Illuminati: Do Beyonce, Kanye West go to 'satanic cult' that originally was a revolutionary order opposing church?
Of all the conspiracy theories to spiral out of control with baseless rumors to support its existence, the Illuminati has to be at the top of the list. Prior to some crazy chimera about a devil-worshipping cult and satanic rituals associated with its operations, the Illuminati used to be a very real group and even had some specific ambitious goals. When it seeped into popular culture is still a mystery, but the fact is that it does not exist anymore.
People, however, continue to churn factless stories and live in paranoia passing off anything unconventional as the work of the Illuminati. Then there is the endless claims that Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Madonna, even Ariana Grande are a part of it. However, only one of the several unfounded claims about the Illuminati stands true — it was a secret society. And influential intellectuals and free-thinkers of the 18th century were a part of it.
What is the Illuminati?
In the historical sense of the term, 'Illuminati' referred to the Bavarian Illuminati which was a secret society that was in operation for only a decade, between 1776 and 1785. It was founded by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. He founded it as the 'Order of the Illuminati' and strongly believed in Enlightenment ideals. The organization opposed the Roman Catholic Church's influence on philosophy and science and sought to break religious control over society as well as the abuse of power by the state by enabling a space for critique, debate and promoting freedom of speech.
Inspired by the Freemasons and French Enlightenment, it also encouraged education for women and equality among all, and also aimed to 'enlighten' people tp free them from superstitious beliefs and prejudices. Initially, it began with six members after Weishaupt hand-picked five of his most talented law students and went on to expand from there. The members set out to disseminate Weishaupt's radical teachings and in its 10 years of existence, housed 2,000 members throughout Eastern Europe.
What did they believe in?
In retrospect, it is understandable why the conspiracies that have surfaced over the years point at the Illuminati being unusual. They had odd rituals, ideals and symbols. The members of the society would use symbols such as that of an owl as an emblem and pseudonyms to avoid being identified by authorities. They also had a very complicated system of hierarchy distributing divided ranks and an initiation ritual, as well.
While they were increasingly paranoid of their identities being discovered, they also went the extra mile to protect other members' secrecy. Their worldview endorsed Enlightenment ideals like rational thought and self-rule, and their motive was based more on revolution than world domination.
Why did the Illuminati cease operations?
The Illuminati had some influential members including many dukes and leaders who with their contacts and power, managed to garner more people's attention and initiated them into the organization. Some Freemasons also became members of the group deepening their prominence.
However, the Illuminati was only mildly successful at being revolutionary before the Bavarian authorities sniffed them out due to their growing numbers and fully put a stop to the society. In 1785, the Duke of Bavaria, Karl Theodore Dalberg, banned all secret society and instilled serious punishments for anyone who became a member — which included the death penalty. He went as far as to associate the Illuminati with branches of Freemasonry, which was an illegal organization at the time. The government then began to scour out and eliminate members of the Illuminati, which caused Weishaupt to flee Bavaria, and maintain long-distance contact with leaders of the order or Areopagites through letters.
The government searched the home of one of the Areopagite and seized documents that had more than 200 letters between Weishaupt and Illuminati leaders that detailed all of the orders' secrets. They immediately published the documents and made their information public knowledge.
Why do people think they still exist?
Conspiracy theories sprang up as soon as the Illuminati was discovered and included accusations of infiltration by the Freemasons and even claims of the French Revolution being the organization's brainchild. In the later years, some Founding Fathers also managed to fuel the interest in the Illuminati in the US. George Washington for that matter, wrote a letter to address the Illuminati threat, saying he believed it had been avoided but nonetheless it only aroused the myth. Thomas Jefferson was also accused of being a member of the Illuminati.
Even so, the Illuminati still lingered in the background of popular culture. However, it made a full-blown comeback in the 1970s when a literary trilogy introduced the 'triangle and the eye' symbol that 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 in the books — with fantasy helped put the Illuminati back on the radar", writes Phil Edwards for a Vox article.
Then it was featured in popular cultures, like in Dan Brown's best-selling novel 'Angels and Demons', and other subcultures where it is often linked to Satanism, alien myths, and other ideas that were in stark contrast to the real Bavarian Illuminati's beliefs.
But are Jay Z and Kanye West a part of the Illuminati? For years conspiracy theorists have associated the two rappers to be Illuminati but they've both addressed these unfounded rumors before. Jay Z called the gossip revolving around his Illuminati membership "stupid", and Kayne West said it was "ridiculous". But then again, according to conspiracy theorists, that's exactly what a member of the Illuminati would say — secret society and all, remember?