The city is the birthplace of the infamous secret society that has become part myth, part historical truth, and the foundation of countless conspiracy theories.
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It was on 1 May that Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt, founded the Order of the Illuminati, a secret organisation formed to oppose religious influence on society and the abuse of power by the state by fostering a safe space for critique, debate and free speech. Inspired by the Freemasons and French Enlightenment philosophers, Weishaupt believed that society should no longer be dictated by religious virtues; instead he wanted to create a state of liberty and moral equality where knowledge was not restricted by religious prejudices.
However religious and political conservatism ruled in Ingolstadt at that time, and subject matter taught at the Jesuit-controlled university where Weishaupt lectured was strictly monitored. With the help of prominent German diplomat Baron Adolf Franz Friedrich, Freiherr von Knigge — who helped recruit Freemason lodges to the Illuminati cause — the clandestine group grew to more than 2, members throughout Bavaria, France, Hungary, Italy and Poland, among other places.
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He wanted to change society, he was dreaming of a better world, of a better government. He started the Illuminati with the idea that everything known to human kind should be taught — something that was not allowed here at the university. Just a decade after its creation, the secret society was infiltrated by Bavarian authorities after its radical anti-state writings were intercepted by government authorities. The Illuminati was shut down and Weishaupt was banished from Ingolstadt to live the rest of his life in the German city of Gotha, km to the north.
When the Illuminati had gathered more members, Weishaupt applied for a separate lodge under the Freemason umbrella. He called the new lodge Theodore of the Good Council , intending to flatter Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria , and invited all his Illuminati recruits to join. Shady af.
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In , the Illuminati recruited the man who would become its most influential member, Adolph Knigge. Still in his twenties, Knigge had achieved the highest level of the Freemason order but became frustrated by the lack of growth potential. Knigge was intrigued and quickly reached the Minerval level by studying the required liberal literature, which was banned in Bavaria, and recruiting more members. In an attempt to buy time, Weishaupt brainstormed what came next.
Knigge called his bluff, then proposed some ideas of his own. Knigge first suggested filling more senior positions within the Illuminati group, as most were still occupied by immature students. On January 20, , he revised the system of Illuminati orders:. Meanwhile, through a series of ugly restructurings, Lodge Theodore found itself wholly independent from the Freemasons, meaning the Illuminati had freedom to pursue whatever weird initiation rituals they saw fit.
Most of the early years seemed more like an administrative comedy of errors than actual work, kind of like The Office. By January , the group had seven lodges across Germany. Coleman claimed the Beatles' overwhelming transatlantic success was engineered by the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, a London-based social research group - or, as theorists would have it, a nefarious organisation dedicated to eroding the bedrock of US society.
Internet theorists say they picked up signs of so-called Aquarian Conspiracy after poring over song lyrics and album covers to find hidden messages and supposed Illuminati signs. Earlier this year, Paul McCartney set tongues wagging again, after posting a mystical-looking drawing on his twitter account. Katy Perry told Rolling Stone that the theory was the preserve of "weird people on the internet" but admitted she was flattered to be named among the supposed members: "I guess you've kind of made it when they think you're in the Illuminati!
Madonna, on the other hand, might just be a believer — all the more interesting given that she has frequently been accused of being a member herself.
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Speaking to Rolling Stone , she hinted that she had secret knowledge of the group. The claim is not so shocking given that she released a single titled 'Illuminati'. She said: "People often accuse me of being a member of the Illuminati, but the thing is, I know who the real Illuminati are. The very first line of the track acknowledged the rumours: "Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess," she says, understandably unimpressed that she apparently owes her success to a devil-worshipping secret sect.
When Prince died suddenly of an accidental overdose in April, a small but vocal corner of the internet accused the Illuminati of killing the singer-songwriter, who was famous for fiercely protecting his copyrights and artistic freedom from industry interference.
In , the singer appeared on TV to warn of powerful mystery figures controlling the world through "chemtrails" — chemicals pumped into the air via jet planes to manipulate human behaviour. The Illuminati is also a favourite subject of the widely publicised pro-Donald Trump QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon has sought to tie in a host of outlandish conspiracies about subjects ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to a secret CIA propaganda programme in the s and the foundation of the US Federal Reserve central bank, into an overarching story with the Illuminati at its centre.
The Illuminati: who are they and what do they control? Dec 5, See related. The strangest conspiracy theories: from Diana and Meghan Markle to Elvis and aliens. Who killed JFK?
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