Without meaning to, Pierre becomes the head of the Petersburg Masons. How? Well, he’s the only one who actually donates money to their charities, and the only one who cares about it as something other than just a way to make connections with powerful people.
But even so, he mostly just lives his frat-boy lifestyle of parties and booze. We even get a little hint that there might be some brothels involved – it’s hard to tell.
Anyway, he’s stressed that he’s losing his way and falling off his religious wagon.
When he thinks about the Masons, he makes four categories: 1) brothers who are studying deep mystical things and are thus very impressive; 2) brothers who are trying to get on and stay on the straight and narrow (this is where he falls); 3) brothers who just like the pomp and circumstance and secrecy of the Masons; and 4) brothers who join just to make connections.
Pierre decides to go abroad to learn how the Masons roll there.
He comes back a year later, in the summer of 1809.
Everyone in Petersburg knows that he made some high-level Masonic connections abroad and learned deep new things.
He calls a meeting at the lodge, and everyone shows up all psyched up to hear what he has to say.
Pierre launches right into a speech that basically says it’s too hard to act like good people in their political landscape. He proposes that the Masons need to also work to reform the institutions around them, and also to try to raise up others to the Masonic way of life.
This does not go over well. No one wants to rock the political boat.
Pierre argues with a bunch of his Masonic brothers, and then, after they vote against his ideas, he just up and leaves.