6 February 1748|
|Died||18 November 1830
|Main interests||Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics|
Adam Weishaupt was born on 6 February 1748 in Ingolstadt in the Electorate of Bavaria. Weishaupt's father Johann Georg Weishaupt (1717–1753) died when Adam was five years old. After his father's death he came under the tutelage of his godfather Johann Adam Freiherr von Ickstatt who, like his father, was a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. Ickstatt was a proponent of the philosophy of Christian Wolff and of the Enlightenment, and he influenced the young Weishaupt with his rationalism. Weishaupt began his formal education at age seven at a Jesuit school. He later enrolled at the University of Ingolstadt and graduated in 1768 at age 20 with a doctorate of law. In 1772 he became a professor of law. The following year he married Afra Sausenhofer of Eichstätt.
After Pope Clement XIV’s suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, Weishaupt became a professor of canon law, a position that was held exclusively by the Jesuits until that time. In 1775 Weishaupt was introduced to the empirical philosophy of Johann Georg Heinrich Feder of the University of Göttingen. Both Feder and Weishaupt would later become opponents of Kantian idealism.
Founder of the Illuminati
On May day 1776 Johann Adam Weishaupt founded the "Illuminati" in the Electorate of Bavaria. He adopted the name of "Brother Spartacus" within the order. Although the Order was not egalitarian or democratic internally, it sought to promote the doctrines of equality and freedom throughout society.
The actual character of the society was an elaborate network of spies and counter-spies. Each isolated cell of initiates reported to a superior, whom they did not know: a party structure that was effectively adopted by some later groups.
Weishaupt was initiated into the Masonic Lodge "Theodor zum guten Rath", at Munich in 1777. His project of "illumination, enlightening the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice" was an unwelcome reform. Soon however he had developed gnostic mysteries of his own, with the goal of "perfecting human nature" through re-education to achieve a communal state with nature, freed of government and organized religion. He began working towards incorporating his system of Illuminism with that of Freemasonry.
Contrary to Immanuel Kant's famous dictum that Enlightenment (and Weishaupt's Order was in some respects an expression of the Enlightenment Movement) was the passage by man out of his 'self-imposed immaturity' through daring to 'make use of his own reason, without the guidance of another,' Weishaupt's Order of Illuminati prescribed in great detail everything which the members had obediently to read and think, so that Dr. Wolfgang Riedel has commented that this approach to illumination or enlightenment constituted a degradation and twisting of the Kantian principle of Enlightenment. Riedel writes: 'The independence of thought and judgement required by Kant ... was specifically prevented by the Order of the Illuminati's rules and regulations. Enlightenment takes place here, if it takes place at all, precisely under the direction of another, namely under that of the "Superiors" [of the Order].
Weishaupt's radical rationalism and vocabulary was not likely to succeed. Writings that were intercepted in 1784 were interpreted as seditious, and the Society was banned by the government of Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria, in 1784. Weishaupt lost his position at the University of Ingolstadt and fled Bavaria.
Activities in exile
He received the assistance of Duke Ernest II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1745–1804), and lived in Gotha writing a series of works on illuminism, including A Complete History of the Persecutions of the Illuminati in Bavaria (1785), A Picture of Illuminism (1786), An Apology for the Illuminati (1786), and An Improved System of Illuminism (1787). Adam Weishaupt died in Gotha on 18 November 1830. He was survived by his second wife, Anna Maria (née Sausenhofer), and his children Nanette, Charlotte, Ernst, Karl, Eduard, and Alfred. Weishaupt was buried next to his son Wilhelm who preceded him in death in 1802.
After Weishaupt's Order of Illuminati was banned and its members dispersed, it left behind no enduring traces of an influence, not even on its own erstwhile members, who went on in the future to develop in quite different directions.
- (1775) De Lapsu Academiarum Commentatio Politica.
- (1786) Über die Schrecken des Todes – eine philosophische Rede.
- (French) Discours Philosophique sur les Frayeurs de la Mort (1788). Gallica
- (1786) Über Materialismus und Idealismus. Torino
- (1788) Geschichte der Vervollkommnung des menschlichen Geschlechts.
- (1788) Über die Gründe und Gewißheit der Menschlichen Erkenntniß.
- (1788) Über die Kantischen Anschauungen und Erscheinungen.
- (1788) Zweifel über die Kantischen Begriffe von Zeit und Raum.
- (1793) Über Wahrheit und sittliche Vollkommenheit.
- (1794) Über die Lehre von den Gründen und Ursachen aller Dinge.
- (1794) Über die Selbsterkenntnis, ihre Hindernisse und Vorteile.
- (1797) Über die Zwecke oder Finalursachen.
- (1802) Über die Hindernisse der baierischen Industrie und Bevölkerung.
- (1804) Die Leuchte des Diogenes.
- (English) Diogenes Lamp (Tr. Amelia Gill) introduced by Sir Mark Bruback chosen by the Masonic Book Club to be its published work for 2008. (Ed. Andrew Swanlund).
- (1817) Über die Staats-Ausgaben und Auflagen. Google Books
- (1818) Über das Besteuerungs-System.
Works Relating to the Illuminati
- (1786) Apologie der Illuminaten.
- (1786) Vollständige Geschichte der Verfolgung der Illuminaten in Bayern.
- (1786) Schilderung der Illuminaten.
- (1787) Einleitung zu meiner Apologie.
- (1787) [Einige Originalschriften des Illuminatenordens...]
- (1787) [Nachtrage von weitern Originalschriften...] Google Books
- (1787) Kurze Rechtfertigung meiner Absichten.
- (1787) Nachtrag zur Rechtfertigung meiner Absichten.
- (1787) Apologie des Mißvergnügens und des Übels.
- (1787) Das Verbesserte System der Illuminaten.
- (1788) Der ächte Illuminat, oder die wahren, unverbesserten Rituale der Illuminaten.
- (1795) Pythagoras, oder Betrachtungen über die geheime Welt- und Regierungskunst.
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, p. 539.
- Engel, Leopold. Geschichte des Illuminaten-ordens. Berlin: H. Bermühler Verlag, 1906.
- van Dülmen, Richard. Der Geheimbund der Illuminaten. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1975.
- Stauffer, Vernon. New England and the Bavarian Illuminati. Columbia University, 1918.
- Engel 22.
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 13, pp. 740–741.
- Freninger, Franz Xaver, ed. Das Matrikelbuch der Universitaet Ingolstadt-Landshut-München. München: A. Eichleiter, 1872. 31.
- Hartmann, Peter Claus. Bayerns Weg in die Gegenwart. Regensburg: Pustet, 1989. 262. Also, Bauerreiss, Romuald. Kirchengeschichte Bayerns. Vol. 7. St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1970. 405.
- Freninger 47.
- Engel 25–28.
- Freninger 32.
- Engel 31.
- Engel 33. Also, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, p. 540.
- Engel 61–62.
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 6, pp. 595–597.
- Beiser, Frederick C. The Fate of Reason. Harvard University Press, 1987. 186–88.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Illuminati, sourcing Illuminati papers
- Dr. Wolfgang Riedel, 'Aufklaerung und Macht', in Die Weimarer Klassik und ihre Geheimbuende, ed. by W. Mueller-Seidel and W. Riedel, Koenigshausen und Neumann, 2002, p. 112
- Dr. Wolfgang Riedel, Die Weimarer Klassik und ihre Geheimbuende,2002, p. 112
- Dr. Eberhard Weis in Die Weimarer Klassik und ihre Geheimbünde, edited by Professor Walter Müller-Seidel and Professor Wolfgang Riedel, Königshausen und Neumann, 2003, pp. 100-101
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- (German) Biography in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, pp. 539–550 by Daniel Jacoby.
- A Bavarian Illuminati primer by Trevor W. McKeown.
- Illuminati entry in The Catholic Encyclopedia, hosted by New Advent.