The object of the degree of Minor Illuminee is not only to dispose of the Brethren more and more for the secrets which have not yet been revealed to them, but it has also in view their preparation for presiding over the Minerval Academies in which they have already shown their talents and their zeal for the Sect.
The means which are to produce this double effect are worthy of remark, on account of one of those artifices which Weishaupt alone could have invented.
The Minor Illuminees hold settings similar to those of the Minerval Academy. The President must necessarily be one of those adepts who, initiated in the higher mysteries of Illuminism, have attained the degree of Priest.
He, alone having any knowledge of these higher mysteries, is particularly enjoined to keep his pupils in the persuasion that beyond the degree in which he is there is no further secret to impart to them.
But he is to spare no pains to infuse those opinions into their minds, of which the last mysteries are but the development.
The Minor Illuminees are imperceptible to become as it were the inventors and authors of Weishaupt’s principles; that, believing them to be the offspring of their own genius, they may more zealously defend and propagate them.
“It is necessary,” says the code, “that the adept look upon himself as the founder of the new Order,” that hence he may conceive a natural ardor for its success. To effectuate this object, an exordium is appropriated to the initiation in this degree.
It is one of those discourses which, replete with voluntary obscurities, presents the most monstrous errors to the mind, but expressly mentions none.
The veil which is thrown over them is neither coarse enough to hide, nor fine enough clearly to chew them; all that the new adepts can observe at a first hearing is, that the object of the Order is worthy of admiration and zeal; that an ardent enthusiasm should inflame the mind of the young adept for the attainment of the grand object of all the labours of Illuminism; that the enjoyment of this happiness depended much more on the actions than on the words of the adepts.
What then is this object, and what are the obstacles that are to be overcome?
Of what species are those actions, those labors of the adept, which are too forward its views? It is in these points that enigma and obscurity veils the intent, and it is here that genius is to invent.
That the errors of the Sect might be considered as originating with the adepts, it goes on to say, the same discourse shall serve in future as a text for all those which the Brethren shall prepare for the meetings of the Order.
The President will select the obscure passages, which may lead to the development of those opinions which he wishes to instill into his pupils; such will the subjects chosen for their themes, and he will carefully exact practical conclusions.
But to give the reader a better idea of what these themes or commentaries are to be, we shall quote a part of the original text.
“There certainly exist in the world public crimes which every wife and honest man would wish to suppress.
When we consider that every man in this delightful world might be happy, but that their happiness is prevented by the misfortunes of some, and by the crimes and errors of others; that the wicked have power over the good; that opposition or partial insurrection is useless; that hardships generally fall upon men of worth then naturally results the wish of seeing an association formed of men of vigorous and noble minds, capable of resisting the wicked, of succouring the good, and of procuring for themselves rest, content and safety—of producing all these effects, by means drawn from the greatest degree of force of which human nature is capable. Such views actuating a Secret Society would not only be innocent, but most worthy of the wise and well-inclined man.”
What an ample field already opens itself to the commentating genius of the young adept!
The Minor Illuminee will begin by investigating those general crimes to which the Sect wishes to put an end. And what are the crimes, who are the wicked persons that disturb the peace of mankind by means of power exercised over the good?
What are Secret Societies they which are destined to consummate the wishes of the sages, not by partial insurrections, but by the greatest degree of force of which human nature is capable? In a word, what is that new order of things, which are by such unheard-of exertions to be substituted in place of existing institutions?
The greater progress the adept shall make, and the nearer his commentaries shall coincide with the spirit of the Order, so much the more worthy shall he be judged to fulfill the second object of this degree. He is not yet to preside over a Minerval Academy, he is too inexperienced in the arts of a Superior; and the Order only entrusts him with two or three of those pupils; but, as a consolation for the smallness of his flock, he reads in his instructions, that should he have only formed one or two men for the Order during his whole life he will have done a noble act.
Small as this mission is, still the adept is not left to his own prudence in the execution of it; he receives instructions by which he is to be guided.
I forewarned my reader, that in this part of my Memoirs on Jacobinism, my object was, not solely to prove the Conspiracy of the Illuminees, but to render conspicuous the dangers which threatened society, while I was unveiling the means adopted by the Sect.
Among these means, the laws laid down by Weishaupt for the Minor Illuminees are to be eminently distinguished; as the authority given, and the manner in which it is to be exercised (at first over two or three adepts only), naturally prepare them for more extensive commands.
These laws and these instructions seem to be traced with the venom of the prudent serpent, unfortunately so much more active and ingenious in the arts of vice and seduction than good men are in the cause of virtue.
This part of Weishaupt’s Code is called—Instructions for forming useful laborers in Illuminism, and from it, I shall make a large extract.
Let the reader meditate on the tendency and probable consequences of such precepts, such laws, and artifices, all designed to form adepts for the most general, most astonishing, and most dreadful Conspiracy that ever existed.
“Assiduously observe (say these instructions) every Brother entrusted to your care; watch him particularly on all occasions where he may be tempted not to be what he ought to be; that is precisely the moment when he must show himself; it is then that the progress he has made is to be discovered.
Observe him again at those times when he least suspects it, when neither the desire of being praised, the fear of being blamed, nor the shame of, or reflexion on the punishment, can actuate his conduct.
Be exact on such occasions in making your notes and observations. You will gain much both with respect to yourself and to your pupil.
“Be careful lest your own inclinations should bias your judgment. Do not think a man excellent because he has a brilliant quality, nor judge him to be wicked because he has some striking defect: for that is the grand failing of those who are captivated at first sight.
“Above all, guard against believing your man to be a transcendent genius because his discourse is brilliant. We are to judge by facts alone, whether a man is deeply interested.
“Have a little confidence in rich or powerful men; their conversion is very slow.
“Your chief object must be to form the heart. He that is not deaf to the cries of the unfortunate; he that is constant though in adversity, and unshaken in his plans; he that feels his soul glow for great enterprises; and he, particularly, who has formed his mind to observation, is the man of whom we are in quest. Reject those feeble and narrow minds who know not how to quit their usual sphere.
“Read with your pupils those books which are easy to be understood, which abound in the picturesque, and are calculated to elevate the mind.
Speak to them often, but let your discourses proceed from the heart, and not from the head.
Your auditors easily kindle when they see you full of fire. Make them thirst after the moment when the grand object is to be accomplished.
“Above all, stimulate them to the love of the object. Let them view it as grand, important, and congenial to their interests and favorite passions.
Paint in strong colours the miseries of the world; tell them what men are, and what they might be; what line of conduct they should adopt; how little they know their own interests; how anxiously our society labours for them; and desire them to judge what they may expect from it, by what we have already done in the first degrees.
“Shun familiarity on all occasions where your weak side may be seen; always speak of Illuminism in a dignified style.”
“Inspire esteem and respect for our Superiors; and dwell strongly on the necessity of obedience in a well-organized society.”
“Kindle the ardor of your pupil by laying great stress on the utility of our labors; avoid dry and metaphysical discussions.
Let what you require of your pupils be within their means. Study the peculiar habits of each; for men may be turned to anything by him who knows how to take advantage of their ruling passions.
“To infuse into them a spirit of observation, begin by slight essays in conversation.
Ask some easy questions on the means of discovering the character of a man notwithstanding all his dissimulation.
Effect of thinking the answer a better one than you could have given yourself; that gives confidence, and you will find some other opportunity of delivering your own sentiments. Inform them of what observations you may have made concerning their voice, gait, or physiognomy.
Tell them also, that they have the best dispositions, and that they only want practice. Praise some in order to stimulate others.”
“Having thus become acquainted with the immense difficulty attending on the art of bringing men to the point whether you wished to lead them, neglect no occasion of disseminating the good principles wherever you can, and of inspiring your pupils with courage and resolution: but never forget, that he who wishes to convert too many at once will convert nobody.
In the towns where you reside, divide the task with the other Illuminees of the same degree as yourself.
Chuse one or two, at most three, Minerals among those over whom you have the greatest influence or authority; but spare neither labor nor pains.
You will have accomplished a great undertaking if, during your whole life, you form but two or three men.
Let those whom you have selected be the constant object of all your observations. When one method does not succeed, seek out another; and so on, till you have found a proper one.
Study to find out what your pupil is best fitted for; in what intermediary principles he may be deficient, and therefore inaccessible to the fundamental ones.
The grand art consists in profiting off the right moment; at one time it is warm, at another cool reasoning which will persuade.
Let your pupil always think that it is to himself, and not to you, that he is indebted for the progress he makes. If he falls in a passion, never contradict; hearken to him though he is in the wrong.
Never controvert the consequences, but always the principle.
Wait for a favorable moment when you may explain your sentiments without appearing to contradict his. The best method is to agree with another person, whom you will pretend to attack those subjects, while the Candidate whom you really wish to convince is only a stander-by and takes no part in the dispute: then support your arguments with all the vigor of which you are capable.
“Whatever failings you wish to correct in him, speak of them as if they were not his; tell the story as if somebody else had been guilty of them; then take his advice on the subject, and by these means, he becomes his own judge.
“All this, it is true, requires time: hurry nothing; it is solidity and facility of action that we want in our adepts. Often to read, meditate, hearken to, see the same thing, and then to act, is what gives that facility which soon becomes natural. . . .”
“Do you wish to draw forth his opinion? Propose a dissertation on certain questions relative to your object, as it was merely to exercise his genius.
He thus learns how to meditate on the principles while you make a discovery of those which it is your object to eradicate from his mind.”
“Instruct, advice; but beware of cold declamations: drop a few words to the purpose when you shall perceive his mind to be in a proper state to receive them.”
“Never ask too much at once; let your conduct be provident, paternal, and solicitous.
Never despair; for one may do what one pleases with men.
“Make yourself master of the motives of the principles your pupil has acquired from his education.
If they are not consonant with our views, weaken then by insensible gradations, and substitute and strengthen others. But great prudence is necessary to operate this.”
“Observe what religions, sects, and politics, make men do.—One may enthusiastically lead them to follies; it is therefore in the manner of leading them that the whole art of giving the upper hand to virtue and truth consists.
Only employ the same means for a good purpose which impostors employ for evil, and you will succeed. If the wicked are powerful, it is because the good are too timid and too indolent. There may be circumstances also, under which it will become necessary to show displeasure, and even anger, in defense of the rights of man.”
“Tell your pupils, that they are only to attend to the purity of the views which actuate the Order; and that antiquity, power, or riches, should be perfectly indifferent to them.”
“Tell them, that should they find elsewhere a society which would lead them with greater speed or with more certainty to the desired end, the Order would eternally regret the not having been acquainted with it before.
That in the mean time we obey the laws of our Superiors, laboring in peace, and persecuting no man.—Follow these rules of conduct, and once more remember, that you will have rendered an essential service to the world, though you should form two men according to our principles.
“Carefully profit of those moments when your pupil is discontented with the world, and when everything goes contrary to his wishes; those moments when the most powerful man feels the want of the support of others, to attain a better order of things.
It is then that you must press the swelling heart, stimulate the sensibility, and demonstrate how necessary secret societies are, for the attainment of a better order of things.”
“But be not too easy in your belief with respect to the reality or constancy of such feelings. Indignation may be the effect of fear, or of the fleeting hopes of some passion which one wishes to gratify.
Such feelings are not naturalized; men are not perfect in so short a time; prepare for the worst, and then insist. A heart which easily melts easily changes.”
“Never promise too much, that you may be able to perform more than you promise. Rekindle exhausted courage; repress excessive ardor; inspire hope in misfortune, and fear in success.”
“Such are the rules which will form you for a good preceptor and a leader of men. By an exact attention to them, you will add to the number of the elect.
If your own happiness is dear to you, labor (under our direction) at delivering many thousands of men, who wish to be good, from the dire necessity of being wicked.
Believe us, for it is the precept of experience, bereave vice of its power, and everything will go well in this world: for if vice be powerful, it is only because one part of the good is too indolent, while the other is too ardent; or else, that men suffer themselves to be divided, or leave the care of Revolutions to futurity; the fact is, that in the meantime they had rather bend under the yoke, than efficaciously resist vice. If they once became sensible that virtue does not entirely consist in patience, but in action also, they would start from their sleep.
For your part, unite with the Brethren; place your confidence in our Society; nothing is impossible to it if we follow its laws.
We labor to secure to merit its just rewards; to the weak support, to the wicked the fetters they deserve; and to man his dignity.
Such is the new Canaan, the new land of Promise, the land of abundance and blessing; though as yet, alas! we discover it but from a distance.”
I was frequently tempted to interrupt the course of this extract by my reflexions, but what reader is there that will not ask himself,
What zeal, what strange ardor is this, that can have led Weishaupt to combine and dictate means so powerful to captivate the minds of his pupils? Is there a parent, is there a preceptor, whose love for his child or his pupil ever suggested more efficacious rules?
These, however, are only a few of the lessons which the Minor Illuminee is always to have present to his mind to direct him in the training of the young adepts.
He is not alone entrusted with the task.
All the Brethren of the same degree partake in the care of watching over the lower ones, and each note on his tablets even the most insignificant circumstances.
Their several observations are compared, and of the whole, a general statement is formed, according to which each pupil will be judged by his superiors.
Meanwhile, it is natural to ask, what can these principles be for which the youth is so carefully trained?
What can be the sublime virtue that is to be the result of so much care? We shall soon discover them, the principles of shameless villainy.
This sublime virtue is the combination of every art that can plunge mankind into corruption, and immerse him in all the horrors of universal anarchy.
Yes, we shall see the man who says to his disciples, employ the same means for a good purpose which impostors employ for evil, proved to be the arch-impostor, training his disciples to every crime, and preparing the most terrible disasters for society with more ardour and more artifice than ever the upright man has been seen to employ zeal and wisdom in the cause of virtue and the support of the laws.
The better to dispose of the young adepts, the Minor Illuminee is assisted in his functions and overlooked by the Major Illuminee, that is to say, by the adepts of the highest degree among those of the preparatory class.