“Journeys of the mind” in the Russian Cultural Society of the 1760-s. Educational and Publishing activity of Kheraskov Literary Circle
Author(s)Natalia D. Bludilina
The 18th century
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AbstractThis article examines one of the pages of the history of Russian Freemasonry as a philosophical and ideological trend within the circles of reflective minds of the Russian society and its influence on the literary process; in particular, it explores a connection of Freemasonry rationalist philosophy with the “journeys of the mind” in the works of M.M.Kheraskov and his Moscow literary circle (A.P.Sumarokov, A. A.Nartov, A. A.Rzhevsky, Alex and Simon Naryshkin, D. Anichkov, J. I. Bulgakov, V. I.Maikov, and I.F. Bogdanovich) that to a certain extent reflected complex processes of the development of spiritual culture in the eighteenth century Russia. For the members of Moscow literary circle, a journal was not only the most efficient way to establish and maintain contacts with the readers but also the means of enlightening contemporaries introducing them to literature. These literati, for the first time in history, developed a group with its own philosophical, political, and literary position: they claimed that enlightened mind creates and perfects a soul that is open to kindness and love and that moral life is based on the awareness of the moral imperative. The essay analyzes didactic essays by the above mentioned authors and their translations (from Montaigne, Fontenelle, Voltaire, Dodsli, and Gellert — a circle of spiritual reading they promoted) in chronological order of their publication in the magazines issued in the 1760 ‘s: “Useful Jollification,” “Free Hours,” “Monthly Essays Serving to Instruct and Entertain,” “Idle Time,” and “Hardworking Bee.” As the analysis reveals, they understood enlightenment mainly as self-knowledge and self-improvement of a single individual; intellectual connection was reduced to the narrow circle of single-minded and educated persons. To understand the “laws of the mind” and to build a life of body and soul on their basis was the goal that Russian Freemason authors pursued as they attempted to develop and promote a new moral that would rely not on religious authority but on the supremacy of reason.