Initiating the Millennium: The Avignon Society and Illuminism in Europe

ISBN : 9780190903374

Robert Collis; Natalie Bayer
264 Pages
156 x 156 mm
Pub date
Jan 2020
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In Initiating the Millennium, Robert Collis and Natalie Bayer fill a substantial lacuna in the study of an initiatic society-known variously as the Illumines d'Avignon, the Avignon Society, the New Israel Society, and the Union-that flourished across Europe between 1779 and 1807. Based on hitherto neglected archival material, this study provides a wealth of fresh insights into a group that included members of various Christian confessions from countries spanning the length and breadth of the Continent. The founding members of this society forged a unique group that incorporated distinct strands of Western esotericism (particularly alchemy and arithmancy) within an all-pervading millenarian worldview. Collis and Bayer demonstrate that the doctrine of premillennialism-belief in the imminent advent of Christ's reign on Earth-soon came to constitute the raison d'etre of the society. Using a chronological approach, the authors chart the machinations of the leading figures of the society (most notably the Polish gentleman Tadeusz Grabianka). They also examine the way in which the group reacted to and was impacted by the tumultuous events that rocked Europe during its twenty-eight years of existence. The result is a new understanding of the vital role played by the so-called Union within the wider millenarian and illuministic milieu at the close of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century.


Chapter 1
In the Beginning was the (Holy) Word: The Foundation
of the Initiatic Society and its early years in Berlin, Rheinsberg and Podolia,
Chapter 2
In Search of Guidance: Grabianka, Swedenborgians and the Prophecies
of Samuel Best in London, 1785-1786
Chapter 3
The Era of the Seven Brothers in Avignon, 1783-1790
Chapter 4
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? The Rise and Fall of Ottavio Cappelli in Rome,
Chapter 5
Trials, Tribulations and Transformation: The Illumines d'Avignon
in Revolutionary France, 1791-1802
Chapter 6
Light from the North: The New Israel Society Revived in the
Russian Empire, 1802-1807
Chapter 7
The Legacy of the New Israel Society: The Pleshcheeva Circle,
Chapter 8
The Prophetess Madame Bouche and the Triune
of Emperor Alexander, A. N. Golitsyn and R. A. Koshelev, 1810-1822

About the author: 

Robert Collis is the author of The Petrine Instauration: Religion, Science, and Esotericism at the Court of Peter the Great, 1689-1725. He is a Visiting Professor of History at Drake University. Natalie Bayer is Associate Professor of History at Drake University.

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