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The French Revolution
and the Bavarian Illuminati
John Robison’s and the Abbé Barruel's attempts to prove a causal link between the Bavarian Illuminati, French Freemasonry and the French Revolution are constructed of errors and falsehoods. The key link is the visit of Bode and von Busche to Paris in 1787, a visit too short and limited to have caused the French Revolution. Although Robison and Barruel are discredited, [1]. many contemporary anti-masonic writers continue to quote from their books.
The following notes are excerpted from a paper presented to the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076.[2].
A brief chronology of the French Revolution:
February 1787: Assembly of "notables" called by Charles-Alexandre de Calonne
May 5, 1789:Estates-General met at Versaille
July 14, 1789:Parisian rabble seized the Bastille.
Aug 4, 1789:National Assembly abolished feudal regime and tithe
Aug 26, 1789:Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
October 5, 1789:Paris rabble marched on Versaille, brought King to Paris.
June 20, 1791:Louis XVI tried to flee country.
April 20, 1791:France declares war on Prussia and Austria.
Aug 10, 1792:Revolutionaries occupied Tuileries, imprisoned the royal family.
Jan 21, 1793:Louise XVI executed.
Sept 5, 1793:Reign of Terror (to July 27, 1794)
Oct. 5, 1795:Napoleon crushes Royalist attempt to seize power in Paris.
November 9-10, 1799:Napoleon (18-19 Brumaire) proclaimed end of the revolution.

John Robison was initiated in Lodge La Parfaite Intelligence at Liège in March 1770. His interest in Masonry soon wained. In 1773 he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh.
Robison did not interest himself in Masonry again until 1795 when he began composing "Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Freemasons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies."
Independently, the Abbé Barruel, a member of the Jesuit Society, was at work on his "Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire du Jacobinisme." The Abbé published the first two of his four volumes in 1797 and the last two in 1798.3. During the interval, Robison's book appeared. He issued an hurried third edition in 1798, citing, with some satisfaction, the Abbé's first two volumes in a Postscript. 4.
The Abbé, on the other hand, later writes quite critically of Robison's extraordinary liberties in quoting texts.
Robison describes a discourse delivered by Mirabeau at the Lodge des Chevaliers Bienfaisant at Paris. At the time (1770) Mirabeau was twenty years of age, the order of Chevaliers Bienfaisants didn't come into existence in Lyons until 1778 and although there was a Lodge Bienfaisance of the Strict Observence at Paris, it was not constituted until April 10, 1781.
He describes another discourse delivered by Robinet at the Loge des Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Saint Cité at Lyons, at a Visitation by the Grand Master, Louis Philippe Joseph, the Duke of Chartress, afterwards Orleans, and "Citizen Egalité". In fact, the Duke was not installed until October 23, 1773.
Robison refers to Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick's 1772 election as Grand Master of the Convent of the Strict Observance, as a cause of alarm to the Emperor who feared the Illuminati. Weishaupt was at that time still a professor at Ingolstadt University and the Illuminati unknown.
Robison refers to the Grand Orient de la France as controlling all Freemasonry in France, although records show that both the legitimate Grand Lodge of France and the schismatic Grand Orient continued their separate existence after December 24, 1772. The Strict Observance Lodges were under their own Directories and only related to the Grand Orient by concordant, the oldest dating to 1776.
Although Louis Philippe Joseph, 5th duc d'Orleans from 1785, and later "Citoyen Égalité" (1747/04/13 -1793/11/06) was installed October 23, 1773 as Grand Master of the Grand Orient, by 1787 he was no longer Grand Master. 5
Robison's attack on Freemasonry is dependent on an alleged link between the German Illuminati and French Freemasonry.
The Abbé Augustus Barruel
The Abbé Augustus Barruel was educated by the Jesuits and claims to have unwillingly been initiated as a Master Mason without having made any obligation of secrecy.
Barruel, who in his first two volumes had said little about Weishaupt's Illuminati, changed his attack for his last two volumes. He was aware of Luchet's "Essai sur la Secte Illuminiés" but mistakenly confused the pietist Rose-Croix, made up of Christian Transcendentalist
Martinists and followers of the charlatan Cagliostro, with the German rationalists, more conveniently designated the Illuminati.
Barruel owes his information to a freemason and Lutheran pastor, Jean Auguste Starcke, as well as the Viennese journalist, Léopold Aloys Hoffman.
Barruel's knowledge of Paris is confused and inaccurate, as are his references to the four lodges in Paris, Loge des Neuf Soeurs, Loge Contrat Social, Loge des Amis Réunis and Loge Candeur.
Loge des Neuf Soeurs
Barruel claims Condorcet was a member of Neuf Soeurs, although his name appears on no lists. Condorcet was no friend of Lamétherie, whose name does appear on the 1784 Lodge List. Barruel claims Brissot a member of Neuf Soeurs, although Brissot writes that he was initiated into a German lodge but was never active.
Barruel claims Nicolas Bonneville was a member of Neuf Soeurs, although his name appears on no lists and his biographer, Dr. Le Harwel, is of the opinion that he was never a Freemason. Bonneville's "Les Jesuits de la Maçonnerie" was derived from papers he discovered in England and conversations with Masonic friends.
Barruel claims the Abbé Claude Fauchet was a member of Neuf Soeurs, although Fauchet is quoted as claiming "...I have never sought nor desired to be initiated into your mysteries...."
Barruel claims that Neuf Soeurs was anti-monarchist but Romains de Sèze, confident of Marie Antoinette and the advocate who pleaded the cause of Louise XVI before the Revolutionary Tribunal, was a member of the Lodge.
Barruel claims Camille des Moulins and Danton were members of Neuf Soeurs, although the "Observateur" attacks the lodge in April 1790 as an assembly of aristocrats.
The lodge, founded in 1776, ceased to be a Masonic lodge in the beginning of 1790, becoming "le Société Nationale des Neuf Soeurs."
Loge Contrat Social
This lodge, constituted under the Grande Loge de France in 1766, was reconstitute under the Mère Loge Écossaise of Marseilles, later returned to the Grand Lodge of France and in 1773 was again reconstituted under the Grand Orient. This demonstrates that the lodges in France were not all dominated by the Grand Orient under the Duke of Orleans. Freemasonry was not the homogenous body that Barruel and Robison claim it to have been.
Both Barruel and Robison see the defining link between the German Illuminati and Freemasonry in the 1788-1789 visit of Johan Joachim Christopher Bode and the Baron de Busche to the Loge Contrat Social in Paris. Barruel admits his error in his fourth volume but Robison compounds his error. He confuses this lodge with Savalette de Lange's Lodge Amis Réunis, later refering to Savalette as "Savelier." And he muddles together the lodge Chevaliers Bienfaisants, that belonged to the Strict Observance, with Philalèthes, referring to them all as "Amis Réunis."
Barruel, towards the close of his second volume, has the lodge presided over by the Duc de la Rochefoucauld [d'Enville], when, in fact, the rolls show the Master to have been the Marquis de La Rochefoucauld Bayers, a Bourbon loyalist who was massacred at Gissors in 1792. On p. 361 of vol. 4, the Abbé admits his mistake and identifies the source as "Jacques le Suer, the author of "Des Masques Arrachés." a filthy- smelling novel and full of calumnies of most respectable people." Jacques le Suer has been identified as Alexandre Louis Bertrand de Robineau.
Barruel also admits to having seen a letter sent by the Lodge Contrat Social calling on other lodges to rally to the support of Louis XVI as a constitutional monarch. Not being able to honestly brand all masons as Jacobins, Barruel labels them "stupid dupes" and moves on.
Robison claims that Maury, opponent of Talleyrand, Mounier and Barnave were members of Contrat Social. Mounier has warmly denied that he and Barnave were ever Masons. Robison claims Jean Jacques Duval d'Esprémenil was a member of two lodges, Contrat Social, and Chevaliers Bienfaisants, although they belonged to two Grand bodies that did not recognize each other or allow dual membership. Duval is also on record as being an advocate of the Ancien Régime in Church and State and not, as Robison claims, a popular orator for liberty and equality.
While Robison makes Lequinio an officer of Contrat Social, Barruel, who claims to have seen a list of members and would have noted the presence of such a well known anti-cleric, makes no mention of him.
Although Barruel claims to have been made a freemason, he knows little about the lodges in Paris, confusing their names, members, jurisdictions, and meeting places. Robison based his third edition on Barruel's third volume. Barruel's fourth volume recants the Lodge Contrat Social fiction that it was under the rule of the Duc d'Orleans, yet perpetuated a new fiction, that it was "dependent on Edinburgh."
Loge des Amis Réunis
Constituted April 23, 1771 in Paris, this lodge developed a system of 12 "Classes", not Degrees, termed "les Philalèthes ou Cherceurs de la Vérité." Barruel quotes Luchet's fictitious descriptions of the higher degrees and, like Robison, often confuses "clubs" with "lodges."
Barruel claims that Cagliostro was summoned to a meeting of the Amis Réunis where he learned of the revolution. Barruel is referring to the first of two congresses of Philalèthes which met between February 15 and May 26, 1785. Although Cagliostro was invited, he did not attend and in fact wrote disparagingly about them. The agenda of the Congresses have been preserved and contain nothing of a political nature.
Barruel's assertion that Cagliostro received his commission as a revolutionary apostle from Lodge Amis Rèunis contradicts the Inquisition of Rome's assertion that Cagliostro was commissioned at Frankfurt by the "Grand Masters of the Illuminati."
Barruel asserts that the Comte de St. Germain had met in the Lodge Amis Rèunis but, in fact, he had left France ten years before the lodge came into existence.
Rite of Strict Observance and Martinists
Both Barruel and Robison attempt to link the Illuminés of Lyons and Strasbourg with the Bavarian Illuminati, as irreligious and anti-social societies. While Barrual claims that Saint Martin promoted the gnostic error that sins of the flesh inflict no stain on the soul, Saint Martin clearly expressed in "Des Erreurs et de la Verité" the doctrine that these are double sins. Robison makes the same mistake and equally misunderstands the origin of the Rite of Strict Observance.
Although stating he was neither a freemason nor a Martinist, Mounier paid tribute to the Lyon masons who helped contain the violence of the Terror at Lyons on December 5, 1793.
An attempt to link the French lodges with the Illuminati of Bavaria
The key link for both Robison and Barruel is the alleged mission from the Illuminati of Bode and Busche; Barruel assigns this to 1787 while Robison claims it occurred near the end of 1788. Both of them get the lodges names and meeting places wrong.
In July 1784 Weishaupt had parted company with Knigge; by 1786 the Illuminati's secrets were revealed to an indignant public and its chief a fugitive. There was no one to send a mission to Paris.
Johan Joachim Christopher Bode [1730-1793], an energetic member of the Strict Observance, had been invited to the Philalèthes' Congresses. Both he and von Busche arrived in Paris after the second Congress closed on June 8, 1787, although his paper, a denouncement of the study of alchemy and the occult, which he had sent ahead, had been read to the assembly.
He was back in Weimer by 29 August 1787, telling Schiller, and others, that Paris was exhausted and in decay. Körner writes that Bode was "too short a time in Paris to have heard more than one side of the question."
As a further error, Barruel claims that both Bode and Busche were in poverty but, in fact, Busche was a wealthy man. Note that Bode died in 1793 and was not able to defend himself against Robison's and Barruel's claims made in 1797.
Was Mirabeau a Freemason?
There is no evidence that either Mirabeau or Talleyrand were masons. Although Starck asserts that Mirabeau was "Léonidas" in the Illuminati, there is no documentation. Barruel admits in his fourth volume that neither Fauchet, Bailly, nor Lafayette belonged to the Lodge Contrat Social.
Barruel and Robison fail to provide any conclusive link between the Bavarian Illuminati and French Freemasonry, much less find a cause of the Revolution in Paris lodges. They display a great ignorance of the actual and documented workings of Freemasonry at the time, and, in support of their arguments, have made many demonstrably false statements.
Although both Barruel's and Robison's claims have been discredited, many, more contemporary, writers who rely on their books are still accepted as authorities.
Although the list of freemasons who espoused liberty and equality, republicanism and constitutional monarchy, is a long one (Jacques Millanois, Pierre Marie Bruyset, Jean Andre Perisse du Luc, the Chevalier Gaspard de Savaron, and the Compte Henry de Virieu, to name a few), there is no documentation to suggest that the Lodges or Grand Lodges in France took any active role in politics. Many freemasons (such as Adrien Nicolas, Deleutre, Louis Daniel Tassin, and the Abbé Bartolio) were active in maintaining civil order during the riots. Many freemasons were sent to the guillotine or were massacred by the mobs; most Lodges ceased meeting during the Revolutionary period.
Another claim, by the Jesuit periodical "Etudes" in 1940, that the Illuminati sent the Comte Kalowait to Paris in 1782, and Falgera in 1784, is equally specious. Neither Weishaupt nor Knigge trusted the Compte who was attracted to the occult studies which the Illuminati leaders held in abhorrence, while Falgera was a novice with no authority or standing in the Order.

1.Also see: William Preston, "The Misrepresentations of Barruel and Robison Exposed", reproduced in George Oliver’s Golden Remains, Vol. 3, pp. 274-300; and also "Anti-Masonry," by Bro. Alphonse Cerza, AQC vol. 80, (1968) Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, London. pp. 241-270. ^
2.Excerpted from "The Romances of Robison and Barruel" by the Rev. W. K. Firminger. F.M. Rickard, editor. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum being the Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, London." vol. l. 1940. pp. 31-69. ^
3.Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, Written in French by the Abbé Barruel, and translated into English by the Hon. Robert Clifford, F.R.S. & A. S. "Princes and Nations shall disappear from the face of the Earth ... and this revolution shall be the work of secret societies." Weishaupt’s Discourse for the Mysteries. Part I. The Antichristian Conspiracy. Second Edition, revised and corrected. London: Printed for the Translator, by T. Burton, No. 11, Gate-fleet, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields. Sold by E. Booker, No. 56, New Bond-Street. 1798 [Entered at Stationers Hall.] p. 261 ^
4.Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Governments of Europe, carried on in the secret meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Collected from good authorities by John M. Robison, A.M. Professor of Natural Philosophy, and Secretary to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. "Nam tua res agitur paries cum proximus ardet. Edinburgh: Printed for William Creech; — and T. Cadell, Junior, and W. Davies, London. 1797. Entered in Stationers Hall. 496pp plus 35pp postscript to the second edition. "...correct the mistakes into which I have been led by my scanty knowledge of the German language, and the mistakes of the writers from whom I derived all my informations." [Chapter II The Illuminati, pp. 100-271] ^
5.Mackey notes his election in 1771 and the Grand Orient declaring his office vacant on May 13, 1793. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey. Revised. vol. ii. Richmond, Virginia : Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, Inc., 1966. p. 745. ^


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