1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

The phenomenon of Russian spirituality and Seraphim of Sarov April 19, 2010

Russians are proud to be spiritual people, spirituality is a popular word in there and is being often misused even by politicians. After the communism-era, which I believe itself was in a way very spiritual (because people were motivated by high ideals), the traditional Russian values are back with even more power. Spirituality has been obviously a mass phenomenon in Russia unlike in many other parts of the world. 

Despite this fact, I find it highly interesting that Russia is not famous for its spiritual leaders, the more so there has been not a single world-famous spiritual leader in Russia (let’s say of a great caliber of Zarathustra, Lao Tse, Moses, Mohammad). Apparently there have been several quite powerful saints, but none of them had a nation-wide impact. I wonder where od the roots of Russian spirituality are emerging from? What makes people so desperately seeking for the highest, go beyond materialism, being ready to sacrifice a lot for the truth?… 

Whatever the reason is, Russia gave birth to quite a number of saints that are not well known but yet have been an enlightening example of spirituality. One of the most famous and loved one is Seraphim of Sarov. 

 

 Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (1759 – 1833),  is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit 

Seraphim (born Moshnin) was born in 1759 to a merchant family in Kursk. At the age of 10, he became seriously ill. During the course of his illness, he saw the Mother of God in his sleep, who promised to heal him. Several days later there was a religious procession in Kursk with the locally revered miracle-working icon of the Mother of God. Due to bad weather, the procession took an abbreviated route past the house of the Moshnin family. After his mother put Seraphim up to the miracle-working image, he recovered rapidly. While at a young age, he needed to help his parents with their shop, but business had little appeal for him. Young Seraphim loved to read the lives of the saints, to attend church and to withdraw into seclusion for prayer.

At the age of 18, Seraphim firmly decided to become a monk. His mother blessed him with a large copper crucifix, which he wore over his clothing all his life. After this, he entered the Sarov monastery as a novice. From day one in the monastery, exceptional abstinence from food and slumber were the distinguishing features of his life. He ate once a day, and little. On Wednesdays and Fridays he ate nothing. After asking the blessing of his starets (i.e., a spiritual elder), he began to withdraw often into the forest for prayer and religious contemplation. He became severely ill again soon after, and was forced to spend most of the course of the next three years lying down.

St. Seraphim was once again healed by the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Who appeared to him accompanied by several saints. Pointing to the venerable Seraphim, The Holy Virgin said to the apostle John the Theologian: “He is of our lineage.” Then, by touching his side with Her staff, She healed him. 

Because of a special vision of the Mother of God he was given toward the end of his life, St. Seraphim took upon himself the feat of becoming an elder. He began to admit everyone who came to him for advice and direction. Many thousands of people from all walks of life and conditions began to visit the elder now, who enriched them from his spiritual treasures, which he had acquired by many years of efforts. Everyone saw St. Seraphim as meek, joyful, pensively sincere. He greeted all with the words: “My joy!” To many he advised: “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved.” No matter who came to him, the starets bowed to the ground before all, and, in blessing, kissed their hands. He did not need the visitors to tell about themselves, as he could see what each had on their soul. He also said, “Cheerfulness is not a sin. It drives away weariness, for from weariness there is sometimes dejection, and there is nothing worse than that.” 

“Oh, if you only knew” he once said to a monk, “what joy, what sweetness awaits a righteous soul in Heaven! You would decide in this mortal life to bear any sorrows, persecutions and slander with gratitude. If this very cell of ours was filled with worms, and these worms were to eat our flesh for our entire life on earth, we should agree to it with total desire, in order not to lose, by any chance, that heavenly joy which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 

 

Here are some quotations by Seraphim of Sarov: 

—————– 

The Spiritual World 
  • Nothing so aids the acquiring of internal peace as silence, and as much as is possible, continual discussion with oneself and rarely with others. 
  • You cannot be too gentle, too kind. 
  • Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. 
  • Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. 

  • All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other… 
  • Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. 
  • Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil. 
  • A sign of spiritual life is the immersion of a person within himself and the hidden workings within his heart. 
  • It is necessary by all means to try to keep one’s spiritual peace, and not to become provoked by insults from others. To do this, it is necessary always to restrain oneself from anger, and by careful watch to guard the mind and heart from unclean waverings. 
  • Insults from others must be borne without disturbance; one must train oneself to be of such a nature, that one can react to insults as if they did not refer to oneself. Such an exercise can bring serenity to our heart and make it a dwelling of God Himself. 
  • In order to keep spiritual peace, it is necessary to chase dejection away from oneself, and to try to have a joyful spirit, according to the words of the most wise Sirach: “Sorrow has killed many, but there is no good in it” (Sir. 30:25). 
  • In order to keep spiritual peace it is also necessary to avoid judging others in any way. Condescension towards your neighbor and silence protect spiritual peace. When a person is in such an state, then he receives Godly revelations. 
  • In order not to lapse into judgment of others, it is necessary to be mindful of oneself, to refuse to receive any bad information from anyone and to be as if dead to others. 
  • For the protection of spiritual peace it is necessary to enter into oneself more often and ask: Where am I? In addition, it is necessary to watch that the physical senses, especially sight, serve the inner person, not diverting the soul with mortal items, because the gifts of grace are received only by those who have inner workings and keep watch over their souls. 

—————— 

LOVE, axinia

 

17 Responses to “The phenomenon of Russian spirituality and Seraphim of Sarov”

  1. Saint Seraphim’s life sounds like a that of a wise and saintly character. Thanks for sharing it, Axinia. Though I don’t agree with some of what he says, there is no doubt that he would have radiated wisdom and spirituality to those around him.

    I don’t know why, but it seems to me that among the three main branches of Christianity, it’s the Orthodox Christians who seem to lead “less materialistic, simpler” lives. The Protestant denominations are at the other end of the spectrum while the Catholics fall inbetween the two. Why is that? Is it because of religious reasons, like what their respective faiths preach? Or is it because of historical reasons, like the facts that the Industrial Revolution primarily took place in the traditionally Protestant lands, and Communism later ravaged regions that mainly followed (and follow) the Orthodox faith? Or, is it a combination of both religious and historical reasons 😕

    Despite this fact, I find it highly interesting that Russia is not famous for its spiritual leaders…

    What has the spirituality of a people got to do with the number of spiritual leaders it throws up 😕 Take the case of one particular heavily overpopulated sub-continent. Spiritual leaders (both true and fake ones) have always been and continue to be plentiful. Yet it remains an uncivilised, violent, hypocritical, shameless, corrupt Third World barbarocracy (over)populated by a majority of rapidly overbreeding, uncouth, less evolved, perpetually boot-licking hordes who pull down the whole of humanity, because of their sheer numbers combined with the sheer uncouthness and mediaevality of their filthy “culture” and the despicable barbarity of the evil empire which they inhabit.

    After the communism-era, which I believe itself was in a way very spiritual (because people were motivated by high ideals)…

    The commies are very good at brainwashing and indoctrinating, aren’t they, dear Axinia 😉 Let’s see, by their own admission, the commies have got nothing to do with spirituality and hated it with a passion, because their ideology would instantly collapse if people became spiritually realised. For the commies, worship meant/means working for the regime. Spiritual people would have been a nuisance to the dictatorial State, since they would “poison” minds away from the regime’s goal of establishing a mechanical population of zombie-like people toiling away to establish the Party’s idea of a paradise of the proletariat (controlled tightly by the all-powerful regime, of course).

    The failed idea of communism is nothing but monopolistic capitalism, that falsely and viciously masquerades as socialism. Communism is nothing but materialism just like free-market capitalism. Only thing is that communism tends to be much worse, since one does not have any choice but to be a part of the Party controlled materialism. There can be nothing spiritual about communism as far as I’m concerned.

    🙂

  2. So good to read about my starets!
    I made a pilgrim travel to his grave around 20 years ago. I felt wonderful spirit of Seraphim and I have great connection with him all this years. According to feng-shui the place of support in life I have in my bathroom, so I decided to place some ikon’s in my cupboard in my bathroom and one of them is Seraphim of Sarov. I think it´s very unusual to have imiges of saints in your bothroom, but it feels very good!

  3. I want to say that I am not agree with AN ALIEN EARTHLING about spirituality and communism as far as I see it. Spirituality it´s the way to survive and grow in communistic environment and communistic countries were/is great laboratory of spirit!

    • axinia Says:

      It is very true, Tatjana – and you and me, we can claim it just out of your personal experiences – in the case of Raj (“an alien earthling”), it is only his ideas which are based on the second-hand information…

      • You can say what you want, Axinia dear, but communism and spirituality are poles apart and are fundamentally different.

        Spirituality is seeking by oneself; communism is being forcefed by the Party. Spirituality is trying to look within oneself; communism is trying to look like the Party controlled hordes. Spirituality is a journey within; communism is following the trail of the sheeple led by a few commie Judas goats. Spirituality is an individualistic pursuit; communism is a collectivistic crap. Spirituality is a bottom-up model; communism is top-down nonsense. Spirituality is all about individual freedom; communism is all about total control. Spirituality is the light that leads to the blossoming of individual flowers; communism is the poison that kills every flower (except the ones chosen by the Party).

        Spirituality even has more in common with materialism than it does with communism! Both spirituality and materialism are methods of seeking individual happiness as the basic building block, but by different means. Everything else flows outwards from this individualist pursuit. Communism on the other hand, is a method of seeking the happiness of the Party/regime as the only aim. Everything else is supposed to flow down from the Party/regime. It isn’t a wonder that communism collapsed upon itself in a spectacular manner – a highly flawed monopoly capitalist model falsely masquerading as socialism certainly deserved what it got. Communism was, is and will always be the greatest hindrance to spirituality, even more than mindless materialism.

        Take the two Koreas, for example. They share the same Korean peninsula, same soil, same climate, same people, same language and same culture. They are one and the same, except for a single thing. And what a difference that single thing makes!

        South Korea is a supposedly “materialistic” country. It’s a free country, which gives one the freedom to pursue individualistic goals, be it materialism or spirituality. And the result shows. South Korea is Asia’s second most developed and civilised country (only behind Japan), on par with most of the Western world. South Korean ideas and contributions are known and respected throughout the civilised and uncouth worlds. Be it materialistic objects (electronics, appliances, automobiles or anything else) or spiritualistic ideas (Korean martial arts, meditation, religious evolution, sports), South Korea is up there with the very best.

        Compare that with commie North Korea. It’s a failed barbarocracy, as uncouth as most of the lowly Third World, with a large percentage of its population perenially on the verge of starvation. North Korea is not known for its materialistic objects (except maybe a few copied missiles and other weapons), and certainly not known for its spiritualistic ideas either, despite the fact that they share the same culture with South Korea. They are known to sell their little children for money to buy food, or for selling their daughters to the Chinese who have a shortage of brides as they murder their daughters before/after they are born.

        Just forget your Soviet nostalgia (is it Czechoslovakian nostalgia for you, Tatjana?) for an instant, Axinia dear, and tell me which factor is responsible for South Korea being a part of the civilised First World, while North Korea languishes among the lowlies of the uncouth Third World. What can it be? There is only one answer – communism. The crappy ideology of communism has totally destroyed the hapless North Korean people, while the freedom offered by their southern neighbour has led to the blossoming of the South Koreans on all aspects. Communism is a disgusting ideology that destroys everything.

        If communism encourages spirituality, why did the commie tyrants of the Eastern Bloc persecute their Christians (and to a lesser extent, Muslims and people of other faiths) so much 😕 Why did the commie period in the USSR not throw up any well known spiritual saint, Axinia dear 😕 Why did one of your favourite bubble-dwelling dreamers (Daniil Andreev) spend a good part of his life rotting in prison under commie rule, my friend 😕

        🙂

  4. billibaldi Says:

    In the English-speaking world, perceptions of Russia have been distorted mostly as a result of super-power rivalry since the Napoleonic wars. The most infamous example of this distortion is the portrayal of Gregory Rasputin. He was most definitely a victim of British secret agents. (The British were concerned that the Russians were going pull out of the Eastern front in WW1 and Rasputin had too much influence at the Russian court.)

    Thanks to your blog I have learnt about Seraphim of Sarov and Daniil Andreev and have been reminded about Leo Tolstoy.

    Thank you

    • axinia Says:

      you are welcome, billibaldi! 🙂
      The propaganda work is difficult to oppose, many people are so brainwahsed that they are not eve willing to see something else…
      Russia indeed had great souls – just as any other country!

  5. Societies can be compared to different kinds of wheel/tyre combinations, Axinia dear. Let us consider each of them one by one now.

    ➡ The filthy, uncouth societies of the world are like the wooden/metal wheels that are used on certain bullock/horse/donkey carts which do not have pneumatic tyres on them. Riding a cart with such wheels would be a terribly painful, back-breaking and slow ride. However, they do have an advantage, if you can call it that. They don’t get punctured, since they don’t have pneumatic tyres on them. Which means these uncouth societies always exist in a dysfunctional state, so it does not matter whether they exist in a functional state or collapsing state, since both are the same for them.

    ➡ Commie societies are like pneumatic tyres with tubes in them. In such societies, the Party/regime is responsible for everything. It is like the tube that contains air in it. If a nail pierces the tyre, the tube gets punctured and the tyre collapses and becomes flat in an instant. The collapse of commie societies is like that. Once a collapse takes place, the vehicle comes to a dead halt, like what happened to the Eastern Bloc.

    ➡ Capitalist societies are like tubeless pneumatic tyres. If a nail pierces the tyre, air escapes very, very slowly since the nail itself usually acts as a plug and there is no tube to get punctured. What this means is that the vehicle still can be driven for quite a distance before the tyre becomes completely flat. The USA in 1929 or now is a perfect example.

    ➡ Socialist societies are like run-flat tubeless tyres. I mean true socialist societies, not commie societies falsely and viciously masquerading as socialist ones. True socialist societies are found in Western Europe, especially Scandinavia. Run-flat tyres are tubeless tyres with stronger sidewalls, reminding one of the strong social support structures in these civilised societies. Thus even if all the air inside escapes after some time, the vehicle can still be driven at reasonable speeds for several hundred kilometres, since the sidewalls are strong enough to carry the weight of the vehicle on their own without any air inside the tyre. Iceland’s recent economic collapse is like a nail puncturing a run-flat tyre.

    ➡ A socialist society that has found the perfect balance between materialism and spirituality is like a tweel. Michelin’s tweel is the next big tyre technology, after the run-flats. A tweel is a combination of a tyre and wheel made of special material, which acts as both the wheel and tyre. It carries no air and the spokes of the tweel provide the cushioning instead.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweel

    In the future, tweels are bound to become common once the technology has been refined. They would act like normal run-flat tyres, but with the advantage that they can never get punctured. So such societies generally cannot collapse, even if they get punctured. It would be difficult to find a perfect example, but I guess a society like Japan comes close, since they have found a decent balance between materialism and spirituality. If the savages from uncouth societies don’t destroy Japan by moving there in their hordes, then the Japanese have a good chance of building a tweel-like society, and that is as far as human civilisation can advance at this point in time.

    🙂

  6. Thank you. Tonight I feel I am here on your blog by no accident.

  7. saronguardian Says:

    Thank you very much!
    Please keep in touch!

    Erik

  8. Terry Says:

    Your story of Seraphim of Sarov is beautiful, beautifully told, and a complete surprise to me. I am grateful to learn of this man. There is one story of spiritual evolution that stands above all others in my opinion and it too comes out of Russia. I know books like Autobiography of a yogi and Ramakrishna and His Disciples weerequired reading in my 20s, but I came upon Tolstoy’s My Confession when I was in my 40s and I was blown away. He describes every spiritual inclination as they dawn one by one for all seekers. And he reaches every deadend that must occur as well. Finally he ends with the release of all preconceptions and ego and offers the most wonderful description of God Realization I have ever heard. It is completely personal and perfectly universal. So Russia is in first place in spirituality in my opinion.

  9. laura mayeron Says:

    grazie

  10. JF Says:

    As far as I know (being a witness) during communist era people were motivated by struggle for power and wealth. Does spirituality has anything to do with mass executions of innocent people?

  11. Cj aka Elderofzyklons Blog Says:

    Reblogged this on ElderofZyklon's Blog!.


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