Shrouded in Mystery and Myth

From Hollywood blockbusters to imagery found printed on US currency, the allure of secret societies has infiltrated the minds of people around the world. Shrouded in mystery, conspiracy, and myth, little is known about these top-secret groups and how they’ve influenced history and events throughout history. However, tracing back to the late 18th century, we can understand why many prominent individuals throughout the Enlightenment era wanted to create a place where they could push their agendas and share their ideology with others.

Away from the prying eyes of society and other influential organizations such as the church and local governments, The Illuminati quickly became one of the most well-known and important secret societies of the 18th century. With some believing that they still hold sway and power over current events to this very day, The Illuminati has captivated countless people around the world, becoming the topic of conspiracy, myth, and influencing popular culture. 

An Era of Enlightenment and Secrecy

Throughout the late 1700’s the world was changing and evolving rapidly. With events such as the American Revolutionary War in 1775, to scientific advancements and political changes, these changes brought with them new ways of thinking which helped pave the way for many secret societies. The rise of secret societies and organizations such as the Illuminati gave progressive thinkers of the Enlightenment era a place to gather, discuss, and brainstorm under a structured system with like-minded individuals.

Many of these societies were invitation-only, and not every society shared the same ideology. This led to entirely new societies forming around the same secretive structure system that was rising in popularity at the time. Although many of these societies remained similar to one another, many had their own agendas and ideas and used their status within society or the workplace to promote their beliefs and agendas. Whether driven by science, politics, religion, or a combination of radical changes, these new secret societies would play a pivotal role throughout the 18th century and into the modern age.

While the Enlightenment era gave birth to many secret societies around the world, some have stood the test of time and continue to influence events to this day. Others such as The Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons, or The Grand Orange Lodge, were short-lived with no record of accomplishments or goals. However, their secrecy and mysterious meetings have helped grow intrigue and mystery around the operations and agendas of secret societies as a whole.

Rise of The Illuminati

Founded in 1776 by Professor Adam Weishaupt in Bavaria, the Illuminati was formed with the stated goals of opposing superstition, obscurantism, and religious influence over public life as well as the abuse of state power. Professor of canon law and practical philosophy, Adam Weishaupt was one of the few non-clerical professors at the University of Ingolstadt in 1773.

Fed up with the religious influence and power that it held over him as an educator, he became heavily anti-clerical and devoted himself to finding a way to spread the ideas of enlightenment away from the watchful eyes of religious governing. This led him to found the secret Illuminati society in 1776 where he and other like-minded individuals could spread their ideas of enlightenment without religious influence or intimidation freely and on their terms.

It came as no surprise that many conservative and religious critics felt threatened and disgruntled by the formation of such a society. So much so that with encouragement from the Catholic Church, Charles Theodore, the Elector of Bavaria at the time outlawed such secret societies entirely in 1784, 1785, 1787, and again in 1790. While being outlawed and illegal, rumors began to spread about the group’s activity. Sparking both interest and fear from the general population as well as many church and state officials.

Rumors and Propaganda

As the secret meetings and gatherings continued underground and away from the public eye, many rumors began to circulate about what their true intentions were. Those loyal to the church and the conservative way believed that many secret organizations such as the Illuminati were conspiring against their way of life, government, or religious institutions. Some of these rumors went as far as to blame the Illuminati for the French Revolution which fueled some people’s distrust and dislike of the organization.

While many of these rumors and propaganda cannot be confirmed or denied with 100% certainty, they were used as a tool against the secret societies and convinced many of the general public to grow distrustful and even fearful of such groups. Even to this day, many believe that the majority of the world is controlled by societies such as The Illuminati which place “agents” within high-ranking government positions and businesses. Due to the secrecy of such societies and the fact that they remain so exclusive, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between what is fact and fiction when it comes to their dealings in worldly affairs.

The Illuminati is also believed to hold great sway and power within the entertainment and music industry today. This can be backed by the fact that The Illuminati can be found in hit TV series, movies, and novels around the world. Some theorists also believe that the organization is responsible for pulling the strings within the production and marketing of modern music such as hip-hop. It is thought that they use these outlets as a way to further their agendas and influence society through cleverly crafted lyrics and videos to push the general population towards their “new world order.”

In Popular Culture

Throughout the years The Illuminati has been at the epicenter of myth and conspiracy. This has made the organization an easy way for many artists, filmmakers, and authors to create stories, games, and blockbuster films with The Illuminati playing a pivotal role. Everything from comic books and cartoons, to hit films such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code starring the likes of Tom Hanks, The Illuminati continues to live on through popular culture and can be found in many modern media such as some listed below.

  • The cartoon series Gargoyles
  • Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider
  • Netflix’s animation series Inside Job
  • Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and Angels & Demons are both novels and films featuring The Illuminati
  • The MMORPG The Secret World video game
  • Street Fighter video games

These are just a few of the more modern outlets where The Illuminati can be found being used as inspiration. Throughout many outlets of popular culture as both a main focal point, or working behind the shadows in secrecy, The Illuminati has inspired many popular stories, games, books, comics, and music throughout the years.

Modern Day Illuminati

Many organizations around the world claim to stem from the original Illuminati of old, however, it’s believed that the original Illuminati did not survive their suppression in Bavaria in the late 18th century. Groups such as The Illuminati Order and The Ordo Templi Orientis have used and adapted the Illuminati name to be used within their societies today. Whether used as a title within the organization or the order name itself, there is no evidence of these groups having original ties with the original Illuminati.

Many theorists believe that the order is still active to this day and has been since its formation in 1776. Some believe that the group is responsible for world events such as the French Revolution, the Battle of Waterloo, and even the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Hidden behind the scenes and pulling the strings of current events to hasten what many call the “new world order” and their agenda. Many US presidents are being called out as members of the Illuminati due to their status, family history, position within office, and the power they hold.

Fact, or Fiction?

Perhaps there is a group of individuals who meet to decide the fate of the world, then again, perhaps not. What is known is that these societies still exist in one form or another, and have certainly captured the interest and attention of the public. From movies and TV shows to video games, literature, and music, the mystery of The Illuminati continues to captivate and intrigue people around the world.

So whether The Illuminati is actively influencing society from behind the scenes today, or if they truly died out in the late 18th century during their persecution, the secret organization will continue to live on in the minds of conspiracy theorists, historians, and populations around the world. Playing an important part in modern culture and history alike, the myth and mystery of secret organizations such as The Illuminati has helped shape the world into what it is today.

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About the Author

Kyle Seifert
As an avid writer and history geek, Kyle has spent countless hours binge-watching history documentaries on everything from ancient Egypt to modern warfare. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing online games and spending time with his family enjoying outdoor activities such as rollerblading, hiking, and soccer.

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