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Indeed, the threat supposedly posed by alchemy on the Russian aristocracy was deemed to be such that it warranted a systematic response from the empress. Far from being a whimsical distraction, Western European alchemical doctrines offered an alternative vision of the world dressed up in quasi-scientific language , which ran counter to the Enlightenment ideals so cherished by Catherine.

Thus, during the traditional carnival period of Maslenitsa Shrovetide , in late January, an extraordinary street pageant, directed by F.

As Richard Wortman has noted, the Minervan monarch was promoted in a benevolent light as a ruler who would usher in an era of unparalleled knowledge, justice, moral- ity, and civic virtue. However, much of the preceding masquerade was dedicated to presenting a withering satirical attack on the vices that needed to be overcome in order for Russia to follows its ruler into the Golden Age. Weaknesses are repugnant to nature, if they give power over the heart to sorcery, which is only a stupid chimera; But of all deceptions, those of the cunning projector are the most evil. Because he aspires to describe benefits to society, In order to suck profit with his new projects, And if we do not forestall his deceits, He would be even more evil than sorceresses and gypsies.

This verse was accompanied by characters in face masks depicting male and female gypsies, who sang and danced, as well as sorcerers and sorceresses and several devils, and lastly a charlatan with his projects.

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In the masquerade the association between such projec- tors and alchemy is reinforced by the inclusion of a figure of Vulcan, who is accompanied by fourteen smithies as well as a depiction of part of Mount Etna, where the god built his forge. Russia attracted a number of more rational and Enlightenment-minded projectors during the eighteenth century, whose schemes for improvement of the government economy, for example, reflect the spirit of entrepre- neurial adventurers. Thus, in April , Johannes de Wilde from Amsterdam, wrote to Empress Anna Ioannova — and outlined how he could teach one of her appointed subjects a secret method whereby one-hundred ducats of gold and fifty marks of the finest silver would be delivered to St.

Petersburg every month.

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Petersburg, as well as receiving the rank of Count and the Order of St. Similar alchemical proposals by European projectors were outlined dur- ing the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna — between and According to Edlinger, a person possessing this tincture would have no need of a physician as it was akin to the Tree of Life in paradise, which gave eternal life to anyone eating the fruit from its branches.

Indeed, just as the empress was publicly announcing her desire to rid Russia of foreign esoteric doctrines, an international Masonic network was taking hold in St. Petersburg, which embraced alchemical philosophy. In other words, whilst lone projectors still remained a threat, a new, dynamic powerbase for fermenting esoteric philosophy was emerging in Russia. Alchemical Rituals and Symbolism within the Masonic Lodge.

Petersburg inspired by chivalric and clerical symbolism and rituals, which advocated an alternative worldview in which alchemy played a pivotal role. Petersburg in December , he went straight to Melissino with a letter of introduction.

Thus Casanova escorted Melissino to an Epiphany celebration, as well as to a military review and banquet. General Melissino of the artillery, who is Grand Master of the lodge was at the head. There was a grand banquet and masked ball […] [and] a sumptuous and magnificent fireworks display. Yet, whilst Melissino was a master of sociability on the Petersburg stage, personal charm alone does not account for his prominence in Masonic circles. This is most apparent in the seventh degree entitled Magnus Sacerdos Templariorum.

The opening ceremony of the initiation into this degree imitates Orthodox and Catholic rites associated with Chrismation, in which the initiate is consecrated with holy anointing oil. The head priest then sung the opening line from the Catholic hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus , known as the Golden Sequence, seven times, which is traditionally sung at Pentecost. In other words, the clerics were invoking the Holy Spirit to descend upon them. The high priest then approached the altar, on which he placed a ceremonial rod of Aaron seven times.

The altar was also adorned with six small candles and in the middle were seven lit candles. What is more, in front of the altar could be seen a white curtain, which was decorated with a red cross produced from the convergence of four black daleths. The catechism then discusses Genesis, whereby it is stated that the divine spirit formed from Chaos and took the form of the light.

The candidate then swears three oaths of loyalty. Hence, whilst the first part of the catechism promotes the Rosicrucian heritage of the Order, the oath-swearing ceremony reinforces Templar associations. The high priest then pronounces that the candidate is ready to receive the light and to obtain theosophical, cabbalistic, and hermetic knowledge.

Indeed, the initiation ceremony concludes with a long lecture by the high- priest, which reveals the full extent to which the cleric-masons led by Melissino embraced the richness of the Western esoteric tradition. The degree to which the Melissino lodge acted as a crucible for various strands of high-grade ritual practice is epitomized by the high priests ruminations on the meaning and significance of the letters J, B, and M that made up the three pillars of Masonry. First, the high priest explains that it refers to Jachin, Boaz, and Macbenac, with the last name laden with Templar symbolism.

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The Templar associations are then stressed still further by the explanation that the three letters in the Scottish Master degree also refer to Jacobus Burgundicus Molaius, or in other words Jacques de Molay. The second material is green foam in which sea the philosophers swim. One without the other can create nothing. Those in our conclave who have received the proper instruction in order to combine both these materials, following our splendid Cabbala, have the luck to see this first water emerge. Out of it comes afterwards the grey salt, known as the or the Saturnine Antimonium , and finally from these salts the mercurial water which dissolves all metals, minerals, precious stones and all natural matter and which benefit the days of mankind with complete health until the very end.

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The Melissino Rite was only practiced in Russia between the mid s and , but its importance and influence should not be underestimated. Whilst Melissino directly drew on Rosicrucian and Templar traditions when formulating his rite, he was also highly innovative in his adoption of clerical symbolism and in incorporating Orthodox and Catholic liturgical rites. Yet, the Melissino Rite was entirely independent from the Martinist Rite and, moreover, was distinct in its use of Orthodox and Catholic rituals.

Nikolay Novikov, enlightener of Russia / W. Gareth Jones | National Library of Australia

Petersburg by Starck is difficult to ascertain. In terms of alchemy, this is most evident in the rituals and symbolism associated with the seventh degree of Magus or Knight of Clearness and Light. The emergence of the Melissino and Starck systems of high-grade Freemasonry in St. Petersburg in the s was symptomatic of a wider European trend.

Hence, they sought inspiration from the Western esoteric tradition that had flourished in the early modern period, alongside an acceptance of mystical Christian doctrines. In Russia, this sentiment is epitomized by Melissino, who espoused the dynamic potential of the Western esoteric tradition to transform and impact upon both the individual and the surrounding environment. In other words, Melissino did not simply utilise the alchemical tradition for Masonic rituals and symbolism; he also succeeded in establishing an active circle of fellow adepts from across Europe in St.

Petersburg, who collaborated on harnessing what they saw as the inherent potential of alchemical transmutation.

Petersburg in the s and early s. The evidence of such active alchem- ical experimentation overturns the view, expressed by Iurii Lotman and Stephen Baehr, among others, that Russian Masons in this period did not undertake alchemical experiments. The Frenchman arrived in St. Thus, within days of being in St.

However, as Antoine Faivre has noted, of all the Masons in St. Petersburg it was Melissino who made by far the strongest impression on the French diplomat. On 5 May , Corberon records in his journal that he had a meeting with Melissino in a lodge. The foreign aristocrats had been recognised as worthy adepts by Melissino, who in accepting them into his inner sanctum would consequently instruct them in perfecting their alchemical labours.

Petersburg also included receiving one-and-a-half pounds of alchemical matter from a certain Gedin, on condition that he did not reveal how to make it. Corberon himself writes that he was keen to meet with the German alchemist in , but was informed that he had suddenly left Moscow in and had not returned. In turn, Melissino entrusted Corberon with a copy of this alchemical manuscript, which was written in hieroglyphs and also contained a short passage in German. Moreover, the journal also demonstrates how the Melissino Circle in St.

Petersburg via Baron Heyking in Poland. Cagliostro, Alchemy, and the Petersburg Elite. However, argu- ably one of the most revealing—albeit biased—insights into the six-month residence of Cagliostro in St. Petersburg is provided by none-other than Catherine the Great. Despite this setback, Catherine describes how Cagliostro then promoted tinctures and chemical composi- tions that were useless. This sorry tale is said to have enraged Elagin, who threatened to send Cagliostro away in a gypsy caravan, but who finally provided a carriage and escort in order for the adventurer to reach the border with Courland.