Some Original Writings of the Order of the Illuminati (pp. 26-43)

Monday, February 15th, 2010 | Original Writings, Primary Documents

NB: Superscripted endnotes are my own, while parenthesized footnotes (when encountered) are from the original editors of the collection, c. 1786/87. – Terry Melanson

Reform of the Statutes of the 1st class

  1. All statutes, constitutions and previous privileges, whatever name they have received, are subject to change as circumstances warrant and, in so much as [p. 27] they fundamentally oppose these present ordinances, are hereby overruled.

  2. Notwithstanding, as in the past, the goal that the Order proposes for the future remains the same: to render unto man the importance of the perfection of reason and his moral character; to develop social and humane sentiments, to oppose the wicked designs in the world, to assist against the injustice suffered by the unfortunate and the oppressed, to encourage men of merit, and in general to facilitate the means of knowing and science. Assurance is here given, in a sacred and faithful manner that this is the sole goal — not just supposed — of the Order (1).

    On the contrary, the Order offers nothing more, therefore candidates will increase in due time; this will prove to be more beneficial, as they realize that, in opposition to the practice of other societies, we possess more than what we had promised.

    A member who is thrust upon entering the Order with the hope of gaining greater power and wealth would not be welcomed.

    (1) Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit Auceps [“The shepherd's pipe sings sweetly to the bird, while the fowler ensnares it”; or “The bird-catcher plays sweetly on the pipe when he beguiles the winged creature”]

    [p. 28] To achieve such a goal of understanding and confidence between all members, and in accordance with these views, only accepting those external conditions for the betterment of the Order, all members must:

  3. Have respect for the Order, refrain from hatred and jealousy toward other members; they must regard one another, for their own good, as beloved dear friends, like colleagues with the same grand objective that cannot be achieved otherwise.

  4. The Order therefore demands sacrifice of liberty, not generally, but only in view of the grand objective. They have always known that the higher [order of the] superiors dedicate themselves toward this goal, because superiors see further and more profoundly into the system, and for no other reason than they are superior.

  5. Each newly proposed member offers to those who have received him, a Revers de Silentio.1

  6. The Order cannot use them as they are; they must first become such that they follow the necessary objective intended for them. Therefore, a review and proof of fidelity, silence, [p. 29] dedication, ingenuity, and instructional development.

  7. Hence the time the candidates must pass in this grade: young people from 15 to 18 have three years of examination, those 18 to 24, two years, those 24 to 30 a year.

  8. However, depending upon the diligence, maturity, zeal and industriousness of the candidate, his [examination] time is sometimes cut short.

  9. During this time the candidate’s work is to examine himself and others, to make careful and methodical notes, and in general to think and observe more fully than just reading.

  10. Extensive notes, comments, and character drawing; conversations with people who speak the language of the passions are collected: all of this, as well as submission to superiors, is the surest path to promotion.

  11. Upon initiation, the candidate changes his name to something foreign which he makes his own, under which he reads and writes everything that occurs.2

  12. [p. 30] Between observation and physiognomic remarks, the rules established for judging the character of man offer a great benefit.

  13. Also, for the members with whom we have strong relationships, we maintain a special register, where, under the heading of each person, we record on one side the good that has been done, and on the other the wrong.

  14. We recommend above all, without detachment, the observation of objects.3

  15. Among the first demonstrations of ability is the duty that every candidate must address and resolve – to submit until the end of his probationary period.

  16. The security of the Order, the lure of all that is secret, and the examination of candidates requires that during the time of probation nothing unnecessary is revealed to lower members; for if the Order is unfortunate enough to harbor a chatterbox, he alone cannot betray us.

  17. Encourage the prudent candidate not to speak anything of the Order, even to a presumed member. [p. 31]

  18. Whoever receives a candidate is also his superior. Everyone is entitled to receive [insinuate or initiate]. But those wishing to reach a higher class, shall, under the direction of his immediate superiors, have received at least one, and in certain circumstances, two candidates. It may even come to pass that during the years of his novitiate, a man can establish a small empire, which could be large and powerful in its pettiness.

  19. Therefore, all steps must be reported to the superior, and no one can do anything without first having applied for and received authorization.

  20. For each potential initiate, the superior keeps a special register in which he records the words and deeds relevant to the character of the candidate; and the smallest of them in particular, which [for the candidate] will be assumed hadn’t even been noticed.

    Like all the judgments that we utter, as well as all actions, we have discovered that taking notes does not fail.

  21. These notes are the foundation of further information and should therefore be made with great care; they will simply be descriptive, not interpretative. We will draw upon all relations, reports, letters, etc., and when someone [p. 32] should be [further] initiated, it is from the notes that the recipient’s character must be presented to the immediate supervisor.

  22. For the security of the superiors, it was resolved that no subordinate would have in his hand a single line about his superiors if it is a question of the affairs of the Order. The letters of the superiors must also be returned with a response.

  23. However, everyone can excerpt from letters which he has received.

  24. Those who are absent write to their superiors every 15 days, postage paid. Those present visit with their supervisor at least once a week, and if the superior has time, he can spend the days amongst his men, read with them, take notes or engage in enlightening conversation.

  25. To ensure that all members are animated with the same spirit with one reason and one will, certain books are prescribed for them to read, through which they can be molded.

    In the present, for Germany, we recommend:

    1. The philosopher Seneca [the Younger]; [p. 33]

    2. Epictetus;

    3. The Mediations of Marcus Aurelius;

    4. The biographies of Plutarch;

    5. His works on morals as well as his other writings;

    6. The following works of Wieland: Agathon, the Golden Mirror, and the Secret Contributions;4

    7. Tobias Knaut;5

    8. Hirschfeld: On the Great of Man and Heroic Virtues;6

    9. [Alexander] Pope: Essay on Man;

    10. The Moral theory of [Adam] Smith;7

    11. [Johann Bernhard] Basedow: Practical philosophy for all conditions;8

    12. The philosophic writings of [Christoph] Meiners;

    13. Abbt’s Of Merits;9

    14. The Essays of Montaigne;

    15. Helvetius’ On Mind;10

    16. The Characters of La Bruyère;11

    17. All the writings of [Jean Baptiste Morvan de] Bellegarde, as well;

    18. Le Noble’s World Training;12

  26. [p. 34] In general no book is excluded that can be used for training the heart, but we particularly recommend fables and those that are rich in portraits or in moral and political maxims.

  27. We appeal to the good heart of all, to the arts and sciences and to those who possess them; the most agreeable to the Order, outside of morality, are chemistry and trading. The languages, especially French and Greek, are highly valued, at least for comprehension of books; Italian and English also have their value. Besides, those who want to travel must comprehend at least one language.

  28. That which concerns the Arcane, as we have said before, it is for all classes.

  29. The superiors are our guides; they lead us through error, darkness, and impassable roads. Hence the duty, even gratitude, of submission and obedience: in addition, no one will refuse to obey those that work toward his perfection.

  30. Not always acting like fathers, the superiors should measure their own power. Therefore, the Order intends to protect its members against all oppressors, and aspirants, etc., by the following [p. 35] prescriptions: at the end of each month, the subordinate returns to his superiors one or more sealed folios, with the inscription: Quibuslicet, or: Soli,13 in which he mentions:

    1. How his superior behaves with him, if he’s harsh or kind, is a good administrator or negligent;

    2. What are his grievances against the Order;

    3. What directives the superior has given during the month, and if he has remunerated the Order;

    Even if there are no complaints, the envelope must be submitted, and, so that the subordinate can prepare it more easily at the beginning of each month, he properly arranges his pages, and as soon as something happens, writes it down, and closes the fold at the end of the month. This requirement applies to all classes, and no one is exempt. If one is negligent, the subordinate as well as the superior who failed to forward the envelope in time, is liable to a fine proportionate to his means. If envelopes are presented [p. 36] the last day of the month, the candidate is exonerated, as it is each superior who is liable.

  31. Each candidate must declare, at the time of his reception, whether he has the means, or not, to provide the Order with a cash contribution. In the latter case, we assume there is no one poorer than himself, especially since intelligence reports were previously gathered on his position [in life]. In the first case, each superior, before reception, charge his candidate a proportionate contribution which, for the candidates of modest means, will remain at their convenience; for those of a middle class a ducat; and for those who live in comfort a carolin. This is the proposal that is made, before a copy of the statutes with the reverse exposed, to include the handwritten signature of the candidate who has paid the sum heard the same day; he will contribute an amount equal the second year, likewise for those who are engaged for three years. The contribution is presented by superiors to those above them; and if it is not presented within a specified time, we confront the immediate supervisor at his home. [p. 37]

  32. To this end, the Order directs all superiors to return their debts the 31st of January up until the next year, 1779, but not to put pressure on anyone [below them] except that they should provide a written explanation that is satisfactory. Nevertheless, it is the disregard of members, who expect real help from the Order, which has provoked the above-said ordinance. We find this requirement even more moderate than other Orders: it is 100 gulden they must pay, irrespective of advantage, at the beginning of each year.

  33. If someone withdraws from the Society during his probationary period, all that he has paid-in will be returned; this is why the superiors keep precise records.

  34. Until the final hour, it is possible for candidates to withdraw, always however on condition of silence.

  35. The present statutes shall be communicated orally to the person who has not yet received anyone [into the Order], and in writing to others. Exception is made for absentees. All new ordinances will soon be included in the copy you have in your hands. [p. 38]

N.B. This must be copied before anything else, and a copy of the first copy will be sent to me so that it can be communicated to my Commandos; and everything in the future will be received in the same manner. I think everyone should make a copy in his own handwriting, in order to save printing costs. And then I swap their copy in exchange for those at Erzerum, so that these copies are in Erzerum and those of Erzerum are in Athens. Should I only have but one copy, I would still send it along.

Fundamental Principal

The purpose of the Society is to interest man in the endeavor for the improvement and perfection of his moral character, to develop human and social feelings, to oppose the evil designs in the world, and to provide assistance against the injustice of the oppressors of virtue, to consider encouraging men of merit, [39] and finally, above all, to reward with special consideration, honor and glory, both outside the Society and in its midst, men of merit, who, either by talent or by their wealth or their credit, are useful to the Order.

The Society therefore ensures each and everyone, to whom the present statutes shall be communicated, that this is indeed the only – not just assumed – goal of the Order. On the contrary, the Society proposes nothing more. Hence it is all the better that candidates become still more numerous, and they can conclude from this that, unlike other societies, we possess and fulfill more than had been promised.

A member who is enticed to enter the Order with the expectation of attaining greater power and wealth would not be welcomed.

But as for achieving the goal of helping one another, consisting of good moral or natural philosophy, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the unbreakable trust among all members, and more or less accepting external conditions for the betterment of the Society and pursuant to its views, all members must therefore: [p. 40]

  1. Respect the Society, refrain from hatred and jealousy toward colleagues, regard them as your dearest and best friends, protect their hearts from indignant selfishness, and consider in common the good of all.

  2. Their imagination and their constant effort should cultivate so as to win for the greater good, not only the heart of the Brethren, but even that of their enemies.

  3. They should not be less vigilant to provide evidence intended to be useful to their Order.

  4. They must become accustomed to absolute caution and discretion with respect to everyone.

  5. Regarding the affairs of the Order, total submission is required.

  6. All members must work toward the greatest perfection, both internally and externally.

  7. They must become accustomed to manners, kindest and friendliness.

  8. They must learn the art of concealment, and to observe and to probe others. [p. 41]

  9. Each member must also choose, as a principal occupation, a science and a particular art. However, as we cannot demand this of everyone, because some haven’t the inclination, the time, or the opportunity, in this case the Order has commanded that everyone, within a fortnight, declare to his insinuator how he might be useful to the Order, either through the sciences or pecuniary tribute. In the first case, he must write a dissertation. In the second, a financial statement; and in place of the person making the cash contribution, another [candidate] must promptly write a memoir dedicated to the latter.

  10. If the insinuation [or reception] of a candidate does not occur, his possessions and contributions are returned, and all the rest.

  11. Should a member become an adept in Arcana, [the knowledge gained thereof] must be imparted to the Order, and cannot be made use of without the permission of the informant before he dies; but, in the latter case, it should be noted that the profit from said secret will be donated to his children or to his friends if they are poor. [p. 42]

  12. If a candidate in this grade [Novice] has close to nothing - unaware that he has been subjected to observation by other members - the payment before the degree is only one ducat. A special bond is formed with those who want to give more. But in every case, the contribution should be given in a sealed envelope to the person who has insinuated the candidate.

  13. If payment is not made, no higher degree is conferred.

  14. Silence is the highest rule. Therefore it is not permitted to talk about one’s initiation even among supposed Brothers of the Order; for:

    1. if he is not a Brother, then the Society is betrayed;

    2. and if he’s really a Brother, it will be unclear if he’s a superior, a subordinate, or an equal.

  15. That the Society should remain secret to every extent possible, for the following reasons:

    1. It will not be hampered in its plans, or have its operations opposed by those who are not motivated by noble sentiments, or those who are not content, etc.

    2. So the whole Society cannot be betrayed all at once; [p. 43]

    3. The allure of the Society would disappear;

    4. Conspiracies and coups [could be] conjured by those with the ambition to dominate;

    5. The superiors who remain hidden can better observe the subordinates.

  16. If a candidate wants to leave this grade, he is free at any moment, under the condition of silence [imposito tamen silentio].

  17. In this degree, it is prohibited to insinuate another, but we can submit to him those that have received suitable members.

Spartacus Approves

(The last two words were in the handwriting of Spartacus: Weishaupt)


1 Revers de Silentio = “Pledge of Silence”
2 Referring of course to the initiate’s pseudonym or nom de guerre; and, by implication, this seems to suggest that the aliases were for the most part chosen rather than being assigned.
3 This is a kind of sensualist pedagogy that gained acceptance during the Enlightenment; a “metaphysic of the eye,” as Jean Paul Richter had described it: “knowledge appertaining to the nearly imperceptible border line between experiencing and abstracting” (Dieter Jedan, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and the Pestalozzian method of language teaching, Peter Lang Publishing, 1981, p. 48); Pestalozzi called it Anschauung: “an intuitive assimilation and manipulation of impressions received from the external world, that orbis sensualium of Comenius” (William J. Glover, “Objects, Models, and Exemplary Works: Educating Sentiment in Colonial India,” in The Journal of Asian Studies, v. 64, no. 3, August 2005, p. 65; see also, Perfectibilists, op.cit., p. 380).
4 That is, Geschichte des Agathon [History of Agathon] (1766–67; 2 vol.), Der goldene Spiegel oder die Könige von Scheschian, eine wahre Geschichte [The Golden Mirror and The Kings of Scheschian, A True Story] (1772) and Beiträge zur geheimen Geschichte des menschlichen Verstandes und Herzens [Contributions to the Secret History of the Human Mind and Heart] (1770).
5 Johann Karl Wezel (1747-1819): Lebensgeschichte Tobias Knauts, des Weisen, sonst der Stammler genannt [Life Story of Tobias Knaut the Wise, also known as the Stutterer] (1773-6).
6 Christian Cay Lorenz Hirschfeld (1742-1792): Versuch über den grossen Mann? [Essay on what constitutes the Great Man] (1768-9), and Betrachtungen über die heroischen Tugenden [Reflections on the Heroic Virtues] (1770).
7 The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759); in later correspondences, as we’ll see, Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) would be recommended.
8 Practische Philosophie für alle Stände [Practical Philosophy for all Ranks] (1758).
9 Thomas Abbt (1738-1766): Vom Verdienste [Of Merits] (1765).
10 Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771): De l’esprit (1758).
11 Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696): Les “Caractères” de Thèophraste, traduits du grec, avec les caractères ou les mœurs de ce siècle [The Characters, or the Manners of the Age, with The Characters of Theophrastus] (1688). Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of French literature, Petri Liukkonen describes the book as “misanthropic,” with “the same disillusioned view of human nature [as] Baltasar Gracián … [It] aimed to reveal what people really are behind their social masks” (Jean de La Bruyère: Gracián, as we’ll see later, would be recommended to Illuminati initiates as well. Peggy Pawlowski goes so far as to write that it was La Bruyère who provided the impetus for Weishaupt’s interest in studying the knowledge of man (Der Beitrag Johann Adam Weishaupts zur Pädagogik des Illuminatismus, doctoral dissertation, p. 122).
12 Eustache LeNoble (1643-1711): L’école du monde ou instruction d’un père à un fils, touchant la manière dont il faut vivre dans le monde [World Training or Instruction of a Father to a Son, Concerning the Way in Which We Must Live In the World] (1762).
13 A Quibus licet letter could be opened by the candidate’s immediate superior, while those marked Soli were for the eyes of the Provincials in the Order; an even higher designation was a Primo letter, addressed to the Areopagites of the Order or the General (Weishaupt) himself.

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9 Comments to Some Original Writings of the Order of the Illuminati (pp. 26-43)

Justin Russell
February 17, 2010

“e. The superiors who remain hidden can better observe the subordinates.”

A handy tool for keeping initiates on their toes, I guess. The language is reminiscent of that employed by many concerning the “hidden superiors” or “hidden masters” later on. Even of Blavatsky & co. with the “ascended masters.”
Do you think this sort of thing was perhaps a mythic outgrowth of many different secret societies, Freemasonry especially, where such devices employed to maintain discipline became exaggerated to the degree that occultists like Blavatsky and Crowley wrote on them? My question would be, is there any sort of relation between the Bavarian Illuminati’s “superiors that remain hidden” and subsequent stories concerning hidden masters? It would seem that Weishaupt perhaps contributed to this idea with his insinuators being “lodge within the lodge” throughout so much of Europe.
I think I remember you referencing Webster speculating on this idea in your book.

Terry Melanson
February 17, 2010

The “persona mystica” of Illuminati superiors was generally congruent with the Unknown Superiors of the Strict Observance and the magestri of the Golden and Rosy Cross.

The citation of Webster is about her highlighting the fact that Comte de Virieu had returned from the Wilhelmsbad conference in practically a state of shock. It’s in the section where I first introduce the Strict Observance. I think what you might be thinking of is this admission by J.J.C. Bode (quoted in my book and translated in Schlosser):

We had not among us, properly speaking, secret chiefs; but recourse was had to a plan by which all exhortations to duty and blame for misconduct were not conveyed immediately from a known superior, whom his subordinates knew to be a man of like passions and frailties with themselves, but as if from a higher and invisible hand (!!). This was the persona mystica, Basilius, with which name all the answers to the (Q.L.) quaestiones loci among us were subscribed.

In the part that you cited, however, I think the meaning they wanted to get across is that the Order is secret in every sense of the word - people do not know that it exists, let alone who are or aren’t members. For the first 3-5 years, they had indeed succeeded in remaining hidden from the view of not only the government, but other societies such as the Masons and the Rosicrucians. Through the efforts of the latter, it was finally confirmed that indeed there really was this secret - in every sense of the word - society.

Justin Russell
February 17, 2010

O.K. Thanks for the answer Terry.

Joseph C. Stockett
July 12, 2010

It is obvious that these rules and procedures are the concoctions of men posing as superior intellectual beings while the entire scheme of membership pivots on financial contributions and supposed mental talent and ability.

August 21, 2010

As Goethe was a member some probably were of superior intellect…

sammy artista
February 9, 2012

I dont think it is time anymore for this kind of political Order or so.Sure we need lots of changes.The new Merytocracy Party is calling for 100% Inheritance tax now.I think it could be a good begging for real change.And a cap on wealth to a million dollars after taxes.But it is possible just a dream.

B Jeffrey
September 12, 2012


June 14, 2013

Thanks Terry for a rare thing - a well-researched and unsensationalised look at the Illuminati! I have been trawling through your pages for hours and will in all likelihood end up buying your book as well.

I do have a question for you regarding VII Reform of the Statutes of the 1st class, point 2. Who was/were the original editors who made the comment ‘Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit Auceps’ re the duplicitous ensnaring of the bird?

and did Spartacus approve of that sentiment as well, or was the comment added later?

Terry Melanson
June 14, 2013

Thanks for the interest. The comment was the first of only a few that were added by the editors. How the original writings were confiscated, when, where, how, and by whom, is of course a part of my book; who’s task it was to compile and publish, the reaction thereof, and an account of the last analysis by a researcher who compared the published material to the originals housed in the Bavarian archives (destroyed in WWII).

No, Spartacus didn’t approve. He couldn’t complain too much, however, as what was published was undeniably authentic writings of the Order.

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