Adam Weishaupt

Adam WeishauptAdam Weishaupt (1748-1830) was a professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, Bavaria and founded the Order of Bavarian Illuminati on May 1, 1776, at the University of Ingolstadt, Bavaria, originally under the name “Perfectibilists.” The original intent was to create an opposing party to what he perceived to be the bigotry and superstitions of the Priests at the university and to proliferate more cosmopolitan views. Leopold Engel in his Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens (History of the Illuminati Order, 1906) pointed out that the Bavarian educational system was firmly in the hands of former Jesuits, who exercised strict control over the curriculum. The Jesuit Order had been dissolved from 1773 – 1814, partially because Rome feared their power and partially because various secular powers envied their immense wealth. The aims of the Illuminati soon extended past the confines of the University of Ingolstadt, spreading throughout the German states and beyond.

In fact, Joseph Traynor has written, “(Weishaupt) was the first utopian to think on a global scale.”

Opinions about Weishaupt’s character varied widely among contemporaries.

French conspiracy theorist Abbe Barruel called him “a human devil.” John Robison, whose book Proofs of a Conspiracy fueled the Illuminati fear in the English speaking world, wrote Weishaupt was “the profoundest conspirator that ever existed.” And The Rev. George Oliver, D.D. in his Historical Landmarks and other Evidences of Freemasonry Explained proclaimed, “Weishaupt was a shameless libertine, who compassed the death of his sister-in-law to conceal his vices from the world and as he termed it, to preserve his honor.” In his letter to the Bishop of Philadelphia, however, Thomas Jefferson dismissed Barruel’s work as “the ravings of a Bedlamite,” calling Weishaupt “an enthusiastic philanthrope,” instead. Baron Adolph Knigge, ousted by Weishaupt from the Illuminati in a particularly bitter struggle, wrote that Weishaupt was an abrasive person and an autocratic leader in Philo’s Reply to Questions Concerning His Association with the Illuminati, but added that he “was undoubtedly a brilliant mind, a profound thinker” whose “heart was ablaze with an unmatched selfless zeal to accomplish something great and useful for humanity (43).” He also noted that Weishaupt “enjoyed among his impartial fellow citizens a reputation of scholarliness, wisdom, and impeccable morality. He led a moderate, respectable life, and completed his business affairs faithfully (45).”

Oliver’s remark doubtlessly was based on the accusation that Adam Weishaupt had seduced his dead wife’s sister, impregnated her, and then tried to kill the unborn child.

What really happened was that Weishaupt petitioned the Catholic Church for permission to marry his deceased wife’s sister. It took three years for Rome to issue the dispensation to marry, a process impeded by the Jesuits, with whom he has made bitter enemies. When he was assured it would only be a matter of weeks until the dispensation would arrive, the two did have intimate relations. Three months into the pregnancy, the dispensation was still pending. To avoid embarrassment, Weishaupt wrote to several of his friends about procuring the means for an abortion. They all advised against it.

In the end, Weishaupt married his lover, and the child was born.

Weishaupt commented in his Kurze Rechtfertigung meiner Absichten (Brief Justification of My Intentions, 1787) that a more powerful, wealthy man would have been applauded for his savvy and worldliness — not condemned as a seducer and child murderer.

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4 thoughts on “Adam Weishaupt

  1. The child, Wilhelm (1784-1802), died 18 years of age. Perhaps in some part due to long-standing complications from Weishaupt’s abortion attempt? My French translation of “Nachtrag von weitern Originalschriften …,” I, p. 15, reads: “Nous avons déjà essayé de diverse façon de provoquer l’avortement.” Literally: “We’ve already tried various means of inducing abortion.”

    Certain things about his character gives me the impression that he was a coward – the abortion fiasco (all for the preservation of his precious “reputation” which he was about to loose anyway), as well as his fleeing from the authorities rather than face it like a man. One of his cohorts actually did 11 years in prison – Aloys Friedrich Wilhelm von Hillesheim (Philepus) – while he remained in hiding, in relative luxury, at the Gotha court.

  2. I’m curious as to what the cause of Wilhelm’s death was. In his “Kurze Rechtfertigung meiner Absichten,” Weishaupt claimed that his abortion attempts were pretty ineffective and that his son was born healthy. Was he a healthy child, as Weishaupt claimed, or was he sickly?

    “Euriphon hat nicht nur allein nicht mitgewuerkt, sondern die Unmoeglichkeit ohne Todesgefahr ausgedrueckt. Auf sein Zureden sind alle weiteren Versuche unterblieben, und ich muss auch hinzu setzen, dass meine eigenen von mir ausgedachten, Mittel Aderlass, Bad und Bewegungm mehr zur Staerkung als Abtreibung des Kindes beygetragen haben wie noch zur Stunde die Gesundheit der Mutter und des Kindes augenscheinlich beweisen (66-67).”

    “Euriphon not only did not aid me, but urgently presented me with the impossibility of using such drugs without incurring mortal danger; he convinced me to cease any further attempts, and to this I must add that the means which were my own conception, bleeding, baths, and exercise, have contributed to the child’s health and not his abortion, as can be proved this very hour by the health of mother and child.”

    Leopold Engel doesn’t mention Wilhelm in the chapter on Weishaupt’s family in his “Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens,” which is why I was under the impression that he lived a long and productive life like Ernst, Eduard, Karl, and Alfred (391). I did find a reference to Wilhelm in the Wikipedia. However, it only states that he died in 1802.

  3. Grave Stone: Wilhelm Weishaupt
    Engel did mention Wilhelm in an earlier chapter and discussed him briefly (225-228). The epitaph’s first sentence reads, “Wilhelm Weishaupt, a Bavarian born in Ingolstadt, January 30, 1784, experienced much in his brief lifetime.” However, Engel wrote that whether that pertained to the circumstances surrounding his birth or other events could no longer be determined.

  4. Thanks. This proves that Weishaupt did not go through with the idea; that he sought counsel; that his goal was practical (to avoid embarrassment to himself and his bride-to-be); and in the end he made the good choice of letting Wilhelm live. So this is consistent with the Weishaupt in the correspondence of the Illuminati. He was not bloodthirsty, as often caricatured, nor was he necessarily immoral. He was clearly willing to contemplate the end justifies the means, but it was not his sole rule for action.

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