The European Illuminati
by Vernon L. Stauffer Ph.D.
THE EUROPEAN ORDER OF THE ILLUMINATI
1. THE RISE AND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE ORDER
|THAT great European movement in the direction of the secularization of thought to which the expressive term, the Aufklädrung or Enlightenment, has been applied, and which reached its apogee in the latter half of the eighteenth century, encountered a stubborn opposition in southern Germany in the electorate of Bavaria. The pivot of Bavarian politics, particularly from the beginning of the sixteenth century, had been the alliance which had been effected between the clerical party and the civil power. The counter reformation which followed in the wake of the Lutheran movement was able to claim the field in Bavaria without the necessity of a combat.
In the third quarter of the eighteenth century Bavaria was a land where sacerdotalism reigned supreme. Religious houses flourished in abundance; the number of priests and nuns was incredibly large.1. So easy were the ways of life in that fertile country that a lack of seriousness and intensity of feeling among the masses flung open the door for superstitious practices which made the popular religion little better than gross fetichism. So-called “miraculous” images were commonly paraded through the streets; innumerable statues and sacred relics were exposed to the gaze of crowds of the faithful; the patronage of the saints was assiduously solicited. Among the educated there was a widespread conviction that the piety of the people was ignorant and that their trustful attitude made them the prey of many impostors.
The degree of power to which the representatives of the Society of Jesus had been able to attain in Bavaria was all but absolute.2. Members of the order were the confessors and preceptors of the electors; hence they had a direct influence upon the policies of government. The censorship of religion had fallen into their eager hands, to the extent that some of the parishes even were compelled to recognize their authority and power. To exterminate all Protestant influence and to render the Catholic establishment complete, they had taken possession of the instruments of public education. It was by Jesuits that the majority of the Bavarian colleges were founded, and by them they were controlled. By them also the secondary schools of the country were conducted. 3.
The prevailing type of education in Bavaria had little more to commend it than the popular type of religion.4. The pedagogical aim of the Jesuits was the development of the memory with scant regard for other faculties of the mind. To learn the catechism, or in the case of advanced pupils to receive unquestioningly the dogmatic instruction offered by clerical pedagogues, was the ideal honored throughout the Bavarian schools. Books which bore the slightest taint of Protestant influence, or which in any other way gave evidence of a liberalizing spirit, were ruthlessly banned.5.
Such were the conditions of life under which the great mass of the people lived. There was, however, a relatively small group of cultivated people in Bavaria who, despite the clerical oppression and bigotry from which they suffered, had contrived to share in the liberalizing spirit of the larger world. The censorship exerted by the Jesuits had found no adequate means to guard against the broadening influences of travel or of contact with travelers from other lands, or even to prevent the introduction of all contraband journals and books. The effect of the former had been to create a humiliating and galling sense of inferiority on the part of liberal-minded Bavarians, 6. while the latter had served to stimulate a thirst for the new knowledge which the rationalism of the age made available. To this small group of discontented and ambitious spirits the ancient faith had ceased to be satisfactory, and the burden of clericalism had become insufferable.
The University of Ingolstadt, established in 1472, was destined to become a rallying point for these radical tendencies. In the middle of the sixteenth century the Jesuits had gained control of its faculties of philosophy and theology, and for two centuries thereafter the university had been counted upon as the chief fortress of clericalism in Bavaria.7. By the middle of the eighteenth century the deadening effect of the rigorous censorship exerted by the Jesuits had produced its full fruitage at Ingolstadt. The university had fallen into a state of profound decadence.8.
With the accession of Maximilian Joseph9. as elector, in 1745, the breath of a new life soon stirred within its walls. For the position of curator of the university the elector named a well-known and resolute radical of the day, Baron Johann Adam Ickstatt, and charged him with the responsibility of reorganizing the institution upon a more liberal basis.10. Measures were adopted promptly by the latter looking to the restoration of the prestige of the university through the modernization of its life. The ban was lifted from books whose admission to the library had long been prohibited, chairs of public law and political economy were established, and recruits to the faculty were sought in other universities.11.
It was, of course, not to be expected that the clerical party, whose power in the university, as has been intimated, was particularly well entrenched in the faculties of philosophy and theology, would retire from the field without a struggle.12. A sharp contest arose over the introduction of non-Catholic books, into which the elector himself was drawn, and which in addition to the substantial victory that Ickstatt won, had the further effect of aligning the two parties in the university squarely against each other.13. It was only a few years after this episode, when the Jesuits were still chafing under the sharp setback which their policies had suffered, that the name of Adam Weishaupt first appeared (in 1772) on the roll of the faculty of the university as professor extraordinary of law.
Weishaupt (born February 6, 1748; died November 18, 1830) entered upon his professional career at Ingolstadt after an educational experience which had made him a passionate enemy of clericalism. His father having died when the son was only seven, his godfather, none other than Baron Ickstatt, compelled doubtless by the necessities of the case, had turned the early training of the boy over to the Jesuits. The cramming process through which he thus passed was destined to prove unusually baneful in his case14. on account of certain influences which penetrated his life from another quarter. Accorded free range in the private library of his godfather, the boy’s questioning spirit was deeply impressed by the brilliant though pretentious works of the French “philosophers” with which the shelves were plentifully stocked.15. Here was food for the fires of imagination just beginning to flame up in this unsophisticated and pedantic youth. Here, also, were ready solvents for the doubts with which his experience with Jesuit teachers had filled his m1nd. The enthusiasm of the most susceptible of neophytes seized him: he would make proselytes, he would deliver others from their bondage to outworn beliefs, he would make it his duty to rescue men from the errors into which the race had long been plunged.16. His object in life thus early determined, he threw himself with great zeal into the study of law, economics, politics, history, and philosophy. He devoured every book which chanced to fall into his hands.17.
After graduating from the University of Ingolstadt in 1768, he served for four years in the capacity of tutor and catechist until his elevation to the rank of assistant instructor took place. The favor he was permitted to enjoy as the protegé of Ickstatt 18. brought him more rapid advancement than that to which his native abilities entitled him. In 1773 he was called to the chair of canon law, which for a period of ninety years had been held by representatives of the Jesuits.19. Two years later, when he was but twenty-seven years of age, he was made dean of the faculty of law. Such a rapid improvement in his professional standing proved far from salutary. The young man’s vanity was immensely flattered and his reforming resolution unduly encouraged. His sense of personal worth as the leader of the liberal cause in the university quite outran his merit.20.
Meantime the Jesuits, observing with deep resentment Weishaupt’s meteoric rise,21. together with a growing disposition on his part to voice unrestrained criticism of ecclesiastical intolerance and bigotry, entered into intrigues to checkmate his influence and undermine his position.22. The payment of his salary was protested and the notion that he was a dangerous free-thinker industriously disseminated.23. On his part, Weishaupt did not scruple to furnish Ickstatt’s successor, Lori, with secret reports calculated to put the Jesuit professors in the university in an unfavorable light.24. A disagreeable squabble resulted, marked on the one hand by clerical jealousy and pettiness and on the other by Weishaupt’s imprudence of speech25. and indifference to considerations of professional honor.
The effect of this unseemly strife upon Weishaupt was to establish firmly in his mind the conviction that as the university’s most influential leader against the cause of ecclesiastical obscurantism he was being made a martyr for free speech.26. In no way disposed to be sacrificed to the animosity of enemies whose power he greatly overestimated, he arrived at the conclusion that a general offensive against the clerical party ought immediately to be undertaken. A secret association was needed which, growing more and more powerful through the increase of its members and their progress in enlightenment, should be able to outwit the manoeuvres of the enemies of reason not only in Ingolstadt but throughout the world. Only by a secret coalition of the friends of liberal thought and progress could the forces of superstition and error be overwhelmed. Over the scheme of such an association consecrated to the cause of truth and reason, the self-esteem of Weishaupt kindled anew as he contemplated none other than himself at its head.27.
His imagination having taken heat from his reflections upon the attractive power of the Eleusinian mysteries and the influence exerted by the secret cult of the Pythagoreans, it was first in Weishaupt’s thought to seek in the Masonic institutions of the day the opportunity he coveted for the propagation of his views. From this, original intention, however, he was soon diverted, in part because of the difficulty he experienced in commanding sufficient funds to gain admission to a lodge of Masons, in part because his study of such Masonic books as came into his hands persuaded him that the “mysteries” of Freemasonry were too puerile and too readily accessible to the general public to make them worthwhile.28. He deemed it necessary, therefore, to launch out on independent lines. He would form a model secret organization, comprising “schools of wisdom,” concealed from the gaze of the world behind walls of seclusion and mystery, wherein those truths which the folly and egotism of the priests banned from the public chairs of education might be taught with perfect freedom to susceptible youths.29. By the constitution of an order whose chief function should be that of teaching, an instrument would be at hand for attaining the goal of human progress, the perfection of morals and the felicity of the race.30.
On May 1, 1776, the new organization was founded, under the name of the Order of the Illuminati,31. with a membership of five all told. The extremely modest beginning of the order in respect to its original membership was more than matched by the confusion which existed in Weishaupt’s mind as to the precise form which the organization had best take. Only three elementary grades, or ranks, had been worked out by him, and these only in a crude and bungling fashion, when the enterprise was launched. A feverish regard for action had full possession of the founder of the order; the working-out of his hazy ideas of organization might wait for quieter days.32.
Out of the, voluminous and rambling expositions which Weishaupt at various times made of the three primary grades, viz., Novice, Minerval, and Illuminated Minerval, the following brief descriptions are extracted.
To the grade of Novice youths of promise were to be admitted, particularly those who were rich, eager to learn, virtuous, and docile, though firm and persevering.33. Such were to be enrolled only after their imaginations and desires had been artfully aroused by suggestions concerning the advantages to be derived from secret associations among likeminded men, the superiority of the social state over that of nature, the dependence of all governments upon the consent of the governed, and the delight of knowing and directing men.34. Once enrolled, the instruction of each Novice was to be in the hands of his enroller, who kept well hidden from his pupil the identity of the rest of his superiors. Such statutes of the order as he was permitted to read impressed upon the mind of the Novice that the particular ends sought in his novitiate were to ameliorate and perfect his moral character, expand his principles of humanity and sociability, and solicit his interest in the laudable objects of thwarting the schemes of evil men, assisting oppressed virtue, and helping men of merit to find suitable places in the world.35. Having had impressed upon him the necessity of maintaining inviolable secrecy respecting the affairs of the order, the further duties of subordinating his egoistic views annd interests and of according respectful and complete obedience to his superiors were next enjoined. An important part of the responsibility of the Novice consisted in the drawing-up of a detailed report (for the archives of the order), containing complete, information connerning his family and his personal career, covering such remote items as the titles of the books he possessed, the names of his personal enemies and the occasion of their enmity, his own strong and weak points of character, the dominant passions of his parents, the names of their parents and intimates, etc.36. Monthly reports were also required, covering the benefits the recruit had received from and the services he had rendered to the order.37. For the building-up of the order the Novice must undertake his share in the work of recruitment, his personal advancement to the higher grades being conditioned upon the success of such efforts.38. To those whom he enrolled he became in turn a superior; and thus after a novitiate presumably two years in length,39. the way was open for his promotion to the next higher grade.
The ceremony of initiation through which the Novice passed into the grade Minerval was expected to disabuse the mind of the candidate of any lingering suspicion that the order had as its supreme object the subjugation of the rich and powerful, or the, overthrow of civil and ecclesiastical government.40. It also pledged the candidate to be useful to humanity; to maintain a silence eternal, a fidelity inviolable, and an obedience implicit with respect to all the superiors and rules of the order; and to sacrifice all personal interests to those of the society.41. Admitted to the rank of Minerval, the candidate received into his hands the printed statutes of the order, wherein he learned that in addition to the duties he had performed as novice, his obligations had been extended with special reference to his studies.42. These were to be more highly specialized, and the fruits of his researches from time to time turned over to the superiors. In the prosecution of difficult labors of this character, he was to be free to call to his assistance other Minervals in his district,43. He might also count upon the assistance of his superiors in the form of letters of recommendation in case he undertook travels in the pursuit of his studies; and should he form the resolve to publish his material, the order pledged itself to protect him against the rapacity of booksellers who might show themselves disposed to overcharge him for the works he wished to consult, as well as to render assistance in attracting the attention of the public to his work.44.
In the assemblies of this grade the Minerval for the first time came into contact with the members of the order. In other words, his life within the society actually began.45. The thirst for the sense of secret association with men like interests and aims, which the member’s long novitia had developed, began to find its satisfaction.46. Ordinary Minervals and “illuminated” Minervals mingled together in these assemblies 47. and mutually devoted their deliberations to the affairs of the order.
To the grade Illuminated Minerval were admitted those Minervals who in the judgment of their superiors were worthy of advancement. Elaborate initiatory ceremonies fixed in the candidate’s mind the notions that the progressive purification of his life was to be expected as he worked his way upward in the order,48. and that the mastery of the art of directing men was to be his special pursuit as long as he remained in the new grade. To accomplish the latter, i.e., to become an expert psychologist and director of men’s consciences, he must observe and study constantly the actions, purposes, desires, faults, and virtues of the little group of Minervals who were placed under his personal direction and care.49. For his guidance in this difficult task a complicated mass of instructions was furnished him50.
In addition to their continued presence in the assemblies of the Minervals, the members of this grade came together once a month by themselves, to hear reports concerning their disciples, to discuss methods of accomplishing the best results in their work of direction and to solicit each other’s counsel in difficult and embarrassing cases.51. In these meetings the records of the assemblies of the Minervals were reviewed and rectified and afterwards transmitted to the superior officers of the order.
Such, in brief, was the system of the Illuminati as it came from the brain of Weishaupt, its founder. By means of such an organization he proposed to effect nothing less than the redemption of the world. In its assmnblies the truths of human equality and fraternity were to be taught and practised.52. Its members were to be trained to labor for the welfare of the race; to strive for a civilization, not like that of the present, which left men savage and ferocious under its thin veneer, but one which would so radically change their moral dispositions as to put all their desires under the control of reason—the supreme end of life, which neither civil nor religious institutions had been able to secure.53. The study of man was to be made at once so minute, so comprehensive, and so complete 54. that two immense advantages would result: first, the acquisition of the art of influencing favorably the wills of one’s fellows, thus making social reformation possible; and second, self-knowledge.55. Then is to say, the thorough scrutiny of the instincts, passions, thoughts, and prejudices of others, which the order imposed upon him, would react in turn upon the member’s judgment of his own personal life. As a result his conscience would be subjected to frequent examination, and the faults of his life might be expected to yield to correction. From both of these advantages, working together, a moral transformation of the whole of society would result, thus securing the state of universal well-being.56.
But this conception of the order as essentially an instrument of social education requires to be balanced by another, viz., its anticlericalism. Its founder professed that at the time when the idea of the order was taking shape in his mind he was profoundly influenced by the persecutions which honest men of unorthodox sentiments had been compelled to suffer on account of their views.57. Considerations growing out of his own personal embarrassments and imagined peril on account of his clashings with the Jesuits were also admittedly weighty in his thought.58. It is therefore to be regarded as a substantial element in his purpose to forge a weapon against the Jesuits, and in a larger sense to create a league defensive and offensive against all the enemies of free thought.59.
Accordingly, the expression of utterances hostile to Christian dogmas was early heard within the assemblies of the order60. and only the difficulty experienced in working out the supreme grade of the order inhibited Weishaupt’s intention of converting it into a council of war to circumvent and overwhelm the advocates of supernaturalism and the enemies of reason.61. The pure religion of Christ, which, doctrinally conceived, had degenerated into asceticism and, from the institutional standpoint,62. had become a school of fanaticism and intolerance, was pronounced a doctrine of reason, converted into a religion for no other purpose than to make it more efficacious.63. To love God and one’s neighbor was to follow in the way of redemption which Jesus of Nazareth, the grand master of the Illuminati, marked out as constituting the sole road which leads to liberty.64.
The objects of the order were such as to appeal to the discontented elements in a country suffering from intellectual stagnation due to ecclesiastical domination.65. Despite this fact, its growth during the first four years of its existence was anything but rapid. By that time four centers of activity, in addition to Ingolstadt, had been established, and a total of possibly sixty members recruited.66. While its visionary founder considered that a solid basis for encouragernent had been laid 67. as a matter of fact at the termination of the period just indicated the organization was seriously threatened with failure. Fundamental weaknesses had developed from within. Chief among these was the tension which existed almost from the first between Weishaupt and the men whom he associated with him in the supreme direction of the affairs of the order.68. The thirst for domination, which was native to the soul of Weishaupt, converted the order into a despotism against which men who had been taught by their leader that they shared with him the innermost secrets of the organization, rebelled. The result was the constant breaking-out of a spirit of insubordination and a series of quarrels between the founder and his associates which rendered the future progress of the order very precarious.69. The extreme poverty of the organization constituted another serious obstacle to its rapid growth. With a view to demonstrating the genuine disinterestedness of the society, an effort had been made from the beginning to emphasize the financial interests of the order as little as possible.70. The rules of the organization were far from burdensome in this regard, and it is by no means surprising that many of the proposed measures of the leaders in the interests of a more extensive and effective propaganda proved abortive for the very practical reason that funds were not available to carry them into effect.71.
A decidedly new turn in the wheel of fortune came some time within the compass of the year 1780,72. with the enrollment of Baron Adolf Franz Friederich Knigge73. as a member. In the recruiting of this prominent North German diplomat Weishaupt and his associates found the resourceful and influential ally for which the organization had Waited, a man endowed with a genius for organization and so widely and favorably connected that the order was able to reap an immense advantage from the prestige whicln his membership bestowed upon it. Two weighty consequences promptly followed as the result of Kinigge’s advent into the order. The long-sought higher grades were worked out, and an alliance between the Illumiiiati and Freemasonry was effected.74.
Such was the confidence which Knigge’s presence immediately inspired in Weishaupt and his associates that they hailed with enthusiasm his admission to the order, and gladly abandoned to him the task of perfecting the system, their own impotence for which they had been forced to admit.75. Manifesting a zeal and competency which fully justified the high regard of his brethren, Knigge threw himself into the task of elaborating and rendering compact and coherent the childish ideas of organization which Weishaupt had evolved.
The general plan of the order was so shaped as to throw the various grades or ranks into three principal classes.76. To the first class were to belong the grades Minerval and Illuminatus Minor; to the second 77. ( i ) the usual three first grades of Masonry, Apprentice, Fellow, and Master, (2) Illuminatus. Major, and (3) Illuminatus Dirigens, or Scottish Knight; and to the third class were reserved the Higher Mysteries, including (a) the Lesser Mysteries, made up of the ranks of Priest and Prince, and (b) the Greater Mysteries, comprising the ranks of Magus and King.78.
A detailed description of the various grades of Knigge’s system would far outrun the reader’s interest and patience.79. The present writer therefore will content himself with making such comments as seem best suited to supply a general idea of the revised system.
The grade Novice (a part of the system only in a preparatory sense) was left unchanged by Knigge, save for the addition of a printed communication to be put into the hands of all new recruits, advising them that the Order of the Illuminati stands over against all other forms of contemporary Freemasonry as the one type not degenerate, and as such alone able to restore the craft to its ancient splendor.80. The grade Minerval was reproduced as respects its statutes but greatly elaborated in its ceremonies under the influence of Masonic usages with which Knigge was familiar.81. The grade Illuminatus Minor was likewise left identical with Weishaupt’s redaction, save in unimportant particulars as to special duties and in the working-out and explanation of its symbolism.82.
The three symbolic grades of the second class seem to have been devised solely for the purpose of supplying an avenue whereby members of the various branches of the great Masonic family could pass to the higher grades of the new order.83. Membership in these grades was regarded as a mere formality, the peculiar objects and secrets of the order having, of course, to be apprehended later.
A candidate for admission to the grade of Illuminatus Major was first to be subjected to a rigorous examination as respects his connections with other secret organizations and his objects in seeking advancement. His superior, being satisfied upon these points, it was provided that he should be admitted to the grade by means of a ceremonial highly Masonic in its coloring. His special duties were four in number: (1) to prepare a detailed analysis of his character, according to specific instructions furnished him; (2) to assist in the training of those members of the order who were charged with the responsibility of recruiting new members; (3) to put his talents and his social position under tribute for the benefit of the order, either by himself stepping into places of honor which were open or by nominating for such places other members who were fitted to fill them; and (4) to coöperate with other members of his rank in the direction of the assemblies of the, Minervals.84.
Advanced to the grade of Illuminatus Dirigens, or Scottish Knight, the member bound himself with a written oath to withhold his support from every other system of Masonry, or from any other secret society, and to put all his talents and powers at the disposition of the order.85. His obligations in this rank were purely administrative in their character. The inferior grades of the order were territorially grouped together into prefectures, and upon these the authority of the Illuminatus Dirigens was imposed. Each Illuminatus Dirigens had a certain number of Minerval assemblies and lodges assigned to him, and for the welfare of these he was responsible to the superiors of the order. The members of this grade constituted the “Sacred Secret Chapter of the Scottish Knights,” from which issued the patents of constitution for the organization of new lodges.86.
To the first grade of the third class, that of Priest,87. were admitted only such members as, in the grade Minerval, had given proof of their zeal and advancement in the particular sciences which they had chosen.88. The initiatory ceremonies of the grade emphasized the wholly unsatisfactory character of existing political and religious systems and sounded the candidate’s readiness to serve the order in its efforts to lead the race away from the vain inventions of civil constitutions and religious dogmas from which it suffered.89. Relieved entirely of administrative responsibilities, the members of this grade devoted themselves exclusively to the instruction of their subordinates in the following branches of science: physics, medicine, mathematics, natural history, political science, the arts and crafts, and the occult sciences. In brief, the final supervision of the teaching function of the order was in their hands, subject only to the ultimate authority of their supreme heads,90.
Knigge’s statutes provided that only a very small number of members were to be admitted to the grade of Prince91. From this group the highest functionaries of the order were to be drawn: National Inspectors, Provincials,92. Prefects, and Deans of the Priests. Over them, in turn, at the apex of the system and as sovereign heads of the order, ruled the Areopagites.93.
So much for the external structure of the system which Knigge reshaped. With respect to the aims and principles of the order the modifications introduced by him were considerable, although scarcely as comprehensive as in the former case. 94. In certain instances the ideas of Weishaupt were retained and developed;95. in others significant alterations were made or new ideas introduced. Of the new ideas the two following were unquestionably of greatest weight: 96. the notion of restricting the field of recruiting solely to the young was abandoned, and this phase of the propaganda was widened so as to include men of experience whose wisdom and influence might be counted upon to assist in attaining the objects of the order; 97. the policy was adopted that henceforth the order should not occupy itself with campaigns against particular political and religious systems, but that its energies should be exerted against superstition, despotism, and tyranny.98. In other words, the battle for tolerance and enlightenment should be waged along universal and not local lines. Accordingly, the esoteric teaching of the order, under Knigge’s revision, was reserved to the higher grades.
The progress of the order from 1780 on 99. was so rapid as to raise greatly the spirits of its leaders. The new method of spreading Illuminism by means of its affiliation with Masonic lodges promptly demonstrated its worth. Largely because of the fine strategy of seeking its recruits among the officers and other influential personages in the lodges of Freemasonry, one after another of the latter in quick succession went over to the new system. 100. New prefectures were established, new provinces organized, and Provincials began to report a steady and copious stream of new recruits. 101. From Bavaria into the upper and lower Rhenish provinces the order spread inito Suabia. Franconia., Westphalia, Upper and Lower Saxony, and outside of Germany into Austria ‘ and Switzerland. Within a few months after Knigge rescued the order from the moribund condition in which he found it, the leaders were able to rejoice in the accession of three hundred members, many of whom by their membership immensely enhanced the prestige of the order. Students, merchants, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, judges, professors in gymnasia and universities, preceptors, civil officers, pastors, priests — all were generously represented among the new recruits. 102. Distinguished names soon appeared upon the rosters of the lodges of the new system. Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, Duke Ernst of Gotha, Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar, Prince August of Saxe-Gotha, Prince Carl of Hesse, Baron Dalberg, 103. the philosopher Herder, the poet Goethe, 104. the educationist Pestalozzi, 105. were among the number enrolled, By the end of 1784 the leaders boasted of a total enrollment of between two and three thousand members 106. and the establishment of the order upon a solid foundation seemed to be fully assured. 107.
But just at the moment when the prospects were brightest, the knell of doom suddenly sounded. 108. Dangers from within and from without, with bewildering celerity and concurrence, like a besom of destruction swept from the earth the order which Adam Weishaupt, with such exaggerated anticipations, had constituted out of a little group of obscure students at Ingolstadt, on May Day, 1776.
The internal difficulties were of the nature of dissensions among the chiefs. The old jealousies that existed between Weishaupt and the Areopagites 109. before Knigge, reconstructed the order were not eradicated by the introduction of the new system, and in course of time they flamed forth anew. 110. But ugly in temper and subversive of discipline and order as these petty contentions were, they were of little importance as compared with the fatal discord which arose between Weishaupt and Knigge. The spirit of humility that the former manifested in 1780, when in desperation he turned to Knigge for assistance, did not long continue. Aroused by the danger of seeing his personal control of the order set aside and himself treated as a negligible factor, Weishaupt sought opportunities of asserting his prerogatives, and the ambition of Knigge being scarcely less selfish than that of Weishaupt, the two men quarreled repeatedly and long. 111. So bitter and implacable the spirit of the two became that in the end, exercising a discretion dictated by despair rather than generosity, Knigge withdrew from the field, leaving Weishaupt in undisputed possession of the coveted headship of the order.
But the fruits of his victory the latter had little chance to enjoy. 112. On June 22, 1784, Carl Theodore 113. launched the first of his edicts against all communities, societies, and brotherhoods in his lands which had been established without due authorization of law and the confirmation of the sovereign. 114. The edict, to be sure, was general in its character, and the Bavarian Illuminati were glad to believe that their system was not specially involved: by lying low for a season the squall would speedily blow over and the activities of the order might safely be resumed 115. These anticipations, however, were doomed to disappointment. Having surrendered himself completely to. the spirit of reaction, and spurred by reports of the covert disobedience of the order which his entourage spread before him, 116. the Bavarian monarch, on March 2 of the following year, issued another edict that specifically designated the Illuminati as one of the branches of Freemasonry, all of which were severely upbraided for their failure to yield implicit obedience to the will of the sovereign as expressed in the previous edict, and a new ban, more definite and sweeping in its terms than the former, was thereby proclaimed. 117.
A fixed resolution on the part of the government to give full force to the provisions of the interdict left no room for evasion. 118. In response to the call of its enemies, former members of the order who, either because of scruples of conscience or for less honorable reasons, had withdrawn from its fellowship, came forward to make formal declarations respecting their knowledge of its affairs. 119. In this direct manner the weapons needed for the waging of an effective campaign against the society were put into the government’s hands. 120. Judicial inquiries were inaugurated, beginning at Ingolstadt. 121. Measures of government, all aimed at nothing short of the complete suppression and annihilation of the order, followed one another in rapid succession. Officers and soldiers in the army were required to come forward and confess their relations with the Illuminati, under promise of immunity if ready and hearty in their response, but under pain of disgrace, cassation, or other punishment if refractory. 122. Members and officers of consular boards were subjected to similar regulations, 123. Officers of state and holders of ecclesiastical benefices who were found to have connections with the order were summarily dismissed from their posts. 124. Professors in universities and teachers in the public schools suffered a like fate. 125. Students who were recognized as adepts were dismissed, and in some cases were banished from the country. 126.
As a system the order was shattered but its supporters were not wholly silenced, Weishaupt particularly, from his place of security in a neighboring country, lifted his voice against the men who had betrayed the order and the government which had ruined it. Taking recourse to his pen, with incredible rapidity he struck off one pamphlet and volume after another,127. in a feverish effort, offensive and defensive, to avert if possible total disaster to the cause which, despite all his frailties, he truly loved. The one clear result of his polemical efforts was to draw the fire of those who defended the denunciators of the afflicted order and who supported the clerical party and the government. A war of pamphlets developed, the noise and vehemence of which were destined to add, if possible, to the embarrassment and pain of those members of the order who still remained in Bavaria. Once more the suspicions of the government were aroused; a search was made by the police for further evidence, and in the month of October, 1786, at Landshut, in the house of Xavier Zwack, 128. one of the order’s most prominent leaders, decisive results were achieved. A considerable number of books and papers were discovered,129. the latter containing more than two hundred letters that had passed between Weishaupt and the Areopagites, dealing with the most intimate affairs of the order, together with tables containing the secret symbols, calendar, and geographical terms belonging to the system, imprints of its insignia, a partial roster of its membership, the statutes, instruction for recruiters, the primary ceremony of initiation, etc.130.
Here was the complete range of evidence the authorities had long waited for. Out of the mouths of its friends, the accusations which its enemies made against the order were to be substantiated. By the admissions of its leaders, the system of the Illuminati had the appearance of an organization devoted to the overthrow of religion and the state, a band of poisoners and forgers, an association of men of disgusting morals and depraved tastes The publication of these documents amounted to nothing less than a sensation.131. New measures were forthwith adopted by the government. Leading representatives of the order, whose names appeared in the telltale documents, were placed under arrest and formally interrogated, Some of these, like the treasurer, Hertel, met the situation with courage and dignity, and escaped with no further punishment than a warning to have nothing to do with the organization in the future under fear of graver consequences. 132. Others, like the poltroon Mändl,133. adopted the course of making monstrous “revelations” concerning the objects and practices of the order. Still others, like Massenhausen, against whom the charge of poison-mixing was specifically lodged,134. sought safety in flight.
As a final blow against the devastated order, on August 16, 1787, the duke of Bavaria launched his third and last edict against the system.135. The presentments of the former interdicts were reëmphasized, and in addition, to give maximum force to the sovereign’s will, criminal process, without distinction of person, dignity, state, or quality, was ordered against any Illuminatus who should be discovered continuing the work of recruiting. Any so charged and found guilty were to be deprived of their lives by the sword; while those thus recruited were to have their goods confiscated and themselves to be condemned to perpetual banishment from the territories of the duke.136. Under the same penalties of confiscation and banishment, the members of the order, no matter under what name or circumstances, regular or irregular, they should gather, were forbidden to assemble as lodges.137.
The end of the order was at hand. So far as the situation within Bavaria was concerned, the sun of the Illuminati had already set.138. It remained for the government to stretch forth its hand as far as possible, to deal with those fugitives who, enjoying the protection of other governments, might plot and contrive to rebuild the ruined system. Accordingly, Zwack, who had sought asylum first in the court of Zweibrücken and had later obtained official position in the principality of Salm-Kyburg, was summoned by the duke of Bavaria to return to that country. The summons was not accepted,139. but the activities of Zwack as a member of the Illuminati, as the event proved, were over. Count (Baron) Montgelas, whose services on behalf of the order do not appear to have been significant, but who, upon the publication of the correspondence seized in the residence of Zwack, had likewise sought the protection of the duke of Zweibrücken, found the favor of that sovereign sufficient to save him from the power of the Bavarian monarch.140. As for Weishaupt, whose originary relation to the order the Bavarian government had discovered in the secret correspondence just referred to, his presence in Gotha, outside Bavarian territory but in close proximity to the Bavarian possessions, added greatly to the concern of Carl Theodore.141. Efforts were made by the latter to counteract any influence he might exert to rehabilitate the Illuminati system.142. They were as futile as they were unnecessary. Broken in spirit, making no effort to regain the kingdom which his vanity insisted he had lost, contenting himself with the publication of various apologetic writings,143. permitted for a considerable period to enjoy the bounty of his generous patron, Duke Ernst of Gotha, he sank slowly into obscurity.144.
As for the fortunes of the order outside of Bavaria, the measures adopted by the government of that country proved decisive. Here and there, especially in the case of Bode,145. a Saxon Illuminatus, efforts were made to galvanize the expiring spirit of the order, but wholly without result.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: The amount of literature, chiefly polemical in character, which has sprung up about the subject of the European Illuminati is astonishingly large. Wolfstieg, Bibliographie der Freimaurerischen Literatur, vol. ii, pp. 971-979, lists ninety-six separate titles of principal works, not counting translations, new editions, etc, In the same volume (pp. 979-982) he lists the titles of one hundred and fourteen “kleinere Schriften”. In addition, he also lists (Ibid., p. 982) three titles of books occupied with the statutes of the order, and the titles of five principal works devoted to the order’s ritual ( p. 983), together with the titles of nine smaller works likewise occupied (ibid.). No student penetrates far into the study of the general topic without being made aware that not only were contemporary apologists and hostile critics stirred to a fierce heat of literary expression, but that a swarm of historians, mostly of inferior talents, have been attracted to the subject.
In view of the thoroughgoing work which bibliographers like Wolfstieg have performed, no necessity arises to repeat the task. For the benefit of the student who may wish to acquant himself at first hand with the principal sources of information respecting the order, the titles are grouped in three principal divisions.
I. Apologetic writings.
II. Documents of the order, published by the Bavarian government or otherwise, and hostile polemics.
Einige Originalschriften des Illuminaten Ordens, Munich, 1787.
III. Historical treatments of the precise character and significance of the order.
Mounier, De l’influence attribuée aux philosophes, aux francmaçons et aux illuminés, sur la révolution de France, Tübingen, 1801.
Although the Order of the Illuminati was dead, the world had yet to reckon with its specter. So intense and widespread was the fear which the order engendered, so clearly did the traditionalists of the age see in its clientele the welding together into a secret machine of war of the most mischievous and dangerous of these elements which were discontented with the prevailing establishments of religion and civil government, that it was impossible that its shadow should pass immediately.146.
The emergence of the order had attracted public attention so abruptly and sharply, and its downfall had been so violent and so swift, that public opinion lacked time to adjust itself to the facts in the case. In Bavaria, particularly, the enemies of the order were unable to persuade themselves that the machinations of the Illuminati could safely be regarded as wholly of the past.147. The documents of the order were appealed to, to supply proof that its leaders had made deliberate calculations against the day of possible opposition and temporary disaster and with satanic cunning had made their preparations to wring victory out of apparent defeat.148. Besides, the depth of the government’s suspicions and hostility was such that additional, though needless measures of state149. kept very much alive in that country the haunting fear of the continued existence of the order.
Outside of Bavaria numerous factors contributed to create the same general impression in the public mind. Among these were the efforts of the Rosicrucians to play upon the fears that the Illuminati had awakened, the mistaken connections which, in the Protestant world, were commonly made between the members of the Order of the Illuminati and the representatives and promoters of the Aufklärung, and the emergence of the German Union. To each of these in turn a word must be devoted,
Following the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, members of that order in considerable numbers, attracted by the rapid growth and the pretentious occultism of the Rosicrucians,150. had united with the latter system.151. The result was the infusion of a definite strain of clericalism into the order of the Rosicrucians and, in consequence, a renewal of the attack upon the Illuminati. In Prussia, where the Rosicrucians had firmly established themselves in Berlin, King Frederick William II was under the influence of Wöllner, one of his ministers and a leading figure in the Rosicrucian system.152. Through the latter’s relations with Frank, who at the time stood at the head of the Rosicrucian order in Bavaria, the Prussian monarch was easily persuaded that the operations of the Illuminati had not only been extended to his own territories, but throughout all Germany.153. Encouraged by Wöllner, Frederick William took it upon himself to warn neighboring monarchs respecting the peril which he believed threatened, a course which bore at least one definite result in the measures taken by the elector of Saxony to investigate the situation at Leipzig where, according to the king of Prussia, a meeting of the chiefs of the Illuminati had been effected.154. Thus the notion that the order of the Illuminati was still in existence was accorded the sanction of influential monarchs.
The disposition of orthodox Protestants to confuse the advocates of rationalism with the membership of the Illuminati finds its suggestion of plausibility at a glance and stands in little need of specific historical proof. The general effect of the undermining of traditional faiths, for which the dominating influences of the period of the Aufklärung were responsible, was to create the impression among the more simple-minded and credulous elements in the Protestant world that a vast combination of forces was at work, all hostile to the Christian religion and all striving to supplant faith by reason. So vast and significant a movement of thought naturally enough tended to engender various suspicions, and among these is to be numbered the naïve conviction that the order which the Bavarian government had felt compelled to stamp out, on account of its alleged impiety and its immoral and anarchical principles, was but a local expression of the prevailing opposition to the established systems and orthodox doctrines of the age.155.
The excitement occasioned by the appearance of the German Union (Die Deutshe Union), on account of its defifinit connections with one of the former leaders156. of Weishaupt’s system and the unsavory private character and avowed unscrupulous designs of its originator, gave still more specific force to the Illuminati legend. Charles Frederick Bahrdt,157. a disreputable doctor of theology, in 1787, at Halle, proposed to reap advantage from the ruin of Weishaupt’s, system and to recruit among its former members the supporters of a new league, organized to accomplish the enlightenment of the people principally by means of forming in every city secret associations of men158. who were to keep correspondence with similar groups of their brethren and who, by the employment of reading-rooms, were to familiarize the people with those writings which were specially calculated to remove popular prejudices and superstition and to break the force of appeals to tradition. Further, these associations were to supply financial assistance to writers who enlisted in the Union’s campaign, and to fill the palms of booksellers who for the sake of a bribe, show themselves willing to prevent the sale of the works of authors who withheld their coöperation.159.
As an organization the German Union scarcely emerged from the stage of inception; but the absurd policy of publicity pursued by its founder gave to the project a wide airing and provoked hostile writings160. that added immensely to the importance of the matter. The new system was boldly denounced as continuing the operations of the odious order dissolved in Bavaria, with a shrewd change of tactics which substituted “innocent” reading-rooms for the novitiate of Weishaupt’s organization, and thus, it was urged, the way was opened for the exertion of a really powerful influence upon the thought of the German people.161.
By such means, and in such widely diverse and irrational ways, the popular belief in the survival of the defunct Order of the Illuminati was kept alive and supplied with definite points of attachment; but it remained for the French Revolution, in all the rapidity and vastness of its developments and in the terrifying effects which its more frightful aspects exercised upon its observers, to offer the most exciting suggestions and to stimulate to the freest play the imaginations of those who were already persuaded that the secret associations that plagued Bavaria still lived to trouble the earth,162.
The supposed points of connection between the Order of the Illuminati and the French Revolution were partly tangible, though decidedly elusive,163. but much more largely of the nature of theories framed to meet the necessities of a case which in the judgment of dilettante historians positively required the hypothesis of a diabolical conspiracy against thrones and altars (i.e., the civil power and the church), though the labors of Hercules might have to be exceeded in putting the same to paper.
Of the exiguous resources of interpreters of the Revolution who made serious efforts to trace its impious and anarchical principles and its savage enormities to their lair in the lodges of the Illuminati, the following are perhaps the only ones worthy of note.
The public discussion of the affairs and principles of Weishaupt’s organization, to which attention has already been called in various connections, continued with unabated zeal even beyond the close of the eighteenth century. At the very hour when the Revolution was shocking the world by its lapse from its orignal [sic] self-control into its horrible massacres, exeguticutions of Monarchs, guillotine-lust. and ferocious struggles between parties, new pamphlets and reviews bearing on the demolished order’s constitution and objects found their way into the channels of public communication.
Conspicuous among these were the following: Die neuesten Arbeiten des Spartacus und Philo in dem Illuminaten, Orden, jetzt zum ersten Mal gedruckt und zur Beherzigung bei gegenwärtigen Zeitläuften herausgegeben,164. and Illuminatus Dirigens oder Schottischer Ritter,165. announced as a contintiation of the former. These works, published at the instigation of the authorities at Munich, attracted public attention anew to the most extreme religious and social doctrines166. of the order. Thus the revolutionary character of Illuminism received heavy emphasis167. synchronously with contemporary events of the utmost significance to the imperilled cause of political and religious conservatism.
In Austria an independent literary assault upon Illuminism developed. At Vienna, Leopold Hoffman,168. editor of the Wiener Zeitschrift, fully convinced that the Order of the Illuminati had exercised a baneful effect upon Freemasonry, to which he was devoted, abandoned his chair of language and German literature at the University of Vienna to dedicate his talents and his journal to the overthrow of Illuminated Freemasonry169. Finding a zealous collaborator in a certain Dr. Zimmerman, a physician of Hannover, a radical turned an extreme conservative by the developments of the French Revolution, the two labored energetically to stigmatize the Illuminati as the secret cause of the political explosion in France.
The discontinuance of the Wiener Zeitschrift in 1793 by no means marked the end of the campaign. A deluge of pamphlets170. had been precipitated, all based upon the assumption that the order Weishaupt had founded had subsided only in appearance. Declamation did not wait upon evidence. It was alleged that the lower grades of the Illuminati had been dissolved, but the superior grades were still practised. Under cover of correspondence, recruits of the system were now being sought. Freemasonry was being subjugated by Illuminism only that it might be forced to serve the ends of its conqueror. journalists partial to the interests of the Aufklärung had been enlisted for the same purpose. The German Union was thus only one of the enterprises fostered by the Illuminati to further their designs. The dogmas of the order had been spread secretly in France by means of the clubs of that country, and the effectiveness of the propaganda was being vividly demonstrated in the horrors of the Revolution. Unless German princes should promptly adopt rigorous measures against the various agents and enterprises of the order in their territories, they might confidently expect similar results to follow.171.
Much more of like character was foisted upon the reading public. As for contemporary historians who searched for specific evidence of an alliance between the Illuminati of Germany and the Revolutionists in France, their energies were chiefly employed in the development of a clue which had as its kernel the supposed introduction of Illuminism into France at the hands of the French revolutionary leader, Mirabeau, and the German savant, Bode.172. Unfolded, this view of the case may be stated briefly as follows: Mirabeau, during his residence at Berlin, in the years 1786 and 1787, came into touch with the Illuminati of that city and was received as an adept into the order. Upon his return to Paris he made the attempt to introduce Illuminism into that particular branch of Masonry of which he was also a member, the Philalèthes or Amis Réunis.173. To give force to his purpose, he called upon the Illuminati in Berlin to send to his assistance two talented and influential represensentatives of the order. The men chosen by the Illuminati circle in Berlin, Bode and von dem Busche,174. arrived in Paris in the early summer of 1787. To conceal their purpose from prying eyes, they spread the report that they had come from Germany to investigate the subjects of magnetism and the extent of the influence exerted by the Jesuits upon the secret societies of the age. Meantime, the lodges of the Philalèthes, and through them the French Masonic lodges in general, were innoculated with the principles of llluminism. French Freemasonry thus became committed to the project of forcing the overthrow of thrones and altars. So transformed, these lodges created secret committees who busied themselves with plans for the precipitation of a great revolutionary movement. To these committees belonged the subsequent leaders and heroes of the French Revolution—de Rochefoucauld, Condorcet, Pétion, the Duke of Orléans (Grand Master of French Masonry), Camille-Desmoulins, Danton, Lafayette, de Leutre, Fauchet, et al. Through these and their associates the connection between the lodges of Illuminated French Freemasonry and the powerful political clubs of the country was effected. Thus Illuminism was able to inspire Jacobinism. Finally, on the 14 of July, 1789, the revolutionary mine was sprung, and the great secret of the Illuminati became the possession of the world.175.
At every point this fantastic exposition suffered the fatal defect of a lack of historical proof. Even the specific assertions of its inventors which were most necessary to their hypothesis were disproved by the facts brought to light by more cautious and unbiased investigators who followed. E.g., the idea of Mirabeau’s intimate connection with the program of the Order of the Illuminati and his profound faith in it as the best of all instruments for the work of social amelioration is rendered untenable the moment the rash and unrepublican temper of his spirit is called seriously to mind.176. Again, the real object of Bode’s visit to Paris, a matter of vital importance in the Illuminati-French Revolution hypothesis, was not to communicate Illuminism to French Freemasons, but to attend an assembly of representatives of the Philalèthes, called to consider the results of an inquiry previously undertaken, respecting the occult interests and tendencies of that order. Convinced that that branch of French Masonry was yielding to an inordinate passion for the occult sciences, Bode had been prevailed upon by German Masons, von dem Busche177. among the number, to make a journey to Paris to warn his French brethren of their mistake. A subsidiary personal interest in the newly-discovered “science” of animal magnetism178. helped to form his decision to make the trip.179.
The much more important contention that the Illuminati were instrumental in starting the French Revolution, shows a lack of historical perspective that either leaves out of account or obscures the importance of the economic, social, political, and religious causes, tangible and overt, though complex, that rendered the Revolution inevitable.
Yet the legend of Illuminism as the responsible author of the French Revolution found numerous vindicators and interpreters,180. to the efforts of two of which, because of their intimate relation to the interests of the investigation in hand, our attention in the remainder of this chapter is to be confined.
In the year 1797 there appeared at Edinburgh, Scotland a volume bearing the following title: Proofs of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies.181. Its author, John Robison,182. an English savant and Freemason whose position in the academic world entitled his statements to respect, had had his curiosity regarding the character and effects of continental Freemasonry greatly stimulated by a stray volume of the German periodical, Religions Begebenheiten,183. which came under his notice in 1795, and in which he found expositions of Masonic systems and schisms so numerous and so seriously maintained by their advocates as to create deep wonderment in his mind.184. Bent upon discovering both the occasion and the significance of this tangled mass, Robison obtained possession of other volumes of the periodical mentioned185. and set himself the task of elucidating the problem presented by Masonry’s luxuriant growth and its power of popular appeal.
The conclusions Robison came to are best stated in his own words:
I have found that the covert of a Mason Lodge had been employed in every country for venting and propagating sentiments in religion and politics, that could not have circulated in public without exposing the author to great danger. I found, that this impunity had gradually encouraged men of licentious principles to become more bold, and to teach doctrines subversive of all our notions of morality—of all our confidence in the moral government of the universe—of all our hopes of improvement in a future state of existence—and of all satisfaction and contentment with our present life, so long as we live in a state of civil subordination. I have been able to trace these attempts, made, through a course of fifty years, under the specious pretext of enlightening the world by the torch of philosophy, and of dispelling the clouds of civil and religious superstition which keep the nations of Europe in darkness and slavery. I have observed these doctrines gradually diffusing and mixing with all the different systems of Free Masonry; till, at last, AN ASSOCIATION HAS BEEN FORMED for the express purpose of ROOTING OUT ALL THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS, AND OVERTURNING ALL THE EXISTING GOVERNMENTS OF EUROPE. I have seen this Association exerting itself zealously and systematically, till it has become almost irresistible: And I have seen that the most active leaders in the French Revolution were members of this Association, and conducted their first movements according to its principles, and by means of its instructions and assistance, formally requested and obtained: And, lastly, I have seen that this Association still exists, still works in secret, and that not only several appearances among ourselves show that its emissaries are endeavouring to propagate their detestable doctrines, but that the Association has Lodges in Britain corresponding with the mother Lodge at Munich ever since 1784. . . . The Association of which I have been- speaking is the order of ILLUMINATI, founded, in 1775 [sic], by Dr. Adam Weishaupt, professor of Canon-law in the University of Ingolstadt, and abolished in 1786 by the Elector of Bavaria, but revived immediately after, under another name, and in a different form, all over Germany. It was again detected, and seemingly broken up; but it had by this time taken so deep root that it still subsists without being detected, and has spread into all the countries of Europe.186.
The “proofs” to which Robison appealed to support these conclusions betrayed the same lack of critical mind187. with which all the advocates of the Illuminati-French Revolution hypothesis are to be charged. Only the more significant elements are here brought under survey.188.
That inclination for a multiplication of the degrees and an elaboration of the ceremonies of simple English Freemasonry which Robison found operative among French Freemasons from the beginning of the eighteenth century on,189. had resulted in making the lodges attractive to those elements in France whose discontent over civil and ecclesiastical oppressions had grown great.190. Under the pressure imposed upon private and public discussion by the state and by the church, men of letters, avocats au parlement, unbeneficed abbés, impecunious youths, and self-styled philosophers thronged the halls of the lodges, eager to take advantage of the opportunity their secret assemblies afforded to discuss the most intimate concerns of politics and religion.191. Despite the wide contrariety of minor views thus represented, one general idea and language, that of “cosmopolitanism,” was made familiar to a multitude of minds. Worse still, the popular interest of the period in mysticism, theosophy, cabala, and genuine science was appealed to, in order to provide a more numerous clientele among whom might be disseminated the doctrines of atheism, materialism, and discontent with civil subordination.192. Thus the Masonic lodges in France were made “the hot-beds, where the seeds were sown, and tenderly reared, of all the pernicious doctrines which soon after choked every moral or religious cultivation, and have made . . . Society worse than a waste ….”193.
The introduction of French Freemasonry into Germany according to Robison, was followed by similar results.194. Thither, as to France, simple English Freemasonry had first gone, and because of its exclusive emphasis upon the principle of brotherly love the Germans had welcomed it and treated it with deep seriousness;195. but the sense of mystery and the taste for ritualistic embellishments which the advent of French Masonry promoted, speedily changed the temper of the German brethren.196. A reckless tendency to, innovation set in. The love of stars and ribbons,197. and the desire to learn of ghost-raising, exorcism, and alchemy,198. became the order of the day. Rosicrucianism flourished,199. rival systems appeared, and questions of precedency split German Freemasonry into numerous fiercely hostile camps.200.
Meantime, on account of the propaganda carried on by the Enlighteners,201. a revolution of the public mind took place in Germany, marked by a great increase of scepticism, infidelity, and irreligion, not only among the wealthy and luxurious but among the profligate elements in the lower classes as well.202. Rationalistic theologians, aided and abetted by booksellers and publishers and by educational theorists,203. coöperated to make the ideas of orthodox Christianity distasteful to the general public.204. To give effect to this campaign of seduction, the lodges of Freemasonry were invaded and their secret assemblies employed to spread free-thinking and cosmopolitical ideas.205. Thus German Freemasonry became impregnated with the impious and revolutionary tendencies of French Freemasonry.206. At such an hour, according to Robison, Weishaupt founded his Order of the Illuminati.207. Employing the opportunities afforded him by his connections with the Masons,208. he exerted himself to make disciples and to lay the foundations of an “Association . . . which, in time, should govern the world,” the express aim of which “was to abolish Christianity and overturn all civil government.”209.
To accomplish this end a most insinuating pedagogy was adopted,210. the members were trained to spy upon one another,211. and hypocrisy which did not stop short of positive villainy was practised.212. As a fitting climax to a program that involved the complete subversion of existing moral standards, women were to be admitted to the lodges.213.
Following an analysis of the grades of the order,214. lifted little if any above the general plane of ineptitude upon which the author moved, Robison incorporated into his history of the Bavarian Illuminati a table of the lodges that had been established prior to 1786.215. Drawing professedly upon the private papers of the order as published by the Bavarian government, he worked out a list which included five lodges in Strassburg; four in Bonn; fourteen in Austria; “many” in each of the following states, Livonia, Courland, Alsace, Hesse, Poland, Switzerland, and Holland; eight in England; two in Scotland; and “several” in America.216.
The suppression of the Illuminati by the Bavarian government was regarded by Robison as merely “formal” in its nature: 217. the evil genius of the banned order speedily reappeared in the guise of the German Union218. Into the discussion of the German Union Robison read the “proofs” of an enterprise truly gigantic both as to its proportions and its baneful influence. The illuminated lodges of Freemasonry were declared to have given way to reading societies wherein the initiated, i.e., the members of the Union, actively employed themselves, apparently to accomplish the noble ends of enlightening mankind and securing the dethronement of superstition and fanaticism,219. but actually to, secure the destruction of every sentiment of religion, morality and loyalty220. The higher mysteries of Bahrdt’s silly and abortive project were declared to be identical with those of Weishaupt’s order (natural religion and atheism were to be substituted for Christianity, and political principles equally anarchical with those of the Illuminati were fostered)221.
Although Robison confessed himself driven to pronounce Bahrdt’s enterprise “coarse, and palpably mean,”222. and although the archives and officers of the Union were held to be ” contemptible,”223. none the less an elaborate though most disjointed tale was unfolded by him. This involved the organization of the German literati and the control of the book trade, with a view to forming taste and directing public opinion;224. and the establishment of reading societies to the number of eight hundred or more,225. among whose members were to be circulated such books as were calculated to fortify the mind against all disposition to be startled on account of the appearance of “doctrines and maxims which are singular, or perhaps opposite to those which are current in ordinary societies.”226. Thus it would be possible “to work in silence upon all courts, families, and individuals in every quarter, and acquire an influence in the appointment of court-officers, stewards, secretaries, parish-priests, public teachers, or private tutors.”227.
Robison was unable to present anything beyond the most tenuous “proofs” that a direct relation existed between Weishaupt’s system and Bahrdt’s enterprise;228. still he did not hesitate to affirm that, on account of the emergence of the latter, it had been made clear that the suppression of the Illuminati had been futile.229. “Weishaupt and his agents were still busy and successful.”230.
Arriving finally at the subject of the French Revolution, Robison devoted something more than sixty pages to an effort to connect the system of Weishaupt with the great European debacle. Approaching the matter with unconcealed dubiety,231. he found his confidence, and boldness growing as he proceeded. Relying chiefly upon such uncritical and promiscuous sources as the Religions Begebenheiten, the Wiener Zeitschrift, and the Magazin des Literatur et Kunst (sic), and a work entitled Memoires Posthumes de, Custime, he sought a point of direct contact between the Illuminati and the French revolutionary movement by stressing the enlistment of Mirabeau,232. the mission of Bode and von Busche,233. and the instructions which, he alleged, were given by the latter to the Amis Réunis and the Philalèthes through their chief lodges at Paris.234.
The mission of Bode and von Busche, according to Robison, had been undertaken at the request of Mirabeau and the Abbé Perigord235. (Talleyrand). When Weishaupt’s plan was thus communicated to the two French lodges mentioned, “they saw at once its importance, in all its branches, such as the use of the Masonic Lodges, to fish for Minervals—the rituals and ranks to entice the young, and to lead them by degrees to opinions, and measures which, at first sight, would have shocked them.”236. By the beginning of 1789 the lodges of the Grand Orient237. had received the secrets of the Illuminati.2378. The Duke of Orléans, who, had been “illuminated” by Mirabeau,239. and whose personal political ambitions were strongly stressed by Robison,240. gave hearty support to the enterprise; and thus in a very short time the Masonic lodges of France were converted into a set of secret affiliated societies, all corresponding with the mother lodges of Paris, and ready to rise instantly and overturn the government as soon as the signal should be given.241. The political committees organized in each of these “illuminated” lodges familiarized not only their brethren but, through them, the country in general, with the secret revolutionary program.242. Thus it happened that the “stupid Bavarians” became the instructors of the French in the art of overturning the world”;243. and thus, also , it happened that “the whole nation changed, and changed again, and again, as if by beat of drum.”244.
Such in its main outlines and in its “principal links” of evidence is the Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe. Yet to obtain a just appraisal of the book it must not be overlooked that its author wrote an additional one hundred and fifty pages, not of “proofs” but of argument, partly to defend errors of judgment he may have committed in his treatment of the subject, but chiefly to persuade his fellow countrymen that the principles of Illuminism were false and to urge them to turn a deaf ear to these doctrines.
We turn now to consider another much more elaborate exposition of the Illuminati-French Revolution legend. Almost at the moment of the appearance of Robison’s book, there appeared in French, at London and Hamburg, a far more finished production, devoted to the same thesis and bearing the title, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du Jacobinisme.245. Its author, the Abbé Barruel,246. who had been trained as a Jesuit, enjoying literary talents much superior to those of Robison and relying upon documentary evidence more copious if not more convincing, defined his purpose in the following manner:
We shall show that with which it is incumbent on all nations and their chiefs to be acquainted: we shall demonstrate that, even to the most horrid deeds perpetrated during the French Revolution, everything was foreseen and resolved on, was combined and premeditated: that they were the offspring of deep-thought villainy, since they had been prepared and were produced by men, who alone held the clue of those plots and conspiracies, lurking in the secret meetings where they had been conceived, and only watching the favorable moment of bursting forth. Though the events of each day may not appear to have been combined, there nevertheless existed a secret agent and a secret cause, giving rise to each event, and turning each circumstance to the long-sought-for end. Though circumstances may often have afforded the pretense of the occasion, yet the grand cause of the revolution, its leading features, its atrocious crimes, will still remain one continued chain of deep-laid and premeditated villainy.247.
The amazing breadth of Barruel’s canvass, as well as the naiveté of the artist, are immediately disclosed in his foreword respecting the “triple conspiracy” which he proposes to lay bare.248. To present this “triple conspiracy” in his own words will do more than define the abbé’s conception of his task: its transparent incoordination will make it apparent that much of the work of examination that might otherwise seem to be called for is futile.
1st. Many years before the French Revolution, men who styled themselves Philosophers conspired against the God of the Gospel, against Christianity, without distinction of worship, whether Protestant or Catholic, Anglican or Presbyterian. The grand object of this conspiracy was to overturn every alter where Christ was adored. It was the conspiracy of the Sophisters249. of Impiety, or the ANTICHRISTIAN CONSPIRACY.
2dly. This school of impiety soon formed the Sophisters of Rebellion: these latter, combining their conspiracy against kings with that of the Sophisters of Impiety, coalesce with that ancient sect whose tenets constituted the whole secret of the Occult-Lodges of Free-Masonry, which long since, imposing on the credulity of its most distinguished adepts, only initiated the chosen of the elect into the secret of their unrelenting hatred for Christ and kings.
3dly. From the Sophisters of Impiety and Rebellion arose Sophisters of Impiety and Anarchy. These latter conspire not only against Christ and his altars, but against every religion natural or revealed: not only against kings, but against every government, against all civil society, even against prqperty whatsoever.
This third sect, known by the name of Illumines, coalesced with the Sophisters conspiring against Christ, coalesced with the Sophisters who, with the Occult Masons, conspired against both Christ and kings. It was the coalition of the adepts of impiety, of the adepts of rebellion, and the adepts of anarchy, which formed the CLUB of the JACOBINS . . . Such was the origin, such the progress of that sect, since become so dreadfully famous under the name JACOBIN. In the present Memoirs each of these three conspiracies shall be treated separately; their authors unmasked, the object, means, coalition and progress of the adepts shall be laid open.250.
The sole proposition which Barruel proposed to maintain is thus made clear enough. All the developments of the French Revolution were to be explained on the basis of the following postulate: The Encyclopedists, Freemasons, and Bavarian Illuminati, working together, not unconsciously but with well-planned coördination, produced the Jacobins, and the Jacobins in turn produced the Revolution. Over all, embracing all, the word ” conspiracy ” must needs be written large.
The first volume of the Memoirs was devoted to the conspiracy of the philosophers, Voltaire, D’Alembert ‘ Frederick II, and Diderot—”Voltaire the chief, D’Alembert the most subtle agent, Frederick the protector and often the adviser, Diderot the forlorn hope”251. —these were the men who originally leagued themselves together “in the most inveterate hatred of Christianity.”252. Bringing out into bold relief the most malignant and brutal of the anticlerical and anti-Christian utterances of Voltaire and his friends,253. as well as all available evidence of a crafty strategy on the part of the conspirators to avoid detection of their plan,254. Barruel was emboldened to affirm a desperate plan to overturn every altar where Christ was adored, whether in London, Geneva, Stockholm, Petersburg Paris, Madrid, Vienna, or Rome, whether Protestant or Catholic.255.
The first definite step in this campaign of the philosophers is declared to have been the publication of L’Encyclopédie;256. the second, the suppression of the Jesuits and the widespread elimination of religious houses;257. and the third, the capture of the French Academy by the philosophers and the diversion of its honors to impious writers.258.
The foregoing were measures which primarily concerned “the chiefs,” or “better sort.”259. Efforts to extend the conspiracy to the hovel and the cottage were also made. Accordingly, appeals to toleration, reason, and humanity became the order of the day.260. These were intended to impress the populace and, by a show of sympathy with those who complained of their condition, prepare the way for the days of rebellion, violence, and murder which were yet to come.261. Free schools were established, directed by men who, privy to the great conspiracy, became zealous corrupters of youth.262. All was carefully calculated and planned to render possible the full fruitage of the designs of the conspirators when the harvest day should come.
Having thus dealt with the conspiracy against altars, Barruel turned in his second volume to consider the plot against thrones. The great inspirers of this covert attack upon monarchy were Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Voltaire, though by nature a friend of kings, whose favor and caresses were his delight, yet, since he found them standing in the way of his efforts to extirpate Christianity, was led to oppose them, and to substitute the doctrines of equality of rights and liberty of reason for his earlier emphasis upon loyalty to sovereigns.263. Unwittingly, through his Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu had helped on the antimonarchical resolution by his heavy emphasis upon the essential differences between monarchies and democracies, thus for the first time suggesting to the French people that they lived under a despotic government and helping to alienate them from their king.264. As for Rousseau, in his Social Contract he had widened the path which Montesquieu had opened.265. His doctrines had the effect of placing monarchy in an abhorrent light. They filled the minds of the people with a passion for Liberty and Equality.
The systems of Montesquieu and Rousseau, particularly, induced the Sophisters of Impiety to combine the task of overthrowing monarchy with the task of overthrowing religion.266. A sweeping attempt to poptularize ihe leveling principles embodied in those two systems immediately developed. A flood of antimonarchical writings appeared,267. governments were sharply criticized, despotism was roundly denounced, the minds of the people were agitated and inflamed, and the notion of revolution was rendered familiar both by precept and example.268.
Some powerful secret agency was needed, however, to promote this vast conspiracy. The lodges of Freemasonry suggested a tempting possibility. The members of the craft gave ample evidence that they were susceptible.269. The occult lodges,270. moreover, already had traveled far toward the goal of revolution. All their protests to the contrary, their one secret was: “Equiality and Liberty; all men are equals and brothers; all men are free.”271. Surely it would not be difficult for the enemies of thrones and altars to reach the ears of men who cherished such a secret, and to convert their lodges into council-chambers and forums for the propagation of the doctrines of impiety and rebellion.
An alliance was speedily consummated,272. and a fresh torrent of declamation and calumnies, all directed against the altar and the throne, began to pour through these newly discovered subterranean channels.273. The Grand Orient constituted a central committee which as early as 1776 instructed the deputies of the lodges throughout France to prepare the brethren for insurrection.274. Condorcet and Sieyès placed themselves at the head of another lodge, to which the Propaganda was to be traced.275. In addition, a secret association bearing the title Amis des Noirs created a regulating committee, composed of such men as Condorcet, the elder Mirabeau, Sieyès, Brissot, Carra, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Clavière, Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau, Valade, La Fayette, and Bergasse.276. This regulating committee was also in intimate correspondence with the French lodges of Freemasonry. Thus a powerful secret organization was at hand, composed of not less than six hundred thousand members all told, at least five hundred thousand of whom could be fully counted upon to do the bidding of the conspirators, “all zealous for the Revolution, all ready to rise at the first signal and to impart the shock to all other classes of the people.”277.
However, all these machinations might have come to naught had it not been for the encouragement and direction supplied by the Illuminati. In the latter Barruel saw the apotheosis of infamy and corruption.278. With diabolical ingenuity the chiefs of the Illuminati succeeded in evolving an organization which put into the hands of the conspirators, i. e., the philosophers and Freemasons, the very, instrument they needed to give full effect to their plans. The superiority of that organization was to be seen in its principles of general subordination and the gradation of superiors in the minute instructions given to adepts and officers covering every conceivable responsibility and suggesting infinite opportunities to promote the order’s welfare, and in the absolute power of its general.279. Thus was built up a hierarchy of savants, an association held under a most rigid discipline, a formidable machine capable of employing its maximum power as its governing hand might direct,280. With the close of the third volume Barruel considers that he has been able to present a complete “academy of Conspirators.”281.
Barruel’s last volume, the most formidable of all, was devoted by its author to the forging of the final link in his chain: the coalescence of the conspiring philosophers, Freemasons, and Iluminati into the Jacobins. To establish a connection between the “illuminated” Masons and the immediate “authors and abettors of the French Revolution,”282. i. e., the Jacobins, Barruel had recourse to the familiar inventions of the reappearance of the Bavarian Illuminati after its suppression,283. the rise and corrupting influence of the German Union,284. that treacherous “modification of Weishaupt’s Minerval schools,”285. and, particularly, the, pretended mission of Bode and von Busche to Paris.286.
With respect to this last invention, no more worthy of our comment than the others except for the fact that it was supposed to supply the direct point of contact between the conspirators and the French Revolution, Barruel was obliged to admit that he was unable to place before his readers evidence of the precise character of the negotiations that took place between the deputation from Berlin and the French lodges:287. “facts” would have to be permitted to speak for themselves.288. These “facts” were such as the following: the lodges of Paris were rapidly converted into clubs, with regulating committees and political committees;289. the resolutions of the regulating committees were communicated through the committee of correspondence of the Grand Orient to the heads of the Masonic lodges scattered throughout France;290. the day of general insurrection was thus fixed for July 14, 1789;291. on the fatal day the lodges were dissolved, and the Jacobins, suddenly throwing off their garments of secrecy and hypocrisy, stood forth in the clear light of day.”292.
His last two hundred pages were devoted by Barruel to arguments shaped chiefly to show that the principles of the Revolutionary leaders were identical with the principles of the illuminated lodges;293. that the successes of the Revolutionary armies, of Custine beyond the Rhine,294. of Dumouriez in Belgium,295. of Pichegru in Holland,296. and of Bonaparte in Italy, in Malta, and in Egypt,297. were explicable only on the ground of treacherous intrigues carried on by the agents of Illuminism; and that no country, moreover, need flatter itself it would escape the seductions and plots of the conspirators. The dragon’s teeth of revolution were already sown in Switzerland, in Sweden, in Russia, in Poland, in Austria, in Prussia, and in America.298. With Barruel’s comment upon America,299. our discussion of the Memoirs of Jacobinism may well come to a close.
As the plague flies on the wings of the wind, so do their triumphant legions infect America. Their apostles have infused their principles into the submissive and laborious negroes; and St. Domingo and Guadaloupe have been converted into vast charnel houses for their inhabitants, So numerous were the brethren in North America, that Philadelphia and Boston trembled, lest their rising constitution should be obliged to make way for that of the great club; and if for a time the brotherhood has been obliged to shrink back into their hiding places, they are still sufficiently numerous to raise collections and transmit them to the insurgents of Ireland;300. thus contributing toward that species of revolution which is the object of their ardent wishes in America.301. God grant that the United States may not learn to their cost, that Republics are equally menaced with Monarchies; and that the immensity of the ocean is but a feeble barrier against the universal conspiracy of the Sect!
: The literary relationship between the works of Robison and Barruel is of sufficient interest and significance to warrant some comment. Robison’s volume was published before its author saw Barruel’s composition in its French text.302. Later, Robison was moved to rejoice that Barruel had confirmed his main positions and contentions. A few things in the Memoirs of Jacobinism, however, impress him as startling. He confesses that he had never before heard the claim seriously made, that “irreligion and unqualified Liberty and Equality are the genuine and original Secrets of Free Masonry, and the ultimatum of a regular progress through all its degrees.”303. He is driven to assert that this is not the secret of Masonry as he has learned it from other sources. Robison also recognizes differences in the two works respecting the exposition of certain Masonic degrees, For his part he is not willing to admit that his sources are unreliable.304.
Barruel, on the other hand, did not get sight of Robison’s volume until just as his third volume was going to press.305. He comments in part as follows: “Without knowing it, we have fought for the same cause with the same arms, and pursued the same course; but the Public are on the eve of seeing our respective quotations, and will observe a remarkable difference between them.”306. That difference Barruel attempts to explain on the ground that Robison had adopted the method of combining and condensing his quotations from his sources. Besides, he thinks his zealous confederate “in some passages . . . has even adopted as truth certain assertions which the correspondence of the Illuminées evidently demonstrate to have been invented by them against their adversaries, and which,” he continues, “in my Historical Volume I shall be obliged to treat in an opposite sense.307. Barruel also differs with Robison respecting the time of the origin of Masonry.308. But all such matters are of slight consequence; all suggestions of opposition and disagreement between Robison and Barruel are brushed aside by him in the following summary fashion: “. . . It will be perceived that we are not to be put in competition with each other; Mr. Robison taking a general view while I have attempted to descend into particulars: as to the substance we agree.”309.
It was one of the most confident boasts of the supporters of the idea of a “conspiracy against thrones and altars” that these two writers, Robison and Barruel, had worked at the same problem without the knowledge of each other’s effort, and thus following independent lines of investigation, had reached the same conclusion. The merit of the claim may safely be left to the reader’s judgment.
|Vernon [L.] Stauffer, New England and the Bavarian Illuminati. Studies in History, Economics and Political Law, edited by the Faculty of Political science of Columbia University. Volume LXXXII, Number 1. Whole Number 191. Chapter III, pp. 142-228. New York: The Columbia University Press, Longmans, Green & Co., Agents. London: P. S. King & Son, Ltd., 1918. (Dean and Professor of New Testament and Church History, Hiram College) 374 pages.