If three years of this Noviciate have elapsed without further notice, the Minerval must look for no further advancement; he is found unfit, and remains a Free Mason of the highest class. This is called a Sta bene.
But should his Superiors judge more favorably of him, he is drawn out of the general mass of Free Masons, and becomes Illuminatus Minor. When called to a conference for this purpose, he is told in the most serious manner, that “it is vain for him to hope to acquire wisdom by mere systematic instruction; for such instruction the Superiors have no leisure. Their duty is not to form speculators, but active men, whom they must immediately employ in the service of the Order. He must therefore grow wise and able entirely by the unfolding and exertion of his own talents. His Superiors have already discovered what these are, and know what service he may be capable of rendering the Order, provided he now heartily acquiesces in being thus honorably employed. They will assist him in bringing his talents into action, and will place him in the situations most favorable for their exertion, so that he may be assured of success. Hitherto he has been a mere scholar, but his first a step farther carries him into action; he must therefore now consider himself as an instrument in the hands of his Superiors, to be used for the noblest purposes.” The aim of the Order is now more fully told him. It is, in one sentence, “to make of the human race, without any distinction of nation, condition, or profession, one good and happy family.” To this aim, demonstrably attainable, every smaller consideration must give way. This may sometimes require sacrifices which no man standing alone has fortitude to make; but which become light, and a source of the purest enjoyment, when supported and encouraged by the countenance and co-operation of the united wise and good, such as are the Superiors of the Order. If the candidate, warmed by the alluring picture of the possible happiness of a virtuous Society, says that he is sensible of the propriety of this procedure, and still wishes to be of the Order, he is required to sign the following obligation.
“I, N. N. protest before you, the worthy Plenipotentiary of the venerable Order into which I wish to be admitted, that I acknowledge my natural weakness and inability, and that I, with all my possessions, rank, honors, and titles which I hold in political society, am, at bottom, only a man; I can enjoy these things only through my fellow-men, and through them also I may lose them. The approbation and consideration of my fellow-men are indispensibly necessary, and I must try to maintain them by all my talents. These I will never use to the prejudice of universal good, but will oppose, with all my might, the enemies of the human race, and of political society. I will embrace every opportunity of saving mankind, by improving my understanding and my affections, and by imparting all important knowledge, as the good and statutes of this Order require of me. I bind myself to perpetual silence and unshaken loyalty and submission to the Order, in the persons of my Superiors; here making a faithful and complete surrender of my private judgment, my own will, and every narrow-minded employment of my power and influence. I pledge myself to account the go d of the Order as my own, and am ready to serve it with my fortune, my honor, and my blood. Should I, through omission, neglect, passion, or wickedness, behave contrary to this good of the Order, I subject myself to what reproof or punishment my Superiors shall enjoin. The friends and enemies of the Order shall be my friends and enemies; and with respect to both I will conduct myself as directed by the Order, and am ready, in every lawful way, to devote myself to its increase and promotion, and therein to employ all my ability. All this I promise, and protest, without secret reservation, according to the intention of the Society which require from me this engagement. This I do as I am, and as I hope to continue, a Man of Honor.”
A drawn sword is then pointed at his breast, and he is asked, Will you be obedient to the commands of your Superiors? He is threatened with unavoidable vengeance, from which no potentate can defend him, if he should ever betray the Order. He is then asked, 1. What aim does he wish the Order to have? 2. What means he would choose to advance this aim? 3. Whom he wishes to keep out of the Order? 4. What subjects he wishes not to be discussed in it?
Our candidate is now ILLUMINATUS MINOR. It is needless to narrate the mummery of reception, and it is enough to say, that it nearly resembles that of the Masonic Chevalier du Soleil, known to every one much conversant in Masonry. Weishaupt’s preparatory discourse of reception is a piece of good composition, whether considered as argumentative (from topics, indeed, that are very gratuitous and fanciful) or as a specimen of that declamation which was so much practised by Libanius and the other Sophists, and it gives a distinct and captivating account of the professed aim of the Order.
The Illuminatus Minor learns a good deal more of the Order, but by very sparing morsels, under the same instructor. The task has now become more delicate and difficult. The chief part of it is the rooting out of prejudices in politics and religion; and Weishaupt has shown much address in the method which he has employed. Not the most hurtful, but the most easily refuted, were the first subjects of discussion, so that the pupil gets into the habits of victory; and his reverence for the systems of either kind is diminished when they are found to have harboured such untenable opinions. The proceedings in the Eclectic Lodges of Masonry, and the harangues of the Brother Orators, teemed with the boldest sentiments both in politics and religion. Enlightening, and the triumph of reason, had been the ton of the country for some time past, and every institution, civil and religious, had been the subject of the most free criticism. Above all, the Cosmo-politism, which had been imported from France, where it had been the favorite topic of the enthusiastical oeconomists, was now become a general theme of discussion in all societies of cultivated men. It was a subject of easy and agreeable declamation; and the Literati found in it a subject admirably fitted for showing their talents, and ingratiating themselves with the young men of fortune, whose minds, unsuspicious as yet and generous, were fired with the fair prospects set before them of universal and attainable happiness. And the pupils of the Illuminati were still more warmed by the thought that they were to be the happy instruments of accomplishing all this. And though the doctrines of universal liberty and equality, as imprescriptible rights of man, might sometimes startle those who possessed the advantage of fortune, there were thousands of younger sons, and of men of talents without fortune, to whom these were agreeable sounds. And we must particularly observe, that those who were now the pupils were a set of picked subjects, whose characters and peculiar biases were well known by their conduct during their noviciate as Minervals. They were therefore such as, in all probability, would not boggle at very free sentiments. We might rather expect a partiality to doctrines which removed some restraints which formerly checked them in the indulgence of youthful passions. Their instructors, who have thus relieved their minds from several anxious thoughts, must appear men of superior minds. This was a notion most carefully inculcated; and they could see nothing to contradict it: for except their own Mentor, they knew none; they heard of Superiors of different ranks, but never saw them; and the same mode of instruction that was practised during their noviciate was still retained. More particulars of the Order were slowly unfolded to them, and they were taught that their Superiors were men of distinguished talents, and were Superiors for this reason alone. They were taught, that the great opportunities which the Superiors had for observation, and their habits of continually occupying their thoughts with the great objects of this Order, had enlarged their views, even far beyond the narrow limits of nations and kingdoms, which they hoped would one day coalesce into one great Society, where consideration would attach to talents and worth alone, and that pre-eminence in these would be invariably attended with all the enjoyments of influence and power. And they were told that they would gradually become acquainted with these great and venerable Characters, as they advanced in the Order. In earnest of this, they were made acquainted with one or two Superiors, and with several Illuminati of their own rank. Also, to whet their zeal, they are now made instructors of one or two Minervals, and report their progress to their Superiors. They are given to understand that nothing can so much recommend them as the success with which they perform this task. It is declared to be the best evidence of their usefulness in the great designs of the Order.
The baleful effects of general superstition, and even of any peculiar religious prepossession, are now strongly inculcated, and the discernment of the pupils in these matters is learned by questions which are given them from time to time to discuss. These are managed with delicacy and circumspection, that the timid may not be alarmed. In like manner, the political doctrines of the Order are inculcated with the utmost caution. After the mind of the pupil has been warmed by the pictures of universal happiness, and convinced that it is a possible thing to unite all the inhabitants of the earth in one great society, and after it has been made out, in some measure to the satisfaction of the pupil, that a great addition of happiness is gained by the abolition of national distinctions and animosities, it may frequently be no hard task to make him think that patriotism is a narrow-minded monopolising sentiment, and even incompatible with the more enlarged views of the Order, namely, the uniting the whole human race into one great and happy society. Princes are a chief feature of national distinction. Princes, therefore, may now be safely represented as unnecessary. If so, loyalty to Princes loses much of its sacred character; and the so frequent enforcing of it in our common political discussions may now be easily made to appear a selfish maxim of rulers, by which they may more easily enslave the people; and thus, it may at last appear, that religion, the love of our particular country, and loyalty to our Prince, should be resisted, if, by these partial or narrow views, we prevent the accomplishment of that Cosmo-political happiness which is continually held forth as the great object of the Order. It is in this point of view that the terms of devotion to the Order which are inserted in the oath of admission are now explained. The authority of the ruling powers is therefore represented as of inferior moral weight to that of the Order. “These powers are despots, when they do not conduct themselves by its principles; and it is therefore our duty to surround them with its members, so that the profane may have no access to them. Thus we are able most powerfully to promote its interests. If any person is more disposed to listen to Princes than to the Order, he is not fit for it, and must rise no higher. We must do our utmost to procure the advancement of Illuminati into all important civil offices.”
Accordingly the Order laboured in this with great zeal and success. A correspondence was discovered, in which it is plain, that by their influence, one of the greatest ecclesiastical dignities was filled up in opposition to the right and authority of the Archbishop of Spire, who is there represented as a tyrannical and bigotted priest. They contrived to place their Members as tutors to the youth of distinction. One of them, Baron Leuchtsenring, took the charge of a young prince without any salary. They insinuated themselves into all public offices, and particularly into courts of justice. In like manner, the chairs in the University of Ingolstadt were (with only two exceptions) occupied by Illuminati. “Rulers who are members must be promoted through the ranks of the Order only in proportion as they acknowledge the goodness of its great object, and manner of procedure. Its object may be said to be the checking the tyranny of princes, nobles, and priests, and establishing an universal equality of condition and of religion.” The pupil is now informed “that such a religion is contained in the Order, is the perfection of Christianity, and will be imparted to him in due time.”
These and other principles and maxims of the Order are partly communicated by the verbal instruction of the Mentor, partly by writings, which must be punctually returned, and partly read by the pupil at the Mentor’s house (but without taking extracts) in such portions as he shall direct. The rescripts by the pupil must contain discussions on these subjects, and of anecdotes and descriptions of living characters; and these must be zealously continued, as the chief mean of advancement. All this while the pupil knows only his Mentor, the Minervals, and a few others of his own rank. All mention of degrees, or other business of the Order, must be carefully avoided, even in the meetings with other Members: “For the Order wishes to be secret, and to work in silence; for thus it is better secured from the oppression of the ruling powers, and because this secrecy gives a greater zest to the whole.”
This short account of the Noviciate, and of the lowest class of Illuminati, is all we can get from the authority of Mr. Weishaupt. The higher degrees were not published by him. Many circumstances appear suspicious, and are certainly susceptible of different turns, and may easily be pushed to very dangerous extremes. The accounts given by the four professors confirm these suspicions. They declare upon oath, that they make all these accusations in consequence of what they heard in the Meetings, and of what they knew of the Higher Orders.
But since the time of the suppression by the Elector, discoveries have been made which throw great light on the subject. A collection of original papers and correspondence was found by searching the house of one Zwack (a Member) in 1786. The following year a much larger collection was found at the house of Baron Bassus; and since that time Baron Knigge, the most active Member next to Weishaupt, published an account of some of the higher degrees, which had been formed by himself. A long while after this were published, Neueste Arbeitung des Spartacus and Philo in der Illuminaten Orden, and Hohere Granden des Ilium. Ordens. These two works give an account of the whole secret constitution of the Order, its various degrees, the manner of conferring them, the instructions to the intrants, and an explanation of the connection of the Order with Free Masonry, and a critical history. We shall give some extracts from such of these as have been published.
Weishaupt was the founder in 1776. In 1778 the number of Members was considerably increased, and the Order was fully established. The Members took antique names. Thus Weishaupt took the name of Spartacus, the man who headed the insurrection of slaves, which in Pompey’s time kept Rome in terror and uproar for three years. Zwack was called Cato. Knigge was Philo. Bassus was Hannibal. Hertel was Marius. Marquis Constanza was Diomedes. Nicholai, an eminent and learned bookseller in Berlin, and author of several works of reputation, took the name of Lucian, the great scoffer at all religion. Another was Mahomet, &c. It is remarkable, that except Cato and Socrates, we have not a name of any ancient who was eminent as a teacher and practiser of virtue. On the contrary, they seem to have affected the characters of the free-thinkers and turbulent spirits of antiquity. In the same manner they gave ancient names to the cities and countries of Europe. Munich was Athens, Vienna was Rome, &c.