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The Illuminati Order or Bavarian Illuminati was a short-lived revolutionary and rationalist[?] secret organisation founded in Ingolstadt, Germany on May 1, 1776 by Adam Weishaupt and Baron Adolph von Knigge. The Illuminati drew membership chiefly from Masons and former Masons. In the conservative state of Bavaria, dominated by the Roman Catholic Church and the aristocracy, such an organization could not go long before being suppressed by the powers that be: in 1784, the Bavarian government banned the Illuminati as well as the Freemasons.

Despite the organization's short lifespan, the Illuminati have cast a long shadow in popular history thanks to the writings of their opponents. The lurid allegations of conspiracy theory that have colored the image of the Freemasons have practically opaqued that of the Illuminati. Some, for example Robert Gillete[?], claim the Illuminati ultimately intended to rule the world through assassination, bribery, blackmail, the control of banks and other financial powers, the infiltration of governments, and by causing wars and revolution to move their own people into higher positions in the political hierarchy. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, claimed they intended to spread information and the principles of true morality. He attributed the secrecy of the Illuminati to what he called "the tyranny of a despot and priests".

Both seem to agree that the enemies of the Illuminati were the monarchs of Europe and the Church. Abbe Augustin Barruel said that the French revolution (1788) was caused by the Illuminati, and later conspiracy theorists also claims the Russian Revolution (1917) to be caused by the conspiracy, although the order was officially shut down in 1790. Very few historians give credence to these views, regarding such claims as the products of over-fertile imaginations.

Cultural Influences

The (historical) Illuminati has had several influences on popular culture:

See Also: Conspiracy theory, New World Order

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