The designation illuminati (the enlightened or the illuminated) has been in use since the 15th century and has been variously applied to or appropriated by groups who have been seen to be, or have seen themselves as, uncommonly enlightened. The appellation was initially applied to European groups practicing a kind of mystical or gnostic Christianity but came later to refer almost exclusively to the group started by Adam Weishaupt in the 18th century, known as the Bavarian Illuminati.

Early illuminati groups such as the 16th-century Spanish alumbrados (illuminated) believed that the human soul could attain direct communion with God and so perfectly comprehend all religious mysteries. As such, for these ostensibly pure souls, things such as conventional moral behavior and the sacraments were thought to be ...

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