"Knowledge has three degrees: opinion, science, illumination. The means our instrument of the first is sense; of the second, dialectic; of the third, intuition."
"We must not run after it, but we must fit ourselves for the vision and then wait tranquilly for it, as the eye waits on the rising of the Sun which in its own time appears above the horizon and gives itself to our sight." Plotinus.
The Religion of Light
This picture is from a book called Encyclopaedia of Occultism by Lewis Spence and he got this picture from a book called A New and Complete Illustration of the Occult Sciences by Ebenezer Sibly, page 1098, published around 1795. The men in this picture existed a long time before 1776 and they were Alchemists, magicians, Hermeticists etc. This picture is clearly saying that the Illuminati is about what that word is about, enlightened people. When people think about a group they think about something written on paper and existing in the third dimension, but the Illuminati exists on a different level of existence and is outside of time and space. The ultimate conspiracy is the conspiracy about the soul and the spirit world, that is the very root of it and freedom is freedom of the soul or the true self. The men in this picture had gained access to this higher level of existence and they were illuminated.
These are the descriptions of the six men in this picture by Ebenezer Sibly.
Appollonius Tayaneus, in the time of the Emperor Domitian, from the wonderful and miraculous things he did through the agency of spirits, added to so great an appearance of sanctity and simplicity, with which his exterior was endowed by nature, occasioned all ranks of people to regard him with a mixture of reverential awe and respect. Even the Christians, who lived within the circle of his fame, thought him something more than human, and looked up to him with confidence and esteem. From a variety of circumstances, and accounts in different authors, it appears that this singular character had not only the faculty of knowing what was transacting at many hundred miles distance, but had the means also of being conveyed almost instantaneously from one place to another, where he was seen, known, and conversed with many of his acquaintance. It is also recorded of him, that, at the instant the Emperor Domitian was assassinated at Rome, he spoke of it in a public assembly at Ephesus, and declared the mode and manner of his death; which, upon enquiry, was found to happen at the precise moment of time he spoke of it, and in the exact manner he had described.
Doctor Dee was another very extraordinary character of the same class, and a native of this island. He was not only a famous magician, but a great author, having written upwards of forty-eight different volumes, the first of which was published in 1594 [Dee's first book was actually Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558). See A Letter. -JHP]. A full account of his conversation and intercourse with spirits is now extant, written with his own hand, and esteemed a very curious and singular performance. His company and acquaintance was much sought by the Emperor Charles V. and by Ferdinand his brother; and, during his travels over the continent, he had not only every respect and attention paid him, but his company was courted by all the learned and religious people wherever he went. He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age in which he lived, and had collected a library of upwards of 4,000 volumes of curious and valuable writings, mostly upon physical, theological, and occult, subjects, which he had the misfortune to see burnt by the fury of a mob, who assailed his house, and conspired against his life, under an idea that by magical spells and incantations he had altered the natural course of the weather, and brought on storms, hurricanes, tempests, and, continual rain, in order to ruin the harvest, and destroy the fruits of the earth. Yet he bore the torrent and fury of this infatuated, multitude with the greatest composure, saying, "They would see their error soon enough to treat him with greater kindness hereafter than their persecution was now cruel." And so it happened; for, having by means of his confederacy with spirits foretold and detected a fatal conspiracy against his country, he was then as much honoured and caressed as he had before been stigmatized and abused by the hasty multitude. He wrote the mathematical preface to Euclid's Elements, and has left tables of the harmony and extent of numbers infinitely beyond the capacity of the present times, though so much more learned and refined.
Edward Kelly was also a famous magician, and the companion and associate of Dr. Dee, in most of his magical operations and exploits; having been brought in unison with him (as the Doctor himself declares, in the preface to his work upon the ministration of spirits) by mediation of the angel Uriel. But Dr. Dee was undoubtedly deceived in his opinion, that the spirits which ministered to him were executing the divine will, and were the messengers and servants of the Deity. Throughout his writings on the subject, he evidently considers them in this light, which is still more indisputably confirmed by the piety and devotion he invariably observed at all times when these spirits had intercourse with him. And further, when he found his coadjutor Kelly was degenerating into the lowest and worst species of the magic art, for the purposes of fraud and avaricious gain, he broke off all manner of connexion with him, and would never after be seen in his company. But it is believed, that the doctor, a little before his death, became sensible that he had been imposed upon by these invisible agents, and that all their pretences of acting under the auspices of the angel Uriel, and for the honour and glory of God, was but mere hypocrisy, and the delusions of the devil. Kelly, being thus rejected and discountenanced by the doctor, betook himself to the meanest and most vile practices of the magic art; in all which pursuits, money and the works of the devil appear to have been his chief aim. Many wicked and abominable transactions are recorded of him, which were performed by witchcraft, and the mediation of infernal spirits ; but nothing more curious, or more apropos to the present subject, than what is mentioned by Weaver, in his Funeral Monuments. He there records, that Edward Kelly the magician, with one Paul Waring, who acted in capacity of companion and associate in all his conjurations, went together to the Church-yard of Walton Ledale, in the country of Lancaster, where they had information of a person being interred, who was supposed to have hidden or buried a considerable sum of money, and to have dies without disclosing to any person where it was deposited. They entered the church-yard exactly at twelve o'clock at night; and, having had the grave pointed out to them the preceding day, they exorcised the spirit of the deceased by magical spells and incantations, till it appeared before them, and not only satisfied their wicked desires and enquiries, but delivered several strange predictions concerning persons in that neighbourhood, which were literally and exactly fulfilled. It was vulgarly reported of Kelly, that he outlived the time of his compact with the devil, and was seized at midnight by some infernal spirits, who carried him off in the sight of his own wife and children, at the instant he was meditating a mischievous scheme against the minister of his parish, with whom he was greatly at enmity.
The character of Mahomet is too well known throughout all the world, as the institutor of the Turkish Alcoran, to need much comment from me in this place. It is sufficient if I only remark, that all his wonderful miracles were wrought by the aid and confederacy of familiar spirits, which he called the ministration of angels from heaven, from whence he pretended to have been sent, to perform the commands of the Deity, and to correct and reform the manners and religion of mankind. He had the peculiar address to establish this idea amongst his contemporaries, and to lay the foundation of the present faith at Constantinople, and throughout the vast extent of the Turkish territory.
Roger Bacon, was another very famous associate with familiar spirits, and performed many astonishing exploits through their means. He was born at Ilchester, in Somersetshire, where he studied philosophy, alchemy, and astrology; and wrote several learned and ingenious books, the manuscripts of which are now preserved as valuable curiosities in the British Museum. I attempted to make some interesting extracts from them, for the further amusement and information of my readers in this part of my work; but I was prevented from going on with my plan, under an idea that the information it would convey might be productive of mischievous consequences to society, by pulling too much in the power of evil-minded and vindictive men.
Paracelsus was a great cabalist, physician, astrologer, and magician, and appears to have been intimately acquainted with all the secret and occult properties of nature. He was the first we know of who ever treated upon animal magnetism; and his performances in that line were such as to astonish the world, and to draw upon him the united gratulations of the diseased and infirm. His method, notwithstanding it is so clearly laid down by himself, and demonstrated by a variety of pleasing examples in his works, has lain dormant till the present time; and now it begins again, under the successful endeavours of a few persevering individuals, to convince mankind that the secret and occult properties of nature are not yet half known or understood; nor their advantages received with that thankfulness and regard, which ought incessantly to be poured forth to the great Author of our being, for the blessings that may so easily be derived from them. This was the opinion and nearly the words of Paracelsus himself, who hath been recorded by all our biographers as a learned, judicious, and ingenious, philosopher. Yet his having been so much addicted to magical rites and ceremonies, and having had familiarity with spirits and devils, and performed so many wonderful conjurations through their means, caused him to have been ever supposed to have done by the agency of spirits what was really the true and genuine effects of nature only.
The ancient Illuminati.
It's not known what the original religion was, but one of the very first things that was venerated and has been venerated for all of history is the most obvious thing in the sky, the Sun. The Sun brings life, warmth and illuminates the Earth, it's obvious why this object feature is so prominent in ancient societies. The religion of illumination is the oldest form of religion in the world. Plato's Allegory of the Cave is a good example of what spiritual illumination is about, getting out of the darkness of the cave and into the light and the much broader reality. Being illuminated is about being in the light and not exist in the darkness of spiritual ignorance. The ancient Egyptians were very well known for Sun worship and the ancient Greeks continued on with this. The Hermetica and the Gnostic gospels are full of references to illumination and these ancient texts speak of the need to be illuminated.
Chapter V,  "You then, Tat, my child, pray first to the lord, the father, the only, who is not one but from whom the on comes; ask him the grace to enable you to understand so great a god, to permit even one ray of his to illuminate your thinking. Only understanding, because it, too, is invisible, sees the invisible, and if you have the strength, Tat, your mind's eye will see it. For the lord, who is ungrudging, is seen through the entire cosmos. Can you see understanding and hold it in your hands? Can you have a vision of the image of god? If what is in you is also invisible to you, how will god reveal his inner self to you through the eyes?"
This passage from Chapter X of The Hermetica could have been the inspiration for the word Illuminati,  "Indeed, my child, would that we could. But we are still too weak now for this sight; we are not yet strong enough to open our mind's eyes and look on the incorruptible, incomprehensible beauty of that good. In the moment when you have nothing to say about it, you will see it, for the knowledge of it is divine silence and suppression of all the senses.  One who has understood it can understand nothing else, nor can he move his body in any way. He stays still, all bodily senses and motions forgotten. Having illuminated all his mind, this beauty kindles his whole soul and by means of body draws it upward, and beauty changes his whole person into essence. For when soul has looked on <the> beauty of the good, my child, it cannot be defied while in a human body." The book about the Alumbrados, by Alastair Hamilton, states that the alumbrados believed that they were illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
The mind's eye in this passage means the third eye, which was very important to the ancients and the symbol of the third eye is used in Freemasonary today. The mind's eye is connected with illuminating the mind and becoming spiritual by suppressing the body so the spirit world can be seen, this is what meditation is about. Gnosticism and The Hermetica have similar concepts and they are both about resurrecting the soul and becoming it again.
The Gospel of Truth (28:25), "When the light shines on the terror which that person had experienced, he knows that it is nothing."
The Apocryphon of John (28:30), "And he (the chief archon) repented for everything which had come into being through him. This time he planned to bring a flood upon the work of man. But the greatness of the light of the foreknowledge informed Noah, and he proclaimed (it) to all the offspring which are the sons of men. But those who were strangers to him did not listen to him. It is not as Moses said, 'They hid themselves in an ark' (Gn 7: 7), but they hid themselves in a place, not only Noah, but also many other people from the immovable race. They went into a place and hid themselves in a luminous cloud. And he (Noah) recognized his authority, and she who belongs to the light was with him, having shone on them because he (the chief archon) had brought darkness upon the whole earth."
(30:10), "I, therefore, the perfect Pronoia of the all, changed myself into my seed, for I existed first, going on every road. For I am the richness of the light; I am the remembrance of the pleroma.
"And I went into the realm of darkness and I endured till I entered the middle of the prison. And the foundations of chaos shook. And I hid myself from them because of their wickedness, and they did not recognize me.
"Again I returned for the second time, and I went about. I came forth from those who belong to the light, which is I, the remembrance of the Pronoia. I entered into the midst of darkness and the inside of Hades, since I was seeking (to accomplish) my task. And the foundations of chaos shook, that they might fall down upon those who are in chaos and might destroy them. And again I ran up to my root of light, lest they be destroyed before the time.
"Still for a third time I went - I am the light which exists in the light, I am the remembrance of the Pronoia - that I might enter into the midst of darkness and the inside of Hades. And I filled my face with the light of the completion of their aeon. And I entered into the midst of their prison, which is the prison of the body. And I said, 'He who hears, let him get up from the deep sleep.' And he wept and shed tears. Bitter tears he wiped from himself and he said, 'Who is it that calls my name, and from where has this hope come to me, while I am in the chains of the prison?' And I said, 'I am the Pronoia of the pure light; I am the thinking of the virginal Spirit, who raised you up to the honored place. Arise and remember that it is you who hearkened, and follow your root, which is I, the merciful one, and guard yourself against the angels of poverty and the demons of chaos and all those who ensnare you, and beware of the deep sleep and the enclosure of the inside of Hades.
"And I raised him up, and sealed him in the light of the water with five seals, in order that death might not have power over him from this time on."
The Gospel of Thomas (61), "Therefore I say, if he is destroyed he will be filled with light, but if he is divided, he will be filled with darkness."
The (Second) Apocalypse of James (55:15), "You are an illuminator and a redeemer of those who are mine, and now of those who are yours."
There are various references to the illuminator and light The Apocalypse of Adam, but this one is the most interesting. People speculate that the third illuminator is Jesus himself and that sounds logical. (76), "Once again, for the third time, the illuminator of knowledge will pass by in great glory, in order to leave (something) of the seed of Noah and the sons of Ham and Japheth - to leave for himself fruit-bearing trees. And he will redeem their souls from the day of death. For the whole creation that came from the dead earth will be under the authority of death. But those who reflect upon the knowledge of the eternal God in their heart(s) will not perish."
Allogenes (58:25), "When <1> was taken by the eternal Light out of the garment that was upon me, and taken up to a holy place whose likeness can not be revealed in the world, then by means of a great blessedness I saw all those about whom I had heard. And I praised all of them and I [stood] upon my knowledge and [I inclined to] the knowledge [of] the Universals, the Aeon of Barbelo."
Trimorphic Protennoia (45:10), "And I am inviting you into the exalted, perfect Light. Moreover, (as for) this (Light), when you enter it, you will be glorified by those who give glory, and those who enthrone will enthrone you. You will accept robes from those who give robes, and the baptizers will baptize you, and you will become gloriously glorious, the way you first were when you were <Light>."
(46:10), "But there is a Light that dwells hidden in Silence, and it was first to come forth. Whereas she (the Mother) alone exists as Silence, I alone am the Word, ineffable, unpolluted, immeasurable, inconceivable. It (the Word) is a hidden Light, bearing a fruit of life, pouring forth a living water from the invisible, unpolluted, immeasurable spring, that is, the unreproducible Voice of the glory of the Mother, the glory of the offspring of God; a male virgin by virtue of a hidden Intellect, that is, the Silence hidden from the All, being unreproducible, an immeasurable Light, the source of the All, the root of the entire Aeon. It is the foundation that supports every movement of the Aeons that belong to the mighty glory. It is the foundation of every foundation. It is the breath of the powers. It is the eye of the three permanences, which exist as Voice by virtue of Thought. And it is a Word by virtue of Speech; it was sent to illumine those who dwell in the darkness."
(47:25), "I am the Light that illumines the All. I am the Light that rejoices in my brethren, for I came down to the world of mortals on account of the Spirit that remains in that which descended (and) came forth from the innocent Sophia. I came, and I delivered [...], and I went to ...
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... which he had formerly, and I gave to him from the Water of Life, which strips him of the chaos that is in the uttermost darkness that exists inside the entire abyss, that is, the thought of the corporeal and the psychic. All these I put on. And I stripped him of it, and I put upon him a shining Light, that is, the knowledge of the Thought of the Fatherhood.
And I delivered him to those who give robes - Yammon, Elasso, Amenai - and they covered him with a robe from the robes of the Light; and I delivered him to the baptizers, and they baptized him - Micheus, Michar, Mnesinous - and they immersed him in the spring of the Water of Life. And I delivered him to those who enthrone - Bariel, Nouthan, Sabenai - and they enthroned him from the Throne of Glory. And I delivered him to those who glorify - Ariom, Elien, Phariel - and they glorified him with the glory of the Fatherhood. And those who snatch away snatched away - Kamaliel, [...]anen, Samblo, and the servants of <the> great holy luminaries - and they took him into the light-place of his Fatherhood. And he received the Five seals from the Light of the Mother, Protennoia, and it was granted him to partake of the mystery of knowledge, and he became a Light in Light.
So now ...
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... I was dwelling in them in the form of each one. The Archons thought that I was their Christ. Indeed, I dwell in everyone. Indeed, within those in whom I revealed myself as Light, I eluded the Archons. I am their beloved, for in that place I clothed myself as the son of the Archgenitor, and I was like him until the end of his decree, which is the ignorance of Chaos. And among the angels I revealed myself in their likeness, and among the Powers, as if I were one of them; but among the Sons of Man, as if I were a Son of Man, even though I am Father of everyone.
I hid myself within them all until I revealed myself among my members, which are mine, and I taught them about the ineffable ordinances, and (about) the brethren. But they are inexpressible to every Sovereignty and every ruling Power, except the Sons of the Light alone, that is, the ordinances of the Father. These are the glories that are higher than every glory, that is, the Five Seals, complete by virtue of Intellect. He who possesses the Five Seals of these particular names has stripped off <the> garments of ignorance and put on a shining Light. And nothing will appear to him that belongs to the Powers of the Archons. Within those of this sort, darkness will dissolve and ignorance will die. And the thought of the creature, which is scattered, will present a single appearance and dark Chaos will dissolve and ...
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... until I reveal myself to all my fellow brethren, and until I gather together all my fellow brethren within my eternal kingdom. And I proclaimed to them the ineffable Five Seals in order that I might abide in them and they also might abide in me.
As for me, I put on Jesus. I bore him from the cursed wood, and established him in the dwelling places of his Father. And those who watch over their dwelling places did not recognize me. For I, I am unrestrainable, together with my seed; and my seed, which is mine, I shall place into the holy Light within an incomprehensible Silence. Amen."
If most conspiracy theorists heard this statement, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.", they will immediately be screaming death to the Illuminati while holding pitchforks, but this statement is from the Bible itself, in Matthew 6:22. The single eye can only be the third eye and if consciousness is operating from that then the whole person will be full of spiritual light.
The Illuminati before the Bavarian Illuminati.
The Hesychasts is a form of Eastern Christian monastic life, which dated from the 13th century. According to the Wikipedia page, they based their beliefs on this quote from Matthew 6:6, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray." They interpreted this to mean they should meditate or shut down the senses of their bodies so they could experience God more directly. The name Hesychasts means silence and stillness. The reason why the Hesychasts are identified with the Illuminati is because of this statement from "it is possible by an elaborate system of asceticism, detachment from earthly cares, submission to an approved master, prayer, especially perfect repose of body and will, to see a mystic light; which is none other than the uncreated light of God. The contemplation of this light is the highest end of man on earth; in this way is a man most intimately united with God. The light seen by Hesychasts is the same as appeared at Christ's Transfiguration. This was no mere created phenomenon, but the eternal light of God Himself." That statement sounds similar to statements from the Gnostic gospels and the Hermetica.
The Encyclopaedia of Occultism is an old book and it has something very interesting to say about the origin of the Illuminati. This is something that never gets mentioned by any other researchers out there.
According to this Wikipedia page the Spannish Illuminati was called the Alumbrados and it was a term used to loosely describe practitioners of a mystical form of Christianity in Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries. Some alumbrados were only mildly heterodox, but others held views that were clearly heretical. Consequently, they were firmly repressed and became some of the early victims of the Spanish Inquisition. The historian Menéndez y Pelayo, Marcelino (1880) is the source of this information and he found that the earliest mention of the Illuminati was in 1492 and a different form of the word Alumbrados was Aluminados in 1498. Historia de los heterodoxos españoles. Madrid. pp. II, 521–585; III, 403–408.
If people look at the Catholic encyclopedia and search for the word Illuminati, the first result is not about Adam Weishaupt, it is about the Alumbrados.
The Alumbrados believed, according to this site that the human soul can reach such a degree of perfection that it can even in the present life contemplate the essence of God and comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. All external worship, they declared, is superfluous, the reception of the sacraments useless, and sin impossible in this state of complete union with God. Persons in this state of impeccability could indulge their sexual desires and commit other sinful acts freely without staining their soul. The Catholic and Spanish Inquistion sources for this information are biased, but they reveal these beliefs are Gnostic. The Gnostics believed that salvation was through rediscovering the soul and becoming it again and there is no salvation in any external and Earthly organizations this belief didn't earn them any support from the Catholic church.
A member of the Alumbrados called Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, made a very wise statement to the Inquisition that sums up what the Alumbrados and Gnosticism is about, "A saint says that he whose knowledge is infused speaks as a man with experience, like one who has tasted the honey and says it is sweet. He who has not tasted of it says that it is sweet, but he has only tasted of it through knowledge. This is the difference between men." He is saying that learning through experience is superior to learning from a book and Gnosticism is about direct experience with the spirit, not learning about it from a book. That quote was from a book about the Alumbrados by Alastair Hamilton. This book can be downloaded here,
The Alumbrados started in the area of Guadalajara in Spain in about 1512 and its origins were from the mystics in the Franciscan friars who produced some of the first works on mysticism in Spain. It was started by a Franciscan tertiary called Isabel de la Cruz and she was joined slightly later by Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz who was an accountant working for the local nobility. Another major figure of the Alumbrados was Maria de Cazalla and there is more information on those two members than there is on Isabel de la Cruz. It was detected by the Spanish Inquisition in 1519 and its members were known as the Alumbrados of Toledo.
This quote by Francis of Assisi shows the mystical mindset that the Franciscans had, "What we are looking for is what is looking." It's a very beautiful and Gnostic quote.
The beliefs of the Alumbrados, as mentioned in the book by Alastair Hamilton, were dejamiento or abandonment. They believed that if they surrendered themselves to the love of God, then they don't need the ceremonies or sacraments of the Church and they should stop practicing their religion because they are cleansed of their sin in their union of the divine. The Alumbrados believed that the Bible should be available to everyone, which is a policy that the Prodestants had as well and this is another reason why the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on them. But the Alumbrados had a strange belief, taught by Isabel de la Cruz, that the Bible should be read without the desire for immediate or proper understanding of the books, but over time, as the reader progressed, the reader would become enlightened. The Bible should be read in simplicity, without the desire to do anything but to please God. p. 37.
It's interesting that Adam Weishaupt originally planned to call the Bavarian Illuminati the Perfectibilists. The Alumbrados considered themselves perfect as well. The edict of faith that was made against the Alumbrados, in 1525, was directed against people who called themselves enlightened, abandoned and perfect, or Alumbrados, dexados e perfectos. Thomas Jefferson defined what perfect meant to the Illuminati in a letter he wrote in 1800, "He is among those (as you know the excellent Price and Priestley also are) who believe in the indefinite perfectibility of man. He thinks he may in time be rendered so perfect that he will be able to govern himself in every circumstance so as to injure none, to do all the good he can, to leave government no occasion to exercise their powers over him, & of course to render political government useless. This you know is Godwin’s doctrine, and this is what Robinson, Barruel & Morse had called a conspiracy against all government. Wishaupt believes that to promote this perfection of the human character was the object of Jesus Christ. That his intention was simply to reinstate natural religion, & by diffusing the light of his morality, to teach us to govern ourselves. His precepts are the love of god & love of our neighbor. And by teaching innocence of conduct, he expected to place men in their natural state of liberty & equality. He says, no one ever laid a surer foundation for liberty than our grand master, Jesus of Nazareth. He believes the Free Masons were originally possessed of the true principles & objects of Christianity, & have still preserved some of them by tradition, but much disfigured." Another group also called themselves perfect and these people were the Cathars. The Cathar members called themselves Perfecti, they believed they were half way between angels and man and they weren't physical. The light is pure and it cannot be polluted, it can only be blocked, someone who is enlightened is perfect in that sense. All three of these groups were shut down by the Catholic church, another thing they have in common.
Later on, two other groups of Alumbrados emerged, but they weren't part of the original group and some of their beliefs differed from the original group. The Alumbrados of Llerena emerged in the late 16th century and the Alumbrados of Seville emerged in the early 17th century. The word Alumbrados continued to be used well into 18th century by frauds and dubious mystics and was being used by writers on mysticism.
The Alumbrados movement going by the name Illuminés, seems to have reached France from Seville in 1623, and attained some following in Picardy when joined (1634) by Pierce Guerin, curé of Saint-Georges de Roye, whose followers, known as Guerinets, were suppressed in 1635.
This website gives the view of the Illuminati by Freemasons and they go into these three predecessor groups as well. This website points out there were other claimants to the Illuminati, but they were dubious and they disappeared when their founders died. The beliefs and practices of the Hesychasts, the Alumbrados and the Illumes were very different from the Bavarian Illuminati, they should not be put in the same group as each other.
Gnostic groups existed all throughout the Middle Ages, although they didn't have source materials like the Nag Hammadi Library. The Paulicians and the Bogomils were two Gnostic groups that originated in the East and spread their beliefs west. Their beliefs were based on the beliefs of the Manicheans and the early Christian Gnostics. The Cathars are the most well known group of Gnostics in Western Europe and they were destroyed by the Catholics in the 13th and 14th centuries. But Gnosticism emerged again in Spain in the form of the Alumbrados.
The Illuminati existed 300 years before Adam Weishaupt created the Bavarian Illuminati in 1776. According to this encyclopaedia the Gnostics have more of a claim to the name the Illuminati than Adam Weishaupt did. It appears that Adam Weishaupt took the name Illuminati from other groups.The Renaissance started in Italy and there was a rediscovery of knowledge from the ancient world, this was the enlightenment and the end of the dark ages. The letter i can also mean eye, so Illuminati can mean Illuminated eye or light of the mind's eye.