This article is about the secret society. For
the film, see Illuminata (film). For the Muslim
esoteric school, see Illuminationism. For
other uses, see Illuminati (disambiguation).
Adam Weishaupt (1748–1830),
founder of the Bavarian
The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus,
“enlightened”) is a name given to several
groups, both real and fictitious. Historically
the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati,
an Enlightenment-era secret society founded
on May 1, 1776 to oppose superstition,
prejudice, religious influence over public life,
abuses of state power, and to support
women’s education and gender equality. The
Illuminati were outlawed along with other
secret societies by the Bavarian government
leadership with the encouragement of the
Roman Catholic Church, and permanently
disbanded in 1785.[1] In the several years
following, the group was vilified by
conservative and religious critics who
claimed they had regrouped and were
responsible for the French Revolution.
In subsequent use, “Illuminati” refers to
various organizations claiming or purported
to have unsubstantiated links to the original
Bavarian Illuminati or similar secret societies,
and often alleged to conspire to control
world affairs by masterminding events and
planting agents in government and
corporations to establish a New World Order
and gain further political power and
influence. Central to some of the most widely
known and elaborate conspiracy theories,
the Illuminati have been depicted as lurking
in the shadows and pulling the strings and
levers of power in dozens of novels, movies,
television shows, comics, video games, and
music videos.
The Owl of Minerva
perched on a book was an
emblem used by the
Bavarian Illuminati in their
“Minerval” degree.
The movement was founded on May 1,
1776, in Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria) as the
Order of the Illuminati, with an initial
membership of five,[2] by Jesuit-taught
Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830),[3] who was the
first lay professor of canon law at the
University of Ingolstadt.[1] It was made up
of freethinkers as an offshoot of the
Enlightenment and seems to have been
modeled on the Freemasons.[4] The
Illuminati’s members took a vow of secrecy
and pledged obedience to their superiors.
Members were divided into three main
classes, each with several degrees, and
many Illuminati chapters drew membership
from existing Masonic lodges.
The goals of the organization included trying
to eliminate superstition, prejudice, and the
Roman Catholic Church’s domination over
government, philosophy, and science; trying
to reduce oppressive state abuses of power,
and trying to support the education and
treatment of women as intellectual equals.
[1] Originally Weishaupt had planned the
order to be named the “Perfectibilists”.[2]
The group has also been called the Bavarian
Illuminati and its ideology has been called
“Illuminism”. Many influential intellectuals
and progressive politicians counted
themselves as members, including
Ferdinand of Brunswick and the diplomat
Xavier von Zwack, the second-in-command
of the order.[5] The order had branches in
most European countries: it reportedly had
around 2,000 members over the span of ten
years.[1] It attracted literary men such as
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann
Gottfried Herder and the reigning dukes of
Gotha and Weimar.
In 1777, Karl Theodor became ruler of
Bavaria. He was a proponent of Enlightened
Despotism and his government banned all
secret societies including the Illuminati.
Internal rupture and panic over succession
preceded its downfall.[1] A March 2, 1785
government edict “seems to have been
deathblow to the Illuminati in Bavaria.”
Weishaupt had fled and documents and
internal correspondences, seized in 1786
and 1787, were subsequently published by
the government in 1787.[6] Von Zwack’s
home was searched to disclose much of the
group’s literature.[5]
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Barruel and Robison
Between 1797 and 1798 Augustin Barruel’s
Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism
and John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy
both publicized the theory that the Illuminati
had survived and represented an ongoing
international conspiracy, including the claim
that it was behind the French Revolution.
Both books proved to be very popular,
spurring reprints and paraphrases by others
[7] (a prime example is Proofs of the Real
Existence, and Dangerous Tendency, Of
Illuminism by Reverend Seth Payson,
published in 1802).[8] Some response was
critical, such as Jean-Joseph Mounier’s On
the Influence Attributed to Philosophers,
Free-Masons, and to the Illuminati on the
Revolution of France.[citation needed]
Robison and Barruel’s works made their way
to the United States. Across New England,
Reverend Jedidiah Morse and others
sermonized against the Illuminati, their
sermons were printed, and the matter
followed in newspapers. The concern died
down in the first decade of the 1800s,
though had some revival during the Anti-
Masonic movement of the 1820s and 30s.[2]
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Modern Illuminati
Several recent and present-day fraternal
organizations claim to be descended from
the original Bavarian Illuminati and openly
use the name “Illuminati.” Some such
groups use a variation on “The Illuminati
Order” in the name of their organization,[9]
[10] while others such as the Ordo Templi
Orientis use “Illuminati” as a level within
their organization’s hierarchy. However,
there is no evidence that these present-day
groups have amassed significant political
power or influence, and they promote
unsubstantiated links to the Bavarian
Illuminati as a means of attracting
membership instead of trying to remain
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Popular culture
Main article: Illuminati in popular culture
Modern conspiracy theory
Main article: New World Order (conspiracy
There is no evidence that the original
Bavarian Illuminati survived its suppression
in 1785.[1] However, writers such as Mark
Dice,[11]David Icke, Texe Marrs, Jüri Lina
and Morgan Gricar have argued that the
Bavarian Illuminati survived, possibly to this
day. Many of these theories propose that
world events are being controlled and
manipulated by a secret society calling itself
the Illuminati.[12][13]Conspiracy theorists
have claimed that many notable people were
or are members of the Illuminati. Presidents
of the United States are a common target for
such claims.[14][15]
A key figure in the conspiracy theory
movement, Myron Fagan, devoted his latter
years to finding evidence that a variety of
historical events from Waterloo, The French
Revolution, President John F. Kennedy’s
assassination and an alleged communist plot
to hasten the New World Order by infiltrating
the Hollywood film industry, were all
orchestrated by the Illuminati.[16][17]
The Illuminati (or fictitious modern groups
called the Illuminati) play a central role in
the plots of novels, such as The Illuminatus!
Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton
Wilson; in Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto
Eco; and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.
A mixture of historical fact, established
conspiracy theory, or pure fiction, is used to
portray them.
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1. ^ a b c d e f g McKeown, Trevor W. (16
February 2009). “A Bavarian Illuminati
Primer” . Grand Lodge of British Columbia
and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Archived from the
original on 27 January 2011. Retrieved 27
January 2011.
2. ^ a b c Stauffer, Vernon (1918). New
England and the Bavarian Illuminati . NY:
Columbia University Press. pp. 133–134.
OCLC 2342764 . Retrieved 27 January
3. ^ Stauffer, p. 129.
4. ^ Goeringer, Conrad (2008). “The
Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The
Illuminati” . American Atheists. Archived
from the original on 27 January 2011.
Retrieved 27 January 2011.
5. ^ a b Introvigne, Massimo (2005).
“Angels & Demons from the Book to the
Movie FAQ – Do the Illuminati Really
Exist?” . Center for Studies on New
Religions. Archived from the original on 27
January 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
6. ^ Roberts, J.M. (1974). The Mythology of
Secret Societies. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0-684-12904-4.
7. ^ Simpson, David (1993). Romanticism,
Nationalism, and the Revolt Against Theory.
University of Chicago Press.
ISBN 0-226-75945-8.88.
8. ^ Payson, Seth (1802). Proofs of the Real
Existence, and Dangerous Tendency, Of
Illuminism . Charlestown: Samuel
Etheridge. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
9. ^ “The Illuminati Order Homepage” . Retrieved 2011-08-06.
10. ^ “Official website of The Illuminati
Order” . Retrieved