Secret Society With Plans to Rule the World

Joe Biden had barely been sworn in as US president when conspiracy theories about his ‘Illuminati bible’ went viral on social media.

As the story goes, Biden is part of a centuries-old secret society bent on world domination whose members include Jay-Z, Beyonce, Katy Perry, and the late Queen Elizabeth II. Except…

US President Joe Biden swearing in ceremony with his bible
Biden’s Douay-Rheims bible dates back to 1893

Biden was actually sworn in using a family heirloom, a Douay-Rheims bible used by Roman Catholics worldwide. Jay-Z calls stories about his Illuminati membership ‘stupid’. Kanye West thinks they are ‘ridiculous’ and Katy Perry told Rolling Stone the theory was the preserve of ‘weird people on the internet’. But then… the secretive Illuminati would say that, wouldn’t they? Δ.)

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So what, exactly, is fueling stories about an all-powerful sect of celebs and gazillionaires who use spy-like protocols to keep their identities a secret?

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Adam Weishaupt, a Bavarian professor of canon law, started the radical Illuminati secret society in Europe in 1776 when he was 28 years old. Anti-clerical and anti-royal, the Illuminati aimed to infiltrate and upset powerful institutions. They created a plan for the global subversion of church, state, royalty, and society. 

Weishaupt aimed to abolish all religions and obliterate every government so mankind could live happily in a world of equality. He foresaw the economy operating under a ‘communism of goods’ structure overseen by an enlightened (illuminated) elite over which he presided.

The Order was represented by the Owl of Minerva, which in Greek mythology traditionally accompanies Athena the virgin goddess of wisdom. Another Illuminati emblem was a dot within a circle that symbolized the all-seeing eye which belonged not to God, but to a superior Illuminati watching over the lower ranks.

The Illuminati symbol of an all-seeing eye


The Illuminati adopted antique codenames to avoid identification. Weishaupt was ‘Brother Spartacus’, named after the gladiator who headed the insurrection of slaves and kept Rome in terror for three years. Weishaupt aimed to find young zealots – using Freemason lodges as a recruiting ground – and knit them together with secrecy. Initially, anyone over 30 wasn’t trusted.

The lower ranks were divided into hierarchies of Novices, Minervals, and Illuminated Minervals, and divided into cells. Weishaupt acted as their spymaster.

“When he could not persuade them by his own firmness… he employed Jesuitical tricks, causing them to fall out with each other, setting them as spies on each other, and separating any two that he saw attached to each other, by making the one a Master of the other; and, in short, he left nothing undone that could secure his uncontrolled command,” according to John Robison, author of Proofs of a Conspiracy.

Recruits had to supply the names of their ancestors, relations, friends, correspondents, and enemies. They were asked to recommend appropriate people to be received into the Order and to list those who might be unfit, justifying reasons for both opinions. They were told to pay attention to the conduct of other men around them and report back weekly about public or private occurrences. 

Illuminati who betrayed the Order were threatened with death, a sword like the one in the photo was held to their chest
Illuminati who betrayed the Order were threatened with death


After three years of one-on-one study with their Illuminati tutor, recruits were asked to sign an oath to uphold the society’s goals upon the punishment of death.

“A drawn sword is then pointed at his breast, and he is asked: ‘Will you be obedient to the commands of your Superiors?’ He is threatened with unavoidable vengeance, from which no potentate [monarch/ruler] can defend him if he should ever betray the Order,” Robison said. 

Plans were underway for two sisterhoods, he added, both subservient to male Illuminati – one sisterhood made up of women of virtue, the other of women ‘who fly out of the common track of prudish manners’. Neither sisterhood was to know about the other.


The Barvarian Illuminati insinuated themselves into public offices and courts of justice. Estimates about the group’s size vary greatly – some put the figure at 650, others at 2,500 – but, eventually, the secret society was exposed and persecuted. Documents found in the homes of Illuminati like diplomat Franx Xavier von Zwack confirmed their dreams of world domination. 

The Duke of Bavaria, Karl Theodor, banned secret societies in In 1785 and instituted punishments for anyone who joined them. But did the Illuminati really dissolve?

Robison and Abbé Augustin Barruel, authors of Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, argue that the Illuminati survived, having infiltrated a Berlin literary society and Masonic lodges. They point out that Weishaupt was banished but not imprisoned, so he carried on writing and working. Barruel even promoted a theory that secret societies, including the Illuminati, were behind the French Revolution.


By 1798, fears about the dangerous sect had reached the US. George Washington wrote an open letter indicating the US had avoided the Illuminati threat, but just the mention of the secret society helped revive the topic and the fear. 

Rumors of secret alliances and double-crossings plagued early-American elections but it wasn’t until the rise of electronic media and the internet that conspiracy theories became a powerful force.

In the mid-1970s, the satirical Illuminatus Trilogy put the secret society back on center stage, and it has remained there since Dan Brown published his thriller Angels & Demons in 2009.

A painting of Pontormo’s Supper at Emmaus (1525) uses the Eye of Providence
Pontormo’s Supper at Emmaus (1525) uses the Eye of Providence


Many Illuminati-watchers in America believe that the ‘Eye of Providence’ – the eye-in-a-triangle found on the back of the US dollar bill – is an Illuminati symbol linking the European sect to the highest echelons of US government and corridors of power.

In fact, the all-knowing eye was originally a symbol of Christianity, found in religious art of the Renaissance period to represent God, such as in Pontormo’s Supper at Emmaus

The eye also appears as a symbol on some earlier editions of the Douay-Rheims Bible, the same bible President Biden carried on Inauguration Day. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Illuminati are planning to topple the world’s governments installing President Biden, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and other rappers as the new overlords. Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.

As Beyonce puts it in her hit song Formation: “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” 

Who was Illuminati founder Adam Weishaupt? 

Professor Johann Adam Joseph Weishaupt (1748-1830) founded a secret society in 1776 along with senior students in Ingolstadt, on the Danube in Upper Bavaria. Members initially referred to themselves as ‘Perfectibilists’ – a person who believes that a given thing, often human nature, is perfectible – and were subsequently called ‘Illuminati’. The word was adapted from a Latin root, Illuminatus, which directly translates to ‘enlightened’. 

Adam Weishaupt, born in 1748, was undoubtedly influenced by his Godfather who raised him after Adam’s father, a lawyer, died at a young age. Adam was raised by his godfather, Baron Johann von Ickstaff, a German educator, director of the University of Ingolstadt, and a scholar of the Age of Enlightenment who had an extensive library full of banned and esoteric books. Weishaupt’s interests were widespread, including an early fascination with aeronautics.

Illuminati Founder Johann Adam Weishaupt
Illuminati founder Johann Adam Joseph Weishaupt

Weishaupt and the society’s goal was ultimately to create – by education and surveillance – an elite body of men that would eventually take over all key positions in the State. The society grew rapidly, but by the 1780s its popularity declined. 

Writings intercepted in 1784 were interpreted as seditious and the society was banned by the government. Following the disclosure of the Illuminati’s existence, Weishaupt lost his professorship in Ingolstadt in 1785 and fled Bavaria for Gotha where he wrote a series of works defending the Illuminati, including A Complete History of the Persecutions of the Illuminati in Bavaria (1785)A Picture of Illuminism (1786), An Apology for the Illuminati (1786), and An Improved System of Illuminism (1787). 

Adam Weishaupt died in Gotha on 18 November 1830 at the age of 82 but the Illuminati’s influence would live on for centuries. Some of Weishaupt’s books have been translated into English including Diogenes’ Lamp, or an Examination of Our Present Day Morality and Enlightenment, translated by Amelia Gill, The Masonic Book Club, and available on Internet Archive.