Wednesday, March 05, 2008


is the title of a book written in 1798 by John Robison, the text of which is online.

Given the original date of publication, the text is contemporaneous with the rise of Secret Societies of the illuminist persuasion. It has been called the source of today's conspiracy theories which, as we know all too well, are pooh-poohed in many circles as being mere figments of the imagination, a claim that Robison's text would seem to refute.

According to the introductory pages of the text, Ribison was Professor of Natural Philosophy, and Secretary to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The online text is the fourth edition. He claims that in his "early life, [he] had taken some part in the occupations...of Free Masonry...having chiefly frequented the Lodges on the Continent. He was initiated at a lodge in Liege. He visited French Lodges at Valenciennes, Brussels, Aix-la-Chapelle, Berlin and Koningsberg. At St. Petersburg he "connected myself with the English Lodge, and occasionally visited the German and Russian Lodges held there." He was "received with particular respect as a Scotch Mason", and was conferred "with the rank of Scotch Master" "in a private Lodge of French Masons." (Introduction)

In Chapter I he writes:

German Masonry appeared a very serious concern, and to be implicated with other subjects with which I had never suspected it to have any connection. I saw it much connected with many occurrences and schisms in the Christian church; I saw that the Jesuits had several times interfered in it; and that most of the exceptionable innovations and dissentions had arisen about the time that the order of Loyola was suppressed; so that it should seem that these intriguing brethren had attempted to maintain their influence by the help of Free Masonry. I saw it much disturbed by the mystical whims of J. Behmen and Swedenborg--by fanatical and knavish doctrines of the modern Rosycrucians--by Magicians--Magnetisers--Exorcists.&c. And I observed that these different sects reprobated each other, as not only maintaining erroneous opinions, but even inculcating opinions which were contrary to the established religions of Germany... (p. 1-4)

Speaking of the Illuminati founded by professor of Canon Law, Adam Weishaupt, in 1775 (p. 9), and claiming that "the Jesuits took a more active hand in Free Masonry than ever (p. 15), adding that some Parisian Lodges conferred the degree of "Pellerin" among others (p. 17) [as in the Mount Pelerin Society?] Robison writes:

All of these [degrees] had some reference to some mystical doctrines of the Christian Church, and were, in fact, contrivances of the Church of Rome for securing and extending her influence on the laymen of rank and fortune, whom she retained in her service by these play-things. The Knights Templars of Jerusalem, and the Knights of the Desert, whose office was to protect pilgrims, and to defend the holy city, afforded very apt models for Masonic mimicry...

In all this progressive mummery we see much of the hand of the Jesuits, and it would seem that it was encouraged by the church....

The Lodges became schools of scepticism and infidelity, and the spirit of conversion or proselytism grew every day stronger. Cardinal Dubois had before this time laboured with all his might to corrupt the minds of courtiers, by patronising, directly and indirectly, all sceptics who were otherwise men of talents.
(p. 17-18)

It is no secret that Robison opposed religion. Nevertheless, his insights are still worth noting given the date of his writing.

before 1743...the Lodges of Free Masons had become the places for making proselytes to every strange and obnoxious doctrine. Theurgy, Cosmogony, Cabala, and many whimsical and mythical doctrines which have been grafted on the distinguishing tenets and the pure morality of the Jews and Christians, were subjects of frequent discussion in the Lodges. (p. 22)

On page 24 he refers to lodge life as "Masonic Faith" indicating that this faith varied from lodge to lodge.

He speaks of the French Loge des Chev. Bienfaisants at Lyons, France, which stood at the head of French Masonry. The Order of Masonic Knights Templars was formed in this Lodge, indicating that in this lodge the Martinists were instrumental in forming a schism. (p. 28) He speaks of another French lodge becoming a Jacobin Club. (p. 29)

He attributes Scotland to be the home of the Knights Templars when they escaped persecution:

The mighty secret was this. "When the Order of Knights Templars was abolished by Philip the Fair, and cruelly persecuted, some worthy persons escaped, and took refuge in the Highlands of Scotland, where they concealed themselves in caves. These persons possessed the true secrets of Masonry, which had always been in that Order, having been acquired by the Knights, during their services in the east, from the pilgrims whom they occasionally protected or delivered...In fine, every true Mason is a Knight Templar." (p. 38-39)

Apparently he believed that the Asiatic Brethren had the secret of gold-making (p. 44).

Chapter II is dedicated to the Illuminati. I'll pick up there tomorrow.

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