A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati

Theodoros - May 23, 2018

The term sounds familiar, even if you’ve never been concerned with conspiracies. Many have heard about this secret brotherhood, whose reputation has reached the ends of the world. Most suspicious minds believe that the Illuminati control almost everything today: the secret services, banks, and governments of every country. However, what lies beneath? What is the truth? Although secret societies with the Illuminati name have appeared mainly in the last three centuries, there are reports of “Illuminati” groups well before this period. In the fifteenth century, a group appeared in Spain, a mystical Christian sect called the Alumbrados (i.e., Illuminati).

The beliefs of this sect are interesting and worth mentioning: the Alumbrados believed that through mysticism one could reach perfection and communicate with God; they rejected as unnecessary any ecclesiastical worship, and there were a few members who claimed to have visions. Of course, these claims attracted the interest of the Spanish Inquisition and from 1529 onward the sect was persecuted mercilessly. In 1623 members of the Alumbrados arrived in France from Seville and tried to convert new followers. Curiously they succeeded when the vicar of the church of St. George in Roye, in northern France, Pierre Guerin, penetrated their ranks. The French Illuminati were originally known as Illumines or Guerinets, named after their new leader. The Guerinets found fertile ground in the provinces of Picardy and Flanders, and proselytized new members. However, everything ended abruptly around 1635, after a series of persecutions against them.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
A drawing depicting the initiation of an Illuminati member. Destination America.

In the sixteenth century another “Illuminati” organization appeared in the mountains of Afghanistan by the name of Roshaniya, established by the Indian Bayazid Ansari around 1560. The sect originally had a religious character, with Ansari’s fans adoring the “Supreme Being,” which could bring them enlightenment. The ideology of the sect gradually transformed from purely religious to military-political. All members were trained to use weapons and the arts of war and began to hunt with hate those who did not belong to the order. Feeling confident in their strength, the Roshaniya turned against the Mongols who had settled in the area.

Although few in number and missing equipment, they managed to defeat the Mongolian army in Chora, where the Oruzgan province is found today. This victory gave Bayazid Ansari the reputation of a hero and his followers began to call him Pir-i-Roshan, “Apostle of Light.” Naturally, the accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the Mongols, who wanted to stop him at all costs. Eventually, when the Roshaniya tried to conquer the current province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, the Mongols crushed the attempt. Those not killed in battle were captured, while Ansari, although he managed to escape wounded, died shortly afterward.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
Pir-i-Roshan, The “Apostle of Light.” Nunn.Asia.

So, it would be safe to say that the list of “Illuminati” groups that existed before the historical Illuminati may be much larger than we tend to think today. It’s important to also mention the Enlightened Theosophists of Britain (1767) and the Illuminati of Avignon, founded around 1770 in the eponymous town in France that eventually disappeared during the revolution.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
Depiction of an Illuminati Ceremony. My Joy Online.

The Birthplace of the Illuminati

The Illuminati was a secret society founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830), a professor of ecclesiastical law at the University of Ingolstadt, in Bavaria. On May 1, inside one of the university’s buildings and in the utmost secrecy this very controversial organization was born. Only three people were present at the first meeting, Weishaupt and two students, Anton von Massenhausen and Max Edler von Merz. Weishaupt chose the name Illuminati because he was inspired by “the Sun’s image that shines” and as their symbol he chose the owl, symbol of Minerva, the Roman goddess of knowledge, corresponding to the Greek Athena.

His liberal views, inspired by the philosophical works of the French Enlightenment, propelled him to take action and establish this secret organization that would gradually gain strength and direct its energy against despotism and the bigotry of the Church. Numerous myths and conspiracy theories have centered on the alleged survival of the organization to date and its alleged activities, which include the French Revolution, the struggle against the Catholic Church, and aspirations toward world domination. The original intention of the Illuminati was certainly its spread to all social classes and a main objective to weaken the Church and abolish the Bavarian monarchy, which would be replaced by a liberal, democratic government.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
Johann Adam Weishaupt was a German philosopher, professor, and founder of the Order of the Illuminati.

Secret Codes and Aliases

They knew that was a goal difficult to achieve and that their survival would not be at all easy. For this reason they took a series of security measures. They originally introduced a cryptographic code that would allow them to communicate with relative safety. This code consisted of replacing the twenty-three letters of the Latin alphabet with numbers, according to a predefined “key”. According to researchers, the Illuminati used at least two more cryptographic alphabets. As is easily understood, to ensure complete secrecy the members were required to communicate with pseudonyms. All aliases derived from historical and mythological figures, mainly from ancient Greece and Rome. For himself, Weishaupt chose Spartacus, the gladiator who led the great rebellion of slaves against the Roman Empire in 73 BC.

The other two members of the original core chose the names Ajax (Massenhausen), the mythical hero of Salamis, and Tiberius (Merz), after the famed Roman emperor. Apart from the use of pseudonyms, the organization also invented its own calendar. The expansion of the organization in conservative Bavaria in the eighteenth century was not easy and the response of the people was not as expected. In 1777 Weishaupt joined the Masonic lodge in Munich, seeking new members among their ranks. From 1777 to 1780, about sixty people were members of the Illuminati, but internal conflict began to plague the organization, mainly due to lack of funds.

In 1780 the situation changed when former Mason and alchemist Baron Franz Friedrich Knigge joined the organization. His experiences as a Mason and his contacts with the Rosicrucians as well made him valuable to the Illuminati, who were undergoing a period of internal crisis. Knigge quickly rose to the top of the organization’s hierarchy and became Weishaupt’s right hand. In 1781, the organization was growing rapidly and succeeded in enlisting many Freemasons in its ranks. Until 1784, the organization counted more than two thousand members, including Goethe and Herder. However, the increasing number of members was a development that marked the beginning of the end. Knigge’s ambition for more power made him irrational and he threatened to report the organization’s secrets to the Jesuits and Rosicrucians. As a result, the disagreements between Weishaupt and Knigge were exacerbated so far as the organization was threatened with dissolution.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
A certificate from an Illuminati infiltrated Freemason lodge of St. Theodore vom guten Rat in Munich from 1780. Februari61.

Dissolution and Aftermath

In February 1784 an arbitral tribunal with the name “Congress” convened in Weimar in order to put an end to the conflicts. Knigge was defeated and on the first of July, he agreed to keep silent about the society and return all documents, ultimately leaving the organization. During that time the secret society’s internal conflicts had attracted the attention of the Bavarian authorities. As a result, on June 22, 1784, Prince Karl Theodor banned all “communities, societies or fraternities” that were established without the approval of the rulers. Weishaupt obliged to resign his position as dean at the University of Ingolstadt and to give the organization’s address to Johann Martin, Count of Stolberg-Roßla. He knew that the end had come but he only fled when he was forced to embrace the Catholic faith. All that is known about him after this time is that he found refuge in central Germany, where he grappled with writing (some books relating to the Illuminati) until his death in 1830.

On March 3, 1785, under pressure from many nobles, who belonged to the Rosicrucians, a special declaration was published prohibiting the Illuminati, naming them as traitors and enemies of religion. Exactly the same year Pope Pius VI explained in two letters to the bishop of Friesland (July 18 and November 12) that the attachment to the organization was incompatible with the Catholic faith and that that was the reason its members should be prosecuted. As a natural consequence, in 1784 and 1785 many of its members were persecuted. Some directors and officers lost their positions, others were deported, and yet others were jailed.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
Pope Pius VI. EmersonKent.

In April 1785 Count Stolberg-Roßla officially suspended the organization’s operation. On August 16, 1787, a third and stricter ban was published against joining the society under penalty of death, in order to prevent further recruitment of Illuminati members. These publications launched the first hysteria against the enlightened. A second wave, much more vibrant, erupted during the French Revolution, when the fear of the Jacobins merged with the fear of the enlightened. In this mental state Minister of Bavaria Maximilian von Montgelas, who in his turn had been enlightened, in his rise to power in 1799 and again in 1804, banned all secret societies.

Myth Vs. Fact

The Illuminati was one of the most short-lived secret organizations in history, lasting just nine years (1776-1785). The truth is that there is no historical evidence that the organization continued to exist after 1800 even though there are several recent and present-day fraternal organizations that claim to be descended from the original Bavarian Illuminati and openly use the name. Today, the only reminder of the organization is a commemorative plaque on the building of Ingolstadt’s university where the gatherings of the enlightened were held. Who or what were the Illuminati, really? A relentless, intriguing elite global society that sought to take control of the world, or the scapegoat of humanity? A humanity that is content to engage in a witch hunt instead of trying to find the real culprits of crimes and evils acts. Many people resort to synomosiologia to externalize their innermost fears, to blame an invisible enemy, and victimize themselves instead of being responsible for their own thoughts and actions. So, it’s solely up to you what you believe.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Illuminati
Michael Jackson was one of the many modern celebrities that conspiracy theorists accuse of being (while alive) a member of the Illuminati. Disclose.

Bonus Facts

  • There are more than one hundred popular books written about the Illuminati, with the most well-known being Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, which was the best-selling novel for 2003 and his Angels and Demons. His books have been translated into fifty-two languages, and as of 2012, have sold over two hundred million copies. Both have been adapted to film with huge box-office success.
  • Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a series of three novels first published in 1975. The trilogy is a satirical, postmodern, science-fiction adventure story, historical and imaginary, which relates the authors’ version of the Illuminati. Their books have been adapted for the stage, and have influenced several modern writers, musicians, and game-makers.
  • Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum has been characterized as “the thinking man’s” Da Vinci Code. It was first published in 1988 and the novel is full of esoteric references to Kabbalah, alchemy, and conspiracy theory, as these concern the Bavarian Illuminati.


Where Do We Get This Stuff? Here is a List of our Sources

Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, pp. 539-550 by Daniel Jacoby. 1978.

Illuminati”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 7. Gruber, Hermann (1910).

“Illumines.” NY: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 661-663. Retrieved 28 January 2011.

Geschichte des Illuminaten-ordens (Translated from German). Engel, Leopold (1906). Berlin: Hugo Bermühler verlag.

Terrorism and the Illuminati: A Three-thousand-year History. Livingstone, David (2011).