Excerpts from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

These are the parts that contain significant EXPLICIT Masonic Content.  Masonic Themes are included many other places in the novel.  Read it.

First section of interest.

"I make bold to ask your excellency to move a little for this gentleman," said the postmaster, entering the room followed by another traveler, also detained for lack of horses.

The newcomer was a short, large-boned, yellow-faced, wrinkled old man, with gray bushy eyebrows overhanging bright eyes of an indefinite grayish color.

Pierre took his feet off the table, stood up, and lay down on a bed that had been got ready for him, glancing now and then at the newcomer, who, with a gloomy and tired face, was wearily taking off his wraps with the aid of his servant, and not looking at Pierre. With a pair of felt boots on his thin bony legs, and keeping on a worn, nankeen-covered, sheepskin coat, the traveler sat down on the sofa, leaned back his big head with its broad temples and close-cropped hair, and looked at Bezukhov. The stern, shrewd, and penetrating expression of that look struck Pierre. He felt a wish to speak to the stranger, but by the time he had made up his mind to ask him a question about the roads, the traveler had closed his eyes. His shriveled old hands were folded and on the finger of one of them Pierre noticed a large cast iron ring with a seal representing a death's head. The stranger sat without stirring, either resting or, as it seemed to Pierre, sunk in profound and calm meditation. His servant was also a yellow, wrinkled old man, without beard or mustache, evidently not because he was shaven but because they had never grown. This active old servant was unpacking the traveler's canteen and preparing tea. He brought in a boiling samovar. When everything was ready, the stranger opened his eyes, moved to the table, filled a tumbler with tea for himself and one for the beardless old man to whom he passed it. Pierre began to feel a sense of uneasiness, and the need, even the inevitability, of entering into conversation with this stranger.

The servant brought back his tumbler turned upside down,* with an unfinished bit of nibbled sugar, and asked if anything more would be wanted.

*To indicate he did not want more tea.

"No. Give me the book," said the stranger.

The servant handed him a book which Pierre took to be a devotional work, and the traveler became absorbed in it. Pierre looked at him. All at once the stranger closed the book, putting in a marker, and again, leaning with his arms on the back of the sofa, sat in his former position with his eyes shut. Pierre looked at him and had not time to turn away when the old man, opening his eyes, fixed his steady and severe gaze straight on Pierre's face.

Pierre felt confused and wished to avoid that look, but the bright old eyes attracted him irresistibly. "I have the pleasure of addressing Count Bezukhov, if I am not mistaken," said the stranger in a deliberate and loud voice.

Pierre looked silently and inquiringly at him over his spectacles.

"I have heard of you, my dear sir," continued the stranger, "and of your misfortune." He seemed to emphasize the last word, as if to say--"Yes, misfortune! Call it what you please, I know that what happened to you in Moscow was a misfortune."--"I regret it very much, my dear sir."

Pierre flushed and, hurriedly putting his legs down from the bed, bent forward toward the old man with a forced and timid smile.

"I have not referred to this out of curiosity, my dear sir, but for greater reasons."

He paused, his gaze still on Pierre, and moved aside on the sofa by way of inviting the other to take a seat beside him. Pierre felt reluctant to enter into conversation with this old man, but, submitting to him involuntarily, came up and sat down beside him.

"You are unhappy, my dear sir," the stranger continued. "You are young and I am old. I should like to help you as far as lies in my power."

"Oh, yes!" said Pierre, with a forced smile. "I am very grateful to you. Where are you traveling from?"

The stranger's face was not genial, it was even cold and severe, but in spite of this, both the face and words of his new acquaintance were irresistibly attractive to Pierre.

"But if for reason you don't feel inclined to talk to me," said the old man, "say so, my dear sir." And he suddenly smiled, in an unexpected and tenderly paternal way.

"Oh no, not at all! On the contrary, I am very glad to make your acquaintance," said Pierre. And again, glancing at the stranger's hands, he looked more closely at the ring, with its skull--a Masonic sign.

"Allow me to ask," he said, "are you a Mason?"

"Yes, I belong to the Brotherhood of the Freemasons," said the stranger, looking deeper and deeper into Pierre's eyes. "And in their name and my own I hold out a brotherly hand to you."

"I am afraid," said Pierre, smiling, and wavering between the confidence the personality of the Freemason inspired in him and his own habit of ridiculing the Masonic beliefs--"I am afraid I am very far from understanding--how am I to put it?--I am afraid my way of looking at the world is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another."

"I know your outlook," said the Mason, "and the view of life you mention, and which you think is the result of your own mental efforts, is the one held by the majority of people, and is the invariable fruit of pride, indolence, and ignorance. Forgive me, my dear sir, but if I had not known it I should not have addressed you. Your view of life is a regrettable delusion."

"Just as I may suppose you to be deluded," said Pierre, with a faint smile.

"I should never dare to say that I know the truth," said the Mason, whose words struck Pierre more and more by their precision and firmness. "No one can attain to truth by himself. Only by laying stone on stone with the cooperation of all, by the millions of generations from our forefather Adam to our own times, is that temple reared which is to be a worthy dwelling place of the Great God," he added, and closed his eyes.

"I ought to tell you that I do not believe... do not believe in God," said Pierre, regretfully and with an effort, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.

The Mason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man with millions in hand might smile at a poor fellow who told him that he, poor man, had not the five rubles that would make him happy.

"Yes, you do not know Him, my dear sir," said the Mason. "You cannot know Him. You do not know Him and that is why you are unhappy."

"Yes, yes, I am unhappy," assented Pierre. "But what am I to do?"

"You know Him not, my dear sir, and so you are very unhappy. You do not know Him, but He is here, He is in me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in those blasphemous words thou hast just uttered!" pronounced the Mason in a stern and tremulous voice.

He paused and sighed, evidently trying to calm himself.

"If He were not," he said quietly, "you and I would not be speaking of Him, my dear sir. Of what, of whom, are we speaking? Whom hast thou denied?" he suddenly asked with exulting austerity and authority in his voice. "Who invented Him, if He did not exist? Whence came thy conception of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being? didst thou, and why did the whole world, conceive the idea of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being, a Being all-powerful, eternal, and infinite in all His attributes?..."

He stopped and remained silent for a long time.

Pierre could not and did not wish to break this silence.

"He exists, but to understand Him is hard," the Mason began again, looking not at Pierre but straight before him, and turning the leaves of his book with his old hands which from excitement he could not keep still. "If it were a man whose existence thou didst doubt I could bring him to thee, could take him by the hand and show him to thee. But how can I, an insignificant mortal, show His omnipotence, His infinity, and all His mercy to one who is blind, or who shuts his eyes that he may not see or understand Him and may not see or understand his own vileness and sinfulness?" He paused again. "Who art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those blasphemous words," he went on, with a somber and scornful smile. "And thou art more foolish and unreasonable than a little child, who, playing with the parts of a skillfully made watch, dares to say that, as he does not understand its use, he does not believe in the master who made it. To know Him is hard.... For ages, from our forefather Adam to our own day, we labor to attain that knowledge and are still infinitely far from our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our weakness and His greatness...."

Pierre listened with swelling heart, gazing into the Mason's face with shining eyes, not interrupting or questioning him, but believing with his whole soul what the stranger said. Whether he accepted the wise reasoning contained in the Mason's words, or believed as a child believes, in the speaker's tone of conviction and earnestness, or the tremor of the speaker's voice--which sometimes almost broke--or those brilliant aged eyes grown old in this conviction, or the calm firmness and certainty of his vocation, which radiated from his whole being (and which struck Pierre especially by contrast with his own dejection and hopelessness)--at any rate, Pierre longed with his whole soul to believe and he did believe, and felt a joyful sense of comfort, regeneration, and return to life.

"He is not to be apprehended by reason, but by life," said the Mason.

"I do not understand," said Pierre, feeling with dismay doubts reawakening. He was afraid of any want of clearness, any weakness, in the Mason's arguments; he dreaded not to be able to believe in him. "I don't understand," he said, "how it is that the mind of man cannot attain the knowledge of which you speak."

The Mason smiled with his gentle fatherly smile.

"The highest wisdom and truth are like the purest liquid we may wish to imbibe," he said. "Can I receive that pure liquid into an impure vessel and judge of its purity? Only by the inner purification of myself can I retain in some degree of purity the liquid I receive."

"Yes, yes, that is so," said Pierre joyfully.

"The highest wisdom is not founded on reason alone, not on those worldly sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and the like, into which intellectual knowledge is divided. The highest wisdom is one. The highest wisdom has but one science--the science of the whole- the science explaining the whole creation and man's place in it. To receive that science it is necessary to purify and renew one's inner self, and so before one can know, it is necessary to believe and to perfect one's self. And to attain this end, we have the light called conscience that God has implanted in our souls."

"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.

"Look then at thy inner self with the eyes of the spirit, and ask thyself whether thou art content with thyself. What hast thou attained relying on reason only? What art thou? You are young, you are rich, you are clever, you are well educated. And what have you done with all these good gifts? Are you content with yourself and with your life?"

"No, I hate my life," Pierre muttered, wincing.

"Thou hatest it. Then change it, purify thyself; and as thou art purified, thou wilt gain wisdom. Look at your life, my dear sir. How have you spent it? In riotous orgies and debauchery, receiving everything from society and giving nothing in return. You have become the possessor of wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor? Have you ever thought of your tens of thousands of slaves? Have you helped them physically and morally? No! You have profited by their toil to lead a profligate life. That is what you have done. Have you chosen a post in which you might be of service to your neighbor? No! You have spent your life in idleness. Then you married, my dear sir--took on yourself responsibility for the guidance of a young woman; and what have you done? You have not helped her to find the way of truth, my dear sir, but have thrust her into an abyss of deceit and misery. A man offended you and you shot him, and you say you do not know God and hate your life. There is nothing strange in that, my dear sir!"

After these words, the Mason, as if tired by his long discourse, again leaned his arms on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. Pierre looked at that aged, stern, motionless, almost lifeless face and moved his lips without uttering a sound. He wished to say, "Yes, a vile, idle, vicious life!" but dared not break the silence.

The Mason cleared his throat huskily, as old men do, and called his servant.

"How about the horses?" he asked, without looking at Pierre.

"The exchange horses have just come," answered the servant. "Will you not rest here?"

"No, tell them to harness."

"Can he really be going away leaving me alone without having told me all, and without promising to help me?" thought Pierre, rising with downcast head; and he began to pace the room, glancing occasionally at the Mason. "Yes, I never thought of it, but I have led a contemptible and profligate life, though I did not like it and did not want to," thought Pierre. "But this man knows the truth and, if he wished to, could disclose it to me."

Pierre wished to say this to the Mason, but did not dare to. The traveler, having packed his things with his practiced hands, began fastening his coat. When he had finished, he turned to Bezukhov, and said in a tone of indifferent politeness:

"Where are you going to now, my dear sir?"

"I?... I'm going to Petersburg," answered Pierre, in a childlike, hesitating voice. "I thank you. I agree with all you have said. But do not suppose me to be so bad. With my whole soul I wish to be what you would have me be, but I have never had help from anyone.... But it is I, above all, who am to blame for everything. Help me, teach me, and perhaps I may..."

Pierre could not go on. He gulped and turned away.

The Mason remained silent for a long time, evidently considering.

"Help comes from God alone," he said, "but such measure of help as our Order can bestow it will render you, my dear sir. You are going to Petersburg. Hand this to Count Willarski" (he took out his notebook and wrote a few words on a large sheet of paper folded in four). "Allow me to give you a piece of advice. When you reach the capital, first of all devote some time to solitude and self-examination and do not resume your former way of life. And now I wish you a good journey, my dear sir," he added, seeing that his servant had entered... "and success."

The traveler was Joseph Alexeevich Bazdeev, as Pierre saw from the postmaster's book. Bazdeev had been one of the best-known Freemasons and Martinists, even in Novikov's time. For a long while after he had gone, Pierre did not go to bed or order horses but paced up and down the room, pondering over his vicious past, and with a rapturous sense of beginning anew pictured to himself the blissful, irreproachable, virtuous future that seemed to him so easy. It seemed to him that he had been vicious only because he had somehow forgotten how good it is to be virtuous. Not a trace of his former doubts remained in his soul. He firmly believed in the possibility of the brotherhood of men united in the aim of supporting one another in the path of virtue, and that is how Freemasonry presented itself to him.


On reaching Petersburg Pierre did not let anyone know of his arrival, he went nowhere and spent whole days in reading Thomas a Kempis, whose book had been sent him by someone unknown. One thing he continually realized as he read that book: the joy, hitherto unknown to him, of believing in the possibility of attaining perfection, and in the possibility of active brotherly love among men, which Joseph Alexeevich had revealed to him. A week after his arrival, the young Polish count, Willarski, whom Pierre had known slightly in Petersburg society, came into his room one evening in the official and ceremonious manner in which Dolokhov's second had called on him, and, having closed the door behind him and satisfied himself that there was nobody else in the room, addressed Pierre.

"I have come to you with a message and an offer, Count," he said without sitting down. "A person of very high standing in our Brotherhood has made application for you to be received into our Order before the usual term and has proposed to me to be your sponsor. I consider it a sacred duty to fulfill that person's wishes. Do you wish to enter the Brotherhood of Freemasons under my sponsorship?"

The cold, austere tone of this man, whom he had almost always before met at balls, amiably smiling in the society of the most brilliant women, surprised Pierre.

"Yes, I do wish it," said he.

Willarski bowed his head.

"One more question, Count," he said, "which beg you to answer in all sincerity--not as a future Mason but as an honest man: have you renounced your former convictions--do you believe in God?"

Pierre considered.

"Yes... yes, I believe in God," he said.

"In that case..." began Willarski, but Pierre interrupted him.

"Yes, I do believe in God," he repeated.

"In that case we can go," said Willarski. "My carriage is at your service."

Willarski was silent throughout the drive. To Pierre's inquiries as to what he must do and how he should answer, Willarski only replied that brothers more worthy than he would test him and that Pierre had only to tell the truth.

Having entered the courtyard of a large house where the Lodge had its headquarters, and having ascended a dark staircase, they entered a small well-lit anteroom where they took off their cloaks without the aid of a servant. From there they passed into another room. A man in strange attire appeared at the door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French in an undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre noticed garments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from the cupboard, Willarski bound Pierre's eyes with it and tied it in a knot behind, catching some hairs painfully in the knot. Then he drew his face down, kissed him, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the knot hurt Pierre and there were lines of pain on his face and a shamefaced smile. His huge figure, with arms hanging down and with a puckered, though smiling face, moved after Willarski with uncertain, timid steps.

Having led him about ten paces, Willarski stopped.

"Whatever happens to you," he said, "you must bear it all manfully if you have firmly resolved to join our Brotherhood." (Pierre nodded affirmatively.) "When you hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes," added Willarski. "I wish you courage and success," and, pressing Pierre's hand, he went out.

Left alone, Pierre went on smiling in the same way. Once or twice he shrugged his and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but let it drop again. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him an hour. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that he was tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He felt afraid of what would happen to him and still more afraid of showing his fear. He felt curious to know what was going to happen and what would be revealed to him; but most of all, he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would at last start on that path of regeneration and on the actively virtuous life of which he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexeevich. Loud knocks were heard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced around him. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning inside something white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a black table on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thing with the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. After reading the first words of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God," Pierre went round the table and saw a large open box filled with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at all surprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlike the old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual than what he was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel--it seemed to him that he had expected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looked around. "God, death, love, the brotherhood of man," he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened and someone came in.

By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw rather short man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the man paused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table and placed on it his small leather-gloved hands.

This short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and part of his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high white ruffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.

"For what have you come hither?" asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre's direction at a slight rustle made by the latter. "Why have you, who do not believe in the truth of the light and who have not seen the light, come here? What do you seek from us? Wisdom, virtue, enlightenment?"

At the moment the door opened and the stranger came in, Pierre felt a sense of awe and veneration such as he had experienced in his boyhood at confession; he felt himself in the presence of one socially a complete stranger, yet nearer to him through the brotherhood of man. With bated breath and beating heart he moved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker for entrance into the Brotherhood was known). Drawing nearer, he recognized in the Rhetor a man he knew, Smolyaninov, and it mortified him to think that the newcomer was an acquaintance--he wished him simply a brother and a virtuous instructor. For a long time he could not utter a word, so that the Rhetor had to repeat his question.

"Yes... I... I... desire regeneration," Pierre uttered with difficulty.

"Very well," said Smolyaninov, and went on at once: "Have you any idea of the means by which our holy Order will help you to reach your aim?" said he quietly and quickly.

"I... hope... for guidance... help... in regeneration," said Pierre, with a trembling voice and some difficulty in utterance due to his excitement and to being unaccustomed to speak of abstract matters in Russian.

"What is your conception of Freemasonry?"

"I imagine that Freemasonry is the fraternity and equality of men who have virtuous aims," said Pierre, feeling ashamed of the inadequacy of his words for the solemnity of the moment, as he spoke. "I imagine..."

"Good!" said the Rhetor quickly, apparently satisfied with this answer. "Have you sought for means of attaining your aim in religion?"

"No, I considered it erroneous and did not follow it," said Pierre, so softly that the Rhetor did not hear him and asked him what he was saying. "I have been an atheist," answered Pierre.

"You are seeking for truth in order to follow its laws in your life, therefore you seek wisdom and virtue. Is that not so?" said the Rhetor, after a moment's pause.

"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.

The Rhetor cleared his throat, crossed his gloved hands on his breast, and began to speak.

"Now I must disclose to you the chief aim of our Order," he said, "and if this aim coincides with yours, you may enter our Brotherhood with profit. The first and chief object of our Order, the foundation on which it rests and which no human power can destroy, is the preservation and handing on to posterity of a certain important mystery... which has come down to us from the remotest ages, even from the first man--a mystery on which perhaps the fate of mankind depends. But since this mystery is of such a nature that nobody can know or use it unless he be prepared by long and diligent self-purification, not everyone can hope to attain it quickly. Hence we have a secondary aim, that of preparing our members as much as possible to reform their hearts, to purify and enlighten their minds, by means handed on to us by tradition from those who have striven to attain this mystery, and thereby to render them capable of receiving it.

"By purifying and regenerating our members we try, thirdly, to improve the whole human race, offering it in our members an example of piety and virtue, and thereby try with all our might to combat the evil which sways the world. Think this over and I will come to you again."

"To combat the evil which sways the world..." Pierre repeated, and a mental image of his future activity in this direction rose in his mind. He imagined men such as he had himself been a fortnight ago, and he addressed an edifying exhortation to them. He imagined to himself vicious and unfortunate people whom he would assist by word and deed, imagined oppressors whose victims he would rescue. Of the three objects mentioned by the Rhetor, this last, that of improving mankind, especially appealed to Pierre. The important mystery mentioned by the Rhetor, though it aroused his curiosity, did not seem to him essential, and the second aim, that of purifying and regenerating himself, did not much interest him because at that moment he felt with delight that he was already perfectly cured of his former faults and was ready for all that was good.

Half an hour later, the Rhetor returned to inform the seeker of the seven virtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon's temple, which every Freemason should cultivate in himself. These virtues were: 1. Discretion, the keeping of the secrets of the Order. 2. Obedience to those of higher ranks in the Order. 3. Morality. 4. Love of mankind. 5. Courage. 6. Generosity. 7. The love of death.

"In the seventh place, try, by the frequent thought of death," the Rhetor said, "to bring yourself to regard it not as a dreaded foe, but as a friend that frees the soul grown weary in the labors of virtue from this distressful life, and leads it to its place of recompense and peace."

"Yes, that must be so," thought Pierre, when after these words the Rhetor went away, leaving him to solitary meditation. "It must be so, but I am still so weak that I love my life, the meaning of which is only now gradually opening before me." But five of the other virtues which Pierre recalled, counting them on his fingers, he felt already in his soul: courage, generosity, morality, love of mankind, and especially obedience--which did not even seem to him a virtue, but a joy. (He now felt so glad to be free from his own lawlessness and to submit his will to those who knew the indubitable truth.) He forgot what the seventh virtue was and could not recall it.

The third time the Rhetor came back more quickly and asked Pierre whether he was still firm in his intention and determined to submit to all that would be required of him.

"I am ready for everything," said Pierre.

"I must also inform you," said the Rhetor, "that our Order delivers its teaching not in words only but also by other means, which may perhaps have a stronger effect on the sincere seeker after wisdom and virtue than mere words. This chamber with what you see therein should already have suggested to your heart, if it is sincere, more than words could do. You will perhaps also see in your further initiation a like method of enlightenment. Our Order imitates the ancient societies that explained their teaching by hieroglyphics. A hieroglyph," said the Rhetor, "is an emblem of something not cognizable by the senses but which possesses qualities resembling those of the symbol."

Pierre knew very well what a hieroglyph was, but dared not speak. He listened to the Rhetor in silence, feeling from all he said that his ordeal was about to begin.

"If you are resolved, I must begin your initiation," said the Rhetor coming closer to Pierre. "In token of generosity I ask you to give me all your valuables."

"But I have nothing here," replied Pierre, supposing that he was asked to give up all he possessed.

"What you have with you: watch, money, rings...."

Pierre quickly took out his purse and watch, but could not manage for some time to get the wedding ring off his fat finger. When that had been done, the Rhetor said:

"In token of obedience, I ask you to undress."

Pierre took off his coat, waistcoat, and left boot according to the Rhetor's instructions. The Mason drew the shirt back from Pierre's left breast, and stooping down pulled up the left leg of his trousers to above the knee. Pierre hurriedly began taking off his right boot also and was going to tuck up the other trouser leg to save this stranger the trouble, but the Mason told him that was not necessary and gave him a slipper for his left foot. With a childlike smile of embarrassment, doubt, and self-derision, which appeared on his face against his will, Pierre stood with his arms hanging down and legs apart, before his brother Rhetor, and awaited his further commands.

"And now, in token of candor, I ask you to reveal to me your chief passion," said the latter.

"My passion! I have had so many," replied Pierre.

"That passion which more than all others caused you to waver on the path of virtue," said the Mason.

Pierre paused, seeking a reply.

"Wine? Gluttony? Idleness? Laziness? Irritability? Anger? Women?" He went over his vices in his mind, not knowing to which of them to give the pre-eminence.

"Women," he said in a low, scarcely audible voice.

The Mason did not move and for a long time said nothing after this answer. At last he moved up to Pierre and, taking the kerchief that lay on the table, again bound his eyes.

"For the last time I say to you--turn all your attention upon yourself, put a bridle on your senses, and seek blessedness, not in passion but in your own heart. The source of blessedness is not without us but within...."

Pierre had already long been feeling in himself that refreshing source of blessedness which now flooded his heart with glad emotion.

Soon after this there came into the dark chamber to fetch Pierre, not the Rhetor but Pierre's sponsor, Willarski, whom he recognized by his voice. To fresh questions as to the firmness of his resolution Pierre replied: "Yes, yes, I agree," and with a beaming, childlike smile, his fat chest uncovered, stepping unevenly and timidly in one slippered and one booted foot, he advanced, while Willarski held a sword to his bare chest. He was conducted from that room along passages that turned backwards and forwards and was at last brought to the doors of the Lodge. Willarski coughed, he was answered by the Masonic knock with mallets, the doors opened before them. A bass voice (Pierre was still blindfold) questioned him as to who he was, when and where he was born, and so on. Then he was again led somewhere still blindfold, and as they went along he was told allegories of the toils of his pilgrimage, of holy friendship, of the Eternal Architect of the universe, and of the courage with which he should endure toils and dangers. During these wanderings, Pierre noticed that he was spoken of now as the "Seeker," now as the "Sufferer," and now as the "Postulant," to the accompaniment of various knockings with mallets and swords. As he was being led up to some object he noticed a hesitation and uncertainty among his conductors. He heard those around him disputing in whispers and one of them insisting that he should be led along a certain carpet. After that they took his right hand, placed it on something, and told him to hold a pair of compasses to his left breast with the other hand and to repeat after someone who read aloud an oath of fidelity to the laws of the Order. The candles were then extinguished and some spirit lighted, as Pierre knew by the smell, and he was told that he would now see the lesser light. The bandage was taken off his eyes and, by the faint light of the burning spirit, Pierre, as in a dream, saw several men standing before him, wearing aprons like the Rhetor's and holding swords in their hands pointed at his breast. Among them stood a man whose white shirt was stained with blood. On seeing this, Pierre moved forward with his breast toward the swords, meaning them to pierce it. But the swords were drawn back from him and he was at once blindfolded again.

"Now thou hast seen the lesser light," uttered a voice. Then the candles were relit and he was told that he would see the full light; the bandage was again removed and more than ten voices said together: "Sic transit gloria mundi."

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 men in garments like those he had already seen. Some of them Pierre had met in 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 met at Anna Pavlovna's two years before. There were also present a very distinguished dignitary and a Swiss 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 with various figures worked upon it, at the other was something resembling an altar on which lay a Testament and a skull. Round it stood seven large candlesticks like those used in churches. Two of the brothers led Pierre up to the altar, placed his feet at right angles, and bade him lie down, saying that he must prostrate himself at the Gates of the Temple.

"He must first receive the trowel," whispered one of the brothers.

"Oh, hush, please!" said another.

Pierre, perplexed, looked round with his shortsighted eyes without obeying, and suddenly doubts arose in his mind. "Where am I? What am I doing? Aren't they laughing at me? Shan't I be ashamed to remember this?" But these doubts only lasted a moment. Pierre glanced at the serious faces of those around, remembered all he had already gone through, and realized that he could not stop halfway. He was aghast at his hesitation and, trying to arouse his former devotional feeling, prostrated himself before the Gates of the Temple. And really, the feeling of devotion returned to him even more strongly than before. When he had lain there some time, he was told to get up, and a white leather apron, such as the others wore, was put on him: he was given a trowel and three pairs of gloves, and then the Grand Master addressed him. He told him that he should try to do nothing to stain the whiteness of that apron, which symbolized strength and purity; then of the unexplained trowel, he told him to toil with it to cleanse his own heart from vice, and indulgently to smooth with it the heart of his neighbor. As to the first pair of gloves, a man's, he said that Pierre could not know their meaning but must keep them. The second pair of man's gloves he was to wear at the meetings, and finally of the third, a pair of women's gloves, he said: "Dear brother, these woman's gloves are intended for you too. Give them to the woman whom you shall honor most of all. This gift will be a pledge of your purity of heart to her whom you select to be your worthy helpmeet in Masonry." And after a pause, he added: "But beware, dear brother, that these gloves do not deck hands that are unclean." While the Grand Master said these last words it seemed to Pierre that he grew embarrassed. Pierre himself grew still more confused, blushed like a child till tears came to his eyes, began looking about him uneasily, and an awkward pause followed.

This silence was broken by one of the brethren, who led Pierre up to the rug and began reading to him from a manuscript book an explanation of all the figures on it: the sun, the moon, a hammer, a plumb line, a trowel, a rough stone and a squared stone, a pillar, three windows, and so on. Then a place was assigned to Pierre, he was shown the signs of the Lodge, told the password, and at last was permitted to sit down. The Grand Master began reading the statutes. They were very long, and Pierre, from joy, agitation, and embarrassment, was not in a state to understand what was being read. He managed to follow only the last words of the statutes and these remained in his mind.

"In our temples we recognize no other distinctions," read the Grand Master, "but those between virtue and vice. Beware of making any distinctions which may infringe equality. Fly to a brother's aid whoever he may be, exhort him who goeth astray, raise him that falleth, never bear malice or enmity toward thy brother. Be kindly and courteous. Kindle in all hearts the flame of virtue. Share thy happiness with thy neighbor, and may envy never dim the purity of that bliss. Forgive thy enemy, do not avenge thyself except by doing him good. Thus fulfilling the highest law thou shalt regain traces of the ancient dignity which thou hast lost."

He finished and, getting up, embraced and kissed Pierre, who, with tears of joy in his eyes, looked round him, not knowing how to answer the congratulations and greetings from acquaintances that met him on all sides. He acknowledged no acquaintances but saw in all these men only brothers, and burned with impatience to set to workwith them.

The Grand Master rapped with his mallet. All the Masons sat down in their places, and one of them read an exhortation on the necessity of humility.

The Grand Master proposed that the last duty should be performed, and the distinguished dignitary who bore the title of "Collector of Alms" went round to all the brothers. Pierre would have liked to subscribe all he had, but fearing that it might look like pride subscribed the same amount as the others.

The meeting was at an end, and on reaching home Pierre felt as if he had returned from a long journey on which he had spent dozens of years, had become completely changed, and had quite left behind his former habits and way of life.


Second section of interest



Returning from his journey through South Russia in the happiest state of mind, Pierre carried out an intention he had long had of visiting his friend Bolkonski, whom he had not seen for two years.

Bogucharovo lay in a flat uninteresting part of the country among fields and forests of fir and birch, which were partly cut down. The house lay behind a newly dug pond filled with water to the brink and with banks still bare of grass. It was at the end of a village that stretched along the highroad in the midst of a young copse in which were a few fir trees.

The homestead consisted of a threshing floor, outhouses, stables, a bathhouse, a lodge, and a large brick house with semicircular facade still in course of construction. Round the house was a garden newly laid out. The fences and gates were new and solid; two fire pumps and a water cart, painted green, stood in a shed; the paths were straight, the bridges were strong and had handrails. Everything bore an impress of tidiness and good management. Some domestic serfs Pierre met, in reply to inquiries as to where the prince lived, pointed out a small newly built lodge close to the pond. Anton, a man who had looked after Prince Andrew in his boyhood, helped Pierre out of his carriage, said that the prince was at home, and showed him into a clean little anteroom.

Pierre was struck by the modesty of the small though clean house after the brilliant surroundings in which he had last met his friend in Petersburg.

He quickly entered the small reception room with its still-unplastered wooden walls redolent of pine, and would have gone farther, but Anton ran ahead on tiptoe and knocked at a door.

"Well, what is it?" came a sharp, unpleasant voice.

"A visitor," answered Anton.

"Ask him to wait," and the sound was heard of a chair being pushed
back.

Pierre went with rapid steps to the door and suddenly came face to face with Prince Andrew, who came out frowning and looking old. Pierre
embraced him and lifting his spectacles kissed his friend on the cheek and looked at him closely.

"Well, I did not expect you, I am very glad," said Prince Andrew.

Pierre said nothing; he looked fixedly at his friend with surprise. He was struck by the change in him. His words were kindly and there was a smile on his lips and face, but his eyes were dull and lifeless and in spite of his evident wish to do so he could not give them a joyous and glad sparkle. Prince Andrew had grown thinner, paler, and more manly-looking, but what amazed and estranged Pierre till he got used to it were his inertia and a wrinkle on his brow indicating prolonged concentration on some one thought.

As is usually the case with people meeting after a prolonged separation, it was long before their conversation could settle on anything. They put questions and gave brief replies about things they knew ought to be talked over at length. At last the conversation gradually settled on some of the topics at first lightly touched on: their past life, plans for the future, Pierre's journeys and occupations, the war, and so on. The preoccupation and despondency which Pierre had noticed in his friend's look was now still more clearly expressed in the smile with which he listened to Pierre, especially when he spoke with joyful animation of the past or the future. It was as if Prince Andrew would have liked to sympathize with what Pierre was saying, but could not. The latter began to feel that it was in bad taste to speak of his enthusiasms, dreams, and hopes of happiness or goodness, in Prince Andrew's presence. He was ashamed to express his new Masonic views, which had been particularly revived and strengthened by his late tour. He checked himself, fearing to seem naive, yet he felt an irresistible desire to show his friend as soon as possible that he was now a quite different, and better, Pierre than he had been in Petersburg.

"I can't tell you how much I have lived through since then. I hardly know myself again."

"Yes, we have altered much, very much, since then," said Prince Andrew.

"Well, and you? What are your plans?"

"Plans!" repeated Prince Andrew ironically. "My plans?" he said, as if astonished at the word. "Well, you see, I'm building. I mean to settle here altogether next year...."

Pierre looked silently and searchingly into Prince Andrew's face, which had grown much older.

"No, I meant to ask..." Pierre began, but Prince Andrew interrupted him.

"But why talk of me?... Talk to me, yes, tell me about your travels and all you have been doing on your estates."

Pierre began describing what he had done on his estates, trying as far as possible to conceal his own part in the improvements that had been made. Prince Andrew several times prompted Pierre's story of what he had been doing, as though it were all an old-time story, and he listened not only without interest but even as if ashamed of what Pierre was telling him.

Pierre felt uncomfortable and even depressed in his friend's company and at last became silent.

"I'll tell you what, my dear fellow," said Prince Andrew, who evidently also felt depressed and constrained with his visitor, "I am only bivouacking here and have just come to look round. I am going back to my sister today. I will introduce you to her. But of course you know her already," he said, evidently trying to entertain a visitor with whom he now found nothing in common. "We will go after dinner. And would you now like to look round my place?"

They went out and walked about till dinnertime, talking of the political news and common acquaintances like people who do not know each other intimately. Prince Andrew spoke with some animation and interest only of the new homestead he was constructing and its buildings, but even here, while on the scaffolding, in the midst of a talk explaining the future arrangements of the house, he interrupted himself:

"However, this is not at all interesting. Let us have dinner, and then we'll set off."

At dinner, conversation turned on Pierre's marriage.

"I was very much surprised when I heard of it," said Prince Andrew.

Pierre blushed, as he always did when it was mentioned, and said hurriedly: "I will tell you some time how it all happened. But you know it is all over, and forever."

"Forever?" said Prince Andrew. "Nothing's forever."

"But you know how it all ended, don't you? You heard of the duel?"

"And so you had to go through that too!"

"One thing I thank God for is that I did not kill that man," said Pierre.

"Why so?" asked Prince Andrew. "To kill a vicious dog is a very good thing really."

"No, to kill a man is bad--wrong."

"Why is it wrong?" urged Prince Andrew. "It is not given to man to know what is right and what is wrong. Men always did and always will err, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong."

"What does harm to another is wrong," said Pierre, feeling with pleasure that for the first time since his arrival Prince Andrew was roused, had begun to talk, and wanted to express what had brought him to his present state.

"And who has told you what is bad for another man?" he asked.

"Bad! Bad!" exclaimed Pierre. "We all know what is bad for ourselves."

"Yes, we know that, but the harm I am conscious of in myself is something I cannot inflict on others," said Prince Andrew, growing more and more animated and evidently wishing to express his new outlook to Pierre. He spoke in French. "I only know two very real evils in life: remorse and illness. The only good is the absence of those evils. To live for myself avoiding those two evils is my whole philosophy now."

"And love of one's neighbor, and self-sacrifice?" began Pierre. "No, I can't agree with you! To live only so as not to do evil and not to have to repent is not enough. I lived like that, I lived for myself and ruined my life. And only now when I am living, or at least trying" (Pierre's modesty made him correct himself) "to live for others, only now have I understood all the happiness of life. No, I shall not agree with you, and you do not really believe what you are saying." Prince Andrew looked silently at Pierre with an ironic smile.

"When you see my sister, Princess Mary, you'll get on with her," he said. "Perhaps you are right for yourself," he added after a short pause, "but everyone lives in his own way. You lived for yourself and say you nearly ruined your life and only found happiness when you began living for others. I experienced just the reverse. I lived for glory.--And after all what is glory? The same love of others, a desire to do something for them, a desire for their approval.--So I lived for others, and not almost, but quite, ruined my life. And I have become calmer since I began to live only for myself."

"But what do you mean by living only for yourself?" asked Pierre, growing excited. "What about your son, your sister, and your father?"

"But that's just the same as myself--they are not others," explained Prince Andrew. "The others, one's neighbors, le prochain, as you and Princess Mary call it, are the chief source of all error and evil. Le prochain--your Kiev peasants to whom you want to do good."

And he looked at Pierre with a mocking, challenging expression. He evidently wished to draw him on.

"You are joking," replied Pierre, growing more and more excited. "What error or evil can there be in my wishing to do good, and even doing a little--though I did very little and did it very badly? What evil can there be in it if unfortunate people, our serfs, people like ourselves, were growing up and dying with no idea of God and truth beyond ceremonies and meaningless prayers and are now instructed in a comforting belief in future life, retribution, recompense, and consolation? What evil and error are there in it, if people were dying of disease without help while material assistance could so easily be rendered, and I supplied them with a doctor, a hospital, and an asylum for the aged? And is it not a palpable, unquestionable good if a peasant, or a woman with a baby, has no rest day or night and I give them rest and leisure?" said Pierre, hurrying and lisping. "And I have done that though badly and to a small extent; but I have done something toward it and you cannot persuade me that it was not a good action, and more than that, you can't make me believe that you do not think so yourself. And the main thing is," he continued, "that I know, and know for certain, that the enjoyment of doing this good is the only sure happiness in life."

"Yes, if you put it like that it's quite a different matter," said Prince Andrew. "I build a house and lay out a garden, and you build hospitals. The one and the other may serve as a pastime. But what's right and what's good must be judged by one who knows all, but not by us. Well, you want an argument," he added, "come on then."

They rose from the table and sat down in the entrance porch which served as a veranda.

"Come, let's argue then," said Prince Andrew, "You talk of schools," he went on, crooking a finger, "education and so forth; that is, you want to raise him" (pointing to a peasant who passed by them taking off his cap) "from his animal condition and awaken in him spiritual needs, while it seems to me that animal happiness is the only happiness possible, and that is just what you want to deprive him of. I envy him, but you want to make him what I am, without giving him my means. Then you say, 'lighten his toil.' But as I see it, physical labor is as essential to him, as much a condition of his existence, as mental activity is to you or me. You can't help thinking. I go to bed after two in the morning, thoughts come and I can't sleep but toss about till dawn, because I think and can't help thinking, just as he can't help plowing and mowing; if he didn't, he would go to the drink shop or fall ill. Just as I could not stand his terrible physical labor but should die of it in a week, so he could not stand my physical idleness, but would grow fat and die. The third thing--what else was it you talked about?" and Prince Andrew crooked a third finger. "Ah, yes, hospitals, medicine. He has a fit, he is dying, and you come and bleed him and patch him up. He will drag about as a cripple, a burden to everybody, for another ten years. It would be far easier and simpler for him to die. Others are being born and there are plenty of them as it is. It would be different if you grudged losing a laborer--that's how I regard him--but you want to cure him from love of him. And he does not want that. And besides, what a notion that medicine ever cured anyone! Killed them, yes!" said he, frowning angrily and turning away from Pierre.

Prince Andrew expressed his ideas so clearly and distinctly that it was evident he had reflected on this subject more than once, and he spoke readily and rapidly like a man who has not talked for a long time. His glance became more animated as his conclusions became more hopeless.

"Oh, that is dreadful, dreadful!" said Pierre. "I don't understand how one can live with such ideas. I had such moments myself not long ago, in Moscow and when traveling, but at such times I collapsed so that I don't live at all--everything seems hateful to me... myself most of all. Then I don't eat, don't wash... and how is it with you?..."

"Why not wash? That is not cleanly," said Prince Andrew; "on the contrary one must try to make one's life as pleasant as possible. I'm alive, that is not my fault, so I must live out my life as best I can without hurting others."

"But with such ideas what motive have you for living? One would sit without moving, undertaking nothing...."

"Life as it is leaves one no peace. I should be thankful to do nothing, but here on the one hand the local nobility have done me the honor to choose me to be their marshal; it was all I could do to get out of it. They could not understand that I have not the necessary qualifications for it--the kind of good-natured, fussy shallowness necessary for the position. Then there's this house, which must be built in order to have a nook of one's own in which to be quiet. And now there's this recruiting."

"Why aren't you serving in the army?"

"After Austerlitz!" said Prince Andrew gloomily. "No, thank you very much! I have promised myself not to serve again in the active Russian army. And I won't--not even if Bonaparte were here at Smolensk threatening Bald Hills--even then I wouldn't serve in the Russian army! Well, as I was saying," he continued, recovering his composure, "now there's this recruiting. My father is chief in command of the Third District, and my only way of avoiding active service is to serve under him."

"Then you are serving?"

"I am."

He paused a little while.

"And why do you serve?"

"Why, for this reason! My father is one of the most remarkable men of his time. But he is growing old, and though not exactly cruel he has too energetic a character. He is so accustomed to unlimited power that he is terrible, and now he has this authority of a commander in chief of the recruiting, granted by the Emperor. If I had been two hours late a fortnight ago he would have had a paymaster's clerk at Yukhnovna hanged," said Prince Andrew with a smile. "So I am serving because I alone have any influence with my father, and now and then can save him from actions which would torment him afterwards."

"Well, there you see!"

"Yes, but it is not as you imagine," Prince Andrew continued. "I did not, and do not, in the least care about that scoundrel of a clerk who had stolen some boots from the recruits; I should even have been very glad to see him hanged, but I was sorry for my father--that again is for myself."

Prince Andrew grew more and more animated. His eyes glittered feverishly while he tried to prove to Pierre that in his actions there was no desire to do good to his neighbor.

"There now, you wish to liberate your serfs," he continued; "that is a very good thing, but not for you--I don't suppose you ever had anyone flogged or sent to Siberia--and still less for your serfs. If they are beaten, flogged, or sent to Siberia, I don't suppose they are any the worse off. In Siberia they lead the same animal life, and the stripes on their bodies heal, and they are happy as before. But it is a good thing for proprietors who perish morally, bring remorse upon themselves, stifle this remorse and grow callous, as a result of being able to inflict punishments justly and unjustly. It is those people I pity, and for their sake I should like to liberate the serfs. You may not have seen, but I have seen, how good men brought up in those traditions of unlimited power, in time when they grow more irritable, become cruel and harsh, are conscious of it, but cannot restrain themselves and grow more and more miserable."

Prince Andrew spoke so earnestly that Pierre could not help thinking that these thoughts had been suggested to Prince Andrew by his father's case.

He did not reply.

"So that's what I'm sorry for--human dignity, peace of mind, purity, and not the serfs' backs and foreheads, which, beat and shave as you may, always remain the same backs and foreheads."

"No, no! A thousand times no! I shall never agree with you," said Pierre.

In the evening Andrew and Pierre got into the open carriage and drove to Bald Hills. Prince Andrew, glancing at Pierre, broke the silence now and then with remarks which showed that he was in a good temper.

Pointing to the fields, he spoke of the improvements he was making in his husbandry.

Pierre remained gloomily silent, answering in monosyllables and apparently immersed in his own thoughts.

He was thinking that Prince Andrew was unhappy, had gone astray, did not see the true light, and that he, Pierre, ought to aid, enlighten, and raise him. But as soon as he thought of what he should say, he felt that Prince Andrew with one word, one argument, would upset all his teaching, and he shrank from beginning, afraid of exposing to possible ridicule what to him was precious and sacred.

"No, but why do you think so?" Pierre suddenly began, lowering his head and looking like a bull about to charge, "why do you think so? You should not think so."

"Think? What about?" asked Prince Andrew with surprise.

"About life, about man's destiny. It can't be so. I myself thought like that, and do you know what saved me? Freemasonry! No, don't smile. Freemasonry is not a religious ceremonial sect, as I thought it was: Freemasonry is the best expression of the best, the eternal, aspects of humanity."

And he began to explain Freemasonry as he understood it to Prince Andrew. He said that Freemasonry is the teaching of Christianity freed from the bonds of State and Church, a teaching of equality, brotherhood, and love.

"Only our holy brotherhood has the real meaning of life, all the rest is a dream," said Pierre. "Understand, my dear fellow, that outside this union all is filled with deceit and falsehood and I agree with you that nothing is left for an intelligent and good man but to live out his life, like you, merely trying not to harm others. But make our fundamental convictions your own, join our brotherhood, give yourself up to us, let yourself be guided, and you will at once feel yourself, as I have felt myself, a part of that vast invisible chain the beginning of which is hidden in heaven," said Pierre.

Prince Andrew, looking straight in front of him, listened in silence to Pierre's words. More than once, when the noise of the wheels prevented his catching what Pierre said, he asked him to repeat it, and by the peculiar glow that came into Prince Andrew's eyes and by his silence, Pierre saw that his words were not in vain and that Prince Andrew would not interrupt him or laugh at what he said.

They reached a river that had overflowed its banks and which they had to cross by ferry. While the carriage and horses were being placed on it, they also stepped on the raft.

Prince Andrew, leaning his arms on the raft railing, gazed silently at the flooding waters glittering in the setting sun.

"Well, what do you think about it?" Pierre asked. "Why are you silent?"

"What do I think about it? I am listening to you. It's all very well.... You say: join our brotherhood and we will show you the aim of life, the destiny of man, and the laws which govern the world. But who are we? Men. How is it you know everything? Why do I alone not see what you see? You see a reign of goodness and truth on earth, but I don't see it."

Pierre interrupted him.

"Do you believe in a future life?" he asked.

"A future life?" Prince Andrew repeated, but Pierre, giving him no time to reply, took the repetition for a denial, the more readily as he knew Prince Andrew's former atheistic convictions.

"You say you can't see a reign of goodness and truth on earth. Nor could I, and it cannot be seen if one looks on our life here as the end of everything. On earth, here on this earth" (Pierre pointed to the fields), "there is no truth, all is false and evil; but in the universe, in the whole universe there is a kingdom of truth, and we who are now the children of earth are--eternally--children of the whole universe. Don't I feel in my soul that I am part of this vast harmonious whole? Don't I feel that I form one link, one step, between the lower and higher beings, in this vast harmonious multitude of beings in whom the Deity--the Supreme Power if you prefer the term--is manifest? If I see, clearly see, that ladder leading from plant to man, why should I suppose it breaks off at me and does not go farther and farther? I feel that I cannot vanish, since nothing vanishes in this world, but that I shall always exist and always have existed. I feel that beyond me and above me there are spirits, and that in this world there is truth."

"Yes, that is Herder's theory," said Prince Andrew, "but it is not that which can convince me, dear friend--life and death are what convince. What convinces is when one sees a being dear to one, bound up with one's own life, before whom one was to blame and had hoped to make it right" (Prince Andrew's voice trembled and he turned away), "and suddenly that being is seized with pain, suffers, and ceases to exist.... Why? It cannot be that there is no answer. And I believe there is.... That's what convinces, that is what has convinced me," said Prince Andrew.

"Yes, yes, of course," said Pierre, "isn't that what I'm saying?"

"No. All I say is that it is not argument that convinces me of the necessity of a future life, but this: when you go hand in hand with someone and all at once that person vanishes there, into nowhere, and you yourself are left facing that abyss, and look in. And I have looked in...."

"Well, that's it then! You know that there is a there and there is a Someone? There is the future life. The Someone is--God."

Prince Andrew did not reply. The carriage and horses had long since been taken off, onto the farther bank, and reharnessed. The sun had sunk half below the horizon and an evening frost was starring the puddles near the ferry, but Pierre and Andrew, to the astonishment of the footmen, coachmen, and ferrymen, still stood on the raft and talked.

"If there is a God and future life, there is truth and good, and man's highest happiness consists in striving to attain them. We must live, we must love, and we must believe that we live not only today on this scrap of earth, but have lived and shall live forever, there, in the Whole," said Pierre, and he pointed to the sky.

Prince Andrew stood leaning on the railing of the raft listening to Pierre, and he gazed with his eyes fixed on the red reflection of the sun gleaming on the blue waters. There was perfect stillness. Pierre became silent. The raft had long since stopped and only the waves of the current beat softly against it below. Prince Andrew felt as if the sound of the waves kept up a refrain to Pierre's words, whispering:

"It is true, believe it."

He sighed, and glanced with a radiant, childlike, tender look at Pierre's face, flushed and rapturous, but yet shy before his superior friend.

"Yes, if it only were so!" said Prince Andrew. "However, it is time to get on," he added, and, stepping off the raft, he looked up at the sky to which Pierre had pointed, and for the first time since Austerlitz saw that high, everlasting sky he had seen while lying on that battlefield; and something that had long been slumbering, something that was best within him, suddenly awoke, joyful and youthful, in his soul. It vanished as soon as he returned to the customary conditions of his life, but he knew that this feeling which he did not know how to develop existed within him. His meeting
with Pierre formed an epoch in Prince Andrew's life. Though outwardly he continued to live in the same old way, inwardly he began a new life.


Third Section of Interest



Nearly two years before this, in 1808, Pierre on returning to Petersburg after visiting his estates had involuntarily found himself in a leading position among the Petersburg Freemasons. He arranged dining and funeral lodge meetings, enrolled new members, and busied himself uniting various lodges and acquiring authentic charters. He gave money for the erection of temples and supplemented as far as he could the collection of alms, in regard to which the majority of members were stingy and irregular. He supported almost singlehanded a poorhouse the order had founded in Petersburg.

His life meanwhile continued as before, with the same infatuations and dissipations. He liked to dine and drink well, and though he considered it immoral and humiliating could not resist the temptations of the bachelor circles in which he moved.

Amid the turmoil of his activities and distractions, however, Pierre at the end of a year began to feel that the more firmly he tried to rest upon it, the more Masonic ground on which he stood gave way under him. At the same time he felt that the deeper the ground sank under him the closer bound he involuntarily became to the order. 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. To make quite sure of the firmness the ground, he put his other foot down and sank deeper still, became stuck in it, and involuntarily waded knee-deep in the bog.

Joseph Alexeevich was not in Petersburg--he had of late stood aside from the affairs of the Petersburg lodges, and lived almost entirely in Moscow. 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 and not as Prince B. or Ivan Vasilevich D., whom he knew in society mostly as weak and insignificant men. Under the Masonic aprons and insignia he saw the uniforms and decorations at which they aimed in ordinary life. Often after collecting alms, and reckoning up twenty to thirty rubles received for the most part in promises from a dozen members, of whom half were as well able to pay as himself, Pierre remembered the Masonic vow in which each Brother promised to devote all his belongings to his neighbor, and doubts on which he tried not to dwell arose in his soul.

He divided the Brothers he knew into four categories. In the first he put those who did not take an active part in the affairs of the lodges or in human affairs, but were exclusively occupied with the mystical science of the order: with questions of the threefold designation of God, the three primordial elements--sulphur, mercury, and salt--or the meaning of the square and all the various figures of the temple of Solomon. Pierre respected this class of Brothers to which the elder ones chiefly belonged, including, Pierre thought, Joseph Alexeevich himself, but he did not share their interests. His heart was not in the mystical aspect of Freemasonry.

In the second category Pierre reckoned himself and others like him, seeking and vacillating, who had not yet found in Freemasonry a straight and comprehensible path, but hoped to do so.

In the third category he included those Brothers (the majority) who saw nothing in Freemasonry but the external forms and ceremonies, and prized the strict performance of these forms without troubling about their purport or significance. Such were Willarski and even the Grand Master of the principal lodge.

Finally, to the fourth category also a great many Brothers belonged, particularly those who had lately joined. These according to Pierre's observations were men who had no belief in anything, nor desire for anything, but joined the Freemasons merely to associate with the wealthy young Brothers who were influential through their connections or rank, and of whom there were very many in the lodge.

Pierre began to feel dissatisfied with what he was doing. Freemasonry, at any rate as he saw it here, sometimes seemed to him based merely on externals. He did not think of doubting Freemasonry itself, but suspected that Russian Masonry had taken a wrong path and deviated from its original principles. And so toward the end of the year he went abroad to be initiated into the higher secrets of the order.

In the summer of 1809 Pierre returned to Petersburg. Our Freemasons knew from correspondence with those abroad that Bezukhov had obtained the confidence of many highly placed persons, had been initiated into many mysteries, had been raised to a higher grade, and was bringing back with him much that might conduce to the advantage of the Masonic cause in Russia. The Petersburg Freemasons all came to see him, tried to ingratiate themselves with him, and it seemed to them all that he was preparing something for them and concealing it.

A solemn meeting of the lodge of the second degree was convened, at which Pierre promised to communicate to the Petersburg Brothers what he had to deliver to them from the highest leaders of their order. The meeting was a full one. After the usual ceremonies Pierre rose and began his address.

"Dear Brothers," he began, blushing and stammering, with a written speech in his hand, "it is not sufficient to observe our mysteries in the seclusion of our lodge--we must act--act! We are drowsing, but we must act." Pierre raised his notebook and began to read.

"For the dissemination of pure truth and to secure the triumph of virtue," he read, "we must cleanse men from prejudice, diffuse principles in harmony with the spirit of the times, undertake the education of the young, unite ourselves in indissoluble bonds with the wisest men, boldly yet prudently overcome superstitions, infidelity, and folly, and form of those devoted to us a body linked together by unity of purpose and possessed of authority and power.

"To attain this end we must secure a preponderance of virtue over vice and must endeavor to secure that the honest man may, even in this world, receive a lasting reward for his virtue. But in these great endeavors we are gravely hampered by the political institutions of today. What is to be done in these circumstances? To favor revolutions, overthrow everything, repel force by force?... No! We are very far from that. Every violent reform deserves censure, for it quite fails to remedy evil while men remain what they are, and also because wisdom needs no violence.

"The whole plan of our order should be based on the idea of preparing men of firmness and virtue bound together by unity of conviction--aiming at the punishment of vice and folly, and patronizing talent and virtue: raising worthy men from the dust and attaching them to our Brotherhood. Only then will our order have the power unobtrusively to bind the hands of the protectors of disorder and to control them without their being aware of it. In a word, we must found a form of government holding universal sway, which should be diffused over the whole world without destroying the bonds of citizenship, and beside which all other governments can continue in their customary course and do everything except what impedes the great aim of our order, which is to obtain for virtue the victory over vice. This aim was that of Christianity itself. It taught men to be wise and
good and for their own benefit to follow the example and instruction of the best and wisest men.

"At that time, when everything was plunged in darkness, preaching alone was of course sufficient. The novelty of Truth endowed her with special strength, but now we need much more powerful methods. It is now necessary that man, governed by his senses, should find in virtue a charm palpable to those senses. It is impossible to eradicate the passions; but we must strive to direct them to a noble aim, and it is therefore necessary that everyone should be able to satisfy his passions within the limits of virtue. Our order should provide means to that end.

"As soon as we have a certain number of worthy men in every state, each of them again training two others and all being closely united, everything will be possible for our order, which has already in secret accomplished much for the welfare of mankind."

This speech not only made a strong impression, but created excitement in the lodge. The majority of the Brothers, seeing in it dangerous designs of Illuminism,* met it with a coldness that surprised Pierre. The Grand Master began answering him, and Pierre began developing his views with more and more warmth. It was long since there had been so stormy a meeting. Parties were formed, some accusing Pierre of Illuminism, others supporting him. At that meeting he was struck for the first time by the endless variety of men's minds, which prevents a truth from ever presenting itself identically to two persons. Even those members who seemed to be on his side understood him in their own way with limitations and alterations he could not agree to, as what he always wanted most was to convey his thought to others just as he himself understood it.

*The Illuminati sought to substitute republican for monarchical institutions.

At the end of the meeting the Grand Master with irony and ill-will reproved Bezukhov for his vehemence and said it was not love of virtue alone, but also a love of strife that had moved him in the dispute. Pierre did not answer him and asked briefly whether his proposal would be accepted. He was told that it would not, and without waiting for the usual formalities he left the lodge and went home.

Fourth Section of Interest
 


I have just returned from my benefactor, and hasten to write down what I have experienced. Joseph Alexeevich is living poorly and has
for three years been suffering from a painful disease of the bladder. No one has ever heard him utter a groan or a word of complaint. From morning till late at night, except when he eats his very plain food, he is working at science. He received me graciously and made me sit down on the bed on which he lay. I made the sign of the Knights of the East and of Jerusalem, and he responded in the same manner, asking me with a mild smile what I had learned and gained in the Prussian and Scottish lodges. I told him everything as best I could, and told him what I had proposed to our Petersburg lodge, of the bad reception I had encountered, and of my rupture with the Brothers. Joseph Alexeevich, having remained silent and thoughtful for a good while, told me his view of the matter, which at once lit up for me my whole past and the future path I should follow. He surprised me by asking whether I remembered the threefold aim of the order: (1) The preservation and study of the mystery. (2) The purification and reformation of oneself for its reception, and (3) The improvement of the human race by striving for such purification. Which is the principal aim of these three? Certainly self-reformation and self-purification. Only to this aim can we always strive independently of circumstances. But at the same time just this aim demands the greatest efforts of us; and so, led astray by pride, losing sight of this aim, we occupy ourselves either with the mystery which in our impurity we are unworthy to receive, or seek the reformation of the human race while ourselves setting an example of baseness and profligacy. Illuminism is not a pure doctrine, just because it is attracted by social activity and puffed up by pride. On this ground Joseph Alexeevich condemned my speech and my whole activity, and in the depth of my soul I agreed with him. Talking of my family affairs he said to me, "the chief duty of a true Mason, as I have told you, lies in perfecting himself. We often think that by removing all the difficulties of our life we shall more quickly reach our aim, but on the contrary, my dear sir, it is only in the midst of worldly cares that we can attain our three chief aims: (1) Self-knowledge--for man can only know himself by comparison, (2) Self-perfecting, which can only be attained by conflict, and (3) The attainment of the chief virtue--love of death. Only the vicissitudes of life can show us its vanity and develop our innate love of death or of rebirth to a new life." These words are all the more remarkable because, in spite of his great physical sufferings, Joseph Alexeevich is never weary of life though he loves death, for which--in spite of the purity and loftiness of his inner man--he does not yet feel himself sufficiently prepared. My benefactor then explained to me fully the meaning of the Great Square of creation and pointed out to me that the numbers three and seven are the basis of everything. He advised me not to avoid intercourse with the Petersburg Brothers, but to take up only second-grade posts in the lodge, to try, while diverting the Brothers from pride, to turn them toward the true path self-knowledge and self-perfecting. Besides this he advised me for myself personally above all to keep a watch over myself, and to that end he gave me a notebook, the one I am now writing in and in which I will in future note down all my actions.