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LEO TOLSTOY and FREEMASONRY
COUNT LYEV NIKOLAYEVICH TOLSTOY (1828-1910).
Russian novelist and moral philosopher comes from
a Russian landed gentry dating back 300 years.
His parents died by the time he was 9 yrs old.
Raised by female relatives, and educated by French tutors.
He lived a middle-gentry life of the last of the old serfdom period.
His "War and Peace" appeared in parts in 1865 and 1869.
He was 37 yrs old.
Freemasonry's presence in Tolstoy's War and Peace, which many consider
Russia's greatest novel, is a reflection of the long existence (since 1771)
of the Craft in Russia. Masonry was banned by Czar Alexander in 1821, a ban
continued by the Communists in 1922. Masonry was only revived in 1993. There
are now some 10 lodges meeting in Russia under Russia's Grand Lodge.
|Northern Lights (Armenian-speaking)|
|Fraternal Love||a Lodge meeting in Turkey, France, Lebanon and Russia|
Such a renewal is not surprising when the long-time cultural influence of Masonry in Russia is considered. While Freemasonry's consideration in Count Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is the most famous example, the masonic fraternity figures in "The Possessed" by Dostoevsky, and in the works of other master authors such as; V.I.Likin, N.M.Karamzin, M.M.Kheraskov, V.I.Maikov, A.N.Radishchev, A.A.Rzhevskii, A.P.Sumarokov, and M.M.Shcherbatov. This literature compares with the works of Scotland's Robert Burns & Sir Walter Scott, England's Rudyard Kipling & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, alongwith Germany's Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and America's Edgar Allan Poe.
War and Peace is widely accepted as being autobiographical, and the figure of Pierre Bezukhov is as consumed as was Tolstoy with the great questions of life. There is no evidence that Tolstoy joined a Lodge, but he spent considerable time investigating masonic activities.
The masonic initiation scene in War and Peace is justly celebrated:
|'Pierre gradually began to recover himself and looked about at the room and at the people in it. Round a long table covered with black sat some twelve brethren in garments like those he has already seen. Several of them Pierre had met in St. Petersburg society. In the president's chair sat a young man he did not know, with a peculiar cross hanging from his neck. On his right sat the Italian abbe whom Pierre had seen at Anna Pavlovna's two years before. There was also present a very distinguished dignitary, and a Swiss tutor who had formerly been tutor at the Kuragins. All maintained a solemn silence, listening to the words of the president, who held a mallet in his hand. Let into the wall was a star-shaped light. At one side of the table was a small carpet was various figures worked upon it; on the other was something resembling an altar on which by a (New) Testament and a skull."|
Pierre seeks initiation as part of his quest for self-knowledge, a major
theme in the book. He hopes that the secrets of the Masons will prove the
Golden Fleece or Holy Grail. He is representative of a whole generation of
Russian intellectuals who were trying to reconcile the Slavic East with the
bewildering bonanza of ideas from the West. Of course, he expects too much.
In Book Six, Chapter Seven, it is now 1808, and Pierre is busily arranging
dining and funeral Lodges, donating for the erection of temples, helping
with charities - and becoming disillusioned.
|When he had joined the Freemasons he had experienced the feeling of one who confidently steps onto the smooth surface of a bog. When he put his foot down, it sank in. . All the members of the Lodges were men Pierre knew in ordinary life, and it was difficult for him to regard them merely as Brothers in Freemasonry. Under the Masonic aprons and insignia he saw the uniforms and decorations at which they aimed in ordinary life.|
In questioning the purity of Masonry and the motives of its members, and in suggesting its misuse by its members for pedestrian old-boy networking, Tolstoy anticipates the sceptical observations about the Craft of another famous Russian, Leon Trotsky, who writes in Chapter Nine of his autobiography, "My Life":
|"In the early years of this century, Russia was a vast laboratory of social thinking. My work on the history of freemasonry had fortified me in a realization of the subordinate place of ideas in the historical process. 'Ideas do not drop from the sky'.."|
Pierre is an embodiment of a disillusioned Tolstoy who found Freemasonry to be far less than what he had expected. Pierre describes those like himself as one who are 'seeking and vacillating, who had not yet found in Freemasonry a straight and comprehensible path, but hoped to do so'. He decides that the fault is his own and that he needs to deepen his understanding of Masonry by further study. So he goes abroad to seek masonic knowledge in other countries. Upon returning to his Lodge a special meeting is called to hear of his travels. Pierre in desperation asks his Grand Master if what he has found will be implemented, and is told NO. He leaves his lodge.
In a letter of Tolstoy to his wife in 1866, he wrote:
|"After drinking coffee I went to the Rumyantsev Museum and sat there till three o'clock read very interesting Masonic manuscripts. I can't describe to you why the reading produced on me a depression I have not been able to get rid of all day. What is distressing is that all those Masons were fools."|
Hard words but maybe Pierre/Tolstoy had found that while Masons talk of problems and express such good deeds, they fail to study What is Freemasonry!!
WBro. Graeme Love, PJGD, MPS
28th April, 2001
GO TO ARTICLES:
M W Bro A.T. Holden, PGM
The history and formation of the Holden Research Circle
Decidation of HRC No 2
Freemasonry - the mighty paradox
The genuine Secrets of a Master Mason
Freemasonry in ancient China
Freemasonry in Thailand
The "9 Worthies" or "Excellent Masters"
Stone Masons Terminology
A simple lodge meeting
Count Leo Tolstoy and Freemasonry
De-Christianisation of English Freemasonry
Freemasonry which is of the now, not just the future
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Updated: 23 June 2001