Whether you believe in the Illuminati or not, you have to admit that the idea of a shadowy secret organisation attempting to bring about a New World Order makes for some pretty compelling conspiracy theories. Historically speaking, the Order of the Illuminati was an organisation established in Bavaria, Germany in 1776 by forward-thinking individuals who believed in the concepts of free thought, secularism and gender equality. The order was highly critical of the Bavarian monarchy and the Roman Catholic church (which was the state religion) and its members were keen supporters of the Age of Enlightenment. However the Illuminati was suppressed and disbanded in 1785 along with other secret societies which threatened the status quo. However, just over a decade later, notable figures like the Scottish physicist John Robinson and French publicist Augustin Barrel were already alleging that the Illuminati had survived and that its membership was growing in power and influence. One of the earliest conspiracy theories surrounding the Illuminati argued that it had masterminded the French Revolution, and similar plots and schemes have been associated with the group over the many years since its inception (and supposed abolishment). Although nowadays the Illuminati is used as a blanket term to describe some sort of all-seeing, all-knowing cabal which controls all major events in the world, most conspiracy theorists agree that the group deliberately uses specific symbols to reveal themselves and to show off their power and influence. Some of these symbols are said to be very specific and easy to spot (the Illuminati are apparently keen to infiltrate all aspects of modern day life) while others are meant to act as subliminal messages which are hidden in plain sight.

10. Numerology


Numerology plays an important part in many conspiracies theories, and some theorists will make incredible leaps of logic to try and find meaning in patterns or sequences of numbers. Like all Illuminati symbols, conspiracy theorists differ on what numbers are important to the Illuminati. Seeing as the group has no official doctrine or manifesto (or indeed, concrete evidence that it even exists), there are countless attempts which have linked numerology to Illuminati and the number 11 seems to be one of the most popular examples. Some of the most persistent political conspiracy theories attempt to use numerology to link the Illuminati to the events surrounding 9/11 – Afghanistan has 11 letters, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, George W Bush has 11 letters in his name, etc. Global catastrophes are also believed to have been caused by the Illuminati controlling the weather with High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) technology – the Fukushima Tsunami happened on the 03/11/11, the Indian Ocean tsunami occurred on the 26/12/2004 which can be arranged to equal 11 (12/26 = 1+2+2+6 = 11), etc.

9. Owls


Owls are often seen as creatures which possess hidden knowledge, so it makes a certain amount of sense that the birds have been linked to the Illuminati. Some conspiracy theorists argue that the supposed wisdom of owls has led to them being used frequently as part of Illuminati symbolism. There are certainly interesting parallels to be drawn from the creature’s ability to see at night without sunlight and the Illuminati being originally established during the Age of Enlightenment. After all, the learned members of the Bavarian group strived to illuminate and nurture a better path for the future without the need for a ruling monarchy and church. It’s also worth noting that an owl is the mascot of the Bohemian Grove. The Bohemian Grove is a huge private campground located in California which plays host to the Bohemian Club – an all-male organisation whose members include some of the most powerful men in the world, including former presidents, high-ranking government officials and media executives. The club meets at the campground every year for a two-week event and many believe that important world affairs are decided behind the closed doors of this secretive place..

8. Pillars


Pillars are said to be another interesting metaphorical symbol of the Illuminati. Best-selling author Dan Brown writes about globe-trotting conspiracies and historical mysteries, and one of his most famous fictional works is the 2000 book Angels & Demons. The story concerns a plot by the Illuminati to destroy the Vatican, but it is ultimately foiled by the unlikely hero of Brown’s books Dr Robert Langdon. In Angels & Demons, the Illuminati are presented as a group of Catholics who splintered away from the church to pursue truth and meaning in science. The four foundations of science and the living world – earth, wind, fire and water – are likened to ‘pillars’ in the book, and many Illuminati conspiracies believe this to be an accurate analogy. Some theorists also believe that, like pillars in an architectural sense, the Illuminati see themselves as an important foundation and that they are capable of holding and supporting the weight of society.

7. Monarch Butterfly

Monarch mind control is a pretty far-out theory which is popularly attributed to the Illuminati. Clearly inspired by the very real MK-Ultra experiments carried out by the CIA between the 1950s and 70s, Monarch Programming is said to be a form of mental torture which can essentially induce a form of mind control over its victims. The experiments apparently force victims, commonly referred to as slaves, to disassociate themselves from reality and make them conducive to influence from their handlers, who are often referred to as monarchs. Monarch mind control has been said to be used in everything from popular TV shows to the rides at Disneyland, and the symbol of the Monarch Butterfly is believed to be used as a way to denote victims and handlers of the programming. With its striking orange and black markings, the Monarch Butterfly is very noticeable and easy to spot, and there are countless blogs and conspiracy-style websites which are devoted to picking out appearances of the insect in mainstream culture.

6. Masonic Symbols

Masonic Symbols

There are several conspiracy theories which link Freemasonry with the Illuminati as the two groups seem to share several similar principles. The establishment of the Freemasons predate the Bavarian Illuminati by some years (the first Grand Lodge was opened in 1717, almost 50 years before the Bavarian group was formed in 1776) and it is thought that there was an overlap in members between the two. They both indulge in a shroud of secrecy and it is commonly believed that both organisations have a membership made up of highly influential, powerful people. Of course, the modern Freemasons refute any knowledge or participation with the Illuminati, but that doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists from speculating that common Masonic symbols like the Blazing Star and the Square and Compass are also proof of an Illuminati presence.

5. Checkerboards


Checkerboards, or chess boards, are another piece of symbolism thought to be shared by both the Illuminati and the Freemasons. The black and white tiled pattern has apparently featured in Grand Lodges since their inception in the early 18th century, and it is thought to be a deliberate decorative choice based on the interior of the Temple of Solomon (Freemasonry was historically derived from stonemason guilds, so several of the group’s most important rituals refer to the legendary story about the building of the temple). However, there are other possible meanings behind the checkerboard motif. There is the obvious duality allegory which can be drawn from the contrasting pattern of black and white (good vs evil, right vs wrong, etc.), but there is also a possible connection with the aforementioned Monarch programming. The idea of chess pieces being moved around a gameboard plays in neatly with the principles of the Illuminati, and there is the notion of less important ‘pawn’ pieces at the front (i.e. slaves who have fallen victim to the mind control experiments) being sacrificed to protect the more important king at the back.

4. Satanic Symbolism

Satanic Symbolism

There are many references which link the Illuminati and Satanism, but it isn’t believed that the organisation worships Lucifer and the Devil in a traditional Judeo-Christian sense. Of course, the modern version of the Illuminati is said to denounce the Church as the original Bavarian Illuminati did, but the idea of Lucifer as a fallen angel who was banished from Heaven for defying God’s will plays in nicely with many of the foundations of the organisation. Namely, this form of Satanism is seen as a pursuit of ideals like individualism, free will and wisdom, although some conspiracy theorists do believe that the Illuminati also practice Satanic rituals. As such, many traditional Satanic symbols are linked to the Illuminati and thought to be used by the organisation. The pentagram, numbers 666 and the sign of the horns (holding the middle and ring finger down with the thumb and extending the index and little finger) are all symbols thought to be affiliated with or used by the Illuminati. Some conspiracy theories are obsessed with the idea that the Illuminati controls the media and music industries, and they point towards the casual use of satanic symbolism by world famous performers and celebrities as proof. The ‘OK’ sign (which can also be perceived as the number 6) and devil’s horn finger signs are often flaunted by celebrities, and other Illuminati symbols show up on album covers, movie posters, photo shoots, etc. It’s an interesting connection and serves to further the fear and distrust many people instinctively feel towards the shadowy organisation.

3. Obelisk


Obelisks are huge, towering monuments which are typically built in places and locations of significant importance. The statues featured prominently in Egyptian culture and they were used to stand at the entrance of temples. The Romans were clearly influenced by this idea and they made extensive use of obelisks throughout its empire (to this day, Rome has more obelisks than anywhere else in the world), and subsequently the monuments have been built by most cultures throughout the course of history. Some notable examples of important obelisks include the one in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican City and the Washington Monument in Washington DC. Of course, it’s easy to see how obelisks came to be associated with the Illuminati. Conspiracy theorists argue that these monuments are another example of the organisation putting their power and influence on display. Some also believe that different obelisk landmarks signify different branches of the Illuminati. For example, the obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square shows the Illuminati’s domination and disdain over the spiritual world while the obelisk in London, Cleopatra’s Needle, proves their financial power. A widely held belief about the Illuminati is that it likes to deliberately taunt the public by flaunting its power and presence for all to see, and the obelisks act as ‘power centres’ for the group. This why conspiracy theories regarding Illuminati symbolism has exploded in recent years. Many people and groups believe that the Illuminati want these symbols to be noticed; either as a demonstration of their power or as some sort of constant subliminal threat. Of course, for anyone who is actively looking for these seemingly everyday symbols, they can find them anywhere if they really want to.

2. The Eye of Providence

Eye of Providence

It’s likely that people who do not believe in conspiracy theories will instinctively think of the Illuminati when they see the Eye of Providence. The most popular form of the symbol is a human eye encased in a triangle which is surrounded by rays of lights, and it is thought the design was originally derived from the Eye of Horus. To the ancient Egyptians, the Eye of Horus was a hugely important symbol which represented protection and royal power, but when the Eye of Providence was adopted by Christians it was instead used to display God’s watchful eye and intervention over mankind. The Eye of Providence is one of the most striking forms of religious symbolism and one of its most well-known uses is on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which is on the one-dollar bill. Interestingly, earlier conspiracy theories concerning the Eye of Providence were more interested in linking the Freemasons to the founding of the United States simply because the symbol is a very important part of that group’s iconography. However, the use of the Eye of Providence in the Great Seal predates the earliest use of the symbol by the Freemasons by 14 years (the Great Seal was first publicly used in 1782, while the earliest example of the Freemasons using it was 1792). In recent years, the Eye of Providence has been linked to the Illuminati and it is even thought to be the group’s most important symbol. Typically referred to as the All-Seeing Eye, the symbol plays again on the recurring motif that the Illuminati openly mocks religion and the church. By appropriating the Eye of Providence for its own means, the Illuminati has assumed the position and power of God looking over and intervening in all corners of everyday life. The rays of light surrounding the eye are thought to signify glory or enlightenment and the pyramid encasing the eye is representative of a power hierarchy with the eye sitting at the top of the structure. Some conspiracy theories link the All-Seeing Eye to satanic rituals and believe that the eye is Lucifer, not God, and it’s not uncommon to see the symbol inverted.

1. Pyramids

The pyramid is one of the most common symbols associated with the Illuminati. Although it seems highly probable that conspiracy theorists have derived this from the Eye of Providence association, pyramids and triangles in almost any form are often attributed to the Illuminati. This means that overeager conspiracy theorists can claim that the Illuminati are literally everywhere because triangles in one form or another can be seen almost anywhere. As previously mentioned, pyramids are said to represent a power structure or hierarchy. The rulers are at the top (hence the Eye of Providence, or All-Seeing Eye, typically sitting atop a pyramid) and their power and influence flows downwards (obelisks are usually capped off by a pyramid at the top of the monument, too). The pyramid is arguably one of the most straight-forward pieces of Illuminati symbolism and conspiracy theorists point to the widespread use of the shape in corporate logos as proof that the Illuminati have considerable power and influence. Notably, pyramids appear in the logos of many media, government, communication and financial corporations, and it is believed that this proves that the Illuminati’s enjoys being able to flaunt its presence for all to see.

Harper is a history enthusiast with a penchant for the peculiar. Raised in a small American town, she brings a unique blend of insightful research and playful storytelling to Top10HQ. Harper specializes in uncovering the lesser-known, often bizarre tales of the past, making history accessible and engaging for all. J


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