Open Lectures on Freemasonry

What is Open Lectures on Freemasonry?

In this era where the printed and manuscript word becomes ever more available through digital technology, new wider panoramas for the curious can open. OpenLFM, through its online lecture series on Freemasonry given by prominent scholars, will aim to demonstrate a range of new perspectives for academics, Freemasons or simply the curious.

Lectures are audible, within technical limits, to those who are interested in the topic to be presented. Participation requires prior registration. Registration is free of charge. Registered users will be invited to OpenLFM Googlegroups and will be informed about forthcoming activities. OpenLFM beholds the right to reject any registration with no further explanation.

Next Lecture

Avignon Society&Freemasonry

Robert Collis

November 27, 2021 6 PM GMT

This book, the first of its kind in English, examines an initiatic society known by various names—Illuminés d’Avignon, the Avignon Society, the Union, the New Israel Society—that flourished in Berlin, Avignon, Rome, and St. Petersburg, between 1779 and 1807. The founding members of this society forged a group that embraced strands of Western esotericism (particularly alchemy and arithmancy) within an all-pervading millenarian worldview. Whilst the society incorporated aspects of high-degree Freemasonry, it was never merely a para-masonic fraternity. Instead, it offered entry into a religious community of the elect for men, women, and children who anticipated the imminent onset of the millennium. Consecrates were also able to seek divine advice from the so-called Holy Word, partake in alchemical operations to perfect the philosophers’ stone, and invoke guardian angels. As this study demonstrates, the group retained its millenarian worldview and belief in prophetic mediation with Heaven throughout its existence. But it also experienced pronounced doctrinal shifts. Notably, the early espousal of Swedenborgianism was jettisoned in late 1788 and replaced by an embrace of Marianism. This change reflected a contested turn away from a more ecumenical outlook to a more conventional Catholic society. Further, although the society ceased to function in 1807, this study examines the enduring legacy of the group in Russia and its direct influence on Emperor Alexander through the prophetess Madame Bouche, who spent two years at the imperial court (1819 to 1821). It draws on a wealth of archival material from across Europe, which reflects the pan-European composition of the society itself.


Chair Susan M.Sommers

Robert Collis, teaches European history, specializing in Russian history (particularly in the eighteenth century) and the history of Western esotericism. He also teaches a course on world history since 1750.

Collis earned his BA (Hons) and MA degrees from The University of Sussex in Britain. He began his doctoral studies at The University of Sheffield before transferring to The University of Turku (Finland), where he was awarded his doctorate in 2008. His doctoral thesis, The Petrine Instauration: Religion, Science and Esotericism at the Court of Peter the Great, won the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism Thesis Prize in 2009 and a revised version was published by Brill in 2012. He was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at The University of Sheffield between 2010-2012 and a Research Fellow of the Collegium for Advanced Studies at The University of Helsinki (Finland) between 2013-2014. In 2016, Collis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (of Great Britain). Collis was the co-editor of the Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism between 2009-2012 and has been the managing editor of VIvliofika: E-Journal of Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies since 2015.

He has published widely on aspects of Russian history, the history of Western esotericism and Jacobite history and his articles have appeared in various peer-reviewed journals, including The American Historical Review, The International History Review, Russian History, Russian Literature, The Slavonic and East European Review, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas and Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism. In 2020, Oxford University Press published his second book, co-written with Natalie Bayer, entitled Initiating the Millennium: The Avignon Society and Illuminism in Europe.

Susan M. Sommers, PhD is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and Professor of History at Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. She has been active in British political and Masonic research since 2004, and has served on the scientific committee for ICHF, the UCLA International conferences, and is a past editor of the Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism. She was an active contributor to Le Monde Maçonnique au XVIIIe siècle, edited by Cecile Révauger and Charles Porset. Recent books include The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian England, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, April 2018) and Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry, (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012).

Only registered users could get an invitation which will be sent before the lecture date. Please note that the size of the audience is limited by technical capacities.


Robert Collis

Susan M. Sommers