In the August 1769, they published the first variant of the thesis by A., in Russian and Latin, for the position of Full Professor of the Imperial Moscow University. Now, the book is a bibliographic rarity. One copy is kept in the Rare Books Department of the Russian State Library, another one in the Research Library of the Moscow State University. There is a version that almost all copies were cut down purposefully because of the author’s free-thinking.
In the reworked and ready for official defense of the thesis, the text received another title: ‘Philosophic Consideration on the Beginning and the Origin of the Veneration of God at Various, Mostly Ignorant, Peoples’. The author declares that there are several reasons for the origin of religion: “the most important of them could be fear, visions, and astonishment”. That is why he made three chapters: ‘Fear’, ‘Visions’, and ‘Astonishment’. He argued that the intial religious ideas should be described as Polytheism. He compared ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ religions, noting some survivals of natural religion in Christianity.
In the first chapter of his thesis, A. declared, that fear was the source of religion. Wild man felt fear before some “monsters of the animal world”, “as an animal himself, he was wild, afraid, and thrilling”, and “for ignorant people any unusual thing seems divine”. He finished the first chapter with such conclusion: “Polytheism was produced by fear”, and he supported his concept with a citation from Lucretius — “fear was the first in the world, which produced gods”.
In the second chapter, he noted that the imagination played a significant role in the shaping of mythological images. Under the term ‘visions’ he meant fantastic ideas and images based on some impressions (simulacra).
In the third chapter, he offered the euhemeric theory of the origin of beliefs in gods: “From astonishment before some unusual properties, a man makes gods from mortal men like himself”. Priests were the most cunning and smart people: “for the deception of simple people, and for nasty profit, a priest invented some idol or image crying with water through hidden holes, or an oracle speaking with unusual mechanic voice, and crowds of worshippers went to such place to pray and to surprise for the newly manifested wonders”.
The initial variant of the thesis was evaluated as ‘free-thinking’ and ‘libertine’, and not corresponding with the Orthodox dogmas. The author was accused for Epicureism, and for his interest to Lucretius Carr, ‘a proletarian among philosophers’. He had to make a number of changes in the text and to find another title. The case was sent to the Synod and was not solved till 1787. (See: Shakhnovich М.J. D.S. Anichkov – the First Russian Historian of Religion // Uchenyae zapiski of the Leningrad State University, 1948, # 109, ser. ‘Philosophical Disciplines’, iss. 2. P. 163–176. In Rus.).