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Knigge could no longer endure Weishaupt's pedantic domineering, which frequently assumed offensive forms.
He accused Weishaupt of "Jesuitism", and suspected him of being "a Jesuit in disguise" (Nachtr., I, 129).
By "enlightenment" men were to be liberated from their silly prejudices, to become "mature" or "moral", and thus to outgrow the religious and political tutelage of Church and State, of " priest and prince".
Morals was the science which makes man "mature", and renders him conscious of his dignity, his destiny, and his power.
Closer inquiry, however, destroyed his high estimate of this organization, and he resolved to found a new society which, surrounded with the greatest possible secrecy, would enable him most effectually to realize his aims and could at all times be precisely adapted to the needs of the age and local conditions.
His order was to be based entirely on human nature and observation; hence its degrees, ceremonies, and statutes were to be developed only gradually; then, in the light of experience and wider knowledge, and with the co-operation of all the members, they were to be steadily improved.
The spread of the spirit of the Illuminati, which coincided substantially with the general teachings of the "enlightenment", especially that of France, was rather accelerated than retarded by the persecution in Bavaria.Although educated at a Jesuit school, he fell early under the influence of his free-thinking godfather, the director of the high-school of Ickstatt, to whom he owed his appointment as professor of civil law at the University of Ingolstadt in 1772.He was the first layman to occupy the chair of canon law at this university (1773), but, in consequence of the growing rationalistic influence which he exerted over the students both in his academic capacity and in his personal intercourse with them, he came into ever sharper collision with the loyal adherents of the Church and with those who were influential in government circles.Particularly valuable for the order was the accession of Bode (Amelius), who commanded the highest respect in all Masonic circles.
Assisted by Bode, Knigge laboured diligently to convert the whole Masonic body into "Illuminated Freemasons".
As exhibiting the objects and methods of the order, those documents are authoritative which are given in the first and second sections of works in the bibliography.