The Illuminati Conspiracy Theory

By: Nisha Krishnan

Someone who is a proponent of the Illuminati conspiracy theory believes that there is an elite and secret organization called the “Illuminati” who is seeking to create a dominant world totalitarian government (Bergara & Medej, 2016). This “New World Order,” so named, involves a single government (made up of Illuminati members) that would rule over the entire planet. According to a survey done about the Illuminati, 23% of Americans believe in the Illuminati and New World Order (Bergara & Medej, 2016). There also seems to be a link with conservative beliefs, as many conservatives are unhappy with the amount of involvement of the government in private affairs. There are many different theories as to who runs the illuminati, but the general consensus is that celebrities and government officials alike are part of it. Information about the illuminati is heavily prevalent on the conspiracy theories section of Youtube, in documentaries, and on websites such as This theory enjoys popularity today, as most people are somewhat aware of the Illuminati, even if they don’t believe in it. This theory is extraordinary because its claims are extraordinary—they go against everything we know about our world currently. As far as we are taught, different countries have different governments, and America especially has safeguards against authoritarianism. The idea that there is a group who will control everything defies the Founding Fathers’ wishes of freedom for citizens—what our country is founded on.

There are many different forms of evidence that people use to justify the existence of the Illuminati. For instance, there are certain symbols such as the Eye of Horus and pyramid (both on US currency), and when people see this in popular media, they believe it is evidence for that company/organization’s involvement in the Illuminati (Hahn, 2018). Another reason people believe that the Illuminati exists is because it did exist in the past (Santoro, 2018). It was created by Weishaupt in Germany, who wanted to have a group where people could have discussions about secularism (Bergara & Medej, 2016). However, during this time period, the Illuminati was about anti-religiosity and free thought. But many people believe that when the Church shut down Weishaupt’s group, it continued underground and exists today under the New World Order plan. Another piece of evidence that supporters use is that cops have become more heavily armed than ever, which is indicative of the government militarizing the police (Santoro, 2018). Under a New World Order, we would have to have a strong police force to control citizens. Finally, there are many claims that the illuminati is “killing celebrities and replacing them with clones” in an attempt to brainwash society (Bergara & Medej, 2016). These claims are backed up by video footage showing certain celebrities looking confused or staring off into space, to suggest that they are “glitching”. For example, there are clips of Beyonce, Eminem, and Al Roker staring off into space or freezing for prolonged periods of time in news clips (Bergara & Medej, 2016).

There is also a laundry list of evidence that questions the existence of the Illuminati. For one, there is not conclusive evidence that definitely shows that the Illuminati exists (Hahn, 2018). Much of the evidence touted for the Illuminati relies on theories made by proponents, or video clips interpreted by proponents. However, there isn’t a way to test that the Illuminati exists, because it is impossible to prove that it doesn’t exist (since it is supposedly a “secret society”). Additionally, many people have questioned why a society that is supposed to be so secretive would put out so many “hints” that they exist for followers to interpret (Hahn, 2018). If the society was real, and their primary goal was to hide their existence, it would make more sense for them to erase any videos or online content discussing the Illuminati, and not show any proof to the world (currently there are thousands of Illuminati conspiracy videos on Youtube). Finally, there is the point that in our capitalist society, the ability to make money by any means necessary is very important. Skeptics point out that if people put occult or illuminati symbolism in their content, it will help them gain popularity because people love to talk about conspiracies (Hahn, 2018). If influencers are purposefully including this material in their content, it would falsify at least some of the claims of the “proof” of the illuminati.

There are two major cognitive contributions that are influential in people’s propensities to believe in the illuminati—confirmation bias, and the error of logic discussed in FiLCHeRs. For confirmation bias, much of the proof that is used to verify the existence of the illuminati is popular culture—videos, news, celebrity behavior, etc. When people see these ambiguous sources of information, they will often find a way to construe the evidence in a way that supports their belief. For example, there was a clip of Beyonce at a basketball game where she was zoned out for 30 minutes and moving her head from side to side. This video was used as proof that celebrities are killed and then replaced with clones that sometimes “glitch”. This was an ambiguous source—Beyonce could have simply been zoned out and moving her head because her eyes were tracking the movement of the game of basketball she was watching. However, illuminati conspiracists interpreted this video to mean that Beyonce is a part of the illuminati and she was glitching. When every piece of ambiguous information shown to you is interpreted by you to be evidence for the illuminati, this reifies the strength of the belief you hold. In the lines of the example discussed, these conspiracists would be ignoring all of the times Beyonce was behaving “normally” because it didn’t fit into their narrative. Another cognitive contribution is the issue of logic. Ryan Bergara and Shane Medej (2016) interviewed a professor of conspiracy theories who discussed how many illuminati supporters use a “trail of evidence” to support their beliefs. They start in small steps where their logic sounds rational, and then suddenly make a crazy leap to where their evidence starts to sound irrational (Bergara & Medej, 2016). This fits into an issue with logic because while the premises may be true, the conclusions do not follow from the premises. For example, they may start by discussing how the government is overly involved in people’s lives (rational, especially after the Patriot Act) and then make the jump that all of government is made up of lizard people that control the world. I believe that those who believe the theory are misinformed because they believe that there are these complex meaningful patterns in randomness (apophenia), and it is easy to fall into this level of mistakenness when the information starts small as a “foot in the door” and spirals into these huge unbelievable conspiracy theories.

I wouldn’t say there is one specific community that illuminati believers come from, but there are certainly characteristics that are common between subsets of the population. One characteristic is conservative beliefs. As mentioned above, the illuminati and conservatives share the critical belief that the government is heavily involved in the lives of its citizens. Many of the current Illuminati theorists are right wing, incuding Mark Koernke, David Icke, Pat Robertson, and Donald Marshall (Bergara & Medej, 2016). Another characteristic that stems from right-wing extremism is anti Semitism. The Illuminati conspiracy is inherently anti Semetic because a large part of the population of believers think that Jews control the world (similar to the propaganda touted during Nazi Germany). To believe that any one group controls the world is in line with the idea of the illuminati and the New World Order. Finally, I would say that generally, Illuminati proponents are people that have a great deal of cynicism and mistrust of the world around them. To believe in conspiracies is to believe that what you see around you is not objective reality, but rather a reality created to somehow dupe you. The social influences that help sustain their beliefs involve a sense of community. When you have a deep mistrust of the world around you, this ideology goes against our major beliefs of reality. This may isolate you from the larger community, but when you find people who are like you and who believe what you believe, this justifies your commitment to the belief. If you were alone in your belief, you might give into the pressure of societal norms. But with a strong community of believers, you have people to back up your point of view.

Whether you believe in the Illuminati or not, you cannot deny that it is one of the most popular conspiracies out there currently. The problem with this belief is that it reifies stereotypical beliefs of Jews controlling the world, and it creates a sense of fear and panic in society to propose that we will all be controlled in an authoritarian government some day. The psychological explanations for the belief system, including confirmation bias, logic errors, stereotype heuristics, and herd mentality help to create a more holistic view of this conspiracy theory. By understanding why people have this belief and how it is maintained psychologically, we can attempt to educate the world to think more critically about unverified conspiracy theories, as well as analyze the world around us in a more scientific way.


Works Cited

Bergara, R., & Madej, S. (2016, July 29). Retrieved from

Hahn, J. D. (2018, September 27). So, What Exactly Is the Illuminati Conspiracy? Are the Illuminati real? Retrieved February 7, 2019, from culture/2018/09/what-is-the-illuminati-conspiracy-and-who-are-its-members/are-they- real

Santoro, M. (2018, July 28). Retrieved February 07, 2019, from

11 thoughts on “The Illuminati Conspiracy Theory

  1. I’ve always found it super interesting that the beginning of the Illuminati belief is highly tied to the American Revolution. Do you think that belief in the Illuminati is simply a manifestation of the cultural fear of totalitarianism/big government that ran rampant in the colonial period?

    • Yes, I absolutely agree with you Trent. The American Revolution was a time of heightened anxiety toward governmental and colonial control, and this certainly manifested itself in the way that the society first began. Originally the Illuminati society was a place where people had the safety and place to discuss issues and opinions that went against societal norms, such as freedom of though, expression, and anti-religious sentiment. When the society was banned, there were many underground movements that continued so that people had this outlet. It is possible that this original sentiment of freedom has sort of snowballed into the ideology of the Illuminati today, an extreme form of freedom in which the people who believe in it are extremely distrustful or governmental control.

  2. One thing that surprised me about your topic is that it stems from conservative and antisemitic beliefs. This is very interesting to me because the conspiracy is very familiar in society, however, I was not aware of the negative origin from which it developed. I find it concerning that this is the foundation of a theory that is so prominently known. On another note, I think the point that you made about being unable to prove because it is a “secret society,” is a great point to its popularity and continued support, it certainly makes it more intriguing whether you believe it or not.

  3. Whenever I hear about the illuminati I automatically think of Beyonce. I think for many people Beyonce being in the illuminati has become a running joke, but I know there are some out there who definitely believe she is. I always find the list of celebrities who are supposed members fascinating. i’d be really interested to know what sort of criteria they have or characteristics that makes people deem them as members of the illuminati.

  4. I didn’t know much about Illuminati until last to last year. I think it was because I stumbled across a news article about Justin Bieber and his affiliation with Illuminati. I remember reading something that said he denied all claims, but people started talking about how his tattoos Moloch(who is believed to be an illuminati god).

  5. The Illuminati topic is so interesting because everyone seems to know about it. Having discussions with anyone they could say, oh I heard that Obama is in the Illuminati, or I heard Cardi B was in the Illuminati. It seems like every celebrity and politician is in the Illuminati. I have tried to look up information on the topic of the Illuminati before, but there is so much information out there, that it is honestly difficult to follow one train of thought. While you were doing your research did you ever encounter this problem? It seems to me that the Illuminati seems to encounter everything and can sometimes be the overarching concept for a lot of conspiracy theories!

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  7. I feel as though the illuminati is haphazardly flung around in conspiracy conversation. I remember in high school everyone always tossed around “illuminati” like it was a salad. As the rumors go, I always heard that massive celebrities were part of the secret society, and artists would slip esoteric symbolism into music videos to convey messages.

  8. Conspiracy theories, as we all know, always come up with some unfalsifiable arguments. And these believes are actually traps. When people want to list some evidence to defeat those ridiculous thoughts, it turns out very difficult to convince the believers. At this point, people would naturally start to think of the possibility of this extraordinary belief’s authenticity. Because we really can not find evidence to prove those celebrities is just staring at sky for fun. Even we really list some convincing proof, the believers still would put forward more questionable scenes.

  9. If a global power elite colluded in secret to control the destiny of humanity in a criminal and profoundly deceptive manner, I doubt they’d form to the rabble’s simplistic preconceptions.

    Good thing such ridiculous theories are not in , the any way possibly true. I think most conspiracy theorists are grasping at straws to explain a chaotic world they can never understand. Behind all the chaos, this world is an orderly place. Science tells us so.

  10. Soon after the French Revolution, some writers started inquiring attentively into the mysterious environment of Secret Societies. The thick works by John Robison and the Jesuit Augustin Barruel, both published at the very end of the 1700s, ignited those sparkles and suspicions which eventually became the main clues to a wider theory, today known as the Conspiracy Theory.

    All events related to the French Revolution and the other 18th century democratic upheavals are surely linked to the cultural atmosphere in which they found philosophical nourishment; this is even truer if we remember that historical events are nothing else than the eye-catching effects of a broader intellectual and psychological scenario. Nevertheless, the ‘conspirationists’ never restricted themselves to depicting the cultural and philosophical environment of their times, since they mostly dared to unmask the revolutionary plots embroidered by characters not very famous to the public opinion, accusing them of unconfessed crimes and exposing their aggressive proselytism.

    Among these characters, allegedly a conspirator, one name stands out, the one of Adam Weishaupt.

    An enemy of the worst kind to both Robison and Barruel, Weishaupt came also to be charged by the Bavarian Authority with holding subversive activities and therefore exiled. This is the main reason why Weishaupt is to our days notorious as a plotter within the Secret Societies he had a role in; it is well-known indeed that he founded the Illuminati of Bavaria, the organization to which all his activities and misadventures are somehow linked. What is less known is that Weishaupt gave up most of his life to composing philosophical writings by which he proved himself to be an original thinker beside the promoter of controversial theories and ideologies.

    Whether it was Weishaupt’s will to keep most of his philosophical works in a weak circulation or it is something later decided by his fellow brothers, both hypotheses cannot be excluded; likewise, it is no fancy stating that Weihaupt’s legacy was passed onto the American Freemasonry which is nowadays recovering his works. It is worthy reminding here that, beside being an illuminatus under the name of ‘Spartacus’, Weishaupt was a Freemason too.

    However, these are not the main questions which will be faced in this brief essay. Studying Weishaupt’s philosophy should mean above all to find a way through the nebula of half-proven evidence and personal deductions the Conspiracy Theory is made of. In this professor of Canon Law from Ingolstadt, we may also find a philosopher without whom any knowledge of philosophy during the Age of Enlightenment cannot be complete.

    Why is Weishaupt’s philosophy so meaningful and interesting then? Because Spartacus brought to its most extreme consequences the purpose of many enlightened philosophers: apply human Reason to all fields of knowledge and wisdom. Many had already failed in such task, including one of the founders of the Age of Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose theories of General Will and ideal Law-maker have more to do with mysticism than rationalism.

    Did ‘Spartacus’ succeed in such task? This is what we will try to understand hereafter.

    In order to comprehend Weihaupt’s philosophy, it is not necessary to provide any evidence of his involvement in any of the 18th century Revolutions. Obviously, his theories can opportunely be put in relation with the main revolutionary tenets, but only to prove that whatever the political – or metapolitical – engagement of the Illuminati consisted of, it would not be enough to explain the whole of ‘Spartacus’’ ideas.

    It is no suspicion but a well-founded impression that both Illuminati and French Freemasonry during those tense decades gave up to promoting a new social ideal, not only to sway the public debate, but above all on the purpose of starting a long-lasting human and social metamorphosis. As we shall soon see, according to Weishaupt, such metamorphosis had to, and still has to, involve Religion too.

    First let’s understand what kind of social pattern Weishaupt has in mind.

    These are his words:

    “The question has arisen: why cannot all people form one nation, speak one language, live under one set of laws, and have one set of morals and one religion? When I think of the great variety in people’s ways of thinking, basic convictions and tastes, I cannot help but be amazed that seven or eight people can assemble under the same roof, lock themselves into the same ring of walls, and unite in a single family.

    When you see such things, doubts can arise within you as to whether the world and its people have a better purpose. Such facts seem to show that there is both a great deal of reason and very little reason on this earth. There is a great deal of reason if erudition is reason, if everything people want to achieve by virtue of their passions is of the highest and most unquestionable purpose, if every kind of connection or context is, at the same time, reason. For everything that people have wanted to achieve until now in order to become rich and powerful, to deceive others – Well, no one is more reasonable than those people for they are doing everything that has to be done to achieve that ultimate goal.

    When, however, true and actual reason can only be sought where universal, general context or connections exist between all ideas and desires; when people can only be said to have reason if they are wise as well, understand the sublimation of the end and act and desire accordingly; well then there is, unfortunately, very, very little reason”.[A. Weishaupt, Diogenes’ Lamp, the Masonic Book Club, Bloomington, Illinois US 2008, p. 51.].

    As it clearly shows, Weishaupt goes further than promoting any social ideal either democratic or revolutionary. He rather points at the destiny of humanity and depicts it as a global community deprived of all borders and any ethnical, cultural or legal differences. His wish is not inspired to any sentimental dream of universal brotherhood, but to the necessity of recognizing a new priority for the human society. ‘Spartacus’ uses a key-word in relation to the new world he is fighting for: sublimation of the end. Such sublimation must be wisely understood by all people in order to bring true Reason to the world. The concept of sublimation, which is a spiritual concept, must be linked to the religious sphere. Weishaupt indeed, beside a common law and moral, proposes a unifying religion for all men. We shall come back later to this point.

    It cannot be belied then that Weishaupt’s philosophy includes the project for a New World Order which supposedly is the same Order the Illuminati fought for.

    Moreover, although many ‘conspirationists’ may have charged ‘Spartacus’ with atheism and hate ‘against the altar and the throne’, while reading Weishaupt’s works, we would hardly find any explicit attack against any institution therefore accusing him that way would simply mean to end up disregarding the main concepts contained in his philosophy.

    If we mean to find out what kind of idea on any Institution Weishaupt had, then we ought to look for it in his most progressive historical conclusions, like the following one:

    “For about four thousand years, as far back as our history goes. We humans have, on this earth, thought, acted, believed, taught and governed. Despite all this, it is widely and generally believed that we remain unchanged, and not one iota better than before. If this belief has ground, then thinking, believing, teaching, and governing are the most unnecessary things in the world (…)” [A. Weishaupt, Diogenes’ Lamp, p. 28].

    Throughout ‘Die Leuchte des Diogenes’, Weishaupt constantly gives the greatest prominence to all advantages lying in the basket of Progress, to the point of describing any conservative view as completely blind before history and its constants. Progress is not only indispensable to promote his social campaigns, by praising it, Weishaupt means to show all superiority Reason has gained over the wisdom coming from old traditional religions and philosophy.

    In relation to this last point, it would be quite interesting to know if and how Weishaupt’s ideas were ever passed onto the French Masonry of his times since, at least according to Robison, it got infiltrated by the Illuminati emissaries who tried to divert French lodges’ focus from spiritual concerns to the political general situation and actions to be taken on its account.

    However, regardless of the real impact ‘Spartacus’’ doctrines had on some Secret Societies of his times, his philosophy can always be considered as the original and independent outcome of the 18th century rationalism therefore can be outlined in its general frames without impoverishing or misunderstanding it.

    To read the whole essay:

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