By all accounts, Freemasonry in Russia dates again to 1731, when Captain John Phillips was appointed because the provincial grand grasp of Russia. Beneath the steering of the “Royal Arch” in England, all Masonic exercise in Russia was actually organized by a “liaison” speaking directions from this very elite lodge: his title was Anderson.
From the very starting, solely the very best and the brightest had been chosen to turn into Russian Masons. On the time, that meant – of course- initiating aristocrats. The essential thought behind Freemasonry – the initiates had been instructed – was to make “good males” even higher in order that the “good works” of those males would profit society.
Nonetheless, shortly after the lodges in Russia had been established an issue arose: the Russian Masons needed to know the id of the “Prime Mason” in England giving out orders. All Anderson would inform them was that directions got here from “the unknown superior”. Not recognizing that as a definitive and clear reply, the aristocrats turned disillusioned and deserted freemasonry. The early lodges merely closed down.
Curiosity in Freemasonry would return afterward throughout the reign of Tsar Alexander I. Deeply religious and contemplative, Alexander loved philosophizing with the exiled French senator, diplomat and scholar, Joseph de Maistre – a Jesuit-trained Scottish ceremony Mason. De Maistre was a mystical “spiritualist” and their very personal talks about Freemasonry profoundly affected the impressionable Tsar.
When Alexander’s troops triumphed over the Grand Armee of Napoleon and entered Paris in 1815, Alexander gave particular directions to his officers to socialize with the French Masons there. What the Tsar didn’t know was that these specific French Masons had been extremely political – espousing liberal, anti-monarchist views and shouting “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” whereas ingesting with their new-found mates from overseas.
Shortly after their return residence, these exact same Russian officers started planning an rebellion towards the Monarchy! Alexander I used to be now not round, nevertheless, having been buried on the St Peter and Paul Cathedral. Some insisted he was nonetheless alive and had merely walked away from his “day job” to turned a reclusive monk (Apparently, Soviet authorities opened up his coffin within the Twenties solely to seek out it empty).
The brand new Tsar – Nicholas I – would decisively crush this rebellion on Senate Sq. in St Petersburg in 1825. The courageous and idealistic rebels – now recognized collectively because the Decembrists- had been nearly all Masons devoted to giving up their lives with a view to gentle a “spark” and alter society for the higher.
The Russian poet and playwright Alexander Pushkin – additionally a Mason – didn’t handle to affix the Decembrists of their quixotic journey, however he was very sympathetic to the trigger. He was actually not alone on this regard. I particularly point out him right here as a result of eight years later Pushkin would write a brief story entitled “the Queen of Spades”. Critics to this present day imagine this to be a supernatural fantasy about avarice and playing, however it’s really way more.
In actuality, the “Queen of Spades” (later to turn into an Opera by Tchaikovsky) is a intelligent riddle wherein the writer reveals the “secret Masonic code” which is used to unlock the true that means of sacred texts just like the Bible and Koran.
On a private word: whereas researching Russian Freemasonry as a graduate pupil oh so a few years in the past, I felt a robust urge to seek out out the id of that “Unknown Superior” talked about earlier. “Why was Anderson so reluctant to expose his title?”
I contacted the Scottish ceremony Masons in Chicago on the time and started visiting them at their native lodge adjoining to the Newberry Library. The brothers had been fairly affable and gregarious, however they themselves had been unable to assist me out in my seek for the reality. Over time, I used to be lastly launched to somebody who was thought-about an knowledgeable in Russian Freemasonry! I might really feel that the Holy Grail was inside my grasp.
I requested him – level blank- if it was doable to disclose to me the id of the illusive and mysterious “unknown superior”. “Sure, oh sure”, he replied, after which paused for a suspenseful second… “You see…let me put it this fashion, it was both the Prince of Wales or … an extra-terrestrial. I’ll go away it as much as you to resolve which one to imagine”.
That was not, in fact, a definitive and clear reply. Was it maybe one other intelligent riddle?
Paul Kindlon is Professor of Humanities – Moscow College Touro.