By Alejandro Arroyo Cano
One of the greatest mysteries of humankind is the dark sect of The Illuminati, founded more than 300 years ago. Only now are some of its deepest secrets coming to light.
The enigmatic sect was established on May 1st, 1776, by a mysterious character named Adam Weishaupt, who taught that truth lies hidden behind rational illumination beyond and above faith, which is accessible to anyone who dared to look for it.
This was the ideal at the heart of one of the most controversial lodges in history. Highly renowned and prominent figures are rumored to have participated in the sect's activities, including Goethe and Herder—having thus an enormous influence in the origins of the French Revolution, the American Revolution, both World Wars, and the Russian Revolution.
The origins of The Illuminati
It is said that Adam Weishaupt formed this secret circle following the ideals of the Enlightenment, with the goal to undermine religious influence in politics throughout the world. More specifically, Weishaupt originally wished to put an end to the political influence of the Church. Whether that actually remained the sect's true goal long afterwards, it's impossible to tell.
Just like the freemasons, The Illuminati were internally organized through a rank-based system. On the bottom were the apprentices, then the companions, and finally, the masters. The lowest among the Illuminati was dedicated to the learning and understanding of the sect's methods, as well as to adapt to its inner workings. Companions were in charge of the lodge's administration and its treasury. And standing above everyone else, the masters, who supposedly knew everything about the group, and were in charge of leading and instructing the others.
A hidden world's iconography
The Illuminati used a variety of symbols from obscure origins for aesthetic purposes, as well as to amplify its own cult. These symbols include the pentagram, the obelisk, and the "all-seeing eye." Furthermore, there is supposed to be a hidden code with which the members shared top-secret information among each other. The purpose of this code was to keep everything related to the lodge confidential even when their documents were seized by non-members.
The conspiracy behind the world's wars
Rumor has it that mysterious figures secretly conspired to unleash at least three different wars upon the world. The first one was meant to overthrow the Russian tsar and turn that country into a communist stronghold. According to some, the second war had the purpose of taking advantage of the disagreements between the conservatives and the zionists in Israel and Palestine. The plan for a final war hoped that Islam and political zionism would destroy each other, thus forcing other nations to get involved in the fight in order to exhaust them physically, mentally, morally, and economically.
Most of these claims are nothing but vague rumors of unlikely conspiracy theories, though, so take them with a grain of salt.
The clandestine nature of their operations
12 years after the Illuminati lodge was established, German prince Karl Theodor officially dissolved it—though historians like Agustin Barruel, Nesta Webster and William Guy Carr have argued that the organization may have remained effectively operational, exerting considerable influence over the French Revolution. What was really going on behind their closed doors, however, no one knows.
Literature, films, and human imagination in general have created a side series of possibilities to fill these enticing gaps. Many have imagined that, during their secret meetings, The Illuminati performed sacrifices and all kinds of perverse acts, indulging in unimaginable excess and extreme rituals whose participants were among the most powerful men and women of the time.
There's a big difference between imagination and reality, however.
Did the United States rise thanks to The Illuminati?
Even if this powerful sect disappeared from Europe during the early 19th century, the same story cannot necessarily be said of America. It is said that important figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Horace Greeley, and Clinton Roosevelt were among the first Americans to join the ranks of this branch of The Illuminati and were responsible for spreading its influence. Some think the United States itself furthered its goals and rose thanks to the multiple conspiracies that changed the course of history, many of which are believed to have been advanced by The Illuminati.
Of course, many of the operations that led to the rise of America indeed started behind closed doors, but nothing actually indicates any one organization—other than the U.S. government—was behind it.
Illuminati symbology in the one-dollar bill
The current American one-dollar bill features the Great Seal of the U.S., whose reverse depicts the infamous "all-seeing eye," also known as the Eye of Providence. The eye's image, lying atop a pyramid, is supposed to symbolize the 13 original colonies, though a few people believe it also represents the esoteric shape of the 13 stages of the Bavarian Illuminati Rite.
Keep in mind this is unlikely, but hey—people see what they want to see.
That very same bill bears the motto "Annuit Coeptis." Featuring the Latin words annuo, meaning "to nod" or "to approve", and coeptum, meaning "commencement" or "undertaking", it is literally translated, "[providence] favors our undertakings" or "[providence] has favored our undertakings," putatively signaling a "New World Order."
The influence of The Illuminati in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The prominent image of the Declaration features the Illuminati symbol placed above the precepts for the new world order. That has led many to think most—if not all—ideologues and political leaders of the French Revolution could have belonged to or collaborated with the sect at one time or another. These historical figures include Montesquieu, Rousseau, D'Alembert, Voltaire, and Condorcet.
Their literary influence
The Illuminati appear on several popular novels, such as Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, The Illuminatus trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, and the Dan Brown thriller Angels & Demons. Regardless of all the myths and conjectures behind the sect, one thing's for sure: they really have captured the imagination of many artists.
The Illuminati in DC Comics
In the comic book miniseries Time Masters, Tim Hunter, a scientists obsessed with time travel, attempts to stop a future nuclear war caused by The Illuminati. In order to do so, he must travel back in time to try and stop the sect's influence and control over many key historical moments. The comic series references the conspiracy theory surrounding George Washington and Adam Weishaupt (remember Washington wrote a letter in 1798 addressing the "Illuminati threat").
Well, however entertaining this list might seem, it's time for the truth. According to contemporary historians, such as Mitch Horowitz, The Illuminati have become an empty receptacle into which people place their misgivings about the real mechanisms behind the economical and political powers of our global world. In other words, The Illuminati are now nothing but part of the imagination of society—a kind of figure that serves as an escape goat to blame for all the world's troubles. It is enticing to think about a hidden superpower secretly controlling our affairs, thus fueling the hyperactive imagination of people prone to believe in conspiracy theories. But that's all this is: a conspiracy theory so broad that can make any event whatsoever fit into its universe.
Sure, The Illuminati as a symbol keeps seducing our imagination, and as long as you don't take it too seriously, thinking about their countless mysteries is very fun indeed.
Translated by Oliver G. Alvar
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