Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798

Having thus got rid of Religion, Spartacus could with more safety bring into view the great aim of all his efforts–to rule the world by means of his Order. As the immediate mean for attaining this, he holds out the prospect of freedom from civil subordination. Perfect Liberty and Equality are interwoven with every thing; and the flattering thought is continually kept up, that “by the wise contrivance of this Order, the most complete knowledge is obtained of the real worth of every person; the Order will, for its own sake, and therefore certainly, place every man in that situation in which he can be most effective. The pupils are convinced that the Order will rule the world. Every member therefore becomes a ruler.” We all think ourselves qualified to rule. The difficult task is to obey with propriety; but we are honestly generous in our prospects of future command. It is therefore an alluring thought, both to good and bad men. By this lure the Order will spread. If they are active in insinuating their members into offices, and in keeping out others (which the private correspondence shows to have been the case) they may have had frequent experience of their success in gaining an influence on the world. This must whet their zeal. If Weishaupt was a sincere Cosmo-polite, he had the pleasure of seeing “his work prospering in his hands.”

It surely needs little argument now to prove, that the Order of Illuminati had for its immediate object the abolishing of Christianity (at least this was the intention of the Founder) with the sole view of overturning the civil government, by introducing universal dissoluteness and profligacy of manners, and then getting the assistance of the corrupted subjects to overset the throne. The whole conduct in the preparation and instruction of the Presbyter and Regens is directed to this point. Philo says, “I have been at unwearied pains to remove the fears of some who imagine that our Superiors want to abolish Christianity; but by and by their prejudices will wear off, and they will be more at their ease. Were I to let them know that our General holds all Religion to be a lie, and uses even Deism, only to lead men by the nose.–Were I to connect myself again with the Free Masons, and tell them our designs to ruin their Fraternity by this circular letter (a letter to the Lodge in Courland)–Were I but to give the least hint to any of the Princes of Greece (Bavaria)–No, my anger shall not carry me so far.–An Order forsooth, which in this manner abuses human nature–which will subject men to a bondage more intolerable than Jesuitism.–I could put it on a respectable footing, and the world would he ours. Should I mention our fundamental principles (even after all the pains I have been at to mitigate them) so unquestionably dangerous to the world, who would remain? What signifies the innocent ceremonies of the Priest’s degree, as I have composed it, in comparison with your maxim, that we may use for a good end those means which the wicked employ for a base purpose?”

Brutus writes, “Numenius now acquiesces in the mortality of the soul; but, I fear we shall lose Ludovicus Bavarus. He told Spartacus, that he was mistaken when he thought that he had swallowed his stupid Masonry. No, he saw the trick, and did not admire the end that required it. I don’t know what to do; a Sta bene would make him mad, and he will blow us all up.

“The Order must possess the power of life and death in consequence of our Oath; and with propriety, for the same reason, and by the same right, that any government in the world possesses it: For the Order comes in their place, making them unnecessary. When things cannot be otherwise, and ruin would ensue if the Association did not employ this mean, the Order must, as well as public rulers, employ it for the good of mankind; therefore for its own preservation. (N. B. Observe here the casuistry.) Nor will the political constitutions suffer by this, for there are always thousands equally ready and able to supply the place.”

We need not wonder that Diomedes told the Professors, “that death, inevitable death, from which no potentate could protect them, awaited every traitor of the Order;” nor that the French Convention proposed to take off the German Princes and Generals by sword or poison, &c.

Spartacus might tickle the fancy of his Order with the notion of ruling the world; but I imagine that his darling aim was ruling the Order. The happiness of mankind was, like Weishaupt’s Christianity, a mere tool, a tool which the Regentes made a joke of. But Spartacus would rule the Regentes; this he could not so easily accomplish. His despotism was insupportable to most of them, and finally brought all to light. When he could not persuade them by his own firmness, and indeed by his superior wisdom and disinterestedness in other respects, and his unwearied activity, he employed jesuitical tricks, causing them to fall out with each other, setting them as spies on each other, and separating any two that he saw attached to each other, by making the one a Master of the other; and, in short, he left nothing undone that could secure his uncontrouled command. This caused Philo to quit the Order, and made Bassus, Von Torring, Kreitmaier, and several other gentlemen, cease attending the meetings; and it was their mutual dissentions which made them speak too freely in public, and call on themselves so much notice. At the time of the discovery, the party of Weishaupt consisted chiefly of very mean people, devoted to him, and willing to execute his orders, that by being his servants, they might have the pleasure of commanding others.

The objects, the undoubted objects of this Association, are surely dangerous and detestable; viz. to overturn the present constitutions of the European States, in order to introduce a chimera which the history of mankind shows to be contrary to the nature of man.

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

[paragraph continues] Suppose it possible, and done in peace, it could not stand, unless every principle of activity in the human mind be enthralled, all incitement to exertion and industry removed, and man brought into a condition incapable of improvement; and this at the expence of every thing that is valued by the best of men–by misery and devastation–by loosening all the bands of society. To talk of morality and virtue in conjunction with such schemes, is an insult to common sense; dissoluteness of manners alone can bring men to think of it.

Is it not astonishing therefore, to hear people in this country express any regard for this institution? Is it not grieving to the heart to think that there are Lodges of Illuminated among us? I think that nothing bids fairer for weaning our inconsiderate countrymen from having any connection with them, than the faithful account here given. I hope that there are few, very few of our countrymen, and none whom we call friend, who can think that an Order which practised such things can be any thing else than a ruinous Association, a gang of profligates. All their professions of the love of mankind are vain; nay, their Illumination must be a bewildering blaze, and totally ineffectual for its purpose, for it has had no such influence on the leaders of the band; yet it seems quite adequate to the effects it has produced; for such are the characters of those who forget God.

If we in the next place attend to their mode of education, and examine it by those rulers of common sense that we apply in other cases of conduct, we shall find it equally unpromising. The system of Illuminatism is one of the explanations of Free Masonry; and it has gained many partisans. These explanations rest their credit and their preference on their own merits. There is something in themselves, or in one of them as distinguished from another, which procures it the preference for its own sake. Therefore, to give this Order any dependence on Free Masonry, is to degrade the Order. To introduce a Masonic Ritual into a manly institution is to degrade it to a frivolous amusement for great children. Men really exerting themselves to reform the world, and qualified for the task, must have been disgusted with such occupations. They betray a frivolous conception of the talk in which they are really engaged. To imagine that men engaged in the struggle and rival-ship of life, under the influence of selfish, or mean, or impetuous passions, are to he wheedled into candid sentiments, or a generous conduct, as a froward child may sometimes be made gentle and tractable by a rattle or a humming-top, betrays a great ignorance of human nature, and an arrogant self-conceit in those who can imagine that all but themselves are babies. The further we proceed, the more do we see of this want of wisdom. The whole procedure of their instruction supposes such a complete surrender of freedom of thought, of common sense, and of common caution, that it seems impossible that it should not have alarmed every sensible mind. This indeed happened before the Order was seven years old. It was wise indeed to keep their Areopagitae out of sight; but who can be so silly as to believe that their unknown superiors were all and always faultless men. But had they been the men they were represented to be–if I have any knowledge of my own heart, or any capacity of drawing just inferences from the conduct of others, I am persuaded that the knowing his superiors would have animated the pupil to exertion, that he might exhibit a pleasing spectacle to such intelligent and worthy judges. Did not the Stoics profess themselves to be encouraged in the scheme of life, by the thought that the immortal Gods were looking on and passing their judgments on their manner of acting the part assigned them? But what abject spirit will be contented with working, zealously working, for years, after a plan of which he is never to learn the full meaning. In short, the only knowledge that he can perceive is knowledge in its worst form, Cunning. This must appear in the contrivances by which he will soon find that he is kept in complete subjection. If he is a true and zealous Brother, he has put himself in the power of his Superiors by his rescripts, which they required of him on pretence of their learning his own character, and of his learning how to know the characters of other men. In these rescripts they have got his thoughts on many delicate points, and on the conduct of others. His Directors may ruin him by betraying him: and this without being seen in it. I should think that wise men would know that none but weak or bad men would subject themselves to such a task. They exclude the good, the manly, the only fit persons for assisting them in their endeavours to inform and to rule the world. Indeed I may say that this exclusion is almost made already by connecting the Order with Free Masonry. Lodges are not the resorts of such men. They may sometimes be found there for an hour’s relaxation. But these places are the haunts of the young, the thoughtless, the idle, the weak, the vain, or of designing Literati; and accordingly this is the condition of three-fourths of the Illuminati whose names are known to the public. I own that the reasons given to the pupil for prescribing these tasks are clever, and well adapted to produce their effect. During the flurry of reception, and the glow of expectation, the danger may not be suspected; but I hardly imagine that it will remain unperceived when the pupil sits down to write his first lesson. Mason Lodges, however, were the most likely places for finding and enlisting members. Young men, warmed by declamations teeming with the flimsy moral cant of Cosmo-politism, are in the proper frame of mind for this Illumination. It now appears also, that the dissentions in Free Masonry must have had great influence in promoting this scheme of Weishaupt’s, which was, in many particulars, so unpromising, because it presupposes such a degradation of the mind. But when the schismatics in Masonry disputed with warmth, trifles came to acquire unspeakable importance. The hankering after wonder was not in the least abated by all the tricks which had been detected, and the impossibility of the wished-for discovery had never been demonstrated to persons prepossessed in its favor. They still chose to believe that the symbols contained some important secret; and happy will be the man who finds it out. The more frivolous the symbols, the more does the heart cling to the mystery; and, to a mind in this anxious state, Weishaupt’s proffer was enticing. He laid before them a scheme which was somewhat feasible, was magnificent, surpassing our conceptions, but at the same time such as permitted us to expatiate on the subject, and even to amplify it at pleasure in our imaginations without absurdity.

It does not appear to me wonderful, therefore, that so many were fascinated till they became at last regardless of the absurdity and inconsistency of the means by which this splendid object was to be attained. Hear what Spartacus himself says of hidden mysteries. “Of all the means I know to lead men, the most effectual is a concealed mystery. The hankering of the mind is irresistible; and if once a man has taken it into his head that there is a mystery in a thing, it is impossible to get it out, either by argument or experience. And then, we can so change notions by merely changing a word. What more contemptible than fanaticism; but call it enthusiasm; then add the little word noble, and you may lead him over the world. Nor are we, in these bright days, a bit better than our fathers, who found the pardon of their sins mysteriously contained in a much greater sin, viz. leaving their family, and going barefooted to Rome.”

Such being the employment, and such the disciples, should we expect the fruits to be very precious? No. The doctrines which were gradually unfolded were such as suited those who continued in the Cursus Academicus. Those who did not, because they did not like them, got a Sta bene; they were not fit for advancements. The numbers however were great; Spartacus boasted of 600 in Bavaria alone in 1783. We don’t know many of them; few of those we know were in the upper ranks of life; and I can see that it required much wheedling, and many letters of long worded German compliments from the proud Spartacus, to win even a young Baron or a Graf just come of age Men in an easy situation in life could not brook the employment of a spy, which is base, cowardly, and corrupting, and has in all ages and countries degraded the person who engages in it. Can the person be called wise who thus enslaves himself? Such persons give up the right of private judgment, and rely on their unknown Superiors with the blindest and most abject confidence. For their sakes, and to rivet still faster their own fetters, they engage in the most corrupting of all employments–and for what?–To learn something more of an order, of which every degree explodes the doctrine of a former one. Would it have hurt the young Illuminatus to have it explained to him all at once? Would not this fire his mind–when he sees with the same glance the great object, and the fitness of the means for attaining it? Would not the exalted characters of the Superior, so much excelling himself in talents, and virtue, and happiness (otherwise the Order is good for nothing) warm his heart, and fill him with emulation, since he sees in them, that what is so strongly preached to him is an attainable thing? No, no–it is all a trick; he must be kept like a child, amused with rattles, and stars, and ribands–and all the satisfaction he obtains is, like the Masons, the fun of seeing others running the same gauntlet.

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Methinks I am a conspiracy theorist. Art thou? Thou block, thou stone, thou worse than senseless thing, for whilst thou slept didst this become a badge of honor. Informed dissent shall always prevail, wherefore art thou worthy, or art thou this unwholesome fool in the group conformity experiment herein?

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