From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati
The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, "enlightened") is a name given to several groups, both historical and modern, and both real and fictitious. Historically, the name refers specifically to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776.
In modern times it is also used to refer to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy "power behind the throne", allegedly controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations, usually as a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. In this context, the Illuminati are believed to be the masterminds behind events that will lead to the establishment of a New World Order.
The movement was founded on May 1, 1776, in Ingolstadt (Upper Bavaria) as the Order of the Illuminati, with an initial membership of five, by Jesuit-taught Adam Weishaupt (d. 1830), who was the first lay professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt. The movement was made up of freethinkers as an offshoot of the Enlightenment, and seems to have been modeled on the Freemasons.
Originally Weishaupt had planned the order to be named the "Perfectibilists". The group has also been called the Bavarian Illuminati and the movement itself has been referred to as Illuminism (after illuminism). In 1777, Karl Theodor became ruler of Bavaria. He was a proponent of Enlightened Despotism and, in 1784, his government banned all secret societies, including the Illuminati.
During the period when the Illuminati were legally allowed to operate, many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians counted themselves as members, including Ferdinand of Brunswick and the diplomat Xavier von Zwack, who was number two in the operation and was found with much of the group's literature when his home was searched. The Illuminati's members pledged obedience to their superiors. Members were divided into three main classes, each with several degrees.
The order had its branches in most countries of the European continent; it reportedly had around 2,000 members over the span of ten years. The organization had its attraction for literary men, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Gottfried Herder, and even for the reigning dukes of Gotha and Weimar. Weishaupt modeled his group to some extent on Freemasonry, and many Illuminati chapters drew membership from existing Masonic lodges. Internal rupture and panic over succession preceded its downfall, which was effected by the Secular Edict made by the Bavarian government in 1785.
Barruel and Robison
The March 2, 1785 edict was apparently a "deathblow to the Illuminati in Bavaria." Weishaupt had fled, and documents from the group had been seized and were then published by the government in 1787.
Between 1787 and 1789 Augustin Barruel's Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism and John Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy both publicized the theory that the Illuminati had survived and represented an ongoing international conspiracy, including the claim that it was behind the French Revolution. Both books proved to be very popular, spurring reprints and paraphrases by others, like the one by Reverend Seth Payson. Some response was critical, such as Jean-Joseph Mounier's On the Influence Attributed to Philosophers, Free-Masons, and to the Illuminati on the Revolution of France.
New England Illuminati scare
Robison and Barruel's works made their way to the United States. Across New England, Reverend Jedidiah Morse and others sermonized against the Illuminati, their sermons printed, and the matter followed in newspapers. The concern died down in the first decade of the 1800s, though had some revival during the Anti-Masonic movement of the 1820s and 30s.
Writers such as Mark Dice, David Icke, Texe Marrs, Ryan Burke, Jüri Lina and Morgan Gricar have argued that the Bavarian Illuminati survived, possibly to this day. Many of these theories propose that world events are being controlled and manipulated by a secret society calling itself the Illuminati. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that many notable people were or are members of the Illuminati. Presidents of the United States are a common target for such claims 
In addition to the shadowy and secret organization, several modern fraternal groups claim to be the "heirs" of the Bavarian Illuminati and have openly used the name "Illuminati" in founding their own rites. Some, such as the multiple groups that call themselves some variation on "The Illuminati Order," use the name directly in the name of their organization, while others, such as the Ordo Templi Orientis, use the name as a grade of initiation within their organization.
The Illuminati are a recurring theme in popular culture. References to such an organization appear in many fictional works across many genres, appearing in novels like The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, The Fallen Angels by Susannah Kells & Bernard Cornwell, and The Illuminati by Larry Burkett; in films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, on television as in the Disney animated television show Gargoyles; in video games such as Deus Ex; in comic book series like New Avengers: Illuminati; as well as in both trading card and roleplaying games like Götterdämmerung.
- ^ Stauffer 1918, pp. 133-134.
- ^ Stauffer 1918, p. 129.
- ^ McKeown 2009.
- ^ Goeringer 2008.
- ^ Stauffer 1918, p. 134 n. 1.
- ^ Introvigne 2005.
- ^ McKeown 2009.
- ^ McKeown 2009.
- ^ Roberts 1974, p.128-129.
- ^ Payson 1802.
- ^ Simpson 1993, p.88.
- ^ Stauffer 1918, passim.
- ^ Sykes 2009.
- ^ Barkun 2003.
- ^ Penre 2009.
- ^ Howard 2008.
- ^ "Barack Obama" 2009.
- ^ The Illuminati Order Homepage
- ^ Official website of The Illuminati Order
- ^ Bergquist et al. 2008.
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