BY THE AUTHOR
AT THE MILITARY SCHOOL
by the International Office for Masonic Intercourse
by Büchler & Co
Freemasonry in Russia and Poland was once a fact.
In Russia and Poland as well as in Austria it was political opinions and
political currents of thought that dug its grave. The most zealous and the most
active of these grave-diggers were those who everywhere and at all times from
the first day of its existence to the present day have striven to kill
freemasonry, viz:- in Roman Catholic
countries the Clerical, in Russia the Orthodox Party. They were not very
particular about the means used in trying to suppress it, and many a Brother was
obliged on account of his love for the Brethren and his neighbours to give up
all his goods and chattels and suffer imprisonment or exile for many years. It
is true that their treatment at the hands of the Inquisition in Italy, Spain and
Portugal, was still worse and more cruel. But little by little a healthier state
became the lot of those afflicted countries, and today Freemasonry is again in a
flourishing condition there. In Russia, however, it still sleeps the sleep of
death--as is also the case in Austria.
In Russia, indeed, there has never been any question of its prospering,
or of its really attaining its full powers, as has been the case in other states
in spite of all the clerical attacks and acts of hostility. Russian Freemasonry
was always a very weak plant, which, apart from its not having had sufficient
time allowed it to flourish properly, possessed in itself but a little stamina
and power of resistance to defy the heavy storm when it came. Is it a wonder
then that it was uprooted by the first storm which swept over it?
It will, therefore, not always be a pleasant picture which will pass
before our eyes. Notwithstanding our sympathy which is assured by all the
disasters that burst over Russian Freemasonry from without, a want of moral
force, the need of a strong and inviolable bond between the individual, in a
word, a lack of true and genuine love of the Brethren stands out so prominently
that unfortunately a good portion of our sympathy is again lost.
Nevertheless, the picture we get of Russian Freemasonry reveals many a
bright and beautiful spot, and the cloud is again and again pierced by many a
ray of sunshine. Most of these rays of sunshine, however, are due to German
Freemasonry-which of course is a special source of pleasure to us Germans.
Russian Freemasonry is at the same time a picture of German
It was German Brethren who in Russia sowed the first seeds of fraternal
affection and of love to one’s neighbours, and who tried to introduce
enlightenment and instruction into the country which at that time was so
intellectually poor and so destitute of culture. So long as Freemasonry existed
in Russia, it was German Brethren that led the van in Russian Masonic life, and
many Lodges worked in the German language.
is not without reason that in what has just been said we have spoken almost
exclusively of Russian Freemasonry. “Why not also Polish Freemasonry!” one
involuntarily asks from the point of view of the present day. To this question
the simple answer might be given that the two had nothing to do with each other.
It is not only that scruples of a historical and political nature might be
adduced, the country of Poland in the form in which we know it today not having
definitely become a part of the Russian Empire until the year 1815, that is, a
few years before Freemasonry in Russia closed its Temples for ever, but there
are also scruples which have their origin in Freemasonry itself-the connection
between the Lodges of both countries appears, namely, to have been a very loose
one. But, on the other hand, it might be considered that, even though Poland did
not pass over into the full possession of the Russians until 1815, it had long
been a mere dependency of the Russian Empire-it is only necessary to think of
the mock king Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski-and further that the Freemasonry
of both countries, even though the single Lodges kept up hardly any intercourse
with one another , had much that was common to both; in particular there stands
out in each of them , especially at the time of their creation , an inclination
to follow and depend on German Freemasonry. A link in the chain would,
therefore, be missing, if no notice were to be taken here of the Freemasonry of
The present work is intended first of all for the Masonic Brethren,
especially for the German Brethren, who, if they penetrate a little deeper into
the history of their own Masonry, must needs after the above explanations take
up the study of Russian Masonry, and learn much that will be to the advantage of
their own Lodge, often enough too,
what must not be done. But the work is also further addressed to all those who
stand outside Freemasonry. The subject will be new to most readers, for is it
not true that in German Masonic reference books, which are to be found in every
larger national library, there exists about Russia and Poland but very short
notices, and these contain much that is incorrect, while in Russia and Poland
themselves one is not much better of in this respect. With the exception of a
few short articles in several reviews, only Pypine, who has also made himself a
name in the field of Slavonic literature, has treated Russian Freemasonry in
greater detail, but only in so far that he that he collected a great amount of
material for fixing dates. In this collection he promises, it is true, a
connected history of the development of Freemasonry, but unfortunately he was
carried off by death within a year of giving his promise.
This book only offers the principal features of the history Freemasonry
in Russia and Poland, thus corresponding to the “Library for Freemasons”
which is being published at the same time by the same firm. For anyone who
wishes to make a more thorough study of the subject I can recommend my more
detailed works. viz:--“The
History of Former Masonry in Russia-according to Materials supplied by the
“Landes-Loge” in Berlin, and the Libraries of St. Petersburg and Moscow. By
Dr. Friedrichs. Berlin 1904. (Ernest
Siegfried Mittler and Son).” “Freemasonry
in the Prussian Town of Warsaw-a Contribution to the History of the Grand
“Landes-Loge” of the Freemasons of Germany. Zirkel-Korrespondenz.
By Dr. Friedrichs. No.12.1905.
(E.S.Mittler and Son).”
To all intents and purposes, however, these lines are quite sufficient.
Possibly through them one or another outsider will not only feel an interesting
the Freemasonry of these two countries, but will also extend this interest to
the object and aim of Freemasonry in general. In this way the book will fulfil a
double purpose. Should anyone imagine that he is about to get an insight into
the “secrets” of Freemasonry, he will certainly be disappointed. Do what I
will there is nothing “to betray”.
Of real “secrets” I know nothing myself. We Freemasons have no
secrets; nor can we have any, for all our more important publications -in
fact, the whole of our “science” is
contained in every national library and can be consulted by everyone. I shall
again refer at the proper place to this point on which even among the best
educated persons the strangest ideas prevail.
Freemasonry in Russia.
The Earliest Beginnings of Freemasonry. Forerunners and Varieties of
Older Masonic Manuals make the statement, which is as false as it is
categorical, that Peter the Great was the first Freemason in Russia, and that
through him the first Lodge in the Empire was founded. They also supply further
details with embellishments, where and when and on what occasions he was won
over for Freemasonry. According to them he brought it with him from England,
that country to which the most ancient traces of Freemasonry point, and where
just at the time when Peter was studying there, through a new organisation
and through a transformation of working Masonry into spiritual Masonry
fresh life was being infused into the Lodges.
Who was it that won over Peter for the new covenant? It was of course the
man, who is considered by the English as the best qualified representative of
both working and spiritual Masonry, viz,
Sir Christopher Wren, the builder of the great palace at Winchester, of the
beautiful Pembroke College, Cambridge, and of that unsurpassed masterpiece, St.
Paul’s Cathedral in London. Peter’s solemn initiation was therefore,
consummated by this Sir Christopher Wren, but who entered with him at the same
time into the new brotherhood? They must and could only have been two persons,
his most intimate friends and at the same time his most eminent
counsellors-Lefort and Patrick Gordon. In Masonic circles the latter was
especially in favour, several Gordon’s having assumed leading parts in
Freemasonry.” What a marvellous thing the imagination is!” we exclaim
involuntarily. How well it understands the much out of nothing! It makes one
feel very sorry to be obliged to approach these beautiful magic images somewhat
closely and to ask its ingenious conjurors: - “Whence come all this
Knowledge?” No answer follows, nor can any answer follow, because not a tittle
of all this is true. Nowhere, whether in Russia or elsewhere, is the slightest
proof of such an assertion to be found.
The enquiry as to why such great efforts have been used to make Peter
occupy this position is not difficult to answer. With the view of making a
European civilised state out of his kingdom that was becoming petrified in
Asiatic barbarity, Peter had recognised his first task to be the education and
instruction of his people. But did not these two words “education” and
“instruction” stand on the banners of Freemasonry? If it was possible to
claim him for the alliance, it would have been an honour for him and at the same
time for the Lodge. As so often in life, so also in this case, the wish was
simply the father of the thought.
Other names of those times which are often mentioned with predilection,
may likewise be disregarded, e.g.
that of James Keith the well-known Scotchman in political history, and that not
only in Russia where he won rich laurels by his warlike exploits, but also in
this country where as a Prussian field-marshal he enjoyed the same sterling
renown as a military commander. James Keith was a Freemason, it is true, but he
belonged not to a Russian, but to an English lodge, and just as he was a member
of an English Lodge, there were also of course many Freemasons living in Russia
who were members of a Lodge either in England or Italy or France; but no Russian
Lodge was in existence.
Among Peter’s successor’s we find no trace of Freemasonry either. Was
it even conceivable? In Peter’s case it was possible, for was not, as we have
said, his principal endeavour to ingraft civilization-western
civilization-on his country; of his successor’s of whom, on account of their
short reigns, Peter’s consort Catherine Alexievna, his grandson Peter
Alexeievitch and later Ivan Antonovitch, must be eliminated, and of whom,
therefore, only the two women Anna Ivanovna and Elizabeth Petrovna come under
consideration, this cannot be said, however willingly we might we might be to do
so. Anna Ivanovna only loved-but not education and culture, and Elizabeth
Petrovna , even when her amours now
and then left her time for ruling, took no interest whatever in Freemasonry, not
even in her leisure hours. But Freemasonry, needs for its development and
prosperity the support of the powers that be, just as it desires itself to be in
its turn a support of those powers.
In consequence of the ever increasing communication with Western Europe
Freemasons naturally went to Russia in greater and greater numbers;
nevertheless, they did not succeed until later-under Catherine-in making
themselves independent i.e. in
That in the meantime the ground was being prepared for them is shown by
other circumstances. Systems, which had humanitarianism in common with
Freemasonry, were well received in Russia; they desired, as also did the latter,
to work for and build up the spiritual welfare of mankind, but that they did
become absorbed in this one unique
aim of Freemasonry, the moral thought. They pursued at the same time other
purposes which were right worldly, as, for instance, when some of them wanted to
find the philosopher’s stone.
Among these the most prominent on account of the great numbers of their
Followers were the Strict Observance
and the Rosicrucians. Who were the Strict
Observance and the Rosicrucian’s?
The Strict Observance has its name from the implicit Obedience the
members were obliged to vow to their superiors in the order. When and in what
way they made their entrance into Russia it
is hardly possible to decide; perhaps from France, its native country, where the
sprang into being about the middle of the 18th century as the
continuation of the Order of the Knights-Templars which had been destroyed 400
years previously. It formed adherents not only in Russia, but also in Germany
and in Italy, who were probably attracted to it principally by the pomp and
luxury which were displayed by the Order. For instance, about the year 1774, in
other words, just at the same time when Freemasonry was making its first feeble
attempts to gain a footing in Russia, the whole of Courland was in the hands of
the Strict Observance.
As the head of the Strict Observance we must, perhaps, consider another
system, which was likewise very widely spread, viz
the Clericatus, so called because
at its head there was an ecclesiastic, one who was actually in holy orders.
Accordingly its adherents laid most stress on the spiritual element in the Order
and did wonders in praying and fasting. Moreover, they also seem to have
searched for the philosopher’s stone.
This, however, was most thoroughly done by the Rosicrucians.
Where they took their origin is not quite clear; not even their name is clear.
Are we to think of that John Valentine Andreä who at the time of the Thirty
Years’ War founded a society “for the improvement of the Church and for the
founding of the lasting welfare of states and individuals” and in his
publications with an illusion to his name made use of a St. Andrew’s Cross
with four roses, or of the German nobleman Christian Rosenkreuz who is mentioned
by Andreä in his writings and who was initiated in the East by wise Hindoos
into the secrets of the elixir of life and of the philosopher’s stone? No one
knows, and probably no one ever will know. But it is clear that in Russia as
well as in Germany the Rose Cross Order had many adherents.
Whatever judgement may be formed about the Strict Observance and the
Rosicrucians, however justified may be the heavy charges that have been brought
against them, charges which originated to a great extent among Freemasons, and
among which expressions such as “obscurants” and sordid “swindle
societies” are almost mild, this at all events is irrefutably certain that
among the Russian adherents are men who are far above such suspicions. Their
work on behalf of the general public and their self-sacrificing love for their
fellow-men shines in so bright a light that no calumniating can throw a shadow
upon their characters, and indeed, is only on account of these men that the
systems have been mentioned at all. These men were above all the two
Rosicrucians Schwarz and Novikoff.
John Eugene Schwarz
is commonly regarded as the father of Russian Freemasonry. From the Masonic
point of view this is not correct, for as we have said, he was a Rosicrucian and
not Freemason. How then did he obtain this decorative surname? A public that
judges impartially and that
understands how to estimate the
value of a public man will give its judgement not according to whether such a
one belongs to any particular party or system to which he has been sworn in, but
will consider simply and solely his actions. Right thinking people in Russia and
also all those who in any way came into contact with Schwarz could not but be
completely indifferent as to whether he was a Freemason or a Rosicrucian, or
whether he belonged to the Strict Observance or again to one of the very
numerous smaller systems, of which we will speak later.
Now who was Schwarz, and what did he accomplish? Petroff writes about him
as follows in his “History of Russian Literature:”- “Russian Masonry
trained many enlightened and noble men who proved themselves in the highest
degree to be useful collaborators in the various branches of the Russian
administration; it declared war against the philosophy of the Encyclopadists and
of that corruption of morals which this philosophy had provoked in Russian
society. At the time of the mighty spreading and the prosperous position of
Masonry in Russia Schwarz was at its head. At first he taught German and later
Philosophy at the University of Moscow. In doing so he imbued the young students
above all with the thought that knowledge has no meaning if it leads to atheism
and immorality. All his lectures were directed against the scepticism and the
materialism of the Encyclopadists. In order to infuse into the young people a
real love of knowledge, he founded learned societies, which helped him in his
endeavour to spread scientific enlightenment. He won the great sympathy and the
profound gratefulness of both the higher and the lower classes in Moscow. The
foundation of schools, the publication of manuals and books of a moral and
religious tendency, the opening of printing offices and bookshops, the training
of teachers, the sending of them abroad with the view of completing their
education, the founding of hospitals and chemists shops-these are the
characteristics “of Schwarz’s enlightened activity and of the blessings it
Thus we read, as already stated, in Petroff’s “History of Russian
Literature,” a manual of moderate size, in which, as in other histories of
Russian literature, whole sections are devoted to Russian Freemasonry. Where,
then, do we find in our histories of German literature anything about German
Freemasonry? We may ask not altogether without reason. While Freemasonry in all
other countries has become public property, and public opinion has had to
consider it, it seems as though German freemasonry wishes ever to be the violet
that flowers in secret. Is it right that it should be so? Is it not strange, and
is it not at the same time a pity that, outside the narrow circle of the
Brethren no one really knows that just the greatest among the
“intellectuals” of Germany were Freemasons? Who knows Lessing, Wieland or
Goethe as Freemasons? Who knows what they found in Freemasonry, and what they
did for Freemasonry? It is but very recently that endeavours seem to have been
made, which forsake this course of “secrecy” and are anxious to do something
for the common good. It has always been otherwise in every other country, even
in Russia, and it was held in high esteem that Freemasonry had left its mark on
The course which had been commenced by Schwarz was continued by Nicolai
Ivanovitch Novikoff. Although he belonged to a St. Petersburg Masonic Lodge
from 1777 to 1779, yet he returned to the Rosicrucians after his removal to
Moscow. What his reasons were is not evident, though they were scarcely either
aversion or animosity. These contrasts between single systems were not so
prominent in Russia in those days, for there were frequently enough who at one
and the same time belonged to several systems.
An ardent friend of the people and an enthusiastic patriot, Novikoff
staked his all for the moral betterment of the Russian people. Even the
non-Masonic press looks back upon this man with pride. He was the founder of the
first Russian periodical, the “Utrenni Swet,” and the “Moscow Gazette”
was very successful under his editorship. As in these papers, so, too, by means
of smaller publications and books he worked indefatigably and undauntedly for
the enlightenment and thereby the moral betterment of the people. As a practical
man he created a considerable amount of national schools. In addition to this he
opened printing-offices in which he had manuals for his schools printed and at
the same time also other books with a tendency to religious morals and
enlightenment, which were then sold for a few kopeks, or else given away.
Further, he built hospitals. As, however, only a very small fraction of the
population could profit by them, he set up chemist’s shops which dispensed
their medicines gratis to the needy. Charitable societies were created by him in
several quarters of the City of Moscow, and he also started that great society
which made it its duty to supply with bread and victuals over wide districts the
people who were starving in consequence of the failing of the crops. A calamity
which so frequently occurs in Russia. This is something which no private
individual before or since has managed to do. The speech which Novikoff held at
the opening of the latter institution must have been so exceedingly convincing
and inspiring, for did not a rich Moscow merchant immediately afterwards make
him a present of his fortune of several millions of roubles?
Surely nothing more need be said in recommendation of Novikoff. Should
then-to recur to the thought already touched upon above that all the
Rosicrucians were only “obscurants” and “sordid swindle
societies,”-Schwarz and Novikoff have been the only “white crows” among
them? Does not after all stream from these two, whose whole surroundings it is
impossible to think were solely a bad set, on to the rest-of course I am here
only speaking of Russian
Rosicrucians-a little brightness which causes them to shine in a less
This is Novikoff in so far as he appeared before the public. If, now, in
the case of a man who knew how to do such much good in such a perfect manner, it
is a matter of course that his mind was like a precious stone, yet it is
interesting to see from fragments of his own writings, how he believed it was
still necessary to work out his own education. In the Rumjanzoff Museum at
Moscow their are several reports by Novikoff, so called “Confessions,” which
the Rosicrucians had to send into their superiors in the order (according to
Pypin):--“Sincerely and with a pure heart I confess that I have not grasped
the meaning of the beautiful columns on which the holy Order rests, viz.
the love of God and of one’s neighbour, or rather I have understood it
wrongly by thinking that man of himself was capable of loving God and his
neighbour. Indeed, I was blinded to such an extent, that I imagined I fulfilled
the commandment of their meaning; but now I thank my redeemer with tears, that
He has permitted me to become conscious of my blindness and to recognise it. He
has made me comprehend and feel that love, even the blissful sensation of poor
sinners, is the gift of God, which He gives to his saints to taste of, and to
enjoy. There are moments in which they feel love for their neighbours, and
cherish the strong and most blissful confidence that they also love God. But
these moments are transitory. Daily when I rise and when I lay me down to sleep,
unworthy though I am, I pray to the Father of the Universe in the name of His
Son, Our Redeemer, that He will awaken me this sweetest of sensations, and I
will thank my merciful Redeemer for having not unfrequently granted me in His
mercy to cherish the ardent desire to love God and my neighbour; and this holy
and divine truth He sealed by the sacrifice of His soul for those that He
loved-for all sinners. And yet what a stranger I still am to his love! Often,
only too often, I have no desire, for the sake of one of my friends, to rise
early or go to bed late, or in bad weather to go and errand. My pride and my
blind self-will often will not allow such sweet sensations to rise within me. I
am convinced that the pure, unblemished prayers of our wise and sympathizing
forefathers, and of our highly esteemed superiors are efficacious to us, and
that they direct the grace and blessing of the Almighty down upon our native
country….. As regards the unfolding of love in my heart, and the uprooting of
all that is uncouth in it, and as regards the meeting of
everyone half way in a friendly manner, I avow openly and sincerely that
to this end I use all the strength that becomes mine through the mercy of his
Redeemer; nevertheless, I feel that even now I often make mistakes in my
judgement of rudeness and friendliness; but thanks to my merciful Redeemer, I
also at once feel those mistakes, am sorry for them, suffer in my heart on
account of them, and beg and implore His Grace that it may confirm me in my
sincere and true desire to be friendly towards every one and to fall out with no
one, and in my endeavours to let everyone to depart from me contented.”
We must not leave Novikoff just yet. It is credible that this man whose
whole life had been nothing but the purest love of his fellows and sacrifice for
the welfare of humanity, very soon found himself within the walls of Schlüsselburg,
where he languished for nearly five long anxious years, and where poison and
daggers were to be seen alongside powder and the hangman’s rope.
the literary historian, who has already been referred to, writes on this subject
as follows:- “The secret character of the Masonic society to which Novikoff
belonged, its secret rites, its enormous wealth in material possessions, and its
wide spread charities aroused the discontentedness of outsiders and his
companions. With them even many well educated persons became discontented,
because the Masons, in their endeavours to penetrate all the secrets of nature,
would not study Nature per se by
means of scientific experiments; they declined to accept the results obtained by
the natural sciences, and believed in various so-called secret sciences, e.
magic, and the Cabbala. Although the philanthropic activity of the Masons should
have attracted the sympathy of the Church, the latter was dissatisfied with them
on account of their arbitrary interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and on
account of their mingling pure Christian teaching with ancient heathenism and
Modern Judaism. Novikoff had also taken the field in earnest against the Jesuits
who just at that time enjoyed to the full the protection and sympathy of the
empress” To this may be added a few supplementary remarks which are given by
Fisher, the publisher of the Eleusinian, in his work entitled, “Masonry in the
Orient of Russia during the Reign of Catherine II.” “When this establishment
(one of Novikoff’s printing-offices as above mentioned) he says, was as yet
scarcely half-finished, it was unexpectedly destroyed along with its founders.
It is well known that from the earliest times a strong antipathy has prevailed
between the rich Moscovite nobles who are fond of living in independence, and
the court nobles of St. Petersburg; the sovereigns have also found it to be more
politic to attract the Moscovite magnates to their persons, and weaken and leave
desolate the ancient capital of the empire. This alliance of well-to-do men
could not fail to create a sensation at court. In particular its members were
suspected of being Freemasons, and before long a considerable number of heavy
charges were brought against them. It was declared that they promoted an
enlightenment which was contrary to all the principles of monarchical states;
that they endeavoured to secure the favour of the people by the distribution of
victuals and medicines, and that they had an arsenal hidden away in their
cellars for the equipment of an army. And now the die was cast. The prefect of
police received orders to set a watch all round the institute, to seal
everything, and to search for arms. He found neither cannon, nor a large
provision of gunpowder, but a considerable number of rifles and pistols, not
hidden away, but quite conspicuous in the houses of several rich officials who
were at the same time enthusiastic sportsmen.” The consequence was that
Novikoff was arrested at the beginning of 1792 and only released from the Schlüssenburg
after the death of Catherine by a rescript of Paul I on the 6th of
November 1796---a dark page in the political history of Russia, a glorious page
for the Freemasons of Russia!
Besides the Rosicrucians and the Strict Observance there was in Russia
quite a number of other systems,
which, however, never disposed of a large membership; consequently they need not
delay us long. To these belonged the so-called “Illumanati”
who were imported from South Germany, and who with their “enlightenment” are
said at the beginning to have inspired even Goethe and Herder with enthusiasm,
but before long were prohibited in all countries as being a danger to the state.
Further, we may mention the so-called Melissino
System- so named after the Russian Lieutenant General Melissinno; - it was
exceedingly rich in prayers and vows. The Avignon
Society of New Israel also claims
our notice; the members were at the same time alchemists, conjurors of spirits,
All these systems found adherents in the larger towns; we know there were
Lodges at St Petersburg, Moscow, Riga-here Herder was a member of the Lodge
“To the Sword” which belonged to the Strict Observance-and Archangel.
Freemasonry under Catherine II
Elizabeth Petrovna was succeeded, after the short-lived reign of Peter
III, by the latter’s consort, Catherine, whose influence was soon to make
itself felt. If we read the pamphlets and books about Catherine which have come
to us just lately from England and Switzerland, we are inclined to think that
the whole of her life’s work was nothing but a moral failure, and that she was
completely absorbed in the profession of a Phryne. After all, it is very strange
that just those persons whom people are beginning to feel as a scourge even in
London, and in Zurich and Geneva, because they not only preach free love in
theory, but also carry out their theory in practice, -- it is strange, we say,
that just these persons that reproach Catherine with their own principal maxims!
Were it not an empress, but a lady of the student proletariat, they would admit
that she had the right “to sew her wild oats.” Moreover, it must not be
forgotten that at that time morals were not at a specially high premium in any
country, nor in any society whether high or low.
Whatever may be thought of Catherine’s ideas about morals, or of the
cultivation of her affections, - we may, indeed, condemn both severely - there
can be no doubt as to her statesmanship and the cultivation of her mind.
At that period education found its home in France, being personified by
such men as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, d’Alembert, and Grimm.
It was no wonder that Catherine was a most enthusiastic reader of their
works! But her sharp intellect at
once recognized the impossibility of putting into practice for her people the
ideas which she drew from these works. Materialism,
atheism, and the democratic revolutionary tendencies which the philosophy of
those men proclaims, could only be fatal, if applied to a people that was so
little matured as the Russians were. In
its education she needed more reliable supports, and these offered themselves
just at the time when she was looking out for them: they were the Freemasons.
The Freemasons, who had just begun to settle in Russia, set themselves in
their Lodges dead against the philosophy of the French which preached
godlessness and immorality, and for which they substituted pure faith in God
without any narrowing dogmas. Further,
although their chief aim was to throw a bond of brotherly love round the whole
earth, they required above all from their followers the most sincere and most
faithful recognition of the supremacy of the state.
Did not such support come to Catherine most opportunely? And did not
these very men individually pursue the objects she had set herself to attain?
The fostering of the arts and sciences, the improvement of health, and the
education of the people-this was Catherine’s programme and these were the
ideals of the Freemasons. Must not the latter, therefore, have been extremely
sympathetic to her? She thus gladly reached out to them the hand which they
sought.-If later times brought about many-very many-changes, there it is
that we must seek on whose side the fault was.
The public in general, here in Germany, as everyone knows, is very much
inclined to underestimate the work and the achievements of the freemasons. The
reason for this is to be sought for in their self-chosen exclusiveness, and
their extreme sensitivity to any contact with the outer world. This thought
might make it seem as though in the above explanations we had exaggerated the
value of Russian freemasonry, being looked at only from the Masonic point of
view. Let us, therefore, quote the criticism of an objective judge, that of
Petroff, the literary historian who has already been frequently referred to. His
opinion is objective, because he was so far removed from Freemasonry, that he
did not even know it by hearsay; it is, therefore, only possible that he
obtained his results by scientific experiments. In his history of Russian
literature he says: -- “The catch-words by which we may characterize the
tendency which was followed by the sciences in general and literature in
particular (under Catherine II) are: -- the philosophy of the French, the
raising of the national conscience, the introduction of new literary currents of
thought, and the spread of Freemasonry,
which, to a certain degree, was to serve as a counterbalance for French
1.The Grand “Landes-Loge” in Berlin and the Grand Lodge in London.
When did the earliest Masonic
Lodge first see the light in Russia? The merit of having introduced
Freemasonry into Russia belongs, as has already been mentioned, to a German.
Together with a few Germans who had been taken to St. Petersburg by their office
or their business, Bro. Von Reichell who
had been appointed head of the scientific section National Military School for
the sons of nobles, and who before his appointment had belonged in Berlin to the
Lodge “To the Three Golden Keys” which worked according to the system of the
Grand “Landes-Loge” founded according to the same system the Lodge “Apollo”
on the 27th of March 1771. It was comprised of only 14 members,
10 of whom were Germans. Of the remainder 3 were from Alsace-Lorraine, and only
one was a Russian: the “général de Narischkin, écuyer de Sa Majesté
l’impératrice de Russie,” as he registered his name in the lists. No lucky
star hovered over Reichell’s first creation; it had itself committed a serious
error by wishing in spite of the very small number of its members to build its
own Lodge, in consequence of which financial difficulties at once arose.
Further, its existence was also rendered bitter from another quarter.
In June of the same year a Lodge was also founded at St. Petersburg under
the patronage of England. This Lodge-“To Perfect Concord”-as well as the
Mother-Lodge to which it was subjected-the Grand Lodge in London-not only
did not recognise the one which had been founded by the Germans, but declared it
to be illegal, and thus cut off all possibility of life.
This is not intelligible to an outsider without further explanation. He
will ask if it is a fraternity for one Lodge-in this case an English one-to
enter the lists against another-a German one - and even to aim at its very
existence. To such a question, which is a reasonable one, we can only reply that
among brothers of one family many things occur which are not very pleasing. The
struggle which now took place is also remarkable from another point of view,
whereby we receive an illustration of what has often happened in the political
history of England and Germany: The Englishman with arms akimbo, without regard
for those about him making straight for his goal and of course attaining it; the
German constantly hesitating and politely looking about him lest he should give
the slightest offence, and, for all that, arriving too late.
The London Grand Lodge had in the meantime sent the Berlin
“Landes-Loge” which had handed over the documents of its constitution and
its rituals to the Lodge “Apollo,” and thereby entered into the relationship
of a Mother-Lodge exercising its protection, the categorical declaration “that
the London Grand lodge had the exclusive right of constituting other Lodges in
the whole world.” And before doing so it had already appointed Elagin-a
Privy Councillor, Senator, and Member of the Imperial Cabinet-to be the
“Grand Master of and for all the Russians.” This, of course, made a
disagreeable impression in Berlin, and as a matter of fact the situation was
such that it was a question of bending or breaking. As they could not make up
their minds to the latter, they had recourse to putting off the consequences, by
shifting their position, and offering polite objections, whereby, of course,
they lost everything. The apprehensions which were entertained in Berlin were,
it is true, not altogether without foundation. If opposition was offered to
England on account to a gain in Russia which was still uncertain, it might
through the foundation of English Lodges on German territory endanger the
acquisitions of Masonry which was still in its infancy there. That was and still
is a weakness on the part of us Germans, that we like to look on, and admire
what is foreign, and to adopt from it what perhaps we ourselves have in a better
form. Accordingly it might have been easily possible, in such a struggle, for
the English to have obtained a footing in Germany and for English Lodges to have
flourished at the expense of the German ones. But, on the other hand, a
compensating justice has always taken care that when we have been on our knees
for some time before the foreigner, German thought and German national feeling
have awoke again with elementary power, and driven everything foreign before
them. The leaders of the Berlin Lodge did not realise this; they looked upon it,
indeed, as a gain when the Grand Lodge in London declared that it did not intend
to found any Lodges within the German Empire, if the full right was allowed it
to do so in Russia. The meaning of this was that with us nothing was won, and in
Russia everything was lost.
This then was the result which had been arrived at by the diplomatists of
the Berlin and London Lodges; in all their deliberations one thing they had
forgotten-something which, however, lay on the surface, namely, to make an
exact examination of what those most concerned -the Russians-intended to do
in the matter. In the meantime the strangest of circumstances came to light.
The Lodge “Apollo” had, indeed, for the above mentioned reasons very
soon suspended its work. On the other hand, however, Reichell opened a new Lodge
in St. Petersburg as early as May 1773. This was the Lodge “Harpocrates” of
which Prince Nicolai Trubezkoi became the head.
by this success Reichell rested not from his labours, which were also crowned
with success. What a genius of work this man was, and what a power for work he
possessed, may be seen by any one who knows the difficulties incurred in such
creations, in the fact that in the same year 1773 beside the Lodge
“Harpocrates” above mentioned he created at St. Petersburg the Lodges
“Horus”, “Latona”, and “Nemesis”. Further, the Lodge “Apollo”
which had been closed a year before, was solemnly re-opened, but under entirely
different financial conditions. In addition to this a Lodge “Apollo” was
founded at Riga, and the Lodge “Isis” at Revel.
During this time the English did not remain inactive. In the year 1774
they opened at St. Petersburg the Lodge “To the Nine Muses;” further the
Lodge “Urania” and the Lodge “Bellona;” at Moscow the Lodge “Clio”
of which “Catherine is said to have
been the patroness; and at Jassy in Moldavia the Field Lodge “Mars,” i.e.
a Lodge the members of which were exclusively soldiers serving in the field;
this last worked there during the Turco-Russian War.
Then there were the forces of the opposing parties. Reichell’s Lodges
in no way acknowledged by the English, and not only abandoned by Berlin, but
already surrendered to the English; and the English Lodges staying on their
bond. Then it was that Reichell showed not only an immense capacity for work,
but also a firm will and above all a heart for his own and the German cause. Was
all for which he had staked the best of his years to be blotted out by that one
stroke of the pen from London? Was the stately number of Brethren who after
mature reflection and with faithful conviction had joined the system of the
Grand “Landes-Loge” at Berlin, i.e.
the Swedish System, to discard it all at once with a light heart, and to pass
over with flying colours to the opposing-the English-System? Supported by his
friend, the above named Prince Nicolai Trubezkoi, with whom he had founded the
so-called Princes’ Lodge “Osiris” -a Princes’ Lodge, because the
majority of the members were princes-he entered into correspondence with Elagin,
and these negotiations which only lasted a short time, must have been carried on
in an exceedingly clever and convincing manner by Reichell, for it is incredible
what he accomplished. On the 1st
of September 1776 Elagin abandoned the English System and accepted the Swedish
System of Berlin, and that with the whole of his Lodges.
In this affair Reichell had found a strong support in Count Panin, one of
Catherine’s ministers who stood high in her favour, and who as ambassador in
Sweden had become very much attached to the Swedish System. Further, we also
know from political history that Panin was always one of the principal
supporters of Prussia in the Russian Cabinet. Was not this assistance given from
the first? And did not perhaps Catherine herself intervene with that end in
view? Catherine did not like the English; her self-glorifying nature felt itself
injured by British supremacy on the Sea. On the other hand her views often
coincided with those of the Prussian king, and she frequently followed his
advice. But of the latter she knew that in him Masonry had not only a friend,
but also an active member, for not long before, on the 16th July
1774, he had even accepted the patronage of the Grand “Landes-Loge” in
Berlin. Is it not very probable that, in the deliberations and negotiations on
this subject, about which she was kept well informed even to the smallest
details, she placed all her influence on the side of Prussia? And Elagin! Well,
he was a courtier, and as such was at the beck and call of his Sovereign; he was
not a man of one single purpose, but, as will soon be seen more clearly, one of
the many whose motto is “I am not particular.”
Swedo-Berlin System in Russia.
union of the whole of the Lodges under one
head produced at first really fine and healthy fruit.
The list of Lodges in 1777 contains the names of 18 Lodges working under
the constitution of the Provincial Lodge
of St Petersburg according to the Swedo-Berlin
System, among which were 10 at St Petersburg alone, 3 at Moscow, 1 at Revel,
1 at Archangel, 1at Polots in the Government of Witebsk, 1 field Lodge at
Kagodury in Moldavia (perhaps the one at Jassy above referred to, of which
nothing more is known). Members, as well as the highest officials, among whom,
besides Elagin, the above mentioned minister, Count Panin, and Prince Gabriel
Gagarin, together with Major General Melissino, Knight, who, as soon as Masonic
Lodges had been established, had given up his own system which was an imitation
of the Strict Observance, all worked with ardour and devotedness at the task
which now fell to their lot, and the single Lodges as well as the Grand
Provincial Lodge showed signs of power and prosperity. Above all they considered
it to be their duty to appear before the world as the backbone of the nation,
and, therefore, kept everyone most carefully at a distance, whose course of life
and position did not bear looking at with a magnifying glass.
Nevertheless, their glory lasted a decade, for the Provincial Lodge which
had been founded according to the Swedo-Berlin System on the 1st of
September 1776 had already disappeared again in the year 1785, never to be seen
again. How did this happen?
However much Reichell’s action speaks for his warm German heart, no
light was thrown onto the matter itself. The English supremacy had been cast
aside, but how did they expect to continue their course? What happened, for
instance, when it was desired to constitute a new Lodge? Berlin had surrendered
its right once for all. These were in the hands of England. As this became
evident soon enough, they consoled themselves with the thought that even if the
constitution had to be sent for from that country, yet the work could be done
according to the Swedo-Berlin System. Such a state of things was simply absurd,
and this alone had been sufficient to destroy the whole edifice like a pack of
cards. But other causes were also added.
It is nothing new that just those children, whom we love best, turn out
least successfully. This was the case with the three Lodges, the Lodge
“Apollo” at St Petersburg, the Lodge “Apollo” at Riga, and the Lodge
“Osiris” at Moscow.
The Lodge “Apollo” at St Petersburg, as will be remembered, was the
first Lodge to see the light in Russia. With great sacrifices of time and money
Reichell had succeeded in calling it into existence. In consideration of the
task which from the first fell to its lot through this favoured position, it
ought to have risked everything in order to become, under his leadership, a real
pioneer of civilization and of brotherly philanthropy. But, as we have seen, it
had failed after little more than a twelve month. Once again put onto its feet
by him, it offered on Sept. 1st 1776 which may be called Reichell’s
fête day, for on that day he had at
last seen all his devotion and self-sacrifice rewarded by the union of all the
Lodges under the Swedo-Berlin System-the grievous and disgraceful spectacle of
being conspicuous by its absence at the meeting, thereby proclaiming that it
excluded itself entirely from union. But it was not enough that it wilfully
stood aside as it were in a sulk; very soon it became a traitor of the cause
which it should have represented and upheld.
Whose fault was it? Simply and solely that of the Master of the Chair.
And who was that? Von Rosenberg, the “aventurier”
as some of the documents of the time called him. Von Rosenberg had fought with
distinction against the French under the command of Count Luckner during the
Seven Years’ War; but later he had gone over to the enemy. While on service he
had been ordered to Paris and Metz, where he had been promoted to the Higher
Grades of French Freemasonry. His instability led him back to Germany, where he
founded a Lodge at Hamburg. He then travelled on as far as St Petersburg, where
by reason of his Masonic activity at Hamburg and the Higher Grades he had
acquired in France, he soon played an important part in the Lodge “Apollo.”
Many gifts seem to have qualified him for this leading part. A contemporary
wrote of him as follows: -- “….he had a great knowledge of all externals in
Freemasonry, and, generally, was a man of various abilities. He spoke German,
Italian, and French and understood Greek, Latin, and English; he drew well and
had a considerable talent for music. In his intercourse he was very cunning.
There is no doubt that he could be very prepossessing when he liked, and he was
also endowed with a certain urbanity which suited him very well.” This is
about right. In any case, it is a fact that the members of the Lodge
“Apollo” at St Petersburg swore by their Master, and completely abandoned
Reichell, the founder of their Lodge, and not only their founder, but the whole
Rosenberg was acquainted with Prince Kurakin, the Russian ambassador at
Stockholm, the latter had become a Freemason there, and took such an interest in
the Order to which he belonged, viz.
the Swedish System, that he was anxious to introduce it in his native country.
Rosenberg was willing, and when they both succeeded in persuading King Gustavus
III of Sweden during his visit at St Petersburg to appear as a guest in the
Lodge “Apollo”, and, when, into the bargain, the King’s brother, the Duke
of Södermanland-later King Charles III-declared himself willing to accept
the patronage of the Lodge, Rosenberg had won over all the members for his plan,
and the Lodge “Apollo”-and with it several other like-minded
ones-abandoned the Swedo-Berlin System, and passed over to the purely Swedish
System on the 25th of May 1779. The latter Lodges were those which
had come into existence a year before, viz:
the Lodge “To Benevolence”, the Lodge “Phoenix”, and the Lodge “To St.
Alexander,” all three at St Petersburg, the Lodge “Neptune” at Cronstadt
and the Lodge “ To the Three Battle Hammers” at Revel.
The Lodge “Apollo” at Riga
had not joined the union, though for quite different reasons. We should like to
call its motives pure ones, but from the point of view of tactics they were
wrong, because they led to isolation and therewith to exhaustion.
The Lodge “Apollo” at Riga had always displayed the most faithful
devotion for the Mother-Lodge, the Grand “Landes-Loge” in Berlin. At first
this was not made easy for it, seeing its foundation took place during the time
of the tension between Berlin and London, and the Mother- Lodge with its weak
attitude was truly anything but an attractive model. But the thought that for
their native country German civilization was more profitable and more necessary
than English, strengthened its members in its determination, and helped them to
hold out in spite of all the unfavourable circumstances. Belonging originally to
a German country, they believed that their principle duty was to render German
civilization to what had previously been German territory, and they thought that
this could be done all the more assiduously by limiting themselves to a smaller
circle. Their aspiration was thus to make propaganda in Lifland, Courland, and
Esthonia, and in case of success to constitute a special provincial Grand Lodge.
As a matter of fact success was not wanting. The Lodge “Apollo” was soon so
strong that it was able to proceed to the foundation of a second Lodge at Riga,
the Lodge “Castor”, and at the same time it opened the Lodge “Pollux” at
Dorpat. It was now possible to set to work to carry out their favourite idea,
when all at once it was clear that they were on the wrong track. They did not
wish to have the constitution of their Provincial Grand Lodge from England, and
they could not get it from Berlin. What was then the result? The three Lodges
stood alone. Yet, how necessary union was, became evident soon enough.
physiognomy of the Lodge “Apollo” had considerably changed in the course of
a few years in consequence of its rapid increase. A number of members had joined
it, who were in no way satisfied with the administration of Bœtefeur, the
founder and leader, and they were probably right, for it appears as if in
consequence of old age and ill health Bœtefeur had become very self-willed and
disputatious, and wanted to make the Lodge a ‘Refuge.’
The discontented members gathered round the person of Baron von
Ungern-Sternberg, the second Master of the Chair, soon forming the majority, and
the above censured mistake was now revenged. How easy it would have been to find
a way of getting out of the difficulty by mediation and by conciliation, had
they been in touch with the rest of the Lodges! Instead of being able to apply
to a Lodge in the neighbourhood, which was under the same patronage, and in
which alone the circumstances of the case would have been understood and
suitable help afforded, they had to apply to Berlin, and in doing so the first
thing they did was to commit an error. The answer was not, as it should have
been, that at such a great distance it was impossible to comprehend the details
of the case, but, with a reference to the very great merits of Bœtefeur in
founding the Lodge the decisive reply was sent that he was in the right. Such a
precipitate judgement naturally raised the ire of the rejected majority.
This mistake in Berlin was succeeded by another. At Riga, beside the two
Lodges “Apollo” and “Castor”, were two others of more ancient date,
which originally belonged to the Strict Observance, but which after separating
themselves from the latter became independent. Among these four Lodges an
exceedingly lively and friendly intercourse had been developed in the course of
time. That, moreover, the Lodges of the Strict Observance were not on the wrong
track is evident from the fact that one of them, the Lodge “To the Sword”,
supported a free school at its sole expense for poor orphan children. Formally
they were perfectly right in Berlin when they forbade the affiliated Lodges all
intercourse with the above mentioned Lodges, which from a Masonic point of view
were not at all considered legitimate. But when the Brethren at Riga write again
and again to say how much they value the intercourse with these highly esteemed
and dearly beloved Brethren, when they beg them not to destroy this friendship
which is offered, if for no other reason, yet on account of outward communal
circumstances, a way out of the difficulty ought to have been found in the
interest of all. Berlin ought not to have been satisfied with the mere reference
to a paragraph of the law. Riga was, of course, guilty as well; here again had
to pay for their short-sightedness which has been proved above. Had they not
taken up such an isolated position, the other Lodges would have intervened as
“Whom the gods wish to punish, they smite with blindness”, one is
really inclined to exclaim at the third decision which came from Berlin. Quite a
number of members, who had previously belonged to the Strict Observance, had
joined the Riga Lodges “Apollo” and “Castor”. The Strict Observance
worked in the so-called Higher Grades. i.e.
Grades which are above the usual division into Apprentice, Journeyman, and
Master Grades. That such an edifice, under certain circumstances, up to the 33
Grade, as was the case with the Rosicrucians, became a vain toy, is clear. The
members who passed over from the Strict Observance--and with them many others--
would certainly have been satisfied with the three Grades, had not the Grand
“Landes-Loge” also had a few more Grades. The Riga Lodges, however, were
obstinately excluded. But he who knows how much stress the Russians lay on
externals, understands that this request of the Riga Brethren for the granting
of Higher Grades recurs again and again, and, he who hears that the reason given
for the refusal was that the Grand “Landes-Loge” could not think of it until
the Lodge “Apollo” had concluded peace with Bœtefeur, its Master, is not
surprised that “on the 12th
of December 1785 the Lodges “Apollo”, “Castor”, and “Pollux”
renounced the protection hitherto enjoyed of the Venerable “Landes-Loge” of
Germany at Berlin, and submitted themselves to the Venerable Provincial Lodge of
the Russian Empire, of the English System, of which the Venerable Bro. Elagin
was the Provincial Grand Master.”
He had seen the ship sinking-why should there not for once be a captain
who thought first of all of his own precious life? He had returned to the
English System long before. The only thing that could have stiffened the back of
this pliant man would have been simply and solely the strong hand of his
sovereign, but she no longer took any interest in Freemasonry. Where then was he
to find any power? We can answer for it with our conscience when we herewith
take leave of the man Elagin; his name
must be mentioned again, and Catherine’s change must, of course, likewise be
Another Lodge, the Lodge
“Osiris” at Moscow, had, as mentioned above, assumed a special attitude
to the union. Many have been inclined to the view that this “Princes’
Lodge”, as it was usually styled for short, would not “have anything in
common” with other ordinary mortals out of self-sufficiency and pride, an
opinion, the justification of which cannot be denied altogether, for are not the
same characteristics to be found even nowadays, and that not only in Russia?
Nevertheless, we should like to say a word in favour of the contrary view,
namely, that this Lodge showed an altogether correct feeling and good sense. It
said: “Russia for the Russians!” Why should it let itself be controlled from
outside? The name of its head, Prince Nicolai Trubezkoi, who had always proved
himself to be a devoted friend of Reichell, and also of von Zinnendorf, the
Berlin Grand Master, is a sufficient guarantee that the ignoble motives just
named were not the leading ones.
The Russian Lodges until
the First Suspension of Work in the Year 1794.
The way Freemasonry will now take in Russia has been already outlined in
the above explanations. Instead of one
system, three come into the foreground: - The
Swedish Provincial Lodge under Prince Gagarin, The English
Provincial Lodge under Elagin, and the independent Russian
National Lodge under Prince Trubezkoi.
The first two had their seats at St. Petersburg, the last at Moscow.
Numerically all 3 systems enjoyed an extraordinary success; unfortunately
it must be added that Freemasonry in Russia had become fashionable.
Advantage was also taken of these crowds of new Masons by the
Rosicrucians, and by the Strict Observance who had their stronghold at Moscow.
At the same time there was a great number of Lodges spread over the whole
of Russia that worked entirely for themselves.
How much good all these corporations accomplished for suffering and needy
humanity, and how useful they might have been in promoting its education had
they only worked together with unanimity! What
power was lost uselessly without this union!
Nevertheless, there was also many a point within the individual systems
and the individual Lodges which required an early solution.
The Swedish Provincial Lodge
which had been constituted on the 25th of May 1779 by a
rescript of the Duke of Södermanland,
was the first to set to work with honourable intention and great energy.
It at once put an end to one bad state of things which had also made
itself very much felt in the rest of the Lodges during the previous few years.
The German menbers had been joined in the course of time by many Russians
who could not speak German at all, or who could speak it but a very little; the
work, however, had always been carried on in German.
This mistake was now removed. The
Swedish Provincial Lodge filled up the principal offices doubly; alongside the
Provincial Grand Master Prince Gagarin it had 2 deputy Grand Masters, Rschewski,
the President of the Medical Corps, for works in Russian, and the already
frequently named Von Rosenberg for works in German.
There were also for both languages 2 Grand Orators and 2 Grand
Secretaries. The double appointments brought in their train certain features
into the work which bore fruit. We
soon see the Swedish Provincial Lodge disposing over a stately number of Lodges,
9 in St. Petersburg alone, 3 in Moscow, and one each at Cronstadt, Revel, Mitau,
and Pensa (not far from Nishni Novgorod) and 1 Field Lodge at Kinburn in the
Government of Taurida.
The Swedish Provincial Lodge also met the wishes of its members in other
respects. We know how great the
wish of certain of them had been to be promoted beyond the three lowest degrees.
It was for this purpose that it created the higher degree with the name
of “The Phoenix Chapter.”
As has already been said, a Lodge at Revel - the Lodge “To the Three
Battle Hammers” - was subject to the Swedish Provincial Lodge, with the
opening of which is connected a story, which, it is true, is of no importance
for the development of Masonry, but is worth mentioning here, because it is so
very characteristic of the political situation in Russia itself.
The approaching opening of the Lodge had also been heard of outside
Masonic circles. To the
half-educated Freemasonry has always been something like the veiled image at Saïs,
and attempts have often been made to raise the veil.
Now Major Grenet, the custom-house officer, thought he would do this in
his own way - and how? He knew who
the bearer was, that was to carry the documents and rituals from St. Petersburg
and, therefore, he compelled him on his arrival to enter the custom-house
offfice, and requested him to deliver up everything.
When, of course, he refused, the custom-house officer simply called in
bade them lay hands on
him and relieve him of his papers. Nothing
was simpler. Fortunately, the
custom-house officer’s superior belonged to the Lodge which was about to be
founded, and he ordered him to give
them back again.
Elagin’s English Provincial
Lodge was also thriving and increasing.
Its main strangth lay at St. Petersburg and int he Baltic Provinces.
It had 3 Lodges at St. Petersburg,3 Lodges at Riga, 2 at Revel and one at
Dorpat and Libau respectively; further, 1Lodge at Kieff, the Master of which was
Von Ellisen, who became mor prominent later on, 1 Lodge at Archangel, and 1 at
Schkloff in the Government of Mohileff. It
is true that it very soon had the
misfortune to lose 2 of the Lodges again, viz.
The Lodge “Apollo” at Riga, ehich was already passing through another
phase by adopting the Swedish System together with its Deputy Master of the
Chair, Baron von Ungern-Sternberg, and the Lodge “Pollux” at Dorpat, which
joined the Strict Observance. For
us Germans it is perhaps also of interest that the Orator of the Lodge
“Hygeia” at St. Petersburg was Augustus von Kotzebue, who already at that
time enjoyed no inconsiderable fame in Russia as a teller of tales and a writer
Thus, both systems managed to gather about them a very large number of
followers. It has already been
stated above that besides these regular Masonic Lodges there sprang up into
being a great many others which worked for themselves independently of every
recognized system. According to a
report, which, by the way, is not always reliable, 145 Lodges are said to have
existed in the country - a very large number for so short a space of time!
In this number were also included the Lodges of the Strict Observance and
of the Rosicrucians which had likewise extended their borders.
But they did not appear to have done anything whatever for the real good
of their fellow creatures.
A real Masonic spirit and real Masonic love seem to have prevailed and to
have produced good fruit only in one Lodge,
viz. In the third system, mentioned above of the Russian
National Lodge at Moscow. It
could boast of no great following:- only 2 Lodges at Moscow and one at Riga.
On the other hand, however, it was all the more successful, on a small
scale. It is reported of the
Russian National Lodge that its chief aim was the settling of the differences
which existed between the Lodges of the Freemasons and the unrecognized systems,
viz. The Rosicrucians and the Strict
Observance, both of which were well represented at Moscow, and that it actually
succeeded in uniting them all by bonds of friendship and of brotherly love both
in civic life and in mutual intercourse - verily an aim ardently to be desired!
In other respects we hear little from the Lodges that is gratifying.
The Deputy Grand Master of the Swedish Provincial Lodge was, as we have
read above, Von Rosenberg, the same Rosenberg, who had been the evil sprit of
the Mother-Lodge of the whole of Russia - The Lodge “Apollo” at St.
Petersburg; and hewas so here, too. Whereas
he might hitherto have been looked upon merely as an eccentric and
self-sufficient fellow, and whereas his passing over from the Swedo-Berlin
System to the purely Swedish might be explained according to the point of view
even as meritorious, seeing that he preferred the original system to the
variation, it now became suddenly clear as daylight that the Brethren had
allowed themselves to be led by one who was totally unworthy of their trust - by
one who was nothing but an “aventurier”.
In accordance with his entreaties he had been sent to Stockholm, from
whence he intended to fetch the sole genuine documents and rituals.
After some time he returned home with them, and there was joy - great joy
- throughout the Swedish Provincial Lodge. This joy, it is true, was somewhat
checked, when he asked 14,000 roubles for his travelling expenses.
Nevertheless, the money was voted to him in consideration of the recovery
of such important and long desired papers.
But what was discovered when they were examined more closely?
That they were only a copy of what they had long possessed from Reichell,
not an iota more. Von Rosenberg was
of course turned out of the fane. This
was no loss, but the Lodge itself had to suffer under such a mistake made by one
of its highest officials, even though this was not shown by a decrease in the number
of the members. For this, as
already pointed out, Freemasonry had become too much a matter of fashion: the
Lodge only changed as far as quality was concerned.
Freemasonry had become fashionable - too much so and purely fashionable.
The work per
se, the improvement of self, the separation from the dross and passions of
the body, and the doing of real good to real sufferers, were lost sight of by
many, and nothing remained but amusement. This
is clear from two reports which, even if the colour is laid on thick, on the
whole give us a correct picture. Reinbeck, a court councillor who has already
been quoted, wrote as follows:- “The Russians joined this union (i.e.
the Lodges) with an eagerness, which union, as a matter of fact, stood in
need of restrictions, the more so because the real object was considered of
little importance, but degenerated into carousing, costly amusements, and even
financial speculations. Any one who
is acquainted with the spirit of the nation will allow that this turn of things
was inevitable. Here was an
opportunity of killing time under the tempting cloak of secrecy, and of
indulging in their love of show in the decoration of the higher and the highest
degrees, and many a one found the means of replenishing his coffers.
Great zeal was shown in the enrolment of members, indiscriminately and
without any other consideration than the receiving of
the subscriptions, of the employment of which little more was ever heard.
At last, especially in the capital, there was scarcely anyone, even of
the lowest classes, who had not been a Freemason.
Nevertheless the spread of freemasonry in this way, even in its’ state
of extreme imperfection, evidently exercised an advantageous influence on the
middle classes of society in bringing them nearer together, in laying the
foundation of the great sociability, which characterises well bred Russians
greatly to their advantage, and in circulating principles which as regards
morals and character were certainly not without happy results.”
This description is supplemented by what Bergmann, attorney-general at
Riga, wrote:- “In Russia, especially at St Petersburg, affairs were in a most
wretched state. It was a strange
medley of men from all parts of the world - men who knew nothing of either Order
or Obedience, in fact so-called Masons, who had not the slightest idea what they
were to understand by Masonry; for England and France had sent their wares to
market; ignorant travellers had brought them to St Petersburg; and what had
escaped their memory, was supplied by their impudence.
England and France endeavoured to populate the imperial capital, and at
last the Freemasons became so numerous that coachmen and lackeys erected Lodges
and made proselytes. No one in my
time troubled himself about the object in view; the secrets were always
represented in pictures, and were at length, in the highest Melissino degree,
left to the reflection of those new members who could rack their brains in
counsel with their Master. In my
time at St Petersburg, the worst was that, with the strange systems and their
development, morality with all social virtues was neglected.”
This is neither a gratifying nor a pleasing picture.
For all that Reinbeck’s last sentence must not be overlooked, who tries
to be just to the inner value of Freemasonry, and to whom on the whole only the
outer excrescences give any cause for blame.
These disagreeable circumstances were crowned by a special scandal, the
swindle affair of Cagliostro. It is
scarcely credible that this man was able to gain a following out of the most
fashionable and best educated classes, and that not in Russia alone!
What did he tell about himself? He
said that for life he was indebted to the love of an angel for an earthly woman,
and that he was the direct messenger of the prophet Elijah, called to lead the
faithful to a higher perfection through a physical and a moral new-birth.
He, the anointed of God, was able, he said, to perform all kinds of
miracles and knew all secrets which were revealed only to the most intimate of
the celestial glory. Through him
the inner soul of the finite creature could unite with the omnipotence of the
Infinite. And what did the police
report of his native town Palermo say of him?
That he had been punished for brawling, pimping and forgery.
At Mitau a Temple was erected by Count Cagliostro - or as his real, less
euphonious name was: Joseph Balsamo. There
he carried on “Egyptian Masonry,” and everything that took place there was
obscure, fantastic and mysterious. Quite
new or Russia was the fact that he admitted ladies to the work, at the head of
whom stood his wife, the beautiful Lorenza.
It is true that she played an even greater role in the gentlemen’s
Lodges where she conjured up spirits for large sums of money, and sold tinctures
of life and universal panaceas, and, when this failed to draw she was not
ashamed to call into requisition the charms of her own person.
And what did Joseph do? He
kept up a strange intercourse with the ladies with a view to the improvement of
the human race!
This then was a serious matter - so serious that Catherine herself was
aroused. We have already stated
above that Catherine’s enthusiasm or Masonry had died down; in a word she had
become indifferent to it. How was
it possible that this woman of a strong will and a quick eye, and conscious of
the aim she had in view, should continue to take pleasure and interest in this
society which was divided against itself, was rent by feuds, and constantly
changed from one system to another? What
could she do with a retinue of Masonic “Coachmen and Valets?”
Such people were ignored by her. But
now affairs had come to a pretty pass, and the lioness suddenly roused herself
from her sleep. For a time,
however, she played with her victim, and then she destroyed him.
She played with her victim, i.e.
she poured out the cup of her irony and her sarcasm over Cagliostro’s victims.
In her three satirical comedies, “The Siberian Conjurer,” “The
Deceiver” and “The Infatuated One,” she lashed the “Deceiver” and his
“Infatuated Ones” most unmercifully. Unfortunately
- whether intentionally or not - she confused “Egyptian Masonry” and
Freemasonry in general, and that in spite of its very many imperfections and
weak points all the good in it had not been destroyed, may be proved by again
quoting the testimony of Petroff :- “Several plays were written by Catherine
against Freemasonry. In these plays
she represents the Freemasons as deceivers or as deceived, as people who made
gold and sold the elixir of life, as alchemists, and as ghost-seers.
When developing the fundamental idea of the comedy entitled The Siberian
Conjuror, she wrote to Baron Grimm :- The Siberian Conjuror is that theosophist
who produces all the charlatanry of Paracelsus.
In the comedy The Deceiver we have that notorious Cagliostro who
transforms small diamonds into large ones, who knows remedies for all diseases,
who has the power in himself to conjure up spirits, and to whom but a short time
before Alexander of Macedonia had appeared.
Thereby, however, she only presents to the world the bad side of
Freemasonry basing her narration on stories which were current in society at the
time; but it’s humanitarian and moral
side she passes over all together.
Those were heavy blows for Masonry, and worse ones were still to come.
The French Revolution broke out, which, if dangerous for Freemasonry in
Germany was mortal for Russian Masonry. “The
Freemasons have made the Revolution!” This
cry was heard both in France and in Germany, and was heard louder and more
vehemently in Russia, loudest of all of course where its source has always been
sought for viz. In old Polots, the
head-quarters of the Jesuits, who felt themselves so much at home in that
country. Catherine was a shrewd and
cautious woman, and whether there was any truth in this cry or not, she obviated
the danger. She had already raised
her hand, as we know, in consequence of other disagreeable incidents, and now
she struck a blow which of course was a mortal one.
All Lodges were closed. At
the beginning of the year 1794 went forth Catherine’s “wish” for a
dissolution, and in the course of a few months even in the remotest corners of
Russia no more Lodges were to be found.
Masonic Prospects under Paul I.
Catherine’s son, Paul 1, was himself a freemason.
It is said that he was introduced to Freemasonry during a journey which
he made through Europe, when he was still the czarewitch, in company of his
wife, and of Prince Kurakin who was a most devoted son of Masonry.
Was it not natural then that the association which had been outlawed and
banished by his mother should look forward to being re-installed and
rehabilitated? And this expectation
seemed as though it were perfectly justified, for immediately after his
coronation, Paul summoned to Moscow the Freemasons of that city, with Professor
the Master of the Chair of the former Lodge “To The Three Swords” at their
head, and took counsel with them “in a brotherly spirit and without
ceremony” as to what should be done. At
the conclusion of the negotiations “he embraced each single one as a Mason and
gave him the Masonic shake of the hands”.
This promised very well, and that “a committee was now appointed to
examine the documents, to collect the ruins of Masonry and to organise the
whole,” was but logical. After so
much recognition and so much encouragement on the part of the sovereign followed
in 1797 - the prohibition of Freemasonry which “was carried out with great
This sudden change in his manner of looking at things and in his attitude
to Freemasonry would cause surprise in a man of ordinary capacity, but Paul was
mentally deranged, and it was just his acting by fits and starts that was
characteristic of his disease. But
does such an explanation clear up everything?
No, for Paul was not so ill so as not to be able to grasp what would be
the consequences of his action. On
the contrary, as soon as it was a question of an advantage for his own person,
of something that added to his lustre, he was suddenly quite normal in the
choice of his means. This change of
attitude was, therefore, perhaps, preceded by well weighed considerations; nay
we may add that they were considerations with a real genuine background.
It was about this time that the Knights of Malta who were hard-pressed by
Napoleon Bonaparte turned to the Car Paul for protection.
According to the information conveyed by Paul to Count Litter, a Knight
of Malta, Freemasonry was a hindrance and even a danger to the aims of this
order. He was, therefore, obliged
to decide in favour of the one or the other.
The Maltese Order was
something definite; it was a power, whereas Freemasonry as really nothing, or at
any rate something altogether indefinite which might perhaps have a future, but
perhaps it might not. Could Paul
find the choice hard to make? In
addition there was a something which though altogether unpolitical, has often
decided questions in politics, viz. Paul’s
principal mistress, the extremely beautiful Anna Lopuchin.
It was possible for him to make her a Grand Cross Lady of the Order of
the Knights of St. John, but “pretty Annie” among Freemasons was no longer
conceivable after the famous “Egyptian Masonry”!
Thus it was that Paul became the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights
of St. John at Malta, and Freemasonry was prohibited.
Further, it is said that the Jesuits set going every imaginable and
unimaginable expedient against Freemasonry.
Nor does this seem to have been impossible.
under Alexander I.
Re-opening of the Lodges and the Definite Closing of them in the Year 1822.
After Paul’s tragical life and death the throne was ascended by
Alexander I. Although at the
beginning of his reign a renewed prohibition was issued against secret
societies, including the Masonic Lodges, it was directed more against the other
secret societies than against the Freemasons in particular, and is to be traced
back less to his own initiative, than to the temper of mind of the
administrative officials who were still in office from the previous reign.
Even if he was not a Freemason himself, as has been repeatedly asserted,
he was certainly in no way hostile to freemasonry, if we may judge from his
natural disposition and ways of looking at things.
If he provided for the intellectual improvement of his people by the
building of district schools and grammar schools, by reforming the theological
academies and the old universities, and by founding new ones - if throughout his
reign a certain liberal vein is to be met with, which rendered possible the
entrance into the country of foreign books and newspapers, and which in so far
gave the Church liberty of conscience, that even the “Duchobores” were
tolerated, how was it that Alexander is said to have stopped Freemasonry from
pursuing these same principles and aspirations?
That a need of Masonry was felt far beyond Masonic Circles, is borne
witness to by Reinbeck:- “The inactivity of Masonry in Russia makes itself
especially felt among young men. And
even when loving fathers and venerable philanthropists receive well-brought up
sons into the alliance en famille,
the latter still feel the need of the life-giving way of looking at things which
is so indispensable to the genuine Mason; nay, more, I am very much inclined to
connect with it the lack of principles which the advancement of culture by the
side of is so strikingly universal among the higher and lower classes in Russia.
There is no means left of influencing the cultured classes, a work, in
which, in just such a state, an institution like Masonry is especially suitable
to accomplish much, and the various educated classes have no centre of union
left; they remain strangers to one another.
That the state feels the want of Masonry, is seen by the close observer,
wherever generally useful and benevolent works are proposed which are frustrated
by the coolness, the covetousness and the lack of caution on the part of those
to whom the execution of them has to be entrusted.”
Thus sprang up, even though at first without direct official permission,
several Lodges, the rapid prosperity of which, both quantitatively and
qualitatively, is a proof of the need of that which is offered by Freemasonry.
Among these must be mentioned in the early years of the 19th
century the two Lodges which worked according to the French system, and in the
French language, viz.:- “Les Amis Réunis”;
and “De la Palestine”; further, the three Lodges which worked according to
the Swedish system, in the Russian, German and French languages, viz.:-
“Alexander to the Crowned Pelican”, “Elizabeth to Virtue”, and “Peter
to Truth”, all in St. Petersburg.
These Lodges, which at first all worked in secret, must, however, have
fulfilled the conditions and expectations which were required of them from the
highest authority, for there now followed
in the year 1810 their official recognition and confirmation.
Henceforward the spirit of animation was very great.
Most of the old Lodges were renewed, some under other names, and quite a
number of new ones were added, for instance, at Cronstadt, Poltawa, Bialostock,
even at Tomsk in West Siberia and at Feodosia in the Crimea.
The terrible year 1812 produced a period of inactivity, especially at
Moscow. The enthusiasm for the
Masonic cause was, however, so great that in a comparatively short time all
traces had disappeared. The war
again called Field Lodges into existence; we meet with them at Mauberge in
France, and here in Germany at Frankfurt-on-the-Main in 1813, and at Grumbinnen
Among the members were included Russia’s best men - Michael Speranski,
who did so much for the Russian Constitution and the Russian jurisdiction;
Benkendorf, the confidant of the Czar Alexander; the ministers Rasumovski and
Balasheff; Prince Lobanoff; Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, the undaunted champion
for the liberation of Greece; most of the officers of the noblest regiments of
the guards - those of Semenovski and Preobrajenski; of Germans who were serving
in the Russian army, Prince Hohenlohe, Lieutenant-General von Schöler,
the extraordinary ambassador of the King of Prussia at the Russian Court; the
poet Kotzebue, etc.
According to the principles herein proclaimed and according to the actual
results, which becomes evident by the fact that 10 years after the official
recognition of Freemasonry 31 Masonic Lodges - without counting the considerable
number of Rosicrucians and of the Strict Observance - were again spread over the
whole country, a very favourable horoscope might have been cast for Freemasonry.
Even though all hopes were shattered this time, very different were the
causes from the first time. Previously
its ruin was within itself, whereas now it was carried away by political waves
It is true that the picture we should like to take away with us of these
years of it’s activity, the last of it’s existence, is tarnished by a stain,
which cannot be washed out even by the most favourable judgement, viz.:
the dispute between the Grand Directorial Lodge (Provincial Lodge) and the Grand
and even if it was not a question of the fundamental ideas of Freemasonry, but
rather of the outward construction, yet, for all that, as above stated, it was a
And what was this dispute about? At
first the Grand Directorial Lodge
“Vladimir” constituted itself as the head of the single Lodges.
At its head stood Boeber, State Councillor and Director of the St.
Petersburg Military School, who was one of the leading spirits in the revival of
Freemasonry, and was on that account frequently consulted by Alexander.
To the diocese of the Grand Directorial Lodge “Vladimir” belonged the
Lodge “Peter to the Truth”, in which with the consent, nay, the propaganda
of Dr. George von Ellisen, State Councillor and Master of the Chair, the idea
arose of only acknowledging the three lowest Degrees, those of the Apprentice.
The Journeyman and the Master. As
the Grand Directorial Lodge worked according to the Swedish System, or in other
terms with high Degrees, it was under these circumstances no longer possible for
the Lodge “Peter to the Truth” to remain in the union.
It would have been desirable, and with this clear statement of the matter
it would have been very easy for the separation to have been accomplished
peaceably by arbitration. Von
Ellissen, however, introduced into the affair a note which was anything but
unlimited courtesy, so that one is easily inclined to declare from the very
outset that he and his opinions were wrong, whereas it was merely a question of
the decision between two opinions, both of which being equally justifiable had
an equal claim to existence.
The Lodge “Peter to the Truth” was soon followed by others, and
indeed by the greater number, which were constituted under a special Grand
Lodge, the Grand Lodge “Astræa”.
Even though the first impulse to the formation of the “Astræa”
was given by the Lodge “Peter to Truth” with it’s demand that it should be
willing to recognise only the three lowest Degrees as legitimate, in its further
development the “Astræa”,
did not keep to this narrow programme, but declared that it was in no way
opposed to high Degrees, per se; on
the contrary, it accepted all high Degrees, not only the nine of the Swedish
System as required by the Directorial Lodge, but also, for instance, the 33 of
the French System. Further, it only
intended to leave every one liberty of movement, being indifferent whether he
wished to work altogether without high Degrees or with them, or with a certain
number of them. On this basis the
soon won a large following, which to no small extent was composed of deserters
from the Directorial Lodge, so that the latter dwindled away considerably.
Who knows whether, with this multiplicity of systems, it was on the right
way to real prosperity? It did not
prove this, nor could it do so, for time failed it.
Alexander, the friend of Freemasonry and its Lodges, suddenly ordered
them to be closed again - this time for ever!
For Russia, as well as for other countries, hard times had set in.
Alexander had become a changed man, for Metternich’s evil influence was
already upon him.
It is true that a fermentation was going on in many countries.
Secret societies and unions with the express object of overthrowing the
head of the state, made their appearance. In
Italy the Carbonari, in Spain and Portugal the revolutionary Constitutionals had
the power in their hands. But who
were the Carbonari and the Constitutionals?
Freemasons - at all events Pius VII. Assured the whole world by his
condemning edict that they were so, and the alarmed Alexander who had just
discovered a similar society in his own country, viz.:
the wide spread “Alliance for the Public Welfare”, the chief object of which
was the making away with the sovereign, - this alarmed Alexander was constantly
assured of it by Metternich, by the Jesuits, and by Haugwitz, the former
Prussian Minister of most ill-starred memory, who himself had been
a Freemason. How could he
resist so many assurances? On
August 6th, 1822 he put forth the order that suppressed all secret
societies to which Freemasons belonged.
In the course of the same year communications were received by Count
Kotschbei, the Minister of the Interior, from all the Lodges of the Empire that
the order had been carried into effect. Nor
have they been opened again since, although individual Brethren naturally kept
up an intercourse for some time; but how far removed such intercourse is from
co-operation in the Lodge, can only be rightly estimated by a Freemason.
In the year 1826 followed another
prohibition by Nicholas, which was really superfluous as the Lodges no
longer existed. It was called forth
by the conspiracy of the Decabrists, those December men of the year 1825, who in
the accomplishment of their ideals did not shrink from the most realistic of all
that is realistic - from murder. The
conspiracy was discovered. At its
head stood Pestel, Prince Sergius Trubezkoi, Nikita Muraveff, Sergius Muraveff
Apostol, Prince Chakovskoi, Bestuscheff, who had all been Freemasons.
But it must be expressly emphasised that Nicholas did not allow them to
be accused and sentenced, because they were Freemasons, but because they were
the leaders of the revolutionary “Alliance
for the Public Welfare”. That he
once more dissolved the Lodges at the same time as “this Alliance” and
similar societies, is explained by the fact that he considered them to be
“secret societies”; in the former sense he never once raised an accusation
or a complaint against them. Pestel,
Sergius Muraveff Apostol, and Bestuscheff expiated their crime by death on the
scaffold, a death which was exceedingly horrible on account of the accompanying
circumstances. The rest of the
conspirators with heavy iron chains on their feet, their heads shorn, and
wearing prisoner’s dress, were carried off on wretched carts without seats
1750 miles to Siberia where they became human wrecks, and where they died.
Freemasonry in Poland until the suspension of work in 1794.
A very similar picture as far as Masonry is concerned is also presented
by the Kingdom of Poland, the country хατُεُεοχήν
confusion; here, as there, no unity, no constancy. But we need not be surprised
at this, for, if any human institution needs peace for its development, it is
Masonry. And what were the chances of peace in Poland, especially at the time
when Masonry was about to take root? Have all the bonds of firmness and
constancy ever been loosened in any kingdom so much as here? Has any other state
been bandied about so much as Poland? Therefore it was that Freemasonry, though
from time to time it did develop with great activity, was never able to prosper
That which must strike everyone in the first stages of Freemasonry in
Poland is a predilection for, and a leaning on German Masonry, which is not a
general trait in the life of the Polish people. It is, however still more
striking that, when this need for support had been satisfied in a most practical
form. i.e. when, in the part of
Poland which had become Prussian, German Masonry had erected its own Temples,
very soon-but without any culpability on the German side-this milk of human
kindness was transformed into poison. On the other hand the connection between
the Polish and the Russian Lodges was very slight. Just as nowadays the former
Kingdom of Poland has in no way become a really Russian country, in the sane way
there was no essential connection
between the Polish Lodges and their sister Lodges in Russia. The political
aversion of the two hostile cognate races also suffocated the brotherly love of
The earliest beginnings of Freemasonry in Poland are to be met with about
the middle of the 18th century, therefore somewhat earlier than in
Russia. The earliest constituted Lodge of
which we know the name was the Lodge “Les Trois Frères” which was founded
in Warsaw in 1744. This Lodge has a special interest for us because it was
in close touch with our Lodge at Königsberg “To the Three Crowns” which
today is still in a flourishing condition.
Its co-founder was Prince Stanislaus Lubomirski who did so much for the
improvement of Warsaw, that the city had a medal stamped in his honour. Another
founder of the Lodge was Prince Adam Czartotyski who was considered as a very
likely candidate for the empty throne of Poland. He worked assiduously for the
welfare of his country and became the father and counsellor of a greater than
himself, for, at the celebrated military school founded by himself at Warsaw he
had Kosciusko, the son of his farmer and Poland’s greatest hero, educated at
his own expense.
Lodge “Les Trois Frères” and also the Lodge “Au Bon Pasteur” which came
into existence a few years later, passed through many changes. They were often
suppressed, but they always revived. The name of the founder of the Lodge “Au
Bon Pasteur” also deserves to live on in the mouth of posterity on account of
the hard fate which Masonry brought upon him, and which he bore with patience
for Masonry’s sake. Jean de Thoux de la Salverte, military engineer at Brünn,
had to pay dearly for his extraordinary zeal in the cause of Masonry by spending
many years in the citadel of Spielberg near Brünn and afterwards in the
fortress of Komorn to be finally banished from the country. But all these hard
blows made his pet child only the dearer to him, so that as soon as he again
felt settled in Poland as colonel of a regiment, he set about the foundation of
a new Lodge, viz. the one just
mentioned “Au Bon Pasteur.” It is, however, characteristic of the man and of
his time that he renounced Masonry and left his newly won fatherland for 5 years
in order “to study Alchemy and Cabbala,” and to introduce them into his
Lodge.--As already stated, both Lodges, “Les Trois Frères” as well as “Au
Bon Pasteur” suffered many vicissitudes; for a time they also worked according
to the Strict Observance.
The High Degrees were introduced into Poland at the same time as “Les
Trois Frères.” Beside these
Lodges others developed gradually, both at Warsaw itself and in the Provinces.
Among the latter the one which from our standpoint seems worthy of mention was a
Lodge which, it is true, only worked for a few years, viz.
the Lodge “To the Three Plumb Lines” at Dantzig, which at that time still
belonged to Poland. This Lodge was inaugurated by Germany-by the Grand Lodge
“To the Three Globes” in Berlin.
Grand Lodge was constituted in 1769
and the first step it took was to declare itself independent of England. The
Lodge “Les Trois Frères,” in which were evidently a great number of German
Brethren, soon received from the Grand Lodge the permission to employ the German
language. It also ceded the Lodge “Union” to the French-speaking Brethren
The first division of the Polish Kingdom took place in 1772. In itself it
hardly made any impression on the Lodges; but the following few years showed a
decided turn in Masonic life. The Grand
Lodge which had been created but a
short time before, and which had laid such stress on its independence of England
and on its self-sufficiency, was closed, its place being taken by the Provincial
Mother -Lodge for Poland, which had had itself constituted by the Grand Lodge
of London. Was such a step taken
so simply and smoothly as that? If a man gives up his liberty in ordinary life
and returns to a position of dependency, he must have been moved to do so by
reasons of the weightiest kind. Can it of been otherwise with the Grand Lodge?
The only possible explanation is to be found in the occurrences which took place
in Freemasonry in Russia where the struggle was raging for the supremacy between
the grand Lodge in London and the Grand “Landes-Loge” in Berlin, a struggle
which ended in the defeat of the English. Is it not probable that the latter,
having learned a lesson in shrewdness by sad experience, won the victory by
staking all the means in their power at the right moment, knowing that the Poles
were so fickle in their opinions and so little conscious of the ends they had in
The impulse for the formation of the Provincial Mother-Lodge had come
from the Lodge “Au Bon Pasteur,” which has so often been referred to, and
which on this occasion itself again experienced a change. Through numerous new
members who were introduced to it from a club which had been dissolved by the
well known leader and statesman Ignatius Dzialinski, who played a very important
part in the Four Years Parliament, and later even became Kosciusko’s
representative in the highest National Council-having become very influential
through these members, and having assumed the new name of “Catherine to the
North Star,” the Lodge managed to prevail upon all the other Lodges, which had
become fairly numerous both in the Kingdom of Poland and in the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania, to recognise it as a Grand Lodge.
Of the other Lodges which were not Masonic, but worked according to the
Rite of the Strict Observance we should like to mention the Lodge “Charles to
the Three Helmets” at Warsaw, because to it belonged the weak, but good
-natured and art-loving King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski. Can it be true
that, moved by the influence of his Brethren alone , he gave the kingdom the
Constitution of the year 1791, which was so full of promise and had been so long
yearned for?-Rosicrucian Lodges are also to be met with.
The great majority of the Lodges employed the Polish language, but at the
same time we find a few Lodges working in French and German.
The Provincial Mother-Lodge did not continue long, because it could not
manage to keep for any length of time the unity and union which it had hoped for
and striven to obtain. Soon we see a French Lodge which received its
confirmation from the Grand Orient of France, then others which were constituted
by the Duke of Brunswick, and besides these the strict Observance and the
Rosicrucians, and finally, even though only on a short, but all the less
inspiring visit, Cagliostro with his Egyptian Rite.
This confusion was put an end to in 1782 by the great patriot and
statesman Count Ignatius Potocki through the union
of all the Lodges in Poland under one Mother grand lodge, a name which after
an elaboration was soon changed into the Grand
Orient for Poland and Lithuania. Potocki obtained its acknowledgement by all
the foreign Orients. This Grand Orient, which might have accomplished a grand
work under the guidance of this man who was so talented and so enthusiastic for
masonry, collapsed again soon after Potocki’s departure for foreign countries.
However, we find here still a number of celebrated names, such as the brother of
the Grand Master Stanislaus Kostka Potocki, well known as a general, as a
minister of education, and as the excellent translator of Winckelmann’s “On
the Art of the Ancients;” further, Count Francis Xaver Woyna, the great
connoisseur of music and translator of many theatrical pieces; the poet Ignatius
Tainski, really better known through his daughter Clementine Tainski-Hoffman,
Poland’s greatess authoress; then, Prince Michael Casimir Oginski, important
both as a politician and an economist. Oginski was also a candidate for the
Polish throne in 1764, and as a lasting work he left behind him the so called
Oginski Canal, which he began at his own cost, and which unites the Niemen and
the Dnieper. But the absence of Ignatius Potocki’s Masonic genius was felt
everywhere, and as a report to the Grand Lodge says, Freemasonry fell into a
state of anæmia. It is true that individual Masons played an eminently active
part in the great political struggle of the year 1791, for nearly all the
champions of the Constitution of the 5th of May 1791 belonged to the
Then followed the second and third division of Poland. In those districts
which thereby came under the rule of Russia every trace of Freemasonry
disappeared in consequence of Catherine’s decree of the year 1794.
It is perhaps also worth mentioning in this section that the Great Orient
for Poland and Lithuania kept in close touch with German Masonry, and among
other works it founded at Insterburg the Lodge “The Prussian Eagle.”
Further, we must not overlook the fact that the Great Orient sanctioned
the founding of a Ladies’ Lodge. Ladies
had already been introduced as guests. The first Grand Mistress is said to have
been Theresa Tyskiewicz; better known are the names of several of the members,
such as, Princess Lubomirska and Princess Rzewska, whose husbands also enjoyed a
reputation as Freemasons.
Freemasonry in Prussian Poland.
In those districts which were now under Prussia Freemasonry assumed quite
a different aspect. All that had stood in connection with the Polish Grand
Orient disappeared, and in its place the three Prussian Grand lodges undertook
the work, in South Prussia as in New East Prussia. The first to appear on the
scene was the Grand “Landes-Loge” in Berlin, and as early as the year 1793
it founded the Lodge “To the Hive” at Thorn. This was followed by the Grand
Lodge "Royal York to Friendship" with a Temple at Kalisz, and great
activity was developed by the Grand Lodge “To the Three Globes” in towns
like Kalisz, Plock, Gnesen, and Posen.
The Grand “Landes-Loge” deployed its activity not only at Thorn but
also at Bromberg and at Bjalostock, and above all it chose as its field of
labour the capital of the former kingdom. If our chief interest is now directed
to these Lodges, the reason is that the material as our disposal is greater, and
on the other hand, the conditions in the provinces were only the reflexion of
those in the capital.
The first Prussian Lodge which
worked at Warsaw was the Lodge “To
the Golden Candlestick” It was opened in July 1797, and, as was natural
under the circumstances, consisted almost exclusively of officers and officials.
Beginning with 14 members, after two years it counted 50, and in the year 1801
as many as 72, so that the foundation of a second Lodge was taken into
consideration. As a matter of fact this latter came into existence in 1802 with
the name of “Frederic William to the Column,” and it, too, developed
numerically so fast that three years later the Lodge “To the Temple of
Wisdom” was founded by it.
It is worth while throwing some light on the way which the young Prussian
Lodges conceived their mission, and on what they considered to be the chief
object of their existence. An advance-post, as it were, in a country with a
foreign language and a foreign civilization they wished to plant and propagate
there German customs, German training, and German culture. What was the best way
to attain this object? It did not suffice that they gave their members
opportunities of absorbing Masonic knowledge with the accompanying instruction
and edification; they conceived rather a general scientific and artistic
education. For this purpose a Library was founded in connection with a
reading-union, in which Masonic books were also to be found, the stress,
however, being laid on works treating of philosophical and æsthetic subjects in
general. But this collection of books was not intended for the advantage and
pleasure of members alone; it was also to be of use to their relations and
friends, and then to carry out its food to
the common people who were yearning for knowledge, and thus to become a
missionary of civilization. Was it not just the right moment for the satisfying
of this yearning? Was it not at this time that in the German poetic woods was
heard a rustling which was able to breathe upon those who were longing for
poetry and art a new breath of life and a new power?
The library which was founded by the Warsaw Brethren, their friends, and
their wives, contained a number of books which were most closely connected with
Masonry, religious, philosophical and historical. It also found room for the
intellectual geniuses of antiquity, for the works of Homer, Vergil, Livy, and
Tacitus. The principal place, however, was occupied by modern German literature.
We find there Matthias Claudius’s “Wandsbecker Boten,” Jean Paul’s
novels, Herder’s “Letters on the Improvement of Mankind” and his
“Terpsichore,” further, Wieland and Eschenburg’s translation of
Shakespeare, a few of his dramas in the translation by Schlegel which is still
considered to be the best, Goethe’s idyll “Hermann and Dorethea” which had
just come out, Schiller’s Ballads and dramas-all creations of modern and of
the latest times. Ought not this to be an indication for us as to how we should
place ourselves in reference to our time with its modern authors? For were not
Schiller and Goethe at that time just such revolutionists in the field of poetry
and art as our moderns are today, and many an orthodox writer raised a hue and
cry on their account as is done on account of the writers of the present day.
But the Warsaw Brethren stood on a higher level and believed in the power of the
rising stars.-Beside these books there was a collection of paintings, copper
engravings, maps, plans , coins, instruments, and, in short, everything and
anything which could educate and rejoice the understanding and the sense of
The above mentioned Lodge “To the Temple of Wisdom” through the year
of its foundation-1805-takes us back to the time when the State of Prussia
was shaken to its foundations and received such heavy blows that the Masonic
edifice also trembled and was on the verge of falling. The French troops which
had already become the masters of our narrower fatherland, now also took
possession of the province acquired a short time before. Soon after Napoleon had
held his triumphal procession into Berlin, his soldiers also garrisoned Warsaw.
The life of the Lodges in Prussia ceased entirely for many years to come,
whereas at Warsaw and in South Prussia, and, indeed, in all the possessions we
had acquired in the former Kingdom of Poland, German Freemasonry was
extinguished for ever.
The Lodges “To the Golden Candlestick” and “Frederick William to
the Column” held on for a while; but when we consider that a great number of
their members were Prussian officers and officials, their dissolution was the
most natural thing in the world. The former continued to exist until the
beginning of the year 1810 when it communicated to the Mother-Lodge the official
announcement of its final dissolution. The latter the Lodge “Frederick William
to the Column” -made a final attempt to save itself by receiving into its
Halls a great number of Poles, whom it had previously declined to have anything
to do with, and by giving it another name, viz,
To the Samaritan;” but soon there came so many gentle and broad hints from the
minister of the police that it, too, was obliged to close its doors.
Very different was the affairs in the Lodge
“To the Temple of Wisdom” or as it was more properly called “Swiatynia
Madrosci,” for this Lodge was not really a German Lodge at all. Its
members were Poles and in their proceedings only the Polish language was used,
the correspondence with the Grand “Landes-Loge” being carried on in Polish
with the German translation annexed. When the Lodge was constituted, the Grand
“Landes-Loge” had insisted on one condition only, namely that the master of
the chair should know German. This condition was fulfilled by the first Master
of the Chair, the Royal Polish ex-adjutant general and colonel, Peter von Reych;
all the rest of the names are pure Polish and for the best part belong to the
better noble families. The “Swiatynia Madrosci,” lost nothing through the
confusion caused by the war. On the contrary, it even gained something, with the
surrender, it is true, of what was not hard to sacrifice, for it separated
itself from the Mother-Lodge in Berlin, and advocated the re-establishment of
the late Polish Grand Orient. But we need not judge to harshly. If the new
condition of things restored their fatherland to them, is it to be wondered at
that they preferred to return to it? Moreover,
the Prussian supremacy, on account of the shortness of its duration, had had
little opportunity of demonstrating to the annexed state the advantages of its
system. If, therefore, we wish to be seen just, we must not reproach them too
severely with their defection. But, for all that, the words with which only a
few years before they addressed the Grand “Landes-Loge” in their petition
for a Constitution fall very strangely on our ears:-“We assure you,” they
declared, “most solemnly as Brethren that we shall endeavour to make ourselves
worthy of your love,” and “that our election as Brethren and members shall
take place in a legal and practical manner as far as human power and knowledge
can effect it, in order that we may receive members that will be worthy of our
association; this we assure you most solemnly, for we understand the value and
necessity of it. Each one of us, therefore, will strive, by a faithful
observance of the duties of the Order, to prove himself worthy of the
Constitution that is granted to us.” And how lacking in love was the farewell
which the daughter took of the mother! No word of regret is to be found in her
communications; on the contrary, we are struck with the intentionally
As such the Lodge “Swiatynia Madrosci,” was, it is true, closed. All
the members, however, united with a number of the former Brethren, and on
January 9th 1809 opened the new Lodge “Le Temple d’Isis,” which
was nothing but the Lodge of the same name which had existed before the Prussian
seizure. Unfortunately, its sole aim was, by a vigorous suppression of
everything German, to bring Polish nationality into the foreground, and by
removal of all connection with Prussian Freemasonry to revive the Polish
For the sake of completeness it must also be mentioned that beside our
Lodges the Strict Observance intended to establish Lodges. But by what trifles
important things are sometimes frustrated is displayed in a letter written by
the Master of the Chair of the Lodge “To the Golden Candlestick,” who wrote
on this point as follows:-Among other things it is said that Herr Goldbeck, the
postmaster-general of this town, has been entrusted by the heads of the Strict
Observance with the task of founding a Lodge here. No objection can be raised
against this man on the subject of a moral life, but as he has withdrawn
entirely from society, having got married only a short time ago, and being still
desperately in love with his wife-in other words, is at present useless for
any kind of business, there is nothing to fear at least as far as he is
concerned; but this state of things cannot last for ever.” Neither at that
time or later did anything become of the Strict Observance. Perhaps “Brother
Goldbeck was still desperately in love with his wife and useless for any kind of
Freemasonry in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.
The Grand Duchy of Warsaw had owed its existence to the condescension of
Napoleon. Frederic Augustus, King of Saxony and Grand Duke of Warsaw was nothing
but the vassal of the great conqueror. Would it not have been very natural that
the French should also take possession of the Lodges? What was there in the way
of their substituting Lodges of their own
system for those that had been suppressed? But they did not do this It is true
that the Grand Orient of France,
which moreover, already possessed several Lodges in the Kingdom of Poland, very
soon founded the Lodge “De la Fraternité;” nevertheless, it not only did
not attack the existing Lodges, but it managed to establish friendly relations
between both systems. If, therefore, from this side no danger threatened the
Prussian Lodges, it might have been assumed that, as the next liege lord in the
country was the King of Saxony, he would, in case of any aversion for the
Prussian Lodges, have replaced them by Saxon Lodges. In that way the Lodges
would have remained German. But this was not done either. The Saxons made no
attempt whatever to make their influence felt in the country, and that simply
because they had already accomplished little enough themselves in their own
country on account of the variety of their systems. Further, the matter had no
interest whatever for Frederic Augustus, for he was not a Freemason himself.
The field was thrown open to the Poles, and that they now occupied is as
much as possible to their own profit, must not, as already stated above, be
taken amiss of them. We can only blame the way in which they treated the
existing Prussian Lodges, which in part had been Mother-Lodges to them.
A prominent position, as we have already seen, was taken by the Lodge
“Le Temple d’Isis,” which had arisen out of the “Swiatynia Madrosci.”
It was joined by older Lodges which during the Prussian occupation had remained
inactive, and it was strengthened by new foundations in Warsaw itself and then
in Cracow, Thorn, Bromberg, etc. The ground was thus ready for the re-opening of
an independent Grand Lodge. On January 22nd 1810 was constituted the Grand
Orient National du Duche dé Varsovie.
The Grand Orient National quickly
extended its borders; in the following year it had already 13 Lodges under its
jurisdiction. The year 1812 acted, of course, as a check with its awful
confusions caused by the war, so that for some time work in the Lodge ceased of
itself. In October 1813, however, the waves of the wild struggle had become
somewhat wild again; at any rate, the Grand Orient and a few of its Lodges
gradually resumed their activity.
The war had also swept away many victims among the Freemasons. On March
12th 1814 the Grand Orient held a funeral Lodge act for Prince
Poniatowski. We Germans, too, gladly acknowledge the glorious deeds of this man
who, after having been wounded in the battle of the nations at Leipzig, found a
hero’s death in the waters of the Elster. At these funeral rites in its halls
the Grand Orient set up the portrait of the deceased, as well as other
souvenirs, and all the arrangements were carried out with great ostentation and
solemnity. A wish of the general public, all classes of which were closely
attached to the deceased, was met by throwing open the lordly apartments to
every one for the space of three days. By a resolution of Grand Lodge 4000
florins were distributed among the poor and wounded. The funeral oration was
delivered by Francis Morawski, Poniatowski’s commander-in-chief, who had also
taken a prominent part in the battle of Leipzig. This Francis Morawski is
previously mentioned as a speaker in a Field Lodge at Sedan, from which it is
clear that Field Lodges were also formed during this war. The higher grade
officers, when they had recognised one another as Brethren, being now met
together in large numbers, were glad to make use of this institution which for a
few hours diverted their minds from the wretchedness and misery of the war, and
raised them to something higher.
During those times officers were among the most zealous of Masons; this
class more than any other pressed forward to join the Lodges in considerable
numbers. Thus, for example, the Lodge “The United Brethren of Poland,” to
which Prince Poniatowski belonged, was composed almost exclusively of high-grade
officers. More striking-much more striking-it is, of course, when we find
the Catholic Church also represented in the Lodges, and it was probably quite an
exceptional case that a real Prince Bishop was a Freemason. The name of the
Prince Bishop Puzina deserves to be specially enrolled in the annals on account
of account of this his daring courage and his freedom from prejudice.
Of the remaining members-to mention only a few-our attention is drawn
to the following, on account of their position in their Lodges and at the same
time because they deserved well of their country:- Louis Guttakowski, the Grand
Master of the Grand Orient, a most eminent lawyer; at the same time he was the
President of the War Council, of the Administrative Council and of the Senate;
of lasting worth is his work entitled “Poland’s Unhappy Fate,”
-Luszczewski, the Minister of the Interior and of Public Worship, the highly
cultured Master of the Chair of the Lodge “Isis,”-Dmuszewski, the poet and
excellent translator,--Osinski, also well known as a poet and a translator of
Corneille and Voltaire,--Mattusiewicz, the translator of Horace, who only
devoted himself to this kind of study in his leisure hours, whose principal
province, however, was political finance; without exaggeration he was Poland’s
only finance minister, who during those hard times saved many millions to the
state-treasury,-Baron de Bignon, the French Minister resident at Warsaw; he
possessed an unusually skilful pen as a publicist, so that Napoleon left a
considerable sum of money in his last will for the composing of a history of
French diplomacy since the 18th of Brumaire; he accomplished this
task by writing his brilliant “Histoire de France depuis le 18 Brumaire
jusqu’à la Paix de Tilsit;” his “Souvenirs d’un Diplomate: la
Pologne 1811-1813” are also well
known,--Generals Count Tyskiewicz, Uminski, and Dabrowski, whose wounded bodies
bore witness to the heroic courage which they had shown in the great battles of
the year 1813, and before and after in all struggles for the independence of
their native country, &c.
In conclusion it may be noticed that the only Lodge which was subject to
the Grand Orient of France, viz. “De
la Fraternité;” in no way felt itself isolated in this position, for a very
lively and not only a superficial intercourse existed between it and the Grand
Orient National. Moreover, in 1811 both Grand Orients had concluded a special
mutual agreement as regards the acceptance of members.
Freemasonry in Russian Poland.
In 1815 Poland was divided for the fourth time, and the kingdom stood
henceforth under the rule of a Russian Viceroy. Freemasonry was not essentially
affected by the alteration of territory which was thus again brought about. Of
the Lodges that belonged to the Grand
Orient National du Duche dé Varsovie, those at Thorn, at Bromberg and at Posen,
naturally withdrew; otherwise the general aspect of things did not change. In
particular, nothing is to be noticed of a union between the Lodges of Russia and
Poland, as might have been well expected. On the contrary, their connection
remained very loose, nor was it drawn closer together by the correspondence
which was carried on for some time with the St. Petersburg Grand Lodge “Astræa,”
for the Poles had anything but sympathy for their conquerors, and where could
the Russians have suddenly received the necessary enthusiasm from? Moreover,
they had enough to do with their own affairs.
Thus, as already stated, the status
quo remained. The Grand Orient National du Duche dé Varsovie dropped the
last part of its title, and instead called itself the Grand Orient de Pologne;
its aims, its institutions, and even its officials suffered no change.
Stanislaus Kostka Potocki, who had accepted the office of Grand Master as early
as 1812, after the death of Guttakowski, still held that position.
is true that the first official function of the Grand Orient was anything but
pleasing. When Alexander greeted his Kingdom of Poland in November 1815 and at
the same time sojourned three days in the capital, the Grand Orient had
illuminated its windows in most gorgeous manner, and on a transparent were to be
read the words “Recepto Cæsare Felices,” an inscription which would have
better been unwritten, or were the authors of it really so blind that they had
learnt nothing from the past? Otherwise the Grand Orient was very prosperous and
extended its borders very considerably. After a three years’ activity this
Grand Orient, which by the separation of the three Lodges that had gone over to
Prussia during the year of transition, had shrunk to 10 Daughter-Lodges, again
already numbered 33, 8 of which were at Warsaw, and 2 at Vilna, where, too, the
Provincial Lodge for Lithuania had its seat; further, there was one of each at
the following towns: Cracow, Kalisz, Lublin, Minsk, Novgorod, Plock, &c. In
consequence of the humble funds that were collected from this large numbers of
members, it was also possible to set about building a new Grand Lodge, for which
300,000 Polish Florins were placed at the disposal of the promoters. The Grand
Orient used every endeavour to be just to all
the educated classes of the population; it also filled up the principal
offices with Brethren of French and German descent. As before, it worked with
high Degrees. The public of the single Lodges belonged altogether to the best
circles, and among the names many were of high repute. In comparison with
previous years a decrease in the number of officers makes itself perceptible,
their places being now taken by the learned professions. We may now quote names
such as the above mentioned Grand Master and Minister of Public Worship,
Stanislaus Kostka Potocki, the founder of the Warsaw University, --Mianowski,
the anatomist and physiologist,--Professor Strumillo, the creator of the
Botanical Gardens at Vilna,--Professor Rustem of Vilna, the portrait -painter,
--Chodzko, the Lithuanian writer of legendary history, --Brodzinski, the lyric
and epic poet, Huminicki, the dramatist,--Count Brzostowski and Dominic
Moninszko, the reat philanthropists who released their peasants from “Robot”
(statute labour) and who also started on their estates machine works, iron
foundries, glass works, and mead
manufactories. They erected boys’ and girls’ schools, and also had the
children there taught gardening, the keeping of bees, forestry and hygiene. At
their deaths the whole of their estates with all of the appurtenances thereof
passed over into the hands of the peasants.
In the previous chapter a reference was made to the interest taken by the
clergy in Freemasonry. During this period an even greater participation is
noticeable. The above mentioned Prince Bishop Puzina we find again as the Master
of the Chair of the Lodge “The Zealous Lithuanian” at Vilna, and many
followed suit. In the same Lodge there was quite a number of prelates, canons
and chaplains. Vice versa, we might
say, Jews made their appearance for the first time in the Polish Lodges. The
list of the Lodge “Bouclier du Nord” at Warsaw numbered 8 Jewish members all
of whom were businessmen.
It was just at this juncture that the field, in which the seed had begun
to spring up so well and was promising a still fuller development in the future,
was laid waste by that terrible storm which here as well as in Russia washed
away stalk and fruit, seed and soil, in fact everything. The reasons why the
Russian authorities had closed the Lodges in Russia were the same for Poland;
not only that secret societies existed here with similar tendencies, but the
leaders of the Russian conspirators had also entered into direct communication
with the Poles. For this Freemasonry was no more responsible in the one country
than in the other.
mutantur et nos mutamur in illis! “Times
are changing and we are changing in them!”
in reference to Freemasonry in Russia this has not yet proved to be the case.
Why, we ask ourselves involuntarily, has not the prohibition been removed in
quieter times? What reproach is thrown into the teeth of Freemasonry at the
present day? The accusations are still the same by which is has been persecuted
since it came into existence, and wherever it has tried to strike root, without
the slightest evidence having been produced to prove them. They are the same
accusations with which it has been charged again and again here, too, in Germany
by its enemies, namely that Freemasonry made use of its secret meetings to
propagate political opinions which were dangerous to the state, and to spread
irreligiousness. As far as the dangers political of opinions are concerned, we
Germans ask the simple question:--Could men like Frederic the Great, the Emperor
William I, and the Emperor Frederic have, in that case, been Freemasons? Would
the Kings of Prussia, who did not themselves belong to the Lodge, have regularly
requested a prince of the royal house to be the patron? And the Freemasons
religion! That the Freemason follows with great interest every new phenomenon in
this department, and discusses it in the meetings goes without saying; but this
right which every educated man enjoys, must surely be also yielded
to him. Otherwise he cultivates above all the ethical side of religion,
and for the rest he lets every one seek his salvation in his own way. And now,
what about the “secrecy” of the “secret society?” In the first place
every closed society keeps the outside world in the dark as regards its private
concerns, only allowing its own members to look into them. With its members, or
rather, with the receiving of them, Freemasonry, it is true, must be specially
cautious and particular, for it is a moral alliance which cannot obtain its
object in any other way than by seeking to win over as its disciples only men of
highly moral character. As this alliance is spread over the whole earth, and its
communities number hundreds of thousands, certain secret tokens and words which
are understood by all, are necessary in order that no unworthy person may force
his way into its meetings. Finally, these tokens are simpler than papers of
identification which under circumstances could not at once be recognised at
such; for instance, a German visits a Spanish Lodge where perhaps there is no
Brother who speaks German. This is really all there is of “secrecy” in
Freemasonry; there is no reason whatever why an outsider might not listen to the
rest. In the meetings an attempt is made, as has already been hinted at, by
means of lectures especially on ethical subjects, to create in the members a
taste for all that is beautiful, good, and true, and to lift their minds and
souls out of the prosaic world of every day life to more ideal heights. Further,
we endeavour by means of amusements, music, and not too expensive banquets, to
draw the hearts of individuals nearer together. The Lodge is meant to be a home
for each Brother, and this home he should also find when haply his lot is cast
in far off lands, the Brethren in those lands being under the obligation to aid
him by word and deed. “Do Good” is the motto that beams forth from every
Lodge in golden letters. The wives and children of deceased Brethren are
assisted as much as possible. Members themselves, who have fallen upon evil days
through no fault of their own, are set upon their feet again. For solitary old
members homes are built, and as far as the means allow, charity is bestowed in
an abundant degree on needy outsiders as well as on needy Brethren. Does such an
alliance really deserve the attacks with which the orthodox in both countries
persecute it? One would rather think that they feel themselves compelled to give
their assistance to an association which carries out in word and deed the
injunction “Love one another.”