One of the principal secret societies founded by Filippo Buonarroti, the doyen of political subversion in early nineteenth-century Europe, the Sublimes Maîtres Parfaits or Sublime Perfect Masters took shape in Geneva in 1809 as an inner circle of revolutionaries drawn from the Philadelphes, another secret society of the time, and from liberal Masonic circles. Unlike the Philadelphes, which focused its efforts on the destruction of Napoleon, the Sublime Perfect Masters set their sights on the rather more ambitious goal of launching revolutions throughout Europe to bring about republican governments and the abolition of private property. See Buonarroti, Filippo; Philadelphes.

The Sublime Perfect Masters followed the older, eighteenth-century pattern of political secret societies and drew heavily on Masonic symbolism and practice. Members learned very little about the society on their admission as Sublime Perfect Masters, and only those of proven loyalty were advanced through the middle degree of Sublime Elect to the Aréopagus, the guiding body of the order. Above it all was a central coordinating body, the Grand Firmament, whose existence was kept secret from everyone outside the Aréopagus itself. This system shows close echoes to that of the Illuminati; scholars are unsure whether Buonarroti borrowed it from his early experience with an Illuminati-influenced Masonic lodge, or whether he took it from published accounts of the Illuminati, but the borrowing played a significant role in passing the eighteenth-century system of secret chiefs and progressive revelations onto nineteenth-century political secret societies. See Illuminati.

Under various names the Sublime Perfect Masters served primarily as a coordinating body for liberal secret societies across Europe, and at its height (around 1820) it had members in Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland. Along with the Carbonari, it played a significant role in the wave of rebellions that swept Europe in 1820 and 1821, and apparently helped to coordinate risings in Italy and elsewhere. In the aftermath of these risings, informers leaked details of the order’s activities to police in several countries; the results included Buonarroti’s exile from Geneva and a continent-wide panic in which conservatives and police officials alike saw secret societies hiding under every bed. See Carbonari.

In 1828 the Sublime Perfect Masters took the new name of Le Monde (The World), as Buonarroti realized that the Masonic trappings of the original organization had become more of a hindrance than help. In this reorganization it added a new preliminary “grade of observation” for potential members and people in other secret societies associated with Le Monde. Under the new name, it seems to have played a role in the French and Belgian revolutions of 1830, though details are uncertain. Afterwards it appears to have been absorbed into another Buonarroti creation, the Charbonnerie Démocratique Universelle, a new version of the Carbonari that aimed at its founder’s perennial goal of universal revolution.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006