The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, meaning 'enlightened') is the name by which several groups, sects, occult organizations and shadowy societies — both real and fictitious — are known throughout human history and lore.
A general constant about the Illuminati, either real or fictitious, is that they are an enlightened bunch, a group who claims or actually has secret and/or superhuman understanding, supposedly possessing the 'light' of knowledge directly from a higher source, or due to a wider measure of human wisdom.
Apparently the term Illuminati was first used in 15th-century Europe, being associated with various occult sects and secret orders, including the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons.
Historically, Johann Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law, founded the most highly organized sect, the Order of Illuminati, in Bavaria in 1776. Weishaupt may have created the order because he aspired to join the Freemasons, which he did in 1777. In 1780 he was joined by Baron Adolph Freiherr von Knigge, a respected and high-level Mason, which enabled him to incorporate Masonic elements into his organizational structure and rites. The Order aimed to spread a new religion based on enlightened reason derived from direct contact with Divine Reason. Illuminism is applied to the process of direct spiritual and esoteric enlightenment by means of revelation from a higher source or the inspiration of human reason. Illuminism was also anti-monarchial, and its identification with republicanism gained it many members throughout Germany. The Order of Illuminati included such distinguished figures as Goethe, Cagliostro, and Franz Anton Mesmer.
In 1784 Masonry was denounced to the Bavarian government as politically dangerous, which led to the suppression of all secret orders, including the Masons and Illuminati.
The Order was revived in 1880 in Dresden under the sponsorship of Leopold Engel. At the turn of the 20th century, Engel’s order was resurrected as the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the Orient, or OTO), with elements of tantric mysticism and sex magic. Famous members included the adept Aleister Crowley and Franz Hartmann, a theosophist who had studied with a secret sect of Rosicrucians in his Bavarian hometown.
In esoteric lore, the Illuminati are said to be a secret order of adepts who are the enemies of the Catholic Church. Conspiracy theorists, 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, proposing that world events are being controlled and manipulated by this secret society.
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