Every conspiracy theory seems to wind up around the Illuminati, a term vilified through myth and mystery and probably one of the most feared terms in the world. It is associated with everything evil, from alleged cabals and deep states believed to run the world to satanism. However, a look at how it all started just over 200 years ago brings out Illuminati in a very different picture. The Illuminati that was created in 1776 by professor Adam Weishaupt was just a small revolutionary organization of intellectuals created to liberate the society from the new negative influence of the church and the monarchy in Bavaria. Here is a look at 10 forgotten facts about what Illuminati was really about.
Adam Weishaupt’s Vision Of The Illuminati
In the 1770s, the University of Ingolstadt, in Bavaria, was still under the control of Jesuits, an order of catholic priests that had been disbanded a few years earlier by Pope Clement XIV. The Jesuits prevented the University from offering secular teachings or anything that was considered protestant. When Adam Weishaupt was recruited as a professor of Canon Law and Practical Philosophy, he was the only non-clerical professor at the university and sought to change the mode of teaching.
He wanted the University to allow students to learn in a free environment and know everything known to human beings without the restrictions of the church. The conservative administration wouldn’t allow it, so he and four of his students formed a secret society called the Perfectibilists. To maintain secrecy, the members used aliases, and Weishaupt called himself Spartacus. He and his students then started recruiting new members who were willing to learn and who could maintain secrecy. The order grew, and in April 1778, Weishaupt and the top leadership changed the name to Illuminate Norden (The Order Of The Illuminati).
The Original Symbol Of Illuminati
Today, the symbol that is most associated with the Illuminati is the all-Seeing eye or the Eye Of Providence, as some people call it. The eye is usually surrounded by a triangle and the masonic ring. Influential and mystic as it is, the all-seeing eye was not the symbol of Weishaupt’s Illuminati. Weishaupt considered his order as the people who could seek light through the dark, and so his symbol was the Owl of Minerva. The owl is used to represent Athena, the Greek god of wisdom, and usually associated with the ability to see through the dark because of its big round eyes. It is not clear when the all-seeing eye became associated with Illuminati but it was definitely not with the Bavarian Illuminati.
The Steps Of Initiation
Illuminati evolved to start opposing the negative influence of the church on people’s lives and the corrupt ways of the state, which made it an enemy of the state in Bavaria. The order maintains secrecy, they used encrypted messages and aliases to communicate. To keep the circle small and tight, new members had to earn a place at the table hence the tough initiation process. There was a high membership fee to be paid by new members, although it wasn’t as expensive as Freemasonry, which was a more popular order at the time. New recruits were called novices, but they could earn the status of Insinuated novices when they managed to recruit new members. They then became Minervals after training and later graduated to become Illuminated Minervals. An Initiation ritual was only performed to novices becoming Minervals.
As the order grew, the leaders realized the need to increase the steps of initiation, leading to the introduction of 13 degrees of initiation through three new levels namely Illuminatus Minor, Dirigens, and then the Kings, which was only achieved after a long period of education and testing. Initiation also included rituals, but they only involved evaluation of one’s level of adoption of freethinking and nothing bloody as modern conspiracy theorists suggest.
No Women Allowed
Today, everyone could claim or be claimed to be a member of the Illuminati, but that was not the case with the Bavarian Illuminati. We are talking about 1776 Bavaria, where the rights of women, Jews, and Pagans were heavily stumped on and the Illuminati, though revolutionary, wasn’t willing to change that. Their first rule was that they wouldn’t recruit members of other secret societies, although they later started recruiting Freemasons that were willing to change allegiance.
The main reason for censoring the membership was to keep the society a secret from the authorities and earn it enough resources and influence to change the society. However, the Illuminati also needed powerful people with money and educated to help foster their ambition. It was hard to find educated women at the time, and so the society restricted the recruiting of women and monks. Jews and Pagans were also not allowed to join the Illuminati.
Illuminati’s Relationship With Religion
It is hard to ignore religion wherever the term Illuminati is mentioned because it always ends there. Weishaupt and his group of growing Minervals couldn’t ignore the fact that they needed the church either, although they were fighting against the church at the same time. The right term to describe The Order Of The Illuminati’s relationship with religion is ‘cautious.’
The organization didn’t oppose religion in any clear terms, but it was created to oppose the influence of religion on people’s daily lives. The church was powerful and controlled everything from what people read to what they were allowed to eat, wear, and learn, which the Illuminati felt was an infringement on people’s rights. The church and the government disapproved of the society, though.
Why The Illuminati Didn’t Admit Jews
The fact that Weishaupt opposed the recruitment of Jews to the Illuminati probably had nothing to do with antisemitism because he was also a Jew. His parents converted to Christianity before they died while Weishaupt was still young. His uncle then enrolled him in a Jesuit school to be educated, and being an ardent student of philosophy, Adam became a professor at the University aged just 32.
When he started the Illuminati, it was only him and four of his students, but that wasn’t going to achieve his mission hence the rules that guided admission of new members. His decision to restrict women, Jews, and monks made Illuminati more palatable to the Bavarian and other European elites. By 1784, Illuminati had increased membership to over 3000 members from all over Europe, and all members were elites, including barons, lawyers, justices, politicians, and even some members of the royal family.
The Relationship With Freemasonry
Illuminati was emerging as the new place for freethinkers to convene as opposed to the bigger and better-known Freemasons, which had been around for more years. Weishaupt wanted to join the Freemasons at first but decided against it because the freemasons wouldn’t foster his agenda.
With his four students, when setting the rules, they decided that they wouldn’t recruit members of other societies, but then they later accepted to recruit those who would deny their previous societies. That is how Illuminati got to include important people like Baron Von Knigge, a former Freemason who became one of the most influential leaders of the Illuminati.
Why Illuminati Fell Out Of Favor With The State
The Illuminati didn’t even last a decade since Adam Weishaupt and his students started recruiting outsiders. The Illuminati’s rapid expansion became its own undoing as some members became boisterous and started favouring their Illuminati brethren in appointments in government posts in the judiciary, parliament and administration, university boards, and even inside the church. The Jesuits soon lost their numbers in the courts and in the University to Illuminati members, and that alarmed the church.
Illuminati members also made publications that were critical of the monarchy, which soon became public. There were claims in Bavaria that the Illuminati was so powerful and that nothing would happen in Bavaria without their say-so, which led to the banning of all secret societies in 1786.
The End Of Illuminati
After being banned, Rumors still existed that Illuminati was very much operational working right under the government’s noses. The publicity was bad for the order, and Weishaupt was against it, although some members preferred to oppose the church and the state openly, leading to infighting. Some prominent members, such as Knigge, were forced to leave while others started working against the order vilifying it to the public.
The monarchy then went against Illuminati and membership in a secret society would soon earn you the death penalty as the crackdown began on the prominent members of the brotherhood. Illuminati literature was seized in Weishaupt and Von Zwack’s homes, forcing both of them to flee Bavaria. That was the end of the official version of the Bavarian Illuminati. Some reports suggest that the Illuminati was sold out to the state by Joseph Utzschneider, a former member who wrote a letter to the grand duchess exposing the order’s secrets.
The Illuminati Blamed For The French Revolution
The end of the Bavarian Illuminati was only the beginning of rumours and conspiracy theories about the order’s influence on European society. The French Revolution remains one of the biggest historical events blamed on Weishaupt’s Illuminati. He was accused of having met Robespierre, the leader of the revolution, to plot the entire revolt, but there is no proof of that. The revolution happened in 1789 while Weishaupt was in exile and all he managed to do was write a few books defending his views on why he formed the Illuminati. The Illuminati has since been accused of everything big and bad, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy over 170 years later.