Freemasonry is...interested in and concerned for "the education of all the children of all the people." The "Temple" which the Craft is building is nothing other than the human family living happily together.- H. L. Haywood, Great Teachings of Masonry (Kessinger Publishing, 1942), p. 152
A fairly recent Lew Rockwell blog post by Christopher Manion highlights the efforts of the state and anti-Catholics to control the educational apparatus:
Few Americans today realize that the public school movement began 150 years ago as part of an attack on the Catholic Church.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Protestant “Know-Nothings” railed against the millions of newly-arrived Catholic immigrants — “criminals” who had a lot of kids and were starting their own schools, complete with armies of foreign nuns and papist priests. According to Rousas Rushdoony’s history, Horace Mann, the founder of the public school movement in Massachusetts, believed that “the [public] schools are the means, instruments, vehicles, and true church by which salvation is given to society.” Given that goal, Mann “changed the function of education from ‘mere learning’ or religiously-oriented education to ‘social efficiency, civic virtue, and character” (by the twentieth century, character “ceased to be a concern” in the public schools, Rushdoony notes). Mann also demanded that control of community schools be transferred into state hands.
A decade later and a continent away, another pioneer took up the cause. John Swett was responsible for “framing the basic legislation of the state system” as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction during the 1860s. Swett made his goals perfectly clear: “Children arrived at the age of maturity belong not to the parents but to the State, to society, and to the country,” he insisted — so children should be educated not according to the beliefs of their parents, but those of the government. The “civil religion” taught in government schools was designed to neutralize the papist heresies taught in the parochial schools. For the Know-Nothings, Catholic families were not only the competition: they were the enemy. Catholics were inferiors that had to be raised to the level of civic virtue expected of everyone else.
Although I’m not comfortable with Manion utilizing Rushdoony as his main source, the facts are essentially sound. Not mentioned though, was that Masonic affiliation was probably a factor. According to 10,000 Famous Freemasons, John Swett was a Mason; while Horace Mann is claimed as such—perhaps by his wife—in Paul Fisher’s Behind the Lodge Door.
In Europe and North America, “culture war” was the socio-political preoccupation of the mid- to late-19th Century. However, the struggle for control of the educational establishment actually began a hundred years earlier during the Enlightenment.
The opening salvo was the dissolution of Jesuit schools and colleges (1763/4) and the subsequent suppression of the Order in France (1764). Hence the door was opened wide for the practical application of Enlightenment philosophy – pedagogy, having always been a chief preoccupation. Deprived “of the right to teach, their deserted schools invited the attention of reformers,” writes R. R. Palmer (101). Palmer is too generous in his assessment, however. As if chance alone had presented an opportunity!
Freemason Louis-René de Caradeuc de La Chalotais (1701-1785) was one of the main instigators. In 1763, he published Essai d'éducation nationale, ou Plan d'études pour la jeunesse [Essay on National Education, or Plan of Study for Youth]. As described by Jennifer J. Popiel, La Chalotais “made a positive outline of reforms that could and must be attempted now that the Jesuits' control of the educational system had been broken. Arguing that the Jesuits were unfit to educate students by virtue of their allegiance to the Society and the papacy, La Chalotais advocated a national education that would prepare advanced students for citizenship in France” (35).
And a hundred years later, the Revue catholique des Institutions et du Droit [Catholic Review of Institutions and Law] would opine:
La Chalotais' L'Essai is the first attempt to apply Masonic philosophy ... L'Essai proposed the monopoly of education in the hands of the State; an exclusively civil education, uniform throughout the kingdom; the suppression of all religious teaching; the official teaching of a moral state based solely on reason; and finally, the exclusion of priests and the religious in the schools.
La Chalotais' plan was more than a strange novelty; it was a program established in the then-little-known philosophical meetings of masonry (506-7) [my translation].
Not entirely incidental was that La Chalotais’ reports – especially his 1761 overview of the Jesuit Constitutions – were utilized as a main weapon by Adam Weishaupt and the Illuminati in their ongoing campaign to extirpate the “ex”-Jesuits and their continuing influence in Bavaria. The Illuminati realized how effective the works of La Chalotais had been in France, and the now “ex”-Jesuits who remained in Palatinate-Bavaria refused to stop meddling in their traditional vocations. Illuminatus Baron von Knigge, at the behest of the Order, was tasked with writing some anti-Jesuit pamphlets which utilized the works of La Chalotais.
La Chalotais was a member of the famed ‘Neuf Soeurs’ Lodge in Paris – appropriately dubbed, in a 1953 paper by Nicholas Hans, the “UNESCO of the Eighteenth Century.” According to Hans, from 1776-1792, the membership of the Lodge “would probably equal 400 eminent men in science, education, and fine arts from all countries of Europe and America. This was an unprecedented concentration of talent in one organization which adequately answered Bacon's dream of ‘Solomon's House’.” (516).
The Neuf Soeurs lodge was practically the embodiment of the Enlightenment. Its masonic Lumières tasked themselves with secular and educational transformation.
The authentic voice of freemasonry in its special concern with educational reform was heard in Paris, where Helvétius, La Chalotais, Franklin, Lavoisier, Fourcroy, Buffon and Dupont de Nemours were all members of the large and very influential cosmopolitan group which assumed its final organization in 1776 as the lodge of the Neuf soeurs under the leadership of La Lande. The reforming spirit of this society of eminent intellectuals was powerful in the extreme. In due course every public memorandum of significance that dealt with educational reconstruction in France came from the hand of one member or another of this lodge. The missionary work culminated in the conception and creation of the écoles centrales of 1795 (Godwin 147-8; bold emphasis mine).
Nicholas Hans stressed the same:
... all the schemes of educational reform from Turgot to Fourcroy were initiated by the members of Les Neuf Soeurs. The law establishing Écoles Centrales was drafted, introduced and administered by members of the lodge. The old Academie des Sciences and the Institut which supplanted it were in fact the extensions of the lodge. The École Normale Superieure founded by the Convention was staffed and administered by members. The pioneering military schools which were first to introduce modern curriculum and methods were directed by members of the lodge – J. J. Barrett and Chevalier de Keralio (523).
Moreover, the international character of the Lodge was used to great effect. Secular educational reforms, by those aligned with the Neuf Soeurs lodge, were carried out in England, America, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia (Hans 523-4).
The Neuf Soeurs actually began as the Loge des Sciences, founded in 1765/6 by philosophe Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771), along with his friend, Jérôme de Lalande (1732-1807).
The brethren, all interested in scientific studies and research, continued to meet at this lodge even after the dissolution of “Grande Loge”. They read “frère” Montesquieu’s Esprit des Lois and Helvetius's De l'Esprit, they discussed the British constitution, and they helped to break down the barrier between the nobility and the bourgeoisie by showing to both the advantages and importance of education. Helvetius aimed to widen the membership of the “Loge des Sciences”; with this in view, and still to emphasize its educational nature, he suggested that it be placed under the protecting influence of the muses, the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who made Mount Parnassus their home. Unfortunately he died in 1771 but his ideal was not abandoned, and in 1776 – three years after the creation of the “Grand Orient” with the due de Chartres (the future Philippe-Égalité) as its “Grand Maître” – the “Loge des Sciences” became the “Loge des Neuf Soeurs” with de Lalande as its first “Vénérable” (Cumming 120-1).
Helvétius’ Masonic funeral rites, in 1772, were probably conducted by the Loge des Sciences (Silber 424), and after Helvétius’ dream was realized through Lalande and the Neuf Soeurs, Madame Helvétius would donate the apron and masonic jewels of her late husband to the Lodge. Gordon Silber describes the atmosphere at the Lodge as almost a “cult of Helvétius” (425). When Voltaire was initiated into the Lodge just before his death, for example, “the climax of the ceremony came when Brother Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia handed to Voltaire the Masonic apron which the great Helvetius had worn before him. Voltaire raised the apron to his aged lips” (Lunden 188). Lalande’s speech for the occasion carried the following words: “we ...have admitted to our ranks an Apollonian and a friend of humanity ... In entering Masonry, know that your efforts should be directed to ending fanaticism and superstition” (Weisberger 173; my emphasis).
The preoccupation with enlightened public instruction went hand-in-hand with the concept of a civil religion (coined by Rousseau in Social Contract): as a member of the Jacobin Club had said, “Cannons will win the Revolution, but public instruction will consolidate it; it is the basis of the Revolution” (Stromberg 328; emphasis mine). From this – ironically rife with its own “fanaticism” – came an inevitable progression to Festivals of Reason, Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being, the Cult of Theophilanthropy and the Cult of the Adorers. The latter two, by the way, were wholeheartedly embraced and supported by members of the Neuf Soeurs (Hans 523; Melanson 91-97) – not surprisingly, considering “Freemasonry's sacralizing cult of brotherhood and its civil religious credo” (Hoffmann 215).
For Freemasons “education became the matter almost of a missionary enterprise” (Godwin 147). In Germany, for instance, Johann Bernhard Basedow (1724-1790) – influenced in particular by the pedagogic writings of Rousseau – instituted schools of Philanthropinum, beginning in 1774 and lasting until 1793. Basedow received the support of enlightened despotic Princes, sovereigns and governments eager for an alternative to the long held hegemony of the ecclesiastics. “Freemason lodges in Hamburg, Leipzig, and Göttingen were among the generous contributors” (Cubberley 419).
This was perhaps the main impetus why Freemasons, among others, joined the Order of the Illuminati in droves. Educational reform was used effectively as a recruitment tool. It could be demonstrated that in this area – so dear to the Enlightenment itself – they, as an Order with extended reach, had already achieved tangible results.
The following is a succinct overview of the pedagogic aspirations and successes of the Illuminati:
The Illuminaten thus played an impressive role in the pedagogic movement of the Enlightenment for establishing model schools, the so-called Philanthropin. The Illuminatus Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746-1818) led the Philanthropin in Hamburg, for a time together with Ernst Christian Trapp (1745-1818), another member of the Order. Johann Friedrich Simon (1747-1829), also an Illuminatus, was director of the Philanthropin in Neuwied; the history of the foundation of the Philanthropin in Schnepfenthal near Gotha carries the stamp of the Illuminaten. At a scholarly level, the academies were the focus of Order activity, especially the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in Munich. In 1783 its vice-president as well as two of three class directors were members of the Order. The Illuminatus Carl Theodor von Dalberg (1744-1817), the patron of the Mainz Academy in Erfurt, tried to strengthen the grip of the Order through a targeted policy of appointments. Influence on the literary discourse of the period was achieved by reviewing and publishing. In 1783 the Illuminatus Leopold Friedrich Goeckingk (1748-1828) was a co-founder of the influential Journal von und für Deutschland. The enlistment of Friedrich Nicolai (1733-1811), the Berlin publisher and editor of the Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek, had a multiplier-effect (Neugebauer-Wölk 591).
It should come as no surprise that most of the above Illuminati mentioned by Neugebauer-Wölk were in fact Freemasons before joining Weishaupt’s Order, e.g. Campe, Simon, Dalberg, and Nicolai. The Schnepfenthal school – Weishaupt’s children were even educated there— not only “carried the stamp of the Illuminaten,” but, more precisely, the “stamp” of the Illuminati-controlled Gotha Masonic Lodge ‘Ernst Zum Kompass,’ named after Weishaupt’s protector Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha (Schüttler 33, 38, 110-1, 131, 145; Schaubs, no pagination; Melanson 403-5).
Inspired by Rousseau and other philosophers with pedagogic fixations, in German-speaking lands Basedow and Illuminatus Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) were the big two:
From Dessau an interest in pedagogical ideas and experiments spread over Europe, and particularly over German lands. Other institutions, modeled after the Philanthropinum, were founded in many places, and some of Basedow’s followers did as important work along certain lines as did Basedow himself. His followers were numerous, and of all degrees of worth. They urged acceptance of the new ideas of Rousseau as worked out and promulgated by Basedow; vigorously attacked the old schools, making converts here and there; and in a way helped to prepare northern German lands for the incoming, later, of the better-organized ideas of the German-Swiss reformer Pestalozzi ... (Cubberley 85).
The 1780s, of course, was a decisive decade for the formulation of Pestalozzi’s methods. In 1782 he was insinuated into the Illuminati by J. F. Mieg (Epictet). Fittingly, Pestalozzi was assigned an alias which alludes to the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great (849-899 AD), renowned as an enlightened ruler who restored learning and education.
Adam Weishaupt believed his Order should develop into the executive arm of the Aufklärung (Enlightenment), and as such, wrestling control of the educational establishment was of the utmost importance. The numerous pedagogues who joined the Order — Abel, Afsprung, Becker, Geissler, Pestalozzi, Rahn, Salzmann, Simon, and Trapp — naturally saw a vehicle for the realization of education reforms. Moreover, the Minerval Academies of the Illuminati were pedagogical institutions in their own right, and the techniques discovered were soon tested on the general public. Pestalozzi co-founded the Zurich branch of the Illuminati in 1783, and a year later he founded a pedagogic society in Zurich, along with Johann Heinrich Rahn, as a camouflage organization for the Order (Melanson 377).
Pestalozzi and his disciples, during the 19th Century and beyond, had an immense influence upon (the “science” of) education as a whole – agendas and techniques which ultimately led to what Charlotte Iserbyt and John Gatto had documented in The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America and Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, respectively. (I’m not saying Freemasons were behind it – at least not entirely —but it’s important to acknowledge that, had Gatto and Iserbyt spent any length of time on the Enlightenment itself, the trail would have lead directly to Illuminatus Pestalozzi, the Illuminati-infiltrated Philanthropinum, and the influential writings of the Rousseau’s and Helvetius’ before them.)
The tit for tat over education (secularized vs. parochial) continued during the 19th Century. Manion, whom I quoted at the beginning of this piece, provides some of the details in America. In France, however, swayed by utopians, socialists, and the positivist generation in particular, the battle lines were more pronounced.
The Third Republic, “the handiwork of the positivists,” (Nord 213) was in effect a Masonic government. “Anticlericalism had indeed long characterized French Freemasonry,” writes Mildred J. Headings, “but it was more especially the acceptance of positive philosophy that determined the Masons of the Third Republic to plan for complete state laicization” (122).
And further, from Philip Nord:
Masonry experienced an explosion of recruitment under the Empire. The number of ateliers affiliated with the Grand Orient, France's largest Masonic body, shot up from 244 in 1857 to 392 in 1870. A new generation entered the lodges, espousing a new doctrine, an "all-powerful" "scientific positivism." And with positivism came republican commitment, but of a liberal, not radical, cast. No moment more neatly dramatized the tightening bonds between Masonry, positivism, and liberal republicanism than the much-publicized initiation of Emile Littre and Jules Ferry into the Masonic rite in 1875. In the lodges then a small-scale version of a much wider transformation was played out: the deradicalization of republicanism at the hands of a rising generation of positivists.
[...] The radicalization of the Masonic opposition was in part a reaction to the weight of state oppression, but it was also propelled by elements within the Order itself. The Bonapartist coup of 1851 had scattered the militants of France's democratic and socialist Left, many of whom took refuge in the lodges. These old-timers – Saint-Simonians and utopians left over from a previous generation – helped plot Masonic strategy in the institutional battles of the sixties. The leadership they provided, the campaign they orchestrated, gave shape to a distinctive current of Masonic radicalism – federalist, anticlerical, and ultrademocratic – that manifested itself via Masonic activism in a knot of related and "progressive" causes: pacifism, feminism, and the cooperative movement. Generations and ideologies mingled in the lodges of the Second Empire, a simple observation that points to two more general conclusions about the Third Republic itself. First, the regime's ideological inheritance was much richer than is sometimes supposed. Liberal positivism as espoused by a Ferry or Littre no doubt left a mark on the character of the new Republic. (213-14)
Jules Ferry (1832-1893), appointed Minister of Public Instruction in 1879, was responsible for the laws on compulsory secular education (laïcité); while Émile Littré (1801-1881) was an acknowledged leader of the school of positivist philosophy, after the death of its founder, Saint-Simonian disciple Auguste Comte (1798-1857). They were both initiated into the Grand Orient at the same time in 1875, as Nord asserts above, in addition to the Russian sociologist, and fellow-positivist Grigorii Nikolayevich Vyrubov [Grégoire Wyrouboff] (1843-1913). Vyrubov and Littré collaborated and co-founded the journal Revue La Philosophie positive in 1867, “the chief organ of French positivism,” (Walicki, 351) which lasted until Littré’s death in 1881.
A major idea in Comte’s positivist philosophy during his later years was the propagation of a “Religion of Humanity.” A good description of the control mechanisms envisioned for this new “religion” can be had from the “The Great Debate” website (a collection of secular humanist educators):
In place of the existing institutions Comte now envisaged a fixed social hierarchy strictly controlled by a positivist elite. Expressing an admiration for primitive societies because of the absolute power held by the spiritual leaders, he proposed a form of theocracy with a ‘clergy’ made up of his social scientists. The spiritual authority would have an explicitly repressive function, playing the role that the Catholic Church had played in the Mediaeval period, but more powerful. His positive clergy would be moral and political philosophers, men with general knowledge of all the sciences backing their social science. Control over ideas would be an essential element of the state. Thus education would be a key tool, helping to link theory and practice, and teaching people to know their place in the social order.
[...]Comte’s Positivism can be considered as a humanist philosophy in that it placed humanity at the centre of its concerns, and of course had no place for God. However, it could have been further from Enlightenment humanism, even though that had been his start point. He rejected democracy and freedom of the individual in favour of a powerful elite who would rule with an iron hand. Only the enlightened few would have any say in his new society. His Religion of Humanity, with himself in role of pope, would tell people what to think and how to act (Hewett, no pagination).
Comte was the father of sociology. And judging by his totalitarian proclivities is it any wonder that the modern discipline has been preoccupied with methods of societal control? (See Erica Carle’s article, for excerpts from Comte along with comparative extracts from his modern successors; and for the serious implications: see “The Social Scientific Dictatorship: The Role of the Social Sciences in the Mechanization of Mankind,” by Paul and Phillip Collins.)
This Religion of Humanity is similar to what Rousseau proposed for a civil religion; what Robespierre and the Jacobins afterwards would forcefully enact during the French Revolution. Indeed, is it not necessary for dictatorships to propagate a sacerdocy of the state, its myths, its martyrs and heroes?
In North America, Masons have long subscribed to the idea of a civil religion as well. It expresses itself more subtly than the traditionally overt Grand Orient in France, however. Nonetheless, utilizing the identifications of the investigators of socio-political persuasion – sociologists and cultural anthropologists – Freemasonry fits the criteria of a civil religion.
Building upon the influential 1967 essay, “Civil Religion in America,” by Harvard professor Robert Bellah – a one-time member of the Communist Party, the chairman of the Marxist John Reed Club, and now a Communitarian – Pamela M. Jolicoeur and Louis L. Knowles published their findings on Freemasonry. Titled “Fraternal Associations and Civil Religion: Scottish Rite Freemasonry,” the description states:
In this paper, empirical evidence is presented that Freemasonry, the oldest, largest, and most prestigious of American fraternal associations, has as one of its major purposes the maintenance and propagation of civil religion. Data are from a content analysis of issues of The New Age magazine, a major national Masonic publication, from 1964-1974. The implications of this function of Freemasonry for the debates regarding the existence of civil religion, its nature, and its social consequences are discussed (3).
The content analysis just happens to correspond with the issues that I had acquired a while back, between the years 1967-1973. So, much of the material reviewed by these scholars is familiar to me. I too was struck by the consistent theme of what – I had no idea at the time – had already been identified as a type of “civil religion.”
In the New Age Magazine, Masonry – its myths, symbols and significance – is vividly conflated with freedom, Americanism, civic morality, the founding fathers, the purpose of the nation, etc. A call to arms in the defence and maintenance of Masonic values is implicit in every issue.
The most prominent of themes, however, is education, public schools, and the separation of church and state. From analyzing the issues over just a ten-year period, Jolicoeur and Knowles report that 85 articles were devoted to it, with only a higher count (89) being the subject of Masonic symbolism (Jolicoeur and Knowles 10). “Individual members are constantly exhorted in the pages of The New Age to make their voices heard in Congress, particularly on issues of separation of church and state and public education,” they write. “Most of its desire and effort to influence social policy is directed toward preserving the public schools, the primary socialization agent for civil religion, and protecting the separation of church and state” (8, 14).
One article that caught my own eye – not mentioned by name in the Jolicoeur and Knowles study itself – bears the title “Masonic Light in Public Schools,” by Ray L. Colvard, 32°, in the Dec. 1970 issue. And because he appeals to the memory of the “enlightened Masons” of the 18th Century, it seems like an appropriate conclusion.
Decrying the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (part of which forbade establishing a national curriculum, thereby allowing Catholic schools continued leeway), Colvard evangelises to his brethren:
The time again seems ripe for the enemies of public education. There are more than fifty church-state cases now pending in American courts.
[...] Although political issues are not discussed within the Lodge room, I believe it is possible for Scottish Rite Masons to undertake the reform and dedicate themselves to a renaissance in public education. The ScottishRite has leaders today whose perception is equal to that of the enlightened Masons of the 18th century. “Masonic” words from the Scottish Rite could become the light, precise blows which cleave diamond hardness. Our primary mission should be neither to apologize for the current abuses in public education nor to elicit greater financial support for outmoded institutions, but to follow the designs on the trestle-board that our Scottish Rite leaders have drawn (29, 30).
Note: If you would like to comment on this article, you can do so here.
PERFECTIBILISTS: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati, by Terry Melanson
The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship, by Paul & Phillip Collins
Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, by Abbe Barruel
Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith, by James H. Billington
America's Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones, by Antony C. Sutton