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Comte de Virieu: 1782 Congress of Wilhelmsbad, The Illuminati-Masonic Alliance

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected with the Institution

– Albert G. Mackey (Mason), 1917

Congress of Wilhelmsbad:

At Wilhelmsbad, near the city of Hanau in Hesse-Cassel, was held the most important Masonic Congress of the eighteenth century. It was convoked by Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, Grand Master of the Order of Strict Observance, and was opened July 16, 1782. Its duration extended to thirty sessions, and in its discussions the most distinguished Masons of Germany were engaged. Neither the Grand Lodge of Germany, nor that of Sweden, was represented; and the Grand Lodge of the Three Globes, at Berlin, sent only a letter: but there were delegates from Upper and Lower Germany, from Holland, Bussia, Italy, France, and Austria; and the Order of the Illuminati was represented by the Baron von Knigge. It is not therefore surprising that the most heterogeneous opinions were expressed. Its avowed object was the reform of the Masonic system, and its disentanglement from the confused mass of rites and high degrees with which French and German pretenders or enthusiasts had been for years past overwhelming it. Important topics were proposed, such as the true origin of Speculative Masonry, whether it was merely conventional and the result of modern thought, or whether it was the offspring of a more ancient order, and, if so, what was that order; whether there were any Superiors General then existing, and who these Unknown Superiors were, etc. These and kindred questions were thoroughly discussed, but not defined, and the Congress was eventually closed without coming to any other positive determination than that Freemasonry was not essentially connected with Templarism, and that, contrary to the doctrine of the Rite of Strict Observance, the Freemasons were not the successors of the Knights Templars. The real effect of the Congress of Wilhelmsbad was the abolition of that Rite, which soon after dropped and died.

What happened at the 1782 Congress of Wilhelmsbad?

A fellow mason tells us in his biography.

François-Henri de Virieu (1754-1793) was a French nobleman with the title of Count, at first favorable to the ideas of the French Revolution, he fought in the future.

Le roman d’un royaliste sous la Révolution: Souvenirs du comte de Virieu
(The romance of a Royalist during the Revolution: Recollections of Count Virieu)

– M. Charles Albert Costa De Beauregard, 1895

Translated to English:


Page 43:

But though promised for eighteen hundred years, peace has not yet come to earth to men of good will. At the time of Henry prayed at a time when he thought he had finally sheltered life in a little happiness, the order would sometimes go to Wilhelmsbad, where the Enlightenment was to hold its general seating.

It was falling visions of heaven in the chaos of a world about to collapse.

For Virieu, disillusionment was a force. It made him both a hero and a martyr. For we can say that its bloody traces left of Wilhelmsbad, leading to the breach of Lyon.

No Masonic meeting had previously matched and equaled in importance since the conference convened by [Adam] Weishaupt in 1782. It was the tidal wave that would drown the old world. It was the upheavals and not the salvation was coming. Henry received the terrible secret. Under the humanitarian chimera appeared to him in the plot Wilhelmsbad anti-religious and anti-monarchical …

The story of this terrible Congress has not been made. Bound by his oath, Virieu left nothing in his notes that can help to rewrite. But it was more when he heard without fear of Masonry.

As he returned to Paris, a noble man who was later to share his devotion to the royal family, but then do little anticipated that future Baron Gilliers (i) asked, laughing so tragic secrets which he could relate well to Wilhelmsbad.

“I do not entrust them to you, Henry replied in a tone of sad that Mr. Gilliers looked prohibited; I can only tell you is that all this is far more serious than you think. The conspiracy happening is so contrived, that it will be virtually impossible for the Monarchy and the Church to escape it. “

The Affair of the Necklace came shortly justify this sinister prophecy. This shameful farce of a cardinal and a prostitute for nine months discussing them the honor of the Queen of France, was the curtain raiser before the tragedy. The scandal, as predicted by Henry, reached much the monarchy and the Church.

We know the stage.

The Feast of the Assumption 1785, Cardinal de Rohan, Grand Almoner of France, was arrested upon entering the chapel of Versailles, and imprisoned in the Bastille, without the time it was left to take off his pontifical vestments. ..

The effect of such an adventure was overwhelming at the Hotel de Rohan. Long ago, there was little privacy with Thôteldu Grand Chaplain. But in the noble French breeds, the disgrace was to strengthen ties strained. Vis-à-vis the Court and the city that flooded homes, the Duke and Duchess of Rohan remained impenetrable. It was easy to see that their quiet yet concealed a profound disturbance. Even had they not the answer to the riddle. At the hotel in the Rue de Varenne Henry was only one to have.

Since the arrival of Cagliostro in Paris, he was trembling that the time had come when the projects would convert to Wilhelmsbad dismal realities.


Original French:


Mais, quoique promise depuis dix-huit cents ans, la paix n’est pas encore venue sur la terre pour les hommes de bonne volonté. A l’heure où Henry priait  ainsi, à l’heure où il croyait avoir enfin abrité sa vie sous un peu de bonheur, Tordre lui arrivait de se rendre à Wilhelmsbad, où l’Illuminisme allait tenir ses assises générales.

C’était tomber des visions du ciel dans le chaos d’un monde près de s’effondrer.

Pour Virieu, la désillusion fut une force. Elle fit de lui, à la fois, un héros et un martyr. Car on peut dire que sa trace ensanglantée partit de Wilhelmsbad, pour aboutir à la brèche de Lyon.

Aucune réunion maçonnique n’avait jusque-là égalé et n’égala depuis en importance le congrès réuni par Weishaupt en 1782. C’était bien la vague de fond qui allait noyer le vieux monde. C’était le boulever-sement et non point le salut qui se préparait. Henry en reçut l’effroyable confidence. Sous la chimère humanitaire lui apparut à Wilhelmsbad le complot antireligieux et antimonarchique…

L’histoire de ce terrible congrès n’a pas été faite. Lié par son serment, Virieu n’a rien laissé dans ses notes qui puisse aider à récrire. Mais ce ne fut plus dès lors sans effroi qu’il entendit parler de la Maçonnerie.

Comme il revenait à Paris, un homme qui devait noblement plus tard partager son dévouement à la famille royale, mais qui alors ne prévoyait guère cet avenir, le baron de Gilliers (i) lui demanda en riant quels secrets si tragiques il pouvait bien rapporter de Wilhelmsbad.

“Je ne vous les confierai pas, répondit Henry d’un ton si triste que M. de Gilliers le regarda interdit; ce que je puis vous dire seulement, c’est que tout ceci est autrement sérieux que vous ne pensez. La conspiration qui se trame est si bien ourdie, qu’il sera pour ainsi dire impossible à la Monarchie et à l’Eglise d’y échapper.”

L’affaire du Collier venait à brève échéance justifier cette sinistre prophétie. Cette comédie honteuse d’un cardinal et d’une prostituée discutant pendant neuf mois entre eux l’honneur de la reine de France, était le lever de rideau avant la tragédie. Le scandale, comme l’avait prédit Henry, atteignait bien la Monarchie et l’Église.

On sait la mise en scène.

Le jour de l’Assomption 1785, M. le cardinal de Rohan, grand aumônier de France, était arrêté en entrant dans la chapelle de Versailles, et enfermé à la Bastille, sans que le temps lui fût laissé d’enlever ses vêtements pontificaux…

L’effet d’une telle aventure fut foudroyant à l’hôtel de Rohan. Dès longtemps, il y avait là peu d’intimité avec Thôteldu grand aumônier. Mais, dans les nobles races françaises, la disgrâce était pour resserrer les liens distendus. Vis-à-vis de la Cour et de la Ville qui affluèrent chez eux, le duc et la duchesse de Rohan demeuraient impénétrables. Il était aisé de voir pourtant que leur calme dissimulait un trouble profond. Encore n’avaient-ils pas le mot de l’énigme. A l’hôtel de la rue de Varenne Henry était seul à l’avoir.

Depuis l’arrivée de Gagliostro à Paris, il tremblait que l’heure fût venue où les projets de Wilhelmsbad se convertiraient en lamentables réalités.


Nesta Webster, World Revolution: The plot Against Civilization, 1921, pg. 18:

“But it was not until the Congress de Wilhelmsbad that the alliance between Illuminism and Freemasonry was finally sealed….What passed at this terrible Congress will never be known to the outside world, for even those men who had been drawn unwittingly into the movement, and now heard for the first time the real designs of the leaders, were under oath to reveal nothing. One such honest Freemason, the Comte de Virieu, a member of Martiniste Lodge at Lyons, returning from the Congress de Wilhelmsbad could not conceal his alarm, and when questioned on the “tragic secrets” he had brought back with him, replied: “I will not confide them to you. I can only tell you that all this is very much more serious than you think. The conspiracy which is being woven is so well thought out that it will be, so to speak, impossible for the monarchy and the Church to escape from it.” From this time onwards, says his biographer, M. Costa de Beauregard, “the Comte de Virieu could only speak of Freemasonry with horror.”

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