The Illuminati was a movement founded on May 1, 1776. Much is, retrospectively, made of both the May 1st date later used by the Russian Revolution as well as the 1776 date tying in to the American Revolution. In fact, since there are only 365 days in a year, the Russian Revolution was bound to occur on one date or another which would/could have a connection to some devious scheme. By 1776, the American Revolution was well along in its planning stages and there’s no credible link to a group founded in what is today near Munich, Germany. It was begun by Adam Weishaupt who was educated by the Jesuits, not unlike many who sought an education in those days and in that place. His organization was composed of those who were then espousing the ideals of the Enlightenment: freedom of thought and equality amongst classes of people, ideas that were considered by the authorities as being heretical and treacherous, particularly since logical outcome of equality would preclude the continued existence of monarchy. They were ideas which today, anyone reading this website likely espouses: the right to think as one wishes and to exercise – within the bounds of law – their freedom of choice. At that time, though, freethinking was an anathema to those in power and subjected those who would think such heretical thoughts to imprisonment.
While some have suggested that the Illuminati was created to overthrow government and/or that they were behind the American Revolution, such ideas are without any real merit. Augustin Barruel and John Robison, even claimed that the Illuminati were behind the French revolution, a claim that Jean-Joseph Mounier dismissed in his 1801 book On the Influence Attributed to Philosophers, Free-Masons, and to the Illuminati on the Revolution of France. Barruel and Robison also wrote – essentially copying each other – trying to tie in Freemasonry to the plot. It is important to note, however, that both writers recognized that it was ONLY the ‘Grand Orient’-type of Freemasonry being practiced in parts of France and Germany that was involved: never what we now term ‘regular/recognized’ Freemasonry stemming from the Grand Lodge of England! Robison, who had joined Freemasonry in his youth, was roundly criticized for his work, even by the Encyclopedia Brittanica for whom he had written articles!
In 1777, Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria. He was a proponent of Enlightened Despotism and, in 1784, his government banned all secret societies, including the Illuminati. They had, by then, included the overthrow of political rulers in their goals and it’s easy to understand how that could be a tad upsetting to those in charge. How many people were involved in the organization at that point is difficult to say. Some estimates are as high as 2000 but the simple fact is that once it was outlawed, the organization died – as would ANY organization where involvement could lead to a life in wretched prison confinement.
Weishaupt had modeled his group to some extent on Freemasonry and Illiminati chapters drew some of their membership from existing Masonic lodges.