Some Original Writings of the Order of the Illuminati (pp. 12-26)
NB: Superscripted endnotes are my own, while parenthesized footnotes (when encountered) are from the original editors of the collection, c. 1786/87. – Terry Melanson
Statutes of the Illuminati
As the Society proposes not to abolish the reasonable bonds with which one is subject to the State, but to further strengthen it, our desire is that:
- Each [initiate] is treated with brotherly love, consideration, and accorded his standing.
- Also, everyone must at all times be held within the limits of the ritual — even more so when members are still among the profane — so that any gentleman of virtue (even while holding a lower rank in the Order) is shown the respect he’s due and which befits his standing. And as it is important that our members are honored by the profane, our brethren should be distinguished with high regard, so that others will similarly honor them.
- It is among the Brethren of the Order only, that the difference in the standing we have in civil society vanishes, and consequently it is only [an initiate’s] age and character that is considered in the Order. Then each one, even the humblest old man, and especially the superiors, are treated with the same respect, amongst the profane, people of high rank, [p. 13] and all the more so while in the presence of the young or an equal.
- It is with even greater civility that the superior shall be treated by his subordinates. Consequently, they should be careful not to let this civility degenerate into casualness. Subordinates should not therefore arbitrarily consider this [civility] as permission to become close friends, yet allowing themselves to be guided by their superiors while not being treated like a stranger.
- Although this has the appearance of a constraint, excluding friendship or any fraternal sympathy, our dear Brethren must understand that the Order requires us to not think we love each other only for a time, but for eternity, and that nothing would be better to sever the strongest and most intimate friendship, than if it degenerated into casualness.
- Do not deny foreigners hospitality and the rights of man.
- Fulfill your office [or job] in civil society with loyalty and zeal; for if you are found negligent, then shall ye also be with us. [p. 14]
- Spread the sciences, arts, industry, social inclinations, virtues, and hinder that which opposes it.
- It is in this regard, that the Order, through example, sees itself as a learned society, where its teachings lead one to reason and the improvement of the heart.
- Read the ancients, note carefully what you have learned, reflect upon it, but apply common sense instead of [perpetuating] the [typical] sentiments of others. Even if others have already considered it and had their say, ponder upon it and express your own opinion; accept no opinion without investigating the source, its origin, and foundation; occupy yourself with problems, and issues to be resolved; read that which animates the heart and elevates the soul, informs others, and consider its practical applications; and above all study man, not through books, but through yourself, and make conclusions through analogy and circumstance.
- This is why our particular study encompasses, also:
- the character of man, analyzing in detail his origin, his reason, and the consequences thereof;
- the system of human nature in general.
- researching the motives and reasons for human actions. [p. 15]
- Exploration of human characteristics and tendencies, how it arises, and the manner in which it can be directed or destroyed.1
- Instruction on the ancient and modern systems of morality and philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, etc.
- Seeking examples in ancient and modern history.
- Investigating the reasons for what is agreeable and disagreeable in relationships, particularly from our own experience or that of others.
- To seek the origin and the method by which our judgments and opinions have been formed.
- On this point, the superiors supply books and precise instructions.
- Compare this with a family, where we are [at once] a good father, good husband, good son, good teacher and good servant.
- And foremost, the Order recommends to one and all gilded temperance: if we haven’t demonstrated our worth, the path to the higher grades will be blocked.
The Order prescribes for this end particular regulations; directions for moderation, for domestic economy, health and long life.
- Moreover, so that everyone becomes accustomed to saving, [p. 16] a moneybox [piggy bank] will be provided, and controlled by his superior. Into this moneybox, cast all [you have], so as to discourage unnecessary pleasure. At determined periods, like 21 March and 23 September,2 the superior and the candidate open the moneybox together, and any sum less than one carolin3 remains with the Order, while the remainder is retained by each [initiate] for his future needs or to be given to his heirs after his death, unless he specifies otherwise. And if it is his desire, a certificate of surplus is issued; noting a claim to this or that, and the certificate is signed by two brothers of the Order. Together and separately, they undertake a benefit of division.
- With regard to the luxury of food, drink, and attire, the Order would not be cast in a good light if [the practice were] abandoned. Our maxim [however,] is: quo simplicius, eo melius.4
- To deny error, prejudice, malicious intent; it is our duty to strive for this high standard, not by reckless inclination, but through self-knowledge of our own weaknesses. [p. 17]
- To this end, at the end of each month, every member gives to their superior, a sealed folio, in which he states:
- that which appeared to be a prejudice;
- from whom [had] it originated;
- what prejudices he had discovered within himself;
- of his own dominant prejudices, how many have been found;
- and the number of them weakened or removed completely.5
- Discoveries, inventions and secret correspondences thus uncovered, will be imparted to us without hesitation, and the Order solemnly swears not to make misuse of it.
- Silence and secrecy are the soul of our Order. However, with respect to the Superiors, judicious sincerity is a virtue; regarding the other Brethren of the Order, a reasonable reserve [is recommended], for distrust is the principle and the fundamental condition so that we don’t become disgusted or bored with each other. Therefore, do not unnecessarily reveal even the smallest details, such as how long you have been in the Order, the names of your Brethren, what grade you have achieved, etc. [p. 18]
- The time during which you must remain in a class is undetermined; it depends mostly on the ability and zeal of the individual.
- If your promotion did not occur as quickly as you had liked, do not grumble, dear Brothers! Think, rather, that nothing is without cause, and that in the vast universe no new creature appears without an equal amount lost as was necessary to produce it.
- In addition, the Order has set itself the supreme duty to render to every man indispensible truths essential to his happiness, and pleasant to the senses, in such a way as to be agreeable with his condition, such that these ideas are easily transformed, by everyone, from desire into action.
- To this end, members are constantly occupied with essays; sometimes questions need to be resolved or developed, and the person with the best essay is promoted to a higher grade as a reward.
- And if each of us are left to our own [p. 19] affairs, our work or profession will flourish, and we’ll strive to achieve liberty and perfection.
- The grade to which each belong, at all times remains hidden, and remains so even among equals.
- So that it even takes a long while for one to discover that the person who received him is the Order, and so on.
- The Brethren of the current class keep a watchful eye on those in the lower grades, and they speak about their conduct to their superiors, or to the assembly as a whole, and that is why those in the lower grades must always be known by those of a higher grade. But do not go beyond this, and those who are above you, know that they are not your equal.
If he desires to leave the Society, the sum is returned to him, and likewise in the event of need.
Rights and Liberties
All the foregoing obligations are, from a certain point of view, to be considered beneficial, for, if the Order does not apply them in a strict manner, it would be unable to provide the benefits to be enumerated. It is only through closer union [p. 20] and observing regulations that we are able to fulfill the word that has been given to us:
- When sufficient reason has been presented, everyone is free to withdraw from this class at any time, on the condition of maintaining strict silence. This was done, for our part, with the least fear of blame or reprove.
- Be assured upon entering the society, we do not sacrifice our liberty without expecting some benefit. To this end, the order promises to all those who have distinguished themselves with zeal and real service:
- to facilitate and open the way to more than just secret knowledge;
- in cases where they may find themselves in extreme necessity despite good domestic economy, to the extent of our strength, we will provide fraternal assistance;
- to come to the aid [of the Brethren] through recommendations and interventions, and as much as possible, carry out our will, within reason, and if it is not against the interests of the community; [p. 21]
- to assist, through advice and action, against all insults and humiliations one may endure not through any fault or of their own negligence. We will help to prevent such offenses and we also hope that one does not take this relief for granted;
- We also promise, for the consolation and peace of mind to those who have little means yet have many children, who may be removed [from the situation] by their own premature death, that we fulfill the role of father to these children, provide for their sustenance, and counsel the widow though advice and actions;
- If one or another of the Brethren or of their children manifests capabilities that travel could further develop, or to be in a position to obtain useful information for the Order, or render service, rather than letting an opportunity go to waste, the Order [p. 22] would not rule out covering the costs for such a trip;
- In general, we are committed to respond in such a way as to assure our Brethren relief, as long as his debts are not because of imprudence or poor domestic management. We also order that no one provides for him to borrow money or otherwise, but that he meets with his superior, makes him aware of the situation, and awaits a solution.
- We also hope that after such unfortunate circumstances, once composure is regained, he would in turn do well for the Order.
To this end, any money or property made or given by members is considered an acquired asset, for which, generally speaking, it is claimed for the Order only, or as its needs necessitates.
As we also know that, in societies, on the part of the superiors, there is nothing more disagreeable, that causes more disorder and dissension, than to appear imperious and harsh, therefore in this matter [p. 23] the Order has enacted necessary measures; and as power and sovereignty are based only on elevated judgment and experience in the affairs of the Order, we approved the following provisions:
- Whether it is a matter of a scolding or to impose a reprimand, the supervisor carefully avoids embitterment, and prescribes penalties by using examples in a manner as general as possible; or better yet, we recount in front of one that which concerns him or another; and by such discourses and practices, each learns not to fall afoul. In this way, we reserve for the superior unpleasant and precise explications, and for the candidate inhibition and inconvenience.
- As words always present difficulties, and our direction must be founded as much as possible on love, the Order has therefore replaced admonishment and reproach with gentleness, and it commands:
- That the Superior remains silent when confronted with indiscreet inquiries, refrains from improper discourse and using ridicule or off-colored banter: [for] if this is the case, it leaves the inquiry unanswered and severs communication. [p. 24]
- With regard to liberty, if no foreigner or any profane are present, it is permitted to respond.
- When a foreigner is present — if he starts to play with his handkerchief, or reclines in his chair, or makes the mistake to demand tobacco from his spokesman, especially when [the latter] is not accustomed to using tobacco [!] — then liberty has gone too far, to the point of displeasing the superior.
- When the superior has not witnessed firsthand the faults of another, having been told of it only, so that the candidate understands his error, he gives him a sheet of white paper, inscribed with the word Confiteatur.6 In a short while the offender reports back after the ascribed fault has been registered; after proceeding in such a manner, he no longer receives a warning; but in the opposite case, a different ticket is received, with the reason indicated.
In this matter we encourage all superiors to leave no error unpunished, for it would be worse to be forced to act on this in the judiciary. As for the subordinates, they will not be frustrated, [p. 25] for we remind them of their fault with benevolence.
- But in order for the highest superior to know whether the intermediary superiors have complied with these requirements, each of them, at the end of March, June, September and December, will require subordinates to express their thoughts and grievances against the Order and their peers, in a well-sealed envelope, [and pass it] along with initiation fees: At Once, through the intermediary superiors, and without breaking the seal, they [the highest superiors] hand it over to our Superior General.
- These consultations must be submitted by all without exception, every quarter; and even if someone has no complaint to make, the envelope will be handed in without noting the absence of grievance.
- Along with objections raised, these envelopes may also include suggestions for change and improvement.
- At the end of each quarter, within a short time, the answers follow, and the decision on the objections are made. It is given to each plaintiff by his immediate superiors, written in their own hand: after being countersigned by the interested party, it is returned. If a superior [p. 26] dares act against his subordinates because of complaints made against him, or whether there’s the slightest discontent, then this behavior can and should be recorded in a new complaint for the next quarter.
To this end, we solicit the help of our members favored by fortune, who feel happy to be presented with the means and opportunity to make good use of their surplus.
2 March 21st, for instance, is the beginning of the year (Pharavardin) in the Illuminati calendar.
3 In 18th-century Bavaria the carolin was a gold coin equal to 11 gulden. It featured the head of the reigning Prince (e.g. Elector Karl Theodor), and on the reverse, a depiction of the Virgin and Child, with supporting arms of Bavaria.
4 quo simplicius, eo melius = “the simpler the better”
5 “Prejudice” (ger. vorurteil) hadn’t yet accrued the connotation that we are familiar with today — racist sentiment. Its definition was strictly literal: that which prevents objectivity.
6 Confiteatur = “Confess”