In modern times it is also used to refer to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy"power behind the throne", allegedly controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations, usually as a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. In this context, the Illuminati are believed to be the masterminds behind events that will lead to the establishment of a New World Order.
The movement was founded on May 1, 1776, in Ingolstadt (UpperBavaria) as the Order of the Illuminati, with an initial membership of five, by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt.
Originally Weishaupt had planned the order to be named the "Perfectibilists". The group has also been called the Bavarian Illuminati and the movement itself has been referred to as Illuminism(after illuminism). In 1777, Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria. He was a proponent of Enlightened Despotism and, in 1784, his government banned all secret societies, including the Illuminati.
During the period when the Illuminati were legally allowed to operate, many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians counted themselves as members, including Ferdinand of Brunswick and thediplomat Xavier von Zwack, who was number two in the operation and was found with much of the group's literature when his home was searched. The Illuminati's members pledged obedience to their superiors. Members were divided into three main classes, each with several degrees.
The order had its branches in most countries of the European continent; it reportedly had around 2,000 members over thespan of ten years. The organization had its attraction for literary men, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder, and even for the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar. Weishaupt modeled his group to some extent on Freemasonry, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges. Internal rupture and panic over succession preceded its downfall, whichwas effected by the Secular Edict made by the Bavarian government in 1785.
Barruel and Robison
The March 2, 1785 edict was apparently a "deathblow to the Illuminati in Bavaria." Weishaupt had fled, and documents from the group had been seized and were then published by the government in 1787.
Between 1787 and 1789 Augustin Barruel's Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism andJohn Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy both publicized the theory that the Illuminati had survived and represented an ongoing international conspiracy, including the claim that it was behind the French Revolution. Both books proved to be very popular, spurring reprints and paraphrases by others, like the one by Reverend Seth Payson. Some response was critical, such as Jean-Joseph Mounier'sOn the Influence Attributed to Philosophers, Free-Masons, and to the Illuminati on the Revolution of France.
New England Illuminati scare
Robison and Barruel's works made their way to the United States. Across New England, Reverend Jedidiah Morse and others sermonized against the Illuminati, their sermons printed, and the matter followed in newspapers. The concern died down in the first decadeof the 1800s, though had some revival during the Anti-Masonic movement of the 1820s and 30s.
Main article: New World Order (conspiracy theory)
Writers such as Mark Dice, David Icke, Texe Marrs, Ryan Burke, Jüri Lina and Morgan Gricar have argued that the Bavarian Illuminati survived, possibly to this day. Many of these theories propose that world events are being...