FactGrid began in 2018 with the input of Hermann Schüttler’s list of 1,351 (verified and unverified) members of the Illuminati, our Items Q25 to Q1376.
Items Q249748 to Q250919 widen that list with an interesting overlap of 111 names with the members of the Strict Observance. It was the largest and most widespread Freemasonic umbrella organization in Europe, that imploded with a massive impact on the world of Freemasonry in 1782, the same year when the Illuminati began their three years of rapid growth before they imploded in turn from 1786-87 and ceased to exist altogether by August 1788.
The Strict Observance had, in hindsight a longer life, beginning in either 1751 or 1764, depending on how we define their beginning. In a way the Order has not disappeared altogether. It lives on in an augmented form within Sweden’s branch of national Freemasonry, the Swedish Rite. Swedish Masons affiliated with the Strict Observance only in 1778 at the convention of Wolfenbüttel with the election of Duke Carl of Södermanland (later King Carl XIII of Sweden) as Grandmaster, after the death of their founder Baron von Hund in 1776. The Swedish Masons then withdrew in 1780 and created their own IXth Province of the Order, having constructed their own distinct form of Freemasonry on top of the superstructure of the Strict Observance rituals.
Germany’s national author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called it a “masquerade in red and white”, but was himself a member (just as he became a member of the Illuminati a little bit later; it made sense to join such organisations and to know from within what they were all about). Freemasonry was in its most idealistic terms an updated edition of the brotherhood of men united under a simple and strikingly anti aristocratic system: the system of the old craft guilds. With their three degrees of apprentice, fellow and master there was no room for privilege of birth. German masonry evolved from the late 1730’s through the 1750’s principally as a system of four degrees, with Scots Master at the apex and the development did not stop there. The chivalric degrees of the 1760’s and 1770’s gave way to increasingly complex systems, overgrowing this initial construct. These high-degree systems claimed roots in the middle ages if not deeper pasts, synthesising Christianity with alchemy, magic, and theosophy. Masonic entrepreneurs travelled through Europe selling secrets which they would convey in extraordinary lodges. What they offered would have been considered heresies only a generation before, and now became a market of esotericism – a market that turned the masonic world into its first framework and distributor. The Strict Observance or Order of the Temple, the masonic high-grade-system founded by Carl Gotthelf von Hund und Altengrotkau in Germany in 1751 was the biggest player on this stage in central Europe – the system of red and white, the colours of the Knights Templars.