Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798


Weishaupt acknowledges that the great influence of the Order may be abused. Surely, in no way so easily or so fatally as by corrupting or seductive lessons in the beginning. The mistake or error of the pupil is undiscoverable by himself (according to the genuine principles of Illumination) for the pupil must believe his Mentor to be infallible--with him alone he is connected--his lessons only must he learn. Who can tell him that he has gone wrong--or who can set him right? yet he certainly may be misled.

Here, therefore, there is confusion and deficiency. There must be some standard to which appeal can be made; but this is inaccessible to all within the pale of the Order; it is therefore without this pale, and independent of the Order--and it is attainable only by abandoning the Order. The QUIBUS LICET, the PRIMO, the SOLI, can procure no light to the person who does not know that he has been led out of the right road to virtue and happiness. The Superiors indeed draw much useful information from these reports, though they affect to stand in no need of it, and they make a cruel return.

All this is so much out of the natural road of instruction, that, on this account alone, we may presume that it is wrong. We are generally safe when we follow nature's plans. A child learns in his father's house, by seeing, and by imitating, and in common domestic education, he gets much useful knowledge, and the chief habits which are afterwards to regulate his conduct. Example does almost every thing; and, with respect to what may be called living, as distinguishable from profession, speculation and argumentative instruction are seldom employed, or of any use. The indispensableness of mutual forbearance and obedience, for domestic peace and happiness, forms most of these habits; and the child, under good parents, is kept in a situation that makes virtue easier than vice, and he becomes wise and good without any express study about the matter.

But this Illumination plan is darkness over all--it is too artificial--and the topics, from which counsel is to be drawn, cannot be taken from the peculiar views of the Order--for these are yet a secret for the pupil--and must ever be a secret for him while under tuition. They must therefore be drawn from common sources, and the Order is of no use; all that can naturally be effectuated by this Association is the forming, and assiduously fostering a narrow, Jewish, corporation spirit, totally opposite to the benevolent pretensions of the Order. The pupil can see nothing but this, that there is a set of men, whom he does not know, who may acquire incontroulable power, and may perhaps make use of him, but for what purpose, and in what way, he does not know; how can he know that his endeavours are to make man happier, any other way than as he might have known it without having put this collar round his own neck?

These reflections address themselves to all men who profess to conduct themselves by the principles and dictates of common sense and prudence, and who have the ordinary share of candour and good will to others. It requires no singular sensibility of heart, nor great generosity, to make such people think the doctrines and views of the Illuminati false, absurd, foolish, and ruinous. But I hope that I address them to thousands of my countrymen and friends, who have much higher notions of human nature, and who cherish with care the affections and the hopes that are suited to a rational, a benevolent, and a high-minded being, capable of endless improvement.

To those who enjoy the cheering confidence in the superintendance and providence of God, who consider themselves as creatures whom he has made, and whom he cares for, as the subjects of his moral government, this Order must appear with every character of falsehood and absurdity on its countenance. What CAN BE MORE IMPROBABLE than this, that He, whom we look up to as the contriver, the maker, and director, of this goodly frame of things, should have so far mistaken his own plans, that this world of rational creatures should have subsisted for thousands of years, before a way could be found out, by which his intention of making men good and happy could be accomplished; and that this method did not occur to the great Artist himself, nor even to the wisest, and happiest, and best men upon earth; but to a few persons at Munich in Bavaria, who had been trying to raise ghosts, to change lead into gold, to tell fortunes, or discover treasures, but had failed in all their attempts; men who had been engaged for years in every whim which characterises a weak, a greedy, or a gloomy mind. Finding all these beyond their reach, they combined their powers, and, at once, found out this infinitely more important SECRET--for secret it must still be, otherwise not only the Deity, but even those philosophers, will still be disappointed.

Yet this is the doctrine that must be swallowed by the Minervals and the Illuminati Minores, to whom it is not yet safe to disclose the grand secret, that there is no such superintendance of Deity. At last, however, when the pupil has conceived such exalted notions of the knowledge of his teachers, and such low notions of the blundering projector of this world, it may be no difficult matter to persuade him that all his former notions were only old wives tales. By this time he must have heard much about superstition, and how minds have been dazzled by this splendid picture of a Providence and a moral government of the universe. It now appears incompatible with the great object of the Order, the principles of universal liberty and equality--it is therefore rejected without farther examination, for this reason alone. This was precisely the argument used in France for rejecting revealed religion. It was incompatible with their Rights of Man.

It is richly worth observing how this principle can warp the judgment, and give quite another appearance to the same object. The reader will not be displeased with a most remarkable instance of it, which I beg leave to give at length.

Our immortal Newton, whom the philosophers of Europe look up to as the honor of our species, whom even Mr. Bailly, the President of the National Assembly of France, and Mayor of Paris, cannot find words sufficiently energetic to praise; this patient, sagacious, and successful observer of nature, after having exhibited to the wondering world the characteristic property of that principle of material nature by which all the bodies of the solar system are made to form a connected and permanent universe; and after having shown that this law of action alone was adapted to this end, and that if gravity had deviated but one thousandth part from the inverse duplicate ratio of the distances, the system must, in the course of a very few revolutions, have gone into confusion and ruin--he sits down, and views the goodly scene--and then closes his Principles of Natural Philosophy with this reflection (his Scholium generale.)

"This most elegant frame of things could not have arisen, unless by the contrivance and the direction of a wise and powerful Being; and if the fixed stars are the centres of systems, these systems must be similar; and all these, constructed according to the same plan, are subject to the government of one Being. All these he governs, not as the soul of the world, but as the Lord of all; therefore, on account of his government, he is called the Lord God--Pantokrator; for God is a relative term, and refers to subjects. Deity is God's government, not of his own body, as those think who consider him as the soul of the world, but of his servants. The supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect. But a being, however perfect, without government, is not God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel. We cannot say my eternal, my infinite. We may have some notions indeed of his attributes, but can have none of his nature. With respect to bodies, we see only shapes and colour--hear only sounds--touch only surfaces. These are attributes of bodies; but of their essence we know nothing. As a blind man can form no notion of colours, we can form none of the manner in which God perceives, and understands, and influences every thing.

"Therefore we know God only by his attributes. What are these? The wise and excellent contrivance, structure, and final aim of all things. In these his perfections we admire him, and we wonder. In his direction or government, we venerate and worship him--we worship him as his servants; and God, without dominion, without providence, and final aims, is Fate--not the object either of reverence, of hope, of love, or of fear."

But mark the emotions which affected the mind of another excellent observer of Nature, the admirer of Newton, and the person who has put the finishing stroke to the Newtonian philosophy, by showing that the acceleration of the moon's mean motion, is the genuine result of a gravitation decreasing in the precise duplicate ratio of the distance inversely; I mean Mr. Delaplace, one of the most brilliant ornaments of the French academy of sciences. He has lately published the Systeme du Monde a most beautiful compend of astronomy and of the Newtonian philosophy. Having finished his work with the same observation, "That a gravitation inversely proportional to the squares of the distances was the only principle which could unite material Nature into a permanent system;" he also sits down--surveys the scene--points out the parts which he had brought within our ken--and then makes this reflection: "Beheld in its totality, astronomy is the noblest monument of the human mind, its chief title to intelligence. But, seduced by the illusions of sense, and by self conceit, we have long considered ourselves as the centre of these motions; and our pride has been punished by the groundless fears which we have created to ourselves. We imagine, forsooth, that all this is for us, and that the stars influence our destinies! But the labours of ages have convinced us of our error, and we find ourselves on an insignificant planet, almost imperceptible in the immensity of space. But the sublime discoveries we have made richly repay this humble situation. Let us cherish these with care, as the delight of thinking beings--they have destroyed our mistakes as to our relation to the rest of the universe; errors which were the more fatal, because the social Order depends on justice and truth alone. Far be from us the dangerous maxim, that it is sometimes useful to depart from these, and to deceive men, in order to insure their happiness; but cruel experience has shewn us that these laws are never totally extinct."

There can be no doubt as to the meaning of these last words--they cannot relate to astrology--this was entirely out of date. The "attempts to deceive men, in order to insure their happiness," can only be those by which we are made to think too highly of ourselves. "Inhabitants of this pepper-corn, we think ourselves the peculiar favorites of Heaven, nay, the chief objects of care to a Being, the Maker of all; and then we imagine that, after this life, we are to be happy or miserable, according as we accede or not to this subjugation to opinions which enslave us. But truth and justice have broken these bonds."--But where is the force of the argument which entitles this perfecter of the Newtonian philosophy to exult so much? It all rests on this, That this earth is but as a grain of mustard-seed. Man would be more worth attention had he inhabited Jupiter or the Sun. Thus may a Frenchman look down on the noble creatures who inhabit Orolong or Pelew. But whence arises the absurdity of the intellectual inhabitants of this pepper-corn being a proper object of attention? it is because our shallow comprehensions cannot, at the same glance, see an extensive scene, and perceive its most minute detail.

David, a King, and a soldier had some notions of this kind. The heavens, it is true, pointed out to him a Maker and Ruler, which is more than they seem to have done to the Gallic philosopher; but David was afraid that he would be forgotten in the crowd, and cries out, "Lord! what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" But David gets rid of his fears, not by becoming a philosopher, and discovering all this to be absurd--he would still be forgotten--he at once thinks of what he is--a noble creature--high in the scale of nature. "But," says he, "I had forgotten myself. Thou hast made man but a little lower than the angels--thou hast crowned him with glory and honor--thou hast put all things under his feet." Here are exalted sentiments, fit for the creature whose ken pierces through the immensity of the visible universe, and who sees his relation to the universe, being nearly allied to its Sovereign, and capable of rising continually in his rank, by cultivating those talents which distinguish and adorn it.

Thousands, I trust, there are, who think that this life is but a preparation for another, in which the mind of man will have the whole wonders of creation and of providence laid open to its enraptured view, where it will see and comprehend with one glance what Newton, the most patient and successful of all the observers of nature, took years of meditation to find out--where it will attain that pitch of wisdom, goodness, and enjoyment, of which our consciences tell us we are capable, tho' it far surpasses that of the wisest, the best, and the happiest of men. Such persons will consider this Order as degrading and detestable, and as in direct opposition to their most confident expectations: For it pretends to what is impossible, to perfect peace and happiness in this life. They believe, and they feel, that man must be made perfect through sufferings, which shall call into action powers of mind that otherwise would never have unfolded themselves--powers which are frequently sources of the purest and most soothing pleasures, and naturally make us rest our eyes and hopes on that state where every tear shall be wiped away, and where the kind affections shall become the never-failing sources of pure and unfading delight. Such persons see the palpable absurdity of a preparation which is equally necessary for all, and yet must be confined to the minds of a few, who have the low and indelicate appetite for frivolous play-things, and for gross sensual pleasures. Such minds will turn away from this boasted treat with loathing and abhorrence.

I am well aware that some of my readers may smile at this, and think it an enthusiastical working up of the imagination, similar to what I reprobate in the case of Utopian happiness in a state of universal Liberty and Equality. It is like, they will say, to the declamation in a sermon by persons of the trade, who are trained up to finesse, by which they allure and tickle weak minds.

I acknowledge, that in the present case, I do not address myself to the cold hearts, who contentedly

"Sink and slumber in their cells of clay;"

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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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