Leave it to the conspiracists to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the rich, powerful, and global elite. According to some conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati, New World Order or extraterrestrial satanic Zionist cabal — or what have you — has many international organisational fronts to further their conquest of the world and your mind.
Most of these absurd conspiracies sound like fodder for some hack superhero film plot. You can really only pity them, after all the Illuminati conspiracy started from a humble satirical book.
Though, the existence of such organisations can’t be absolutely ruled out — people in power may very well scheme to stay in power.
On Sunday, internationally acclaimed South African gospel music sensation and physician Dr Tumishang Makweya, famously known as Dr Tumi, shared with his nearly half a million followers on Facebook that he had renounced a one million rands offer to join the Illuminati society.
The award-winning psalmist and surgeon said that the handlers that contacted him claimed to have noticed him and also admitted that he would be of value to their agenda.
“So early today they tried to recruit me to join an Illuminati society. Got told I have been noticed and would be of value. Got promised $1mil a month and great fame and influence across the globe. But we are not the type you can buy with money. wont leave Jesus for fame or fortunes. I am Already bought with the highest price when Christ gave his life for me. And it is God who will cause my name to be great. Not a society. Interesting days,” he wrote.
Granted this claim is true, and not one of the public stunts many clout chasing musicians make when they have new musical instalments coming up, this doesn’t come as a shock as many popular artists in the music industry have been rumoured to be part of the Illuminati society.
Many believe famous stars and rappers from Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Madonna to be a part of the infamous Illuminati secret society. These stars allegedly use Illuminati and satanic symbolism in their music videos and on their clothes that go unnoticed by those not “in the know.”
Some of these famous musicians have however publicly denounced the Illuminati in interviews or songs.
A recently published book, Illuminati in the Music Industry, inspects some of today’s hottest stars and decodes the secret symbols, song lyrics, and separates the facts from the fiction in this fascinating topic.
The truth about popular musicians’ association with the society remains a hot subject for modern-day media tabloids.
With help from Vox, we have compiled here 6 frequently asked questions about the Illuminati society.
1) What is the Illuminati?
The Illuminati has existed since the dawn of time, but it in an archival sense, it was founded in Bavaria on 1 May 1776, by a German law professor Adam Weishaupt who couldn’t afford the Freemason admission fee but believed strongly in Enlightenment ideals. His lluminatenorden sought to promote those ideals among elites and he wanted to educate Illuminati members in reason, philanthropy, and other secular values so that they could influence political decisions when they came to power.
His society – The Order of the Illuminati – grew from five members to thousands in just a few years, but then, after Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria, secret societies were made punishable by death, and there the order ended.
“It was pretty ambitious for six or nine guys, but they really wanted to take over the world,” said Chris Hodapp, the co-author of Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies with Alice VonKannon.
The Illuminati’s goals — and reputation — often outstripped their means, Hodapp notes.
In its early days, the group was just a handful of people. And even at its largest, it only comprised somewhere between 650 and 2,500 members. The group grew to that size by becoming a sort of sleeper cell within other groups — Illuminati members joined Freemason lodges to recruit members for their own competing secret society.
2) What did the Illuminati believe?
There were two sides to the historical Illuminati: their odd rituals and their ideals.
The Illuminati did plenty of unusual things. They used symbols (like the owl), adopted pseudonyms to avoid identification, and had complicated hierarchies like Novice, Minerval, and Illuminated Minerval that divided the ranks.
In the beginning, Hodapp says, Illuminati members didn’t trust anyone over 30, because they were too set in their ways. Other reports of rituals are harder to confirm, but we know that members were very paranoid and used a spy-like protocol to keep one another’s identities secret.
But while they were following these bizarre rituals, they also promoted a worldview that reflected Enlightenment ideals like rational thought and self-rule.
Anti-clerical and anti-royal, the Illuminati were closer to revolutionaries than world rulers, since they sought to infiltrate and upset powerful institutions like the monarchy.
3) Did the Illuminati manage to control the world?
When it comes to shadowy cabals that supposedly control the world, the Illuminati should be at the top of any conspiracy theorist’s list.
Historians tend to think the Illuminati were only mildly successful — at best — in becoming influential. (Though, of course, there are also those who believe the Illuminati successfully took over the world — and still control it today. If an all-powerful group dominates the world, we probably don’t know about it.)
It’s also difficult to untangle the success of the Illuminati from that of the Freemasons, which they infiltrated and commingled with. It’s just as tough to tell what influence the Illuminati actually had as opposed to the influence people think they had.
We do know the Illuminati had some influential members — along with many dukes and other leaders who were powerful but are forgotten today, some sources think writer Johann Goethe was a member of the group.
In a way, Illuminati influence depends on what you believe about them. If you think their revolutionary ideals spread to other groups, like the French Revolution’s Jacobins, then they were successful.
If you think those ideas would have prospered regardless, then they were mainly a historical curiosity.
4) Why did the real Illuminati disappear?
“They were wiped out,” Hodapp says. “People have tried to revive them over the years, but it’s a moneymaking scheme.”
In 1785, Duke of Bavaria Karl Theodor banned secret societies, including the Illuminati, and instituted serious punishments for anyone who joined them.
Most of the group’s secrets were disclosed or published, and if you believe most historians, the Illuminati disappeared.
From the moment of the disbanding, however, the myth expanded. As described in Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, documents found in the homes of high-ranking Illuminati members like Xavier von Zwack confirmed some of the spookiest Illuminati theories, like their dreams of world domination and cultish behaviour.
5) If the Illuminati vanished, how did their legend live on?
Almost immediately after the Illuminati were disbanded, conspiracy theories about the group sprang up.
The most famous conspiracy theories were authored by physicist John Robison in 1797, who accused the Illuminati of infiltrating the Freemasons, and Abbe Augustin Barruel, whose 1797 history of the Jacobins promoted the theory that secret societies, including the Illuminati, were behind the French Revolution.
Historians tend to see these as the first in a long line of conspiracy theories (though, again, for those who believe the Illuminati run the world today, this is arguably proof of the group’s power).
Later on, some of the Founding Fathers in the United States of America stoked interest in the Illuminati.
In 1798, George Washington wrote a letter addressing the Illuminati threat (he believed it had been avoided, but his mentioning it helped bolster the myth).
In the panic caused by the anti-Illuminati books and sermons, Thomas Jefferson was accused of being a member of the group.
Though these early Illuminati panics fizzled out, they gave the group a patina of legitimacy that, later on, would help make a centuries-long conspiracy seem more plausible.
6) Why do people still believe in the Illuminati today?
The Illuminati never completely disappeared from popular culture — it was always burbling in the background. But it was in the mid-1970s, that it made a marked comeback, thanks to a literary trilogy that gave the group the simultaneously spooky and laughable image it holds today.
The Illuminatus Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, depicted the Illuminati with ironic detachment. This trilogy became a countercultural touchstone, and its intermingling of real research — Weishaupt is a character — with fantasy helped put the Illuminati back on the radar.
“It was a great example of the post-‘60s ways of ironizing elite forms of power,” Mark Fenster says.
“That ironic vision of conspiracy theory is extremely widely distributed. You can be both a serious conspiracy theorist and joke about it.”
From there, the Illuminati became a periodic staple of both popular culture — as in Dan Brown’s massively popular novel Angels and Demons — and various subcultures, where the group is often intermingled with Satanism, alien myths, and other ideas that would have been totally foreign to the real Bavarian Illuminati.
Uscinski clarifies that most Americans today don’t actually believe in the Illuminati.
In a survey of conspiracy theories he conducted in 2012, he says zero people claimed that groups like Freemasons or Illuminati were controlling politics. Even so, the Illuminati seems to persist in our collective consciousness, serving as the butt of jokes and the source of lizard people rumours.
In an interview with the BBC, David Bramwell, “a man who has dedicated himself to documenting the origins of the myth”, claim the modern-day Illuminati legend was influenced not by Weishaupt but rather by LSD, the 1960s counter-culture, and specifically a text called Principia Discordia.
The book extolled an alternative belief system – Discordianism – which preached a form of anarchism and gave birth to the Discordian movement which ultimately wished to cause civil disobedience through practical jokes and hoaxes.
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