1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

The Unknown Russian mysticism July 20, 2010

Filed under: thoughts — axinia @ 6:42 am

Last years media’s enthusiastic reports about various religious and spiritual missions into Russia unknowingly supported common view of Russia as being wild and spiritually sterile country. However, the truth is that Russia  has  an old and rich spiritual  tradition.

Today’s  Russian  spirituality has  two  main roots or origins.  First  is  the  ancient  Slavic  paganism,  including  sorcery  and  healing  arts. This  culture  existed  on  the territory  of  Russia  in  the first centuries  of our era.  The  main  feature  of Slavic paganism was  pantheism:  earth,  trees,  rocks  and  rivers  were  considered  to  be  alive  conscious  beings. People spoke with earth and trees, related to them with love and respect. It was well known, for example, that oaks and pines are energy-giving trees, so that if you experience fatigue or depression, you may embrace the tree or just sit leaning against the trunk and will eventually feel the influx of vigor and well-being. Aspins, from the other hand, are energy – “sucking” trees and they were used to drain the bad energy of fever or inflammation from the body. Prostrations on the earth were the usual practice since Mother – Earth was believed to have a power to transform  as reflected in famous Russian tales. In general, early Slavic culture was a kind of child-like and carnival: there were a lot of holidays with funny games and dances around the trees. And  of  course,  Slavic tribes  had  their  own  medicine  men  and  women,  who were  called   wizards  or  sorcerers.  It’s  necessary  to  emphasize,  that  we  are  speaking  not  about    Siberian  Shamanism,  but  genuine  healing  arts  that  flourished  on  the  European  part  of  the  territory  of  Russia. The closest parallel would be practices of druids in Europe rather than shamanism. Slavic sorcerers, of course, applied herbs and prayers, but the most original were their refined techniques of using energies of earth, forest and rivers for healing and initiation.

           In 10th century Russia was converted into Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Though Church, of course, was at enmity with paganism, it’s interesting enough that in everyday life of Russian people these two traditions friendly merged. For the next 9 centuries Russians would celebrate both Christian and pagan holidays, attend church and perform pagan rituals, decorate houses with authentic pagan art together with Orthodox icons, prefer to be healed by the sorcerer rather than physician, and generally continue to be much more in tune with nature than any European nation.  Esoteric practices of Slavic sorcery  were also  kept  alive up to our days, passed  from  mouth  to  mouth through the lineages of healers. And even today  in  almost  every  far  away  village  in  Russia  we  could  find such  a  sorcerer, and some of them are pretty famous for miraculous cases of healing.  It’s a usual story in Russia when somebody suffering chronic illness  after  going  through all kinds of treatments in clinics and hospitals would become disappointed in conventional  medicine  and  take  off  to  some village to be healed by a wizard. Even  the Communist Party leaders,  who  had  the best doctors and special hospitals, secretly visited some  of  those  famous  healers.

Healing arts in this tradition were inseparable from refined techniques of using the energies of nature for the spiritual illumination. A practice, which has a parallel in American Indian shamanism, has to do with intentional use of the so-called power spots for healing and spiritual illumination. Certain places on the earth have specific influence on the state of consciousness and energy system of the body. The technique of locating such spots is similar to those described for approaching trees with one difference: attention is not only spread all over the body but also opened beneath like an umbrella scanning the surface of the earth as you walk. There exists an enormous variety in the types of influences power spots might have: cleansing, purifying  the whole energy field or particular channels; opening particular energy center which leads to experiencing corresponding emotions: love, joy (heart) or stability, serene power (lower centers); inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness; sometimes catalyzing spontaneous mystical experiences.

Second origin of today’s Russian spirituality is undoubtedly Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and within Orthodoxy there is a mystical tradition called Hesychasm. The name originated from the Greek word “Hesychia” which means inner silence. There are quite a number of good books in English on Hesychasm; however, this tradition, sometimes called Christian Yoga, is still surprisingly  little known on the West.

As we already mentioned, Russia was converted into Eastern Christianity in 10th century, and monastic Hesychasm also grew well on the Russian soil. After fall of the Byzantine empire under growing Turkish pressure in 14th-15th centuries Russia became the center of the Orthodox world. And for the last 5 centuries it was Russia who kept Hesychasm alive, even during the Communist regime. Hesychast adepts adopted different lifestyles: hermits in the woods, monks in the monasteries, wandering pilgrims, fools for the Christ’s sake. This latter tradition of holy madness or crazy wisdom was particularly characteristic for Russia. Among famous Hesychast saints who dwelled in the woods we should mention the names of Sergey of Radonezh (14th century) and Seraphim of Sarov (19th century). 

Discussing Russian spirituality, we should say a few words about how Russian literature and philosophy were influenced by Christian mysticism. This influence is clearly seen, for example, in the works of such giants as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The main characters of their novels are passionately seeking Truth; in overwhelming intensity of this search they go through all kinds of suffering to finally break through into Love and Light. These examples reflect really existing feature of Russian soul: if somebody begins to seek meaning you may be sure that it will be intense, passionate and often dramatic search. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky also depicted holy, perfected men, such as Platon Karatayev in the “War and Peace” and Zosima in the “Brothers Karamazov”. Zosima is described as a typical Hesychast staretz  (Elder) and it was known that Dostoyevsky himself had such spiritual Farther.

Then, there was the whole garland of original religious philosophers of 19th- beginning of 20th centuries, such as Soloviev, Berdyaev, Fyodorov, Florensky. Review of their vast works goes beyond the goal of this essay; oversimplifying, we might say that in an attempt to blend traditional Christian ethics with the Western humanist ideas they developed the metaphysics of Love. As mystical feelings are difficult to express in common language, many of these philosophers were also remarkable poets, or better to say, some of them loved more poetry than philosophy. Soloviev, Merezhkovsky, Belyi, Blok, Voloshin and others left an unearthly beautiful poems, where presentiment of God breathes in every line.

 Ironically, the end of 19th- beginning of 20th century was characterized by not only Lenin’s and Bolshevik’s activities; it was the time when more and more people from noble families and intelligentsia became involved in mystical groups. H.P. Blavatsky came from these circles, and that’s where G. I. Gurdjieff found his first disciples.                

 As the Communist regime was becoming more and more oppressive, and with Stalin turned into one of the bloodiest dictatorships in history, there emerged very peculiar phenomena, almost unknown on the West: the  20th century Russian spiritual underground. Usually, for Westerners  Soviet underground is associated with political opposition, fighters for human rights. However, there also existed the whole network of secret spiritual schools and groups. The Communist Party leaders and KGB were aware, of course, that spiritual seekers are the most difficult subjects for brainwashing. That’s why members and especially leaders of the mystical groups were severely persecuted. The fate of many grass-rooted spiritual teachers was to spend years in jail and Siberian concentration camps. Later, starting from the 60s, when political climate warmed up a little bit, another “favorite” tool of persecution was involuntary placement into mental hospital. Labeled with psychiatric diagnosis as dangerous for other people, the seekers of transcendence were kept in locked units for months and years, receiving injections of anti-psychotic drugs. The fact that people continued to practice mysticism under such conditions proves that the urge for spirituality is natural and can not be suppressed by society.

This information about persecution of spiritual schools may seem to be in apparent contradiction with the well-known fact that Soviets conducted official research in paranormal phenomena and extrasensory abilities. However, if we look closer, this is only confirmation of the truth spoken by many spiritual masters: siddhis (supernatural powers) are not the proof of proximity to God or Liberation and should be rather disregarded by the serious seeker. Paranormal abilities without ethics and commitment to spiritual growth may be turned evil. This statement makes understandable the fact that KGB  sponsored research of extrasensory abilities while persecuting people with higher goals.

As we already mentioned, many of the Russian Hesychast adepts preferred the lifestyle of hermits in the woods or wandering pilgrims rather than institutionalized monks. No surprise that with the onset of the Communist oppression they simply disappeared in the vast forests of Russia and Siberia. During all  the years of   the   Communist regime   they   lived   alone   or   in  the  small communities in the wilderness with no contact with civilization, hundreds of miles away from any village, sometimes to be occasionally discovered by fur hunters or geologists. And who knows how many  holy men still dwell in the woods ignorant of the recent changes in the country.

…………………………………………………………..

The full text here , and my special thanks to Terry!

 

21 Responses to “The Unknown Russian mysticism”

  1. Ulyana Says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! It resonates with the “Ringing Cedars of Russia” book series. The original religion/ spirituality of Russia fascinates me. It also explains why I like to hug trees!

  2. Thanks for posting this information, Axinia. It really was unknown to me.

    And even today in almost every far away village in Russia we could find such a sorcerer, and some of them are pretty famous for miraculous cases of healing.

    😯 Do they still exist in the 21st century 😕

    Even the Communist Party leaders, who had the best doctors and special hospitals, secretly visited some of those famous healers.

    This statement makes understandable the fact that KGB sponsored research of extrasensory abilities while persecuting people with higher goals.

    😆 Typical commie hypocrites! So the commie “leaders” had their own “special hospitals with the best doctors” that the rest of the population did not have? How is that different from the feudal Tsars and their cronies enjoying the best of everything while the peasants and serfs wallowed in poverty and misery?

    At least in a capitalist society, any person can have access to the best doctors and hospitals if one has money or insurance to cover for it. Bad as it sounds, it’s NOT as terrible as not having any access to the best doctors and hospitals because they were all in the exclusive service of the “top comrades”. Communism really was a deadly plague 👿 that ravaged humankind 😡

    Paranormal abilities without ethics and commitment to spiritual growth may be turned evil

    It’s just like science, isn’t it? A knife is neither good nor bad by itself. It’s the particular manner in which a person uses it that can be called as good or bad.

    Spirituality is indeed like a tool, like science, and even like materialism, for that matter. It can be used for good, bad, evil or just plain useless things 😐

    🙂

    • volodimir108 Says:

      “Typical commie hypocrites! So the commie “leaders” had their own “special hospitals with the best doctors” that the rest of the population did not have? How is that different from the feudal Tsars and their cronies enjoying the best of everything while the peasants and serfs wallowed in poverty and misery?
      At least in a capitalist society, any person can have access to the best doctors and hospitals if one has money or insurance to cover for it.”

      In SUnion the rest of the population have just normal doctors. Nowadays in USA less as 1/2 population have any medical insurance. So, what is better?

      “Do they still exist in the 21st century” – yes, i have saw such myself. Because of capitalism sometimes it’s a last hope of a “incurable” people. “Babka” can help for free or “pay what you can”

      • In SUnion the rest of the population have just normal doctors. Nowadays in USA less as 1/2 population have any medical insurance. So, what is better?

        Sure, Volodimir, having access to normal doctors does sound better than having zero insurance 🙂

        But, what about the rest of the American population who cannot afford health insurance, and thereby quality care? They do have access to some form of medical care – the voluntary community organisations, Church attached hospitals, state-funded care for the disabled and veterans etc. and if all else fails, they can go to the Emergency Room (where they are usually treated for free with no questions asked), just like the normal doctors available to the rest of the Soviet population. It’s not as if they are left to rot in the streets even in the worst Western capitalist system. Not to speak of the much better healthcare models in countries with a more “socialist” (not communist) system.

        But given a chance, would people prefer to choose their own doctors and hospitals, instead of having only the doctor at No. XX state hospital in YY district to go to? Most would.

        IMHO, it’s much better to have the freedom to choose in a capitalist system – because it becomes your right since you pay for it. On the other hand, in a commie system, since you get it from the monopolist gubmint, it is not equivalent to a right but a handout from the gubmint. If you depend on the gubmint to give you stuff, the same gubmint can also take things away from you very easily – that is what communism is. Just like the serfs of old feudalism who depended on their feudal lords to give them crumbs in return for their slavish labour. Only difference is, there is a giant monopolist feudal lord in the form of the commie gubmint And more often than not, commie gubmints throw some crumbs – the handouts of healthcare, education and (ordinary) housing at its populace while taking away most other rights and freedoms, even the most basic human rights 😯

        Would I prefer to be a poor man in a system with full individual rights and freedoms who can make it rich by his own effort? Or would I prefer to be the average man in a system who is no more than a feudal serf (with very little or no rights and freedoms) to the all-powerful monopolist lord (the gubmint)?

        I don’t know about you, Vova, but I would definitely, without any doubt, prefer the former 🙂 For I would certainly prefer to be a free and hungry man instead of being a well-fed slave or serf! 🙂 A free man can fish, hunt, gather fruits and grow crops or trade stuff to satify his hunger. But even the most fattened and pampered slave is just a slave in the end 😐

        yes, i have saw such myself.

        Thank you for that info. I was curious to know if they still cured people by miraculous healing. I would love to meet one of them and watch their curing powers in action. I have only heard of, but never seen successful faith healing.

        Because of capitalism sometimes it’s a last hope of a “incurable” people. “Babka” can help for free or “pay what you can”

        Capitalism 😕 Doesn’t Russia still have most of the old Soviet hospitals intact where they treat people for free? Or has the regime closed them down/sold the hospitals to the oligarchs and their cronies?

        🙂

        • volodimir108 Says:

          It’s already offtopick, i just wont to say, that i know Soviets not from western propaganda, but from my life, and it was not so bad 🙂 i mean, that now is much worser.
          What about modern healers, now it’s open for masses in such a metods as a Sahaja yoga: i can solve 90% with health, exept stomatology 🙂

          • mahesh chendake Says:

            vova,it’s very interesting to read that my things are worst-er but still I like them. and any how it was my way of life!!!!! don’t you feel , it is also some attachment.any way some attachments we like and difficult to detach!!!
            I like your way of thinking. We are always leaving in some illusion
            there may be our beliefs. I always feel ,a person to live his belief system should be strong.
            @Raj
            I am never extrimist.
            I love science,like to explore whole world with science. but when things are beyond my limits or knowledge,I trust more on nature. Let to allow the nature to work and then I try to apply science to it by giving reasoning/rationally and I strongly believe in life, It is everybody’s birth right to have beautiful life as human.. At the end, I never blem to anybody and just accept the things as it is. I feel we all pilgrim of spirituality , apart from our religion,country etc and more n less we are human!!!! and loves them all with all their views, so don’t worry hamari khub jamegi!!!!!!!!

        • It’s a pity that life in Russia has become worse than it was in the Soviet days. No wonder you and Axinia have so much nostalgia for the old days 🙂

          As for me, having experienced what near-communism (implemented by that vile, crooked, eager Soviet arse-licker Nehru) can do to a third world country like the Indian empire, I can only imagine with horror what life under total communism would have been like 😯 The filthy effects of Nehruvian near-communism still haven’t worn off and there are many things still left of that evil 👿 system. I can definitely state that communism implemented in any turd world country will transform it from a trash can to a flowing sewer in no time at all 😮

          So, in my situation, I can only enjoy the sheer humour contained in this joke:

          An East German citizen is caught at the Berlin wall by DDR border guards and is interrogated, then gets sent to a nuthouse (mental hospital) instead of prison.

          A relative visits the unfortunate chap in the asylum and asks him, “Why were you brought to the nuthouse?” and the detainee replies: “I wanted to immigrate to the Soviet Union”.

          😉

          Coming back to the topic, about healing. I’m sure Sahaja Yoga can cure or at least lessen things like high blood pressure, anxiety, stress, anger, headaches, repiratory problems and some more. But I prefer medicinal systems that can save lives in an emergency or trauma, because only such medicinal systems are “complete” in my humble opinion. So it’s only modern scientific Western medicine or Allopathy that is a “complete” system in the whole world, as far as I’m concerned, for the moment at least. If SY can set right a badly broken bone or cure a terrible trauma case, then I’d be happy to try it since it would join the ranks of “complete” healing systems. Till then it will be allopathy for me 😐

          🙂

          • mahesh chendake Says:

            In emergency one should definitely believe in allopathy. but you know allopathy have it’s own limitations even though highly believe and widely practice. that’s why wise doctor say ” I treat … can not cure.. he cures…..trust on him.

            • mahesh chendake Says:

              you know Raj… A person practicing SY don’t go that ext ream usually .he remains more n less in balance.
              Even though I practice allopathy . I suggest SY and allopaty both when n as needed….. one should justify and trust …. bth the things again require balance
              . A collector of ratnagiri dist A Sy, his mother has bathroom accident n hip joint #. civil surgeon refuse to surgery considering her age and anesthesia risk. He strongly recommended and told do surgery believing on SY . operation was susses full and her recovery was very fast (surgeon surprise with her response!!!!). she can walk on her legs very fast. What he, we recommended both (SY N Allopathy) are the tools, use brilliantly for welfare of human being. even others with Sy, no attachment with specific. but surely Sy can be a way of life willingly accepted…..I have lots of such true stories to tell….

              • mahesh chendake Says:

                and most importantly, health is not final destination. It is a byproduct of SY. any sahajyogi has to walks long , on the way of true spirituality n own true evolution. It require daily practice n trust.( sadhana). One of the Guru principle ….. Remember Gurupornia is ahead…. each work/action has its own meaning and importance. A wise efforts never go west or meaning less.

  3. That’s why members and especially leaders of the mystical groups were severely persecuted. The fate of many grass-rooted spiritual teachers was to spend years in jail and Siberian concentration camps. Later, starting from the 60s, when political climate warmed up a little bit, another “favorite” tool of persecution was involuntary placement into mental hospital. Labeled with psychiatric diagnosis as dangerous for other people, the seekers of transcendence were kept in locked units for months and years, receiving injections of anti-psychotic drugs.

    I guess the persecution level in the USSR varied according to the commie leader of the time, like this Hammer and Tickle cartoon shows:

    🙂

  4. mahesh chendake Says:

    then still why and how Raj kapoor and his movies were become popular in USSR? I know that much only. once I heard about kursk , A underwater boat and scientist die on it. What we know is ,it is very difficult to escape from KGB and whatever they say is only right thing but people from Russia are joyful but cant understand jokes!!!! Russian army officer jokes are popular in India.
    and what about sahajayoga ?How it escape from KGB and communist, and become popular?

  5. swaps Says:

    Thanks Axinia, this is interesting.

  6. soma77 Says:

    Thank you for a good article. I feel mysticism is looking upon a broader horizon across all the experiences that are limited and unpleasant so we can see the dazzling light of a new dawn where everything is unified.

  7. Triveni Says:

    Thanks for the interesting post Axinia… 🙂 it really brought a lot of things into light… Please continue posting such wondeful insights.. Also i was wondering what energy center does Russia represent?

  8. seeker2008 Says:

    If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.” -William Blake

    As long as the “doors of perception” need to be cleaned and things do not seem to man to be as they are there will be spirituality. Spirituality and its techniques have to be adopted to the people the social conditions and the setting. In this respect Russia is no different than the USA than any other country. The spiritual undercurrent in many places irregardless how violent or hectic the time and place.

    From what I have seen in every age there are only a minority of people sincerely pursuing spirituality in what ever form or manifestation attracts them. I feel in our age spiritual information is more accessible. For example Rumi is the most widely read poet in America but doesn’t mean by far America is a breading ground for mysticism or Sufism.

    I also feel, that the true source of spirituality is Absolute Reality itself. Just my hurried 2 cents

    Dave

    • nmirel Says:

      ‘Destroy the mosque, destroy the temple, do as you please …
      Do not break the human heart, for God dwells there in.’

      “You are the deep innerness of all things….To each of us you reveal yourselves differently: to the ship as coastline, to the shore as ship.”
      our task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within ourself that we have built against it….as you mentioned, irregardless how violent or hectic the time and place

      Knowledge is to understand

      To understand who you are.

      If you know not who you are

      What’s the use of learning

      We live in a world that believes results must be instant…a fast
      food world choking on junk food spirituality. We forget that
      gourmet meals are made by master chefs who have trained for years in the fine art of cooking. They understand fish and meat and vegetables and seasoning and have been taught how to combine these ingredients into a delicious meal. It’s important for us to have patience:)))

  9. swapss Says:

    I think it is very symbolic that the last letter in Russian is ‘Я’.
    Could it mean that a true Russian has completely mastered the ‘self’.
    Just my thought.

    • axinia Says:

      HI dear, you know what…every country represents a certain energy center/chakra/and respective qualitiy. Russia represents…..the EGO of the World :)) hahahah, imagine! it feels very right. BUT!!! at the same time, it has a great potentical for the opposite quality. – selflessness. Exactly what you mean.
      Russians can be extremely arrogant and ego-centric, but they can be also incredibly humble, compared to others… We always have both qualities.


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