I cannot help inserting here, though not the most proper place, a part of a provincial report from Knigge, the man of the whole Areopagitae who shows any thing like urbanity or gentleness of mind.
“Of my whole colony (Westphalia) the most brilliant is Claudiopolis (Neuwied.) There they work, and direct, and do wonders.”
If there ever was a spot upon earth where men may be happy in a state of cultivated society, it was the little principality of Neuwied. I saw it in 1770. The town was neat, and the palace handsome and in good taste; all was clean. But the country was beyond conception delightful; not a cottage that was out of repair, not a hedge out of order; it had been the hobby (pardon the word) of the Prince, who made it his daily employment to go through his principality regularly, and assist every householder, of whatever condition, with his advice, and with his purse; and, when a freeholder could not of himself put things into a thriving condition, the Prince sent his workmen and did it for him. He endowed schools for the common people, and two academies for the gentry and the people of business. He gave little portions to the daughters, and prizes to the well-behaving sons of the labouring people. His own household was a pattern of elegance and economy; his sons were sent to Paris to learn elegance, and to England to learn science and agriculture. In short, the whole was like a romance (and was indeed romantic.) I heard it spoken of with a smile at the table of the Bishop of Treves, at Ehrenbretstein, and was induced to see it next day as a curiosity: And yet even here, the fanaticism of Knigge would distribute his poison, and tell the blinded people, that they were in a state of sin and misery, that their Prince was a despot, and that they would never be happy till he was made to fly, and till they were all made equal.
They got their wish; the swarm of French locusts sat down on Neuwied’s beautiful fields in 1793, and entrenched themselves; and in three months, Prince and farmers houses, and cottages, and schools, and academies–all vanished; and all the subjects were made equal, and free (as they were expressly told by the French General) to weep.
Discite justitiam moniti, et non temnere divos!
Spartacus to Cato.
“By this plan we shall direct all mankind. In this manner, and by the simplest means, we shall set all in motion and in flames. The occupations must be so allotted and contrived, that we may, in secret, influence all political transactions.” N. B. This alludes to a part that is withheld from the public, because it contained the allotment of the most rebellious and profligate occupations to several persons whose common names could not be traced. “I have considered,” says Spartacus, “every thing, and so prepared it, that if the Order should this day go to ruin, I shall in a year re-establish it more brilliant than ever.” Accordingly it got up again in about this space of time, under the name of the GERMAN UNION, appearing in the form of READING SOCIETIES. One of these was set up in Zwack’s house; and this raising a suspicion, a visitation was made at Landshut, and the first set of the private papers were found. The scheme was, however, zealously prosecuted in other parts of Germany, as we shall see by and by. “Nor,” continues Spartacus, “will it signify though all should be betrayed and printed. I am so certain of success, in spite of all obstacles (for the springs are in every heart) that I am indifferent, though it should involve my life and my liberty. What! Have thousands thrown away their lives about homoios and homoiousios, and shall not this cause warm even the heart of a coward? But I have the art to draw advantage even from misfortune; and when you would think me sunk to the bottom, I shall rise with new vigour. Who would have thought, that a professor at Ingolstadt was to become the teacher of the professors of Gottingen, and of the greatest men in Germany?”
Spartacus to Cato.
“Send me back my degree of Illuminatus Minor; it is the wonder of all men here (I may perhaps find time to give a translation of the discourse of reception, which contains all that can be said of this Association to the public;) as also the two last sheets of my degree, which is in the keeping of Marius, and Celsus, under 100 locks which contains my history of the lives of the Patriarchs.” N. B. Nothing very particular has been discovered of these lives of the Patriarchs. He says, that there were above sixty sheets of it. To judge by the care taken of it, it must be a favorite work, very hazardous, and very catching.
In another letter to Cato, we have some hints of the higher degrees, and concerning a peculiar morality, and a popular religion, which the Order was one day to give the world. He says, “There must (a la Jesuite) not a single purpose ever come in sight that is ambiguous, and that may betray our aims against religion and the state. One must speak sometimes one way and sometimes another, but so as never to contradict ourselves, and so that, with respect to our true way of thinking, we may be impenetrable. When our strongest things chance to give offence, they must be explained as attempts to draw answers which discover to us the sentiments of the person we converse with.” N. B. This did not always succeed with him.
Spartacus says, speaking of the priests degree, “One would almost imagine, that this degree, as I have managed it, is genuine Christianity, and that its end was to free the Jews from slavery. I say, that Free Masonry is concealed Christianity. My explanation of the hieroglyphics, at least, proceeds on this supposition; and as I explain things, no man need be ashamed of being a Christian. Indeed I afterwards throw away this name, and substitute Reason. But I assure you this is no small affair; a new religion, and a new state-government, which so happily explain one and all of these symbols, and combines them in one degree, You may think that this is my chief work; but I have three other degrees, all different, for my class of higher mysteries, in comparison with which this is but child’s play; but these I keep for myself as General, to be bestowed by me only on the Benemeritissimi,” (surely such as Cato, his dearest friend, and the possessor of such pretty secrets, as abortives, poisons, pestilential vapours, &c.) “The promoted may be Areopagites or not. Were you here I should give you this degree without hesitation. But it is too important to be intrusted to paper, or to be bestowed otherwise than from my own hand. It is the key to history, to religion, and to every state-government in the world.” [**]
Spartacus proceeds, “There shall be but three copies for all Germany. You can’t imagine what respect and curiosity my priest-degree has raised; and, which is wonderful, a famous Protestant divine, who is now of the Order, is persuaded that the religion contained in it is the true sense of Christianity. O MAN, MAN! TO WHAT MAY’ST THOU NOT BE PERSUADED. Who would imagine that I was to be the founder of a new religion.”
In this scheme of Masonic Christianity, Spartacus and Philo laboured seriously together. Spartacus sent him the materials, and Philo worked them up. It will therefore illustrate this capital point of the constitution of the Order, if we take Philo’s account of it.
Philo to Cato.
“We must consider the ruling propensities of every age of the world. At present the cheats and tricks of the priests have roused all men against them, and against Christianity. But, at the same time superstition and fanaticism rule with unlimited dominion, and the understanding of man really seems to be going backwards. Our task, therefore, is doubled. We must give such an account of things, that fanatics shall not be alarmed, and that shall, notwithstanding, excite a spirit of free enquiry. We must not throw away the good with the bad, the child with the dirty water; but we must make the secret doctrines of Christianity be received as the secrets of genuine Free Masonry. But farther, we have to deal with the despotism of Princes. This increases every day. But then, the spirit of freedom breathes and sighs in every corner; and, by the assistance of hidden schools of wisdom, Liberty and Equality, the natural and imprescriptible rights of man, warm and glow in every breast. We must therefore unite these extremes. We proceed in this manner.
“Jesus Christ established no new Religion; he would only set Religion and Reason in their ancient rights. For this purpose he would unite men in a common bond. He would fit them for this by spreading a just morality, by enlightening the understanding, and by assisting the mind to shake off all prejudices. He would teach all men, in the first place, to govern themselves. Rulers would then be needless, and equality and liberty would take place without any revolution, by the natural and gentle operation of reason and expediency. This great Teacher allows himself to explain every part of the Bible in conformity to these purposes; and he forbids all wrangling among his scholars, because every man may there find a reasonable application to his peculiar doctrines. Let this be true or false, it does not signify. This was a simple Religion, and it was so far inspired; but the minds of his hearers were not fitted for receiving these doctrines. I told you, says he, but you could not bear it. Many therefore were called, but few were chosen. To these elect were entrusted the most important secrets; and even among them there were degrees of information. There was a seventy, and a twelve. All this was in the natural order of things, and according to the habits of the Jews, and indeed of all antiquity. The Jewish Theosophy was a mystery; like the Eleusinian, or the Pythagorean, unfit for the vulgar, And thus the doctrines of Christianity were committed to the Adepti, in a Disciplina Arcani. By these they were maintained, like the Vestal Fire. They were kept up, only in hidden societies, who handed them down to posterity; and they are now possessed by the genuine Free Masons.”
N. B. This explains the origin of many anonymous pamphlets which appeared about this time in Germany, showing that Free Masonry was Christianity. They have doubtless been the works of Spartacus and his partizans among the Eclectic Masons. Nicholai, the great apostle of infidelity, had given very favorable reviews of these performances, and having always shown himself an advocate of such writers as depreciated Christianity, it was natural for him to take this opportunity of bringing it still lower in the opinion of the people. Spartacus therefore conceived a high opinion of the importance of gaining Nicholai to the Order. He had before this gained Leuchtsenring, a hot-headed fanatic, who had spied Jesuits in every corner, and set Nicholai on his journey through Germany, to hunt them out. This man finding them equally hated by the Illuminati, was easily gained, and was most zealous in their cause. He engaged Nicholai, and Spartacus exults exceedingly in the acquisition, saying, “that he was an unwearied champion, et quidem contentissimus.” Of this man Philo says, “that he had spread this Christianity into every corner of Germany. I have put meaning,” says Philo, “to all these dark symbols, and have prepared both degrees, introducing beautiful ceremonies, which I have selected from among those of the ancient communions, combined with those of the Rosaic Masonry; and now,” says he, “it will appear that we are the only true Christians. We shall now be in a condition to say a few words to Priests and Princes. I have so contrived things, that I would admit even Popes and Kings, after the trials which I have prefixed; and they would be glad to be of the Order.”
But how is all this to be reconciled with the plan of Illumination, which is to banish Christianity altogether. Philo himself in many places says, “that it is only a cloak, to prevent squeamish people from starting back.” This is done pretty much in the same way that was practised in the French Masonry. In one of their degrees, the Master’s degree is made typical of the death of Jesus Christ, the preacher of Brotherly love. But in the next step, the Chevalier du Soleil, it is Reason that has been destroyed and entombed, and the Master in this degree, the Sublime Philosophe, occasions the discovery of the place where the body is hid. Reason tries again, and superstition and tyranny disappear, and all becomes clear; man becomes free and happy.
Let us hear Spartacus again.
Spartacus, in another place.
“We must, 1st. gradually explain away all our preparatory pious frauds. And when persons of discernment find fault, we must desire them to consider the end of all our labour. This sanctifies our means, which at any rate are harmless, and have been useful, even in this case, because they procured us a patient hearing, when otherwise men would have turned away from us like petted children. This will convince them of our sentiments in all the intervening points; and our ambiguous expressions will then be interpreted into an endeavour to draw answers of any kind, which may show us the minds of our pupils. 2d. We must unfold, from history and other writings, the origin and fabrication of all religious lies whatever; and then, 3d. We give a critical history of the Order. But I cannot but laugh, when I think of the ready reception which all this has met with from the grave and learned divines of Germany and of England; and I wonder how their William failed when he attempted to establish a Deistical Worship in London (what can this mean? [**]) for, I am certain, that it must have been most acceptable to that learned and free people. But they had not the enlightening of our days.” I may here remark, that Weishaupt is presuming too much on the ignorance of his friend, for there was a great deal of this enlightening in England at the time he speaks of, and if I am not mistaken, even this celebrated Professor of Irreligion has borrowed most of his scheme from this kingdom. This to be sure is nothing in our praise. But the PANTHEISTICON of Toland resembles Weishaupt’s Illumination in every thing but its rebellion and its villany. Toland’s Socratic Lodge is an elegant pattern for Weishaupt, and his Triumph of Reason, his Philosophic Happiness, his God, or Anima Mundi, are all so like the harsh system of Spartacus, that I am convinced that he has copied them, stamping them with the roughness of his own character. But to go on; Spartacus says of the English: “Their poet Pope made his Essay on Man a system of pure naturalism, without knowing it, as Brother Chrysippus did with my Priest’s Degree, and was equally astonished when this was pointed out to him. Chrysippus is religious, but not superstitious. Brother Lucian (Nicholai, of whom I have already said so much) says, that the grave Zolikofer now allows that it would be a very proper thing to establish a Deistical Worship at Berlin. I am not afraid but things will go on very well. But Philo, who was entrusted with framing the Priest’s Degree, has destroyed it without any necessity; it would, forsooth, startle those who have a hankering for Religion. But I always told you that Philo is fanatical and prudish. I gave him fine materials, and he has stuffed it full of ceremonies and child’s play, and as Minos says, c’est jouer la religion. But all this may be corrected in the revision by the Areopagitae.”