John Robison’s PROOFS OF A CONSPIRACY and Augustin Barruel’s MEMOIRS ILLUSTRATING THE HISTORY OF THE JACOBINS, two wildly conspiracist books on the Illuminati, both appeared in the year of 1798. In THE NEW HATE, I compare the coincidence to Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace putting the finishing touches on their theories of natural selection at the same time–and, less momentously but maybe even less explicably, to BUGS LIFE and ANTZ, two big budget animated movies about insects, hitting the screens in the fall of 1998.
This morning I was reading about Arthur Bell’s Mankind United cult of the 1930s and 1940s, whose theology proposed that the world was secretly controlled by a cabal of “Money Changers” known as “The Hidden Rulers.” Opposing them was a benevolent secret society, “The Sponsors,” who were working to bring about a utopian, socialist civilization. If I ever do another edition of CULTS, CONSPIRACIES, AND SECRET SOCIETIES, I will be sure to add something about them (along with I AM and Clare Prophet and the Church Universal and Triumphant). Above and beyond that, a number of things struck me. First of all, there’s Arthur Bell’s name–what are the odds that the leader of a cult premised on conspiracy theories would have the same name as (but apparently no relation to) a leading purveyor of conspiracy theories a generation or two later (Art Bell of the Coast to Coast radio show fame)?
And then there’s those ants. Chapter VI of Mankind United is titled “40,000 PRINCIPALITIES, ONE THOUSAND MILLION SLAVES AND DEATH FOR ALL OF THE WORLD’S EDUCATED AND RELIGIOUS PEOPLES: SUCH ARE THE RESULTS WHICH WILL CONSTITUTE THE SUCCESSFUL CULMINATION OF THE CENTURY-OLD PLANS OF MANKIND’S HIDDEN RULERS.” It describes the dystopian civilization that the Money Changers were working to put into place–an economic caste system that resembles nothing so much as an anthill:
At the conclusion of the coming war, those who have plotted it have planned to evolve an economic system which will consist of four (4) levels of human society. The lowest of these four (4) levels will be made up of men and women who will be trained to perform only such drudgery tasks as may require but little intelligence. The next group above them will consist of the men and women who have been taught to operate machines. The third class will include, (up to eighty (80%) per cent of its numbers), the police force, which will consist of eunuchs who will have the responsibility of compelling obedience to the edicts of the rulers. This third class will also include, (up to twenty (20%) per cent of its numbers), the so-called intelligentsia, consisting of men who will be educated and trained to conduct laboratories and research bureaus through which to develop the requirements and luxuries for their Ruler and themselves. The fourth class will be those for whom the first two groups exist as slaves, and for whom eighty (80%) per cent of the third group act as body-guards and twenty (20%) per cent as students and companions. Each ruling family comprising this fourth group, (of which there will be but forty thousand (40,000) will be allowed twenty thousand (20,000) slaves and a bodyguard and group of student companions of five thousand (5000) men to enforce their orders and provide both entertainment and companionship, when desired…The living quarters for the twenty thousand (20,000) slaves comprising the first two groups, will be located for a distance the equivalent of ten stories directly beneath this gigantic structure. They will be so placed, in order that the ruler might—by merely pressing a button,—release any one of a number of kinds of poisonous gases, and thereby not only succeed in quelling any general uprising, but also readily eliminate any of the group who might become particularly unruly.
Bell wrote his book around 1936. Four years later, in 1940, the candy manufacturer Robert Welch (he invented the Sugar Daddy) began work on a novel entitled LOST ISLAND. The arch-conservative Welch would have deplored the money-free collectivist paradise that Bell’s Sponsors were working to bring about as a hell on earth, but he would come to see the world through a similar lens that Bell did–as being under the sway of shadowy Insiders but potentially redeemable by a semi-secret society of ultra-Patriots that he would eventually found, the John Birch Society (a kind of anti-Illuminati as he first conceived it, organized in cells).
And oh yes, the novel. In a biographical tribute to Welch, published at the time of his death in 1985, Gary Allen described it as featuring “an advanced society of ants as a means of providing a cutting satire against the collectivism of the New Deal, even predicting that Roosevelt would maneuver the United States into a world war. The attack on Pearl Harbor intervened and the manuscript was never published.”
If Welch knew enough to keep his mouth shut after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bell, I learned from Mitch Horowitz’s OCCULT AMERICA, was not so discrete. In fact he “narrowly escaped prosecution for sedition after telling followers that US planes disguised as Japanese Zeros had bombed Pearl Harbor under orders from the ‘Hidden Rulers.'”
You can’t make this stuff up.