Will and Ariel Durant|
Rousseau and Revolution (1967)
Excerpts referencing Freemasonry.
Placards called upon the Duc d'Orleans to lead a revolution. Almost without willing it the parlements, despite their conservatism, were caught up in a ferment of revolutionary ideas. The Discourses of Rousseau, the communism of Morelly, the proposals of Mably, the secret meetings of Freemasons, the Encyclopedie's exposure of abuses in the government and the Church, the flock of pamphlets circulating through the capital and the provinces: all these stood in violent opposition to the claim of absolute power and divine right by a do-nothing and sexually promiscuous King.
It was a slightly artificial culture, cautious under censorship, and too courteous to be brave. Even so, some fitful breezes of heresy came over the Alps or the sea. Foreignerschiefly Jacobite Englishmenestablished in Genoa, Florence, Rome, and Naples, from 1730 onward, Freemason lodges with a tendency to deism. Popes Clement XII and Benedict XIV condemned them, but they attracted numerous adherents, especially from the nobility, occasionally from the clergy.
In 1823 Leocadia, whose Freemason activities had made her fear arrest, fled to Bordeaux with her children. Goya, left alone with the madness that he had painted on his walls, decided to follow them.
He changed his name to Count di Cagliostro, put on whiskers and the uniform of a Prussian colonel, and rechristened his wife Countess Seraphina. He returned to Palermo, was arrested as a forger, but was released on the ominous insistence of his friends, who terrified the law. As Seraphina's charms were worn with circulation, he put his chemistry to use, concocting and selling drugs guaranteed to flatten wrinkles and set love aflame. Back in England he was accused of stealing a diamond necklace, and spent a spell in jail. He joined the Freemasons, moved to Paris, and set himself up as the Grand Cophta of Egyptian Masonry; he assured a hundred gullibles that he had found the ancient secrets of rejuvenation, which could be obtained through a forty days' course of purges, sweats, root diet, phlebotomy, and theosophy. As soon as he was exposed in one city he went on to another, winning access to moneyed families by his Masonic grip and ring. In St. Petersburg he practiced as a doctor, treated the poor gratis, and was received by Potemkin; but Catherine the Great's physician, a canny Scot, analyzed some of the doctor's elixirs, and found them worthless; Cagliostro was given a day to pack and depart. In Warsaw he was exposed by another physician in a booklet, Cagliostro demasque (1780), but before it could catch up with him he was off to Vienna, Frankfurt, Strasbourg. There he charmed Cardinal Prince Louis-Rene-Edouard de Rohan, who placed in his palace a bust of the Grand Cophta inscribed "The divine Cagliostro." The Cardinal brought him to Paris, and the great impostor was unwittingly involved in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. When this hoax was exposed Cagliostro was sent to the Bastille; he was soon liberated as innocent, but was ordered to leave France (1786). He found a new clientele in London. Meanwhile Goethe visited Cagliostro's mother in Sicily, and assured her that her famous son had been acquitted and was safe.
From London, where doubters had multiplied, the Count and Countess moved to Basel, Turin, Rovereto, Trent, everywhere suspected and expelled. Seraphina begged to be taken to Rome to pray at her mother's grave; the Count agreed. In Rome they tried to set up a lodge of his Egyptian Freemasonry; the Inquisition arrested them (December 29, 1789); they confessed their charlatanry; Cagliostro was sentenced to life imprisonment, and ended his days in the Castle of San Leo near Pesaro in 1795, aged fifty-two. He too was part of the picture of the Illuminated Century."
When (1746) the Venetian Senator Zuan Bragadino suffered a stroke while descending a stairway, Jacopo [Casanova] caught him in his arms and saved him from a precipitate fall; thereafter the Senator protected him in a dozen scrapes, and gave him funds to visit France, Germany, and Austria. At Lyons he joined the Freemasons; at Paris "I became a Companion, then a Master, of the order.
Wherever he went, Casanova made his way into some aristocratic homes, for many of the European nobility were Freemasons, or Rosicrucians, or addicts of occult lore.
Free thought grew, but remained confined to private circles. The Freemasons, who had long been established in Austria, organized in Vienna (1781) a lodge which was joined by many prominent citizens, and (despite its implicit deism) was protected by the Emperor himself. "The aim of the society," said one member, "was to give effect to that freedom of conscience and thought so happily fostered by the government, and to combat superstition and fanaticism in the monkish orders, which are the main supports of these evils." Masonic lodges multiplied to the number of eight in Vienna alone; it became fashionable to belong; Masonic emblems were worn by both sexes; Mozart wrote music for Masonic ceremonies. In time Joseph suspected the lodges of political conspiracy; in 1785 he ordered the Viennese lodges to merge into two, and allowed only one lodge in each provincial capital.
[Mozart] was in Paris when Voltaire died; he could not understand why the city had made such a fuss over the old rebel's visit and death. "That godless rascal Voltaire," he wrote to his father, "has pegged out like a dog, like a beast! That is his reward." He imbibed some anticlericalism from his Masonic confreres, but he took part, candle in hand, in a Corpus Christi procession.
In two months (February 26 to April 3, 1784) he gave three concerts and played in nineteen others. In December he joined one of the seven Freemason lodges in Vienna; he enjoyed their meetings, and readily consented to write music for their festivals.
He moved to cheaper quarters in suburban Wahringerstrasse; debts multiplied nevertheless. He borrowed wherever he could- chiefly from a kindly merchant and fellow Mason, Michael Puchberg. To him Mozart wrote in June, 1788: I still owe you eight ducats. Apart from the fact that at the moment I am not in a position to pay you back this sum, my confidence in you is so boundless that I dare implore you to help me out with a hundred gulden until next week, when my concerts in the Casino are to begin. By that time I shall certainly have received my subscription money, and shall then be able quite easily to pay you back 136 gulden with my warmest thanks. Puchberg sent the hundred gulden.'
In May, 1791, Emanuel Schikaneder, who produced German operas and plays in a suburban theater, offered him the sketch of a libretto about a magic flute, and appealed to his brother Mason to provide the music.
On that day he conducted from the piano the premiere of Die Zauberflote. The story was in part a fairy tale, in part an exaltation of Masonic initiation ritual. Mozart gave his best art to the composition, though he kept most of the arias to a simple melodic line congenial to his middle-class audience. He lavished coloratura pyrotechnics on the Queen of the Night, but privately he laughed at coloratura singing as "cut-up noodles." The March of the Priests, opening the second act, is Masonic music; the aria of the high priest, "In diesen heiligen Hallen" "In these holy halls we know nothing of revenge, and love for their fellow men is the guiding rule of the initiated" is the claim of Freemasonry to have restored that brotherhood of man which Christianity had once preached. (Goethe compared The Magic Flute to Part II of Faust, which also preached brotherhood; and, himself a Mason, he spoke of the opera as having "a higher meaning which will not escape the initiated."
Religion was especially strong in Russia, for poverty was bitter, and merchants of hope found many purchasers. Skepticism was confined to an upper class that could read French, and Freemasonry had many converts there.
Two of her plays were historical tragedies imitating Shakespeare; most of them were unpretentious comedies ridiculing charlatans, dupes, misers, mystics, spendthrifts, Cagliostro, Freemasons, religious fanatics; these pieces lacked subtlety but they pleased the audiences, though Catherine [the Great] concealed her authorship.
Catherine gave The Drone some sour looks, and it ceased publication in 1770. In 1775 Novikov joined the Freemasons, who in Russia were turning to mysticism, Pietism, and Rosicrucian fancies while their brothers in France were playing with revolution.
During Kosciusko's absence some burghers, Freemasons, and army officers raised a new Polish army (March, 1794).
In 1759 Christoph Friedrich Nikolai, a Berlin bookseller, began Briefe die neueste Literatur betreffend; enriched with articles by Lessing, Herder, and Moses Mendelssohn, these Letters concerning the Latest Literature continued till 1765 to be a literary beacon of the Aufklarung, warring against extravagance in literature and authority in religion. Freemasonry shared in the movement. The first lodge of Freimaurer was founded at Hamburg in 1733; other lodges followed; members included Frederick the Great, Dukes Ferdinand of Brunswick and Karl August of Saxe-Weimar, Lessing, Wieland, Herder, Klopstock, Goethe, Kleist. Generally these groups favored deism, but avoided open criticism of orthodox belief. In 1776 Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law at Ingolstadt, organized a kindred secret society, which he called Perfektibilisten, but which later took on the old name of Illuminati. Its ex-Jesuit founder, following the model of the Society of Jesus, divided its associates into grades of initiation, and pledged them to obey their leaders in a campaign to "unite all men capable of independent thought," make man "a masterpiece of reason, and thus attain the highest perfection in the art of government." In 1784 Karl Theodor, elector of Bavaria, outlawed all secret societies, and the Order of the Illuminati suffered an early death.
Kant liked him [Johann Gottfried Herder] so much that he excused him from the fees charged for the courses. Herder supported himself by translating and tutoring, and from the age of twenty to twenty-five he taught in the cathedral school at Riga. At twenty-one he was ordained a Lutheran minister; at twenty-two he became a Freemason; at twenty-three he was appointed adjutant pastor in two churches near Riga.
Private clubs offered relief from public conformity. Many aristocrats joined one or another of the Freemason lodges. These condemned atheism as stupid, and required of their members a belief in God, but they inculcated toleration of differences on all other doctrines of religion. In the Lunar Society of Birmingham manufacturers like Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and Josiah Wedgwood heard without horror the heresies of Joseph Priestley and Erasmus Darwin.
At the age of twenty-four Robert [Burns] joined a Freemason lodge. In 1783 the farm was attached for default of rent.
It was by no means Franklin's first appearance in Europe. In 1724, not yet nineteen, he went to England; he worked as a printer, published a defense of atheism, returned to Philadelphia and deism, married, joined the Freemasons, and won international renown as inventor and scientist.
Franklin attended the Neuf Soeurs Lodge of the Freemasons, and was made an honorary member; the men he met there helped him to win France to an alliance with America.
On April 7 Voltaire was taken to the "Nine Sisters" Lodge of the Freemasons. He was initiated into membership without being required to pass through the usual preliminary stages. A laurel wreath was put upon his head, and the chairman made a speech: "We swear to help our brothers, but you have been the founder of an entire colony which adores you and which overflows with your benefactions.... You, much beloved brother, have been a Freemason before you received the degree,... and you have fulfilled the obligations of a Freemason before you promised to keep them.'
There was hardly a trace of socialist sentiment in the cahiers (bills of grievances) that came to the States-General from all quarters of France in 1789; none of them contained attacks upon private property or the monarchy. The middle class was in control of the situation. Were the Freemasons a factor in the Revolution? We have noted the rise of this secret society in England (1717), and its first appearance in France (1734). It spread rapidly through Protestant Europe; Frederick II favored it in Germany, Gustavus III in Sweden. Pope Clement XII (1738) forbade ecclesiastic or secular authorities to join or help the Freemasons, but the Paris Parlement refused to register this bull, so depriving it of legal effect in France. In 1789 there were 629 Masonic lodges in Paris, usually with fifty to a hundred members. These included many nobles, some priests, the brothers of Louis XVI, and most leaders of the Enlightenment. In 1760 Helvetius founded the Loge des Sciences; in 1770 the astronomer Lalande expanded this into the Loge des Neuf Soeurs, or Lodge of the Nine Sisters (i.e., the Muses). Here gathered Berthollet, Franklin, Condorcet, Chamfort, Greuze, Houdon, and, later, Sieyes, Brissot, Desmoulins, Danton. Theoretically the Freemasons excluded the "godless libertine" and the "stupid atheist"; every member had to profess belief in "the Great Architect of the Universe." No further religious creed was required, so that in general the Freemasons limited their theology to deism. They were apparently influential in the movement to expel the Jesuits from France. Their avowed purpose was to establish a secret international brotherhood of men bound in fellowship by assemblage and ritual, and pledged to mutual aid, religious toleration, and political reform. Under Louis XVI they entered actively into politics; several of their aristocratic members: Lafayette, Mirabeau pere et fils, the Vicomte de Noailles, the Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, and the Duc d'Orleans became liberal leaders in the National Assembly.
In these angry mobs the Duc d'Orleans saw a possible instrument for his ambitions. He was the great-grandson of that Philippe d'Orleans who had been regent of France (1715-23). Born in 1747, named Duc de Chartres at five, he married at twenty-two Louise-Marie de Bourbon-Penthievre, whose wealth made him the richest man in France. In 1785 he succeeded to the title of Duc d'Orleans; after 1789, through his advocacy of popular causes, he was known as Philippe Egalite. We have seen him challenging the King in the Parlement and exiled to Villers-Cotterets. Soon back in Paris, he determined to make himself an idol of the people, hoping that he might be chosen to succeed his cousin Louis XVI in case the harassed King should abdicate or be deposed. He gave largesse to the ended nationalization of ecclesiastical property, and threw open to the public the garden and some rooms of his Palais-Royal in the very heart of Paris. He had the graces of a generous aristocrat and the morals of his ancestor the Regent. Mme. de Genlis, governess of his children, served him as liaison with Mirabeau, Condorcet, Lafayette, Talleyrand, Lavoisier, Volney, Sieyes, Desmoulins, Danton. His fellow Freemasons gave him substantial support.
Copyright © by Will and Ariel Durant Copyright renewed © 1989 Exclusive electronic rights granted to World Library, Inc. by The Ethel B. Durant Trust, William James Durant Easton, and Monica Ariel Mihell.