Adam Weishaupt

From Metapedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Johann Adam Weishaupt

Adam Weishaupt
Full name Johann Adam Weishaupt
Born February 6, 1748(1748-02-06) (Ingolstadt, Bavaria)
Died November 18, 1830 (aged 82) (Gotha, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha)
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Empiricism
Main interests Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics

Johann Adam Weishaupt (February 6, 1748 in Ingolstadt – November 18, 1830[1][2][3][4] in Gotha) was a philosopher and founder of the Order of Illuminati, a secret society with origins in Bavaria. Some have claimed that he was an Ashkenazi Jew, but this is not certain. He used the pseudonym Spartacus during the time of his subversive activities.


Early life

Adam Weishaupt was born on February 6, 1748 in Ingolstadt[1][5] in the Electorate of Bavaria. Weishaupt’s father Johann Georg Weishaupt (1717–1753) died[5] when Adam was five years old. After his father’s death he came under the tutelage of his godfather Johann Adam Freiherr von Ickstatt[6] who, like his father, was a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt.[7] Ickstatt was a proponent of the philosophy of Christian Wolff and of the Enlightenment,[8] and he influenced the young Weishaupt with his rationalism. Weishaupt began his formal education at age seven[1] at a Jesuit school. He later enrolled at the University of Ingolstadt and graduated in 1768[9] at age 20 with a doctorate of law.[10] In 1772[11] he became a professor of law. The following year he married Afra Sausenhofer[12] of Eichstätt.

After Pope Clement XIV’s suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, Weishaupt became a professor of canon law,[13] a position that was held exclusively by the Jesuits until that time. In 1775 Weishaupt was introduced[14] to the empirical philosophy of Johann Georg Heinrich Feder[15] of the University of Göttingen. Both Feder and Weishaupt would later become opponents of Kantian idealism.[16]

Founder of the Illuminati

At a time, however, when there was no end of making game of and abusing secret societies, I planned to make use of this human foible for a real and worthy goal, for the benefit of people. I wished to do what the heads of the ecclesiastical and secular authorities ought to have done by virtue of their offices ...[17]

On May 1, 1776 Weishaupt formed the "Order of Perfectibilists". He adopted the name of "Brother Spartacus" within the order. Though the Order was not egalitarian or democratic, its mission was the abolition of all monarchical governments and state religions in Europe and its colonies.[citation needed]

Weishaupt wrote: "the ends justified the means."[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.

He wrote: “I did not bring Deism into Bavaria more than into Rome. I found it here, in great vigour, more abounding than in any of the neighboring Protestant States. I am proud to be known to the world as the founder of the Illuminati.”[citation needed]

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.[1][2][3][4] He was survived by his second wife, Anna Maria (née Sausenhofer), and his children Nanette, Charlotte, Ernst, Karl, Eduard, and Alfred.[2] Weishaupt was buried next to his son Wilhelm who preceded him in death in 1802.


On 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.

Philosophical works

  • (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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, p. 539.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Engel, Leopold. Geschichte des Illuminaten-ordens. Berlin: H. Bermühler Verlag, 1906.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dülmen, Richard van. Der Geheimbund der Illuminaten. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1975.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stauffer, Vernon. New England and the Bavarian Illuminati. Columbia University, 1918.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Engel 22.
  6. Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 13, pp. 740–741.
  7. Freninger, Franz Xaver, ed. Das Matrikelbuch der Universitaet Ingolstadt-Landshut-München. München: A. Eichleiter, 1872. 31.
  8. 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.
  9. Freninger 47.
  10. Engel 25–28.
  11. Freninger 32.
  12. Engel 31.
  13. Engel 33. Also, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 41, p. 540.
  14. Engel 61–62.
  15. Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie Vol. 6, pp. 595–597.
  16. Beiser, Frederick C. The Fate of Reason. Harvard University Press, 1987. 186–88.
  17. [1947] (2005) Quest for Mysteries: The Masonic Background for Literature in 18th Century. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1419182145. 

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


Personal tools