The Spanish Alumbrados: Origin of the Term ‘Illuminati’

def. Illuminati

Helena P. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Glossary (published in 1892), references the term “Illuminati” and defines it, from Latin, as a reference to the “Enlightened,” or the initiated adepts† (Lat. adeptus. “an expert”). The term is the past participle of illuminare, meaning to “light up,” or “illuminate.” The plural term, “Illuminati” (Lat. illuminatus; Ital. Illuminato) was originally applied to a 16 c. Spanish mystic sect, called the Alumbrados (Spanish. “Enlightened”), or Aluminados, led by Sister María de Santo Domingo, or La Beata de Piedrahita (a Spanish mystic c. 1485 – c. 1524). This term later, under Illuminés, spread to France from Seville of Andalusia, Spain in 1623; and joined in a cause with the Guérinets under Pierre Guérin in 1634. Another little known group of Illuminés arose in south France, whom were called “French Prophets.” They were an off-shoot of the Camisards (French Protestant militants) of the Bas-Languedoc and Cévennes regions, from circa 1722-1794. The Alumbrados were first recorded in 1492 Spain, and had three edicts issued against them by the Catholic Inquisition. Besides the similar name, there is no historical or organisational link to the Illuminati (founded in 1776) of Ingolstadt, Bavaria (repressed in 1785). The founder, Adam Weishaupt, and his Order held deistic and republican ideals; and defined enlightenment in the secular or “intellectual” and moral sense. Adam Weishaupt emulated and valued the mysteries.

****Notes —

In the article, “What is an Adept and Initiate?,” the terms “Rosicrucian Illuminati,” and the “Illuminati,” are mentioned. As stated in other articles, the term “Illuminati” refer to a circle of Adepts. It does not refer to what popular culture uses as a synonym, to a bureaucratic elite, or technocrats. Many spread these ideas for their propaganda and businesses. Calling technocrats, bureaucrats and corrupt government officials gnostics and “Illuminati” deifies and immortalizes persons who are otherwise rank materialists, even if they were knowledgeable of the occult.

For more information see Josef Wäges (…/illumin…/) who is working with others on a digital collection of Adam Weishaupt’s writings. See also Professor of History at UC Davis, Kathryn Olmsted (…/buzz-fe…/).


[1] Alumbrado, Encyclopaedia Britannica, online.
[2] Camisard, Encyclopaedia Britannica, online.
[3] Politics and the English Language (1914). Read George Orwell’s essay.


  1. The term ‘Alumbrados’ was applied to them, similar to the way “illuminés” were applied to Pierre Guérin’s circle.

    The Illuminatenorden (Order of the Illuminati) chose the name for themselves – for the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. It’s pretty clear, however, that naming it such was a mistake. Once they were suppressed and exposed, the authorities, conservatives and conspiracy theorists Barruel, Robison et al. immediately began to conflate them with the already established, so-called “Illumines” – Swedenborg, Saint-Martin, Mesmerism, Cagliostro, and Rosicrucians of every stripe – when in fact the Illuminatenorden were diametrically opposed to these movements and actively fought against them. The Golden and Rosy Cross, for example, were (in cooperation with Jesuits and clergy) THE instigators of the Illuminaten’s demise. It wasn’t made explicit in the contemporary accounts that this was the case, so the heirs to these movements themselves got caught up in the confusion and some subsequently claimed Weishaupt’s Order as being a part of the same esoteric tradition – viz. Crowley, OTO, Golden Dawn and a few Rosicrucian sects.

        To this day the conflation continues. They should have stuck with Perfectibilists, which intimates their aim more clearly. The positivism of Comte is more akin to what Weishaupt was getting at.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am smiling, because you know your research. I did include the issues between the spying German Rosicrucians and the Illuminati in the original article The Bavarian Illuminati, Weishaupt, and Illuminati Pop Lies here, but I think I deleted the section on it I wrote when I edited it. You’re definitely correct though. My research from this, is that the Illuminati were mediocre, and not that that is a bad thing, but they could not take flight, and flourish, and their ideas were mild in my view, analyzing the rest of the 18th century radicalisms springing up. It makes me hilarious chuckle and laugh, and at the same time frustrated by the idiocy spread about the Illuminati and the origin of the term, which I think H.P. Blavatsky claimed it had a Persian origin (a reference to the true Magi), if I could find that reference again.

        I agree as well, and use the term Perfectibilists. This term, Perfectibilists gives the sound of a Western type of Confucianism, and it justly covers their aim, as you said. Thank you for your illuminating commentary for readers and myself.


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