How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Illuminati

By Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America

As some of you know, I received an extraordinary amount of hate mail / hate comments after speaking positively about the historic Illuminati on George Noory’s TV show Beyond Belief.

But there is hope. A woman who flamed me one night wrote me the next morning, unprompted, with a really lovely letter of apology. But she remained bewildered by my attitude towards a group that most people think is seriously messing with us. I sent her the following response, which I hope is useful to anyone who is fearful of this historic – and admirable – group.


Dear _______ ,

In an age of online incivility you are a truly standup person... I was being a little glib at first in saying I “love” the Illuminati since there’s so much controversy about this group online. But, in all honesty, I do believe that historically the Illuminati are a grievously misunderstood phenomenon, and simply do not exist today.

Evil comes from a healthcare company denying a legitimate claim or keeping you on-hold for 20 minutes knowing that hassled claimants often just go away. The Illuminati was a kind of renegade Masonic group that believed in radical political and religious liberty, and was hounded by authorities of its day. I do mean it when I say that I love the historic Illuminati because they were in the struggle for freedom.

I want to share with you something below, and feel free to post it, or whatever you like. A 7th grader from Utah wrote me with questions for his school report on the Illuminati, and here are my replies. It is the same thing I would tell my own kids.

What is the goal of the Illuminati?

In actuality the Illuminati has not existed for more than 200 years. The historic Illuminati was founded in Bavaria in 1776 by a lawyer named Adam Weishaupt. He believed in the same ideals that led to America’s Declaration of Independence that same year. Founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote admiringly of Weishaupt in 1800:

“Wishaupt [sic] believes that to promote this perfection of the human character was the object of Jesus Christ. That his intention was simply to reinstate natural religion, & by diffusing the light of his morality, to teach us to govern ourselves.”

In other words, the Illuminati’s social aims were personal development, religious liberty, political freedom, separation of church and state, and an end to aristocratic privilege. That doesn’t sound very radical today – but in eighteenth-century Bavaria, such views could result in political persecution or worse, hence the need for Weishaupt and his colleagues to be secretive. Jefferson further wrote:

“As Wishaupt [sic] lived under the tyranny of a despot & priests, he knew that caution was necessary even in spreading information … if Wishaupt had written here, where no secrecy is necessary in our endeavors to render men wise & virtuous, he would not have thought of any secret machinery for that purpose.”

In the years immediately ahead, the Bavarian government outlawed secret societies. The Illuminati was effectively shut down less than a decade after its founding.

Is the Illuminati a religious order believing in either God or Satan as their head?

The historic Illuminati espoused the “religion of reason” which to them meant an acceptance of science, democracy, and aspects of the ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Persian faiths that sought to refine the individual. They also tended toward a kind of mystical Christianity, which was popular among European radicals, artists, and reformers, including Mozart and Goethe who were friendly toward Weishaupt.

What evidence do we have that the Illuminati still exists today?

None – other than the assertions of irresponsible and, I think, cynical conspiracy theorists, such as radio host Alex Jones.

Are there groups actively opposing the Illuminati?

The groups who opposed the Illuminati back in its day were aristocratic in nature and believed in inherited privilege and power. I think that the opponents of the Illuminati were on the losing side of the pursuit of human dignity and self-expression.

If there are groups actively opposing and trying to expose the Illuminati, who are they and what are they doing?

I think there exists a small industry (and not always so small) of people like Jones, and various radio hosts and bloggers, who try to stir up paranoia and entertainment-value with claims that a “hidden hand” controls Hollywood, banking, etc. Some of the most extreme such groups also truck with anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and white supremacy.

Are the Illuminati affiliated with the Freemasons?

Part of Weishaupt’s plan was to infiltrate Freemasonic lodges and transform them into vehicles for his revolutionary political aims. That never really happened since his group was relatively short-lived. Now, ethically that was a questionable tactic. I personally believe in political transparency. But Thomas Jefferson allowed that Weishaupt’s actions were understandable given the repressive political climate in which he functioned.

Do the Illuminati continue to gain new members?

If they still existed, I’d probably be a member. But I have no taste for secrecy or subterfuge in pursuing political aims. Gandhi believed that secrecy was ultimately at odds with democracy.

Are well-known celebrities really members of the Illuminati, for example Donald Trump, Jay-Z, and Kanye West?

No, although some people find it exciting to think so. I’ve done a piece with NPR about Jay-Z’s supposed ties to the Illuminati, and I probably receive more interview requests on that one topic than any other. Jay-Z is a brilliant artist and he uses all kinds of occult and oppositional imagery in his work, ranging from Aleister Crowley quotes to images of Chairman Mao. He wants to invite reactions. Also, certain occult symbols, such as the pentagram, are, quite frankly, beautiful and alluring. You’ll find all of this reflected in Jay-Z’s use of the eye-and-pyramid; it’s kind of funny that people find that controversial since we carry that image around with us on the dollar bill.

That eye-and-pyramid is not code for the Illuminati but is the reverse-side of the Great Seal of the United States. The Great Seal’s design began on July 4, 1776, on an order from the Continental Congress and under the direction of Benjamin Franklin (a Freemason), Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. The Latin maxim that surrounds the unfinished pyramid – Annuit Coeptis Novus Ordo Seclorum – can be roughly, if poetically, translated as: “God Smiles on Our New Order of the Ages.”

I believe that that image was inspired by the values of Freemasonry, another misunderstood organization. Masonry was a deeply felt commitment among some of America’s founders. George Washington was a member. Historically, Masons see the search for Universal Truth as a uniting factor of all nations and civilizations. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams saw the new republic as a place where the individual search for meaning could be protected.

So, in the highest sense, America’s founding could be seen as a “new order of the ages.” I think that’s something to be proud of. That should fortify our respect for the right of every individual to pursue his or her own sense of truth without harassment or favoritism. Now, as far as Donald Trump being a member of the Illuminati? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Do the Illuminati pose a real threat to the well-being of others?

Historically, the Illuminati posed a political threat only to those who considered it their right to rule without due process and constitutional protections for the governed.

Is there any evidence of the Illuminati still holding ceremonies and performing rituals?

In the late 1700s the Illuminati held initiatory rituals based, in part, on ancient Persian and Greek religious ceremonies. Their lodge practices bore some resemblance to certain Freemasonic rituals, which remain in use today. Masons aspire to various degrees that recognize their commitment to the fraternity’s ethical teachings.

Occult AmericaHow is leadership passed on in the order?

The actual values of the Illuminati are passed on in the history of ideas. My hope is that you and your classmates will look back on figures such as Weishaupt and Jefferson and understand how truly radical they were in foreseeing a future society where all individuals could pursue their highest potential. Their work is unfinished.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation


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