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Depending on who you ask, the Illuminati is either a myth or a gigantic, international organization that controls the world. Neither belief is actually true. The Illuminati were a real organization, with lofty aims, but they dissolved centuries ago, and according to historians they never were much of an influence.

Today, conspiracy theorists think they are responsible for wide-ranging events including the birth of the United States and the cover-up of alien visitors. In reality, they are a historical curiosity that became entrenched in pop culture.

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1. Early Illuminati

The word "Illuminati" is Latin for revealed or enlightened. Several organizations were dating to the 15th Century that used some form of this name. One example was the Spanish Alumbrados, whose leader was a renowned prophet and mystic. The Church considered the Alumbrados to be heretics, and they were persecuted under the Inquisition. Their ties to mysticism make them almost antithetical to later Illuminati, but their existence may explain why people think Illuminati exist far back in history.

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