When one of our Epopts has sufficiently distinguished himself to bear a part in the political government of our Order; that is to say, when he unites prudence with the liberty of thinking and of acting; when he knows how to temper boldness with precaution, resolution with complaisance; subtlety with good nature; loyalty with simplicity; singularity with method; transcendency of wit with gravity and dignity of manners; when he has learned opportunely to speak or to be silent, how to obey or to command; when he shall have gained the esteem and affection of his fellow-citizens, though feared by them at the same time; when his heart shall be entirely devoted to the interests of our Order, and the common welfare of the universe shall be uppermost in his mind; then, and only then, let the Superior of the province propose him to the National Inspector as worthy of being admitted to the degree of Regent.
Such are the qualities required by the Sect for the admission of its adepts to the degree which in the Code is sometimes termed Regent, at others the Prince Illuminee.
Such are the very words to be found in the preamble of the rules of this degree.
Three things of the utmost consequence (says the Code) are to be observed. In the first place, the greatest reserve is necessary with respect to this degree.
Secondly, those who are admitted into it must be as much as possible free men and independent of all Princes: they must indeed have clearly manifested their hatred for the general constitution or the actual state of mankind; have shown how ardently they wish for a change in the government of the world; and how much the hints thrown out in the degree of Priest has inflamed their wishes for a better order of things.
If all these requisites are to be found in the Candidate, then let the National Inspector once more examine, in his records, every thing relative to the conduct and character of the new adept, let him inspect the divers questions which have been put to him, and discover where he has shown his strong or his weak side.
According to the result of this examination, let the Inspector propose some new questions on those articles on which the Candidate may have shown the greatest reserve.
For example, some of the following:
Would you think a society objectionable, which should (till nature shall have ripened its grand revolutions) place itself in a situation, that would deprive Monarchs of the power of doing harm, though they should wish it; a society whose invisible means should prevent all governments from abusing their power?
Would it be impossible, through the influence of such a society, to form a new state in each state, status in statu;” that is to say, would it be impossible to subject the rulers of every state to this Illuminizing Society, and to convert them into mere tools of the Order even in the government of their own dominions?
Were it to be objected, that such a society would abuse its power, would not the following considerations do away such an objection?
Do not our present rulers daily abuse their power?
And are not the people silent, notwithstanding such an abuse?
Is this power as secure from abuse in the hands of Princes, as it would be in those of our adepts whom we train up with so much care?
If then any government could be harmless, would it not be our’s, which would be entirely founded on morality, foresight, wisdom, liberty, and virtue?
“III. Though this universal government, founded on morality, should prove chimerical, would it not be worth while to make an essay of it?”
Would not the most sceptical man find a sufficient guarantee against any abuse of power on the part of our Order, in the liberty of abandoning it at pleasure; in the happiness of having Superiors of tried merit, who, unknown to each other, could not possibly support each other in their treasonable combinations against the general welfare; Superiors, in short, who would be deterred from doing harm by the fear of the existing chiefs of empires?
Should there exist any other secret means of guarding against the abuse of that authority entrusted by the order to our Superiors, what might they be?
Supposing despotism were to ensure, would it be dangerous in the hands of men who, from the very first step we made in the Order, teach us nothing but science, liberty, and virtue?
Would not that despotism lose its sting, in the consideration that those chiefs who may have conceived dangerous plans will have begun by disposing a machine in direct opposition to their views.
To understand the tendency of these questions, let us reflect on the meaning given by the Sect to liberty and general welfare.
Above all, let us not forget the lesson already given to the adepts on morality; the art of teaching men to shake off the yoke of their minority, to set aside Princes and Rulers, and to learn to govern themselves.
This lesson once well understood, the most contracted understanding must perceive, in spite of the insidious tenure of these questions, that their sole tendency is to ask, whether a Sect would be very dangerous who, under pretence of hindering the chiefs of nations, Kings, Ministers, and Magistrates, from hurting the people, should begin by mastering the opinions of all those who surrounded King’s, Ministers, or Magistrates; or should seek by invisible means to captivate all the councils, and the agents of public authority, in order to reinstate mankind in the rights of their pretended majority; and to teach the subject to throw off the authority of his Prince, and learn to govern himself; or, in other words, to destroy every King, Minister, Law, Magistrate, and public authority whatever?
The Candidate, too well-trained to the spirit of Illuminism not to see the real tendency of these questions, but also too much perverted by it to be startled at them, knows what answers he is to give to obtain the new degree.
Should he still harbour doubts, the ceremonies of his installation would divest him of them.
These are not theosophical or insignificant ceremonies; every step demonstrates the disorganizing genius, and the hatred for all authority, which irritates the spleen of their impious author; and it is therefore that Weishaupt, when writing to Zwack, represents them as infinitely more important than those of the preceding degree.
When the admission of the new adept is resolved on, he is informed, that as in future he is to be entrusted with papers belonging to the Order, of far greater importance than any that he has yet had in his possession, it is necessary that the Order should have further securities.
He is therefore to make his will, and insert a particular clause with respect to any private papers which he may leave in case of sudden death. He is to get a formal and juridical receipt of that part of his will from his family, or from the public Magistrate, and he is to take their promises in writing that they will fulfil his intentions.
This precaution taken, and the day for the initiation fixed, the adept is admitted into an antichamber hung with black.
Its furniture consists in a skeleton elevated on two steps, at the feet of which are laid a crown and a sword.
There he is asked for the written dispositions he has made concerning the papers with which he may be entrusted, and the juridical promise he has received that his intentions shall be fulfilled.
His hands are then loaded with chains, as if he were a slave; and he is thus left to his meditations.
The Provincial who performs the functions of Initiator is alone in the first saloon, seated on a throne.
The Introducer, having left the Candidate to his reflections, enters this room, and in a voice loud enough to be heard by the new adept, the following Dialogue takes place between them.
Provincial. Who brought this slave to us?
Introducer. He came of his own accord; he knocked at the door.
Prov. What does he want?
Introd. He is in search of Liberty, and asks to be freed from his chains.
Prov. Why does he not apply to those who have chained him?
Introd. They refuse to break his bonds; they acquire too great an advantage from his slavery.
Prov. Who then is it that has reduced him to this state of slavery?
Introd. Society, governments, the sciences, and false religion.
Prov. And he wishes to cast off this yoke to become a seditious man and a rebel?
Introd. No; he wishes to unite with us, to join in our fights against the constitution of governments, the corruption of morals, and the profanation of religion. He wishes through our means to become powerful, that he may attain the grand ultimatum.
Prov. And who will answer to us, that after having obtained that power he will not also abuse it, that he will not be a tyrant and the author of new misfortunes?
Introd. His heart and his reason are our guarantees the Order has enlightened him. He has learned to conquer his passions and to know himself.
Our Superiors have tried him.
Prov. That is saying a great deal—Is he also superior to prejudice. Does he prefer the general interest of the universe to that of more limited associations?
Introd. Such have been his promises.
Prov. How many others have made similar promises who did not keep them? Is he master of himself? Can he resist temptation? Are personal considerations of no avail with respect to him? Ask him, whether the skeleton he has before him is that of a king, a nobleman, or a beggar?
Introd. He cannot tell; nature has destroyed all that marked the depraved state of inequality; all that he sees is, that this skeleton was man like us; and the character of man is all that he attends to.
Prov. If such be his sentiments, let him be free at his own risk and peril. But he knows us not. Go and ask him why he implores our protection?
This dialogue ended (and the reader will not be at a loss to perceive the drift of it), the Introducer returns to the Candidate, and says, `Brother, the knowledge you have acquired can no longer leave you in doubt as to the grandeur, the importance, the disinterestedness and lawfulness of our great object.
It must therefore be indifferent to you whether you are acquainted with our Superiors or not; nevertheless, I have some information to impart to you on that subject.
This information is nothing more than a summary of a pretended history of Masonry, going back to the deluge; and of what the Sect calls the fall of man, the loss of his dignity, and of the true doctrine.
The story then continues to Noah and the few who escaped the deluge in the ark; these, he says, were a few Sages or Freemasons, who have maintained the true principles in their secret schools.
It is for that reason, says the Instructor, that Masonry has preserved the denominations of Noachists and Patriarchs.
Then comes a recapitulation of what had been said in the degree of Epopt on the pretended views of Christ, on the decline of Masonry, and on the honour reserved to Illuminism to preserve and revive these true and ancient mysteries.
When questioned (says the Instructor) as to whom we are indebted to for the actual constitution of our Order, and the present form of the inferior degrees, the following is the answer we give:
Our founders, without doubt, had extensive knowledge, since they have transmitted so much to us.
Actuated by a laudable zeal for the general welfare, they formed a code of laws for our Order; but, partly through prudence, and partly to guard against their own passions, they left the direction of the edifice they had raised to other hands, and retired.
Their names will for ever remain in oblivion.
The chiefs who govern the Order at present are not our founders; but posterity will doubly bless those unknown benefactors who have despised the vain glory of immortalizing their names.
Every document which could have thrown light on our origin has been committed to the flames.
You will now be under the direction of other men; men who, gradually educated by the Order, have at length been placed at the helm. You will soon make one of their number.
Tell me only, whether you still harbour any doubt as to the object of the Order.
The Candidate, who has long since been past all possibility of doubt, advances with his Introducer toward another saloon; but, on opening the door, several of the adepts run and oppose their entrance.
A new dialogue takes place in the style of the first.
Who goes there? Who are you?—Is it a slave who fled from his masters—No slave shall enter here.
He has fled that he might cease to be a slave; he craves an asylum and protection.
But should his master follow?
He is safe, the doors are shut.
But should he be a traitor?
He is not one, he has been educated under the eyes of the Illuminees.
They have imprinted the divine seal on his forehead.
The door opens, and those who opposed the Candidate’s entrance escort him to the third saloon.
Here new obstacles occur, and another dialogue takes place between an adept in the inside and the Introducer.
In the meantime the Provincial has left his former station, and has seated himself upon a throne in this third room.
[It is worthy of remark that these enemies of thrones are themselves always seated on a throne.]
The Provincial gives orders that the Candidate may be admitted, and desires to see whether he really bears the print of the seal of liberty.
The Brethren accompany the new adept to the foot of the throne,
Prov. Wretch! You are a slave: and yet dare enter an assembly of free men!
Do you know the fate that awaits you?
You have passed through two doors to enter this; but you shall not go hence unpunished, if you profane this sanctuary.
Introd. That will not happen; I will be his guarantee. You have taught him to thirst after liberty; and now keep your promise.
Prov. Well, Brother, we have subjected you to various trials. The elevation of your sentiments has made us conceive you to be both proper and worthy of being admitted into our Order.
You have thrown yourself with confidence and without reserve into our arms: and it is time to impart to you that liberty which we have painted to you in such bewitching colours. We have been your guide during all the time that you stood in need of one.
You are now strong enough to conduct yourself, be then in future your own guide, be it at your own peril and risk.
Be free; that is to say, be a man, and a man who knows how to govern himself, a man who knows his duty, and his imprescriptible rights; a man who serves the universe alone; whose actions are solely directed to the general benefit of the world and of human nature.
Everything else is injustice—Be free and independent; in future be so of yourself.
Here, take back the engagements you have hitherto contracted with us.
To you we return them all.
As he pronounces these words, the Provincial returns him all the writings which concern him, such as his oaths, his promises, the minutes of his admission to the preceding degrees, the history of his life which he had transmitted to the Superiors, and all the notes taken by the Scrutators concerning him.
This perhaps is one of the most delicate traits of policy of the Sect.
The chiefs have had full leisure to pry into the most secret recesses of his heart, and the Scrutateurs have no further discoveries to make.
The Candidate may take back his oaths and his secrets, but recollections (perhaps copies) still remain, and the Initiator may well continue: In future you will owe us nothing but that which your heart shall dictate.
We do not tyrannize over men, we only enlighten them. Have you found contentment, rest, satisfaction, happiness, among us? You will not then abandon us.
Can we have mistaken you, or can you have mistaken us! It would be a misfortune for you; but you are free.
Remember only that men free and independent do not offend each other; on the contrary, they assist and mutually protect each other.
Remember, that to offend another man, is to give him the right of defending himself.
Do you wish to make a noble use of the power we give to you? rely on our word: you shall find zeal and protection among us.
Could a disinterested zeal for your brethren glow in your heart, then labour at the grand object, labour for unfortunate human nature, and thy last hour shall be blest.
We ask nothing else from you, we ask nothing for ourselves. Question your own heart, and let it say whether our conduct to you has not been noble and disinterested.
After so many favours, could you be ungrateful, your heart should avenge us, and chastise you.
But no; many trials have proved you to be man of constancy and resolution.
Be such your character, and in future govern with us oppressed man, and labour at rendering him virtuous and free.
Oh, Brother! what a fight, what hopes! when one day happiness, affection, and peace shall be the inhabitants of the earth! when misery, error, and oppression, shall disappear with superfluous wants! when, each one at his station labouring only for the general good, every father of a family shall be sovereign in his tranquil cot! when he that wishes to invade these sacred rights shall not find an asylum on the face of the earth! when idleness shall be no longer suffered! when the clod of useless sciences shall be cast aside, and none shall be taught but those which contribute to make man better, and to reinstate him in his primitive freedom, his future destiny! when we may flatter ourselves with having forwarded that happy period, and complacently view the fruits of our labours! when, in fine, each man viewing his brother in his fellow creature, shall extend a succouring hand with us and ours you shall find happiness and peace, should you continue faithful and attached to us.
You will also remark, that the sign of this degree consists in extending your arms to a brother with your hands open, to show that they are not sullied by injustice and oppression, and the gripe is to seize the brother by the two elbows, as it were to hinder him from falling. The word is redemption.
The foregoing passages so clearly demonstrate the meaning of this word redemption, that the reader must be surprised at learning that there still remain further mysteries to be revealed.
The candidate is not yet admitted into the highest class. He is only the Prince Illuminee, and has to gain admission to the two degrees of Philosopher, and of the Man King.
He is invested in his new principality by receiving a buckler, boots, a cloak, and a hat.
The words pronounced at the investiture are worthy of the reader’s attention.
On presenting the buckler, the Initiator says, Arm thyself with fidelity, truth, and constancy; be a true Christian, and the shafts of calumny and misfortune shall not pierce thee.
Be a Christian! (und sey ein Christ)!!
What a strange Christian; what a wicked wretch then must be the Initiator who dares carry his dissimulation to such lengths, and propane that sacred name in mysteries so evidently combined for the eradication of every trace of Christianity!
But the adepts smiles, or his stupidity must be beyond expression if he does not see through so miserable a cant.
On presenting the boots: Be active in the service of the good, and fear no road which may lead to the propagation or discovery of happiness.
This will recall to our minds the principle, whatever may be the means, fear not to employ them when they lead to what the Sect calls happiness.
On giving the cloak: Be a prince over thy people; that is to say, be sincere and wise, the benefactor of thy brethren, and teach them science.
The reader will not be at a loss to understand what science.
The formula of the hat is, “Beware of ever exchanging this hat of liberty (diesen frey heitshut) for a crown.”
Thus decorated, the Prince Illuminee receives the fraternal embrace.
He then hears read the instructions for his new degree; but as they entirely relate (like those of the preceding degree) to the government of the brethren, they will be treated of in the last part of the code. It is now time to proceed to the Grand Mysteries.