Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798


iSpeech

The miserable uncertainty and instability of the Masonic faith, which I described above, was not altogether the effect of mere chance, but had been greatly accelerated by the machinations of Baron Knigge, and some other Cosmo-political Brethren whom he had called to his assistance. Knigge had now formed a scheme for uniting the whole Fraternity, for the purpose of promoting his Utopian plan of universal benevolence in a state of liberty and equality. He hoped to do this more readily by completing their embarrassment, and shewing each system how imfirm its foundation was, and how little chance it had of obtaining a general adherence. The Stricten Observanz had now completely lost its credit, by which it had hoped to get the better of all the rest. Knigge therefore proposed a plan to the Lodges of Frankfort and Wetzlar, by which all the systems might, in some measure, be united, or at least be brought to a state of mutual forbearance and intercourse. He proposed that the English system should be taken for the ground-work, and to receive all and only those who had taken the three symbolical degrees, as they were now generally called. After thus guarding this general point of faith, he proposed to allow the validity of every degree or rank which should be received in any Lodge, or be made the character of any particular system. These Lodges, having secured the adherence of several others, brought about a general convention at Willemsbad in Hainault, where every different system should communicate its peculiar tenets. It was then hoped, that after an examination of them all, a constitution might be formed, which comprehended every thing that was most worthy of selection, and therefore be far better than the accommodating system already described. By this he hoped to get his favorite scheme introduced into the whole Order, and Free Masons made zealous Citizens of the World. I believe he was sincere in these intentions, and had no intention to disturb the public peace. The convention was accordingly held, and lasted a long while, the deputies consulting about the frivolities of Masonry, with all the seriousness of state-ambassadors. But there was a great shyness in their communications; and Knigge was making but small progress in his plan, when he met with another Mason, the Marquis of Constanza, who in an instant converted him, and changed all his measures, by showing him that he (Knigge) was only doing by halves what was already accomplished by another Society, which had carried it to its full extent. They immediately set about undoing what he had been occupied with, and heightened as much as they could the dissentions, already sufficiently great, and, in the mean time, got the Lodges of Frankfort and Wetzlar, and several others, to unite, and pick out the best of the things they had obtained by the communications from the other systems, and they formed a plan of what they called, the Eclectic or Syncritic Masonry of the United Lodges of Germany. They composed a constitution, ritual, and catechism, which has merit, and is indeed the completest body of Free Masonry that we have.

Such was the state of this celebrated and mysterious Fraternity in Germany in 1776. The spirit of innovation had seized all the Brethren. No man could give a tolerable account of the origin, history, or object of the Order, and it appeared to all as a lost or forgotten mystery. The symbols seemed to be equally susceptible of every interpretation, and none of these seemed entitled to any decided preference.

Footnotes

^23:* Citizenship of the World, from the Greek words Cosmos, world, and Polis, a city.

CHAP. II.

The Illuminati.

I AM now arrived at what I should call the great epoch of Cosmo-politism, the scheme communicated to Baron Knigge by the Marchese di Constanza. This obliges me to mention a remarkable Lodge of the Eclectic Masonry, erected at Munich in Bavaria, in 1775, under the worshipful Master, Professor Baader. It was called The Lodge Theodore of Good Counsel. It had its constitutional patent from the Royal York at Berlin, but had formed a particular system of its own, by instructions from the Loge des Chevaliers Bienfaisants at Lyons, with which it kept up a correspondence. This respect to the Lodge at Lyons had arisen from the preponderance acquired in general by the French party in the convention at Willemstad. The deputies of the Rosaic Lodges, as well as the remains of the Templars, and Stricten Observanz, all looking up to this as the mother Lodge of what they called the Grand Orient de la France, consisting (in 1782) of 266 improved Lodges, united under the D. de Chartres. Accordingly the Lodge at Lyons sent Mr. Willermooz as deputy to this convention at Willemsbad. Refining gradually on the simple British Masonry, the Lodge had formed a system of practical morality, which it asserted to be the aim of genuine Masonry, saying, that a true Mason, and a man of upright heart and active virtue, are synonymous characters, and that the great aim of Free Masonry is to promote the happiness of mankind by every mean in our power. In pursuance of these principles, the Lodge Theodore professedly occupied itself with oeconomical, statistical, and political matters, and not only published from time to time discourses on such subjects by the Brother Orator, but the Members considered themselves as in duty bound to propagate and inculcate the same doctrines out of doors.

Of the zealous members of the Lodge Theodore the most conspicuous was Dr. Adam Weishaupt, Professor of Canon Law in the university of Ingolstadt. This person had been educated among the Jesuits; but the abolition of their order made him change his views, and from being their pupil, he became their most bitter enemy. He had acquired a high reputation in his profession, and was attended not only by those intended for the practice in the law-courts, but also by the young gentlemen at large, in their course of general education; and he brought numbers from the neighbouring states to this university, and gave a ton to the studies of the place. He embraced with great keenness this opportunity of spreading the favorite doctrines of the Lodge, and his auditory became the seminary of Cosmopolitism. The engaging pictures of the possible felicity of a society where every office is held by a man of talents and virtue, and where every talent is set in a place fitted for its exertion, forcibly catches the generous and unsuspecting minds of youth, and in a Roman Catholic state, far advanced in the habits of gross superstition (a character given to Bavaria by its neighbours) and abounding in monks and idle dignitaries, the opportunities must be frequent for observing the inconsiderate dominion of the clergy, and the abject and indolent submission of the laity. Accordingly Professor Weishaupt says, in his Apology for Illuminatism, that Deism, Infidelity, and Atheism are more prevalent in Bavaria than in any country he was acquainted with. Discourses, therefore, in which the absurdity and horrors of superstition and spiritual tyranny were strongly painted, could not fail of making a deep impression. And during this state of the minds of the auditory the transition to general infidelity and irreligion is so easy, and so inviting to sanguine youth, prompted perhaps by a latent wish that the restraints which religion imposes on the expectants of a future state might be found, on enquiry, to be nothing but groundless terrors; that I imagine it requires the most anxious care of the public teacher to keep the minds of his audience impressed with the reality and importance of the great truths of religion, while he frees them from the shackles of blind and absurd superstition. I fear that this celebrated instructor had none of this anxiety, but was satisfied with his great success in the last part of this task, the emancipation of his young hearers from the terrors of superstition. I suppose also that this was the more agreeable to him, as it procured him the triumph over the Jesuits, with whom he had long struggled for the direction of the university.

This was in 1777. Weishaupt had long been scheming the establishment of an Association or Order, which, in time, should govern the world. In his first fervour and high expectations, he hinted to several Ex-Jesuits the probability of their recovering, under a new name, the influence which they formerly possessed, and of being again of great service to society, by directing the education of youth of distinction, now emancipated from all civil and religious prejudices. He prevailed on some to join him, but they all retracted but two. After this disappointment Weishaupt became the implacable enemy of the Jesuits; and his sanguine temper made him frequently lay himself open to their piercing eye, and drew on him their keenest resentment, and at last made him the victim of their enmity.

The Lodge Theodore was the place where the above-mentioned doctrines were most zealously propagated. But Weishaupt's emissaries had already procured the adherence of many other Lodges; and the Eclectic Masonry had been brought into vogue chiefly by their exertions at the Willemsbad convention. The Lodge Theodore was perhaps less guarded in its proceedings, for it became remarkable for the very bold sentiments in politics and religion which were frequently uttered in their harangues; and its members were noted for their zeal in making proselytes. Many bitter pasquinades, satires, and other offensive pamphlets were in secret circulation, and even larger works of very dangerous tendency, and several of them were traced to that Lodge. The Elector often expressed his disapprobation of such proceedings, and sent them kind messages, desiring them to be careful not to disturb the peace of the country, and particularly to recollect the solemn declaration made to every entrant into the Fraternity of Free Masons, "That no subject of religion or politics shall ever be touched on in the Lodge;" a declaration which alone could have procured his permission of any secret assembly whatever, and on the sincerity and honor of which he had reckoned when he gave his sanction to their establishment. But repeated accounts of the same kind increased the alarm, and the Elector ordered a judicial enquiry into the proceedings of the Lodge Theodore.

It was then discovered that this and several associated Lodges were the nursery or preparation-school for another Order of Masons, who called themselves the ILLUMINATED, and that the express aim of this Order was to abolish Christianity, and overturn all civil government. But the result of the enquiry was very imperfect and unsatisfactory. No Illuminati were to be found. They were unknown in the Lodge. Some of the members occasionally heard of certain candidates for illumination called MINERVALS, who were sometimes seen among them. But whether these had been admitted, or who received them, was known only to themselves. Some of these were examined in private by the Elector himself. They said that they were bound by honor to secrecy: But they assured the Elector, on their honor, that the aim of the Order was in the highest degree praiseworthy, and useful both to church and state: But this could not allay the anxiety of the profane public; and it was repeatedly stated to the Elector, that members of the Lodge Theodore had unguardedly spoken of this Order as one that in time must rule the world. He therefore issued an order forbidding, during his pleasure, all secret assemblies, and shutting up the Mason Lodges. It was not meant to be rigorously enforced, but was intended as a trial of the deference of these Associations for civil authority. The Lodge Theodore distinguished itself by pointed opposition, continuing its meetings; and the members, out of doors, openly reprobated the prohibition as an absurd and unjustifiable tyranny.

In the beginning of 1783, four professors of the Marianen Academy, founded by the widow of the late Elector, viz. Utschneider, Cossandey, Renner, and Grunberger, with two others, were summoned before the Court of Enquiry, and questioned, on their allegiance, respecting the Order of the Illuminati. They acknowledged that they belonged to it, and when more closely examined, they related several circumstances of its constitution and principles. Their declarations were immediately published, and were very unfavorable. The Order was said to abjure Christianity, and to refuse admission into the higher degrees to all who adhered to any of the three confessions. Sensual pleasures were restored to the rank they held in the Epicurean philosophy. Self-murder was justified on Stoical principles. In the Lodges death was declared an eternal sleep; patriotism and loyalty were called narrow-minded prejudices, and incompatible with universal benevolence; continual declamations were made on liberty and equality as the unalienable rights of man. The baneful influence of accumulated property was declared an insurmountable obstacle to the happiness of any nation whose chief laws were framed for its protection and increase. Nothing was so frequently discoursed of as the propriety of employing, for a good purpose, the means which the wicked employed for evil purposes; and it was taught, that the preponderancy of good in the ultimate result consecrated every mean employed; and that wisdom and virtue consisted in properly determining this balance. This appeared big with danger; because it appeared that nothing would be scrupled at, if we could make it appear that the Order could derive advantage from it, because the great object of the Order was held as superior to every consideration. They concluded by saying that the method of education made them all spies on each other and on all around them. But all this was denied by the Illuminati. Some of them were said to be absolutely false; and the rest were said to be mistakes. The apostate professors had acknowledged their ignorance of many things. Two of them were only Minervals, another was an Illuminatus of the lowest class, and the fourth was but one step farther advanced. Pamphlets appeared on both sides, with very little effect. The Elector called before him one of the superiors, a young nobleman, who denied these injurious charges, and said that they were ready to lay before his Highness their whole archives and all constitutional papers.

Notwithstanding all this, the government had received such an impression of the dangerous tendency of the Order, that the Elector issued another edict, forbidding all hidden assemblies; and a third, expressly abolishing the Order of Illuminati. It was followed by a search after their papers. The Lodge Theodore was immediately searched, but none were to be found. They said now that they had burnt them all, as of no use, since that Order was at an end.

It was now discovered, that Weishaupt was the head and founder of the Order. He was deprived of his Professor's chair, and banished from the Bavarian States; but with a pension of 800 florins, which he refused. He went to Regensburg, on the confines of Switzerland. Two Italians, the Marquis Constanza and Marquis Savioli, were also banished, with equal pensions (about L. 40) which they accepted. One Zwack, a counsellor, holding some law-office, was also banished. Others were imprisoned for some time. Weishaupt went afterwards into the service of the D. of Saxe Gotha, a person of a romantic turn of mind, and whom we shall again meet with. Zwack went into the service of the Pr. de Salms, who soon after had so great a hand in the disturbances in Holland.

By destroying the papers, all opportunity was lost for authenticating the innocence and usefulness of the Order. After much altercation and paper war, Weishaupt, now safe in Regensburg, published an account of the Order, namely, the account which was given to every Novice in a discourse read at his reception. To this were added, the statutes and the rules proceeding, as far as the degree of Illuminatus Minor, inclusive. This account he affirmed to be conform to the real practice of the Order. But this publication did by no means satisfy the public mind. It differed exceedingly from the accounts given by the four professors. It made no mention of the higher degrees, which had been most blamed by them. Besides, it was alleged, that it was all a fiction, written in order to lull the suspicions which had been raised (and this was found to be the case, except in respect of the very lowest degree.) The real constitution was brought to light by degrees, and shall be laid before the reader, in the order in which it was gradually discovered, that we may the better judge of things not fully known by the conduct of the leaders during the detection. The first account given by Weishaupt is correct, as far as I shall make use of it, and shows clearly the methods that were taken to recommend the Order to strangers.

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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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