Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The funny thing about the idea of a Bolshevik-Freemasonic conspiracy theory

The kind of non-sensical thing about it is that the Bolsheviks were actually hostile to Freemasonry not because they were anti-liberal but because Freemasonry in Russia was identified with the court and specifically with the Emperor (Tsar). The Freemasonry that was practiced in Russia was a far cry from the sort of moderate liberal Enlightenment belief system practiced before the French Revolution. Instead, by that time Freemasonry had taken on all sort of mystical high degrees and these were what were popular in the Imperial court, along with allied systems like Martinism and species of Rosicrucianism. Nothing wrong with these things at all, but the Bolsheviks saw them as evidence of belief in an idealist and religious worldview on the part of the upper classes as apart from something rooted in material reality, further going on to label them as a kind of feudal or bourgeois decadence. Rasputin was cited by the Bolsheviks as emblematic of how divorced the Imperial court was from reality.

The Bolsheviks belief in absolute materialism, although not mechanical materialism, as laid down by Lenin, consigned Freemasonry to the same dustbin as religion.

Which isn't to say that people associated with the Bolsheviks didn't at some point have mystical beliefs, or that none of these infiltrated into the Party and into the Bolshevik state, but just to say that Freemasonry as it existed then was way too far beyond the beliefs that partially informed 1789 in France to make the idea of a Freemasonic-Bolshevik conspiracy tenable.

If you want to read about the small ways that these ideas really did infiltrate Bolshevik culture as well as how they circulated in pre-Revolutionary Russia a good book to consult is The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, edited by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal.

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