Since the powers that be here at the Rebellion saw fit to give me this space to write about conspiracies I knew I had to cover the Illuminati. The sheer amount of ways that the Illuminati come up in myriad conspiracy theories require me to cover them, but I wanted to make it special.  I had always planned for the Illuminati to feature in my 5th entry in the Gaming: For Official Use Only series but I had not originally planned to do it as relating to Deus Ex, let alone as half of a 2 parter.  However, the pure brilliance that is the Deus Ex storyline deserves to be respected and commented on.

I spent a good portion of the first part of this 2 parter extolling the amazing gameplay of Deus Ex and I see little reason to repeat that here. Simply put, this game is a near flawless masterpiece you must play.  What brought it to the attention of G:FOUO is how modern day conspiracy theories are deeply integrated into the storyline, with the central conflict being the Majestic-12 versus the Illuminati for dominance of mankind. Yeah, it’s that kind of game.

I hope the real Illuminati's logo is more interesting.

I hope the real Illuminati’s logo is more interesting.


The Deus Ex version of the Illuminati starts roughly the same time as the real world group. It was founded as a group of philosophically minded individuals in 1776 by law professor Adam Weishaupt. One member does claim that certain aspects of the Illuminati, such as its financiers (the Knights Templars) predate 1776 but not the Illuminati itself. Using this financial center they slowly begin to control the growing banking industry, leading up to dominance of a centralized banking system.

A quick digression: the Knights Templar, or the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, were a chivalrous order originating during the Crusades who eventually became quite wealthy and powerful, as they were some of the earliest examples of international bankers. The order was destroyed by Phillip II of France with the help of his chosen pope because of the massive debts Phillip owed the Templars, but various legends and conspiracies state they continued on in secret. A very nice little nod to history, there. Interestingly, the Illuminati has been accused of running the French Revolution, which destroyed the French monarchy. Revenge?

The 20th Century was the high water mark for Illuminati power and influence with the Illuminati and the game hints at the Illuminati actually being the source of the Nazi party. Eventually they turned their attention towards communist China, which ended up being far more productive for them. With the large amount of resources gathered from their control of China they attempt to control modern communications and society, so they spin off two organizations that feature heavily in modern conspiracy theory: the Majestic-12 and the Bilderberg Group.  MJ-12 is designed to control the burgeoning Information Society while the Bilderberg Group seeks to continue their control over central banking while establishing their dominance over global politics. This plan backfires spectacularly, but you read that in part 1.

That plan really worked out for them.

The MJ-12 turned on the Iluuminati…great plan, guys!


The Illuminati in Deus Ex is essentially a European/Asian phenomenon, so when the United States is reeling from natural disaster and plague they decide to let the US fall so they can sweep up the leftovers. However, these colors don’t run and the US rebounds strongly from all of the troubles, and that causes deep rifts amongst Illuminati higher ups. While many clamored for stronger actions to be made, the heads of the Illuminati instead chose to do nothing which alienated many members. Terrorists then arose from outside Illuminati controls, which causes the head of the group to step down for his protege Morgan Everett to take over. Bob Page, the head of the MJ-12, started in the Illuminati as Everett’s protege, but left the group because of the handling of the US situation. MJ-12 later destroys the Templar financial system, allowing the MJ-12 to take control over most of the Illuminati’s assets.

This parallels the real life Illuminati forgetting its founding principles based in the Enlightenment: liberty for mankind and freethought. The real life group had many detractors because they threw out anyone who didn’t follow lockstep with what the Illuminati believed, in stark contrast to Enlightenment’s dedication to freedom of thought. By seeking to subvert the global power structure that led to those despised organizations of the Church and the aristocracy, the Illuminati became, perhaps without realizing it, the very thing they hated. “He who hunts monsters,” indeed.

We own you.

We own you.


This is where we see what’s called a Heel-Face Turn. The Illuminati then realizes that the MJ-12 must be stopped and they ally themselves with J. C. Denton to stop them. They try to counteract the MJ-12’s dominance of global telecommunications, eventually ending with the player allowing J. C. Denton to cause a new Dark Age, merge with a powerful AI to become a god, or allow the Illuminati to retake control of the planet.

After the events of the original Deus Ex, the Illuminati instead use their influence to subtly guide mankind to more noble goals, with the secular World Trade Organization on one side and the religious Order Church on the other; ostensibly they are rivals if not enemies, but both are Illuminati-controlled groups working for the same task. The main character of Invisible War, Alex Denton, can choose to help the Illuminati, which then begins a new era of them controlling the planet from their space station – the beginning of the “Age of Light.”

This is what Scientologists actually believe.

This is what Scientologists actually believe.


A very interesting nod to Adam Weishaupt’s basis for the structure of his group is that the Illuminati work in levels aligned similar to Freemasony, with a system of degrees. At the top is the Council of Five led by the Prima Illuminatus, which isn’t a masonic analog, but each “degree of illuminism” up to the degree of “Supreme Enlightened” allows the candidate to receive more of the secrets of the organization just like in masonry. When Page severs the MJ-12 from its mother organization of the Illuminati he changes the degrees to levels of security clearance with names based upon angels from Christian mythology. Having covered Deus Ex’s Illuminati, let’s move onto the real life Illuminati, which will be the majority of the article from the sheer amount of information to cover.

Yes, it's a drawing. Did you really think I was going to have a photo from the 18th century?!

Yes, it’s a drawing. Did you really think I was going to have a photo from the 18th century? Apparently this artist either didn’t think much of Weishaupt or maybe they made him ugly to cover up his actual appearance…


This has been probably the hardest entry to write, as the ability to research the historical Bavarian Illuminati is made difficult by the sheer amount of conspiracy wharrgarbl theory literature.  One could easily write a whole book, or books, about this subject, and many have done so. I’ll try to provide a really solid foundation for the topic, based on actual facts.

The actual Bavarian Illuminati was formed in Bavaria – SHOCKER!!-  in 1776. It was founded by philosopher and professor of law Adam Weishaupt as the Order of The Illuminati. Weishaupt was influenced greatly by the then-current philosophical school of the Enlightenment.  In just a few months the United States of America would come into existence based directly upon the Enlightment principles of liberty and equality for all under the law. Their very name was based upon Enlightenment, as Illuminati is simply Latin for “The Enlightened Ones.”


Illuminati means “illumination.”  Feeling illuminated yet?


The Illuminati was founded to eliminate superstition, prejudice, and the control of State, philosophy, and science by the Roman Catholic Church with Weishaupt presiding as “Brother Spartacus.” What’s very interesting for an 18th century organization is that the Illuminati were strong supporters of both educating women and believing them to be intellectual equals with men.

Weishaupt joined a lodge of Freemasons a year later, and used some of the imagery and structure of masonry in his own order.  However, Weishaupt wanted to use his group to influence politics and hoped to create a utopia free of both government and organized religion. Weishaupt saw both of these as being antithetical to the freedom of man, and in doing so actually went against some of the beliefs of masonry. Although Weishaupt and company claimed to teach the purest form of masonry, they were wrong. I can state firmly that the methods of how the Bavarian Illuminati wanted to work were completely against what is taught to Freemasons.

Before we go on, it’s disclosure time, as I always try to be upfront with you about my biases.  I know exactly what charges of masonry Weishaupt broke and why, because I am a Freemason.  Due to the fact that their meetings openly discussed religion and politics the Illuminati are NOT masonic, as we are forbidden from doing so in our lodge. Also, don’t believe any of the stupid shit conspiritards say about us. End of rant.

I'm sure someone will say something about the Mason being anti-conspiracy theory.

I’m sure someone will say something about the Mason being anti-conspiracy theory.


Back to the Illuminati, Weishaupt enlisted the help of his compatriot Adolph Freiherr Knigge, who came up with a ritual structure of their own which helped to grow the organization immensely. The influence of Freemasonry extends into the very basis of the Illuminati, as Freemasonry talks a lot about receiving the light of knowledge, and coming out of the darkness of ignorance. The Illuminati called their philosophy “illuminism” and taught the basic tenets of equality, liberty, and freethought, which drew many educated minds.

The Illuminati based their organization into three classes with several degrees for each class. What’s wrong with their illuminism is that it flew in the very face of the Enlightenment principles they claimed to adhere to. The Enlightenment aimed to help man raise above his beginnings by freeing him to live his life as he so chose, without being held back by an oppressive State or by the hand of an overbearing Church. The Illuminati only allowed its members to follow the teachings of illuminism as laid out by Weishaupt with the threat of excommunication from the order for any freethinking members. Ironic, isn’t it?

The Illuminati grew quickly with its ranks even featuring politicians and aristocrats, and claimed to have over 2000 members across Europe.  But in 1777, Karl Theodor became the Elector of Bavaria, and he banned all “secret societies” including the Illuminati. By 1785 Adam Weishaupt himself had left Bavaria in exile, and most of the papers he had written were confiscated from his former home and burned. The Illuminati organization quickly fell apart, and although Weishaupt continued to publish books expanding upon Illuminati philosophy until his death in 1830, the group never regained its size from its peak.

For the record the Latin actually means "A New Order For the Ages," not New World Order.

This symbol has long been rumored to be Illuminati messaging. It’s not. For the record, the Latin at the bottom actually means “A New Order For the Ages,” not New World Order.


Conspiracy theorists claim the Illuminati is still alive and well. In a strange Rule 34 kind of thing, no matter what horrible thing you can think of, someone has declared the Illuminati to be behind it.  The Illuminati has been blamed for everything from stock market crashes to natural disasters to plagues to the designated hitter rule. Let’s start from the top. After the horrifying bloodshed of the French Revolution, theories arose that the Illuminati survived the Bavarian law to become an international conspiracy that sought to control the world from the shadows, and even orchestrated the French Revolution to spark the destruction of the rule of aristocracy.

I actually wonder if this theory inspired the storyline of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Unity.  In what is one of the greatest examples of irony I can think of, when European rulers reacted to paranoid fears of Illuminati conspiracies by enacting horribly oppressive policies, they caused the very revolutions they feared. Suck it, aristocracy.

Moving forward to modern times, in the aftermath of World War II, propagandists used the Illuminati legend to spur distrust or even outright hatred against groups they despised. The Jews once again were a target of the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This book is an infamous hoax that is purported to tell the secrets of how the Jews ran the world, as the name implies. Speaking strictly on the record since I don’t plan to cover that book, it’s nothing but a giant pile of antisemitic bullshit written by a lying moron bastard in Russia that has no connection to the truth in any way. Yeah, I don’t care for antisemitism, can you tell? What’s funny to me is that both the left wing and right wing accused the Illuminati of being behind their respective bogeymen, international capitalism, and international communism. Those Illuminati sure do get around.


Wait, what? Now that is not what we’re talking about and you know it.


Here’s a little tidbit I could not resist adding: in today’s YouTube conspiracy theorist culture, a large amount of theorists claim Illuminati control the music industry, and there are myriad videos demonstrating why any artist you care to name has Illuminati symbolism in their work. One of the more obvious targets is Lady Gaga, as her stuff is so weird you could make an argument about her having symbolism for damned near anything. One that I feel I must address for the sheer hilarity is Jay-Z. He used a hand signal for a little while that some accused of being an Illuminati symbol. It was not. However, it was a shameless ripoff of wrestler Diamond Dallas Page’s “Self High Five” – now that sounds like a euphemism – and Page eventually sued Jay-Z for copyright infringement and won. My good friend Brandon got to read about that case in his studies at Georgetown Law and couldn’t quit laughing.

Jay-Z "sampling" the Self High Five. Apparently, he forgot the internet remembers EVERYTHING.

Jay-Z “sampling” the Self High Five. Apparently, he forgot the internet remembers EVERYTHING.


My line of reasoning is that the Illuminati have been thoroughly dismantled after Weishuapt’s exile. The remaining members post-1785 went on to follow wildly different paths that often opposed other former Illuminati. There is not a shred of actual evidence that the Illuminati even made it as far as 1790 as a group, let alone into modern times to dominate the shadowy centers of global power. The fact that often you can reach into the proverbial hat to draw out two conspiracy theories based upon the Illuminati that has them opposed to themselves is just proof that they have become nothing more than bogeymen, a scary story to tell others in your tinfoil hat party.

This is pretty much exactly what I think of the Illuminati "theorists" polluting the internet.

This is pretty much exactly what I think of the Illuminati “theorists” polluting the internet.


While I can certainly understand the comfort of the thought that there is actually a method to the madness that is global politics, sometimes you just have to accept that madness is just madness. There isn’t an Illuminati any more, and there hasn’t been for over 200 years. Beyond that, how could one group possibly have their hands in as much of modern society and not fall apart? A single group that controls nearly every part of life in the Information Age is a group that by necessity is as powerful/influential as the rest of humanity. It simply strains credulity to expect that anyone or any group could contain, let alone control, the chaos in the Information Age society, let alone before telecommunications technology truly united the world. Yet, no matter how many words are dedicated to eradicating this conspiracy theory, there will be twice as many words spent on a crackpot idea like the Illuminati secretly controlling the ancient Black Knight Satellite that isn’t of earthly origin. Don’t worry, that’s another post.

I knew this would be a long post, and I wasn’t wrong by any means. I hope this extra-length entry has been interesting and you learned a thing or two. Just know how much willpower it took for me to not say that I hoped “this piece has illuminated you;” I make sacrifices for my readers. Much like the last Deus Ex entry, I highly suggest reading at least the Wikipedia article on the Illuminati for further reading, especially under the conspiracy theories section, and since I usually recommend a good novel try the classic of mindfuckery by Robert Anton Wilson’ called the Illuminatus trilogy. Until next time.

About The Author

Derik Moore

Derik Moore has been gaming for over a quarter of a century and hails from the bootheel of Missouri. He enjoys games from the NES all the way up to PS4. He collects video games, and has a weird attachment to handhelds. You can also follow him on Twitter @ithinkibrokeit.

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