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The Illuminati X-Factor

The mind-controlled showbiz celebs


Weirdness watchers will be only too aware that the occult has seeped into the media mainstream over the last few decades. The nexus of strangeness that was once high occultism has a history spanning many millennia, but over the 20th century it passed from being the exclusive preserve of (mostly English) eccentrics into a commercial media phenomenon.

The word ‘occult’ itself means anything hidden and sinister – but how hidden is the occult these days, when you can buy pre-written spells and cheery beginners’ guides to magic in almost any high street bookstore? And just as bookshop shelves were colonised by titles written to flatter teenage witches, primetime television slots were filled with imaginary vampire-slayers and professional ghost-hunters. The image of the occult became domest­icated and tamed – defanged, as it were. Where the subject once had the power to shock and terrify the uninitiated, now only a vestigial frisson of danger remains.

But recently the conspiracy world has started to redefine the occult, reinventing its darker origins and relocating it in more mundane settings. The devil hasn’t so much ridden out as moved into fashion, films and pop music. The old imagery of goats, virgins and scrappy chalk pentagrams has been replaced by a subtler and more sophisticated language. Virgins continue to be abused, but rituals no longer rely on bodily fluids collected from altars in old churches. Spells are no longer chanted or drawn on parchment. Instead – so the newly minted history goes – rituals are promoted in the media and played out to packed audiences in giant stadia, with international satell­ite coverage for those watching at home. Like millions of other people, you may have taken part in an occult ritual without even realising it…

At the apex of the occult pyramid of new world evil are the Illuminati – less a coven of hammy Victorian ritualists, more a dynastic network devoted to the moral and psych­ological destruction of their victims and the promotion of terror, sociopathic selfishness and bestial sexuality. Endowed with a finely honed sense of dark irony, the Illuminati particularly enjoy flaunting the very symbols of their control in public to influence the collective unconscious.

A key part of the new conspiranoia is a radical restatement of the Illuminati’s aims, methods and mission statement. Older forteans are likely to have fond memories of the Illuminati’s earlier popular exposure in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy. Wilson – who was or wasn’t a high-level initiate, depending on whom you ask – portrayed the Illuminati as something like a grim secret society of occult middle managers. Their recent reinvention is very much darker. Promoted by conspiracists like David Icke, the 21st-century view of the new black magic ties together CIA mind-control methods with both overt and covert military and political operations. While military and political authorities plan and execute acts of economic and physical terrorism, a public propaganda machine channels distracting, destruct­ive and degrading influences through the fashion world, the music business and the endlessly shiny and disordered lives of Hollywood’s rich and famous.