9 questions about the Illuminati
When it comes to shadowy cabals that supposedly control the world, the Illuminati should be at the top of any conspiracy theorist's list. An Illuminati Facebook page has 3.4 million likes, Madonna writes songs about the group, and YouTube channels calling pretty much everyone Illuminati notch almost 200,000 subscribers.
1) What is the Illuminati?
In a historical sense, the term "Illuminati" refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, a secret society that operated for only a decade, from 1776 to 1785. This organization was founded by Adam Weishaupt, a German law professor who believed strongly in Enlightenment ideals, and his lluminatenorden sought to promote those ideals among elites. Weishaupt wanted to educate Illuminati members in reason, philanthropy, and other secular values so that they could influence political decisions when they came to power.
2) What did the Illuminati believe?
There were two sides to the historical Illuminati: their odd rituals and their ideals.
The Illuminati did plenty of unusual things. They used symbols (like the owl), adopted pseudonyms to avoid identification, and had complicated hierarchies like Novice, Minerval, and Illuminated Minerval that divided the ranks. In the beginning, Hodapp says, Illuminati members didn't trust anyone over 30, because they were too set in their ways. Other reports of rituals are harder to confirm, but we know that members were very paranoid and used spy-like protocol to keep one another's identities secret.
3) Did the Illuminati manage to control the world?
Historians tend to think the Illuminati were only mildly successful — at best — in becoming influential. (Though, of course, there are also those who believe the Illuminati successfully took over the world — and still control it today. If an all-powerful group does dominate the world, we probably wouldn't know about it. Δ.)
It's also difficult to untangle the success of the Illuminati from that of the Freemasons, which they infiltrated and commingled with. It's just as tough to tell what influence the Illuminati actuallyhad as opposed to the influence people think they had
4) Why did the real Illuminati disappear?
They were wiped out," Hodapp says. "People have tried to revive them over the years, but it's a moneymaking scheme."
In 1785, Duke of Bavaria Karl Theodor banned secret societies, including the Illuminati, and instituted serious punishments for anyone who joined them. Most of the group's secrets were disclosed or published, and, if you believe most historians, the Illuminati disappeared.
5) If the Illuminati vanished, how did their legend live on?
Almost immediately after the Illuminati were disbanded, conspiracy theories about the group sprang up.
The most famous conspiracy theories were authored by physicist John Robison in 1797, who accused the Illuminati of infiltrating the Freemasons, and Abbe Augustin Barruel, whose 1797 history of the Jacobins promoted the theory that secret societies, including the Illuminati, were behind the French Revolution. Historians tend to see these as the first in a long line of conspiracy theories (though, again, for those who believe the Illuminati run the world today, this is arguably proof of the group's power).
6) Are the Illuminati related to the Freemasons?
Conspiracy theories have always been popular in the United States, but for centuries, the Illuminati were less feared than the Freemasons. The 1828 Anti-Masonic Party was based on an opposition to the Freemasons, and though the party died out, Freemasons remained a focal point for paranoia in America. Because the Illuminati recruited many members in Europe through Freemason lodges, the two groups are often confused for each other.
7) Why do people still believe in the Illuminati today?
The Illuminati never completely disappeared from popular culture — it was always burbling in the background. But in the mid-1970s, the Illuminati made a marked comeback thanks to a literary trilogy that gave the group the simultaneously spooky and laughable image it holds today.
8) Are Jay Z, Kanye West, and other celebrities in the Illuminati?
We contacted Kanye West and Jay Z's spokesmen, but they did not return our request for comment. Jay Z has previously said that he thinks rumors of his membership in the Illuminati are "stupid." Kanye West has said it's "ridiculous." Of course, to conspiracy theorists, that's exactly what a member of the Illuminati would say.
9) Will the Illuminati kill me for reading this article?
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