Joe Biden had barely been sworn in as US president in January 2021 when conspiracy theories about his ‘Illuminati bible' went viral on social media.
As the story goes, Biden is part of a powerful, centuries-old secret society bent on world domination whose members include Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Katy Perry, and Queen Elizabeth. Except...
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.)
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?
The rise of the Illuminati
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 spy structure
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.
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 power of the Illuminati
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, author 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.
The American Illuminati
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.
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.”