Albert Pike: Early Developments in Continental Freemasonry


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Early Developments in Continental Freemasonry.

(Pages 142 – 153.)

FREEMASONRY first went from England to Germany, and the Lodge of the Three Globes, at Berlin, was thus established, being only a Symbolic Lodge, like the Lodge Royale Yorck.

In 1743, Baron Hunde was at Paris, and there received the high degrees from the adherents of the Stuarts; and had power given him to propagate these degrees in Germany. But he was not very active, upon his return there. In 1756 or 1757, a complete revolution took place. The French officers who were prisoners in Prussia introduced the French degrees, and a Comissary named Rosa brought from Paris a wagon-load of Masonic ornaments, which were all distributed before they reached Berlin, and he had to order another. In half a year Free Masonry underwent a complete revolution all over Germany, and Chevaliers of the Rose Croix and Kadosh multiplied without number. About 1764 a Bohemian named Leucht, calling himself Johnson, appeared in Germany as a teacher of the true Masonry, who, after a little, informed the German Brethren that the Baron Hunde was a Grand Master of the Seventh Province, which included the whole of Germany the royal dominions of Prussia. The Lodges submitted to him as such: and after two or three years a Convention was held at Altenberg, and the Templar Rite of Strict Observance was established.

Then Dr. Zinzendorf introduced a new system, which he said was from Sweden, and of this a National Grand Lodge was established at Berlin.

Then Starck and after him the Baron Knigge introduced Schisms; and Masonry was filled with Clergymen, Professors, Men of Letters, and persons holding offices in the law-courts. Knigge brought about a General Convention at Wilhelmsbad in Hainault, of members of all Rites and Degrees; at which the Marquis of Costanza and Knigge formed the Eclectic Masonry of the United Lodges of Germany. Such was the condition of the Order in Germany in 1776. In 1775 a Lodge of the Eclectic System was established at Munich in Bavaria, The Lodge Theodore of Good Council, which held a patent from the Lodge Royal York at Berlin, but had a system of its own, by instructions from the Lodge at Lyons. Of this Lodge at Munich, Dr. Adam Weishaupt was a member, and established the Order of Illuminati, under the inspiration of a bitter hatred of the Jesuits. He was of the Order of Strict Observance, and a Rosicrucian.

Among the prominent members of the new Order (the Illuminati), were Baron Knigge, the most active member next to Weishaupt, the Baron Bassus, Zwack, Nicolai, a bookseller at Berlin, the Marquis Costanza, Bahrdt, a clergyman, Mirabeau, and the Duke of Orleans. The authentic letters and documents published by Robison show that in the Degrees given to the members generally, the principles of morality and of civil and religious liberty were expounded; but Weishaupt invented higher degrees, made known to a few only, and not favorably received by other prominent members, which taught that all religion was falsehood.

Nicolai was an eminent and learned bookseller at Berlin. He joined the Order in January, 1782 (while he was engaged in hunting out Jesuits), being induced to do so by the Baron Knigge, who afterwards quarreled with Weishaupt and left the Order.

Knigge was converted to Illuminism by the Marquis Costanza, and procured many members for the Order. It was chiefly by his exertions among the Masons in the Protestant countries, that the Eclectic System of Free Masonry was introduced, and afterwards brought under the direction of the Illuminati. This was entirely owing to his extensive connections among the Masons. He travelled extensively, before he embraced Illuminism, from Lodge to Lodge, and even from house to house, to unite the Masons; and afterwards went over the same ground to extend the Eclectic System, and get the Lodges under the direction of the Illuminati, by their choice of Masters and Wardens. He was a devotional turn, a man of the world who had kept good company, and was offended and shocked by the irreligious projects of Weishaupt. After laboring four years with great zeal, this dissatisfaction and the disingenuous tricks of Weishaupt caused him to break off his connection with the Society, in 1784, and to publish a declaration of what he had done in it.

Nicolai fell into a bitter quarrel with Dr. Starck, of Darmstadt, a court preacher, by accusing him of Jesuitism. Starck was a restless spirit, devoted to Masonry, and had gone through every Mystery in Germany, except Illuminism. He was an unwearied book-maker, and having by diligent inquiry found out that Nicolai had been entrusted with all the secrets of Weishaupt’s higher degrees, he publicly accused him of it, and ruined his moral character.

Dr. Zimmerman, author of “Thoughts on Solitude,” and who was with Frederick in June and July, 1786, was an Illuminatus, President of the Order in Manheim, and most active in propagating it in other countries. He was employed by it as a Missionary, and erected Lodges at Neufchâtel and in Hungary, and even in Rome. When in Hungary he boasted of having established more than a hundred Lodges, some of which were in England.

In 1768, Mirabeau, with the Duke de Lauzun and the Abbé Perigord, afterwords Bishop of Autun, reformed a Lodge of Philalethes at Paris which met in the Jacobin College or Convent. While at the Court of Berlin, he became an Illuminatus, and on his return to France imparted some of his illumination to that Lodge, of which he was a Warden in 1788.(1)

Robison gives a list of the Lodges mentioned in the private papers that were seized in Bavaria. The Elector of Bavaria had, a little before the year 1783, issued an edict, forbidding, during his pleasure, all Secret Assemblies, and closing the Masonic Lodges. But the Lodge “Theodore” continued to meet, notwithstanding.

In the beginning of 1783, six persons were summoned before the Court of Enquiry, and questioned respecting the Order of the Illuminati. Their declarations were published, and were very unfavorable. The Elector issued another edict, forbidding all hidden assemblies; and a third, expressly abolishing the Order of Illuminati. It was followed by a search for papers. Weishaupt was deprived of his professor’s chair, and banished. The Italian Marquises, Costanza and Savioli were banished, as well as Zwack, a Counsellor. The original correspondence and papers of the Order were not found until 1786 and 1787, in which years large collections were found at the houses of Zwack and Baron Bassus or Batz.

The list already mentioned contains the names of some forty places in Germany, where there were Lodges. There were fourteen in Austria, several in Upper Saxony, Westphalia, Strasburg; many in Livonia, Courland, Alsace, Hesse; Many in Holland, Switzerland and Poland; several in America, some at Rome, in England, in Florence, Turin and Naples, and many in France.

The list of prominent members given, contains the names of Noblemen, Counsellors, Professors, Priests and Military Officers.

There was no persecution of the Order, or prohibition of Secret Assemblies, or edict against the Masonic Lodges, in Prussia, while the Illuminati were being persecuted in Bavaria.

When the impostor Johnson had induced most of the persons of princely and noble rank in Darmstadt, Brunswick, Saxony and elsewhere, to enter into the system of Free Masonry or Templarism taught by him, and had been unmasked by the Baron Von Hunde, the latter took his place, and sought to form an Order of Knighthood for the Nobility, out of the Free Masons. This was the Strict Observance. It severed itself from all other branches of Masonry, and required all its Subordinate Lodges to exclude all members of other Lodges of Free Masons from their meetings. Into this Society many German Princes, Barons, and Counts entered. Ferdinand of Brunswick adhered to it to the last; and Prince Louis of Darmstadt entertained immense ideas of what might be accomplished by it. The reigning Duke Charles of Brunswick, the celebrated general in the Seven Years’ War, belonged to this Order. The Grand Lodge at London had appointed Duke Ferdinand Grand Master of all the Lodges in a great part of North Germany; and the members of the Strict Observance succeeded in having him chosen in 1772, as Grand Master of all the German Lodges.

The Order becoming thus strong and popular, the ex-Jesuits endeavoured to make use of Free Masonry for the furtherance of their views; and the numerous body of Rosicrucians was a tool of the Jesuits in Bavaria.

The biographer of Hippel, a prominent member of the Order, and who publicly acknowledged that he was indebted, for all his knowledge of men and of the world, to Free Masonry, says: “His connection with Free Masonry began in 1760, at the very period in which a number of higher consecrated offices were introduced into this Order, in addition to the three gradations of rank in the Order of St. John. These additions found acceptance in Königsberg, at which place a court-preacher, Starck, who was one of the most active promoters of the higher Free Masonry, filled distinguished offices and had many friends. At this time, also, Hippel entered into priestly orders.”

To counteract the schemes of the Ex-Jesuits, Weishaupt and his friends set on foot Illuminism. As originally founded, it was altogether dissimilar from Free Masonry, of which its founders knew very little. Knigge was the first who gave the Order a form, which he borrowed from Masonry.

Adolphe-François-Frederic, Baron de Knigge (we learn from the Biographie Universelle), German philosopher and litterateur, was born in 1757, a short distance from Hanover. He studied at Göttingen, resided at various Courts and Cities in Germany, and died on the 6th of May, 1796, at Bremen. He became known by many works in German on philosophical subjects, morality and literature.

We learn from Schlosser and from his own letters, that he was a man of the world, acquainted with life and all its intrigues, and with no tendency towards Mysticism or a contemplative life.

Many of the noblest men of the German plains joined the Illuminati, and their names are found on the lists, with those of Weishaupt, Zwack and Knigge. Among the names of the Bavarians persecuted as Illuminati, will be found those of the most distinguished and best men of the country; though many were of a very different description.

The idea of the new Order was conceived in 1776, and its first, or “Minerval” degree, “was to be an institution for the cultivation of a free spirit, in a country in which no man dared utter a free word.” Von Zwack had procured some knowledge of the external forms of Free Masonry, its symbols, degrees and initiation; of which all Weishaupt knew nothing; and classes and gradations were established, and the Order instituted as a branch of Free Masonry. As early as 1778, there were twelve Lodges in Catholic Bavaria, Franconia and the Tyrol. Distinguished men, like Börn and Sonnenfels in Vienna, entered the Order; and when Baron Von Knigge applied his accurate knowledge of Free Masonry to it, the Lodges of Masons became its instruments, to prepare and furnish candidates. Knigge was Chamberlain at Weimar in Saxony, and had lived at Francfurt and Heidelberg, in the very centre of Mysticism and Masonry. He played a prominent part in all the Orders, and then became celebrated as a writer.

He and Zimmermann had a bitter dispute in regard to Secret Orders, the latter being in favor only of what was empty and despotical. Zimmermann was a dull and common-place person, ridiculed by all men of understanding, but bepraised by the newspapers, and accepted by the world as a prophet.

In the year 1780, the Counts Costanza and Saviola travelled to North Germany, to gain recruits among the Free Masons, for the Lodges of the Illuminati, whom they represented as a sect of Free Masons. Knigge received them favorably, and became the friend of and co-operator with Weishaupt. Among the Free Masons, Mystics were at that time everywhere met with; and frequently persons desirous of prostituting the Order, to promote protestant priestcraft or Jesuitical Papism. There were plenty of the latter among the Free Masons of the Strict Observance. Knigge readily found recruits in the Lodges, of Free Masons disinclined to Mysticism, and many of the most noble-minded men in Germany attached themselves to an association antagonistic to despotism and obscurantism. Feder, in Göttingen, was won over to the Order; and Nicolai, the bookseller at Berlin, joined it when he travelled to Bavaria in 1781.

As has been said, Knigge introduced into the new Order everything that he found in the ceremonies, consecrations, doctrines, and hieroglyphs of the various systems of Free Masonry with which he was acquainted, which he found suitable, or calculated to decoy the fashionable and vain. At length an opportunity offered to engraft the new Order completely on Masonry. The Lodges of Free Masonry had fallen into a decline. Hunde’s Strict Observance began to be considered a deception and imposture; and vehement complaints were heard on all hands against Starck’s Jesuitism and the influence of the Rosicrucians.

To stop this decline, Conventions were held; and finally, Knigge set up the Eclectic system, in opposition to the Strict Observance; and the latter was declared a deception, though it continued under Prince Ferdinand, its Grand Master. In June, 1782, Knigge received J. J. C. Bode, a very zealous Free Mason, among the Illuminati of the highest order. This brother had played an active and distinguished part in the affairs of Masonry, as one of its officials, and manfully resisted its tendency to Rosicrucianism and Jesuitism. He was a printer and publisher in Hamburg, and had removed thence to Weimar, where he made, in some measure, a business of his Free Masonry; attended Conventions, carried on an extensive correspondence, and superintended the publication of works upon the craft.

All the Free Masons in North Germany, who were in favor of religious and civil liberty, joined Bode; among whom Major Von dem Busche and Leuchseuring, tutor of the princes, were the most remarkable. They made the dissemination of the Eclectic Free Masonry a pretence for spreading the principles of the Illuminati, which, by their instrumentality, found partisans and adherents in foreign countries. Bode was the apostle of the new Order in Saxony. Leuchseuring, in the Prussian dominions, aided by Nicolai, Feder in the Hanoverian territory; and Von dem Busche in the Netherlands.

Weishaupt permitted Bode to modify the principles of the Order, or rather, to suppress his, Weishaupt’s own peculiar notions taught in the higher degrees, as too far advanced for North Germany. The Order soon embraced all classes, and its members consisted at the same time of the most distinguished men of the higher ranks of life, and the students of the universities, among whom it took its origin. In Bavaria, too, many of its members rejected every noble principle and all religion.

Dissensions soon grew up in the bosom of the Order, between the Bavarians and those of the Free Masons whom Knigge had gained for the Order; and a dispute between Weishaupt and Knigge respecting the Constitution of the Order and its ceremonies ended, in 1784, in a complete separation of the North German party, of which those of Prussia were a part.

Knigge wanted to incorporate into the Order the whole pomp of the Catholic Church; its consecration, ceremonies, garments, etc. The Bavarians opposed this, for they were Catholics.

In 1784, upon obtaining possession of a document which developed the plans of the Illuminati, the Jesuits urged the Elector of Bavaria to persecute the Order, though one of his ministers, the ablest men in Bavaria, several of his daily companions, and members of the first families in the Electorate belonged to it. Utzschneider, himself an Illuminatus, a Baron of the Exchequer, communicated the document to the Rosicrucians, Free Masons and Jesuits; he and others leaving the Order, to gain the favor of the Jesuits by informing against their late friends. Utzschneider first handed in a secret accusation to the Elector, and then publicly complained to him in person. Early in 1784, an anonymous public warning appeared against the Order, declaring its principles dangerous to the well-being of the State, and destructive of morality. The Order answered by a public challenge to its accusers, to prove their allegations; and these published a “Necessary Appendix” to the warning. This introduction to the persecution was managed with Jesuitic cunning, and probably had some connection with Knigge’s prudent secession from the Order in the same year. In June, 1784, a general ordinance issued, strictly prohibiting all Secret Societies in Bavaria; but, as there were in the Order some 2,000 men, of the highest ranks and most distinguished families, their adversaries moved with deliberation and caution.

Meetings of the Illuminati and Free Masons were prohibited by name, in March and August, 1785. The Edict of the 1st of March was against the Free Masons, and ascribed to the Duchess Clementine, mistress of Utzschneider. On the 9th of September, 1785,. A formal accusation against the Illuminati was published, signed and sworn to by Utzschneider Priest Cosandey and Professor Grünberger, with long lists of names of persons alleged to belong to the Order. Dreadful charges were made and yet, says Schlosser, from whom we have quoted the whole account (vol. iv. pp. 472, et seq.), “the views of the Illuminati, in despite of the abuses which resulted from the Secret Constitution of the Order, had contributed most materially to introduce and diffuse light into the darkness of the Middle Ages which prevailed in the benighted countries of Germany” (p. 493).

Count Seinsheim, Montgélas, Charles Von Dalberg, afterwards Coadjutor of Mayence and Prince Primate, and Ernest II., Duke of Gotha, were among the members of the Order. Mauvillon, a friend of Mirabeau, was one of the most active, and cherished revolutionary ideas. He hated courts, and had ample cause to do it from his experience in Hesse-Cassel, under Frederic, the brutal Landgrave of that State, who sold 17,000 of his subjects to England, to fight and die in the American Colonies, and emulated the oppressions of Charles, Duke of Württemberg. As a military man of large scientific knowledge, Mauvillon was favored by Ferdinand of Brunswick, and there became intimate with Mirabeau, and was marked as a most suspicious person, by Zimmermann and the Jesuits.

The Bavarian persecution was commenced by two ex-Jesuit fathers, both of them Electoral Privy Councillors, before the discovery of the scandalous papers found in Zwackh’s house in October, 1786. Weishaupt was banished, and found an asylum in Ratisbon, his friends being forbidden to write to him, and the Jesuits of Munich beseeching the authorities of his city of refuge to drive him away. His friends who visited him were seized by the Inquisition on their return, for having held Lodges; and, on their way, eaten meat on a fast-day. Two of them were deprived of their offices, and one put in a penal garrison. Another was banished from the University. Schlosser gives a long list of persons deprived of their places, arrested without lawful grounds, and otherwise persecuted. The censorship of the press was exercised with more severity than before. Counter-statements from persons condemned were forbidden. Secret conversations were watched, and knavish spies were everywhere. Cabinet Orders sent men to the house of correction. Banishments and confinements in fortresses were common.

During these troubles, from 1778 to 1786, Joseph II. of Austria was endeavoring to extend his power by acquiring Bavaria, and Frederic was as actively engaged in thwarting his efforts, defeating him, finally, and creating the Germanic League in 1785.

“Though far, in other respects, from cherishing the spirit of a spying and persecuting police, either in his words or actions,” says Schlosser (iv. 490), “Frederic had kept a sharp eye upon the Order” (of Illuminati) “and its proceedings, long before the storm burst upon its head.” “The governments of North Germany,” he says again, “showed some indulgence to the Illuminati, on account of the Free Masons, although the former members of the Order were everywhere under a species of police superintendence, like the Carbonari of our days.”

As to the religious, or irreligious principles of the Order, Frederic was, of course, indifferent. He had no religious creed, and his ideas agreed with those of Voltaire and other free-thinkers in France. It was only in its political aspect that the Order claimed his attention.

He consulted Frenchmen alone, in introducing his new excise regulations, and employed them afterwards to collect the excises. He consulted a French Farmer-General, as his oracle on the first institution of his oppressive financial schemes, and unconditionally followed his advice. This was the physician Helvetius, whom the King received as his friend at Sans Souci, and who was a Free Mason as well as a philosopher, a member of the Lodge in which Franklin acted as Junior Warden when Voltaire was initiated.(2) The lowest estimate of the number of Frenchmen employed in Prussia, in connection with the revenue, is 500. Zimmerman gives the number at 3,000; Mirabeau and Mauvillon regard 1,500 as nearest the truth; of these, many must have been Free Masons.

In France, as is well known, the Rite of Perfection was worked, after 1759, in 25 degrees.

The Rite of Strict Observance was the third Masonic innovation of the Jesuits. It consisted of six degrees; Apprentice, Companion, Master, Scottish Master, Novice, and Templar. The Baron Von Hunde (Charles Gathel) added a seventh, which was kept concealed, styled Eques Professus.

The clerks of the Relaxed Observance (de la late Observance) was created by a schism in the Strict Observance. Among other of its chiefs were the Baron de Raven and the Preacher Starck. There were ten degrees; Apprentice, Companion, Master, African Brother, Knight of St. Andrew, Knight of the Eagle or Master Elect, Scottish Master, Sovereign Magus, Provincial Master of the Red Cross, and Magus, or Knight of Splendor and Light. The tenth was subdivided into five parts; Knight Novice of the third year; Knight Novice of the fifth year; Knight Novice of the seventh year; Knight Levite; Knight Priest.

The same schism produced the High Observance, in which they dealt with Alchemy, Magic, etc., and the Exact Observance, the teachings of which partook of that of the first two Observances, that had for their bases Jesuitism and Catholicism.

In 1767, the Order of Architects of Africa, or African Brothers, was established at Berlin. It had eleven degrees, none of them contained in the Rite of Perfection. About 1770, Zinnendorf (Knight Commander of the Strict Observance, Director of the Lodges in Prussia, Member of the Lodge of the Three Globes, and Prior of the Templars, who founded a Lodge in 1768 at Potsdam, and one in 1769 at Berlin; both of the Templar Régime), established a Rite known by his own name. It contained four degrees, besides the Symbolic ones, i.e., Scottish Apprentice and Companion; Scottish Master; Clerk, or Favourite of St. John, a Swedish degree; and Bro. Elu.

The Eclectic Rite was settled in 1783, in General Assembly, bu the Grand Lodges of Francfurt and Wetzlar. It consisted of the three Blue degrees only.

The degrees of the Illuminati were, 1st, of the Nursery: — Preparation, Novice, Minerval, Illuminatus Minor; 2nd , of Masonry: — Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master, Illuminatus Major or Scottish Novice; Illuminatus Dirigens, or Scottish Knight; 3rd, of the Mysteries; Lesser: — Presbyter, Priest, Prince, Regent; Greater: — Magus, Rex.

All these Rites and Orders existed in Prussia, and if dangerous any where, they were dangerous there. But while Frederic II lived, his government took no measures of repression against any of them, nor did they create, in Prussia, any trouble or excitement. Frederic had protected the Jesuits, when they were persecuted elsewhere; and it was certainly a wiser policy to put himself at the head of all the Masonic Orders, and select a certain number of degrees out of all the Rites, including none of the degrees of the Strict Observance above the third, and none of the Illuminati, than to make war upon, and by persecutions make more dangerous, the Masons in his Kingdom: and being himself a Mason, it was easy to effect this.

“In this country,” Robison says, “we have no conception of the authority of a National Grand Master. When Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, by great exertion among the jarring sects in Germany, had got himself elected Grand Master of the Strict Observance, it gave serious alarm to the Emperor, and to all the Princes in Germany; and contributed greatly to their connivance at the attempts of the Illuminati to discredit that party. In the great cities of Germany, the inhabitants paid more respect to the Grand Master of the Masons, than to their respective Princes.”

That Frederic was not favorably disposed towards the higher degrees, or what were called so, of the Strict Observance and other Rites, is very probable. He spoke sneeringly of all Free Masonry, and regarded it as a hollow and empty affair, not worthy to engage the time and attention of rational men. Compared with the cares of a king or a minister, it seemed to him mere nonsence and idle tom-foolery. But when it became dangerous to thrones, or when it seemed that it might become so, and when its off-shoot or graft, Illuminism, became so effective an antagonist of Papism and Jesuitry, it became worthy [sic] Frederic’s attention. He managed it somehow. There were no disturbances or trouble caused by it in his kingdom.

At the time when the Illuminati were thus suppressed in Bavaria and elsewhere, they had their circles all over Germany. Francfurt sur le Mein instructed Mayence, Darmstadt, Nieuwied, Cologne and Weimar. Weimar instructed Cassel, Cottingen, Wetzlar, Brunswick, and Gotha. Gotha carried its light to Erfurt, Leipsic, Halle, Dresden, and Dessau. Dessau had charge of Torgau, Wittenberg, Mecklenburg, and Berlin. Berlin communicated with Stettin, Breslau, Francfurt sur l’Oder; and Francfurt sur l’Oder took care of Koenigsberg and the cities of Prussia. — Essai Sur la Secte des Illuminés (by M. de Luchet); Paris, 1789.


1. EIAE QUERY: Wouldn’t that be 1768, in keeping with the narration?

2. EIAE: I.e., the Lodge of the Nine Muses.

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