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In recent years, some people have blamed an ancient Bavarian society, the Illuminati for many controversial cases around the world: the Kennedy Assignation (Galer), Thomas Jefferson being an Illuminati agent (Shea and Wilson 49), and many more. Then what was the true Illuminati? By definition, it was a short-lived movement of republican free thought founded on May Day 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law at Ingolstadt and a former Jesuit (Appendix F) (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Yet mysteries shroud upon whether such a society, deeply entangled with the new world order, still exists or not. What intrigues people more is that how such a secretive organization became such a viral sensation among conspiracy theorists when before the 1960s the term” the Illuminati” was nothing more than a historical term relating to this society that expanded out of the freemasons and ended a few decades after its creation. In this article, by exploring the current existence of the Illuminati and how it became popular, it will give a person a deeper understanding of conspiracy theories.
The current existence of the Illuminati has been disputed between historians and each has their own opinion about the subject. Presently the most common argument that one can find is that the Bavarian Illuminati ended in 1776 and the whole movement was extinguished. (Roberts 128–129) There have been many steps throughout the Illuminati’s decline and fall. According to Isabel Hernández, one of the founding members left the society, then, the secret society was exposed by an insider who had been a member of the Illuminati, and turned the organization out to the public, the critical blow was finally struck when the archduke of Bavaria exiled the founder and called for the order to end. (Hernández)
In the book “Perfectibilists: the 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati”, Terry Melanson described the entire process of the decline of the order and finally the end of the Illuminati. First came the leaving of the Freiherr Knigge. As described in Terry’s book, on April 20, Baron von Knigge resigned from the Illuminati after his quarrels with Weishaupt over the direction and management of the Order reached a boiling point. He believed that a certain amount of jealousy was apparent from both parties, though Weishaupt certainly was a Machiavellian by all accounts. Knigge, complaining to Zwack, decried Weishaupt’s “Jesuitism” more than anything: “the scheming, despotism- even dictatorship-of the latter (especially towards his subordinates), in the spirit of those much-maligned Sons of Loyola.” “Spartacus (another name for Weishaupt),” writes Knigge, “is even a latent Jesuit, and I am the own cast down! God, what a man! Where does his unrestrained passion lead? Had I ever believed this man capable of such low and ungrateful behavior? And it was under his banner that I was to work for mankind! That is to say, under the yoke of such a pigheaded man! Never again!?’ (Melanson 40)
During Knigge’s time within the order, the Illuminati grew from a dozen students to more than 2000 followers, And as Knigge left the order, many of the men which he recruited rural resentment over Weishaupt. One of these men was Joseph Utzschneider who wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess of Bavaria, Exposing to her all the details and secrets of the order of the Illuminati. (Hernández) In this article, Joseph wrote a list of accusations tarnishing the reputation of the order, within them, he claimed that “holding such vicious moral and religious sentiments as that life should be controlled by passion rather than reason, that suicide is justifiable, that one may poison one’s enemies, and that religion should be regarded as nonsense and patriotism as puerility. Finally, and much more seriously from the particular point of view of the duchess, the Bavarian Illuminati were accused of being in the service of the government of Austria, whose efforts at the time to extend its hegemony over Bavaria had created considerable tension in the latter country.” (Melanson 39) Although the claims did not contain all the facts about the Illuminati, its purpose was to incriminate the Illuminati order and create panic amongst the ruling class, leading to decisive action and termination of the secret society.
Soon afterwards, A German masonry lodge (Appendix E), the Aux Trois Globes, overtly goes into war against the order, claiming it to be against the Christian religion, and leading the freemasonry into politics. As the Illuminati was built upon the Freemasons in Bavaria, the direct attack from the Grand Mother National Lodge proved to be a fatal blow to the order. (Melanson 39)
The final blow that caused the order to collapse came from three edicts decreed personally by the grand duke of Bavaria. Among which the first bang prohibited any secret society to exist within the realm of Bavaria (appendix A), the second and third decree called directly towards the order of the Illuminati (appendix B and appendix C), and soon after the decree, files stored within the order were confiscated by the Bavarian government, and they were either concealed or burnt. Two weeks prior to the decree, the founder of the order, Weishaupt, fled from Bavaria and he was soon officially exiled afterwards. (Stauffer 156)
This marked an end to the Bavarian Illuminati and to the order that we all know, after Weishaupt made his escape from Bavaria, He went to teach in another college and wrote three books about the history of the Illuminati, but he never took part in any sort of political society afterwards and as most historians believe. The Illuminati order was dead. (Whistler and Logan 13:44-14:54)
However, for many people, the Illuminati are not dead, Although the original Bavarian society may have ended, many people believe that the legacy has been inherited. And many more secret societies in the name of the Illuminati have lived on through the centuries. Some even believed that the order didn’t even die out at all. Among such people, the most famous were Barruel and Robison.
According to, Augustin Barruel, the Illuminati went on to influence the French enlightenment, and as many of their members were the high elites of their time, He was convinced that the Illuminati and many other orders influenced the Jacobins, and in a further effort, started the French revolution. and then took down the French throne. He then believed that the Jacobin were in fact the heritage of the deceased Illuminati. His reason for his statement was that both the members of the Illuminati and members of the Jacobin were against the church. And although the Illuminati did not try to fight against the church, the Jacobins on the other hand, did, and thus they were the successful heritage of the Illuminati. He then compared the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau to that of the original documents of the Illuminati. He concluded that the enlightenment could not be a populist uprising and the spontaneous thoughts of wise men. He believed that they were coordinated planning made by secret societies comprised of elites and all these matched the descriptions of the orders of the Illuminati. He then believed that the revolutionaries who led the startup of the French Revolution were not enticed on their own or by famine and hunger, Instead, they were trained members of the order, brainwashed by Voltaire himself. (Barruel and Jaki)
Another notable mention is John Robison FRSE, whose ideas coincide with that of Barruel’s. Robinson wrote a book called “proofs of a conspiracy” in which he proposed similar explanations as to the origins of the French revolution, that it came from the influence of the Illuminati and freemasons. His book was the most influential because it had a direct impact on the development of the United States. Because in 1798, Reverend G. W. Snyder sent Robison’s book to George Washington, and to which the founding father replied:
“It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied with this fact than I am.
The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavored to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually, had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.” (Washington)
In Robinson’s case, this further proves that the freemason, among which the Illuminati is included, was deeply influential in the founding of the United States. And it was this letter, which to many people proved that George Washington acknowledged the existence of Illuminati at that period, despite the fact that the activities in Bavaria have long ended.
After the French revolution, with the passing of Robinson and Barruel, the heat of the Illuminati and freemason died down for a long period of time. But ever since the 1960s, the Illuminati order has become the heat of discussion once again. This can be majorly credited to, Robert Anton Wilson. According to David Bramwell, Robert felt that “the world was becoming too authoritarian, too tight, too closed, too controlled”, And they want to change the society “the way to do that was to spread disinformation. To disseminate misinformation through all portals – through counter- culture, through the mainstream media, through whatever means. And they decided they would do that initially by telling stories about the Illuminati.” (Bramwell)
In Wilson’s obituary, Michael Carson wrote that during Wilson time as an editor in playboy, he lived a new and liberated lifestyle, and wrote multiple books such as The Illuminati Papers (1980), Masks of The Illuminati (1981) while at the meantime being “A prodigious smoker of marijuana”. (Carlson)
During Wilson’s life working at Playboy, He and Thornley started sending in fake letters from readers talking about this secret, elite organization called the Illuminati. Then he would send in more letters, ones that contradicted the ideas he had just written in the previous ones, so Miao as to let the magazine company raise interest about the order. And then to make things even larger, they planted stories about the Illuminati in the underground press and slipped mysterious classified ads into the Libertarian Journal Innovator and the New Left newspaper Roger SPARK. (Walker)
Another major source of inspiration about the Illuminati came from Robert Shea and his book, “The Illuminatus! Trilogy”. In his book, he wrote many conspiracies about the Illuminati, such as that the Illuminati still existed, they enlisted many of the fake readers’ letters written by Wilson to Playboy Magazine, and one of his most famous conspiracies was that Washington was replaced by Weishaupt:
“No historian knows what happened to Adam Weishaupt after he was exiled from Bavaria in 1785, and entries in “Washington’s” diary after that date frequently refer to the hemp crop at Mount Vernon.
The possibility that Adam Weishaupt killed George Washington and took his place, serving as our first President for two terms, is now confirmed….
The two main colors of the American flag are, excluding a small patch of blue in one corner, red and white: these are also the official colors of the Hashishim. The flag and the Illuminati pyramid both have thirteen horizontal divisions: thirteen is, of course, the traditional code for marijuana … and is still used in that sense by Hell’s Angels among others.” (Shea and Wilson 49)
After these books were published, more people heard about the order of the Illuminati. And as it became popular, even more people wrote more books and stories about the order, such as Dan Brown with his “Angels and Demons”, His second book in the trilogy of “The Da Vinci Code”, as this book exploded in popularity, the ones secret society is now a hot topic for people, and for people to make economic gains. Music bands such as The KLF also called themselves The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, named after the band of Discordians that infiltrate the Illuminati in Wilson’s trilogy as they were inspired by the religion’s anarchic ideology. And as a way of receiving more news attention, “even celebrities like Jay-Z (Fig.1) and Beyoncé have taken on the symbolism of the group themselves, raising their hands into the Illuminati triangle at concerts”. (Galer)
Thus, in recent historians’ eyes, the Illuminati order, which is now linked with every conspiracy and is now also a pseudo name for secret societies, it’s not an actual existing society aimed at controlling the world, but just a historical term used by those seeking for attention and fame.
For now, the current existence of the order of the Illuminati is still a myth. There still remain debates about whether the order survived the exile of their leader and the extermination of all their members’ rights and their documents. While most historians believe that the Illuminati, is gone and has never returned, some people still find hints of evidence of it lingering around throughout history. However, despite all that, the current popularity of the order of the Illuminati has nothing to do with the original Bavarian society. The current conspiracies were created as a result of the hipster movement in the late 20th century as a way for seeking less government control. Afterwards it was popularized and then used by others to increase personal gain. In the beginning, it was for media coverage and economic gain, and now in present years for their own political motives. In short, most current conspiracies surrounding the Illuminati of the modern era were fabricated for purposes of all sorts.
In the recent decade, conspiracy theories have had much a higher influence in United States politics than ever before, Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University says “Particularly in South Asia, conspiracy theories have been a mechanism for the government to control the people. In the West, it’s typically been the opposite. The big change now is that politicians are starting to use conspiracies to mobilize support. People could become disengaged with mainstream politics if they believe in conspiracy theories,” said Swami. “They’re much more likely to engage with fringe politics. They’re also much more likely to engage with racist, xenophobic and extremist views.” (Galer) No longer are Illuminati just a subject for chat talks for fun. It is a political tool used by politicians to influence the minds of voters.
By knowing the true facts and current myths of the Illuminati, we will have a clear mind of the current situation. One must think for himself in search of the truth, not just relying on others with fiendish purposes of their own to tell them conspiracies that corrupt the mind. But this still leaves a gap in the mind, if the Illuminati is just a fabricated populist tool for modern-day political motives, does there exist a secret society or a group of elites influencing modern day politics in the ways that most of us do not know, and that politicians would not tell? If so, are they also the people that are spreading the conspiracy that we all know nowadays and are trying to influence our minds?
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