The NEW AGE of RUSSIA - eBooks

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Occult and Esoteric Dimensions edited by birgit menzel michael hagemeister bernice glatzer rosenthal The New Age of Russia The New Age of Russia Occult and Esoteric Dimensions The New Age of Russia Occult and Esoteric Dimensions edited by Birgit Menzel, Michael Hagemeister and Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal Verlag Otto Sagner · München–Berlin 2012 Studies on Language and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe Edited by Christian Voß, Volume 17 Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at © 2012 by Kubon & Sagner GmbH Heßstraße 39/41 80798 München (Germany) «Verlag Otto Sagner» is an imprint of Kubon & Sagner GmbH. All rights reserved, including the rights of translation. No part of this book may be reproduced in any way without the permission of the publisher. Layout: robert jones Cover: Christopher Triplett Printed in Germany by: Difo Druck ISSN: 1868-2936 ISBN: 978-3-86688-197-6 ISBN (eBook): 978-3-86688-198-3 Contents Acknowledgements 7 Note on Transliteration 8 Illustrations 9 Introduction 11 Birgit Menzel I Prerevolutionary Roots and Early Soviet Manifestations The Occult and Popular Entertainment in Late Imperial Russia Julia Mannherz 29 The History of Esotericism in Soviet Russia in the 1920s–1930s Konstantin Burmistrov 52 The Occultist Aleksandr Barchenko and the Soviet Secret Police (1923–1938) Oleg Shishkin 81 From Synarchy to Shambhala: The Role of Political Occultism and Social Messianism in the Activities of Nicholas Roerich Markus Osterrieder 101 Konstantin Tsiolkovskii and the Occult Roots of Soviet Space Travel Michael Hagemeister 135 II Manifestations in the Soviet Period (1930–1985) Occult and Esoteric Movements in Russia from the 1960s to the 1980s Birgit Menzel 151 Away from the Globe. Occultism, Esotericism and Literature in Russia during the 1960s–1980s Leonid Heller 186 Guests from Outer Space. Occult Aspects of Soviet Science Fiction Matthias Schwartz 211 Totalitarian Utopia, the Occult, and Technological Modernity in Russia: The Intellectual Experience of Cosmism Marlène Laruelle 238 III The Occult Revival in Late and Post Soviet Russia (1985 to the Present) Occult and Esoteric Doctrines after the Collapse of Communism Demyan Belyaev 259 Occult Dissident Culture: The Case of Aleksandr Dugin Mark Sedgwick 273 The Rodnoverie Movement: The Search for Pre-Christian Ancestry and the Occult Marlène Laruelle 293 Through an Occult Prism: The Bolshevik Revolution in Three Post-Soviet Novels Marina Aptekman 311 Shamanism in the Russian Intelligentsia (Post-Soviet Space and Time) Natalia Zhukovskaia 328 Competing Legacies, Competing Visions of Russia: The Roerich Movement(s) in Post-Soviet Russia John McCannon 348 On the Way from Border Conflicts: Transpersonal Psychology in Russia Boris Falikov 370 IV Comparative Aspects, Continuity and Change Occultism as a Response to a Spiritual Crisis Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal 390 On Reading Russian Mystical Literature Upside-Down Jeffrey J. Kripal 421 Select Bibliography Michael Hagemeister 432 About the Contributors 445 Acknowledgements This book grew in part out of the research conference „The Occult in 20th Century Russia. Metaphysical Roots of Soviet Civilization,“ which was held on 11-13 March 2007 in Berlin, organized by Birgit Menzel, in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde (DGO) and the Harriman Insti- tute at Columbia University, New York. We would like to thank all participants of the conference for their presentations, in particular Catharine Theimer- Nepomnyashchy, Mikhail Epstein, Michael Eskin, Renata von Maydell, Tat- yana Meira-Kochetkova, Valentin Nikitin, Arkady Rovner and Rebecca Jane Stanton. Special thanks go to the intrepid translator of the Russian contribu- tions (Burmistrov, Shishkin, Heller, Zhukovskaya, Belyaev, Falikov), Josephine von Zitzewitz. Grateful acknowledgement is made to both institutions, as well as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), which funded that conference. These agencies are not responsible for the findings of this conference or for any of the interpretations therein. Note on Transliteration Transliteration follows the Library of Congress system except that the familiar English spelling is used for well-known persons and terms such as: Andrei Bely Elena Blavatsky Fedor Dostoevsky Nikolai Gogol Maxim Gorky Gurdjieff, Gurdjieffian, Gurdjievist movement Nicholas and Elena Roerich Vladimir Soloviev Peter Tchaikovsky Lev Tolstoy Leonid Vasiliev Boris Yeltsin Kabbalah Shambhala The Library of Congress transliteration is used in the footnotes. Illustrations On the cover 1. Ex libris from Grigorii O. Möbes (1910-1920s) (private collection K. Burmistrov); 2. Bidia Dandaron (private archive Vladimir Montlevich); 3. Nicholas Roerich (courtesy of the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York). p. 35 “The Spiritualist Appearance” as an optical illusion (1883). p. 36 The Woman-Spiritualist. p. 38 Psychographology. p. 47 Married by Satan (1917) (N.I. Baburina, Plakat nemogo kino, Moscow, 2001). p. 49 Ornal’do hypnotizing audiences in the ring and front rows (1930s). p. 83 Aleksandr Barchenko (private archive O. Shishkin) p. 86 Symbol of Diunkhor (private archive O. Shishkin) p. 90 Gleb Bokii (1918) (private archive O. Shishkin) p. 150 Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, Palekh lacquer miniature, ca. 1980, postcard (private archive M. Hagemeister) p. 159 Cover of the Samizdat zhurnal Okkul’tizm i ioga (private archive K. Burmistrov) p. 174 Dzhuna Davitashvili in one of the special clinics in Moscow (early 1980s) (private archive Russell Targ) p. 178 “Tosha” from the book Sergei Beliaev, Ostrye kunty. Put’ russkogo mistika. Tosha–russkii Budda (St. Petersburg, 2002) ( Introduction Birgit Menzel This book is not about what the Orthodox Church and traditional religions regard as sects. It is not about magicians, superstition and folk beliefs, although pagan double-belief 1 (dvoeverie) and some traditional folk beliefs in Russia lived well into the 20th century. It is not about traditional Asian religions, in- cluding Buddhism and Shamanism, although much is borrowed from them, and Russian mixtures sometimes come closer to their original spheres than in Western countries. And it is not about popular entertainment or the spiritual marketplace, although many formerly exclusive concepts and experiences have entered main-stream commercialized culture since the 1990s in both East and West. This book is about non-conformist spiritual seekers, about individual quests beyond the dogmas of both the political and the religious powers that ruled Russia throughout its history, especially in the 20th century. It is about Russians, mostly intellectuals, who, with a problematic experience of moder- nity in an atheist and post-atheist society, turned to non-conventional meta- physical quests and practices. These generally unknown phenomena in Russian society are relevant to an understanding of the post-Soviet present. In early 20th century Russia, ambivalence about the new world and the un- comfortable recognition of the ultimate uncertainty of all human knowledge, which neither scientific nor legal experts nor the churches could resolve, inten- sified the desire for wholeness, harmony and synthesis and led many people unhappy with modernity to embrace the new occult doctrines.2 Soviet rule, especially in Stalin’s time, attempted to eliminate all metaphysical thought. 1 Double-belief is a term for a long-living mixture of Christian-orthodox and pagan belief systems in Russia. See Iurii Lotman, Boris Uspenskii, “The Role of Dual Models in the Dy- namics of Russian Culture (Up to the End of the Eighteenth Century),” In: Iu. Lotman, B. Us- penskii, The Semiotics of Russian Culture, ed. Ann Shukman (Ann Arbor: University of Michi- gan, 1984), 3–35 (Russ. in B. Uspenskii, Izbrannye stat’i v 2 tomakh, t. 1 (Moscow, 1994), 219– 253. 2 See Isabel Wünsche, Harmonie und Synthese. Die russische Moderne zwischen universellem Anspruch und nationalkultureller Identität (Munich: Fink, 2008). See also, Corinna Treitel, A Science for the Soul. Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 246, 248. 12 Birgit Menzel People engaged in occult or esoteric thinking and practices had to go under- ground or were sent to the GULag. Yet, we must not forget that there were uses of the occult by the Soviet state. These ranged from trading the life of the theo- sophical Buddhist mystic Nicholas Roerich in exchange for U.S. dollars and Soviet propaganda abroad in the 1920s and 30s to experiments with mind control and psychic warfare for political and military reasons, which was also practiced in the U.S.3 The end of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of a bipolar world-order have affected concepts of history, as well as the sciences and humanities. It has brought a reconsideration of boundaries and paradigms of rationality. Coming to terms with the global experiment of communism has revealed shadows of modernity and enlightenment. Post-colonial approaches have re-evaluated perspectives beyond traditional hierarchies and the asymme- tries of power and have helped develop holistic concepts that integrate Eastern and Western philosophies, religions, artistic practices and life-styles. Quantum physics and mechanics have expanded basic notions in the sciences and opened up new dialogues with religion and the humanities. Seen from today’s post-modernist perspective some phenomena from early 20th century recur. For example, Theosophical and Anthroposophical associations were refounded in the 1990s and reestablished their international networks.4 Other phenomena are altogether new, but all have become part of a new context that challenges conventional paradigms. Since the fall of communism, and even before, there has been a marked re- turn of religion in both the East and in the West. It can be seen in the sense of a reverence for the great established religions, but also in a wide range of quests for new spiritual orientations. This yearning has been manifested on all levels of society, in high culture as well as in popular culture and everyday life. One of the fastest growing areas involved is an immersion in the ideals and practices of the occult and esoteric. Many Western scholars of contemporary Russia have encountered this prevalence of occult and esoteric ideas and topics 3 For Roerich see Robert C. Williams, “Mysticism and Money: Nicholas Roerich,” In: Russian Art and American Money. 1900–1940 (Cambridge/Mass.: Harvard UP, 1980), 111–147. For Russia see Henry Gris, William Dick, The New Soviet Psychic Discoveries (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1978), chapter 3. For the U.S. there are numerous studies. One of the first was José M.R. Delgado, Physical Control of the Mind. Toward a Psychocivilized Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1969); Alex Constantine, Virtual Government, CIA, Mind Control Op- erations in America (Venice, CA.: Feral House, 1997); John Marks, The Search for the ‘Man- churian Candidate’. The CIA and Mind Control (New York: Norton, 1991). 4 For the revival of theosophy see Bernice Rosenthal, “The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture. An Historical Perspective,” In: Theosophical History 4 (1992–93), 252–259. Introduction 13 in post-Soviet culture either through the vast literature or simply by visiting bookstores and street vendors in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as other cities, such as Kazan’, Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk. It is almost impossible to understand contemporary Russian literature without being equipped with an encyclopedia of the occult.5 In the 1990s no less than 36 percent of all non- fiction publications in the humanities dealt with occult-esoteric topics.6 Some former Soviet thick journals, such as Literaturnoe obozrenie and Nauka i re- ligiia, have adopted a whole new profile with publications on aspects of the occult. This revival has been described by some Western scholars, for instance, Eliot Borenstein, Valentina Brougher and Holly deNio Stephens, as a phe- nomenon of popular culture, and one might be quick to assume that it repre- sents a primarily one-way import of New Age ideas and publications flooding into commercialized Russia from the West.7 We will argue, that the occult revival in Russia is by no means simply a question of popular culture. The fascination with esoteric, supernatural and non-orthodox spirituality, with popular utopian and pagan folk traditions in post-Soviet Russia can be found on all levels of intellectual and artistic life, including the sciences and politics. One can discern a considerable impact of esoteric ideas and ideologies not only in the humanities, but also on the sciences: newly established organizations based on “Russian cosmism,” a hybrid ideological concept of human self- 5 See Birgit Menzel, “The Occult Revival in Russia Today and Its Impact on Literature,” In: The Harriman Review, vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring 2007). 6 For an empirical study on esoteric orientations of the population in Russia today see Demian Belyaev’s chapter in this volume. In 1993–2001, 63% of the 76 % who declared themselves as Orthodox, believe in supernatural powers present in life, 35% of them believe in magic and 30% in fortunetelling, although only 8% had once been active and only 3% are still actively in- volved in magic. See Iurii Sinel’nikov, Izmenenie religioznosti naseleniia Rossii. Pravoslavnye, musul’mane, suevernye povedenie Rossiian (Moscow: Nauka, 2006). Also see the rich body of material on non-traditional religions and belief systems in M. Burdo [Bourdeaux], Sergei Fila- tov, Sovremennaia religioznaia zhizn’ v Rossii. Opyt sistematicheskogo opisaniia, 4 vols. (Mos- cow: Logos, 2005). 7 Valentina G. Brougher, “The Occult in Russian Literature of the 1990s,” Russian Review 56, (1997), 1, 111–124; Holly deNio Stephens, “The Occult in Russia Today,” In: The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture, ed. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (Ithaca/London: Cornell UP, 1997), 357-76; Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, “Russia’s Occult Revival,” In: East-West Church and Minis- try Report, August 1,1999; Eliot Borenstein, “Suspending Disbelief: ‘Cults’ and Postmodernism in Post-Soviet Russia,” In: Consuming Russia: Popular Culture, Sex, ad Society Since Gorba- chev, ed. Adele Marie Barker (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 437–62; idem, “Survival of the Catchiest. Memes and Post-Modern Russia,” Slavic and East European Journal, 48 (2004), 3, 462–83. 14 Birgit Menzel perfection and salvation, such as the Association for a Complex Survey of the Russian Nation (Assotsiatsiia po kompleksnomu izucheniiu russkoi natsii, AKIRN), which has ties with several Pan-Slavist circles, closely collaborates with the Slavic International Union of Aviation and Aeronautics (Slaviakos- mos), the Mir Station, and the Museum of the History of Aviation and Aeronau- tics.8 The sheer number of conferences and research projects, university course offerings and college textbooks on supernatural powers, from bioenergy theo- ries, the so-called “torsionic” fields, to UFO’s and cosmic consciousness, pro- duced by scientists at the highest academic ranks has been so disturbing that in 2002 a commission within the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) was founded to warn and propagate against the spread of “obscure pseudo- science.”9 The occult is also connected to the healing sciences. Shamanism as an alternative medicine has entered scientific discourses in Russia and in the West.10 In July 2005 and July 2010, the International Congress of Transper- sonal Psychology was held in Moscow for the first time. Transpersonal psy- chology, a branch of professional psychology, was founded in the 1960s by the Czech-American psychiatrist Stanislav Grof and the American psychologist Ken Wilber and is based on an esoteric approach and worldview, accepting paranormal experience as a reality.11 We will show that today’s occult revival should be seen, first of all, as the result of seven decades of the forceful sup- pression of metaphysical thought in Russia. The spiritual vacuum caused by 8 See, for instance, the 8th Pan-Slavist Convention in April 2001, held on the initiative of the Pan-Slavist Council of N. I. Kikechev. The AKIRN was founded by Evgenii Troitskii. See Mar- lène Laruelle, “Futuristic Religion and Air Space Conquest: The Conception of the Universe (Kosmos) in the Russian Cosmism Ideology,” paper delivered at the ICCEES, July 28, 2005, Ber- lin. 9 See “Obskurantizm v postsovetskuiu ėpokhu,” In: Rossiia: Tret’e tysiacheletie. Vestnik ak- tual’nykh prognozov, no. 8, vol. 2 (Spetsvypusk ‘Nauka v Rossii’: Stsenarii razvitiia 46–161), ed. Eduard Krugliakov (Ekspertnyi Sovet RAN pri administratsii Prezidenta po bor’be s lzhe- naukoi) ( Moscow, 2004). 10 See Dagmar Eigner, Ritual, Drama, Imagination. Schamanistische Therapie in Zentralnepal, Habilitationsschrift Medizin (Vienna: Universitätsverlag, 2001); Bol’shaia ėntsiklopediia na- rodnoi meditsiny (Minsk, 1999). 11 See the Russian Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy Association (, which was founded in 2002. For a report on the conference “Human Consciousness, Human Values in an Interconnected World; A Transpersonal Approach,” see See also Boris Falikov’s chapter in this volume. For a basic study on this see Irreducible Mind. Toward a Psychology for the 21st Cen- tury, ed. Edward Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly et al (Boulder/New York: Rowman&Littlefield, 2007, 2010).

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