Illuminati is a term that has been used by occultists since the late 15th century onwards to described spiritual adepts who received mystical insights or «illuminations» from a transcendent source.
The Order of the Illuminati was founded by a Bavarian professor of law Adam Weishaupt in 1776, but it was hardly esoteric in any mystical sense because most of its «secrets» were based on the works of Voltaire and other French Encyclopedists.
Weishaupt and another enthusiast Adolph Knigge later adapted the Order’s teachings in order to infiltrate Freemasonry. A decree in Bavaria in 1784 banned all secret societies – including Freemasonry – and the Order decline. However, by the turn of the 20th century occultists Leopold Engel and Theodor Reuss revived it. In recent times the fantasy occult writer Robert Anton Wilson has popularized the idea of a secret brotherhood of adepts. A.G.H.
The term «Illuminati» has been used in various contexts over the centuries, initially referring to individuals who claimed to have attained spiritual enlightenment or mystical insights. Its meaning and associations have evolved, particularly with the formation of the Bavarian Illuminati in the 18th century.
Early Use of the Term
- Spiritual Adepts: Originally, the term «Illuminati» was used by occultists since the late 15th century to describe spiritual adepts who experienced mystical insights or «illuminations» from a higher, transcendent source.
The Order of the Illuminati
- Founded by Adam Weishaupt: The Order of the Illuminati was established in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a Bavarian professor of law. Its initial aim was to promote Enlightenment ideals.
- Influence of Enlightenment Thinkers: Contrary to popular belief, the original Bavarian Illuminati wasn’t deeply esoteric or mystical but was influenced by the works of Voltaire and other French Enlightenment thinkers.
- Infiltration into Freemasonry: Weishaupt and Adolph Knigge later adapted the Order’s teachings with the goal of infiltrating Freemasonry, a well-established fraternal organization with significant social influence.
Decline and Ban
- Ban by Bavarian Government: In 1784, a decree in Bavaria banned all secret societies, including the Illuminati and Freemasonry, leading to the decline of the Order.
Revival in the 20th Century
- Revival by Engel and Reuss: In the early 20th century, occultists like Leopold Engel and Theodor Reuss attempted to revive the concept and teachings of the Illuminati.
- Popularity in Occult Fiction: The idea of a secret brotherhood of spiritual adepts gained popularity in modern culture, partly due to the works of fantasy and occult writers like Robert Anton Wilson.
Modern Misconceptions and Conspiracy Theories
- Conspiracy Theories: In contemporary times, the term «Illuminati» is often entangled with various conspiracy theories, suggesting that it is a secret, powerful group controlling world events. These theories lack credible evidence and are often debunked by historians and scholars.
- Cultural Phenomenon: The Illuminati has become a cultural phenomenon, often referenced in popular media, fiction, and internet lore, usually far removed from its historical roots.
Historical and Cultural Significance
- Symbol of Enlightenment Ideals: Historically, the Bavarian Illuminati represented a movement aligned with Enlightenment values such as reason, secularism, and progressive political ideals.
- Misinterpretation and Speculation: Over time, the term has been subject to misinterpretation and speculation, leading to its association with various unfounded conspiracy theories.
Sources: 62, 126.