Morning glory, Ike, Stalin’s henchman?, the Bavarian Illuminati and the Masque of Pandora

I usually wake up early, often before 6 but almost always before 7. But I often find that it’s much later before I’m completely in day mode. I have been, of course, my own employer and can engage in foibles like leisurely morning baths and reading the paper without having to rush away to catch a train to arrive bright-eyed and bushy tailed at some palace of Mammon.

But the delays seem to be getting more extreme as I get older and my foibles more assume the repetitive dignity of a David Kendall version of the Japanese tea ceremony (performed in slow motion). So I decided a while ago that I had to be up and running by 09.00, washed, fed, dressed, medicated with bedroom and dishwasher attended to.

So far so good. Fast forward to today where my breakfast attention was caught by a review in the Times Literary Supplement of a biography of Robert Welsh, founder of the John Birch Society, “A Conspiratorial Life” by Kyle Burke. According to Burke, Welsh was evidently a promising youth enrolled at the University of North Carolina at the age of 12 “where he impressed his peers and professors” (I must check this…). His politics became weirder as he grew older seeing “evidence of subversion in every nook and cranny of American life”.  He “came to believe” that a cabal of traitors in Truman’s State Department had deliberately ceded China to Mao ZeDong’s communists and later that Dwight Eisenhower was “a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy” (after all, he was chummy with Zhukov and gave him fishing tackle…). The Birch Society was at the peak of its influence in the mid-60s but then declined. By the 1970s, Welsh was seeing a “conspiracy behind the conspiracies” in the Bavarian Illuminati, founded in 1778 who were, according to him, the real puppet masters.

This was perhaps too wacky even for the most hardened rightest oddball but we can see that the more exotic elements in QAnon and all the rest of it are not just a recent phenomenon but have a long history/tradition in fevered minds on the American right.

I’d never heard of the Bavarian Illuminati before and had to check this on Wiki. The Illuminati apparently began as a small organisation that opposed superstition, obscurantism and abuse of state power among other things. They attracted intellectuals such as Goethe and Herder and had strong connections with Freemasonry for a time before they were suppressed by the Bavarian authorities.

And that was probably that except that the organisation has lived on in the minds of those attracted by conspiracy and mumbo jumbo.

This and my delving into the American right led me to think of the saying. “Those the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”. Disturbed by not knowing the origin of a saying I like, I dive back into the info-swamp. And from Wiki, I learn that it had Greek antecedents but to Sophocles not Euripides as previously thought (Antigone: When a gods plan harm against a man, they first damage the mind of the man they are plotting against). There were other quotes from classical sources and mediaeval Latin, the Gods sometimes being rendered as Jupiter and later in Christian times as simply God.

The quote appears in English literature from the seventeenth century onwards, among other places in the Reverend Anderson Scott’s mid-nineteenth century series of lectures on Daniel, a Model for Young Men and by various writers from the American Longfellow to Somerset Maugham. I am attracted by the sound of Longfellow’s poem “The Masque of Pandora” and want to find it but before I do so, I catch sight of my watch and see that it is a remarkable 10.30…..

I haven’t said anything about Ukraine although there is a lot that could be said but I’ll save that for another occasion when I have plucked up enough courage to raise my head above the parapet.


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