and happy flukes, but surely it is unlikely. Do these examples offer evidence for the existence of occult brotherhoods with pernicious plans for political manipulation? We may never know for sure, but it is evident that Steiner’s perspective offers much serious food for thought, and opens up important new vistas for understanding current world events.

Steiner and Modern Conspiracy Research

Having sketched out Steiner’s picture of secret brotherhoods, I would like now to try and show how his perspective might relate to the more general conspiracy research referred to earlier. To many readers of this magazine the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission will be more than familiar. In addition, the Yale University secret society Skull and Bones is often identified by investigators in the conspiracy field. The latter has been thrown into the limelight recently due to the remarkable admission by both Republican and Democratic candidates of the 2004 American presidential election that they are members of the exclusive club.

As Skull and Bones is a tiny society that invites only 15 undergraduates per year to join its ranks – and at any one time has only 800 or so living members – the fact that the two candidates for the post of the most powerful position in the world are members of it (from a population totaling some 293 million people) is quite incredible!

It has long been known that George W. Bush is an initiate of Skull and Bones (as was his father George Bush Snr. and grandfather Prescott Sheldon Bush), but it has been something of a surprise to discover the democratic candidate John Kerry is also a member. (Kerry laughed nervously when questioned about his and Bush’s membership on television. “You both were members of the Skull and Bones; what does that tell us?” he was asked. “Yup. Not much”, he replied.6)

According to the key researcher of Skull and Bones, Antony C. Sutton, the society was first founded in 1833. Members, who meet secretly in its ‘tomb’ on the grounds of Yale, are sworn to secrecy about the group’s rites and activities. In terms of its operations and philosophy, Sutton refers to the ‘dialectical’ process, based on the philosopher Hegel, as being at the heart of Skull and Bones thinking. In particular, he tries to prove that the group has been instrumental in funding and encouraging the development of both far-left and far-right political groupings – principally the Communists and Nazis – in the twentieth century. From the point of view of Skull and Bones’ broad vision of human development, left and right are viewed as two parts of the Hegelian dialectical process; one political wing represents ‘thesis’ while the other represents ‘antithesis’. These two aspects clash and fight each other, but eventually merge to form a ‘synthesis’. It is this synthesis, according to Sutton, that Skull and Bones is aiming to create. By controlling and manipulating the conflict, it controls the outcome (or synthesis).

It is interesting to note that Sutton first published his interpretation of Skull and Bones in the mid-1980s. At that time, he quoted the group as working for a ‘New World Order’ (NWO). This NWO was to be the product of the synthesis of political left and right. Shortly after the collapse of the Eastern-bloc communist countries, and the subsequent triumph of Western capitalism – a triumph that Francis Fukuyama referred to in his famous book as ‘the end of history’ – George Bush Snr. began to use the specific phrase ‘New World Order’ in public speeches.

This fascinating fact offers some circumstantial evidence for Sutton’s reading. Presuming that Sutton is correct, humanity is living right now within the period of ‘synthesis’ – the birth of a NWO led by the West, and principally the United States. (And perhaps it will come as no surprise to adherents of Sutton’s analysis that a new ‘dialectic’ has suddenly appeared to take the place of the old, i.e. Communism versus Capitalism is replaced with the West versus Islamic Fundamentalism.)

Antony Sutton’s series of booklets on Skull and Bones begins with his Introduction to the Order,7 in which he points out that – despite them being commonly associated with conspiracy – organisations such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission are ultimately not secret, and have large public memberships. Likewise, it could be added that despite the fact the Bilderberg conferences are not open to the press or public, the names of the people who attend these yearly private meetings are not concealed. (The minutes of the 1999 meeting in Sintra, Portugal were even leaked and published wholesale on the internet.) Lists of members of the above groups can be found in Robert Gaylon Ross’s Who’s Who of the Elite, Members of the Bilderbergs, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission and Skull and Bones Society.)

Sutton suggests that organisations such as the above form a larger ‘outer circle’ of members, while societies such as Skull and Bones form part of an ‘inner circle’ of truly secret groupings, of which there is a still further ‘inner core’ – the ‘decision-making core’ – which remains completely out of public view, i.e. truly hidden (or, literally, ‘occult’). This is a reasonable hypothesis. From what is known of the Bilderberg conferences, for example, it could be inferred that their essential motivation is to further the Western Capitalist Project through high-level networking and the grooming of young talent. To put it in another way, they are working for the economic, political and cultural domination of a globalised world by the West – in particular by the English-speaking peoples led by the United States and Britain. (Although the Bilderberg conferences include guests from around the world, the emphasis is on North America and Europe, and its leadership is Anglo-Saxon.)

From what is known of the Bilderbergers – and much has reached the public domain – there appears to be no more conspiracy than that. Groups such as Skull and Bones (and Sutton deduces that there are others such as Scroll and Key) are not completely secret in that their existence and membership are well documented. According to Sutton these are the ‘core’, with similar objectives to the more public groups but with more focused and consciously-held goals.

In contradistinction to the Bilderbergers etc., true secret societies usually have elaborate initiation ceremonies and use ritual as a critical part of their mutual enterprise. The brotherhoods Steiner speaks of, as has already been mentioned, are also built on Masonic principles of secrecy and ritual, but are hidden from public view.

In relation to the groups referred to above, it is quite possible that such genuinely occult brotherhoods form part of the inner, ‘decision-making’ core, which Sutton refers to. Having said that, as Sutton points out, most members of the larger groups would have no inkling of any subterfuge or conspiracy, and neither would many members of Skull and Bones. This work would be left to the directors, or ‘initiates’, with esoteric knowledge and understanding. According to Steiner, the specific brotherhoods he is referring to not only have the conscious goal of maintaining Anglo-American domination, but complement this aim with real esoteric insight – i.e. an understanding of the evolutionary cycles referred to above.

The above sketch gives a useful framework for comprehending how public groups such as Bilderberg, more secret groups like Skull and Bones, and the occult societies that Steiner refers to might interact and co-exist. In this sense, the true occult societies would be the central inspiration for the larger intersecting groups of organisations with politically active individuals. To my mind, such a complex picture is more convincing than the nebulous idea of a single all-powerful ‘Illuminati’ that is supposedly responsible for creating a massive conspiracy that controls every aspect of modern life.


1. Karma of Untruthfulness Volumes I & II, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1988 and 1992.
2. See further in Sergei O. Prokofieff, The Spiritual Origins of Eastern Europe and the Future Mysteries of the Holy Grail, Temple Lodge Publishing, London, 1993.
3. The Anglo-American Establishment was only published in 1981, Books in Focus, New York. Tragedy and Hope was published in 1966 by Macmillan, New York.
4. See Terry Boardman, Mapping the Millennium, Behind the Plans of the New World Order, Temple Lodge Publishing, London, 1998, and Amnon Reuveni, In the Name of the ‘New World Order’, Manifestations of Decadent Powers in World Politics, Temple Lodge Publishing, London, 1996.
5. The Transcendental Universe, Lindisfarne Press, New York, 1993, pages 98-99.
6. Daily Telegraph, London, 12 July 2004.
7. The Secret Cult of the Order (1983), An Introduction to the Order (1984), How the Order Creates War and Revolution (1985), How the Order Controls Education (1985), Veritas Publishing Co., Aukland. A more recent and high profile study is Alexandra Robbins Secrets of the Tomb.


The simultaneous rejection of the bailout and a corrupt ruling class

Glenn Greenwald

Retired New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, writing at The New Republic yesterday, makes a critical point, in a piece entitled “Celebrating the Bailout Bill’s Failure”:

Whether you favor the $700 billion bailout or not, the House vote today should make you cheer — loudly.Why?

Because the majority vote against it shows that Washington is not entirely in the service of the political donor class, by which I mean Wall Street and the corporations who rely on it for their financing. These campaign donors, a narrow slice of America, have lobbied and donated their way into a system that stacks the economic rules in their favor. But faced with as many as 200 telephone calls against the bailout for every one in favor, a lot of House members decided to listen to their constituents today instead of their campaign donors.

Johnston’s celebration that “Washington is not entirely in the service of the political donor class” is probably premature given that Congressional leaders are falling all over themselves to assure everyone that this deal will pass in a few days after it is tinkered with in one direction or the other. I recall all too well celebrating a similar “victory” back in March, when House Democrats astonishingly refused to comply with the demands of the “donor class” — and the entire political establishment — to pass Bush’s FISA bill to grant retroactive amnesty to the entire lawbreaking telecom industry, only to watch them jump into line and do what they were told a few months later. The corporate donor class and political establishment may lose a battle here and there, but they almost never lose the war, since they own and control the political battlefield.Still, Johnston’s overarching point is absolutely right. For better or worse, yesterday’s vote was the rarest event in our political culture: ordinary Americans from all across the political spectrum actually exerting influence over how our Government functions, and trumping the concerted, unified efforts of the entire ruling class to ensure that their desires, as usual, would be ignored. Time‘s Michael Scherer described quite well what a stinging repudiation yesterday’s vote was for those who typically run the country without much opposition:

There was a lack of trust, a loss of confidence, a popular revolt.Nearly every major political leader in America supported the bailout bill. The President of the United States. The Vice President. The Treasury Secretary. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Democratic and Republican nominees for president. The Democratic and Republican leadership of the House and the Senate. All of them said the same thing. Vote yes.

But the leaders anointed by the U.S. Constitution to most reflect the will of the people voted no. This is a remarkable event, the culmination of a historic sense of betrayal that the American people have long felt for their representatives in Washington D.C. Roughly 28 percent of the Americans approve of President Bush. Roughly 18 percent of Americans approve of Congress. These numbers have been like that for years.

Now those bad feelings have manifested themselves in the starkest of terms. Not enough of the American people believed their leaders. And so the politicians that were most exposed ran for cover.

Can anyone even remember the last time this happened, where the nation’s corporate interests and their establishment spokespeople were insistently demanding government action but were impeded — defeated — by nothing more than popular opinion? Perhaps the failure of George Bush’s Social Security schemes in 2005 would be an example, but one is hard-pressed to think of any other meaningful ones. We’re a “democracy” in which nothing is less important in how our government functions than public opinion. Yesterday was an exceedingly rare though intense departure from that framework — the kind of citizen defiance of, an “uprising” against, a rotted ruling elite described by David Sirota in his book, “Uprising.” On the citizenry level, the backlash was defined not by “Republican v. Democrat” or “Left v. Right,” but by “people v. ruling class.” As Johnston argues, yesterday’s events should be celebrated for that reason alone.It’s true that we don’t live in a direct democracy where every last decision by elected officials must conform to majoritarian desire, nor should we want that. In general, elected officials should exercise judgment independent of — in ways that deviate from — majority views. But the opposite extreme is what we have and it is just as bad — a system where the actions of elected officials are dictated by a tiny cabal of self-interested oligarchs which fund, control and own the branches of government and willfully ignore majority opinion in all cases (except to manipulate it).

Moreover, even in a model of representative rather than direct democracy, the more consequential an action is — should we start a war? should we burden the entire nation with close to a trillion dollars in debt in order to bail out Wall Street? — the greater the need is to have the consent of the governed before undertaking it. From all quarters, Americans heard the arguments in favor of the bailout — “agree to have this debt piled on your back for decades or else face certain doom” — and they rejected it, decisively, at least for now.

Anyone arguing that their views should be ignored, that their judgment be overridden by the decree of the wiser, superior ruling class (see David Brooks and Kevin Drum as good examples), is simply endorsing the continuation of the predominant framework for how our country has been run for the last decade, at least. Whatever else that is, there’s nothing “wise” about that framework. Even if one believes in principle that the country is best entrusted to the elevated wisdom of a magnanimous and superior ruling class, and that majoritarian opinion should be systematically ignored, our ruling class — the one we actually have — is anything but wise and magnanimous. It’s bloated, incestuous, reckless, inept, self-interested, endlessly greedy and corrupt at its core. Ye shall know them by their fruits. It’s hard to imagine anything less wise than continuing to submit to its dictates.

Liberation from — one could say “destruction of” — the system run by that ruling establishment class is of critical importance. Yesterday’s rejection of their decree, on such a momentous matter, was a shocking first step towards that objective (and the doom and panic of yesterday has given rise to calm and even optimism today, as those with cash have taken advantage of the market drop of yesterday and, around the world, are madly buying). There may be, almost certainly will be, even greater financial distress in the near future, and perhaps Americans will come to view these matters differently. But regardless of whether yesterday’s bailout was a good idea on the merits, the defeat — for now — of those who have enjoyed an unbroken (and ill-deserved) line of victories is something that ought to be cheered.

UPDATE: Strictly on the level of “Democratic v. Republican” political strategizing, Nancy Pelosi did exactly the right thing yesterday — she provided just enough Democratic votes in favor of the bailout so that it could pass only if there was substantial GOP support (thus preventing Republicans from cynically blaming the bailout on Democrats), while simultaneously ensuring that Republicans (and McCain) would be blamed if it failed. Strictly on a strategic level, it was — for the reason Matt Yglesias describes — all very well-played by the House Democratic leadership.

Relatedly, several comments are pointing out that House members only voted against the bailout out of fear of losing the upcoming election, not because of any “sincere” concern for what their constituents think. That’s a distinction without a difference. When elected officials take action out of fear of provoking the anger of voters, that is the democratic process in action. To say that the bailout failed (in part) because of public opinion isn’t to ascribe noble sentiments to members of Congress — it’s only to say that they were driven to do what they did by public opinion.