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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Illuminati (3)

A name assumed by a secret society, founded on the first of May, 1776, by Dr. Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law in the university of Ingoldstadt. The avowed object of this order was, "to diffuse from secret societies, as from so many centres, the light of science over the world; to propagate the purest principles of virtue; and to reinstate mankind in the happiness which they enjoyed during the golden age fabled by the poets." Such a philanthropic object was doubtless well adapted to make a deep impression on the minds of ingenious young men; and to such alone did Dr. Weishaupt at first address himself. But "the real object, " we are assured by Professor Robison and Abbe Barruel, "was, by clandestine arts, to overturn every government and every religion; to bring the sciences of civil life into contempt; and to reduce mankind to that imaginary state of nature, when they lived independent of each other on the spontaneous productions of the earth." Free Masonry being the high reputation all over Europe when Weishaupt first formed the plan of his society, he availed himself of its secrecy to introduce his new order; of which he constituted himself general, after initiating some of his pupils, whom he styled Areopagites, in its mysteries. And when report spread the news throughout Germany of the institution of the Order of Illuminees, it was generally considered as a mere college lodge, which could interest the students no longer than during the period of their studies.

Weishaupt's character, too, which at this time was respectable for morality as well as erudition, prevented all suspicion of his harbouring any such dark designs as have since come to light. But it would far exceed the limits to which this work is restricted, to give even an outline of the nature and constitution of this extraordinary society; of its secrets and mysteries; of the deep dissimulation, consummate hypocrisy, and shocking impiety of its founder and his associates; of their Jesuitical art in concealing their real objects, and their incredible industry and astonishing exertions in making converts; of the absolute despotism and complete system of espionnage established throughout the order; of its different degrees of Novices, Minervals, Minor and Major Illuminees; Epopts, or Priests, Regents, Magi, and Mankings; of the Recruiters or Insinuators, with their various subtle methods of insinuating into all characters and companies; of the blind obedience exacted of the Novices, and the absolute power of life and death assumed by the order, and conceded by the Novices; of the dictionary, geography, kalendar, and cipher of the order; of the new names assumed by the members, such as Spartacus by Weishaupt, because he pretended to wage war against oppressors; Cato by Zwack; Ajax by Massenhausen, &c. of the Minerval Academy and Library; of the questions proposed to the candidates for degrees, and the various ceremonies of admission to each; and of the pretended morality, real blasphemies, and absolute atheism, of the founder and his tried friends.

Such of our readers as wish to be fully informed of these matters, we must refer to the Abbe Barruel's works, and to Prof. Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe. But while credit may be given to the general facts related in these works, some doubts respecting the ultimate objects of Dr. Weishaupt and his associates in this conspiracy may be expressed: as, That men of their principles should secretly conspire to overthrow all the religions and governments at present in Europe, is by no means incredible; that they should even prevail on many well-meaning philanthropists, who are no enemies to rational religion or good government, to join them, is also very credible. But that a set of men of learning and abilities, such as Weishaupt and his associates are allowed to be, should form a conspiracy to overturn, and with more than Gothic rage utterly abolish the arts and sciences, and to restore the supposed original savage state of man, appears to us a phenomenon in the history of the human heart totally unaccountable.

That "the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, " is a melancholy truth, which not Scripture alone, but the history of mankind in all ages and nations, affords full proof of, as well as the shocking history of the Illuminati; but while pride and vanity have a place in the human heart, to say nothing of our other passions, which are more or less interested in the preservation of the discoveries and improvements in arts, sciences, and their inseparable concomitant luxury, we are persuaded no man, or body of men, who have enjoyed the sweets of civilized life, ever formed a serious wish for the total abolition of the arts and sciences. In the fury and rage of war, Goths, Vandals, and Turks, may burn and destroy monuments of art and repositories of science; but when the wars are over, instead of returning to the savage state, the barbarous conquerors miss and amalgamate with the conquered, and become themselves more or less civilized. Dr. Weishaupt is allowed to be influenced by a high degree of vanity; as an evidence of which he communicates as the last secret to his most favoured adepts, that the mysteries of Illuminism, which, in going through the inferior degrees, had been successively attributed to the most ancient patriarchs and philosophers, and even to Christ himself, owed its origin to no other than Adam Weishaupt, known in the order by the name of Spartacus. the same vanity which leads the doctor to take this traditional method, while secrecy is deemed necessary, of securing to himself the honour of having founded the society, would lead him, were the Illuminati actually victorious over all religions and governments, to wish to have his memory recorded in a more durable manner by writing or printing.

But if these and all the other arts were to perish in a mass, then the memory of the doctor, and the important services he had done to the order and to savagism, must, within a century at the utmost, perish along with them. But if, in fact, the total annihilation of the arts and sciences, as well as of all religion and government, be really the object of Weishaupt and his Illuminees, then we may agree with the celebrated Mandeville, that "human nature is the true Libyan desert, daily producing new monsters, " and that of these monsters the doctor and his associates are beyond a doubt the most extraordinary. Professor Robison informs us, that "the order of the Illuminati was abolished in 1786 by the elector of Bavaria, but revived immediately after, under another name, and in a different form, all over Germany. It was again detected and seemingly broken up; but it had by this time taken so deep root, that it still subsists without being detected, and has spread, we are told, into all the countries of Europe.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Illuminati (3)'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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