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Satan, the Devil, and the Antichrist

Freemasons

Jews and the Forged Protocols

Variations on Conspiracist Themes


Key Narrative Roots

The Salem witch trials sought to expose witches and their allies as conspiring with the Devil.60 Modern scholarship has shown that persons accused of being witches were disproportionately women who did not conform to societal expectations, and that there was frequently an economic dimension to the charge, such as a disputed inheritance.61 This is evidence that demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism--elements of every witch hunt--arrived on our shores with the overwhelmingly Protestant early settlers and their view that Godly persons were in a struggle with a literal Satan. These ideas were influenced by the apocalyptic narrative of Revelation, but were not always linked to a specific widespread period of millennial expectation. They did set the stage, however, for the generalized paradigm of conspiracism in the US, which revolves around narratives of subversion by evil forces doing the work of the Devil.

Satan, the Devil, and the Antichrist

What Christians conceive as the embodiment of evil has varied over time. According to Robert Fuller, in his book, Naming the Antichrist, "During the first three centuries of Christian thought, the identities of Satan and the Antichrist were frequently intertwined," but after that, "The Antichrist has generally been understood to be Satan's chief disciple or agent for deceiving humanity in the final days...."62

The idea of the Devil, an incarnate powerful evil demon leading a battle against God, gains prominence in the eight and ninth centuries in Christianity.63 By the thirteenth century, "the Devil reached the acme of his influence."64 Christianity, from the 1100s through the 1500s, experienced a period of militant millennialism, and paid special attention to identifying the Antichrist and his evil followers.65 By taking a hard line in opposition to the practice of magic and witchcraft during this period, Christian authorities taught followers that some persons in league with the Devil possessed special powers and skills. Alliance with the Devil might be through demonic possession or soul-selling, it might manifest itself as spreading the false religion of the Antichrist, or recalcitrant sinfulness. The response ranged from exorcism, to torture, to execution. With this reading of the relationship between the Devil and certain demonized individuals, the seeds of future witch hunts were sown.

Devil worshipping is a charge that has been leveled against religious reformers, followers of non-Christian religious traditions, non-believers, and dissidents of all stripes. According to Paul Carus in his book History of the Devil, "[t]he saddest side of the Devil's history appears in the persecution of those who were supposed to be adherents of the Devil; namely, sectarians, heretics, and witches."66 As Elaine Pagels dryly observes, "Satan has, after all, made a kind of profession out of being the `other'." 67

Jews were linked by the Christian church to the Antichrist as early as the second century.68 By the twelfth century Jews are charged with the ritual murder of children, poisoning of wells, desecration of communion bread and wine, and other calumnies.69 The original Papal inquisition in the thirteenth century was largely directed against dissenters linked to Satanic influence. The charge frequently served an opportunistic purpose. The Christian order of the Knights Templar was accused of "bestial idolatry" by "an avaricious king of France...anxious to deprive them of their wealth."70 The later Spanish Inquisition, in the fifteenth century, frequently sought to test the sincerity of converted Jews and Muslims, some of whom were suspected of concealing sinister motives.71

The demonization of Jews as magical agents of the powerful Devil gains strength during the sixteenth century Renaissance and the Reformation. During this period, the earlier false allegations about Jews secretly engaging in murder and desecration again became widely believed among Christians.72 Jews are even accused of being agents of the Antichrist in a coalition with the Amazons.73 Martin Luther believed Jews were agents of the Antichrist in what he thought were the approaching End Times, although he also included orthodox Catholics loyal to the Papacy, the Turkish invaders of Europe, and, eventually, just about everyone who disagreed with him.74

Conspiracist movements in the US, from the 1800s on, have derived their specific narratives from two historic roots: false allegations about Freemasons and false allegations about Jews.75 Implicit in both narratives, as they were modified for US consumption, is the theme that America is essentially a Christian nation threatened with subversion by anti-Christian secret elites with allies in high places. The secular version of US conspiracism omits the overtly religious references and simply looks for betrayal by political and religious leaders.

Freemasons

Masonic lodges and individual Masons in the fraternal societies of Freemasonry were first accused of being the Devil's disciples in the late 1700s, an idea that flourished in the US in the 1800s.76 Those who embrace this theory often point to symbols associated with Freemasonry, such as the pyramid and eye on the back of the one dollar bill, as evidence of the conspiracy.77 The original allegation of a conspiracy within Freemasonry to control the world traces back to British author John Robison who wrote a 1798 book with the lengthy title: Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the secret meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, collected from good authorities.78 Robison influenced French author Abbé Augustin de Barruel, whose first two volumes of his eventual four-volume study, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, beat Robison's book to the printer.79

Both Robison and Barruel discuss the attempt by Bavarian intellectual Adam Weishaupt to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment through his secretive society, the Order of the Illuminati, founded in 1775. The rationalist Enlightenment ideas of the Illuminati were, in fact, brought into Masonic lodges, where they played a role in a factional fight against occultist philosophy.80 Weishaupt, a professor of Canon Law at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, was banished in 1786 by the government, and the Order of the Illuminati was suppressed.81

Weishaupt, his Illuminati society, the Freemasons, and other secret societies are portrayed by Robison and Barruel as bent on despotic world domination through a secret conspiracy using front groups to spread their influence.82 Barruel claimed the conspirators "had sworn hatred to the altar and the throne, had sworn to crush the God of the Christians, and utterly to extirpate the Kings of the Earth."83 For Barruel the grand plot hinges on how Illuminati "adepts of revolutionary Equality and Liberty had buried themselves in the Lodges of Masonry" where they supposedly caused the French revolution, and then ordered "all the adepts in their public prints to cry up the revolution and its principles." Soon, every nation had its "apostle of Equality, Liberty, and Sovereignty of the People."84 Robison, a professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, argued that the Illuminati evolved out of Freemasonry, and called the Illuminati philosophy "Cosmo-politism."85

These books both promote three conspiracist contentions that are still subscribed to today in some US rightist groups: First, that the Enlightenment themes of equality and liberty are designed to destroy respect for property and the natural social hierarchy; Second, that there is a plan to destroy orthodox Christianity and replace it with universalism, deism...or worse; Third, those with a cosmopolitan outlook, who encourage free-thinking and international cooperation, are disloyal subversive traitors, out to undermine national sovereignty and promote moral anarchy and political tyranny.

These conspiracist themes soon merged with the idea that individual Masons influenced by the Order of the Illuminati were in league with the Devil (as agents of the Antichrist); a claim that quickly became entwined with allegations that Jews were "behind everything." This web of conspiracy allegations crossed the Atlantic, and during the 1800s produced outbreaks of Protestant suspicion about Freemasons.86 This was followed by the idea that Catholics were satanic agents of the Antichrist, who allegedly had chosen to make his End Times appearance as the Pope.87

Jews and the Forged Protocols

Jews returned as prime candidates for Satanic collusion after circulation of the forged anti-Semitic propaganda tract, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the root source in this century of anti-Semitic allegations of a vast Jewish conspiracy.88

The Protocols grew out of propaganda intrigues within the secret police of Czarist Russia in the late 1800s.89 The main Russian print source of the Protocols first appeared as an appendix in The Big in the Small, and Antichrist as a Near Political Possibility; Notes of an Orthodox Person by Sergei A. Nilus, published in 1905 but republished to wider audiences in 1911 and 1917.90 The Protocols itself is inspired by (and plagiarized from) earlier works that allege conspiracies, especially a satiric 1865 French work, Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, by Maurice Joly; and a 1868 German novel, Biarritz, by Hermann Goedsche.91 Equally dubious documents claiming proof of similar secret conspiracies have circulated for centuries.92

The text of the Protocols purports to be minutes of the secret meetings of a Jewish ruling clique conspiring to take over the world. The Protocols incorporate many of the core conspiracist themes outlined in the Robison and Barruel attacks on the Freemasons, and overlay them with anti-Semitic allegations about anti-Czarist movements in Russia. The Protocols reflect themes similar to more general critiques of enlightenment liberalism by those supporting church/state oligarchies and other theocratic--and thus anti-democratic--forms of government. The interpretation intended by the publication of the Protocols is that if one peels away the layers of the Freemason conspiracy, past the Illuminati, one finds the rotten Jewish core.

According to the Protocols, Jews work through Masonic lodges and thus Jews are behind the plan for global conquest. The list of charges in the Protocols is long, and includes false claims that Jews: use liberalism to weaken church and state, control the press, work through radicals and revolutionaries, manipulate the economy, especially through banking monopolies and the power of gold, encourage issuing paper currency not tied to the gold standard, promote financial speculation and use of credit, seek to replace traditional educational curriculum to discourage independent thinking, encourage immorality among Christian youth, use intellectuals to confuse people, control "puppet" governments both through secret allies and by blackmailing elected officials, weaken laws through liberal judicial interpretations, and will suspend civil liberties during an emergency, then make the measures permanent.93

After the Russian revolution, Czarist loyalists emigrated to countries in Europe and to the US, and brought copies of the Protocols claiming they were the plans used by the Judeo-Bolsheviks to seize power.94 The Protocols became a core source of allegations by Hitler and his allies in the German Nazi movement of a Judeo-Masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy. In early 1920 a private English translation was printed in Britain, and that summer London's Sunday Post published a series described by Norman Cohn as "eighteen articles expounding the full myth of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, with of course due reference to the Protocols."95 The newspaper's correspondent in Russia, Victor Marsden, produced a new English translation of the Protocols that is still in print and sold today.96 The Protocols are circulated in the US by anti-Semitic conspiracists across the political spectrum, and are posted on the Internet. Walter Laqueur reports that the Protocols are still circulated by contemporary anti-Semitic Russian nationalists.97

Many of the anti-Semitic allegations made during this century come from the allegations found in the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. These charges continue to circulate today in the anti-Semitic US far right, but if the scapegoated Jew is replaced with the more diffuse target of cosmopolitan globalist liberal secular humanism, many of the same allegations form the core critique of the contemporary US populist right and Christian Right. According to historian Richard Landes, the Protocols is "behind much current anti-modern discourse, especially the paranoid and conspiracist texts, which are widespread on the Web."98 Given the centuries-old Christian charge linking evil with magical or devious Jews, at least some form of anti-Semitism is intrinsic to most conspiracist thinking in Western cultures, even when it is unconscious.

Variations on Conspiracist Themes

The charges against the Illuminati group and the Freemasons embodied a backlash against the Enlightenment. Subsequently, the same conspiracist allegations were adapted for use against progressives, Jews, communists, internationalists, and secular humanists. The overall paradigm is apocalyptic demonization, and the range of scapegoats that gets demonized is vast. At the same time, the dynamics are complex, involving distinct social, political. cultural, and religious movement that frequently overlap.

In the US, the Christian fundamentalist movement emerged in the early twentieth century as a backlash against the principles of the enlightenment, modernism, and liberalism.99 During roughly the same period, the fear of a global subversive communist menace was influenced by Christian apocalyptic millennialism, so much so that Joel Kovel, titled his 1994 book on the subject, Red Hunting in the Promised Land.100 In 1919 the US government launched the Palmer Raids, which rounded up thousands of Russian and Italian immigrants as a response to fears that anarchists and Bolsheviks in this population were subversives conspiring to bring down the US government.101

The threat of communism--represented as a Red Menace--became the main focus of apocalyptic conspiracism. According to Frank Donner:

The root anti-subversive impulse was fed by the Menace. Its power strengthened with the passage of time, by the late twenties its influence had become more pervasive and folkish. Bolshevism came to be identified over wide areas of the country by God-fearing Americans as the Antichrist come to do eschatological battle with the children of light. A slightly secularized version, widely-shared in rural and small-town America, postulated a doomsday conflict between decent upright folk and radicalism--alien, satanic, immorality incarnate.102
While political anticommunism took center stage, subplots were woven into the script between the two World Wars. An important synthesis of Illuminati/Freemason and Protocols conspiracism is work of Nesta H. Webster. Her major works are the 1919 The French Revolution, the 1921 World Revolution: The Plot Against Civilization, and her 1924 Secret Societies and Subversive Movements.103 While Webster stressed non-Jewish secret elites, there are anti-Semitic themes throughout her work. Webster helped write the original London Morning Post series which introduced the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to a wide British audience.104

In 1935 two authors amplified the themes of a conspiracy by international finance. Father Denis Fahey's The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, was an openly antisemitic work envisioning an organically populist (volkish) Catholic society. Gertrude Coogan's Money Creators, contained implicit antisemitic conspiracist allegations linking the Illuminati and the Rothschilds to a secret cabal that created the Federal Reserve.105 According to Frank P. Mintz, "The Coogan book...served as a classic of rightist populism, enjoying distribution by the Liberty Lobby, Gerald L. K. Smith's Christian Nationalist Crusade, and the National States Rights Party in the early 1970s."106

In the mid-1930s Elizabeth Dilling transmogrified many of Nesta Webster's themes and applied them to Roosevelt and the New Deal, portraying communism as Jewish, and Roosevelt as an agent of the conspiracy.107 Dilling engaged in racist and anti-Semitic red-baiting from the Patriotic Research Bureau in Chicago and penned The Red Network and The Roosevelt Red Record and its Background.108 A more overtly anti-Semitic tract was the 1941 New Dealers in Office, with an appropriate subtitle "with their Red Front personnel." The booklet consists of a list of Roosevelt appointees with supposedly Jewish-sounding names. The cover sported the slogan, "Keep America Christian."109

Leo Ribuffo's study, The Old Christian Right, demonstrates the influence of apocalyptic Biblical prophecy on Protestant far right conspiracist movements in the interwar period, especially on the major figures Ribuffo profiles: William Dudley Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod, and Gerald L. K. Smith.110 It was not difficult for conspiracists and bigots within the conspiracist wing of the Christian fundamentalist anticommunist movement to weave in threads from the conspiracy theories about Freemason and Jewish elites, especially since anti-enlightenment impulses permeate all these conspiracist theories. Pelley is an example of how conspiracist allegations can "pull out all stops," especially in using anti-Semitism. An example of this full-blown variation on the demonic Judeo-Bolshevik theme appeared as a chart in Pelley's 1938 publication, Liberation: 111

    Anti-Christ   <---------->  Christ...

    .........Judaism <----------> Christianity
    .....materiality  <---------->  spirituality
    ............modernism  <---------->  fundamentalism
    .......leftist  <---------->  rightist
    .Jewish socialism  <---------->  individualism..
    .Jewish communism  <---------->  constitutionalism
    ...................Protocols of Zion  <---------->  U.S. Constitution enforced
    ......Communist Manifesto  <---------->  "Bill of Rights"............
    ....................democracy  <---------->  constitutional republic
    .....Communism  <---------->  Americanism
    ........internationalism  <---------->  National patriotism
    ........Jewish subversion  <---------->  American vigilantism

    .......War   <---------->  Peace

After WWII overt anti-Semitism and pro-fascist sentiments were deemed unacceptable by most Christian conservatives, who were quickly re-mobilizing against the Red Menace. The Cold War spawned a number of God-fearing anticommunist groups, some of which still exist, such as: the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, with its combination of free market ideology and religious ecumenism, expressed by its logo of General George Washington kneeling in prayer; the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, founded by Fred Schwarz, which primarily networked Protestants but includes a handful of Jews; and the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, run by Eleanor L. Schlafly, which primarily networks among Catholics.

Conspiracist countersubversion themes are imbedded in the rhetoric of many Christian Right anticommunist groups. They have consistently hinted that international communism was linked to betrayal by secret globalist elites manipulating the US. Frequent targets are the Rockefeller family and the Council on Foreign Relations.112 A significant work in this genre was the 1952 book by McCarthy supporter, Emanuel M. Josephson, Rockefeller, `Internationalist': The Man Who Misrules the World. Josephson saw the Council on Foreign Relations as a nest of conspirators carrying out Rockefeller orders on behalf of international finance capital.113 Another typical example is Dan Smoot's 1962 The Invisible Government.114 Similarly, Mary M. Davison's 1962 book, The Secret Government of the United States, describes the Council on Foreign Relations as "The King-Makers Club Which Has Become The Nation's Invisible Government." run by the "international bankers."115

One of the most significant of the conspiracist books published in the 1960s was Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 book, A Choice not an Echo. The book was written to promote the Goldwater presidential bid and characterized the campaign as a revolt of "Grassroots Republicans" against the secret internationalist "kingmakers" alleged to control both the Democratic and Republican parties.116A Choice not an Echo mainstreamed the conspiracist idea that the shadowy elites behind Wall Street capitalism also propped up Moscow communism.

Carroll Quigley's 1966 Tragedy and Hope, saw US history after the Civil War as shaped by a power struggle between international finance capital and industrial capitalism. Quigley saw British influence, especially Rhodes scholarships, as crucial to understanding role of foundations and politicians in shaping US policy.117 Two authors affiliated with the John Birch Society adapted and extended Quigley's work. Cleon Skousen's The Naked Capitalist was self-published in 1970. Gary Allen wrote several books, including None Dare Call it Conspiracy, published in 1971, which sold over 5 million copies.118

One of the most prolific conspiracists in this genre, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, was Phoebe Courtney, who also co-authored several books with her husband Kent Courtney. The Courtneys' and the John Birch Society helped spread the anti-government concept called "constitutionalism," which embodies the claim that secret elites manipulate the economy and the political process, use the Federal Reserve and the IRS as political weapons, and have created a huge federal bureaucracy, all of which violates basic elements of the original, unamended, US Constitution.119

In the 1960s, a great deal of right-wing conspiracist attention focused on the United Nations as the vehicle for creating the One World Government. Mary M. Davison, in her 1966 booklet The Profound Revolution, traced the alleged "New World Order" conspiracy to the creation of the Federal Reserve by international bankers, who she claimed later formed the Council on Foreign Relations. At the time the booklet was published, "international bankers" would have been interpreted by many readers as a reference to a postulated "international Jewish banking conspiracy." Davison included the standard call for the people to rise up against internationalism and rebuild a constitutional form of government--a call echoed later by various right wing populist groups including the contemporary armed militia movement.120 Davison later wrote tracts that were overtly anti-Semitic and tied to Christian Biblical passages.121

The overt British-Jewish conspiracist theory continues to be pursued in many publications, based primarily on tracts "written by British fascists in the 1930's," according to Dennis King, who tracked Lyndon LaRouche's worldview back to this genre.122 The most energetic purveyor of this theme is Eustace Mullins, antisemitic author of the 1952 book Mullins on the Federal Reserve and in 1954 The Federal Reserve Conspiracy. Mullins writes in two styles, one ostensibly focusing on banking practices, the other expressing open and vicious anti-Semitism.123

Anticommunism became a broad umbrella under which those with a wide variety of views as to "who is really behind the conspiracy" could find common ground. Was the plot run by Moscow Reds, Wall Street Plutocrats, British Bankers, or the Jews? Issues could have multiple subtexts.124 For instance there was concern over the erosion of national sovereignty by the United Nations because it was seen as favoring communist-style collectivism. Right-wing conspiracists expressed the conviction that the United Nations would erode nation-state sovereignty, and facilitate intrusive federal intervention on the local level. The concern over federal violations of states' rights was promoted in some cases by libertarians, such as the publishers of the periodical The Freeman, but "states' rights" often provided a veneer that masked underlying segregationist and white supremacist sentiments, even if they were unconscious.125

Anti-Jewish allegations could easily be added to anticommunism. In the mid-1950s William G. Carr promoted the anti-Semitic variant on conspiracism with books such as Pawns in the Game and Red Fog over America. According to Carr, an age-old Jewish Illuminati banking conspiracy used radio-transmitted mind control on behalf of Lucifer to construct a one world government. The secret nexus of the plot was supposedly the international Bilderberger meetings on banking policy. The anti-Semitic Noontide Press distributed Pawns in the Game for many years.126

Linking Godless communism to the Antichrist was also an easy step for the more zealous right-wing Christian activists in the 1950s. Typical of this genre is One World a Red World, a pamphlet by Kenneth Goff that claims to link Stalin and the "new world-order" to the Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast. Goff warns that: "The dream of the `One-Worlders' may look good on paper but it all adds up to the age-old plan of Satan to produce a Christless Millennial Reign--that man himself can be God."127 Goff, a former communist organizer, turned to Christianity and then to white supremacy, writing a 1958 pamphlet claiming biblical support for segregation, Reds Promote Racial War, that claimed communists promoted racial strife.128

Most Christian anticommunism, however, avoided and eschewed overt anti-Semitism. A view more typical of Christian fundamentalist concern with the Antichrist was expressed by Gordon Lindsay in his 1966 pamphlet, Will the Antichrist Come Out of Russia? His introductory blurb states that "All agree that Soviet Russia has the spirit of the antichrist. She is a godless, defiant power which seeks to get control over the whole world." But he also equivocates: "We demonstrate by 12 separate identifications that Russia is truly related to the Beast system of Revelation 13, although this does not mean that the antichrist will come out of her."129 In a similar vein is The Real Power Behind Communism, a late 1960s pamphlet in which Dr. W. S. McBirniewarns "We must do all in our power to struggle against the greatest evil of the day, socialism and communism, because they are of the Antichrist."130 Claiming that something is "related" to the Antichrist without being more specific is common in this genre.

John A. Stormer, a Republican Party activist and Protestant fundamentalist, wrote None Dare Call it Treason in 1964, which sold over 7 million copies. The book alleged a vast communist conspiracy manipulating the government.131 In 1965 Stormer had a Christian renewal experience and wrote a sequel, The Death of a Nation, in which he explicitly linked the collectivist conspiracy to destroy America to the work of the Antichrist and discussed signs of the End Times and possible millennial timetables.132

It is important to note that mainstream Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church reject these conspiracist notions. Nonetheless, subcultures among Protestants and Catholics keep conspiracist ideas alive within Christianity just as various non-religious subcultures spread apocalyptic conspiracism in secular society. Today, Christians with a conspiracist interpretation of the Book of Revelation are especially alert to betrayal by political leaders whom they suspect of promoting collectivism and a tyrannical one-world government.133

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