“Princes and nations will disappear without violence from the earth, the human race will become one family and the world the abode of reasonable men. Morality alone will bring about this change imperceptibly.”
— Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830)
The movement was founded on May 1, 1776, in Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria) 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. The movement was made up of freethinkers as an offshoot of the Enlightenment, and seems to have been modeled on the Freemasons.
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 asIlluminism (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 the diplomat 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 the span 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 onFreemasonry, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges. Internal rupture and panic over succession preceded its downfall, which was effected by the Secular Edict made by the Bavarian government in 1785.
Prince Karl Theodor of Bavaria
Adam Weishaupt received an implicit education in secret societies by being a student at a Jesuit college. He largely rejected the explicit Jesuit beliefs, gravitating more toward Enlightenment thinkers who promoted atheism, rationalism, materialism and egalitarianism — such as d’Holbach and Helvetius. As a professor at the Bavarian university of Ingolstadt he must have found the environment somewhat stifling insofar as the main issue of controversy at the time was whether any book by a non-Catholic could be tolerated (books by Enlightenment authors were under absolute ban of censorship).
Weishaupt joined the Freemasons in 1774, but quickly became disillusioned and dropped-out. On the first of May, 1776, Weishaupt founded a secret Order of Illuminati (built on the base of a secret student society) consisting of 5 members who were devoted to promoting equality & rationality, primarily through study. By 1779 there were colonies of the Order in five Bavarian cities, the secret library contained much contraband literature and membership numbered 54. Members were all considered Initiates, and they were to be brought slowly to higher grades of knowledge by first reading the classical moralists, and only eventually the rationalists & materialists. Activities of the Order were conducted under assumed names (Weishaupt called himself “Spartacus”) and only the highest Initiates could learn of the Secret Directors (the “Areopagus”) who knew the founder’s identity and the true history & aims of the Order.
In 1777 Weishaupt had re-entered the Freemasons in hopes of gaining useful lore for his own Order — and in hopes of tapping-off new members. Whether by original design or evolved purpose, the idea was conceived to for Illuminati members to penetrate the highest Masonic grades to take control of the Lodges. In this way, Masons receptive to Illuminati ideas could be initiated into the highest Orders and less receptive members left to the lower Orders — and subjected to more dilute truths & convenient fabrications.
In 1779 the Masonic Lodge in Munich succumbed to the Illuminati, and this branch was given authority by the English-authorized Frankfurt Lodge to set-up daughter Lodges, which it did. By mid-1782 the Order numbered about 300 men, said to have included Goethe & Mozart (I doubt this since Mozart was a devout Catholic his whole life). In 1783 it spread to Bohemia & Milan, and then to Hungary.
In 1784 one of the highest Initiates defected and made public some sensationalistic stories of his experiences. When the Bavarian Elector published an Edict forbidding secret societies, Weishaupt went to him in naive innocence and explained his secrets. As a consequence the Elector issued a new Edict explicitly condemning Freemasons and Illuminati on religious, social and political grounds. Weishaupt fled and the Illuminati vaporized.
Considering the spectacularly anti-religious character of Weishaupt’s ideas & ambitions, it is not surprising that in 1797 a Jesuit, Augustin de Barruel, should make history with a book asserting that the French Revolution was the product of a carefully planned plot — and that behind the Jacobins were the Philosophes, the Freemasons and (above all) the Illuminati. Later, the British authoress Nesta Webster in World Revolution, the Plot Against Civilization (London, 1921) attributed every revolutionary upheaval from 1789 to the Illuminati — and she considered Bolshevism & Zionism to spring from the same source.