The real story of the secret society

No Masonic order has become as famous as the Illuminati. They are subordinate to the grasp of world domination. The conspiracy’s roots lie in Bavaria.

If you enter the term “Illuminati” on Google, you will get over 39 million hits. Most focus on a global elite’s secret plan to create a new world order through the strategic use of mind control, assassinations and triangles. As the headline of one of these websites, “The Vigilant Citizen,” proclaims, “It is not words or laws that rule the world, but symbols.”

The King and the Masons

There are sinister machinations behind the world of apparitions we live in. Once you recognize this, it will strike you like scales that Lady Gaga is a puppet of the Illuminati. Why else would she form a triangle with her thighs and cover one eye in one of her video clips? (…)

John Dickie, born 1963, is a historian and teaches Italian at University College London. From his focus, he writes about secret societies as an author. With his book “Omertà – the whole history of the mafia: Camorra, Cosa Nostra and” Ndrangheta “he has already presented a historical analysis of the mafia. His book “The Masons – the Most Powerful Secret Society in the World” will be published on September 23, 2020 by S. Fischer Verlage. This text is an extract from it. Photo: Mikael Buck

All of this is miles away from the true story of the Illuminati, which originated in Germany, where Freemasonry developed in the same way as France. Berlin, the Prussian capital, was home to one of the Brotherhood’s international figureheads: King Frederick II of Prussia, a friend of Voltaire.

In the late 1730s, when Freemasonry was discredited for being subversive, the then Prince Friedrich became enthusiastic about it. And after he became king, he made her stand out. But Friedrich’s interest waned as Freemasonry became the rage and more and more people thronged into the boxes. (…)

Freemasonry was already widespread in Germany in the 1780s. However, as in France, it was also a bitter disappointment to those who had hoped that all the Masonic talk about brotherhood, tolerance and common sense would actually have a positive impact on the world as a whole.

The political climate boiled across Europe and some felt that the Lodges had escaped responsibility in the Enlightenment’s struggle against superstition and despotism. In both Germany and France it seemed as if Freemasonry had already passed its heyday.

The Founding of the Illuminati

One man who shared this view was Adam Weishaupt, a young university professor from Ingolstadt, Bavaria. In response, he founded a secret society whose influence was modest and short lived, but which would become the most notorious variety of Freemasonry of all time. Weishaupt had not long ago converted to the most radical ideas of the French Enlightenment and has since dreamed of a secret society that would put an end to despotism and superstition.

“The Illuminati Improved System”: The order was founded in 1776 by the philosopher Adam Weishaupt in Ingoldstadt. (Source: Goran Basic / ullstein bild)

His plans took shape in 1776 when he accepted his favorite students into what would soon become the Illuminati Order. The new group was made up of only five members, but its goal was nothing less than to create an empire of freedom, justice and reason for the entire world. Unfortunately, there were inconsistencies in Weishaupt’s plan that would hinder the group throughout its very short existence.

Their universal goals did not go well with the fact that their true message was known only to a select inner circle. Moreover, Weishaupt’s ideal Illuminatus had to reconcile an extremely independent critical mind with unconditional obedience to the hierarchy of the order.

The highest level: “Areopagus”

Weishaupt aimed for a threefold organization. The young students at the bottom were watched by the leaders as they took their first steps. At the second level, dedicated to “Minerva”, the followers would undergo an intensive and broad study. Only the brightest and best would reach the third stage, the “Areopagus” (named after a council of elders in ancient Athens), where they would learn the true intentions of the Illuminati and work out a strategy.

“Phryne before Areopagus”: Jean-Leon Gérôme’s painting depicts a scene conveyed in the Council of Athens. (Source: Image Images)

But this organizational chart remained little more than a plan. The Illuminati grew painfully slow in the early years. (…) After this [Weishaupt] After joining a Knights Templar lodge in Munich, he devised the tactic that would finally make his secret society known outside of Bavaria and also to more than a few dozen members: the Illuminati would infiltrate Masonic lodges and subject them to their intentions.

Civil servants, journalists, academics

Shortly after the Illuminati took control of their first lodge in January 1780 [der adelige Journalist Adolph Knigge] stole from Hanover for the cause. (…) Several princes and dukes entered [dem Orden] on, as well as some members of the lower nobility. The majority of the members were government officials, journalists and academics. Business people were put off by the extraordinarily demanding curriculum of the curriculum.

The most famous Illuminat of all was less averse to studying: the writer and secret councilor of Grand Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. However, it is possible that Goethe joined the order only to keep an eye on society for the ruler.

Illustration of the 1873 Goethe drama Faust: the poet was a member of the Illuminati. (Source: image images / Archives-Zephyr / Leemage)Illustration of the 1873 Goethe drama Faust: the poet was a member of the Illuminati. (Source: Archives-Zephyr / Leemage / image images)

The Illuminati grew despite being in a state of transformation. Knigge, who officially belonged to only the second tier of the organization, wrote desperate letters to Weishaupt saying he wanted to know more. He was forced to delay his members as soon as they asked to be rewarded for their studies and to access higher degrees and more knowledge. Weishaupt replied with embarrassment that the Order of Illuminati was still being established and in 1781 invited Knigge to come to Bavaria to work out an appropriate program with him.

Purpose: infiltration of the German states

The ensuing discussions confirmed Weishaupt’s ultimate goals: The Illuminati would infiltrate the highest ranks of the various German states through the Freemason Lodges by providing advisers to their regents to steer the government in an enlightening direction. If the masses had only discovered their own potential for self-realization, Weishaupt prophesied, “princes and nations would disappear peacefully from the earth, mankind would be a family and the world a refuge of sensible people.”

The Illuminati were a non-violent conspiracy. The only problem was that its members did not know what society they had conspired with, or the methods by which it should be created.

The whole thing didn’t take long. Knigge left in late 1783, exhausted from the endless discussions with the overbearing Weishaupt. Some conservative members defected in the spring of 1784 and informed the Bavarian authorities. Secret societies were banned in June of that year, and the Illuminati were explicitly condemned the following March as “treacherous and hostile to religion.” Weishaupt fled Bavaria and his organization fell apart.

The irony of fate

When the scandal came to light, most of the former Illuminati were baffled by the uproar. Only a small minority had reached the Areopagus, the inner sanctuary of the Brotherhood. For the majority, the Order was simply a better book club. There might have been Illuminati in positions of influence in the German courts, but they didn’t have enough influence to carry out Weishaupt’s program – mainly because they had no idea there was such a thing as a program.

It is probably an irony of fate that, of all people, such an unfortunate conspirator as Adam Weishaupt inadvertently spawned one of the most elaborate of all conspiracy myths and contributed to the fact that conspiracy theory as it stands today might even be originate.


The story of the Illuminati captured the imagination of conservative clergy and academics who in no time caused an outright Illuminati panic by portraying Weishaupt’s followers as godless “sodomites” and murderous enemies of society. Autocratic governments now had the signal they needed to deal with all kinds of Freemasons and liberal ideas.

The original Illuminati fear grew into a deep-seated horror of subversive secret societies. Suddenly, an idea popped up everywhere that seemed forgotten since the 1740s: Masons were the keepers of dangerous secrets. Thanks to the Illuminati, fears of Masonic secrecy were many times more insidious. The Freemasons tried in vain to rebut the charges that their brotherhood was subversive and conspiratorial by pointing out the great number of good Masons and their basic loyalty to the established authorities. (…)

The Illuminati’s panic fears helped the conspiracy theories about the Masons defy any evidence to the contrary. At the same time, the fragmentation of Freemasonry (…) meant that it no longer had a united voice that could have effectively defended itself against the most scandalous accusations. And this at a time when a political earthquake in France added to the accusations.

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