Masonic Allegory and Russian Pre-Romanticism: The Symbolism of Sofia and Adam Kadmon in the Poetry of Semen Bobrov

Marina Aptekman, Brown University

The ideas of mystical and moral Enlightenment disseminated by Russian Free-Masonry of the late eighteenth century, and especially by Russian Rosicrucians, had a powerful impact on the development of Russian pre-Romantic literature. The publishing work of Novikov and his fellow Masons, the founding of such magazines as Morning Light and The Evening Dawn and finally the creation of the literary salon of M. Xeraskov has influenced a whole generation of Russian pre-Romantic poets. Although Semen Bobrov is definitely one of the most significant figures of Russian pre-Romanticism, his poetry still belongs to the least studied works of Russian literature. Among the topics left out of the critic’s attention is the strong influence of Masonic philosophy on Bobrov’s works. Masonic symbolism plays a very important role in Bobrov’s poetry and seems to be essential for the full understanding of Bobrov’s imagery and language.

In my paper I will try to shed light on such important Masonic images in Bobrov’s poetry as the allegory of Sofia and the symbolism of Adam Kadmon. I will then analyze the Cabalistic and the Gnostic origins of these images and will discuss their significance for the Masonic philosophy of the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

I will then concentrate on the historical evidence and try to prove that Bobrov was indeed connected to Novikov’s circle of Russian Rosicrucians and that these connections had influenced strongly his poetic imagination.

I believe that this topic which is very much at the border of literature and philosophy, is important for both the better understanding of the role that the Masonic Enlightenment has played in the history of Russian literature and for the broader perspective on the development of Russian religious and literary thought.