Knigge felt keenly the stifling grip of conservative Catholicism in Bavaria, and understood the anti-religious feelings that this produced in the liberal Illuminati, but he also saw the negative impression these same feelings would engender in Protestant states, inhibiting the spread of the order in greater Germany. To Weishaupt and Knigge, the proposed federation was also a vehicle to propagate Illuminism throughout German Freemasonry. Massenhausen's enthusiasm soon became a liability in the eyes of Weishaupt, often attempting to recruit unsuitable candidates. The mystics already had coherent plans to replace the higher degrees. Ditfurth, having found a masonic organisation that worked towards his own ambitions for Freemasonry, took little interest in the Illuminati after his adherence to the Eclectic Alliance. Their neglect of Costanza, failure to defend him from malicious charges or prevent his expulsion from Prussia, were also cited. Having advocated the de-regulation of the higher grades of the German lodges, the Illuminati now announced their own, from their "unknown Superiors". In January , faced with the prospect of losing Knigge and his masonic recruits, Weishaupt finally confessed that his superiors and the supposed antiquity of the order were fictions, and the higher degrees had yet to be written. Groups of lodges would be subject to a "Scottish Directorate", composed of members delegated by lodges, to audit finances, settle disputes, and authorise new lodges.
He had the contacts within and outside of Freemasonry that they needed, and he had the skill as a ritualist to build their projected gradal structure, where they had ground to a halt at Illuminatus Minor, with only the Minerval grade below and the merest sketches of higher grades. Weishaupt promised Knigge a free hand in the creation of the higher degrees, and also promised to send him his own notes. Significantly, while studying in Munich shortly after the formation of the order, he recruited Xavier von Zwack , a former pupil of Weishaupt at the beginning of a significant administrative career. Ditfurth's own agenda was to replace all of the higher degrees with a single fourth degree, with no pretensions to further masonic revelations. Knigge accepted, on the condition that he be allowed to choose his own recruiting grounds. Concern died down in the first decade of the s, although it revived from time to time in the Anti-Masonic movement of the s and 30s. He did not believe the order's humanitarian and rationalist aims were achievable by secret means. Lodge Theodore was recently formed and did not command respect like the older lodges. Shortly after his admission it was made known to his superiors that he was one of the Illuminati, and he was informed that he could not be a member of both organisations. Moving into the Spring of , the handful of students that had started the order had swelled to about members, only 20 of the new recruits being students. In Aachen , Baron de Witte, master of Constancy lodge, caused every member to join the order. At this point, the chapter unexpectedly capitulated, and the Illuminati had complete control of lodge and chapter. The new "Scottish Grade" introduced with the Lyon ritual of Willermoz was not compulsory, each province and prefecture was free to decide what, if anything, happened after the three craft degrees. Class II — The Masonic grades. Bode, who was repelled by Martinism, immediately entered negotiations with Knigge, and finally joined the Illuminati in January Charles of Hesse joined the following month. It abolished the strict control which had kept the order united, and alienated many Germans who mistrusted Martinism. Their intention was to use their new federation, with its emphasis on the fundamental degrees, to remove all allegiance to Strict Observance, allowing the "eclectic" system of the Illuminati to take its place. Zwack persuaded Weishaupt that their own order should enter into friendly relations with Freemasonry, and obtain the dispensation to set up their own lodge. Crucially, individual lodges of the order were now allowed to fraternise with lodges of other systems. His letter of resignation stated that the Rosicrucians did not possess secret knowledge, and ignored the truly Illuminated, specifically identifying Lodge Theodore as an Illuminati Lodge. In July Knigge left the order by agreement, under which he returned all relevant papers, and Weishaupt published a retraction of all slanders against him. To Weishaupt and Knigge, the proposed federation was also a vehicle to propagate Illuminism throughout German Freemasonry. Aside from strengthening relations between their three lodges, the Illuminati seem to have gained no advantage from this manoeuvre. Knigge's attempt to create a convention of the Areopagites proved fruitless, as most of them trusted him even less than they trusted Weishaupt. Knigge appeared at this time to believe in the "Most Serene Superiors" which Weishaupt claimed to serve. Knigge's original plan to propose an alliance between the two orders was rejected by Weishaupt, who saw no point in an alliance with a dying order.
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