Illuminati (ĭlōˌmĭnāˈtĪ, –näˈtē) [key] [Lat., = enlightened], rationalistic society founded in Germany soon after 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a professor at Ingolstadt, having close affinities with the Freemasons and seemingly organized on a Masonic plan. While briefly very popular among German rationalists, it had limited influence. The Roman Catholic Church, which Weishaupt left in his youth and rejoined before his death, condemned the Illuminati; in 1785 the Bavarian government dissolved the organization. It did not long survive. In Spain and Italy in the 15th and 16th cents. the term Illuminati, or Alumbrado, referred to persons claiming direct communion with the Holy Spirit, so asserting that outward forms of religious life are unnecessary. Their claims led to persecution by the Inquisition. Other groups using the name have included the Rosicrucians, and certain followers of Jakob Boehme and Emmanuel Swedenborg.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.