Behold a Pale Horse: William Cooper Lays Out His Theories

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Should we expect a New World Order one of these days? Are the Illuminati behind it? Are aliens involved?

In Behold a Pale Horse, William Cooper lays out his belief, based on his own research and the writings of other conspiracists, that the world is secretly ruled by a shadowy organization known as the Illuminati. He explains their goals and methods to bring about the New World Order.

Keep reading for an overview of this intriguing book.

Behold a Pale Horse: William Cooper’s Theories

In Behold a Pale Horse, William Cooper (U.S. navy veteran and UFOlogist) claims that the Illuminati plan to establish a dystopian, authoritarian government known as the New World Order sometime in the 21st century. The book’s content is split between exposing the organization’s influence in every major government or religious institution in the world, and the attempts by the U.S. government to conceal the presence of hostile aliens on Earth.

Cooper’s claims are based primarily on secret files he claims to have seen while posted to the Office of Naval Intelligence in the early 1970s. He also describes having personally encountered UFOs during his service on submarines and in Vietnam.

Cooper left the Navy in the early 1970s due to his increasing disillusionment with the U.S. military and government. He attempted to leak some of what he’d discovered to the press but was attacked by two men in black who ran his motorcycle off the road, resulting in the loss of his leg. In the 1980s, he began to speak out through anonymous online forums and eventually became a lecturer at various UFO conferences around the country. Published in 1991, Behold a Pale Horse compiled his arguments and other source documents in order to reach a wider audience.

Behold a Pale Horse is a mix of primary source documents and long-form essays by Cooper and other (mostly anonymous) conspiracists. We’ve organized his evidence into three core topics: the New World Order discusses the Illuminati’s secret plan for world domination; the Alien Conspiracy discusses how and why the American government has concealed the presence of aliens on Earth; and, in how to fight back, Cooper calls on American patriots to lead a popular resistance movement against Illuminati and authoritarian forces for the survival of humanity.

The New World Order

The book is primarily focused on what Cooper calls the New World Order (NWO) conspiracy. He writes that, since the dawn of civilization, a secret organization of self-styled intellectual elites called the Illuminati has worked from the shadows to manipulate economies, governments, and religions for their own gain. The Illuminati has members in every significant economic, political, and religious organization in the modern world, and ultimately intends to use its vast power to establish a global totalitarian socialist state.

A Secret Society Narrative of History

Cooper claims that, among the first civilizations, a few people sequestered themselves into their own secret society and resolved to use their superior intelligence to control and exploit others. Their goal was the pursuit of knowledge and wealth and to establish themselves as kings or even gods. Every significant upheaval in human history since—wars, epidemics, economic crashes, and so on—is the result of their machinations, using wealth and threats to direct leaders where they didn’t simply install their members in seats of power.

Cooper claims that a number of secret or legendary societies throughout history, including the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, were just the Illuminati under a different name. Cooper argues that any internationalist or globally minded organization—such as the United Nations—is an arm of the Illuminati. Any apparent rivalries between organizations or their elite members, be they politicians or businessmen, are just for show. When the New World Order is established, they will all join together as the rulers of the human race.


When the Illuminati feel that the time is right to move—Cooper doesn’t give an exact timeline, though he suggests it will likely take place in the early 21st century—they will dissolve all of the world’s governments and form the New World Order, a single, centralized and socialist body led by a council of the politicians and businessmen who already control the Earth’s natural resources and armies. All private property will be seized and the masses will be electronically tagged and tracked before being forced into detention and slave labor. Physical force and mind control will be used to suppress resistance.

Method #1: Economic Shocks and Dependency

According to Cooper, the global economy is a massive system of social engineering run by the Illuminati. Recessions and economic booms are deliberately triggered at random intervals to destabilize people’s lives. Having lost their job, savings, or property, people become more trusting of “big government” initiatives. In fact, these initiatives increase the government’s power and force people’s participation in welfare programs, which Cooper claims are used for surveillance, along with tax records, the census, and electronic payment systems like credit.

Though completely insulating yourself against Illuminati-engineered economic shocks is impossible, Cooper advises withdrawing from these systems of government surveillance and stockpiling as much concrete wealth (mainly in the form of precious metals, like gold and silver) as possible.

Method #2: Psychological Warfare

Cooper believes that the Illuminati manipulate people through pop culture and the news. These popular narratives encourage people to trust the Illuminati-led federal government, while those like Cooper who refuse participation in the system are depicted as backward, violent, or extremist.

Cooper warns that, once the NWO is established, these subtle forms of manipulation will be replaced with more direct ones, like implanting mind-control devices in people’s brains or giving them chemical injections to reduce their emotions and ability to think clearly.

Method #3: Disarmament

Cooper argues that the purpose of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizens to carry guns, is to provide citizens recourse against government tyranny. Any attempt to limit people’s access to guns is therefore an attempt to weaken popular power.

Method #4: Undermining Democracy

Cooper argues that, in addition to attacking the Bill of Rights, the Illuminati are attempting to undermine the “checks and balances” system laid out in the Constitution by increasingly empowering the Executive branch at the expense of the Legislative branch. If the president has the power to declare war or a state of emergency without oversight, Cooper warns, he may one day use that power to install the NWO.

Ultimately, Cooper claims that the Illuminati already have all the pieces in place to establish the NWO. They’re simply waiting for the right moment to act.

The Alien Conspiracy

Cooper claims that another conspiracy is operating just under the surface of American society: the presence of aliens on Earth. According to Cooper, the aliens and the government are colluding to exploit the general population of Earth for their own gain, though Cooper offers several competing theories for which poses the greater threat.

Timeline of Earth-Alien Contact

Cooper claims that contact was first made in the early 1950s. Advanced technology and alien bodies were secretly recovered, while public sightings of UFOs were dismissed as hoaxes. A number of government organizations were founded with the express purpose of addressing the potential alien threat, though they were disguised as being general security or foreign affairs organizations. The most significant of these was Majestic Twelve (MJ-12), created by President Eisenhower to be the primary investigative force and go-between for the U.S. government and the aliens.

Cooper claims that MJ-12 became a pawn of the Illuminati, which encouraged a closer relationship with the aliens in order to gain access to their technology at the expense of America’s security.

According to Cooper, the U.S. government signed a formal treaty with the aliens at Edwards Air Force Base in 1954. The treaty promised that the government would keep the aliens’ presence on Earth a secret and allow them to abduct humans for study. In exchange, the aliens agreed to help the government develop more advanced technology and to not establish a relationship with any other Earth government.

Within a year, however, the U.S. government discovered that the aliens were violating the treaty. Because human weapons were no match for alien ones, MJ-12 resolved to maintain friendly relations as long as possible while preparing to fight back. This is the state of human-alien relations in the modern day.

The Year 2000 Disaster

Part of the reason the U.S. has maintained a relationship with the aliens for so long is in the hopes of using their superior technology to bail the Earth out from an impending environmental disaster. A scientific investigation concluded that the planet was doomed to destruction by the year 2000. The only way for humanity to save itself would be to either dramatically reduce its population and rate of resource consumption or to rely on the aliens for help.

The impending threat eventually became public knowledge with the publication of books like Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. Eisenhower commissioned the JASON Society of prominent scientists to develop options, and they generated three. The first was for humanity to devote itself to environmentalism and work toward peace among all nations, which was dismissed as unlikely to succeed. The second was to build underground facilities in which those chosen could retreat and survive following the apocalypse. The third was to exploit alien technology by working with them in order to establish colonies in space for a select few.

According to Cooper, both the U.S. and the Soviet governments immediately began joint work on the second and third options. And, with the aliens’ help, they have already built functioning bases on the Moon and Mars.

Cooper also claims that these governments are simultaneously working to reduce the Earth’s population as much as possible through the promotion of birth control, importation of drugs and guns to vulnerable populations, forced sterilization, and man-made epidemics.

A New World Order Hoax?

Cooper admits that many UFO-related documents and theories—including the original MJ-12 document—are confirmed hoaxes and that his theories may sound outlandish to the reader. Ultimately, he suggests that it’s possible that the presence of aliens on Earth is itself a hoax perpetrated by the U.S. government and the Illuminati, as part of their plan to establish the NWO.

When the time is right, Cooper theorizes that the government will stage an alien attack, announce the presence of the threat, and use it to justify establishing total control over the people and merging with the governments of foreign nations, all in the name of safety. This will pave the way for a formal declaration of the NWO.

Evidence for this theory, according to Cooper, can be seen in the development of military national disaster contingency plans in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These programs provided for the suspension of the Constitution and mass detention without cause in the case of a vaguely defined “national emergency.”

How to Fight Back

Cooper warns that the Illuminati’s plans can be avoided only by popular armed resistance from the American people. When the Illuminati declare the New World Order and begin rounding people up, true patriots must be prepared to resist.

While Cooper agrees with the Illuminati that the Earth is nearing a crisis point in international tensions, resource distribution, and the health of the climate, he rejects the belief that most of humanity is too unintelligent or weak to contribute. All of these problems can be solved, he argues, through the widespread application of American democratic ideals. Though these principles have not been applied in practice due to government corruption and Illuminati interference, Cooper believes that a second revolution and more direct involvement in government by the citizenry will realize the ideal America of the future.

Exercise: Assess Conspiracy Theories 

Cooper makes a wide variety of claims in Behold a Pale Horse, but the ones that have had the most lasting impact are his descriptions of psyops, or deliberate attempts by the Illuminati and the American government to manipulate people’s behavior through propaganda, staged violence, and economic shocks.

  • Which of Cooper’s theories or sub-claims—about the Illuminati, the American government, or the presence of aliens on Earth—do you find most convincing? Why?
  • Have you encountered theories similar to Cooper’s before? If so, describe one. (For example, theories about pandemics, terrorist attacks, elections, and recessions.)
  • Did you find this theory believable? Why or why not?
Behold a Pale Horse: William Cooper Lays Out His Theories

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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