Chapter 7

TWO YEARS BEFORE, at the beginning of 1808, Pierre had returned to Petersburg from his visits to his estates, and by no design of his own had taken a leading position among the freemasons in Petersburg. He organised dining and funeral lodges, enrolled new members, took an active part in the formation of different lodges, and the acquisition of authentic acts. He spent his money on the construction of temples, and, to the best of his powers, made up the arrears of alms, a matter in which the majority of members were niggardly and irregular. At his own expense, almost unaided, he maintained the poorhouse built by the order in Petersburg.

Meanwhile his life ran on in the old way, yielding to the same temptations and the same laxity. He liked a good dinner and he liked strong drink; and, though he thought it immoral and degrading to yield to them, he was unable to resist the temptations of the bachelor society in which he moved.

Yet even in the whirl of his active work and his dissipations, Pierre began, after the lapse of a year, to feel more and more as though the ground of freemasonry on which he had taken his stand was slipping away under his feet the more firmly he tried to rest on it. At the same time he felt that the further the ground slipped from under his feet, the more close was his bondage to the order. When he had entered the brotherhood he had felt like a man who confidently puts his foot down on the smooth surface of a bog. Having put one foot down, he had sunk in; and to convince himself of the firmness of the ground on which he stood, he had put the other foot down on it too, and had sunk in further, had stuck in the mud, and now was against his own will struggling knee-deep in the bog.

Osip Alexyevitch was not in Petersburg. (He had withdrawn from all participation in the affairs of the Petersburg lodge, and now never left Moscow.) All the brothers who were members of the lodge were people Pierre knew in daily life, and it was difficult for him to see in them simply brothers in freemasonry, and not Prince B., nor Ivan Vasilyevitch D., whom he knew in private life mostly as persons of weak and worthless character. Under their masonic aprons and emblems he could not help seeing the uniforms and the decorations they were striving after in mundane life. Often after collecting the alms and reckoning up twenty to thirty roubles promised—and for the most part left owing—from some ten members, of whom half were as well-off as Pierre himself, he thought of the masonic vow by which every brother promised to give up all his belongings for his neighbour; and doubts stirred in his soul from which he tried to escape.

He divided all the brothers he knew into four classes. In the first class he reckoned brothers who took no active interest in the affairs of the lodges nor in the service of humanity, but were occupied exclusively with the scientific secrets of the order, with questions relating to the threefold designation of God, or the three first elements of things—sulphur, mercury, and salt—or the significance of the square and all the figures of the Temple of Solomon. Pierre respected this class of masons, to which the elder brothers principally belonged—in it Pierre reckoned Osip Alexyevitch—but he did not share their interests. His heart wasn’t in the mystic side of freemasonry.

In the second class Pierre included himself, and brothers like himself, wavering, seeking, and not yet finding in freemasonry a straight and fully understood path for themselves, but still hoping to find it.

In the third class he reckoned brothers—they formed the majority—who saw in freemasonry nothing but an external form and ceremonial, and valued the strict performance of that external form without troubling themselves about its import or significance. Such were Villarsky and the Grand Master of the lodge indeed.

The fourth class, too, included a great number of the brothers especially among those who had entered the brotherhood of late. These were men who, as far as Pierre could observe, had no belief in anything, nor desire of anything, but had entered the brotherhood simply for the sake of getting into touch with the wealthy young men, powerful through their connections or their rank, who were numerous in the lodge.

Pierre began to feel dissatisfied with what he was doing. Freemasonry, at least as he knew it here, seemed to him sometimes to rest simply upon formal observances. He never dreamed of doubting of

  By PanEris using Melati.

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