Sunday, 21 October 2018

Q81: How much did Freemasonry influence Doukhobor theology?

Yuri Zbitnoff of Boston, Massachusetts, USA explains:

I was doing a little digging to better acquaint myself with the spiritual origins of the Doukhobor world-view.

Can you confirm or elaborate on the claims from this piece: 'Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History', by Svetlana Inikova, on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website?

Answer by Koozma J. Tarasoff and Andrei Conovaloff

We know that Freemasons affected Doukhobor history, but we do not know 'how much' they influenced Doukhobor theology or beliefs.

The documentation of the spiritual history of our Doukhobor ancestors in Russia is sparse, scattered and complex. Much more research is needed to fully answer this question.

Freemasons selected, altered and transmitted ideas gathered from various sources, and interpreted and translated them into local languages. Many books and articles have been published about their influence in Russia.

A key figure in the history of Freemasonry in Russia was Ivan. P. Lopukhin, an aristocrat, attorney, judge, and senator, who was interested in Pietism, the doctrine of the 'inner light'. In 1801 he ‘masterminded’ a plan to protect and reform Doukhobors by gathering them from scattered exiles (maps below) and concentrating them into their own ‘self-contained community’ along the west bank of the Molochna River in Tauride Governate (now south Ukraine).

Click on maps to enlarge. Maps by Johnathan Kalmakoff.

Several historical tracts were attributed (not proved) to Ivan Lopukhin. One of these was the ‘Note of 1791’, which contains one of the earliest descriptions of Doukhobor beliefs. A prominent theme was the ‘inner church’ which later was considered to have been adopted by Lev N. Tolstoy in his ‘Kingdom of God is Within You’ — a conversion to a new non-doctoral Christianity that rejected violence and taught the ‘Spirit Within’.

The Note of 1791 (the original was never found) resembles Freemason ideas, with reference to the ‘inner church’, ‘spiritual knights’, and ‘hidden saints’, but the form of language with the use of ‘church’, ‘knights’ and ‘saints’ is foreign to Doukhobors. Doukhobors broke away from this usage in their formative development while searching for the evolutionary God/ Love Within.

The 'piece' you read was a paper presented in 1999 by Svetlana A. Inikova in Ottawa, at our conference: 'The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on their Unity and Diversity’. Because 'Masons' are mentioned 8 times in her paper, you probably became curious for more.

There are 4 articles on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website by Jonathan Kalmakoff, about Freemasons and Doukhobors. Also study references cited.
Tarasoff: In my opinion Lev. N. Tolstoy is the major origin of the world-view of Canadian Doukhobors. Many other European Protestant influences on Russia can be speculated about, some of which are listed in my 2013 lecture: ‘Evolution of the Doukhobor Movement’, see slides 5 and 7. The Masons could be added to these incomplete lists. We know that the Doukhobor movement evolved from centuries of acts of survival and adaptation by preceding human populations and societies, and more research can be done.

In the meantime, I view the Canadian Doukhobors as a type of 'Tolstoyan social movement' with a focus on creating a compassionate and caring world based on love and nonkilling. Lev Tolstoy is indeed an inspiration for the Doukhobors.

Conovaloff: Both Tolstoy and Gandhi were influenced by Freemasons, and Masons may have impacted the non-Doukhobor Spiritual Christians more than the Doukhobors.

Lopukhin’s policy of concentrating Spiritual Christians in New Russia enhanced, and may have caused, the 1833 amalgamation of a zealous movement of religious ecstasy and enthusiasm, part of which was later labeled in 1856 as Pryguny due to their jumping and leaping in the Holy Spirit. After a third of Doukhobors, including the most zealous, began to move to Canada in 1899, some neighboring non-Doukhobor ecstatic tribes of Spiritual Christians scattered in the Caucasus followed them to Canada, but were diverted to Southern California where the most zealous created a new family of faiths now called Dukh-i-zhizniki.

Research conducted in the 1980s by Phillip and Ludmilla Efseaff (Oregon, USA.) speculated that Russian Freemasons influenced some of the most zealous Spiritual Christian Pryguny (Jumpers), which was transmitted to their offshoot tribes of Dukh-i-zhizniki. Links above and below support their speculation.
The Freemason translations to Russian of selections from Jung-Stilling sparked a ‘Great Trek’ by some Mennonites to the ‘East’ to meet Jesus during his Second Coming. Similar treks, or pokhod (flight to refuge), have been attempted, and several conducted, by Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki, and are still active in their prophecies, songs and oral history. Some Canadian Doukhobors and Sons of Freedom retain an oral history of "trek", to Russia or somewhere else.

At least one Spiritual Christian immigrated to California as a Mason, and in the 1980s his grandson, John Spoldsoff continued the family Mason tradition by joining and being elected to Head Mason in Fresno, California.

Also see: Q38. Doukhobors and Christian Mysticism?.

Many groups use different terms for 'divine light':


  1. This is so interesting, Koozma! Thank you!

  2. Don Tarasoff, Victoria, BC22 October 2018 at 14:37

    I have read the historical documents with great interest; I hope serious historians will continue Russian archival research from primary sources.
    thank you!

  3. Dear Yuri, important question. Recognising this previously, I studied the topic at length as it is relative to my lineage which extends far back in the community and I have both Doukhobor and Molokan ancestry. From a conservationist Christian Doukhobor viewpoint I would say:
    Those in spiritual communion with Christ then or now receive and know the Living Water that sustains life and certainly they would not and will not be found bowing down and lapping from the esoteric mud puddle that is offered by fraternities such as the Masons. As is the pattern, any community genuine in their effort to follow and believe in the words of Christ, surely become a target for esoteric fraternities who desire to influence them away with subtle, gradual falsehoods that do not lead to life, so we can see the Doukhobors were not isolated from this situation then or now. Surely some involved with Doukhobors could have fallen to such deceptions, but those would not be the ones who worship Christ, and what lineages and level of departure are impossible to accurately quantify. You would need to engage intimate personal testimony and behavioural evidence of the individuals to understand this as the chances of receiving straight and open answers from those who engaged that Masonic path would surely not come forward openly due to the secretive nature of those initiate societies.
    Regarding the statement “…language with the use of ‘church’, ‘knights’ and ‘saints’ is foreign to Doukhobors” does not correlate to evidence recorded in community historical testimonies such as the 1934 declaration which states they “have been, are, and will be members of Christ’s church” also, there is a vast quantity of traditional, specific apostolic Christian language referenced throughout the Book of Life by Bonch-Bruevich such as saints, Cossacks (knights), Holy Spirit, etc. What a person must understand is that Masonic activity regarding Doukhobors can be described briefly as a parasitic counterfeiting of their traditional Christian language by use of semantic corruption and gradual exchange of original understanding for a corrupted version which is later proclaimed as evolved, this always follows after attaching themselves to existing faith communities.
    If you wish to know where our ancestors received their theology, you can see the account in their own words in BOL Ps.2, p23, Q41,42 which states they received it from John the Apostle and incorporated it into their singing hence preserving reference to source belief.
    ‎Regarding Tolstoyan vs traditional apostolic Doukhobor belief, examining Tolstoy’s statements show they do not run a parallel harmony, as Doukhobors stated they wrestled in cooperation with The Holy Spirit while Tolstoy persisted in denial of communion with The Holy Spirit Who was sent and is given as Christ revealed.
    It would be safe to say that often people seek these historical aspects to see if they should adopt them into their lives today, and if one is looking to make a genuine connection between a structured initiate esoteric hierarchy such as Freemasonry with the heart of belief that founded the Doukhobor and Molokan communities, you surely will be digging a dry well.
    Those who know this truth keep their compass pointed straight to the words of Christ, as moving even 1 degree from that direction takes one very far, becoming increasingly lost as time passes, let alone moving the compass 33 degrees..
    Thanks very much, best to you and all.

  4. Единственный человек, который может развить, обосновать и утвердить эту религиозную теорию, сам автор идеи Иникова Светлана Александровна. Все псевдонаучные комментарии и дилетантские выводы на уровне рассуждений детей о квантовой физике. В чем я согласен с Кузьмой, что духоборство прошло очень большой путь эволюции. Эволюции от духоборческого вероучения (основанного на религиозных догматах), до толстовского религиозно-философского-идеологического учения (основанного на вегетарианстве, пацифизме и кулинарии) превратилась в эволюцию деградации.

    Всем участвующим в дискуссии мира, добра и здоровья.

  5. Gordon Breedyk, Ottawa, Ontario23 October 2018 at 06:44

    Thanks Koozma,
    Wow - you have certainly done your "homework" on this subject - very impressive! Congrats!