I make no reflections on this very remarkable, and highly useful story, but content myself with saying, that this justification by Weishaupt (which I have been careful to give in his own words) is the greatest instance of effrontery and insult on the sentiments of mankind that I have ever met with. We are all supposed as completely corrupted as if we had lived under the full blaze of Illumination.
In other places of this curious correspondence we learn that Minos, and others of the Areopagitae, wanted to introduce Atheism at once, and not go hedging in the manner they did; affirming it was easier to show at once that Atheism was friendly to society, than to explain all their Masonic Christianity, which they were afterwards to show to be a bundle of lies. Indeed this purpose, of not only abolishing Christianity, but all positive religion whatever, was Weishaupt’s favorite scheme from the beginning. Before he canvassed for his Order, in 1774, he published a fictitious antique, which he called Sidonii Apollinaris Fragmenta, to prepare (as he expressly says in another place) minds for the doctrines of Reason, which contains all the detestable doctrines of Robinet’s Systeme de la Nature. The publication of the second part was stopped. Weishaupt says, in his APOLOGY FOR THE ILLUMINATI, that before 1780 he had retracted his opinions about Materialism, and about the inexpediency of Princes. But this is false: Philo says expressly, that every thing remained on its original footing in the whole practice and dogmas of the Order when he quitted it in July 1784. All this was concealed, and a even the abominable Masonry, in the account of the Order which Weishaupt published at Regensburg; and it required the constant efforts of Philo to prevent bare or flat Atheism from being uniformly taught in their degrees. He had told the council that Zeno would not be under a roof with a man who denied the immortality of the soul. He complains of Minos’s cramming irreligion down their throats in every meeting, and says, that he frightened many from entering the Order. “Truth,” says Philo, “is a clever, but a modest girl, who must be led by the hand like a gentlewoman, but not kicked about like a whore.” Spartacus complains much of the squeamishness of Philo; yet Philo is not a great deal behind him in irreligion. When describing to Cato the Christianity of the Priest-degree, as he had manufactured it, he says, “It is all one whether it be true or false, we must have it, that we may tickle those who have a hankering for religion.” All the odds seems to be, that he was of a gentler disposition, and had more deference even for the absurd prejudices of others. In one of his angry letters to Cato he says; “The vanity and self conceit of Spartacus would have got the better of all prudence, had I not checked him, and prevailed on the Areopagitae but to defer the developement of the bold principles till we had firmly secured the man. I even wished to entice the candidate the more by giving him back all his former bonds of secrecy, and leaving him at liberty to walk out without fear; and I am certain that they were, by this time, so engaged that we should not have lost one man. But Spartacus had composed an exhibition of his last principles, for a discourse of reception, in which he painted his three favorite mysterious degrees, which were to be conferred by him alone, in colours which had fascinated his own fancy. But they were the colours of hell, and would have scared the most intrepid; and because I represented the danger of this, and by force obtained the omission of this picture, he became my implacable enemy. I abhor treachery and profligacy, and leave him to blow himself and his Order in the air.”
Accordingly this happened. It was this which terrified one of the four professors, and made him impart his doubts to the rest. Yet Spartacus seems to have profited by the apprehensions of Philo; for in the last reception, he, for the first time, exacts a bond from the intrant, engaging himself for ever to the Order, and swearing that he will never draw back. Thus admitted, he becomes a sure card. The course of his life is in the hands of the Order, and his thoughts on a thousand dangerous points; his reports concerning his neighbours and friends; in short, his honor and his neck. The Deist, thus led on, has not far to go before he becomes a Naturalist or Atheist; and then the eternal sleep of death crowns all his humble hopes.
Before giving an account of the higher degrees, I shall just extract from one letter more on a singular subject.
Minos to Sebastian, 1782.
“The proposal of Hercules to establish a Minerval school for girls is excellent, but requires much circumspection. Philo and I have long conversed on this subject. We cannot improve the world without improving women, who have such a mighty influence on the men. But how shall we get hold of them? How will their relations, particularly their mothers, immersed in prejudices, consent that others shall influence their education? We must begin with grown girls. Hercules proposes the wife of Ptolemy Magus. I have no objection; and I have four step-daughters, fine girls. The oldest in particular is excellent. She is twenty-four, has read much, is above all prejudices, and in religion she thinks as I do. They have much acquaintance among the young ladies their relations (N. B. we don’t know the rank of Minos, but as he does not use the word Damen, but Frauenzimmer, it is probable that it is not high.) It may immediately be a very pretty Society, under the management of Ptolemy’s wife, but really under his management. You must contrive pretty degrees, and dresses, and ornaments, and elegant and decent rituals. No man must be admitted. This will make them become more keen, and they will go much farther than if we were present, or than if they thought that we knew of their proceedings. Leave them to the scope of their own fancies, and they will soon invent mysteries which will put us to the blush, and create an enthusiasm which we can never equal. They will be our great apostles. Reflect on the respect, nay the awe and terror inspired by the female mystics of antiquity. (Think of the Danaids–think of the Theban Bacchantes.) Ptolemy’s wife must direct them, and she will be instructed by Ptolemy, and my step-daughters will consult with me. We must always be at hand to prevent the introduction of any improper question. We must prepare themes for their discussion–thus we shall confess them, and inspire them with our sentiments. No man however must come near them. This will fire their roving fancies, and we may expect rare mysteries. But I am doubtful whether this Association will be durable. Women are fickle and impatient. Nothing will please them but hurrying from degree to degree, through a heap of insignificant ceremonies, which will soon lose their novelty and influence. To rest seriously in one rank, and to be still and silent when they have found out that the whole is a cheat (hear the words of an experienced Mason) is a task of which they are incapable. They have not our motives to persevere for years, allowing themselves to be led about, and even then to hold their tongues when they find that they have been deceived. Nay there is a risk that they may take it into their heads to give things an opposite turn, and then, by voluptuous allurements, heightened by affected modesty and decency, which give them an irresistible empire over the best men, they may turn our Order upside down, and in their turn will lead the new one.”
Such is the information which may be got from the private correspondence. It is needless to make more extracts of every kind of vice and trick. I have taken such as show a little of the plan of the Order, as far as the degree of Illuminatus Minor, and the vile purposes which are concealed under all their specious declamation. A very minute account is given of the plan, the ritual, ceremonies, &c. and even the instructions and discourses, in a book called the Achte Illuminat, published at Edessa (Frankfurt) in 1787. Philo says, “that this is quite accurate, but that he does not know the author.” I proceed to give an account of their higher degrees, as they are to be seen in the book called Neueste Arbeitung des Spartacus and Philo. And the authenticity of the accounts is attested by Grollman, a private gentleman of independent fortune, who read them, signed and sealed by Spartacus and the Areopagitae.
The series of ranks and progress of the pupil were arranged as follows:
The Reader must be almost sick of so much villany, and would be disgusted with the minute detail, in which the cant of the Order is ringing continually in his ears. I shall therefore only give such a short extract as may fix our notions of the object of the Order, and the morality of the means employed for attaining it. We need not go back to the lower degrees, and shall begin with the ILLUMINATUS DIRIGENS, or SCOTCH KNIGHT.
After a short introduction, teaching us how the holy secret Chapter of Scotch Knights is assembled, we have, I. Fuller accounts and instructions relating to the whole. II. Instructions for the lower classes of Masonry. III. Instructions relating to Mason Lodges in general. IV. Account of a reception into this degree, with the bond which each subscribes before he can be admitted. V. Concerning the solemn Chapter for reception. VI. Opening of the Chapter. VII. Ritual of Reception, and the Oath. VIII. Shutting of the Chapter. IX. Agape, or Love Feast. X. Ceremonies of the consecration of the Chapter. Appendix A, Explanation of the Symbols of Free Masonry. B, Catechism for the Scotch Knight. C, Secret Cypher.
In No. I. it is said that the “chief study of the Scotch Knight is to work on all men in such a way as is most insinuating. II. He must endeavour to acquire the possession of considerable property. III. In all Mason Lodges we must try secretly to get the upper hand. The Masons do not know what Free Masonry is, their high objects, nor their highest Superiors, and should be directed by those who will lead them along the right road. In preparing a candidate for the degree of Scotch Knighthood, we must bring him into dilemmas by catching questions.–We must endeavour to get the disposal of the money of the Lodges of the Free Masons, or at least take care that it be applied to purposes favorable to our Order–but this must be done in a way that shall not be remarked. Above all, we must push forward with all our skill, the plan of Eclectic Masonry, and for this purpose follow up the circular letter already sent to all the Lodges with every thing that can increase their present embarrassment.” In the bond of No. IV. the candidate binds himself to “consider and treat the Illuminati as the Superiors of Free Masonry, and endeavour in all the Mason Lodges which he frequents, to have the Masonry of the Illuminated, and particularly the Scotch Noviciate, introduced into the Lodge.” (This is not very different from the Masonry of the Chevalier de l’Aigle of the Rosaic Masonry, making the Master’s degree a sort of commemoration of the passion, but without giving that character to Christianity which is peculiar to Illuminatism.) Jesus Christ is represented as the enemy of superstitious observances, and the assertor of the Empire of Reason and of Brotherly love, and his death and memory as dear to mankind. This evidently paves the way for Weishaupt’s Christianity. The Scotch Knight also engages “to consider the Superiors of the Order as the unknown Superiors of Free Masonry, and to contribute all he can to their gradual union.” In the Oath, No. VII. the candidate says, “I will never more be a flatterer of the great, I will never be a lowly servant of princes; but I will strive with spirit, and with address, for virtue, wisdom, and liberty. I will powerfully oppose superstition, slander, and despotism; so, that like a true son of the Order, I may serve the world. I will never sacrifice the general good, and the happiness of the world, to my private interest. I will boldly defend my Brother against slander, will follow out the traces of the pure and true Religion pointed out to me in my instructions, and in the doctrines of Masonry; and will faithfully report to my Superiors the progress I make therein.”
When he gets the stroke which dubs him a Knight, the Preses says to him, “Now prove thyself, by thy ability, equal to Kings, and never from this time forward bow thy knee to one who is, like thyself, but a man.”
No. IX is an account of the Love-Feast.
1st, There is a Table Lodge, opened as usual, but in virtue of the ancient Master-word. Then it is said, “Let moderation, fortitude, morality, and genuine love of the Brethren, with the overflowing of innocent and careless mirth reign here.” (This is almost verbatim from Toland.)
2d, In the middle of a bye-table is a chalice, a pot of wine, an empty plate, and a plate of unleavened bread–All is covered with a green cloth.
3d, When the Table Lodge is ended, and the Prefect sees no obstacle, he strikes on this bye-table the stroke of Scotch Master, and his signal is repeated by the Senior Warden. All are still and silent. The Prefect lifts off the cloth.
4th, The Prefect asks, whether the Knights are in the disposition to partake of the Love-Feast in earnest, peace, and contentment. If none hesitates, or offers to retire, he takes the plate with the bread and says,
“J. of N. our Grand-Master, in the night in which he was betrayed by his friends, persecuted for his love for truth, imprisoned, and condemned to die, assembled his trusty Brethren, to celebrate his last Love-Feast–which is signified to us in many ways. He took bread (taking it) and broke it (breaking it) and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples, &c.–This shall be the mark of our Holy Union, &c. Let each of you examine his heart, whether love reigns in it, and whether he, in full imitation of our Grand-Master, is ready to lay down his life for his Brethren.
“Thanks be to our Grand-Master, who has appointed this feast as a memorial of his kindness, for the uniting of the hearts of those who love him.–Go in peace, and blessed be this new Association which we have formed.–Blessed be ye who remain loyal and strive for the good cause.”
5th, The Prefect immediately closes the Chapter with the usual ceremonies of the Loge de Table.
6th, It is to be observed, that no priest of the Order must be present at this Love-Feast, and that even the Brother Servitor quits the Lodge.
I must observe here, that Philo, the manufacturer of this ritual, has done it very injudiciously; it has no resemblance whatever to the Love-Feast of the primitive Christians, and is merely a copy of a similar thing in one of the steps of French Masonry. Philo’s reading in church-history was probably very scanty, or he trusted that the candidates would not be very nice in their examination of it, and he imagined that it would do well enough, and “tickle such as had a religious hankering.” Spartacus disliked it exceedingly–it did not accord with his serious conceptions, and he justly calls it Jouer la Religion.