The Illuminati is a secret society which traces its beliefs and teachings from a religious military organization called the Knights Templar. In the twelfth century, the Knights Templar returned from war in the Holy Land. The members of the Knights Templar became rich after the Crusades with gifts of money and land bestowed upon them by European rulers. The Knights Templar are said to have planned to use their wealth to buy the world.
The King of France and the Pope launched an investigation of the Knights Templar. Both suspected the organization of plotting to subvert their power. The Knights Templar were arrested and tortured, and eventually admitted to blasphemous and unnatural practices. With these confessions, the Knights Templar was abolished by the Pope. The organization was forced to move underground.
Hundreds of years later during the Enlightenment Period, the Knights Templar are said to have merged with the guilds of stonemasons in Europe. The Masons did benevolent deeds in the communities of the time and were regarded as good members of society. One member of the Masons was Adam Weishaupt, a professor at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany. He founded a secret society within the Masons. On May 1, 1776, the Illuminati was born. The goals of the Illuminati were to be moral and virtuous, to oppose superstition and evil, to promote gender equality, and to reduce the power of the Church over secular society. The Illuminati was said to have 2,000 members throughout Europe. These members were known for their free-thinking and radical politics.
Like the Knights Templar before it, the popular ideals of the Illuminati threatened the control of rulers of the time. The Illuminati were accused of plotting to overthrow European monarchies. In 1785, the Bavarian government banned all secret societies with the support of the Roman Catholic Church. After this date, the Illuminati were broken up and dispersed. However, it is popularly rumored that the Illuminati still exist and operate in the background of the world governments. There are many people who seek out signs of Illuminati influence in world events and catastrophes, but the Illuminati is generally regarded to be a defunct secret society.