The Illuminati, a secret society was established by Adam Weishaupt with the aid of Baron von Knigge and others in Bavaria about the year 1776.
The original object of this society was, as its founder declared, to enable its members to attain the greatest possible amount of virtue, and by the association of good men to oppose the progress of moral evil. To give it influence it was connected with Freemasonry, whose symbolic degrees formed the substratum of its esoteric instructions. This has led it incorrectly to be deemed a Masonic Rite; it could really lay no claim to that character, except inasmuch as it required a previous initiation into the symbolic degrees to entitle its disciples to further advancement.
In its beginning, the order quickly became very popular, attracting a wide range of German characters, from nobility to scoundrels. At its peak, the order is claimed to have a roll of 2000 names. The Illuminism quickly spread all over Europe, into France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, and Italy.
There grew a power struggle between Illuminism and the many Masonic Rites constantly arising in Germany and in France. With the natural ego- tism of reformers, the Illuminati sought to prove the superiority of their own system to that of their rivals.
The Illuminati proclaimed that current Lodges of Free- masons were secretly controlled by the Jesuits; that their laws and their mysteries were the inventions of the same Order, of whom every Freemason was unconsciously the slave and the instrument. Hence they concluded that he who desired to possess the genuine mysteries of Masonry must seek them not among the degrees of Rose Croix or the Scottish Knights, or still less among the English Masons and the disciples of the Rite of Strict Observance in Ger- many, but only in the Eclectic Lodges that had been instituted by the Illuminati.
In time, Weishaupt & the Illuminati were subject to a variety of nefarious attacks and accusations. Chief among the opponents were a French priest Abbé Barruel and John Robison, author of “Proofs of a Conspiracy,” in 1797. That work alleged that there was a major social threat by both the Illumaniti and the Freemasons.
In 1798, a copy of Robison’s book was shipped to George Washington for his review. Washington admitted his concerns that the doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism (return of Catholic influence over England) had reached American shores. However, there is no viable suggestion that the Illuminati became much more than a notion, in the previous English colonies.
The Illuminati was became be set by internal extremes of conflict. Von Knigge became disgusted and resigned in 1784.
The Jesuits fought the Illuminati from its first days. In time all Catholic priests were actively opposing the Order. The Bavarian government suppressed the Order; as well as Freemasonry, by edict, in 1784. Sufficient charges were made, that many of the members of the Illuminati were thrown into prison, with others, including Weishaupt, forced to leave Bavaria.
THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY ITS LEGENDS AND TRADITIONS ITS CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY BY ALBERT GALLATIN MACKEY, M.D., 33VOLUME TWO pp289-290