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Wilhelmsbad, Congress Of

At Wilhelmsbad, near the city of Hanau in Hesse-Cassel, was held the most important Masonic Gongress 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 Freemasons 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, Russia, 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 advanced Degrees with which Freneh and German pretenders or enthusiasts had been for years past overwhelming it. Important topics were proposed, such as the true origin of Speeulative Freemasonry, 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 Striet Observance, the Freemasons were not the successors of the Knights Templar. The real effect of the Congress of Wilhelmsbad was the abolition of that Rite, which soon after drooped and died.

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