The Illuminati conspiracy theory is one of the most popular and enduring myths of our time. It claims that a secret group of powerful elites is secretly manipulating world events to establish a New World Order that would set up a single authoritarian world government. But how did this far-fetched paranoia start? The answer may surprise you.
The origin of the modern Illuminati myth has little to do with the historical Order of the Illuminati, a Bavarian group of Enlightenment-era intellectuals who opposed the religious and political establishment of their time. It was founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a law professor, and was gradually outlawed by conservative and Christian critics. It had no enduring influence on world politics.
Instead, the Illuminati myth was largely invented by a playful work of fiction called Principia Discordia, published in the 1960s by anarchists and hippies who worshipped Eris, the goddess of chaos. The book was a parody text for a parody faith – Discordianism – that bid its readers to sow confusion and disorder in the world.
The book inspired a trilogy of novels by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, which popularized the idea of the Illuminati as a sinister force behind everything from the JFK assassination to the Watergate scandal. The novels mixed satire, humor and conspiracy theories to create a surreal and subversive narrative that appealed to many counterculture enthusiasts.
The novels also influenced many other writers, musicians, artists and filmmakers who incorporated elements of the Illuminati myth into their works. Some of them did it as a joke, some as a critique, and some as a homage. But along the way, many people started to take the myth seriously and believe that it was based on real facts.
The Illuminati conspiracy theory reflects our human tendency to seek patterns and explanations in a complex and uncertain world. It also appeals to our psychological biases, such as confirmation bias, proportionality bias and ingroup-outgroup bias. It can provide a sense of meaning, identity and belonging for some people who feel alienated or marginalized by society.
But the Illuminati conspiracy theory can also have negative consequences for social cohesion, trust and democracy. It has been hijacked by various political and ideological agendas, such as anti-Semitism, populism, nationalism and anti-globalism. It has also been used to spread misinformation and disinformation about various topics, such as Covid-19, vaccines, climate change and elections.
The Illuminati conspiracy theory is not a harmless fantasy. It is a dangerous delusion that can fuel hatred, violence and extremism. As one of the authors of Principia Discordia once said: \”The human race will begin solving its problems on the day that it ceases taking itself so seriously.\”
The accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy – BBC Future, BBC, July 2020
Illuminati | Facts, History, Suppression, & Conspiracy, Britannica, January 2023
What is the Illuminati and is it real? | The Sun, The Sun, January 2023
The Illuminati Conspiracy Theory | The Psychology of Extraordinary Beliefs, The Ohio State University, January 2023