Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XVII. The Congress of Wilhelmsbad

440. Various Congresses.—To put an end to the numerous disputes raging among masonic bodies, various congresses were held. In 1778, a congress was convened at Lyons; it lasted a month, but was without result. In 1785, another was held at Paris, but the time was wasted in idle disputes with Cagliostro. The most important was that which assembled at Wilhelmsbad in 1782, under the presidency of the Duke of Brunswick, who was anxious to end the discord reigning among German Freemasons. It was attended by Masons from Europe, America, and Asia. From an approximative estimate, it appears that there were then upwards of three millions of Masons in the different parts of the globe.

441. Discussions at Wilhelmsbad.—The statements contained in Dr. Stark's book, "The Coping Stone" (437), concerning the influence of the Jesuits in the masonic body, formed one of the chief topics discussed. Some of the chiefs of the Strict Observance produced considerable confusion by being unable to give information concerning the secrets of the high degrees, which they had professed to know; or to render an account of large sums they had received on behalf of the Order. The main point was to settle whether Masonry was to be considered as a continuation of the Order of the Templars, and whether the secrets of the sect were to be sought for in the modern Templar degrees. After thirty sittings, the answer was in the negative; the chiefs of the Strict Observance were defeated, and the Duke of Brunswick suspended the Order for three years, from which blow it never recovered. The Swedes professed to possess all the secrets; the Duke of Brunswick hastened to Upsala to learn them, but found that the Swedes knew no more than the Germans; whence new dissensions arose between the Masons of the two nations.

442. Result of Convention.—The result of the convention of Wilhelmsbad was the retention of the three symbolical degrees, with the addition of a new degree, that of the "Knights of Beneficence," which was based on the principles enunciated in St. Martin's book, Des Erreurs et de la Verite, and the Tableau Naturel. The foundation of the new Order was attributed to the influence of the Jesuits, because the three initial letters of Chevaliers Bienfaisants, C.H.B., are equal to 3, 8, 2 = 13, signifying the letter N, meaning Nostri. Another result was a league between Masonry and the Illuminati—and it is still a matter of speculation whether these latter were not behind the Jesuits—brought about by the exertions of Spartacus or Weishaupt, who had long ago discerned the influence he could obtain by the co-operation of the Masons, whom he, of course, employed as his unconscious tools. But Jesuitical influence, at that time, was too powerful to be overcome; they sided with, and thus strengthened the influence of, the duke; hence the opposition of Germany to the principles of the French Revolution, which broke out soon after—an opposition which was like discharging a rocket against a thunderbolt, but which was carried to its height by the manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick, so loudly praised by courtly historians, and of which the German princes made such good use as to induce the German confederacy to surround France with a fiery line of deluded patriotism. Freemasonry had been made the tool of prince- and priest -craft, though occasionally it turned the tables on the jprince, an instance of which is recorded in the next paragraph.

443. Frederick William III. and the Masons.—The sudden retreat of the King of Prussia of this name, after having invaded France in 1792, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dr. E.E. Eckert, in his "Magazine of Evidence for the Condemnation of the Masonic Order," writes as follows, quoting from a private letter from M. V___z, of Paris, to Baron von S___z, at Vienna, which he qualifies as "thoroughly reliable":—

"The King of Prussia had crossed our frontiers; he was, I believe, at Verdun or Thionville. One evening a confidential attendant gave him the masonic sign, and took him into a subterranean vault, where he left him alone. By the light of the lamps illuminating the room, the king saw his ancestor, Frederick the Great, approaching him. There could be no mistake as to his voice, dress, gait, features. The spirit reproached the king with his alliance with Austria against France, and commanded him immediately to withdraw therefrom. You know that the king acted accordingly, to the great disgust of his allies, to whom he did not communicate the reasons of his withdrawal.""

Some years afterwards our celebrated actor Fleury, who acquired such reputation by his performance at the Theatre Frangais in "The Two Pages," in which piece he represented Frederick the Great to perfection, confessed that he acted the ghost when Frederick William III. was mystified by an appearance, which had been planned by General Dumouriez." Dumouriez was a Freemason.