The most remarkable thing in the Priest's degree is the Instruction in the Third Chamber. It is to be found in the private correspondence. (Nachtrage Original Schriften 1787, 2nd Abtheilung, page 44.) There it has the title Discourse to the Illuminati Dirigentes, or Scotch Knights. In the critical history, which is annexed to the Neueste Arbeitung, there is an account given of the reason for this denomination; and notice is taken of some differences between the instructions here contained and that discourse.
This instruction begins with sore complaints of the low condition of the human race; and the causes are deduced from religion and state-government. "Men originally led a patriarchal life, in which every father of a family was the sole lord of his house and his property, while he himself possessed general freedom and . But they suffered themselves to be oppressed--gave themselves up to civil societies, and formed states. Even by this they fell; and this is the fall of man, by which they were thrust into unspeakable misery. To get out of this state, to be freed and born again, there is no other mean than the use of pure Reason, by which a general morality may be established, which will put man in a condition to govern himself, regain his original worth, and dispense with all political supports, and particularly with rulers. This can be done in no other way but by secret associations, which will by degrees, and in silence, possess themselves of the government of the States, and make use of those means for this purpose which the wicked use for attaining their base ends. Princes and Priests are in particular, and kat' exochen, the wicked, whose hands must tie up by means of these associations, if we cannot root them out altogether.
"Kings are parents. The paternal power ceases with the incapacity of the child; and the father injures his child, if he pretends to retain his right beyond this period. When a nation comes of age, their state of wardship is at an end."
Here follows a long declamation against patriotism, as a narrow-minded principle when compared with true Cosmo-politism. Nobles are represented as "a race of men that serve not the nation but the Prince, whom a hint from the Sovereign stirs up against the nation, who are retained servants and ministers of despotism, and the mean for oppressing national liberty. Kings are accused of a tacit convention, under the flattering appellation of the balance of power, to keep nations in subjection.
"The mean to regain Reason her rights--to raise liberty from its ashes--to restore to man his original rights--to produce the previous revolution in the mind of man--to obtain an eternal victory over oppressors--and to work the redemption of mankind, is secret schools of wisdom. When the worthy have strengthened their association by numbers, they are secure, and then they begin to become powerful, and terrible to the wicked, of whom many will, for safety, amend themselves--many will come over to our party, and we shall bind the hands of the rest, and finally conquer them. Whoever spreads general illumination augments mutual security; illumination and security make princes ; illumination performs this by creating an effective Morality, and Morality makes a nation of full age fit to govern itself; and since it is not impossible to produce a just Morality, it is possible to regain freedom for the world."
"We must therefore strengthen our band, and establish a legion, which shall restore the rights of man, original liberty and independence.
"Jesus Christ"--but I am sick of all this. The following questions are put to the candidate:
- "Are our civil conditions in the world the destinations that seem to be the end of our nature, or the purposes for which man was placed on this earth, or are they not? Do states, civil obligations, popular religion, fulfill the intentions of men who established them? Do secret associations promote instruction and true human happiness, or are they the children of necessity, of the multifarious wants, of unnatural conditions, or the inventions of vain and cunning men?"
- "What civil association, what science do you think to the purpose, and what are not?"
- "Has there ever been any other in the world, is there no other more simple condition, and what do you think of it?"
- "Does it appear possible, after having gone through all the nonentities of our civil constitutions, to recover for once our first simplicity, and get back to this honorable uniformity?"
- "How can one begin this noble attempt; by means of open support, by forcible revolution, or by what other way?"
- "Does Christianity give us any hint to this purpose? does it not recognize such a blessed condition as once the lot of man, and as still recoverable?"
- "But is this holy religion the religion that is now professed by any sect on earth, or is it a better?"
- "Can we learn this religion--can the world, as it is, bear the light? Do you think that it would be of service, before numerous obstacles are removed, if we taught men this purified religion, sublime philosophy, and the art of governing themselves? Or would not this hurt, by rousing the interested passions of men habituated to prejudices, who would oppose this as wicked?"
- "May it not be more advisable to do away these corruptions bit by bit, in silence, and for this purpose to propagate these salutary and heart-consoling doctrines in secret?"
- "Do we not perceive traces of such a secret doctrine in the ancient schools of philosophy, in the doctrines and instructions of the Bible, which Christ, the Redeemer and Liberator of the human race, gave to his trusty disciples? Do you not observe an education, proceeding by steps of this kind, handed down to us from his time till the present?"
In the ceremonial of Reception, crowns and sceptres are represented as tokens of human degradation. "The plan of operation, by which our higher degrees act, must work powerfully on the world, and must give another turn to all our present constitutions."
Many other questions are put to the pupil during his preparation, and his answers are given in writing. Some of these rescripts are to be found in the secret correspondence. Thus, "How far is the position true, that all those means may be used for a good purpose which the wicked have employed for a bad?" And along with this question there is an injunction to take counsel from the opinions and conduct of the learned and worthy out of the society. In one of the answers, the example of a great philosopher and Cosmo-polite is adduced, who betrayed a private correspondence entrusted to him, for the service of freedom; the case was Dr. Franklin's. In another, the power of the Order was extended to the putting the individual to death; and the reason given, was, that "this power was allowed to all Sovereignties, for the good of the State, and therefore belonged to the Order, which was to govern the world."--"N. B. We must acquire the direction of education--of church-management--of the professorial chair, and of the pulpit. We must bring our opinions into fashion by every art--spread them among the people by the help of young writers. We must preach the warmest concern for humanity, and make people indifferent to all other relations. We must take care that our writers be well puffed, and that the Reviewers do not depreciate them; therefore we must endeavour by every mean to gain over the Reviewers and Journalists; and we must also try to gain the booksellers, who in time will see that it is their interest to side with us."
I conclude this account of the degree of Presbyter with remarking, that there were two copies of it employed occasionally.
In one of them all the most offensive things in respect of church and state were left out.
In the Regent degree, the proceedings and instructions are conducted in the same manner. Here, it is said, "We must as much as possible select for this degree persons who are free, independent of all princes; particularly such as have frequently declared themselves discontented with the usual institutions, and their wishes to see a better government established."
Catching questions are put to the candidate for this degree; such as,
- "Would the Society be objectionable which should (till the greater revolution of nature should be ripe) put monarchs and rulers out of the condition to do harm; which in silence prevents the abuse of power, by surrounding the great with its members, and thus not only prevents their doing mischief, but even makes them do good?"
- "Is not the objection unjust, That such a Society may abuse its power. Do not our rulers frequently abuse their power, though we are silent? This power is not so secure as in the hands of our Members, whom we train up with so much care, and place about princes after mature deliberation and choice. If any government can be harmless which is erected by man, surely it must be ours, which is founded on morality, fore-sight, talents, liberty, and virtue," &c.
The candidate is presented for reception in the character of a slave; and it is demanded of him what has brought him into this most miserable of all conditions. He answers--Society--the State--Submissiveness--False Religion. A skeleton is pointed out to him, at the feet of which are laid a Crown and a Sword. He is asked, whether that is the skeleton of a King, a Nobleman, or a Beggar? As he cannot decide, the President of the meeting says to him, "the character of being a Man is the only one that is of importance."
In a long declamation on the hackneyed topics, we have here and there some thoughts which have not yet come before us.
"We must allow the underlings to imagine (but without telling them the truth) that we direct all the Free Mason Lodges, and even all other Orders, and that the greatest monarchs are under our guidance, which indeed is here and there the case.
"There is no way of influencing men so powerfully as by means of the women. These should therefore be our chief study; we should insinuate ourselves into their good opinion, give them hints of emancipation from the tyranny of public opinion, and of standing up for themselves; it will be an immense relief to their enslaved minds to be freed from any one bond of restraint, and it will fire them the more, and cause them to work for us with zeal, without knowing that they do so; for they will only be indulging their own desire of personal admiration.
"We must win the common people in every corner. This will be obtained chiefly by means of the schools, and by open, hearty behaviour, show, condescension, popularity, and toleration of their prejudices, which we shall at leisure root out and dispel.
"If a writer publishes any thing that attracts notice, and is in itself just, but does not accord with our plan, we must endeavour to win him over, or decry him.
"A chief object of our care must be to keep down that slavish veneration for princes which so much disgraces all nations. Even in the soi-disant free England, the silly Monarch says, We are graciously pleased, and the more simple people say, Amen. These men, commonly very weak heads, are only the farther corrupted by this servile flattery. But let us at once give an example of our spirit by our behaviour with Princes; we must avoid all familiarity--never entrust ourselves to them--behave with precision, but with civility, as to other men--speak of them on an equal footing--this will in time teach them that they are by nature men, if they have sense and spirit, and that only by convention they are Lords. We must assiduously collect anecdotes, and the honorable and mean actions, both of the least and the greatest, and when their names occur in any records which are read in our meetings, let them ever be accompanied by these marks of their real worth.
"The great strength of our Order lies in its concealment; let it never appear in any place in its own name, but always covered by another name, and another occupation. None is fitter than the three lower degrees of Free Masonry; the public is accustomed to it, expects little from it, and therefore takes little notice of it. Next to this, the form of a learned or literary society is best suited to our purpose, and had Free Masonry not existed, this cover would have been employed; and it may be much more than a cover, it may be a powerful engine in our hands. By establishing reading societies, and subscription libraries, and taking these under our direction, and supplying them through our labours, we may turn the public mind which way we will.
In like manner we must try to obtain an influence in the military academies (this may be of mighty consequence) the printing-houses, booksellers shops, chapters, and in short in all offices which have any effect, either in forming, or in managing, or even in directing the mind of man: painting and engraving are highly worth our care." [**]
"Could our Prefect (observe it is to the Illuminati Regentes he is speaking, whose officers are Prefecti) fill the judicatories of a state with our worthy members, he does all that man can do for the Order. It is better than to gain the Prince himself. Princes should never get beyond the Scotch knighthood. They either never prosecute any thing, or they twist every thing to their own advantage.
"A Literary Society is the most proper form for the introduction of our Order into any state where we are yet strangers." (Mark this!)
"The power of the Order must surely be turned to the advantage of its Members. All must be assisted. They must be preferred to all persons otherwise of equal merit. Money, services, honor, goods, and blood, must be expended for the fully proved Brethren, and the unfortunate must be relieved by the funds of the Society."
As evidence that this was not only their instructions, but also their assiduous practice, take the following report from the overseer of Greece (Bavaria.)
In Cato's hand-writing.
"The number (about 600) of Members relates to Bavaria alone.
"In Munich there is a well-constituted meeting of Illuminati Mejores, a meeting of excellent Illuminati Minores, a respectable Grand Lodge, and two Minerval Assemblies. There is a Minerval Assembly at Freyssing, at Landsberg, at Burghausen, at Strasburg, at Ingolstadt, and at last at Regensburg. [**]
"At Munich we have bought a house, and by clever measures have brought things so far, that the citizens take no notice of it, and even speak of us with esteem. We can openly go to the house every day, and carry on the business of the Lodge. This is a great deal for this city. In the house is a good museum of natural history, and apparatus for experiments; also a library which daily increases. The garden is well occupied by botanic specimens, and the whole has the appearance of a society of zealous naturalists.
"We get all the literary journals. We take care, by well-timed pieces, to make the citizens and the Princes a little more noticed for certain little slips. We oppose the monks with all our might, and with great success.