Beethoven and the Illuminati

How the secret order influenced the great composer.

By Jan Swafford, Slate Magazine

In 1779, a composer, writer, teacher, and dreamer named Christian Neefe arrived in Bonn, Germany, to work for the Electoral Court. Neefe (pronounced nay-fuh) was the definition of what Germans call a Schw醇Brmer, a person swarming with rapturous enthusiasms. In particular, he was inflamed with visions of endless human potentials that the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment promised to unleash. Like many progressives of the time, Neefe believed that humanity was finally coming of age. So he had picked the right place to get a job. Bonn was one of the most cultured and enlightened cities in Germany; the court supported a splendid musical and theatrical establishment. Before long in his new post, Neefe found himself mentoring a genius. Meanwhile, in his spare time, he signed on with a plan to, as it were, rule the world.

1779年、作曲家、作家、教育者そして夢想家がElectoral Court(選挙公宮廷?)で働く為ドイツの都市ボンに到着した。彼の名はクリスチャン ネイファ。ネイファはドイツ人がSchw醇Brmerシャヴェルメール?と呼ぶ、はちきれんばかりの情熱で溢れている人の典型だった。特に、彼は科学的革命と啓蒙主義が解き放つ無限の人間の可能性と言うヴィジョンに興奮していた。当時の他の多くの進歩主義者と同様にネイファは人類は終に成人に達したと信じていた。と言う事で彼は仕事をする為に最適な場所を選んだのであった。ボンはドイツで最も文化的で啓蒙的な都市のひとつであった。宮廷は素晴らしいミュージカルや劇場を支援していた。其処でネイファはまもなく新しい仕事で、ある天才を指導する羽目になるのであった。其の傍ら暇な時間にある計画に志願したのである。其の計画とは世界を支配すると言う事であった。ジャジャーン!

One of Neefe's first students was a sullen, grubby, taciturn 10-year-old keyboard player named Ludwig van Beethoven. He was the son of an alcoholic singer who had more or less beat music into him. The kid seemed more like a charity case than a budding musician, but Neefe soon discovered that his talent could put him in the league of the musical phenomenon of the age, a child of freakish gifts named Mozart.

最初のネイフの生徒の一人は無愛想で、汚らしく、非社交的なルートヴィッヒ フォン ベートーベンと言う名前の10歳のキーボード演奏家だった。(ベートーベンは)彼に音楽を教えると言うよりは叩き込むと言った方が妥当なアルコール中毒の歌手である父親の息子だった。この子は音楽家の卵と言うよりはどちらかと言うとネイファにとっては(ベートーベンに教える事は)慈善行為の様な物だった。しかしネイファは直ぐにベートーベンのタレントは当時の音楽界での神童でモーツアルトと言う名前の異様な才能の持ち主と同じリーグの仲間入りをさせる事が出来る事に気が付いたのだった。

Ludwig was named for his grandfather, who had been Kapellmeister, head of the court musical establishment. Old Ludwig's son, Johann van Beethoven, was a tenor in the choir; when his father died, he had made a bid to become Kapellmeister. Everybody but Johann understood that was ludicrous: He was a competent singer and music teacher, otherwise hopelessly mediocre and a devotee of the bottle. As often happens, the full ferocity of the father's blighted ambition landed on the son. Johann van Beethoven intended to make his oldest child into another Mozart, or else.

ルートビッヒはカペルマイスター(指揮者)で宮廷歌劇の指導者であった彼の御祖父さんにちなんで名付けられていた。ルートヴィッヒ御祖父さんの息子、ヨハン フォン ベートーベンはコーラスのテナー歌手で彼の父が他界した時カペルマイスターになる挑戦をしたのだが、ヨハン以外は彼の挑戦は馬鹿げた行為と思っていた。彼は有能な歌手で先生だったが其れ以外は凡庸でアル中だった。良く聞く話だが、父親の成し遂げれなかった野望が息子にのしかかったのである。ヨハン フォン ベートーベンは彼の長男をもう一人のモーツアルトにする積りだった。さもないと…………………………。

Neighbors used to see tiny Ludwig standing on a bench to reach the keyboard, his father standing over him shouting and threatening, the boy weeping as he played. When Ludwig was 7, his father put him on display in a concert and for good measure advertised him as age 6, the same as Mozart when he became famous. Johann was hoping for a sensation, but nothing came of it (except that Beethoven was confused about his age for the rest of his life). At 7 he had been a terrifically precocious keyboard player, but he wasn't another Mozart, at least not yet.


By the time Christian Neefe arrived in Bonn and started teaching Beethoven organ and composition, the 10-year-old was as good a keyboard player as anybody in town. Soon Neefe got into print some variations Ludwig had written, one of his first pieces―slight and conventional, still not Mozart but impressive for his age. In a newspaper article, Neefe cited the variations and said the magic words: With proper nurturing, this boy will "surely become a second Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart."

クリスチャン ネイファがボンに到着しベートーベンにオルガンと作曲を教え始めていた時、この10歳の子供は町のどのキーボード演奏家達と同じほど良い演奏家となっていた。直ぐにネイファはルートヴィヒの作曲した幾つかの曲を出版し始めた.其の中の最初の一つはつまらない代わり映えのしない物で、未だモーツアルトと比べられる様な物でははなかったが、彼の年齢にしては印象的なものだった。新聞の記事でネイファはベートーベンの曲について引用した中で魔法の言葉を使っている。『適切な教育によってこの少年は確実に2番目のヴォルフガング アマデウス モーツアルトになる。』と。

By his midteens, Beethoven was a court musician in various capacities and making huge strides as a composer. His father had pulled him out of school after a few years so he could concentrate on music. (Beethoven learned to add and subtract but never learned to multiply. If he had to multiply 65 by 59, he wrote 65 in a column 59 times and added it up.) Meanwhile his father was promoting him relentlessly, mounting concerts in the house and taking him on tours around the Rhineland. By that point, there was little question in Ludwig's or anybody else's mind that he was headed for big things. One day when his landlord's daughter accosted him with, "How dirty you're looking again! You ought to keep yourself properly clean," he told her, "What's the difference? When I become a gentleman, nobody will care."

10代の中頃になった頃はルートヴィッヒ ベートーベンは種々の資格で宮廷音楽家として働きそして作曲家として大きな前進をしていた。彼の父は音楽に集中できる様にルートヴィッヒを数年で学校から退学させた。(ベートーベンは足し算と引き算を習ったが掛け算は全く習わなかった。若し65と59の掛け算をしなければならない時は,彼は65を縦に59回書いて足し合わせたのだった。)同時にコンサートを家で開催したり彼をラインランド至る所ツアーにつれ回し足りして、彼の父はルートヴィッヒを容赦なく売り込んでいた。この時点ではもう彼がデッカイ何かに向かっている事にルートヴィッヒや其の他の誰の心にも疑いはなかった。ある日彼の地主の娘が『貴方又なんて汚らしくしているの!チャント奇麗にしてなきゃ駄目じゃないの!』と語り掛けて来た時『そんな事どんな違いがある?私が紳士になったらそんな事誰も気になんかするもんか!』とルートヴィッヒは彼女に言ったのだった。

Which is to say that Beethoven was a prodigy and had the classic prodigy's trouble: He knew all about music, but he didn't know how to live. He had only a hazy sense of the reality of other people. Throughout Beethoven's youth, a row of mentors would attempt to civilize and socialize him, with mixed results.


In those years, his first serious mentor, Neefe the Schw醇Brmer, was in an especially perfervid phase of his spiritual life. For some time he had been a Freemason, a group then in its first century as a progressive, international, secular, semisecret order open to men of all faiths. (As such, the Masons were loathed by churches and regimes alike.) But Neefe was tired of the Masons' endless chatter of liberty and morality. He wanted a more ambitious and active kind of brotherhood―say, a new world order. That took him to one of the more bizarre sideshows of the Enlightenment: the Bavarian Illuminati. A Bonn lodge of the Illuminati formed, and Beethoven's teacher became head of it.

其の当時、彼の最初の本格的な指導者“ネイファ ザ シュヴェーマー”は特に熱狂的な精神生活の局面に差し掛かっていた。既に彼は全ての宗教を信じる人間が受け入れられる国際的で、世俗的、半分秘密的な結社、当時進歩的なグループとして最初の世紀を迎えていたフリーメイソンの一員だった。(それだけで、メイソンは教会や政権等に同様に忌み嫌われていた。)然しネイファはメイソンの終わりの無い自由と道徳についての御喋りに嫌気がさしていた。彼はもっと野望的で活動的な仲間を欲していた………言ってみればニューワールドオーダーの様な……………..。其れはネイファを啓蒙主義運動の中のもっと変てこな余興の一つに結び付けたのだった。其れは“バヴァリアンイルミナティ”ボンのイルミナティ支部が結成されベートーベンの先生が其の支部の親分になったのである。

Founded in 1776 by a Bavarian professor named Adam Weishaupt, the Illuminati joined radical politics and Jesuit-style hierarchy to fanatical secrecy. The aims of the order were ambitious, all right: They intended to change the world and had a plan to do it. The means were not to be by violent revolutions. The idea was to form a cadre of enlightened men who would steathlily infiltrate governments everywhere and slowly bring them to a kind of secular-humanist Elysium under the guidance of a secret ruling body. Said Adam Weishaupt: "Princes and nations shall disappear from the face of the earth peacefully, mankind shall become one family, and the world shall become a haven of reasonable people. Morality shall achieve this transformation, alone and imperceptibly."

For every Illuminatus, the perfection of society started with the perfection of one's own moral character. Aspiring members were given piles of text to read, required to write a rigorous self-examination and to undergo ritualized interrogations:


Where have you come from?/ From the world of the first chosen.
Whither do you want to go?/ To the inmost sanctum.
What do you seek there?/ He who is, who was, and who shall always be.
What inspires you?/ The light, which lives in me and is now ablaze in me.


For all the moony mysticism, the Illuminati had a high-Enlightenment agenda, rational, humanistic, and universal. They published a monthly magazine, Contributions to the Spread of Useful Knowledge, which was partly Enlightenment cheerleading, partly practical items relating to husbandry, housekeeping, and the like. Duty was the essence of Illuminati teaching, but it was an Enlightenment kind of duty: duty not to God or to princes but to the order and to humanity.


In practice, the Illuminati amounted to a kind of activist left wing of the Freemasons, from whom they drew most of their members. The numbers were never large, but they included people like Goethe (briefly) and Christian Koerner, a close friend and confidant of Friedrich Schiller. Koerner's influence seems to be why some Illuminati-tinged ideas―universal brotherhood and the triumph of happiness bringing humanity to Elysium―turned up in Schiller's famous poem Ode to Joy, which was often set to music and sung in Masonic and Illuminati circles. The poem would later enter history via the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

現実には、イルミナティはフリーメイソンの左翼活動家の様な役割を果たし、其の殆どのメンバーはフリーメイソンから得たのであった。メンバーの数は決して多くは無かったがゲーテ(短期間)やフレデリック シラーの親友クリスチャン コーナーの様な人々が含まれていた。コーナーの影響で…….普遍の同士と幸福の勝利が人類に極楽をもたらすと言うアイデアが、曲や歌としてフリーメイソンやイルミナティの仲間達の間で取り上げられたシラーの有名な詩“喜びの頌歌”に表れている様に感じられる。この詩は後にベートーベンの第九シンフォニーのフィナーレとして歴史上に残るのである。

As an Illuminatus, an important part of Christian Neefe's duty was to covertly inculcate promising young people in the ideals of the order, then to recruit them when they came of age. Beethoven was as promising as young people get. So did Neefe inculcate this student? Surely he did. Was Beethoven recruited to the order? No―the Illuminati dissolved in 1785, when he was 14. There is also a question as to how inculcatable Beethoven was by anybody. Even in his teens, he was so fixed on his own tack that he only intermittently took notice of the rest of the world.


Not only Neefe, but then and later most of Beethoven's other friends and mentors and patrons were ex-Illuminati or Freemasons. Did those influences have an impact on his life and art? Among many other things, certainly. By the time Beethoven left Bonn, he was already planning to set Schiller's Ode to music, and he had a good idea what that poem was about, from its humanistic surface to its Masonic and Illuminati depths. By then Bonn had helped give him ideas and ideals about being a composer that no one ever had before. He wanted to be something more than an entertainer. He wanted to be part of history.


If Beethoven had come from anywhere but Bonn he still might have been a genius, but he would not have been the same man and composer. True, he was more self-made than anything else, could see the world only through his own lens. He was a legendarily recalcitrant student and claimed to have learned nothing from any of his teachers. His most celebrated teacher, Joseph Haydn, sardonically dubbed Beethoven die grosse Mogul―in today's terms, the big shot. Yet at the same time, Beethoven was by no means aloof. He soaked up every idea around him, read voluminously in classical and modern literature, studied the music of older masters and modeled what he did on them. His art drew from myriad sources, among them the extravagant humanistic ideals floating around Bonn in his youth. One of the things it all added up to was something like this: music as an esoteric language wielded by a few enlightened men for the benefit of the world. Beethoven was all about duty to the abstraction called humanity. That was what he was taught and what he lived and wrote for, through all the miseries of going deaf and a great deal of physical pain. It was people he didn't much care about. But in taking up Schiller's Ode for the Ninth Symphony, he proposed not just to preach a sermon about the brotherhood of humanity and the dream of Elysium. He wanted the Ninth to help bring those things to pass.

若しベートーベンがボンではなく他の所からやって来たとしても、やはり彼は天才だったかも知れない。然し、彼は同じ人間で同じ作曲家ではなかっただろう。確かに彼は世界を自分自身のレンズを通してしか見れない事により、何よりも自分自身の能力で成功している。彼は伝説的なほど強情な生徒で、彼のどの先生からも何も習わなかったと宣言している。彼の最も有名な先生、ヨゼフハイドンは嘲笑的にベートーベンをdie grosse Mogul―ディーグロスモグル今日の言葉で大物(big shot.)と呼んでいる。しかしながら同時にベートーベンは冷淡で無関心と言う訳ではなかった。彼は周りの全てのアイデアを吸収し、膨大な量の古典と近代文学を読み、昔の大作曲家を勉強し手本にして真似ていた。彼の芸術は無数の源泉から成り立っていて、彼が青年時代を過ごしたボンのとっぴな人道主義的理想も其の中の一つであった。其の様に出来上がった中の一つでこの様な物がある:秘密の言語で啓蒙された少数の人間によって世界の為に使用される。ベートーベンの人生は人道主義と言う抽象的な物への義務だった。聴覚を失う悲劇や肉体的な大きな痛みを通り越し、其れが彼が教えられた物であり、その為に生き、その為に作曲した。彼がそれほど好きじゃなかった物は人間だった。然し、シラーの“喜びの頌歌”を第九に取り上げる事によって、単に人類愛や楽園の夢について説教を説くだけでなく、それらを企てたのである。彼は第九がそれらが実現する手助けとなる様に望んだのである。

As for the Illuminati, call them one more example of the Enlightenment's excesses of hope for human perfectibility. Since Beethoven's day, the secrecy and world-ordering agenda of the Illuminati have made them a natural magnet for conspiracy freaks. Awww, how cute you are! - ILThe Illuminati actually existed only some nine years, but there are still lots of folks, including many on the American religious right and the John Birch Society, who believe the Illuminati are the mother of all conspiracies, a Jewish-dominated international cabal that has more or less run the world since they incited the French Revolution. My saying they were a short-lived and a bit pathetic phenomenon makes me, of course, part of the conspiracy―along with Beethoven. I'd like finally to meet some of my fellow conspirators. They seem like interesting people.



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