In dealing with an emotionally-charged topic such as conspiracy, to avoid confusion it is necessary to begin with a definition of the concept. Conspiracy is a human activity involving more than one person. The parties to this activity are advancing basically the same or common objectives, and are advancing objectives which, by very reasonable standards, are personally harmful, evil or destructive. And, finally, they're doing all this either in secret or without fully advertising in advance what they're planning to do, and certainly not to their potential victims. It is also important to note that the definition says the parties to a conspiracy are doing the same things, or advancing common objectives, but not at all necessarily are they all doing so for the same personal reasons or motivations. So the essential focus of conspiratorial research should be on the actions of individuals, not merely their backgrounds or organizational affiliations. Down through the ages there have been many secret societies and conspiratorial movements desired absolute rule of the world, the overthrow of all existing governments, and the final destruction of all religion.
It is possible to trace the origins and developments of these many movements, such as the early anti-Christian mysticism of the Gnostics; the conspiracy against orthodox Islam and for world power that was founded by Hasan Saba in Persia in 1090 A.D. as the Order of the Assassins; the Catholic Order of the Knights Templar, whose heretical leaders imitated the Assassins' system for the destruction of Christianity. During the thirteenth through seventeenth centuries such groups as the Luciferians, Rosicrucians, Levellers, and many others continued the war against Christianity that had begun in Europe with the Templars. It is even possible to establish that some of these groups were not merely imitating each other, or some older system of belief, and few organizational links can be found. Because much of these earlier movements have left little and very fragmentary evidence, it is not possible to come to the conclusion that any continuing organizational structure existed from 1100 to 1700, or before, which was engaged in a coordinated and centrally controlled plot for world rule and the destruction of monarchical and ecclesiastical power. By the middle of the eighteenth century, remnants and parallels of various destructive movements began to associate under a central group which was to plan and create a continuing organizational structure that would someday rule the world after all existing religions and governments had been destroyed. The philosophical base for this movement was laid in the mid-eighteenth century by Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and other members of the Paris Academy, particularly D'Alembert. The influence Voltaire had over King Frederick of Prussia and the publication of Diderot's Encyclopédie, beginning in 1751, were measures of their early success. The conspirators hoped that the Encyclopédie would become a standard reference source wherein every literate person would seek knowledge on all subjects and thus receive propaganda against civil order and the Christian religion. Its publication caused the influence of this group to grow rapidly. In his correspondence, Voltaire reveals a major concern to be the destruction of all religion (first and foremost, the Catholic Church) and of all monarchs (even ultimately those like Frederick who were sympathetic to the plot) and of all morality derived from religious belief. Out of the resulting chaos, an elite group of aristocratic philosophers would rule the world. Inspired by these radical philosophers and instructed by a mysterious occultist from what is now Denmark, named Kölmer, it was a professor of Canon Law at the University of Ingolstadt (Bavaria, Germany) who established a continuing organizational structure to direct the worldwide attack on religion and monarchy,