Nov. 6, 2017
The Illuminati might be shrouded in celebrity conspiracies nowadays, but its unimpressive beginnings involve a professor and his four students.
The group was originally founded as the Perfectibilists — seriously — in 1776. Adam Weishaupt started it with four students in the Electorate of Bavaria.
Weishaupt was sick of Jesuits at the University of Ingolstadt and created a secret group to discuss the shortcomings of organized religion.
For obvious reasons, he immediately regretted naming the group the “Perfectibilists” and changed it to the “Illuminati” in 1778.
Weishaupt based the structure of the group on the Freemasons and had agents infiltrate the Freemasons to recruit members.
One of the first former Freemasons poached by the Illuminati was Baron Adolph von Knigge, who was high-ranking and a pretty big deal.
Weishaupt didn't make climbing the Illuminati ranks hard enough, and Knigge reached the top by reading the required literature before...
Weishaupt figured out what came next. Knigge wanted the group to be better-organized, so he nailed down the hierarchy.
Meanwhile, Weishaupt stopped infiltrating Freemasons and the Illuminati decided to pursue more ambitious ideas — like, you know, secretly taking over the world.
Membership estimates vary greatly, but by 1784 the Illuminati had between 2,000 and 3,000 members. The group was able to recruit a few respected scholars…
but it wasn't enough to stop two power-hungry leaders — Weishaupt and Knigge — from disagreeing over everything. So Knigge quit.
Illuminati members also couldn’t keep their secret society secret, and eventually Elector of Bavaria Charles Theodore outlawed all secret societies in 1785.
If the group wasn’t able to hold it together for a few years in the 1700s, it’s a reach to think its influence is around today.