The Illuminati is the name of many groups, modern and historical, real and fictitious, verified and alleged. Most commonly, however, The Illuminati refers specifically to the Bavarian Illuminati, the least secret of all secret societies in the world, described below. Most use refers to an alleged shadowy conspiratorial organization which controls world affairs behind the scenes, usually a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. Illuminati is sometimes used synonymously with New World Order.
Since Illuminati literally means 'enlightened ones' in Latin, it is natural that several unrelated historical groups have identified themselves as Illuminati. Often, this was due to claims of possessing gnostic texts or other arcane information not generally available.
The designation illuminati was also in use from the 14th century by the Brethren of the Free Spirit, and in the 15th century was assumed by other enthusiasts who claimed that the illuminating light came, not by being communicated from an authoritative but secret source, but from within, the result of exalted consciousness, or "enlightenment".
Alumbrados of Spain
To the former class belong the alumbrados of Spain. The historian Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo found the name as early as 1492 (in the form iluminados, 1498), but traced them to a Gnostic origin, and thought their views were promoted in Spain through influences from Italy. One of their earliest leaders, born in Salamanca, a labourer's daughter known as La Beata de Piedrahita, came under the notice of the Inquisition in 1511, as claiming to hold colloquys with Jesus and the Virgin Mary; some high patronage saved her from a rigorous denunciation. (Menéndez Pelayo, Los Heterodoxos Españoles, 1881, vol. V.). Ignatius Loyola, while studying at Salamanca in 1527, was brought before an ecclesiastical commission on a charge of sympathy with the alumbrados, but escaped with an admonition. Others were not so fortunate. In 1529 a congregation of naïve adherents at Toledo was subjected to whippings and imprisonment. Greater rigors followed, and for about a century the alumbrados sent many victims to the Inquisition, especially at Córdoba.
Illuminés of France
The movement (under the name of Illuminés) seems to have reached France from Seville in 1623, and attained some following in Picardy when joined (1634) by Pierce Guerin, curé of Saint-Georges de Roye, whose followers, known as Gurinets, were suppressed in 1635.
A century later, another, more obscure body of Illuminés came to light in the south of France in 1722, and appears to have lingered till 1794, having affinities with those known contemporaneously in Britain as 'French Prophets', an offshoot of the Camisards.
A different class were the Rosicrucians, who claimed to originate in 1407, but rose into notice in 1614 when their main text Fama Fraternitatis appeared; a secret society, that claimed to combine the possession of esoteric principles of religion with the mysteries of alchemy. Their positions are embodied in three anonymous treatises of 1614 (mentioned in Richard and Giraud, Dictionnaire universel des sciences ecclésiastiques, Paris 1825), as well as in the Confessio Fraternitatis of 1615. Rosicrucians also claimed heritage from the Knights Templar.
Later, the title Illuminati was applied to the French Martinists which had been founded in 1754 by Martinez Pasqualis, and to their imitators the Russian Martinists, headed about 1790 by Professor Schwartz of Moscow; both were occultist cabalists and allegorists, absorbing eclectic ideas from Jakob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg.
The Bavarian Illuminati
A movement of freethinkers that were the most radical offshoot of The Enlightenment — whose adherents were given the name Illuminati (but who called themselves "Perfectibilists") — was founded on May 1, 1776 by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law. The group has also been called the Illuminati Order, the Order of the Illuminati, and the Bavarian Illuminati.
In the conservative state of Bavaria, where the progressive and enlightened elector Maximilian III Joseph von Wittelsbach was succeeded (1777) by his conservative heir Karl Theodor, and which was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church and the aristocracy, such an organization did not last long before it was suppressed by the powers of the day. In 1784, the Bavarian government banned all secret societies, including the Illuminati and the Freemasons. The structure of the Illuminati soon collapsed, but while it was in existence many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians counted themselves as members.
Its members were supposedly drawn primarily from Masons and former Masons, and although some Masons were known to be members there is no evidence that it was supported by Freemasons. The members pledged obedience to their superiors, and were divided into three main classes: the first, known as the Nursery, encompassed the ascending degrees or offices of Preparation, Novice, Minerval and Illuminatus Minor; the second, known as the Masonry, consisting of the ascending degrees of Illuminatus Major and Illuminatus dirigens, the latter also sometimes called Scotch Knight; the third, designated the Mysteries, was subdivided into the degrees of the Lesser Mysteries (Presbyter and Regent) and those of the Greater Mysteries (Magus and Rex). Relations with Masonic lodges were established at Munich and Freising in 1780.
The order had its branches in most countries of the European continent; its members were reportedly around 3,000-4,000 members in the span of 10 years. The scheme had its attraction for literary men, such as Goethe and Herder, and even for the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar. Internal rupture preceded its downfall, which was effected by an edict of the Bavarian government in 1785.
The Bavarian Illuminati have cast a long shadow in popular history thanks to the writings of their opponents; the lurid allegations of conspiracy that have colored the image of the Freemasons have practically opaqued that of the Illuminati. In 1797, Abbé Augustin Barruél published Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism outlining a vivid conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, the Jacobins and the Illuminati. A Scottish Mason and professor of natural history named John Robison started to publish Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe in 1798. Robison claimed to present evidence of an Illuminati conspiracy striving to replace all religions with humanism and all nations with a single world government.
More recently, Antony C. Sutton suggested that the secret society Skull and Bones was founded as the American branch of the Illuminati; others think Scroll and Key had Illuminati origins, as well. Writer Robert Gillette claimed that these Illuminati ultimately intend to establish a world government through assassination, bribery, blackmail, the control of banks and other financial powers, the infiltration of governments, mind control, and by causing wars and revolution to move their own people into higher positions in the political hierarchy.
Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, claimed they intended to spread information and the principles of true morality. He attributed the secrecy of the Illuminati to what he called "the tyranny of a despot and priests".
Both seem to agree that the enemies of the Illuminati were the monarchs of Europe and the Church; Barruél claimed that the French revolution (1789) was engineered and controlled by the Illuminati through the Jacobins, and later conspiracy theorists have also claimed their responsibility for the Russian Revolution (1917), although the order was officially shut down in 1790. Few historians give credence to these views; they regard such claims as the products of over-fertile imaginations.
Several sources suggest that the Bavarian Illuminati survived, and perhaps even exist today. Conspiracy theorists highlight the link between the Illuminati and Freemasonry. It is also suggested that the United States' founding fathers — some being Freemasons — were rife with corruption from the Illuminati. Often the symbol of the all-seeing pyramid in the Great Seal of the United States is cited as an example of the Illuminati's ever-present watchful eye over Americans.
Very little reliable evidence can be found to suggest that Weishaupt's group survived into the 19th century. However, several groups have since used the name Illuminati to found their own rites, claiming to be the Illuminati. Such groups include the Grand Lodge Rockefeller of David Goldman (USA), Orden Illuminati of Gabriel López de Rojas (Spain), and The Illuminati Order of Solomon Tulbure (USA).
In 1995, Gabriel López de Rojas founded Illuminati Order in Barcelona, Spain, elaborating the Operative Rite of The Illuminati of Bavaria. This Rite is based on the Rite of the Illuminati and high degrees of Scottish Rite of 33 degrees.
The System of its Illuminati Grand Master, Gabriel López de Rojas, is the Redism. This system is based on the lemma HOMO EST DEUS, or "man is god".
Groups describing themselves as Illuminati say they have members and chapters (lodges) throughout the world.
About the time that the Illuminati were outlawed in Bavaria, the Roman Catholic Church prohibited its members from joining Masonic lodges, on pain of excommunication. This was done as a general edict, since the Church believed many lodges to have been infiltrated and subverted by the Illuminati, but was not able to accurately ascertain which ones. This rule was relaxed only in the late 20th century.
The Illuminati in popular culture
The historical Illuminati have had several influences on popular culture, many of them satirical, humorous, or intended as pure fiction:
- Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson is a three-book science fiction series published in the 1970s, which is regarded as a cult classic particularly in the hacker community. The occult group Illuminates of Thanateros can be safely assumed to have named itself inspired by this book and claims heritage to the Illuminati at least in spirit.
- Robert Anton Wilson also wrote The Historical Illuminati Chronicles in the early 1980s. While this too is a fictional account of a young Italian Freemason, the books are crammed with historical footnotes.
- Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is a labyrinthine novel about all sorts of secret societies, including the Illuminati and the Rosicrucians.
- Angels and Demons (German title: Illuminati, Dutch title: Het Bernini Mysterie), by Dan Brown, is about an Illuminati order plot against the Catholic Church. In this novel the Illuminati movement was founded by Galileo Galilei, and others, as an enlightened reaction to persecution by the Catholic Church.
- The Principia Discordia, the infamous holy book of Discordianism, includes the Illuminati as one of the Greyface forces opposing Discordians.
- David Icke suggests that the Illuminati are a group of aliens that manipulate humanity and control world affairs.
- In Simon West's movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) a group of high-society villains call themselves Illuminati, developing a plan to rule the world. They and Lara Croft's father claim that the Illuminati have existed for millennia for this purpose.
- The anime series Serial Experiments Lain contains some references to the Illuminati and the Majestic 12.
- Two games from Steve Jackson Games are based on the mythos: Illuminati and its trading card game reincarnation Illuminati: New World Order. "Secret conspiracies are everywhere, and where can you find the only truth? Certainly not in the game of Illuminati" states the advertising.
- Deus Ex, a video game, features the Illuminati. Its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War also features the Illuminati in a more active role.
- The videogame Resident Evil 4 features its main plot as that of preventing a religious cult known as Los Illuminados, from ultimately ruling the world: using parasites — Las Plagas — to control and cleanse heathens.
- The video game Area 51 contains multiple references to the Illuminati.
- UK author Clive Barker, in his epic Imajica, imagines the Illuminati as a place where supernatural items are collected — and hidden/destroyed, so that the general public may never see them. Many of the items come from other dimensions, which the book expands on in great detail.
- The story line of Street Fighter III revolves around an organization calling itself the Illuminati seeking to create a new utopia.
- In the DC Comics universe, there are at least two societies based on the Illuminati. The first was founded by Vandal Savage and Garn Danuuth in ancient Atlantis. The second was an organization known to its members as "Fiatlux" which was devoted to the release of a demon known as Hellrazer from the realm of Perdition.
- In a recent episode of The Dead Zone it was hinted that the Illuminati will play a large role in the apocalypse that the show's protagonist John Smith is supposed to prevent.
- In early editions of the Warhammer 40,000 table top miniatures game, these were humans who were possessed by daemons of Chaos, but were able to escape their grasp.
- The song "No Purpose No Design" by Meat Beat Manifesto has some references to Bavarian Illuminati.
- The German movie 23 has some references to Illuminati topics.
- In David Craig Simpson's Ozy and Millie comic strip, much of the world is manipulated, though somewhat satirically, by a Dragon Illuminati, which works off the very chaos the world itself creates.
- Fat Boy Slim has a song called "Illuminati"
- The Jurassic 5 song Concrete Schoolyard contains a passing illuminati reference.
- In the Marvel Comics universe, the Illuminati was a secret clandestine group formed in the wake of the Kree-Skrull War, consisting of Iron Man, Professor X, Mister Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Namor, and Black Bolt. This group will have its true purpose and history explained (at least partially) in the upcoming one-shot "Illuminati" issue, which will lead into Marvel's big 2006 event, "Civil War". See Illuminati (comics).
- In several episodes of the Walt Disney animated series Gargoyles, one of the major antagonists of the series, David Xanatos, was revealed to be a member of the Illuminati. In one episode he travels back in time 1,000 years, flashes his Illuminati pin and it is acknowledged. The Gargoyles Illuminati was founded in 948 AD, eight centuries before the origins of the historical Bavarian Illuminati. The series ended before much was revealed about the order. It is rumored that if it had continued, it would eventually been revealed that the Illuminati had been founded by the immortal Sir Percival of the Round Table.
- In September 2001 GammaRay released the album No World Order. It has several references to the Illuminati including the songs "Induction" and "New World Order" (both lyrics and music by Kai Hansen), and the booklet design (by Henjo Richter).
- In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show, an episode revolved around illuminati members who were revealed to be aliens
- In Michael Romkey's vampire novels, the Illuminati are an order of benevolent vampires, consisting of many famous figures throughout history (Beethoven, Mozart, etc.). The main character, David Parker, joins the order, but later leaves.
- The rap group Mobb Deep make many references to the Illuminati in their songs. 'The Illuminati wants my mind soul and my body, a secret society tryin' to keep their eye on me.'
- The punk group Rancid makes references to both secret societies and the Illuminati in the song "Life Won't Wait." They make such references as "the eye atop the pyramid is open and awake" and "division is the new world order." The song featured Buju Banton and Vic Ruggario as guests.
- In Star Trek The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonian Soong, General Morrison believes that the Illuminati/New World Order is out to destroy his militia, and Roberta Lincoln reveals that herself and Gary Seven have already destroyed the Illuminati
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty The Patriots are a Illuminati-esque organisation that is said to be the underpinnings of the USA, it is revealed in later games, that there are equivelent organisations in the Soviet Union and China, and all of these organisations are linked together
- 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica: "Illuminati"
- America's Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones — Antony C. Sutton (Trine Day, LLC, 2003)
- Behold a Pale Horse — Cooper, Milton William (Light Technology Publishing, 1991)
- The Cosmic Conspiracy — Deyo, Stan (Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 1994)
- The Illuminati 666 — Sutton, Josiah William (Teach Services, Inc, New York, 1983).
- Proof of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe — Robison, John A.M. (New York, 1798)
- They Cast No Shadows: A Collection of essays on the Illuminati, revisionist history and suppressed technology — Desborough, Brian(Writers Club Press/ iUniverse.com, 2002) ISBN 0595219578
- Secret Society
- Conspiracy theory
- New World Order (conspiracy)
- Council on Foreign Relations
- Jordan Maxwell
- David Icke
- The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu
- Thomasine Church
- The Illuminati and the CFR
- A Bavarian Illuminati Primer by Trevor W. McKeown
- Illuminati Conspiracy Archive
- alt.illuminati FAQ
- The Illuminati and the Galactic Federation
- The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Illuminati
Groups identifying themselves as Illuminati
- Church of Gnostic Luminism
- Orden Illuminati
- The Illuminati Order
- Illuminati Order
- Illuminati Order USA
- Union of Radical Magi: Illuminism for the 21st Centurybg:Илюминати