Adam Weishaupt: What Happened To The Man Who Started The Illuminati?

It's not often that people see light as darkness, but when they do, the associations are pitch-black. The darkest example is obviously Lucifer, a.k.a. Satan, whose name is Latin for "lightbearer." Coming in at a not-too-distant second is the Illuminati, which as Britannica points out, comes from "illuminatus," the Latin term for "enlightened" or "revealed." Various groups have used the name "Illuminati" since at least the 15th century. But the Bavarian version founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 is the one people tie to conspiracy theories about world domination, JFK's assassination, celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and of course Satan.

An ex-Jesuit and professor of canon law, Weishaupt founded the Illuminati in hopes of providing an alternative to Christianity. Specifically, he sought to topple religious systems of governance for one which would be based on free thought. Per National Geographic, he didn't reject religion per se but disagreed with the prejudice and hegemony he believed resulted from forcing beliefs on people. Hence, the Illuminati pursued "a state of liberty and moral equality, freed from the obstacles which subordination, rank, and riches, continually throw in our way." Weishaupt's ideas spread like light in a dark room, reaching Italy, Denmark, Poland, and France.

How did the Bavarian Illuminati becoming the poster child for evil secret societies and satanic rappers? Unfortunately for Weishaupt, he had 99 problems and a snitch was one. Infighting between Weishaupt and former Freemason Baron von Knigge — who greatly aided in the Illuminati's expansion — led to Knigge's expulsion. Another ex-Illuminati member Joseph Utzschneider, then allegedly sent a letter to the Grand Duchess of Bavaria outlining the group's plan to undermine Christianity's hold on society.

In 1787, Bavaria banned the Illuminati, and made joining the group punishable by death. Now an outlaw, Weishaupt lost his job as a law professor and went into exile in Gotha, German. There he taught philosophy for the remainder of his life. Despite the disbanding of the group, the Illuminati would be blamed for instigating the French Revolution and inspiring Jay-Z's devilish rap lyrics.