Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Analysis of the Freemasons in the Light of the Complete Works of Marx and Engels

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Analysis of the Freemasons in the Light of the Complete Works of Marx and Engels

Article excerpt

Abstract: Studies of the Freemasons, even though rare and scattered, have been carried out by Chinese scholars for a long time, but they have never become the focus of academic debates until recent years. There are dozens of discussions concerning the Freemasons in The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, a legacy too precious to be overlooked. This article tries to summarize and analyze the significance of the Freemasons in the context of Marx and Engels through a careful textual study using the Complete Works. Finally, some conclusions and heuristics regarding a Marxist understanding of the Freemasons are presented.

Key words: Complete Works of Marx and Engels; Freemasons; textual analysis; Freemasonry

The Freemasons, an unfamiliar Western group, have become more and more recognized in today's China, partly because of their mysteriousness. But the principal cause of this attention is the many books that market themselves by using conspiracy theories to explain human history and that link the Freemasons with some of the most famous people and decisive events in history. However, some basic questions concerning the Freemasons, such as the nature of Freemasonry, its history, and what we can learn from the existence of this kind of organization, are still open to more scientific investigations. In this article, I try to answer some of these questions in the context of The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, and through an understanding of the nature and characteristics of the Freemasons.

Literature Review

Although serious research on the Freemasons is rare, the topic has been covered by Chinese scholars for a long time. Previous studies can be divided into two groups by research methodology: some of them focus on special topics in Freemasonry, while others try to draw a complete picture of the Masonic order.

Studies on special topics in Freemasonry always account for the profound influence of the Freemasons on notable people, disciplines, and nations. As far as the studies of the Freemasons' impacts on specific nations have been concerned, most of them are about Freemasonry in Russia. Zhao Shifeng (2007) showed us a comprehensive outline of research in the last 20 years on Russian Freemasons done by Russian scholars, and summarized the special trends during the different historical periods: "(1) Before 1917, the focus of the studies was the Russian Freemasons in the 18th and 19th century. (2) From 1917 to 1985, studies of the Freemasons were considered unnecessary. (3) From 1985, the studies paid more attention to the relationship of the Freemasons and Russian politics, religion, philosophy and literature. The history of the Russian Freemasons and their relationship with Russian intellectuals had also been wildly discussed in that period."

Regarding studies of the Freemasons' impacts on specific disciplines, there are two major topics: philosophy and music. Zhang Baichun (1996) discussed three major figures of the Russian Freemasons and their contributions: "Novikov whose philosophical and religious doctrine helped build the foundation of the Russian Freemasons' ideology, Blokhin who set up rigorous routines and a related system of religion ethics, and finally, Schwartz who argued for a special theoretical system for the Freemasons, a more Russian system." Zhang also summarized the basic philosophy of the Freemasons with respect to three dimensions: ontology, humanism, and the philosophy of religion. He concluded that "the Freemasons built the foundation of the 19th century Russian philosophy, and eventually fostered the birth of the Russian national philosophy." Xu Aizhen and Xiemin Su (2006) found that the Freemasons not only had a clear doctrine, but also rigorous rules of music used in their rites, which could be seen as part of a practical education and reform movement inspired by Enlightenment ideas. Those rules had an impact, somehow, on the formation of the idea of freedom in Western musical culture from the classical period, and finally fostered a new style of music with an idealistic tinge in the 18th century. …

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