Moderne Mysterien: Carl Friedrich Bahrdts ,Deutsche Union‘ zwischen Geheimnis undÖffentlichkeit (Mit einigen Anmerkungen über Schillers Don Karlos)

Gianluca Paolucci


The government ban of the Bavarian secret society of the Illuminati in 1785 and Frederick William III's succeeding to the Prussian throne in 1786 marked a changing of the political atmosphere in Germany, giving rise to a wave of conservatism, especially in Prussia. Taking the Order of the Illuminati as model, in 1786 the enlightened theologian Carl Friedrich Bahrdt founded in Halle the “Deutsche Union”, a correspondence society with the aim of recruiting liberal-thinking authors, of seizing the German editorial market, and of promoting the formation of an enlightened public opinion. Analyzing archival sources and Bahrdt's works (from the Briefe über die Bibel im Volkston to Zamor, oder der Mann aus dem Monde), the essay singles out the ideological fundamentals of the media politics of the secret society in the light of Bahrdt's conception of a rational Esotericism (vernünftige Esoterik); it highlights the concrete and intellectual differences from and similarities to the previous experience of the Illuminati; it focuses a wide concept of Illuminatism, which can also be interpreted as a modern media theory. At the end, the article demonstrates to what extent Illuminatism influenced the German classical literature of the 18th century by re-reading Schiller's Don Karlos (1787). (GP; in German)

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