Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798

“O fairest of creation! last and best

Of all God’s works, creature in whom excell’d

Whatever can to fight or thought be form’d,

Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet!

How art thou lost–and now to death devote?–

And me with thee hast ruin’d: for with thee

Certain my resolution is to die.”


^78:* This is evidently the Mystere du Mithrus mentioned by Barruel, in his History of Jacobinism, and had been carried into France by Bede and Busche.

^86:* I observe, in other parts of his correspondence where he speaks of this, several singular phrases, which are to be found in two books; Antiquite devoilee par ses Usages, and Origine du Despotisme Oriental. These contain indeed much of the maxims inculcated in the reception discourse of the degree Illuminatus Minor. Indeed I have found, that Weishaupt is much less an inventor than he is generally thought.

^89:* It means an attempt made by David Williams, [Am: Ed]

^92:* Happy France! Cradle of illumination, where the morning of Reason has dawned, dispelling the clouds of Monarchy and Christianity, where the babe has sucked the blood of the unenlightened, and Murder! Fire! Help! has been the lullaby to sing it to sleep.

^112:* (They were strongly suspected of having published some scandalous caricatures, and some very immoral prints.) They scrupled at no mean, however base, for corrupting the nation. Mirabeau had done the same thing at Berlin. By political caricatures and filthy prints, they corrupt even such as cannot read.

^113:* In this small turbulent city there were eleven secret societies of Masons, Rosycrucians, Clairvoyants,” &c.

^145:* I say this on the authority of a young gentleman, an emigrant, who saw it, and who said, that they were women, not of the dregs of the Palais Royal, not of infamous character, but well dressed.–I am sorry to add, that the relation, accompanied with looks of horror and disgust, only provoked a contemptuous smile from an illuminated British Fair one.


The German Union.

WHEN SUCH a fermentation has been excited in the public mind, it cannot be supposed that the formal suppression of the Order of the Illuminati in Bavaria, and in the Duchy of Wirtemberg, by the reigning Princes, would bring all to rest again. By no means. The minds of men were predisposed for a change by the restless spirit of speculation in every kind of enquiry, and the leaven had been carefully and skilfully disseminated in every quarter of the empire, and even m foreign countries. Weishaupt said, on good grounds, that “if the Order should be discovered and suppressed, he would restore it with tenfold energy in a twelvemonth.” Even in those states where it was formally abolished, nothing could hinder the enlisting new members, and carrying on all the purposes of the Order. The Areopagitae might indeed be changed, and the feat of the direction transferred to some other place; but the Minerval and his Mentor could meet as formerly, and a ride of a few miles into another State, would bring him to a Lodge, where the young would be amused, and the more advanced would be engaged in serious mischief. Weishaupt never liked play. He indulged Philo in it, because he saw him taken with such rattles; but his own projects were dark and solemn, and it was a relief to him now to be freed from that mummery. He soon found the bent of the person’s mind on whom he had set his talons, and he says, that “no man ever escaped him whom he thought it worth while to secure.” He had already filled the lists with enough of the young and gay, and when the present condition of the Order required sly and experienced heads, he no longer courted them by play-things. He communicated the ranks and the instructions by a letter, without any ceremony. The correspondence with Philo at the time of the breach with him shows the superiority of Spartacus. Philo is in a rage, provoked to find a pitiful professor discontented with the immense services which he had received from a gentleman of his rank, and treating him with authority, and with disingenuity.–He tells Spartacus what still greater services he can do the Order, and that he can also ruin it with a breath.–But in the midst of this rage, he proposes a thousand modes of reconcilement. The smallest concession would make him hug Spartacus in his arms. But Spartacus is deaf to all his threats, and firm as a rock. Though he is conscious of his own vile conduct, he abates not in the smallest point his absolute authority–requires the most implicit submission, which he says “is due, not to him, but to the Order, and without which the Order must immediately go to ruin.”–He does not even deign to challenge Philo to do his worst, but allows him to go out of the Order without one angry word. This shows his confidence in the energy of that spirit of restless discontent, and that hankering after reform which he had so successfully spread abroad.

This had indeed arisen to an unparalleled height, unexpected even by the seditious themselves. This appeared in a remarkable manner by the reception given to the infamous letters on the constitution of the Prussian States.

The general opinion was, that Mirabeau was the author of the letters themselves, and it was perfectly understood by every person, that the translation into French was a joint contrivance of Mirabeau and Nicholai. I was assured of this by the British Minister at that Court. There are some blunders in respect of names, which an inhabitant of the country could hardly be guilty of, but are very consistent with the self-conceit and precipitancy of this Frenchman.–There are several instances of the same kind in two pieces, which are known for certain to be his, viz. the Chronique scandaleuse and the Histoire secrette de la Ceur ae Berlin. These letters were in every hand, and were mentioned in every conversation, even in the Prussian dominions–and in other places of the Empire they were quoted, and praised, and commented on, although some of their contents were nothing short of rebellion.

Mirabeau had a large portion of that self-conceit which distinguishes his countrymen. He thought himself qualified not only for any high office in administration, but even for managing the whole affairs of the new King. He therefore endeavoured to obtain some post of honor. But he was disappointed, and, in revenge, did every thing in his power to make those in administration the objects of public ridicule and reproach. His licentious and profligate manners were such as excluded him from the society of the people of the first classes, whom it behoved to pay some attention to personal dignity. His opinions were in the highest degree corrupted, and he openly professed Atheism. This made him peculiarly obnoxious to the King, who was determined to correct the disturbances and disquiets which had arisen in the Prussian states from the indifference of his predecessor in these matters. Mirabeau therefore attached himself to a junto of writers and scribblers, who had united in order to disseminate licentious principles, both in respect of religion and of government. His wit and fancy were great, and he had not perhaps his equal for eloquent and biting satire. He was therefore caressed by these writers as a most valuable acquisition to their Society. He took all this deference as his just due; and was so confident in his powers, and so foolish as to advise, and even to admonish, the King. Highly obnoxious by such conduct, he was excluded from any chance of preferment, and was exceedingly out of humour. In this state of mind he was in a fit frame for Illumination. Spartacus had been eyeing him for some time, and at last communicated this honor to him through the intermedium of Mauvillon, another Frenchman, Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of the Duke of Brunswick. This person had been most active during the formal existence of the Order, and had contributed much to its reception in the Protestant states–he remained long concealed. Indeed his Illumination was not known till the invasion of Holland by the French rebels. Mauvillon then stepped forth, avowed his principles, and recommended the example of the French to the Germans. This encouragement brought even Philo again on the stage, notwithstanding his resentment against Spartacus, and his solemn declaration of having abjured all such societies–These, and a thousand such facts, show that the seeds of licentious Cosmo-politism had taken deep root, and that cutting down the crop had by no means destroyed the baneful plant–But this is not all–a new method of cultivation had been invented, and immediately adopted, and it was now growing over all Europe in another form.

I have already taken notice of the general perversion of the public mind which co-operated with the schisms of Free Masonry in procuring a listening ear to Spartacus and his associates. It will not be doubted but that the machinations of the Illuminati encreased this, even among those who did not enter into the Order. It was easier to diminish the respect for civil establishments in Germany than in almost any other country. The frivolity of the ranks and court offices in the different confederated petty states, made it impossible to combine dignity with the habits of a scanty income.–It was still easier to expose to ridicule and reproach those numberless abuses which the folly and the vices of men had introduced into religion. The influence on the public mind which naturally attaches to the venerable office of a moral instructor, was prodigiously diminished by the continual disputes of the Catholics and Protestants, which were carried on with great heat in every little principality. The freedom of enquiry, which was supported by the state in Protestant Germany, was terribly abused (for what will the folly of man not abuse) and degenerated into a wanton licentiousness of thought, and a rage for speculation and scepticism on every subject whatever. The struggle, which was originally between the Catholics and the Protestants, had changed, during the gradual progress of luxury and immorality, into a contest between reason and superstition. And in this contest the denomination of superstition had been gradually extended to every doctrine which professed to be of divine revelation, and reason was declared to be, for certain, the only way in which the Deity can inform the human mind.

Some respectable Catholics had published works filled with liberal sentiments. These were represented as villanous machinations to inveigle Protestants. On the other hand, some Protestant divines had proposed to imitate this liberality by making concessions which might enable a good Catholic to live more at ease among the Protestants, and might even accelerate an union of faiths. This was hooted beyond measure, as Jesuitical, and big with danger. While the sceptical junto, headed by the editors of the Deutsche Bibliothek and the Berlin Monatschrift, were recommending every performance that was hostile to the established faith of the country, Leuchtsenring was equally busy, finding Jesuits in every corner, and went about with all the inquietude of a madman, picking up anecdotes. Zimmerman, the respectable physician of Frederick King of Prussia, gives a diverting account of a visit which he had by Leuchtsenring at Hanover, all trembling with fears of Jesuits, and wishing to persuade him that his life was in danger from them. Nicholai was now on the hunt, and during this crusade Philo laid hands on him, being introduced to his acquaintance by Leuchtsenring, who was, by this time, cured of his zeal for Protestantism, and had become a disciple of Illuminatism. Philo had gained his good opinion by the violent attack which he had published on the Jesuits and Rosycrucians by the orders of Spartacus.–He had not far to go in gaining over Nicholai, who was at this time making a tour through the Lodges. The sparks of Illumination which he perceived in many of them pleased him exceedingly, and he very cheerfully received the precious secret from Philo.

This acquisition to the Order was made in January 1782. Spartacus was delighted with it, considered Nicholai as a most excellent champion, and gave him the name of Lucian, the great scoffer at all religion, as aptly expressing his character.

Nicholai, on his return to Berlin, published many volumes of his discoveries. One would imagine that not a Jesuit had escaped him. He mentions many strange schismatics, both in religion and in Masonry–but he never once mentions an Illuminatus.–When they were first checked, and before the discovery of the secret correspondence, he defended them, and strongly reprobated the proceedings of the Elector of Bavaria, calling it vile persecution–Nay, after the discovery of the letters found in Zwack’s house, he persisted in his defence, vindicated the possession of the abominable receipts, and highly extolled the character of Weishaupt.–But when the discovery of papers in the house of Batz informed the public that he himself had long been an Illuminatus, he was sadly put to it to reconcile his defence with any to religion. [**]–Weishaupt saved him from disgrace, as he thought, by his publication of the system of Illuminatism–Nicholai then boldly said that he knew no more of the Order than was contained in that book, that is, only the two first degrees.

But before this, Nicholai had made to himself a most formidable enemy. The history of this contest is curious in itself, and gives us a very instructive picture of the machinations of that conjuration des philosophes, or gang of scribblers who were leagued against the peace of the world. The reader will therefore find it to our purpose. On the authority of a lady in Courland, a Countess von der Recke, Nicholai had accused Dr. Stark of Darmstadt (who made such a figure in Free Masonry) of Jesuitism, and of having even submitted to the tonsure. Stark was a most restless spirit–had gone through every mystery in Germany, Illuminatism excepted, and had ferreted out many of Nicholai’s hidden transactions. He was also an unwearied book-maker, and dealt out these discoveries by degrees, keeping the eye of the public continually upon Nicholai. He had suspected his Illumination for some time past, and when the secret came out, by Spartacus’s letter, where he boasts of his acquisition, calling Nicholai a most sturdy combatant, and saying that he was contentissimus, Stark left no stone unturned, till he discovered that Nicholai had been initiated in all the horrid and most profligate mysteries of Illuminatism, and that Spartacus had at the very first entrusted him with his most darling secrets, and advised with him on many occasions. [*+]

This complete blasting of his moral character could not be patiently borne, and Nicholai was in his turn the bitter enemy of Stark, and, in the paroxysms of his anger, published every idle tale, although he was often obliged to contradict them in the next Review. In the course of this attack and defence, Dr. Stark discovered the revival of the Illuminati, or at least a society which carried on the same great work in a somewhat different way.

Dr. Stark had written a defence against one of Nicholai’s accusations, and wished to have it printed at Leipzig. He therefore sent the manuscript to a friend, who resided there. This friend immediately proposed it to a most improper person, Mr. Pott, who had written an anonymous commentary on the King of Prussia’s edict for the uniformity of religious worship in his dominions. This is one of the most shameless attacks on the established faith of the nation, and the authority and conduct of the Prince, that can be imagined. Stark’s friend was ignorant of this, and spoke to Pott, as the partner of the great publisher Walther. They, without hesitation, undertook the publishing; but when six weeks had passed over, Stark’s friend found that it was not begun. Some exceptionable passages, which treated with disrespect the religion of Reason, were given as the cause of delay; and he was told that the author had been written to about them, but had not yet returned an answer. This was afterwards found to be false. Then a passage in the preface was objected to, as treating roughly a lady in Courland, which Walther could not print, because he had connections with that court. The author must be entreated to change his expressions. After another delay, paper was wanting. The MS. was withdrawn. Walther now said that he would print it immediately, and again got it into his hands, promising to send the sheets as they came from the press. These not appearing for a long time, the agent made enquiry, and found that it was sent to Michaelis at Halle, to be printed there. The agent immediately went thither, and found that it was printing with great alterations, another title, and a guide or key, in which the work was perverted and turned into ridicule by a Dr. Bahrdt, who resided in that neighbourhood. An action of recovery and damages was immediately commenced at Leipzig, and after much contest, an interdict was put on Michaelis’s edition, and a proper edition was ordered immediately from Walther, with security that it should appear before Bahrdt’s key. Yet when it was produced at the next fair, the booksellers had been already supplied with the spurious edition; and as this was accompanied by the key, it was much more saleable ware, and completely supplanted the other.

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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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