If the moon landing "hoax" took over the early 1970s (don't remind Buzz Aldrin of that, or he'll punch you in the face #thuglife style), then the pentagrams, skulls, eyes, and pyramids of the Illuminati have been the most talked about conspiracy theory of the 2000s—thanks to the Internet. Type "Illuminati conspiracy" intoTwitter or YouTube and you'll get a ton of results that show how hardcore people are about the theory and getting to the bottom of it. It's Roswell, New Mexico, all over again. So, what is the Illuminati and the conspiracy around them? What do they want? And, probably the main thing on your mind right now: Who's in it? C'mon, Lady Gaga has to be. Have you seen her videos? Blue Ivy? Obama? The Founding Fathers?
It's all complicated, and when you take into account most of what's been said about the Illuminati, there are a lot of moving parts that stretch many, many years. As you might expect, not all that's been said about them is verifiable, but there's some truth behind the group as a whole, which goes back centuries (to the year America was founded, to be exact).
Let's take a look at the group and why they're talked about today.
Are the Illuminati real?
The Illuminati came into being on May 1, 1776 as the Order of the Illuminati, or the Bavarian Illuminati, as it's known today. While not much is known about the group (most of what's written about them is in German), they began as a secret society, initially with five members—that would go on to include dukes and literary men in Bavaria—who opposed the Roman Catholic Church's power over science and philosophy, and who sought to free themselves from the church and restrictions of the government. This is the Age of Enlightenment we're talking about here, so they also wanted to "enlighten" people about their superstitions and prejudices.
But, like most secret societies, they didn't stay very "secret" for long, and people gossiped about the mission of the group. Some believed they were behind the French Revolution and had their eyes on other governments to take down.
Who founded the Order of the Illuminati?
In 1773, Weishaupt was made the chair of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, a university in Bavaria that was largely influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Before his appointment, the position had been occupied by priests for 90 years. Two years later he was made dean of the university at the age of 27—and many of the priests at the university weren't happy with the young hotshot who was gaining power. Jesuits and Weishaupt fought over the church's "intolerance" and "bigotry," and this led Weishaupt to conclude that a secret group of like-minded thinkers would be the only way to overthrow the status quo. So, he wanted to be a Freemason, of course. Only problem is that he didn't have the money to pay the admission fee (and he also concluded in the end that the Freemasons weren't secret enough). Making his own society was the next best alternative.
The Order of the Illuminati would grow from five members to thousands, thanks to recruitment from Freemason lodges and other European countries. Because they became so popular, staying hidden wasn't so easy. Secret societies were made illegal and punishable by death a few years after Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria in 1777. This was the end of the Order of the Illuminati (so we think). Weishaupt moved to Gotha, Germany, where he died in exile.
What happened to the group after the ban?
Then why do we still hear so much about them today?
Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy and Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons helped popularize the group. Angels and Demons was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, and follows his character as he solves an Illuminati puzzle while trying to find an assassin who's working for the group.
What does the modern Illuminati want to do?
But seriously, that's it. It's like Weishaupt's original plan, but on steroids. According to theorists, the Illuminati have been conspiring to establish a "New World Order" that would set up a single government to control the planet. The Illuminati supposedly has agents who control movies, music, banks, governments, and other powerful institutions, and their influence, combined with strategic decisions, will result in this totalitarian one-world government, or another sinister outcome. Theorists have pointed to other secret societies, like Skull and Bones and the Bilderberg Group, to claim that they're front organizations for the Illuminati.
There are so many theorists speculating about the shadow organization, and each theory is different. Nesta Helen Webster's theory states that the Illuminati was run by elite Jewish people to spread communism and capitalism to divide the world, and then rule it. In the early 1900s, Christian fundamentalists claimed that the Illuminati's New World Order would be a sign of the coming of the antichrist. Two of the biggest supporters of this theory were the John Birch Society’s Blue Book in 1958, which outlined the mission of a society like the Illuminati, and Pat Robertson’s book, The New World Order.
So far, theorists have linked the Illuminati to the deaths of Tupac, Michael Jackson, JFK, and Princess Diana, as well as the 9/11 attacks, the French Revolution, and pretty much everything else.
Who's been flagged as a member?
But there's a lot more people who are supposedly part of the Illuminati, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hitler, Justin Bieber, and The 1 percent. Michael Jackson is said to either be a member, or someone who tried to expose the Illuminati (which is allegedly why he was killed). By definition, a member can be anyone who has power or influence. Like, say, if you Google "Chris Brown Illuminati," someone's already made the Illuminati connection. Take that as you will.
Is there evidence for the existence of the Illuminati?
People have also looked at quotes from past presidents as evidence, like JFK's speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association:
With so many versions of what the Illuminati could be (Satanic? Masonic? Atheist? Reptilian?), theorists can't even agree on who or what they are. And, all of those artists who put occult or Illuminati symbolism in their videos? They're doing it on purpose, either because they know you'll talk about it, or because their production team couldn't think of any other designs to use. If this organization wanted to rule the world in secret, they're doing a shitty job. First rule of Fight Club is: You don't talk about Fight Club. Each and every one one of those celebrities would have been kicked out by now for blatantly flaunting their membership. Also, those YouTube videos and websites exposing the Illuminati would likely have been mysteriously erased by now if the group had complete control over things like the Internet.
Going back to the purpose of conspiracy theories in general, they're meant to make sense of the impossible (even if the theory itself doesn't make sense when you dig deeper). Some would like to think someone like Jay Z can become successful on his own, not with the help of a centuries-old secret society.
If there are Illuminati, conspiracy theorists probably aren't going to be very happy when they see how much power the group doesn't have. And, if they do exist, they may be completely different than what the conspiracy theorists have cooked up. Secret societies have been around for ages, but for one with the power to influence world events and shape history to its will? That would be extraordinary. But, it's hard to definitively say that they don't exist. In fact, you probably can't. So the only "proof" you're going to get is the kind that debunks single theories (like Reptilians), and not the existence of the group as a whole. It's an unfalsifiable theory.
And no, Tupac wasn't a member.
How many people believe that the Illuminati are real?
So, do the all powerful Illuminati exist today?