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The Illuminati was once a confirmed, real secret society. But it’s not the real Illuminati that pop culture circulates different theories around. The real one was formed in what's now considered Germany and existed from 1776 to 1785. In summary, a professor known as Adam Weishaupt founded the society with the goal of promoting reason and opposing the influence of religion on society — he wanted to remove religion from the government.

There were three main requirements to be a part of this society: full consent from every member, a considerable amount of wealth and, basically, fame. There were 13 different levels of hierarchy within the society and 13 degrees of initiation to go along with them. Every member also supposedly made a promise to sacrifice their own interests and needs for those of the society.

There is extremely limited information about the Illuminati’s structure and rituals. But, from seized papers, we do know that in order to move up a level within the society’s hierarchy, a member had to report every single book they owned and write a list of their weaknesses and their enemies. We also know that by 1782, the society had over 600 members. By 1784, there were over 2,000 members of the not-so-secret society.

In 1784, an arrest was made on confirmed Illuminati members in which additional papers and documents were seized. These documents and papers defended ideas that threatened the church, such as suicide and atheism. Supposedly, there were also instructions for abortions found in these papers. This arrest proved the Illuminati as a threat to the church, and the Duke of Bavaria banned the creation of any society not previously approved by law and even explicitly banned the Illuminati. This is where the official, confirmed society "disappeared."

But, as time has gone on, the world hasn’t forgotten the secret society. Actually, if anything we’ve fictitiously created a new one. There are a lot of individuals out there who believe the Illuminati never disappeared and has continued to live throughout the centuries. It’s believed celebrities and politicians make up a majority of the society’s members. It’s also believed by these individuals that a lot of historical tragedies are the “works” of the Illuminati, such as the JFK assassination.

Somewhere down the road, the belief that the Illuminati was tied to satanism came along. Some individuals believe that secret members of the society, like Jay-Z or Kim Kardashian, sold their souls to the devil in order to reach their fame. There’s no real evidence or confirmation to this. But, there are celebrities who people believe confirmed their association with the secret society, like Jay-Z’s signature triangle hand symbol or Beyonce’s lyrics in “Formation” where she directly addresses rumors of her association to the group. Some also believed that the all-seeing Eye of Providence being on the back of a $1 bill confirms the government’s association as well.

The popularity of these theories comes in spurts. After the recent tragedy at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival, they’ve sparked once again. The internet and conspiracy theorists are accusing the rapper of sacrificing his fans that night in an unknown satanic ritual that somehow ties him to the Illuminati. One theory went as far as thinking the sacrifice was for Kris Jenner’s 66th birthday.

There are parts I do believe and don’t believe when it comes to the Illuminati conspiracy theory. I do believe that there could be a secret society of politicians and celebrities from all over the world. I do think it’s possible this “elite” group has pulled some strings in different historical events and historical tragedies to somehow advance their publicity. But, I don’t think the Illuminati has anything to do with satanism or satanic rituals. I don’t think anyone genuinely sells their soul to the devil to attain fame.

Rumor has it … the Illuminati isn’t what we think it is.

Lauren Reid is a senior at UT this year majoring in journalism. She can be reached at

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