Freemasons have been the subject of many conspiracy theories and are considered one of the world’s most secretive organizations.
One common misconception about Freemasonry is that they are “the Illuminati” which is another “secret society” that was active a few centuries ago in Europe and similarly the subject of several conspiracy theories.
But, are the Freemasons secretly the Illuminati?
If not, what are the differences between Freemasonry and the Illuminati?
That’s what we’re looking at today…
A Brief History About Freemasonry
Freemasonry as an organization traces its origins to antiquity, and there is reliable evidence to suggest that Masonry existed in England at least since the medieval ages or 14th century.
Masonic manuscripts are dated to be as old as 1390 AD, and as such, there is no doubt that this organization was in existence in the 14th century.
Although there is no possible way to suggest that other versions of history that place the origins of Freemasonry back to Biblical King Solomon’s times are true.
Several scholars, both Freemasons, and non-masons have suggested that there may be a bit of truth in the legends that Freemasonry started during antiquity, even before Christ. Still, there is no way to verify these claims at present, and as such, we can’t say anything with surety.
The Illuminati in 1790
The Illuminati as we know them was a secret society started by a German professor and thinker in 1776, which was disbanded by government authorities after the French Revolution in the 1790s.
Since then, people have speculated that maybe Illuminati survived the governmental purges, but there has been no verifiable proof of the further existence of The Illuminati.
The Illuminati, also known as Bavarian Illuminati, was started as a secret society by Bavarian thinker and professor Adam Weishaupt on 1 May 1776.
Adam Weishaupt was a leading thinker and literatus of his era and is considered among the leading thinkers of his time.
The initial goals of The Illuminati were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power.
Indeed, these were quite noble and were in sync with the winds of enlightenment blowing across Europe in the 18th century.
In his own words, Adam Weishaupt explains the reasons behind the foundation of this new secret society. He is known to have said:
“At a time, however, when there was no end of making a game of and abusing secret societies, I planned to make use of this human foible for a real and worthy goal, for the benefit of people. I wished to do what the heads of the ecclesiastical and secular authorities ought to have done by their offices.”
Adam Weishaupt: A Freemason & The Founder of The Illuminati
Indeed, considering other literature of that era, it can be said that his initial goals were well-intentioned as he wanted to create an egalitarian and rational society based on the principle of justice.
There has been much written about the initial goals for founding the Illuminati, but that is outside of the scope of this article.
With a closer inspection, you can find the reason why the myth that freemasons are Illuminati may have come into being due to flirtations of Adam Weishaupt with Freemasonry.
He was initiated into the Masonic Lodge “Theodor zum guten Rath“, at Munich in 1777.
He used his Masonic membership to gain new recruits for his own secret society, which was in many aspects modeled on the much older Freemasonry.
There is no evidence to suggest that Freemasons were behind him founding the Illuminati or wanted to merge with this new secret society.
Although, it’s highly likely that a good number of Illuminati were ex-masons who may have abandoned their Masonic affiliations for a new and more promising secret society.
Adam Weishaupt was a firm believer in perfecting human nature through re-education.
His initial goal was to achieve the “perfect human nature” through re-education, allowing one to achieve a communal state with nature, free of government and organized religion.
This sort of radical departure from tradition was not going to succeed in Catholic Bavaria, where the government had already banned several secret societies after encouragement from the Catholic Church as Pope Clement XVI has already suppressed the Society of Jesus (modern-day Jesuits) in 1773.
The Pope’s suppression of Jesuits was a result of several complex factors, and it further strengthened the hands of powerful rulers who used this opportunity to suppress other secret societies that were considered as a threat to the political order of the day.
Adam Weishaupt’s manuscripts were intercepted in 1784, and the Bavarian government banned the order.
He had to resign from his post as a professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt and had to leave Bavaria for a long exile.
He spent his remaining life in Gotha, where he lived until his death in 1830.
After his exile, The Illuminati ceased to exist in any form, and there has been no trace of an organization with the same name.
Although, conspiracy theorists want you to believe that they still exist.
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Are Freemasons The Modern Day Illuminati?
No. There is no evidence that that’s the case.
As you can see for yourself, there is no clear link between Freemasonry and The Illuminati except for the fact that the founder of the Illuminati was a Mason for a small amount of time and even during this time, he used his membership to gather new recruits for his own secret society.