Secret Societies of All Ages - Charles Heckethorn

Book X—Social Regeneration

I. Illuminati

351. The Term Illuminati.—The name of "Illuminati" has frequently been adopted by various sects. The end of the sixteenth century saw the Alombrados in Spain, and in 1654 the Guerinets were founded in France, both societies of visionaries and ghost-seers. In the second half of the last century there was an association of mystics existing under that name in Belgium. Other fraternities, calling themselves Illuminati, and formed in more recent times, will be found mentioned in this work; but the society of which I am about to speak now is the best known of all Illuminati orders.

[Note: Suspected of being one of these Alombrados, Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order of Jesuits, was for nearly a month imprisoned in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Salamanca; when the holy fathers had perused his "Spiritual Exercises," in MS., they considered him harmless, and let him go.]

352. Foundation of Order.—Adam Weishaupt, a student in the University of Ingolstadt, learned and ambitious, and attracted by that love of mystery which is a prominent characteristic of youth, meditated the formation of a philosophico-political sect. When twenty-two years of age he was elected Professor of Canon Law in the same University, a chair which had for twenty years been filled by the Jesuits; hence their rage against, and persecution of, Weishaupt, which he met boldly, returning hatred with hatred, and collecting partisans. The great aversion he then conceived for the Jesuits appears in many of the statutes of the Order he founded. Jesuits, he often declares, are to be avoided like the plague. The sect of the Illuminati was founded in 1776 by Weishaupt, who adopted the pseudonym of Spartacus, but it was years before its ritual and constitution were finally settled. Weishaupt, in order the better to succeed, connected himself with the Freemasons, by entering the lodge "Theodore of Good Counsel," of Eclectic Masonry, at Munich, and attempting to graft Illuminism on Freemasonry. Many members of the craft, misled by the construction of his first degrees, entered the Order; but when they found that Weishaupt meant real work and not mere play, they hung back. The society was instituted for the purpose of lessening the evils resulting from the want of information, from tyranny, political and ecclesiastical.

353. Organisation.—The society was by its founder divided into classes, each of which was again subdivided into degrees, in the following manner:—

  1. Nursery:
    • Preparation,
    • Novice,
    • Minerval,
    • Illuminatus Minor
  2. Symbolic Masonry:
    • Apprentice,
    • Fellow craft,
    • Master Mason
  3. Scotch Masonry:
    • Illuminatus Major (Scotch Novice),
    • Illuminatus Dirigens (Scotch Knight)
  4. Lesser Mysteries:
    • Epopt or Priest,
    • Prince or Regent
  5. Greater Mysteries:
    • Magnus or Philosopher,
    • Rex, King, Homme Roi, or Aeropagite

In the Nursery and Masonry degrees, the candidate was merely tried and prepared for the Mystery degrees. If he was found unreliable, he was not allowed to go beyond; but if he proved an apt scholar, he was gradually initiated into the latter, where all that he had been taught before was overthrown, and radical and deistic theories and plans were unfolded, which were in nowise immoral or subversive of public order, but only such as, at the present day, are held by many men of just and enlightened views.

354. Initiation into the Degree of Priest.—The candidate for the priesthood, the first degree in the Lesser Mysteries, was taken, with his eyes bandaged, in a carriage, following a roundabout way, to the house where the initiation was to take place. On his arrival there his eyes were unbandaged, and he was told to put on the apron of the Scotch Knight, the cross of St. Andrews, and the hat, take the sword into his hand, and wait before the first door till summoned to enter. After a while he heard a solemn voice calling, "Enter, orphan, the fathers call thee, and shut the door behind thee." On entering he beheld a room, the walls of which were covered with rich red hangings, and splendidly illuminated. In the background stood a throne under a canopy, and in front of it a table, on which were placed a crown, sceptre, sword, valuables, and chains. The priestly vestments were displayed on a red cushion. There were no chairs in the room, but a stool without back stood at some distance from the throne, facing it. The candidate, on being introduced, was told to choose between the things on the table or the vestments on the cushion. Should he, contrary to all expectation, declare for the crown and its concomitants, he would at once be expelled; but if he chose the priestly dress, he was addressed with, "All hail, thou noble one!" and invited to take a seat on the stool and listen to the explanation of his future duties, which, as intimated above, were simply to act as an instructor of the uninitiated. The lecture being ended, a door at the back was opened, and the friend who had introduced the candidate entered in the priest's dress, which consisted of a white woollen toga, descending to the feet; the neck and sleeves were edged with scarlet silk ribbons, a silk girdle of the same colour encircled the waist. The deacon alone had, moreover, a red cross, about a foot long, on his left breast. The candidate was led into the inner room, the door of which had in the meantime been opened, and in which was seen an altar, covered with red cloth; above it hung a painted or carved crucifix. On the altar itself were placed the book of the ritual, a Bible bound in red, a small glass dish with honey, and a glass jug with milk in it. A burning lamp hung over the head of the deacon, who faced the altar; the priests sat on both sides, on red-cushioned benches. The candidate was admonished, and promised to renounce the enemies of mankind, evil desires, the spirit of oppression, and deception; having done this, he was divested of his masonic clothing, and having promised in presence of the crucifix to be faithful to the Order, the assistants put on him the priestly dress, and then let him eat some of the honey and drink some of the milk, as a sealing of their covenant. The priest's sign was laying both hands in the form of a cross flat on the head; the grip consisted in presenting a fist, with the thumb held straight up; the other would then make a fist, pressing it on that presented to him, but so as to enclose the vertically presented thumb. The word was INRI. Then followed a long lecture of a moral and scientific character.

355. Initiation into the Degree of Regent.—This degree was conferred only on such persons as by high intellectual attainments, social position, and tried fidelity, were considered capable of advancing the objects of the Order. The place of reception consisted of three rooms. In the last there stood a raised richly-decorated red throne under a canopy for the Provincial; to the right stood a white column, about seven feet high, on which was placed a crown, resting on a red cushion; suspended from the column were a shepherd's crook of white wood and an artificial palm branch. On the left hand stood a table with a red cover, on which were placed the garments of the Regent, which consisted of a kind of cuirass made of white leather, with a red cross on it. Over this was worn a white cloak, with another red cross embroidered on it. The collar and cuffs were red. The Regents wore tail white hats with red feathers, and red laced half-boots on their feet. The cross on the cuirass of the Provincial was irradiated with golden rays. The room was hung with red, and well lighted up. The Provincial alone occupied it, seated on the throne; the other Regents were in the middle room. The first room was set aside for preparation; it was hung with black, and in its centre, on a platform, stood a complete human skeleton, at whose feet lay a crown and a sword. The candidate was led into this room; his hands were manacled, and he was left alone for a little while, during which time he could bear the conversation carried on in the middle room. Who has brought this slave hither?—He came and knocked. What does he seek?— Freedom; he beseeches you to free him from his bonds. Why does he not apply to those who have bound him?— They will not set him free; his servitude benefits them. Who has made him a slave?—Society, the State, false Religion. . . . Does he respect persons? Ask him who was the man whose skeleton he sees before him; was he a king, nobleman, or beggar?—He does not know; he only knows that he was a man like one of ourselves. He wants only to be a man. Then let him be introduced. The candidate was then brought into the middle, and finally into the last room, and after some more catechising, invested with the dress of the Regent. The sign was holding out both arms towards a brother; the grip taking hold of his elbows, as if to support or raise him up; the word was Redemtis,

356. The Greater Mysteries.—Such was the initiation into the Lesser Mysteries. The Greater Mysteries, with their two degrees of Magus and Rex, were never worked out by Philo, as Baron de Knigge called himself. But according to statements found in the writings of Weishaupt, the Magus degree was to be founded on the principles of Spinoza, showing all to be material, God and the world One, and all religions human inventions. The second, or degree of Homo Rex, taught that every peasant, citizen, or father of a family is a sovereign, as in patriarchal life, to which all mankind must be brought back, and that consequently all state authority must be abolished. Weishaupt never intended these degrees to become known to any but the most trustworthy of his followers; but the discovery of his correspondence and secret papers revealed also this part of his scheme.

[Alphabet] from Secret Societies of All Ages by Charles Heckethorn

357. Nomenclature and Secret Writing of Order.—The most important person of the Order after Weishaupt was Baron de Knigge, who assumed the pseudonym of "Philo." All the leading members equally adopted such pseudonyms. Thus we have seen that Weishaupt took the name of "Spartacus", who in Pompey's time headed the insurrection of slaves; Zwack, a lawyer, was known among the initiated as "Cato"; Nicolai, bookseller, as "Lucian"; Professor Westenrieder, as "Pythagoras"; Canon Hertel, as "Marius"; and so on. The places whence the members wrote to one another were also designated by fictitious names: thus Bavaria was called Achaia; Munich was called Athens; Frankfurt-on-the-Main became Thebes; Heidelberg, Utica; and so on. The brethren dated their letters according to the Persian era, called after the king who began to rule in Persia in 632 before Christ, Jezdegerd, and the year began with them on the 21st March. They corresponded, till initiated into the higher degrees, in cypher, which consisted in numbers corresponding to letters in the following order:—

12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
a b c d e f g h i k l m
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
n o p q r s t u w x y z

When admitted to the higher degrees, they used either the one or the other hieroglyphic shown on page 309.

The word Order was never written in full, but always indicated by a circle with a dot in the centre.

The Order made considerable progress, including among its members priests, prelates, ministers, physicians, princes, and sovereign dukes. No doubt, few of them were initiated into the higher degrees. The Elector of Bavaria became alarmed at the political tenets betrayed by some recreant brothers of the Order, and at once suppressed it in all his territories.

358. Secret Papers and Correspondence.—It was only after the suppression of the Order that the mode of initiation into the higher degrees, and the true doctrines taught therein, became known. A collection of original papers and correspondence was found, by illegally searching the house of Zwack, in 1786. In the following year a much larger collection was found at the house of Baron Bassus, a member. From these we learn that one of the chief means recommended by the leaders for the success of the Order was that of gaining over the women—not a bad plan, and not objectionable when the aim is a good one.

"There is no way of influencing men so powerfully as by means of the women," says the instructor. "These should, therefore, be our chief study. We should insinuate ourselves into their good opinion, give them hints of emancipation from the tyranny of public opinion, and of standing up for themselves; it will be an immense relief to their enslaved minds to be freed from any one bond of restraint, and it will fire them the more, and cause them to work for us with zeal," etc.

Similar views are enunciated in a letter found among the correspondence:—

"The proposal of Hercules (a member not identified) to establish a Minerval school for girls is excellent, but requires circumspection. . . . We cannot improve the world without improving the women. . . . But how shall we get hold of them? How will 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 stepdaughters, fine girls. The eldest in particular is excellent. She is twenty-four, has read much, and is above all prejudices. They have many acquaintances. ... It may immediately be a very pretty society. . . . No man must be admitted. This will make them become more keen, and they will go much farther than if we were present. . . . Leave them to the scope of their own fancies, and they will soon invent mysteries which will put us to the blush. . . . They will be our great apostles. . . . Ptolemy's wife must direct them, and she will be instructed by Ptolemy, and my stepdaughters will consult with me. . . . But I am doubtful whether the association will be durable—women are fickle and impatient. Nothing will please them but hurrying from degree to degree . . . which will soon lose their novelty and influence. To rest seriously in one rank, and to be silent when they have found out that the whole is a cheat (!), is a work of which they are incapable. . . . Nay, there is a risk that they may take it into their heads to give things an opposite turn, and then, by the arts in which they are adepts by nature, they may turn our order upside down."

And a circumstance, affecting the personal character of the founder, which was brought to light by the discovery of the secret correspondence, but was totally unconnected with the principles advocated by the Order, contributed as much as anything else to give the Order of the Illuminati a bad name. Another circumstance was taken advantage of by the enemies of the Order to crush it. In the handwriting of Zwack were found a description of a strong box, which, if forced open, should blow up and destroy its contents; a recipe for sympathetic ink; how to take off impressions of seals, so as to use them afterwards as seals; a collection of some hundreds of such impressions, with a list of their owners; a set of portraits of eighty-five ladies in Munich, with recommendations of some of them as members of a lodge of sisters illuminates; injunctions to all superiors to learn to write with both hands, and to use more than one cypher; and other matters.

359. Refutation of Charges.—So says Robison in his "Proofs of a Conspiracy." But he does not say that this "one Zwack, a counsellor, holding some law office"—he was a judge and electoral councillor—in a published letter disproved all the scandalous charges brought against the illuminati, showing that the idea of utilising the influence of women was taken from an essay on the Mopses, and that the list of recipes given above was copied by him for his own private amusement and instruction, he being a criminal lawyer and judge, from the works of the Jesuit Kircher and other orthodox authorities, and had not the slightest connection with the Illuminati. The "set of portraits of eighty-five ladies in Munich" was actually stolen by the police from the wardrobe of Von Zwack's wife!

360. Suppression.—The society having been established in the small state of Bavaria, and so quickly suppressed, never made any lasting impression on the affairs of its own time, nor on those of the future. All the terrible effects attributed to its doctrines by Robison and other opponents of the Order existed more in the imagination of the writers than in reality. If, as Robison says, the founders only wanted liberty to indulge their ambition and passions, they might, and, according to the secret correspondence quoted, seem to, have done so without the cumbrous machinery of a society whose members appeared so unmanageable. Weishaupt was deprived of his professor's chair, and banished from Bavaria, but with a pension of eight hundred florins, which he refused. He first went to Regensburg, and afterwards entered the service of the Duke of Saxe-Gotha. Zwack also was banished, and went into the service of the Prince of Salms, who soon after had so great a hand in the disturbances in Holland. Of the German society of the Illuminati, it may truly be said that it was before its time; all enlightened nations now adopt and advocate its aims. But it was not without its influence on the French Revolution, and it may have inspired Bahrdt with the idea of the German Union.

361. Illuminati in France.—As early as the year 1782, Philo and Spartacu had formed the plan of introducing Illuminism into France, especially as some adepts already existed in that country. Dietrich, the Mayor of Strasbourg, was one of them; Mirabeau was another, who had been initiated at Berlin, to which city he had been sent by Louis XVI. on a secret mission. On his return to France he initiated the Abbe Talleyrand de Perigord, and Bode, privy councillor, at Weimar, known in the sect as Amelius, and William, Baron de Busch, whose sectarian name was Bayard who shortly after came to Paris, continued the work of initiation, choosing their adepts chiefly in the masonic lodges. The most zealous and trusted members were formed into a "Secret Committee of United Friends." According to a book published about 1790, and entitled "La Secte des Illumines," their manner of initiation, their oaths and doctrines, were of the most frighful kind. Let us go a little into details.

362. Ceremonies of Initiation.—The large mansion of Ermenonville, about thirty miles from Paris, and belonging to the Marquis de Gerardin, who gave J.J. Rousseau during the last days of his life an asylum, and afterwards a tomb on his estate, was said to be the chief lodge of llluminism. The famous impostor Saint Germain presided in it. On the day of initiation the candidate was led through a long dark passage into a large hall hung with black. By the feeble light of sepulchral lamps he perceived corpses wrapped up in shrouds. In the centre of the hall stood an altar built up of human skeletons; spectres wandered through the hall and disappeared, leaving an evil odour behind. At last two men disguised as spectres appeared, tied a pink ribbon, smeared with blood, and having the image of the Lady of Loretto on it, round his forehead. Into his hand they placed a crucifix, and hung an amulet round his neck. His clothes were laid on a funeral pyre; on his body they painted crosses with blood. His pudenda were tied up with string. Five terrific figures, armed with daggers, and clothed in bloodstained garments, approached him, fell down before him, and prayed. At the end of an hour or so the candidate heard mourning sounds, the pyre was lit up, and his clothes burnt, A gigantic semi-transparent form arose from the flames; the five figures on the ground fell into fearful convulsions; and the voice of an invisible hierophant burst from the vault, and uttered the following oaths, which the neophyte had to repeat:—

"In the name of the Crucified, I swear to sever all bonds uniting me with father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, relations, friends, mistress, king, superiors, benefactors, or any other man to whom I have promised faith, obedience, gratitude, or service.

"Name the place where thou art born. To live henceforth in another sphere, which thou will not reach till thou hast renounced this poisoned globe cursed by Heaven.

"From this moment thou shalt reveal to thy new chief all thou shalt have heard, learned, and discovered, and also to seek after and spy into things that might otherwise escape thy notice.

"Honour the aqua Toffana as a sure, quick, and necessary means of ridding the earth, by death or stupefaction, of those who revile truth, or seek to wrest it from our hands.

"Avoid Spain, Naples, and every other accursed country; also avoid all temptation to betray what thou hast now heard. Lightning does not strike so quickly as the dagger which will reach thee wherever thou mayest be."

The candidate having repeated these words, a candlestick with seven, black wax tapers was placed before him, together with a vessel full of human blood. He had to wash himself with the blood, and drink half a glassful. Then the string round the pudenda was untied, he was placed in a bath, and on leaving it regaled with a dish of roots.

363. Credibility of above Account.—No doubt all this sounds very horrible, and is very incredible. But as to the horrors, they were simply theatrical; and as to credibility, writers near the time when these horrors were said to have been practised seriously believed in them! The Abbe Barruel, who gives some of the above details in his work, "Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism," does "not hesitate to consider them as historical truth.

The Marquis de Jouffroi, in his "Dictionary of Social Errors," positively asserts that the meetings at Ermenonville were scenes of the grossest debauchery. Why should we doubt that they also were occasions for all sorts of ridiculous absurdities?

[Note. — In the (London) Monthly Magazine for] January 1798 there appeared a letter from Augustus Bottiger, Provost of the College of Weimar, in reply to Robison's work, charging that writer with making false statements, and declaring that since 1790 "every concern [sic] of the Illuminati has ceased." Bottiger also offered to supply any person in Great Britain, alarmed at the erroneous statements contained in the book above mentioned, with correct information.]