Martinism in 18th-19th

“Martinism” in the Russian Empire at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries

The history of Martinism in Russia is usually traced back to the end of the 18th century. Some researchers believe that Martinism could get into the Russian Empire of this period in two ways: through the Rite écossais rectifié or through personal contacts of individuals with Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin. Since 1782, after the Wilhelmsbad Convention, at which Russia became the 8th province independent from Sweden, Russian Freemasons had to work according to “corrected rituals”, that is, according to the  Rite écossais rectifié , which was developed by J. B. Willermoz, a Martinist in the original sense of the word (“emule”, that is, a student of Pasqually).

However, one can hardly speak of any prolonged Masonic work under the Rectified Scottish Rite. Novikov did not like the “Strict Observance” of Willermoz, and about the Duke of Brunswick, who represented the Russian Masons at the Wilhelmsbad Convention, I. P. Turgenev wrote this: “We, including myself, did not take an oath to the Duke, and we did not respect this connection.” Thus, we can conclude that there was no particular interest in the Lyon emule system: as a result, most of the lodges working on it ceased to exist already in 1784. Basically, secret meetings of “theoretical brothers” were practiced – that is, work was carried out in the “Theoretical Degree” of  Berlin Rosicrucian Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross. The history of this organization has been documented since 1777. Both in Germany and in Russia, it was positioned as “true Freemasonry” and a superstructure of higher degrees.

This system was brought to Russia by I. G. Schwartz (together with P. A. Tatishchev) in 1782 after the Wilhelmsbad Convention. At the same time, the very word “Martinists” was assigned to the members of this organization, which is not directly related either to the RER or to Saint-Martin himself: “The reasons that guided the studies of Novikov, Lopukhin and their friends are in complete agreement with those adopted by Saint-Martin, whose book “On Errors and Truth” was in their special respect. From that they began to be called erroneously, as well as abroad, “Martinists”. I. N. Lopukhin points out the same circumstance. At the same time, these Martinists were sometimes called Freemasons, sometimes they were confused with the Illuminati, although in fact it was “Russian Rosicrucianism”.

By the 1790s the attitude of Catherine II towards the Moscow “Martinists” gradually acquired an increasingly negative character. Ultimately, on April 24, 1792, Novikov was arrested, and on August 1, a decree was issued on the imprisonment of a Russian freemason in the Shlisselburg fortress for a period of 15 years.

However, the activities of the Rosicrucians did not end there: on November 6, 1796, Catherine died, and, without even waiting for her last breath, Paul I leaves for St. Petersburg. On the same day, Novikov is released: from that moment on, the “Martinists” begin to restore their activities. This was prevented by the fact that in 1798 Pavel became the Grand Master of the Order of Malta and issued a decree prohibiting the opening of any lodges on the territory of the Russian Empire without special permission from the emperor.

Under Alexander I, the Rosicrucian society developed around its two main centers: N. I. Novikov (d. 1818) and I. A. Pozdeev (d. 1820), who competed with him, acted in Moscow, and in the capital the activities of the Order continued, headed by A.F. Labzin (d. 1825). Even after the publication of the highest rescript of August 1, 1822 “On the destruction of Masonic lodges and all sorts of secret societies”, secret meetings continued. A. S. Pushkin tried to characterize the activities of these societies in all aspects: “A strange mixture of piety and philosophical free-thinking, disinterested love for enlightenment, practical philanthropy distinguished them from the generation to which they belonged. People who profited by insidious slander tried to present the Martinists as conspirators and attributed to them criminal political views … but their ill will was limited to peevish denunciations of the present, innocent hopes for the future, and ambiguous toasts at Franco-Masonic dinners. In the 70s most of the Rosicrucians died, and the last Russian “Martinists” were the grandson and son of V. S. Arseniev, initiated at the beginning of the 20th century.

In the context of the history of the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross, it is impossible not to mention the activities of the Benedictine A. J. Pernety. In the late 1770s he became one of the founders of the Illuminati of Avignon, which is also known as the Avignon Society. In 1778, this organization was already known in Montpellier under the name of the Academy of True Masons (the academy should be understood as a lodge), because of which Papus believed that it directly goes back to the Order of Pasqually (it was in Montpellier in 1754 that the chapter of the “Scottish judges” was found). The Illuminati of Avignon practiced alchemy and obtaining “Oracles” from the “Holy Word” or “Heaven”.

With the participation of the Italian Ottavio Capelli, “Count” Tadeusz Grabianka broke away from the Illuminati of Avignon, deciding to seek the Kingdom of God and the Philosopher’s Stone on his own. He received several predictions that also applied to Russia. Already in 1802-1805, a number of members of this society, headed by Grabyanka, moved to St. Petersburg, where they formed an organization known under the following names: New Israel, the People of God, the Grabyanka Society. From 1802 until the arrest of Grabyanka on February 6, 1805, the society received many members of the Rosicrucian Order in St. Petersburg. One can hardly speak of any Martinist aspect of the Illuminati of Avignon, even though, or rather despite the fact that there were many members of the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross. Thus, the use of the term “Martinists” in relation to them is hardly acceptable.

On the other hand, in the 1780s some Russian Freemasons made personal acquaintances with Willermoz and Saint-Martin. For example, during his trip to Lyon S. Zinoviev communicated with them. Then he met Saint-Martin again while he was in London, introducing S. R. Vorontsov to him. There is a version that Saint-Martin passed the initiation  to Novikov through A. B. Kurakin, who was in France in 1772-1773. and who met Novikov shortly after the establishment of the union between Elagin and Reichel, which took place in 1776. M. N. Longinov also suggested that Schwartz received initiation from the Unknown Philosopher through A. B. Golitsyn, although there is no documentary evidence of this.

Saint-Martin was also invited to Russia. He was called to Montbéliard by the mother of the second wife of the Russian Tsarevich. R. A. Koshelev also called him, to whom he replied that he would not come while the Empress, “known for her immorality,” was in power. Perhaps, initially incorrectly, this name gave rise to excessive perseverance in trying to link Saint-Martin with Novikov, and one can agree with Reinberk: “What is called Russian Martinism is only reformed Templar Freemasonry according to the Lyon system. I don’t know if there were Supreme Professions in Russia, ”although he does not deny that Saint-Martin could personally initiate someone into Martinism. However, while there are no sufficient grounds for this assertion, calling the Moscow Rosicrucians Martinists only confuses the matter.

Sar Aratron

Sarah Gladius Dei