When you hear about conspiracy theories and secret societies from around the world, one name comes up almost all the time – the Illuminati. On May 1, 1776, a professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Adam Weishaupt founded the organization in an attempt to pursue the humanist and scientific ideals of the Enlightenment. The first meeting of the Illuminati consisted of Weishaupt and four students. In an attempt to disguise their identities, the five men used code names. They did this to keep themselves safe from the Roman Catholic authorities in Bavaria, who, at the time equated Enlightenment ideals with revolution and Protestantism and, thus, a threat to the Catholic state.
In an attempt to spread his new organization, Weishaupt arranged to join the most well-known humanist society of the late eighteenth century – the Freemasons. His actions within the Lodge, however, went against the standard practices of the Freemasons and Weishaupt was eventually expelled from the group. He did succeed in recruiting several prominent masons to his ideas of human perfection. With its secrecy and attempts to infiltrate other groups to gain membership, the groundwork had been set for the boogeyman Illuminati so prevalent in 21st century conspiracy theories.