The Illuminati was a secret society founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt. The purpose of this secret organization was to oppose religious beliefs as well as state influence on society. The group was meant to be a safe space for free speech and debate where men could work toward enlightenment.

The organization began small with only five members hand-picked by Weishaupt himself, but it didn’t stop there. Weishaupt’s goal was to spread the Illuminati doctrine to the highest members of society and ultimately influence political leaders or establish Illuminati members as political leaders themselves. To achieve his goal, Weishaupt joined a Freemasons group and began recruiting members. By 1784, it’s believed the society’s membership numbered around 2,000, spanning at least four different countries.

Membership in the Illuminati was very selective. Weishaupt only wanted those who truly believed in reaching enlightenment and were willing to dedicate themselves to the Illuminati ideals. The society was made even more mysterious by its many rituals and codes. The initiation ritual, for instance, was said to be a process of rebirth. During the ritual, an animal was sacrificed as a way to reveal death and life to the initiate. It’s said the member had to lie down on a table with an animal on his chest. The animal was killed and bled out onto the inductee, thus allowing the new member to fully understand death. Some believe the Illuminati even went so far as to practice human sacrifice during this ritual.

The Illuminati had other mystifying customs besides animal sacrifice. Members were usually given nicknames and correspondence was written using ciphers. Weishaupt, for instance, was often referred to as Spartacus in official Illuminati writings.

As the society grew, it became more difficult to keep quiet and avoid the government’s eye. Much of the Illuminati’s teachings opposed government leadership, which the Bavarian government did not appreciate. The government began intercepting Illuminati correspondence and eventually banned secret societies in the country.. Threatened by the power and reach of the Illuminati, however, the government took their edict a step further and in 1785 specifically banned the Illuminati.

When the Illuminati was banned from Bavaria, Weishaupt was forced to leave his position as a professor at the University of Ingolstadt. He settled in another part of Germany called Gotha where he continued to spread his ideas. Even though the Illuminati seemingly disappeared after it was banned from Bavaria in 1784, it was by no means forgotten.

The secrecy of the organization paired with its mystical rituals has inspired numerous conspiracy theories, TV shows, movies, and novels over the years. Many people even believe the Illuminati still exists and runs much of the world events from behind the scenes. A few of the most well-known events conspiracy theorists believe were orchestrated by the Illuminati include the French Revolution, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the moon landing, and Watergate, just to name a few. Some people even suspect the organization includes some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

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