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For the Muslim esoteric school, see Illuminationism.Historically, the name usually refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on .A system of mutual espionage kept Weishaupt informed of the activities and character of all his members, his favourites becoming members of the ruling council, or Areopagus.

Christians of good character were expected, with Jews and Pagans specifically excluded, along with women, monks, and members of other secret societies.

Favoured candidates were rich, docile, willing to learn, and aged 18–30.

Significantly, while studying in Munich shortly after the formation of the order, he recruited Xavier von Zwack, a former pupil of Weishaupt at the beginning of a significant administrative career.

(At the time, he was in charge of the Bavarian National Lottery.) Massenhausen's enthusiasm soon became a liability in the eyes of Weishaupt, often attempting to recruit unsuitable candidates.

They are often alleged to conspire to control world affairs, by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations, in order to gain political power and influence and to establish a New World Order.

Central to some of the most widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories, the Illuminati have been depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power in dozens of novels, films, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos.The society's goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life and abuses of state power."The order of the day," they wrote in their general statutes, "is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them".Later, his erratic love-life made him neglectful, and as Weishaupt passed control of the Munich group to Zwack, it became clear that Massenhausen had misappropriated subscriptions and intercepted correspondence between Weishaupt and Zwack.In 1778, Massenhausen graduated and took a post outside Bavaria, taking no further interest in the order.Many influential intellectuals and progressive politicians counted themselves as members, including Ferdinand of Brunswick and the diplomat Xavier von Zwack, who was the Order's second-in-command.