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Russian Initiation into a Masonic Lodge in 1815
RUSSIAN INITIATION INTO A MASONIC LODGE IN 1815
PRESENTED AT THE VICTORIA LODGE OF EDUCATION AND RESEARCH SEPTEMBER 15,1992
BY W. B. JOHN KEZIERE
On the 14th. June, 1815, after dinner at 6 o'clock Divov, a courtier, drove me to a Lodge of Freemasons. I was shown into a chamber where I had to wait over an hour, until the conclusion of the ceremony of initiation of another profane, Prince G. M. Odoevsky. Then a man entered, attired in ordinary evening dress. He bandaged my eyes and conducted me through a number of rooms suddenly be stopped. I heard a great noise of bolts, creaking of gates, and we stepped over the threshold of a door. The conductor put me on a chair and said: 'When I have left, take off the bandages, and give yourself up to the study of the book which lies before you.' The creak of the door and the noise of bolts informed me that he had left. I took off the bandage. Black walls of a gloomy cavern surrounded me by the dim light of a lamp which hung over my head, my eyes met a skull(1) and near it an open Bible on
a blue cushion of velvet, trimmed with gold. Above me, the shimmering light also showed a skull with two crossed bones and the inscription: MEMENTI MORI. I took the book of Faith and read silently(2)... At these words the door opened and a man holding
a drawn sword appeared round his neck was a broad blue ribbon from which a golden triangle was suspended a similar triangle, but much smaller, on a red ribbon trimmed with silver adorned the left side of his breast he gravely asked me in French, 'What is your intention in entering the Fraternity of Freemasons?' I replied, 'To discover the secret path to the knowledge of truth.' 'What is truth?' 'An attribute of that original cause which gives movement to the whole of the Universe.' 'As far as our powers and possibilities go, and understanding of such paths will be given to you but now you must know that obedience, patience and reserve, are the chief objects first demanded from you by the Society which you have the intention to join. Do you feel yourself capable on investing yourself with these primeval virtues?' 'I shall use all my strength to obtain these purposes but know that it is not curiosity concerning exterior ceremonies of the Society which attracts me I want to have the assurance of that which my soul longs for but cannot attain I want means to be confirmed in virtue and to perfect such as I may already possess I want to know if my soul is immortal?' 'Can one doubt this? Nothing disappears in the universe.' 'But if it is a part of the ever existing soul of this world, how can a human soul, polluted by vices, unite with its purest sources?' 'Seek and ye shall find knock and it shall be opened to you,' replied the unknown orator 'but begin by being obedient.' And, having called a serving brother, he commanded me to take off some of the things I had on: my jacket, waist-coat and my left boot to tie up strongly with a kerchief my leg above the knee to bandage my eyes, and having pulled down my shirt from my left shoulder, to open my breast, to which he applied a drawn sword then he conducted me out of the gloomy refuge.
So attired, for quite a long time he made me go round and round in their chambers at last he stopped and said, 'Knock with this ring three times,' putting my hand on a ring. In a minute or so a voice was heard behind the doors: 'Who is disturbing the peace of brotherly converse?' My conductor replied: 'A profane he desires to become a member of the sacred Fraternity.' 'Perhaps a vain curiosity attracts him here?' 'What is his name, rank, place of
birth? How old is he? .... After several questions of a similar nature and respective answers, the doors were opened, and I was admitted.
Still having a tight bandage over my eyes, I heard from far off a grave soft voice asking me: 'Do you, O profane, firmly desire to enter into the sacred Guild of Brotherhood?' I replied, 'yes.' 'Have you sufficient courage to pass through the trials now awaiting you?' 'Yes.' When all such questions were finished, the same voice called: 'Brother Conductor of Ceremonies, begin the trials, accompany him on the path continuous and strenuous.' After that, the brother Conductor Ceremonies, having applied the sword
to my breast and taken me by the hand, began the execution of the command just given. He started together with me a journey from the East to the West, and conducted me slowly with small steps, talking in a loud and clear voice of life and death then he stopped, patted me on the shoulder, and exclaimed: 'Worshipful, the profane has passed the first trial his firmness gives hope for his success during the next trials.' This speech was repeated by two other voices, and the commanding voice said: 'Begin the second journey'... When the second journey was finished, and the succeeding third journey, the brother Conductor of Ceremonies stopped me, patted me on the shoulder, and made a report this was repeated by two voices, and then a voice soft and compassionate spoke: 'Most beloved brethren: the profane has terminated in a praiseworthy manner his trials he is worthy to enter our Society. Will you agree to enter into communion with him?' (or something to that effect). A muffled sound of applause announced the general consent of brethren I was then instructed to come nearer. I had to move straight before me, and my steps were directed so that I should place my feet in a certain peculiar way I ascended an elevation, knelt down on a cushion, and my hand was placed on the Bible and a sword. Somebody (the Grand Master) placed his hand on mine and instructed me to swear that I shall conceal the secret then I was directed back to my former position. Somebody standing nearby told me: 'Put out your Tongue,' and an iron instrument was applied to it. At the same time a voice was heard 'May the bandages fall from his eyes so that he may see the light illuminating.' The bandage fell. A light flashed before my eyes it suddenly disappeared, and I saw before me in an illuminated round hall about forty persons, surrounding me in a semi-circle with swords pointed at me. Behind them on an elevated throne under a green canopy covered with stars, the Grand Master stood. At a sign from him, all brethren took their seats. They all wore hats and had leather aprons on but some of the latter were of plain white, some trimmed with rose and blue ribbons, according to their respective degrees or ranks. To show further the rank attained, they were adorned with different jewels, hanging from blue or gold ribbons trimmed with silver, wither from their necks or buttonholes. The Grand Master had his hat on and jewels similar
to other brethren, but was distinguished from them by the triangle and a square suspended from a blue ribbon. Before him stood a table covered right down to the floor. On this table were placed: three candle-sticks, each in a corner, a Bible, a sword, compasses, a square and a white gavel, all lying on cushions.
When all had occupied their respective seats, the Grand Master commanded to bring me to his throne. In the middle of the floor
a representation of King Solomon's Temple was lying, which I had passed when blindfolded. Now I could see that my previous steps were so directed that I should walk over this representation gradually ascending the staircase leading to the sanctuary. Having ascended the steps, I was standing near the table or rather an altar, I knelt down. The Grand Master took the compasses, applied them to my naked breast and struck down his gavel three times. I saw that a cup moistened with blood was taken from under my breast.
Each of these actions was accompanied by corresponding words. When this was ended, the Grand Master bade me be dressed I was conducted into another room when my proper dressing was restored, I re-entered the Lodge. After that, the Worshipful commanded me and another initiate (accepted together with me) to approach the throne and began the following discourse:-
'Dear brethren. Everything you have felt and seen, is but symbolic of the secret essence: the bandage over your eyes, the dark temple, the mental contemplation, the knocks, the journey from the East to the West, your passing over the representation of King Solomon's Temple, all these are nothing but noteworthy features of that which can generate in your soul an idea of nothingness of the world, raising a desire to search for truth seek and ye shall find knock and it shall be opened unto you. We are confident that your work of honour as to the concealment of our secrets would be sufficient, but also knowing the weakness of the human heart, to be safe. we receive your oath on the Sacred Book of Law, in this manner inflaming all our hearts with ardour and binding us with you the reason for asking this oath is that otherwise profanes who do not understand the aim of this brotherhood might mock it or use it for evil. Liberty and equality are supreme among us under the name
of Freemasons we together endeavour to reconstruct the building established on the Corner Stone, depicted in this Holy Book(3). Therefore, dear brother, you are invested as a Mason with an apron, and receive this gavel(4). Also accept this small token, a sign
of our brotherly union, and wear it on your breast every time when visiting our Society(5). Receive these gloves in token of purity of your actions, receive these ladies' gloves for the companion of your life the better sex does not belong to our Society but we do not break the Constitutions of the Creator and of Nature. A good wife is a comfort in the dreadful trials of this world but let your chosen one be of pure and innocent actions(6). Now receive this sword which should serve to cut off all passions, and know that the Society of United Brethren, in which you enter, is nothing by itself if you yourself do not direct your will towards the quest of truth it serves as an entrance to the path which the awakened conscience of a fallen soul thirsts to discover.
After this speech, the Grand Master bade the Director to entrust
us with the sign of Freemasons, and to give us a preliminary instruction in hieroglyphics.
As there are brethren of different degrees and we have received only the first one (that of the Apprentice), the particular sign of apprentices was shown to us which is ....(7)
The author concludes: -
After we learnt all these signs, our aprons were put on, gavels were hung to one of the buttons and triangles in our respective buttonholes, naked swords were put into our hands we were bidden to cover ourselves, and shown our seats.
The term for remaining an Entered Apprentice was five months a Fellow Craft, seven months and a Master Mason (without further advancement), one year and three months.
1. The original says 'Adam's Head.'
2. A few words are omitted in the original.
3. 'Saying this, the Worshipful Master points at the Bible.'
4. 'He gives to each of the initiates a leather apron and a small
5. 'He gives to each of the initiates an opened gold triangle on a scarlet ribbon lined with silver on the sides of the triangle are the words, Les amis reunis [The United Friends, name of the Lodge], and in the middle, two United hands.'
6. 'Both pairs of gloves handed to the initiates are of cambrie.' 7. Words are omitted in the original.
Reference: Transactions of the Quatour Coronati Lodge.
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