Who was he: Mystics have practiced the art of Illumination for centuries, but the term "Illuminati" was not used to describe this way of knowing until the 15th century. Occult enthusiasts who claimed to possess a way of knowing by directly communicating with an inner source through the practice of mysticism actually used the term first and it was used in Spain at the end of the 15th century when Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, said he was a member of the Illuminati. Through the years small groups that called themselves Illuminati have received a great deal of public attention because of their beliefs.
The organization started by Dr. Adam Weishaupt in 1776 is the best known Illuminati group. Weishaupt, a German philosopher, founded the Order of Illuminati on May 1st that year so it's no accident that the first day of May is considered an important day among witches. Weishaupt was involved in "Illumination," which was considered witchcraft.
Background: Adam Weishaupt was born on February 6, 1748 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Weishaupt's father died when Adam was five so he was raised by his godfather, Johann Adam Freiherr von Ickstatt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. Weishaupt began his studies at the age of seven at a Jesuit school and eventually enrolled at the University of Ingolstadt. He graduated in 1768, at age 20, with a doctorate of law degree. He became a professor of law in 1772, and married Afra Sausenhofer in 1773.
After Pope Clement XIV's suppression of the Jesuit Society in 1773, Weishaupt became a professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt. Ingolstadt University in Bavaria had been a Jesuit institution for decades and Weishaupt wanted to see the Jesuit Order come back into power so he developed a plan to help the Order take over the world. His plan was explained in a 1798 book called Proofs of a Conspiracy by John Robison, and is discussed in other books as well.
Weishaupt formed the secret society known as the Illuminati after experiencing an altered state during one of his illumination or witchcraft sessions. The Illuminati was a Luciferian type movement just like Freemasons. The Society promoted and tried to preserve ancient Druid witchcraft and Black Arts of Babylon. The Society had only five members when Weishaupt began the Order.
Weishaupt and his members wanted to stay hidden from the masses so they used code names. Weishaupt was Spartacus and Baron von Knigge, another Illuminist, assumed the name Philo. In order to maintain security, the members would correspond using their pen names.
Weishaupt was initiated into a Munich Masonic Lodge in 1777, but his theory of enlightenment by "illumination" was not immediately welcomed by the group. He studied and developed Gnostic principles of his own, with the goal of perfecting human nature through the awareness of nature. He worked diligently to incorporate his ideas into Freemason thought.
In 1785, Weishaupt lost his professorship at the university due to his beliefs and teachings and was banished from Bavaria. He moved to Gotha and died there in 1811.