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The Illuminati: Not the Rulers of the Planet!

Now and again I get asked what I think about the Illuminati. There’s no doubt whatsoever that a great deal of nonsense has been said about them. Such as, they secretly rule the planet, and are working to create a sinister New World Order. Well, personally, I don’t buy into any of that. With that said, let’s take a look at what we can really say about the Illuminati. Although what is known officially as the Order of the Illuminati did not come into being until the 1700s, the word “Illuminati” has origins that date back to at least the 1400s. In Spain, at that time, those who immersed themselves in the world of the black arts identified occultists, alchemists, and witches as having been given “the light.” We’re talking about nothing less than a supernatural form of “illumination” which gave them extraordinary powers. Hence, the term, “Illuminati.” As for the Order of the Illuminati, it was created in 1776 – specifically on May 1. The man behind the mysterious group was Adam Weishaupt. The location: Ingolstadt, Bavaria. At the time, Weishaupt was approaching his thirties and worked as a professor of religious law. As Brad Steiger notes, Weishaupt “blended mysticism into the workings of the brotherhood in order to make his agenda of republicanism appear to be more mysterious than those of a political reform group.”

The group had decidedly small-scale origins: it began with just five members, one being Weshaupt himself. The Illuminati was not destined to stay that way, however. Bit by bit, the group began to grow, to the point where, by 1780, the membership was around five dozen and extended to six cities. Certainly, many were attracted to Weishaupt’s group as a result of the fact that it paralleled the Masons – specifically in relation to levels and orders of hierarchy that could be achieved. Indeed, Weishaupt was careful to point out to his followers that the further they immersed themselves in the domain of the Illuminati, the greater level of illuminated, supernatural knowledge they would achieve.

History has shown that Weishaupt was not alone in ensuring the Illuminati grew from strength to strength. He was aided to a very significant degree by one Adolph Francis, better known as Baron von Knigge. A renowned and influential figure with an expert knowledge of all things of an occult nature, von Knigge was a powerful individual who had risen through the ranks of the Masons. And, he shared Weishaupt’s desire for political revolution. In no time, and as a result of von Knigge’s contacts and ability to entice others to the cause, the Illuminati grew to a group of several hundred. The Illuminati was not a group open to everyone, however. In fact, quite the opposite: the powerful, the rich, and the well-connected were those that Weishaupt and von Knigge worked hard to bring on-board. Rituals and rites for those who wished to be a part of Weishaupt’s vision were established, as was the wearing of specific clothes – or as Brad Steiger described them, “bizarre costumes.” And, the membership expanded ever further.

By the mid-1780s, the Illuminati was no longer a group with hundreds of followers, but thousands. In 1784, however, there was dissent in the ranks. It was in April of that year when von Knigge and Weishaupt had a major falling out, something which led to von Knigge walking away from the group. There was another problem, too: the occult “illumination” that Weishaupt had promised his followers failed to appear. Many of them became disillusioned, suspecting that Weishaupt actually had very little interest in the domain of the occult, but had really sought out the rich and powerful as a means to help his plans for revolution. The outcome was that many walked away from the Illuminati, fearful that it was becoming a manipulative, sinister body with hidden agendas. It wasn’t at all along before the Illuminati was no more. On this issue, let’s turn again to Brad Steiger:

“In June 1784 Karl Theodor [the Duke of Bavaria] issued an edict outlawing all secret societies in his province. In March 1785 another edict specifically condemned the Illuminati. Weishaupt had already fled to a neighboring province, where he hoped to inspire the loyal members of the Illuminati to continue as a society. In 1787 the duke issued a final edict against the Order of the Illuminati, and Weishaupt apparently faded into obscurity.” A fascinating story, to be sure. But, the secret rulers of the planet? Not a chance.


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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