Jay Z is one famous hip hop star to raise their hands into the alleged Illuminati triangle symbol at concerts (Credit: Alamy)
“So, the concept behind this was that if you give enough contrary points of view on a story, in theory – idealistically – the population at large start looking at these things and think, ‘hang on a minute’,” says Bramwell. “They ask themselves, ‘Can I trust how the information is presented to me?’ It’s an idealistic means of getting people to wake up to the suggested realities that they inhabit – which of course didn’t happen quite in the way they were hoping.”
The chaos of the Illuminati myth did indeed travel far and wide – Wilson and another Playboy writer wrote The Illuminatus! Trilogy which attributed the ‘cover-ups’ of our times – such as who shot John F Kennedy – to the Illuminati. The books became such a surprise cult success that they were made into a stage play in Liverpool, launching the careers of British actors Bill Nighy and Jim Broadbent.
Today, it’s one of the world’s most widely punted conspiracy theories
British electronic band The KLF also called themselves The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, named after the band of Discordians that infiltrate the Illuminati in Wilson’s trilogy as they were inspired by the religion’s anarchic ideology. Then, an Illuminati role-playing card game appeared in 1975 which imprinted its mystical world of secret societies onto a whole generation.
Today, it’s one of the world’s most widely punted conspiracy theories; even celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé have taken on the symbolism of the group themselves, raising their hands into the Illuminati triangle at concerts. It’s hardly instigated the mind-blowing epiphany – the realisation that it’s all fake – which the proponents of Discordianism had originally intended.
The 60s culture of mini-publishers and zines seems terrifically distant now from today’s globalised, hyper-connected internet, and it has undeniably been the internet’s propensity to share and propagate Illuminati rumours on websites like 4chan and Reddit that has brought the idea the fame it has today.
But we live in a world that is full of conspiracy theories and, more importantly, conspiracy theory believers; in 2015, political scientists discovered that about half of the general public in the USA endorse at least one conspiracy theory. These include anything from the Illuminati to the Obama ‘birther’ conspiracy, or the widely held belief that 9/11 was an inside job carried out by US intelligence services