A review of Baron von Knigge’s Illuminati apology.
Short bio on Knigge from my book below, sans endnotes.
Knigge, Adolph Franz Friedrich Ludwig, Baron von (1752 Bredenbeck, Germany – 1796 Bremen, Germany)
Second in command under Weishaupt (from 1780-84), Knigge studied law at Göttingen in 1769, and subsequently served the courts of Hesse-Kassel and Weimar. He was a chamberlain in Hanau (1776) and Frankfurt am Main (1780), then in Hanover and Heidelberg in 1783; and in 1791, Knigge was appointed civil administrator in Bremen.
Baron von Knigge was “a man of considerable distinction in his day.” He penned works of “romance, popular philosophy, and dramatic poetry” and wrote reviews for Nicolai’s Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek [General German Library]. His novels were “attractive bait to catch the readers’ interest, a well-designed vehicle for transmitting revolutionary messages.” Most of Knigge’s works were either banned or censored, especially after publicly supporting the French Revolution. His 1788 book, Über den Umgang mit Menschen [On Human Relations], a guide on politeness, manners and etiquette, for instance, “landed on the inquisitors’ desk in 1820, with critics saying its philosophy encouraged selfishness and concentrated on personal happiness in a way that contradicted Catholic spirituality.”
Knigge was fascinated with secret societies. At the earliest age possible (twenty-one), he joined the Cassel Masonic Lodge ‘Zum gekrönten Löwen’ (1773), and became a member of the Strict Observance (alias, ‘a Cygno’) in 1779. Knigge was intrigued with the subjects of theosophy, magic, alchemy, and Rosicrucianism. He inherited this occult fascination from his father, Philipp Carl von Knigge, “whom he had observed spending his time in the study of Masonic Mysteries, and his money in the vain pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone. The father’s gold had vanished in the crucible, and the son reaped nothing but the dross.”
Strict Observance freemasonry was conceived in Germany by Baron von Hund. The “Knights of Strict Observance” swore allegiance to “unknown superiors” and claimed direct descent from the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. The Strict Observance lodges created an occult pedigree to attract recruits with the promise of joining an Order of a continuous, ancient descent. Secrets that began in antiquity were more appealing than something only recently devised. Weishaupt understood this from the beginning, and created his own mythical genealogy for the Illuminati. When Knigge joined the Order he immediately asked Weishaupt for proof the Order’s antiquity. Weishaupt admitted it was only a ruse, but rather than being offended, Knigge—knowing that an ancient pedigree was an important part of a secret society’s appeal—immediately “proceeded to build one of his own, where the Illuminati were declared as having originally been founded by Noah, and revived after a period of decline by St John the Evangelist.”
In July, 1780 Knigge was insinuated into the Illuminati by Costanzo (Diomedes); his alias alludes to Philo Judaeus (15-10 BC–45-50 AD), the Hellenized Jewish philosopher from Alexandria.