- I can practically guarantee you'll never see this article
in Reader's Digest. But I love to do these Digest-style biographies of
famous people in the paranormal field, so here goes. He's been called many
things. The Abbe Barruel called him "a human devil." Thomas
Jefferson called him "a harmless philanthropist." Prof. John
Robison called him "the profoundest conspirator that ever existed."
But what's the real story behind the man who simply called himself "Brother
Spartacus?" Adam Weishaupt was born on February 6, 1748 in Ingolstadt,
a city in Bayern (Bavaria), Germany, which was then an independent kingdom.
When he was a baby, his parents, who had been Orthodox Jews, converted
to the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of attending the yeshiva, Adam attended
monastery schools and later a hochschule (high school) run by the Society
As a Bavarian, Adam learned Czech and Italian as a child, and in school,
he soon mastered Latin, Greek and, with his father's help, Hebrew. With
his avid scholarship and knack for languages, his Jesuit superiors thought
he would be a natural for overseas missionary work, perhaps in the Americas
or in Asia. But Adam rebelled against Jesuit discipline, resisted their
overtures and eventually became the professor of canon law at the University
of Ingolstadt. Beginning around 1768, Adam began "the collection of
a large library for the purpose of establishing an academy of scholars."
He read every ancient manuscript and text he and his associates could
lay hands on. Adam grew interested in the occult, becoming obsessed with
the Great Pyramid of Giza.
He was convinced that the edifice was a prehistoric temple of initiation.
In 1770, he made the acquaintance of Franz Kolmer, a Danish merchant who
had lived for many years in Alexandria and had made several trips to Giza..
The following year, 1771, Adam decided to found a secret society aimed
at "transforming" the human race. He devoted five years to thinking
out the plan, borrowing from many different occult sources. His first
name for the proposed order, Perfectibilisen, suggests that he borrowed
from the Cathars, a gnostic religion that flourished in Europe for four
hundred years. The Cathars, whose name means "perfect ones,"
were decimated in the Albigensian Crusade of Pope Innocent III during the
early Thirteenth Century. Adam fashioned his order in the form of (what
else?) a pyramid.
"Its members, pledged to obedience to their superiors, were divided
into three main classes; the first including novices, minervals and lesser
illuminati the second consisting," like the Freemasons, of "ordinary,
Scottish and Scottish Knights, and the third, or mystery class, comprising
two grades of priest and regent, and of magus and king," or Illuminatus
Rex. This hierarchy, incidentally, is identical to the table of organization
of the Sufis of Islam, which has some historians wondering if Adam's friend
Kolmer was a closet Sufi. The Illuminati were a closemouthed bunch. "Every
candidate had to give a written promise to tell nobody of this society.
He learned nothing of his superiors and of the origin of the society,
but was confirmed in the belief that the order could be traced back to
antiquity and that its members included even popes and cardinals."
"He further vowed eternal silence and strict obedience. Every month
he had to send a report to his superior, whom he did not know."
Adam felt that human society had grown hopelessly corrupt and that it could
only be saved by a complete overhaul. In effect, he was the first utopian
to think on a global scale, and he looked forward to the day his group
would bring about the Novus Ordo Seclorum, sometimes called the New World
Order. The Illuminati had five goals, including "(a) Abolition of
monarchies and all ordered governments, (2) Abolition of private property
and inheritances, (3) Abolition of patriotism and nationalism, (4) Abolition
of family life and the institution of marriage, and the establishment of
communal education of children. (5) Abolition of all religion." By
drawing upon Europe's "best and brightest," Adam was confident
that the order could attain its goals. He wrote, "The pupils are
convinced that the Order will rule the world. Every member therefore becomes
a ruler. We all think of ourselves as qualified to rule. It is therefore
an alluring thought both to good and bad men.
Therefore the Order will spread." He also urged his followers not
to shrink from committing violence or criminal acts in meeting Illuminati
objectives, writing, "Sin is only that which is hurtful, and if the
profit is greater than the damage, it becomes a virtue." Recruitment
proceeded at a brisk pace. Adam rallied many able lieutenants to his cause.
Such as Baron Xavier von Zwack, who lobbied for the order in Germany and
in Britain, too, with help from William Petty, the second Earl of Shelburne.
And Baron Adolf von Knigge, who brokered a "shotgun marriage"
between Illuminism and European Freemasonry at the Congress of Whilhelmsbad
in 1782. By 1782, the Illuminati "had spread from Denmark to Portugal,"
and even further afield. Illuminized Britons joined with like-minded Americans
to found the Columbian Lodge in New York City that year. A young Russian
nobleman, Alexander Radischev, joined the order in Leipzieg and carried
the doctrines home to St. Petersburg.
In Lisboa (Lisbon), a poet named Claudio Manuel da Costa became a member
and, upon returning home to Brazil, founded a chapter with two doctors
from Ouro Preto, Domingos Vidal Barbosa and Jose Alvares Maciel. In 1788,
this trio launched the first Illuminati uprising, the Inconfidencia Mineira,
but the revolt was nipped in the bud by the viceroy, the Marquis de Barbacena.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, Adam was learning that life as the Illuminatus
Rex was not quite the paradise he'd envisioned. His long-time mistress
became pregnant and insisted that he either pay up or marry her. Adam
stalled, and the lady threatened to go public with the scandal. Baron von
Knigge, who had given the Illuminatenorden a big boost by allying with
Freemasonry, thought he should be rewarded by becoming Adam's co-ruler
in the order. Adam disagreed, and the resulting feud between the two men
resulted in von Knigge quitting the order in 1784. To make matters worse,
Illuminati writers Johann Herder and Johann G. Fichte had begun beating
the drum for German unification. Their calls for "Ein volk und ein
Reich" were completely out of sync with Adam's plan to do away with
nationalism. While Adam may have been a brilliant scholar, he lacked the
leader's touch. He was too high- handed and arrogant, disinclined to listen
to the advice of subordinates.
These characteristics enraged some of the lesser Illuminati, such as Joseph
Utschneider, and they awaited the day they would have their revenge. The
day was not long in coming. An Illuminati courier was struck by lightning
and killed. When the Bavarian police searched his body, they found coded
messages from Weishaupt sewn into the clothes. At this critical juncture,
Utschneider and his three companions came forward and told the Bavarian
authorities all about the Illuminati. As a result, the King of Bavaria
banned the order in August 1784. Fired from his position at the university,
and accused of everything from treason to goat molestation, Adam fled Ingolstadt
on horseback and went to Regensburg. When he found the people there equally
hostile, he rode on to Gotha, where he was offered refuge by Duke Ernst
II. An associate, Dr. Schwartz, loaded the order's collection of Kabbalist,
Cathar, Sufi and occult books into an ox-cart and begn the long journey
eastward to Moscow. (Editor's Comment: As an American, I am amazed by
the eerie parallels with early USA history.
Weishaupt's escape to Gotha resembles the "midnight ride" of
Paul Revere and William Dawes in 1775. And Dr. Schwartz's trip to Moscow
has its parallel in the wagon trains of the first Oregon pioneers. Maybe
he should have put a sign on the cart--Mockba hhaye Khytekh, "Moscow
or Bust.") The "profoundest conspirator that ever existed"
lived out the rest of his life in exile in Gotha. He got into more mischief
in the French Revolution with his friend and correspondent, Jean-Baptiste
Willermoz, the Illuminatus of Lyons. And lived long enough to inspire
new generations of Illuminati--Anacharsis Cloots, Francois Babeuf and Filippo
Buonarotti, among others. Adam Weishaupt died on November 18, 1830 in Gotha.
Even in death, he remains a figure of controversy. The Roman Catholic
Encyclopedia of 1910 said Weishaupt repented on his deathbed and was reconciled
with the Church. Author Gary Allen claimed that Adam was working on an
essay on hermetic art magick, Two Fragments of a Ritual, when he suddenly
dropped dead. Quien sabe?
Proper assessment of Adam's role in history may have to wait a few more
centuries, for a generation of more objective historians. His is still
a hot-button name. Here in the USA, fundamentalist Christians consider
Adam Weishaupt a kind of sinister John the Baptist, proclaiming the global
Kingdom of Satan. And those who favor the New World Order... well, they
don't say much of anything. Mention the names "Adam Weishaupt"
and "Illuminati," and they tend to grit their teeth and scowl.
For myself, whenever I think about Adam Weishaupt and his sect, the haunting
question of Jesus Christ comes to mind. "Can an evil tree produce
good fruit?" (See The New World Order by Pat Robertson, Word Publishing,
Dallas, Texas, 1991, pages 180 through 183; Einige Originalschriften des
Illuminatenordens, Munich, 1786; and Essai sur la secte des Illuminees,
by J.P.L. de la Roche de Maine, Paris, 1792.)
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