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Knigge, Baron Von

A history of Adam Weishaupt and his Order of the Illuminati is given. The work and principles of the Lodges in which each man had been initiated would not be recognizable as Freemasonry by us in America, or by regular Masons anywhere, because while the first German Lodges were founded on the Landmarks they were later taken over by the German aristocracy and transformed, most of them, into an aristocratic cult which contradicted the ancient principles of the Craft at every point.

After Weishaupt, a brilliant and well-intentioned man, had won a position for himself among German Lodges he was seized with a desire to set up a grandiose new society of his own, with vague but vast aims, and officers with resounding titles, called the Order of the Illuminati. The Baron von Knigge joined the enterprise and became Weishaupt's St. Paul, then turned against it, and in his last years became a savage Anti-Mason. The Order of Illuminati was the greatest single misfortune ever to befall European Freemasonry because it became at once the pattern and the point of departure for a succession of secret, underground, political conspiracies which (though it was not a Masonic society) divided Masonry and brought disgrace upon its name; even the Jesuits founded an Order of Illuminati of their own, and the scheme of it was the blue-print for the Italian Carbonari. Prof. John Robison of the University of Edinburgh wrote a book about it in 1797 (see page 862). This Professor had a bland, credulous, innocent-appearing mind strikingly like that of Marshal Petain; he believed everything he read about the Illuminati, became possessed of a great fear of it, and expected any moment to see the civilization of Europe come crashing down, undermined by the secret, under-ground Weishauptian conspiracies; he took the Illuminati to be identical with Freemasonry, and his ProcJs of a Conspiracy became an Anti- Masonic book. Ever since, it has been in Europe the Anti-Masonic Bible (supported by the writings of the Abbe Barruel; see page 125), and it has been re-published, rewritten, imitated, quoted from; and its weird and simple-minded charges against Masons have been repeated ever since. It even became the inspiration of an Anti-Masonic movement in Massachusetts and Connecticut at the end of the Revolutionary War. As for Knigge it was supposed that he had quarrelled with Weishaupt. Near the end of his days he published a book entitled Uber den Umgang mit Menschen, which may be freely translated as on Dealing moth People.

At the end of World War II there came to the surface, and with a sort of apocalyptic luridness and grandiosity, what Weishaupt and Knigge had both been meaning to certain powerful groups of the German ruling class. It transpires that Weishaupt had inadvertently discovered what had never been dreamed of before: a technique for a secret movement which could be operated in public, an underground on top of the ground, a nation-wide conspiracy completely invisible, and which a class or a people could carry on under the very eyes of their enemies. It also transpires that it was this which Knigge had taken the Illuminati to be; and it was this which was the subject matter of his uber. The latter book was re-printed, revised, enlarged, modified, and went on generation after generation.

The Germans created a secret army after Napoleon had conquered them, and conquered him at Leipsig. After Metternich had set up the absolutist Holy Alliance regime secret societies on the Knigge pattern came into existence everywhere; the Carbonari in Italy (Louis Napoleon was trained in it), the Decembrist revolutionists in Russia in 1825, etc., etc. It also has transpired that while the Nazis were still an underground movement they followed Knigge's formula, and that the fiber was the favorite text-book of Heinrich Himmler.

In the eight centuries or so of its history Freemasonry has had its own adventures but never before or since has anything happened to it quite so extraordinary, quite as impossible as this, that a simple-minded and typically mystical Bavarian Mason, ambitious to be a Founder of something great for himself, should have become the Architect of gestapos and a fountainhead of Anti-Masonry If there be Masons who believe that the Craft should look with tolerant indifference upon quasi- and semi-Masonic "societies," and that Anti-Masonry should be ignored, Weishaupt and Knigge should "give them furiously to think."

NOTE. There could be no greater fallacy than the theory that underground conspiracies ale carried on only by the poor, the downtrodden, and revolutionaries. The French Royal war against the Huguenots began as an underground movement. For a history of it see Cathertne de Medicz and the Host Revolution, by Ralph Roeder; Viking Press; New York; 1937.

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