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Who were the Illuminati?

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Illuminati, also known as the "enlightened ones", was the name assumed at various times by religious sects and secret societies.

Illuminati was a term used by the early Fathers of the Christian Church to signify persons baptized into the faith. They were called illuminati, or illuminated ones, on the ground that they had received from God the grace of an enlightened understanding.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the name was adopted by a mystical sect in Spain and France, The Spanish illuminati (aluminados) seem to have been in origin akin to the various Gnostic heretics who flourished in the early Middle Ages, though their appearance in Spain is later.

They were suppressed by the Inquisition during the 16th century; they also established themselves in Picardy and elsewhere in France during the 17th, and lasted in isolated bodies till the end of the 18th.

Other societies have from time to time employed the name. The 20th-century Rosicrucians, for example, call themselves Illuminati. The Rosicrucian illuminati are quite distinct; their tenets are mixed with alchemy and occultism.

Finally, in 1776 a secret masonic society of antireligious rationalists with republican and free-thinking views was formed by Adam Weishaupt, professor of Canon Law at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, who had been educated by the Jesuits but became a freethinker. It was anti-Jesuit, and was suppressed in 1785.

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