Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 3

  • On reaching Petersburg Pierre did not let anyone know of his arrival, he wen_owhere and spent whole days in reading Thomas a Kempis, whose book had bee_ent him by someone unknown. One thing he continually realized as he read tha_ook: the joy, hitherto unknown to him, of believing in the possibility o_ttaining perfection, and in the possibility of active brotherly love amon_en, which Joseph Alexeevich had revealed to him. A week after his arrival, the young Polish count, Willarski, whom Pierre had known slightly i_etersburg society, came into his room one evening in the official an_eremonious manner in which Dolokhov's second had called on him, and, havin_losed the door behind him and satisfied himself that there was nobody else i_he room, addressed Pierre.
  • "I have come to you with a message and an offer, Count," he said withou_itting down. "A person of very high standing in our Brotherhood has mad_pplication for you to be received into our Order before the usual term an_as proposed to me to be your sponsor. I consider it a sacred duty to fulfil_hat person's wishes. Do you wish to enter the Brotherhood of Freemasons unde_y 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 brillian_omen, 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 al_incerity—not as a future Mason but as an honest man: have you renounced you_ormer 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 h_ust do and how he should answer, Willarski only replied that brothers mor_orthy 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 it_eadquarters, 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 a_he door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French i_n undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre notice_arments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from th_upboard, 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, kisse_im, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the kno_urt 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 smilin_ace, 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 hav_irmly resolved to join our Brotherhood." (Pierre nodded affirmatively.) "Whe_ou hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes," added Willarski. "_ish 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 shrugge_is and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but le_t drop again. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him a_our. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that h_as tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He fel_fraid 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 t_im; but most of all, he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would a_ast start on that path of regeneration and on the actively virtuous life o_hich he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexeevich. Loud knocks wer_eard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced aroun_im. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning insid_omething white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a blac_able on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thin_ith the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. Afte_eading the first words of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word and th_ord was with God," Pierre went round the table and saw a large open bo_illed with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at al_urprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlik_he old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual than wha_e was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel—it seemed to him that he ha_xpected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looke_round. "God, death, love, the brotherhood of man," he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened an_omeone came in.
  • By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw rathe_hort man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the ma_aused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table and placed on it hi_mall leather-gloved hands.
  • This short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and par_f his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high whit_uffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.
  • "For what have you come hither?" asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre'_irection at a slight rustle made by the latter. "Why have you, who do no_elieve 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 o_we and veneration such as he had experienced in his boyhood at confession; h_elt himself in the presence of one socially a complete stranger, yet neare_o him through the brotherhood of man. With bated breath and beating heart h_oved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker fo_ntrance into the Brotherhood was known). Drawing nearer, he recognized in th_hetor a man he knew, Smolyaninov, and it mortified him to think that th_ewcomer was an acquaintance—he wished him simply a brother and a virtuou_nstructor. For a long time he could not utter a word, so that the Rhetor ha_o 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 th_eans by which our holy Order will help you to reach your aim?" said h_uietly and quickly.
  • "I… hope… for guidance… help… in regeneration," said Pierre, with a tremblin_oice and some difficulty in utterance due to his excitement and to bein_naccustomed 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 hav_irtuous aims," said Pierre, feeling ashamed of the inadequacy of his word_or the solemnity of the moment, as he spoke. "I imagine… "
  • "Good!" said the Rhetor quickly, apparently satisfied with this answer. "Hav_ou sought for means of attaining your aim in religion?"
  • "No, I considered it erroneous and did not follow it," said Pierre, so softl_hat the Rhetor did not hear him and asked him what he was saying. "I hav_een an atheist," answered Pierre.
  • "You are seeking for truth in order to follow its laws in your life, therefor_ou seek wisdom and virtue. Is that not so?" said the Rhetor, after a moment'_ause.
  • "Yes, yes," assented Pierre.
  • The Rhetor cleared his throat, crossed his gloved hands on his breast, an_egan to speak.
  • "Now I must disclose to you the chief aim of our Order," he said, "and if thi_im coincides with yours, you may enter our Brotherhood with profit. The firs_nd chief object of our Order, the foundation on which it rests and which n_uman power can destroy, is the preservation and handing on to posterity of _ertain 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 mankin_epends. But since this mystery is of such a nature that nobody can know o_se it unless he be prepared by long and diligent self-purification, no_veryone can hope to attain it quickly. Hence we have a secondary aim, that o_reparing our members as much as possible to reform their hearts, to purif_nd enlighten their minds, by means handed on to us by tradition from thos_ho have striven to attain this mystery, and thereby to render them capable o_eceiving it.
  • "By purifying and regenerating our members we try, thirdly, to improve th_hole 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 menta_mage of his future activity in this direction rose in his mind. He imagine_en such as he had himself been a fortnight ago, and he addressed an edifyin_xhortation to them. He imagined to himself vicious and unfortunate peopl_hom he would assist by word and deed, imagined oppressors whose victims h_ould rescue. Of the three objects mentioned by the Rhetor, this last, that o_mproving mankind, especially appealed to Pierre. The important myster_entioned by the Rhetor, though it aroused his curiosity, did not seem to hi_ssential, and the second aim, that of purifying and regenerating himself, di_ot much interest him because at that moment he felt with delight that he wa_lready perfectly cured of his former faults and was ready for all that wa_ood.
  • Half an hour later, the Rhetor returned to inform the seeker of the seve_irtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon's temple, which ever_reemason 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 Rheto_aid, "to bring yourself to regard it not as a dreaded foe, but as a frien_hat frees the soul grown weary in the labors of virtue from this distressfu_ife, and leads it to its place of recompense and peace."
  • "Yes, that must be so," thought Pierre, when after these words the Rhetor wen_way, leaving him to solitary meditation. "It must be so, but I am still s_eak that I love my life, the meaning of which is only now gradually openin_efore me." But five of the other virtues which Pierre recalled, counting the_n his fingers, he felt already in his soul: courage, generosity, morality, love of mankind, and especially obedience—which did not even seem to him _irtue, but a joy. (He now felt so glad to be free from his own lawlessnes_nd to submit his will to those who knew the indubitable truth.) He forgo_hat the seventh virtue was and could not recall it.
  • The third time the Rhetor came back more quickly and asked Pierre whether h_as still firm in his intention and determined to submit to all that would b_equired of him.
  • "I am ready for everything," said Pierre.
  • "I must also inform you," said the Rhetor, "that our Order delivers it_eaching not in words only but also by other means, which may perhaps have _tronger effect on the sincere seeker after wisdom and virtue than mere words.
  • This chamber with what you see therein should already have suggested to you_eart, if it is sincere, more than words could do. You will perhaps also se_n your further initiation a like method of enlightenment. Our Order imitate_he ancient societies that explained their teaching by hieroglyphics. _ieroglyph," said the Rhetor, "is an emblem of something not cognizable by th_enses but which possesses qualities resembling those of the symbol."
  • Pierre knew very well what a hieroglyph was, but dared not speak. He listene_o the Rhetor in silence, feeling from all he said that his ordeal was abou_o begin.
  • "If you are resolved, I must begin your initiation," said the Rhetor comin_loser to Pierre. "In token of generosity I ask you to give me all you_aluables."
  • "But I have nothing here," replied Pierre, supposing that he was asked to giv_p all he possessed.
  • "What you have with you: watch, money, rings… ."
  • Pierre quickly took out his purse and watch, but could not manage for som_ime to get the wedding ring off his fat finger. When that had been done, th_hetor said:
  • "In token of obedience, I ask you to undress."
  • Pierre took off his coat, waistcoat, and left boot according to the Rhetor'_nstructions. The Mason drew the shirt back from Pierre's left breast, an_tooping down pulled up the left leg of his trousers to above the knee. Pierr_urriedly began taking off his right boot also and was going to tuck up th_ther trouser leg to save this stranger the trouble, but the Mason told hi_hat was not necessary and gave him a slipper for his left foot. With _hildlike smile of embarrassment, doubt, and self-derision, which appeared o_is face against his will, Pierre stood with his arms hanging down and leg_part, 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 o_irtue," said the Mason.
  • Pierre paused, seeking a reply.
  • "Wine? Gluttony? Idleness? Laziness? Irritability? Anger? Women?" He went ove_is 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. A_ast 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 _ridle on your senses, and seek blessedness, not in passion but in your ow_eart. The source of blessedness is not without us but within… ."
  • Pierre had already long been feeling in himself that refreshing source o_lessedness which now flooded his heart with glad emotion.