The Illuminati are a secret society that have possibly existed for hundreds of years. Their supposed symbol is the Eye in the Pyramid, though they may have many other symbols and fnords hidden in seemingly everyday things. For example, there is the argument that the flame is a symbol of the Illuminati, and that the flame that the Statue of Liberty holds is the flame of the Illuminati, illuminating the United States. They are not the same thing as the Miriadic sect of Illuminates.
The Illuminati, as we know them, was apparently founded May 1, 1776 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, by a Freemason named Adam Weishaupt. They seemed to influence many Masonic lodges and gained a foothold in anti-monarchist revolutions. The Illuminati were banned by the Bavarian government in 1785, but it is likely that they simply continued under another name.
Of course, many symbols of the Illuminati resurfaced somehow in America, especially on official documents and symbols like the Great Seal of the United States, which is an All-Seeing Eye atop a Pyramid. Freemasons (who are said to be connected to the Illuminati) are also said to have built Washington, D.C.
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