This passage is excerpted from the Address to the Scottish Knights (Illuminati Dirigens degree). The Illuminati Dirigens caps the Masonic class in the Order and is followed by the Presbyter/Priest degree which, as Knigge explained, was charged with scientific and academic pursuits. The full degree can be found in The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati. This excerpt was originally posted on the books Facebook Page.
This section provides insight into the order’s political views and philosophy, in particular in terms of national and individual morality.
Power and impunity do not bestow special rights: the criminal’s dignity and power do not lessen his vice: and less offensive names and euphemisms do not change the inner, hard, and noticeable core of the matter. The unpunished, often celebrated land theft committed in the lustrous name of a conqueror, is no more honest than the appropriation of private property, and in the eyes of any reasonable man, the art of war is nothing more than the systematic art of murder elevated to a matter worthy of contemplation, intellectual exercise, and emulation. It is true that injustice, ambition, pride, vanity, and greed are praised by entire nations as means for growth under the names of bravery, patriotism, and self-defence: however, with these, they are no less unsafe or dangerous – in fact, they are even more damaging in the case of entire nations, since their effects are even more universal and destructive – nor are they more permissible than they are for individual citizens; they are only as good for them as erroneous interest is for others; they mark the untimely birth of an excessive appreciation of themselves, too high an estimation, and the subsequent hope of impunity; consequently they bring about the same, or worse, fatal effects in the case of nations, as they ultimately punish themselves; and just as the individual person’s pride precedes his fall, as he insults all others, incites everyone to revenge, and should he become too strong, causing others to form alliances so that they can defend themselves, incurs his own ruin: so also a nation that grows too boisterous and does not honour the rights of others, arms all others against itself, inciting their vengeance; and often, the only requirement is the opportunity to repay like with like to destroy a power that is so selfish and so dangerous to the serenity of others. Experience and history prove that the occasion for this has never been lacking. Nations are large families, moral entities; like individual persons, they have their origin and downfall, their life and death, and they attempt to prolong their existence just like individual persons and remove everything that opposes it; they err in the same manner when selecting the means for this, allowing themselves to be seduced to taking the wrong measures through glittering proposals and short-term advantages; they practice reason and folly, have their own tendencies and passions, lesser and greater needs; and for this, they need the help and benevolence of their fellow nations; therefore, they enter into mutual relationships with one another, and to this end, they are bound to benevolence and justice; they have their obligations and rights, true love for themselves, a desire and demand for their continued existence and life; the situation and circumstances in which they find themselves, the needs they feel, the impossibility to satisfy these on their own are the legislators of even the most independent nations, and they obligate them not to transgress against the rights of others, not to view themselves as the only goal and all others as means, but to be satisfied with the undisturbed possession of their own property and to curb the excessive desire for expansion and the rightful possessions of another.
Their own continued welfare must teach them that abstaining from encroaching on the rights of others ensures their own rights, that violence begets violence, that strength and superiority has not in any way been given to nations or individual persons to abuse and harm others, that ultimately, it is in the best interest of the strongest, most independent nation, that there be a law, a moral doctrine of nations, to which all their demands, claims, wishes, and desires, every application of force, must be subject, that they can never remove themselves from it without incurring great harm, to which their own admittance, that of all others, and even the entire human race is most closely and inseverably bound.
As long as this moral law of nations is not universal and in force, peace and tolerance remain banished from the earth. To the detriment of the world and humanity it is not, and it will not be so for a long time, and entire nations conduct themselves no better toward one another, like independent, boisterous persons who have not yet been gathered into nations. Because they rely too much on their own sense of their strength and power, they betray by their actions that civility is still foreign to them and are still rather governed by savagery. The earth is still devastated by war and battles every day; even today, peace treaties are nothing more than armistices necessitated by a mutual weakening; even today, they are broken when their forces are restored in more opportune times; one twists the plainest passages to one’s own purpose with artful interpretations; the destroyers of the earth, those who devastate the world, remain the object of our admiration and emulation, the matter of curricula and narration, the ideal of education. Speak not of the enlightenment and morality of an age, in which war is preceded by actual or perceived insult: moral persons do not insult one another; every insult is based on a lack of morality, the unmistakable consequence of a misjudged interest, a disorganized will, and a limited understanding. Morality is more than simple refinement, the enjoyment of life’s finer things, or the art of harming others with great finesse under the borrowed appearance of the law, or the destruction of one’s opponent. True morality is abstinence from violating the rights of others. It is sensible self-love. Since this still rarely occurs among individual persons, is it any wonder then, that the morality of nations is a civilized, more refined savagery? Because a nation’s morality is composed of the morals and opinions of the majority of its individual members. Thus, as the number of moral people increases in any given nation, the nation’s morality is increased proportionally, and he who changes individuals for the better, betters the nation, and with such a change of the nations, the fate of the earth is also changed for the better.