Johann Adam Weishaupt

(6 February 1748 in Ingolstadt – 18 November 1830 in Gotha) was a German philosopher and founder of the Order of Illuminati, a secret society with origins in Bavaria.

Founder of the Illuminati

On 1 May 1776 Weishaupt formed the “Order of Perfectibilists”. He adopted the name of “Brother Spartacus” within the order. Although the Order was not egalitarian or democratic internally, it sought to promote the doctrines of equality and freedom throughout society.

The actual character of the society was an elaborate network of spies and counter-spies. Each isolated cell of initiates reported to a superior, whom they did not know, a party structure that was effectively adopted by some later groups.

Weishaupt was initiated into the Masonic Lodge “Theodor zum guten Rath”, at Munich in 1777. His project of “illumination, enlightening the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice” was an unwelcome reform. Soon however he had developed gnostic mysteries of his own, with the goal of “perfecting human nature” through re-education to achieve a communal state with nature, freed of government and organized religion. He began working towards incorporating his system of Illuminism with that of Freemasonry.

Weishaupt’s radical rationalism and vocabulary was not likely to succeed. Writings that were intercepted in 1784 were interpreted as seditious, and the Society was banned by the government of Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria, in 1784. Weishaupt lost his position at the University of Ingolstadt and fled Bavaria.