The So-Called Schwedenkiste (“Swedish Box”), the Most Significant Illuminati Archive
by Terry Melanson (17/6/2009)
After Adam Weishaupt had fled in 1785, the center of activity for the Illuminati shifted from Bavaria to the Duchies of Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar. And while the founder of the Illuminati was content to safely settle down for the long haul at the court of Duke Ernst II of Saxe Gotha, Johann Joachim Christoph Bode (1730-1793) took the reins and assumed the role previously held by Weishaupt.
Through the efforts of Bode and an expanding network of recruits – and under the protection of the Illuminati Dukes Karl August of Saxe-Weimar and Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha – new colonies were established in places like France, Russia and Italy. Bode kept the Weimar and Gotha Lodges Amalia and Ernst Zum Kompass informed of his activities, but the bulk of the evidence of continued Illuminati activity remained in his possession.
Ensuring that whatever they contained would remain secret, upon Bode’s death in December 1793 his literary executor, Illuminatus Christian Gottlieb von Voigt (1743–1819), transferred his deceased friend’s possessions to Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha who had already bought the voluminous papers before Bode died.
Bode’s legacy was too damaging, and after a brief inspection the Duke had the papers sealed (merging them with his own), and changed his will to stipulate that his Masonic legacy should be sent to the Grand Lodge in Sweden after his death – protected and secure from publication.
The Duke died in April 1804, whereupon the transfer of these documents was duly carried out, confidentially, under the auspices of surviving members of the Illuminati.
With the supervision of the Swedish royal family, the Grand Lodge of Sweden protected the legacy of the Illuminatus for over 70 years. In 1883, however, following a request from the Duke’s great-grandchild – Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1818-1893), a Mason himself – they were returned, and again became the property the Gotha Lodge Ernst Zum Kompass. (The documents of the Ernst/Bode estate were transported via rail, in a large wooden box. This is where the term “Schwedenkiste” or “Swedish Box” originates.)
It was organized in 1919 into 20 volumes along with registries and lists of its contents.
The Nazis confiscated it in 1935/6 under a general suppression of Freemasonry; it was moved to Silesia during the war, and was subsequently stolen by the Russians and transferred to the Soviet Union. Most of it was returned to (East) Germany in 1950s – volumes 1-9 and 11-20 – but the tenth-volume remained in Moscow.
Monika Neugebauer-Wölk writes:
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the partial opening of the Russian archives to international research, the tenth volume of the Swedish Box was rediscovered by the Merseburg archivist Renate Endler in the Moscow special archive. As a consequence of German reunification, the Freemasonry archives were transferred in 1994 from Merseburg to the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin. Here the estate of Bode is available for scholarly use with permission of the Grand National Mother-Lodge “Zur den drei Weltkugeln”.
– Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, “Illuminaten” entry, in Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism, ed. Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Brill Academic Publishers, 2005, p. 596.
Faithfully adhering to Ernst’s order not to publish any of this material, safely in Sweden during most of the 19th- and then Gotha into the 20th-century, the papers of Bode were kept under lock and key. Only a few pre WWI and WWII scholars were even allowed to examine them; Leopold Engel and René Le Forestier, for instance, but they weren’t given full access, and what they intended to publish was closely scrutinized.
With the entire comprehensive collection restored and accessible to research, much has been learned about the Illuminati’s makeup and activities in the latter half of the 1780s: Quibus licet reports from the initiates themselves, minutes of meetings, protocols for provincials and prefects, and lists of members and their aliases.
One of the first researchers to make full use of the material was Hermann Schüttler. While utilizing his Die Mitglieder des Illuminatenordens 1776-1787/93 [The Members of the Order of the Illuminati 1776-1787/93] (Munich: Ars Una 1991) as a source for my own book, for instance, I was struck by how many times references to the Schwedenkiste were cited as proof of membership for a number of initiates. That was in 1991, however, when Volume X of the Swedish Box was still missing in Moscow. In 1997 he subsequently published “Zwei freimaurerische Geheimgesellschaften des 18. Jahrhunderts im Vergleich: Strikte Observanz und Illuminatenorden” [A Comparison of Two 18th-Century Masonic Secret Societies: Strict Observance and Illuminatenorden]. Whereas in 1991 the number of confirmed Illuminati members was 1255, Schüttler, largely by utilizing Volume X, managed to increase the number to 1394.
One thing that became clear from the new evidence found in the Swedish Box was the fundamental importance of pedagogy to the Illuminati. So much so, that Peggy Pawlowski’s 2004 doctoral thesis is dedicated to the subject: Der Beitrag Johann Adam Weishaupts zur Pädagogik des Illuminatismus [Johann Adam Weishaupt’s Contribution to the Pedagogy of Illuminatism] (2004). To Pawlowski, the Illuminati can be thought of as the executive arm of the Aufklärung [the German Enlightenment].
The educational theories of Rousseau and Basedow were just that – theories. In order to effectively change society, the Illuminati reasoned, the new pedagogy had to be implemented by either taking control of existing institutions (which they did) or by founding some of their own. An instance of the latter is the Schnepfenthal Educational Institute in Gotha. As the material found in the Swedish Box confirms, at all stages of its financing, establishment and staffing, the hand of the Illuminati is clearly discerned. (See Christine Schaubs’ “Salzmanns Schulgründung im Lichte der Illuminaten” [Salzmann’s School was Clearly Founded by the Illuminati] and “Die Erziehungsanstalt in Schnepfenthal im Umfeld geheimer Sozietäten” [Secret Societies and the Educational Institute in Schnepfenthal]; and Perfectibilists, pp. 403-5.)
Hands down, Terry Melanson is the unparalleled expert on the Illuminati. These are sort of sources that are analogous to gold for real researchers. No sensational garbage. No ideologically biased accounts. Just primary sources. Obscure. Rare. Authenticate.
Keep up the great work, Terry!
I seem to have the knack of finding great sources of occult information! Or do I? Is this just another containment exercise? How can you have obtained this information and then been allowed to publish it, were you not an initiate. The research on the subject of Secret Societies is, by its nature, most frequently undertaken by individuals with a desire to expose their activities as not desirable from a fair minded point of view. There is usually an underlying hatred that may be born out of bitter experience. This piece is purely factual and for that reason has been made available to service the usual hidden agenda. LOve it though
Scholars get their PhDs in Illuminaten history. The legit info available about the Illuminati now could easily fill a small library. I was transparent and gave you the sources in the article – all from scholars. Check it. Further, the Swedish Box contents are now being posted at the Erfurt University by a select group under the coordination of Professor Hermann Schuttler.
So, Terry, may we expect an English translation of this material from you? I’m glad that it’s being made public at Erfurt University, but it appears to be all in German.
No. That’s beyond my ability. I can handle French well enough but not German. They would need a team of professional German translators to tackle such a project. I don’t see it happening any time soon.
Is it true that many later German Illuminati recruits came out of Johann Wilhelm Kellner von Zinnendorf’s lodges?
Zinnendorf Rite and the Strict Observance were the dominant systems in German Freemasonry. So yes.
Quoting Hermann Schüttler (googles translation)
“The genesis of the Strict Observance is still unclear. After evaluating the existing sources, however, it seems to me to be certain that the project of the founder of the order, Karl Gotthelf von Hund, initially had nothing to do with Freemasonry, nor had it anything to do with the idea of rebuilding the Knights Templar, which later became decisive. The aim of the association, which had been active since about 1750, was to have found the necessary financial, organizational and human resources to found a colony in the form of a pre-democratic nobility republic on North American soil”.
This is very reminiscent of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Bohemia wouldn’t you say.
Was count Zinzendorf part of the Strict Observance?
Also is there evidence of any colonies in North America being set up in such a way by other nobility?
P.S. I used to enjoy your website specifically about the Bavarian Illuminati but i gather it no longer exists?
No record of Zinzendorf being a mason. If there was, we’d all be aware of it.
Zinzendorf is often confused with Johann Wilhelm Kellner von Zinnendorf, founder of a masonic rite based on the Swedish rite, even in masonic books (by masons for masons). Zinnendorf became a member of the Strict Observance before leaving to found his own rite. Strict Observance and the Zinnendorf rite were the two most popular masonic obediences in central Europe.
I have no specific information about colonies set up by nobility in the Americas. Generally speaking, immigration was encouraged and land was given out freely to those who had the desire and fortitude to make a go at it. The Illuminati had a plan to set up their own colony in South Carolina. They sent a letter (using a penname) to both Franklin and John Adams. No record of Franklin replying, however Adams did and encouraged them to come so long as they abided by the laws of the land.
I couldn’t afford the hosting fees for the Illuminati site. Most of the material posted there is reposted here, at the following section of the site:
If we are to be believed that the mission of the members of the Strict Observance was to find financial, organizational and human resources to found a colony in the form of a pre-democratic nobility republic on North American soil (Hermann Schüttler).
If no evidence of this how did they fail so badly?
It’s almost impossible to believe when that was the sole raison d’être of the Strict Observance according to Hermann Schüttler.
This is reminiscent of the work by the deceased author Laurence Gardner where he promoted the thesis that the USA was leadership (sovereignty) was to be offered to the Stewart royal family.
Schüttler said it was the founder Karl Gotthelf von Hund’s utopian plan, initially. Read the rest of the article to find out how it changed over the years. Also see this English article on the conspiratorial aspects:
Edward M. Batley, “Reforming the Whole World: Masonic Secrecy and Treason in Eighteenth-Century Germany.”
The history of Strict Observance is convoluted and complicated. Batley recounts some of the intrigue and charlatanism that caused their downfall.
I never fell for Laurence Gardner’s bs.
Just an observation regarding the Schwedenkiste (Swedish box)
Volume IV has a different cover (looks more modern).
Will this have been used more than the others?
Yes it’s minutiae,but everything is in the minutiae.
Just a cover binding loose correspondences. Don’t know why they did it that way when a box or filing cabinet would have sufficed.