The Unknown Russian mysticism:
Pagan Sorcery, Christian Yoga,
and Other Esoteric Practices in the Former Soviet Union
Igor Kungurtsev and Olga Luchakova have written an excellent piece on Russian mysticism and its history which you can read at http://www.hridayamyoga.org/papers/18unknownmysticism.doc . The following are a few quotations which are excerpted for comment.
“And what we probably need is not the one-way traffic of religious missions but fruitful spiritual exchange: as Russia undoubtedly needs education in Western approach to spirituality, so American spiritual practitioners will enrich their understanding by acquaintance with authentic Russian mysticism.”
The Western approach to mysticism has been enriched by its contact with the writings of Indian, Muslim and Sikh mystics which have been translated and published in Western languages within the last forty years. They deal with the writings of the masters and mystics of Surat Shabd Yoga. These translations are now beginning to appear in Eastern languages.
19 books on Surat Shabd Yoga have been published in Bulgarian.
14 books on Surat Shabd Yoga have been published in Czech.
5 books on Surat Shabd Yoga have been published in Finnish.
3 books on on Surat Shabd Yoga have been published in Polish.
11 books on Surat Shabd Yoga have been published in Slovenian.
2 books on Surat Shabd Yoga in Hungarian.
2 books on Surat Shabd Yoga in Russian.
A major work on Surat Shabd Yoga is the Granth Sahib of the Sikhs, the writings of Soami Ji of Agra, the Sar Bachan Poetry, Kabir and Dadu Dayal.
“You have to develop the ability to stop the traffic of thoughts at will.”
“Hesychasm implies three main practices: wakefulness (mindfulness), Hesychia (inner silence) and Prayer of the Heart. The specifics of Eastern Christian method of mindfulness as compared to Buddhist is revealed already in the names given to practice: "sobriety", "guarding of the mind", "unseen warfare". As practitioners had a goal to be purified from all possible negative emotions and thoughts ("demons"), they were supposed to be aware and mindful of their inner state in the midst of any activity.´
“ Wakefulness goes hand by hand with Hesychia - inner stillness, peacefulness. One of the adepts wrote: "The lake of your soul must be absolutely serene, only then God can be reflected in it".
The Jesus Prayer:
“First, it's necessary to shift concentration from the head to the heart, steadily focusing on the center of the chest. It's advisable to coordinate the prayer with the breath, for example, saying "Lord Jesus Christ" as you breath in and "Have mercy on me" as you breath out. (Or "Jesus" with the inhale and "mercy" with the exhale or simply "Jesus" with the every exhale.) But these technical aspects alone do not make Jesus Prayer; of crucial importance are subtle emotions of love, devotion, gratitude and joy that constitute the essence of prayer. As above mentioned "Philokalia" is hard for many to read, we recommend the single book, beautiful in its childlike simplicity: "The Way of a Pilgrim", the translation of the 19th century Russian spiritual classic. It describes both the method and the stages of progress in the Prayer of the Heart, though not in such systematized way as we give it here. “
Adventure of Faith: The author of this book recounts how she, a devout Christian, found the path of the Masters. The reader travels with the author from her childhood days in pre-war Germany to her life as a Benedictine nun and the years spent as a Catholic nun in a Hindu ashram in central India. When she discovered the inner path of Surat Shabd Yoga, she realized she needed a spiritual Master, a living Christ, to guide her in inner practice so she could experience God within herself. Although she learned the way from a contemporary Indian Master, she also discovered the mystic way of her own religion, Christianity. The book also gives a short survey of the teachings of the Masters, including quotations from the mystic teachings of Christian mystics. The author, as a nun, practices the Jesus prayer for many years before being initiated into Surat Shabd Yoga. NOTE: Surat Shabd Yoga focuses all attention to the Eye Center where one contacts the Inner Light and Sound of God.
“Second, energy oriented group of the underground spiritual schools, focused on developing paranormal and healing abilities, opening vision of energy, prophetic capacities, clairvoyance, and sometimes just personal power. In a sense those groups were caught in a spiritual dead end making emphasis on supernatural powers, instead of focusing on higher goals of liberation or God-communion. At the same time it's interesting to indicate the high efficiency of training and developed "energy technology" in those groups.”
“Development of the personal power in this school was unrestricted by ethical rules and participants followed their personal understanding of good and evil. As a result, some members of Zolotov's group misused supernatural powers, which eventually led to their psychotic breakdowns. ?
“We should notice here that after observing many such cases in Russia we have no doubt that mental disorder is a real danger for anyone who focuses on developing paranormal abilities without having higher mystical goal and observing certain ethics. This applies also to seeking contact with UFO, communicating with spirits, entities, etc. “
“ The third trend consisted of serious spiritual schools, which had a goal of integral mystical development and higher states of consciousness. They usually had developed ethics, philosophy and meditative technology and an advanced adept as the founder and head of the school. Many of the spiritual leaders of this trend were highly educated, holding doctorate scientists before they dedicated their lives to teaching. For some reasons, St. Petersburg University was the "nest" from where several spiritual teachers emerged. This University still had a laboratory studying paranormal phenomena, which was started by one of Gurdjieff's disciples who stayed in Russia. “
“. However, we should mention that, for example, there existed the secret Sufi orders in the Asian republics, and Buddhism in its Tibetan-Mongolian form was the religion of Buryatia, the republic, located in the South-Eastern Siberia. V. Antonov and G. Vaver's goal was to borrow the most effective transformative methods from the different mystical traditions and to create the balanced training which can be a "shortcut" in spiritual development. “
“Some teachers developed programs for kids, adolescents and specialists of different professions. Over the years the number of students and graduates grew to more than 5,000, and the school opened departments in Siberia, Estonia, Ukraine, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
“The philosophy of the school was theistic: God seen as Creator, unfolding and evolving as multi-dimensional Universe. The training had a goal of union of individual consciousness with the ocean of consciousness of God. The training was organized according to certain developmental principles, discovered as basic within every spiritual tradition. “
“The main assumption of the founder of the school was that the spiritual growth must be balanced development of the aspects of Love, Wisdom and Power. The basic principles and steps of training were the following:
1. Observing certain ethical code, which in the school was a combination of ethics of Yoga and Christianity
(the aspect of Love).
2. Developing concentration, one-pointedness of mind (the aspect of Power).
3. Purification of the energy centers and channels.
4. Refinement of energy and psyche, ascending from gross to subtle.
5. Achieving the states of absorption or Samadhi.
6. So-called "crystallization" or stabilization in every achieved higher state of consciousness.
In the process of training much attention was also paid to sophisticated visualizations, cultivating stable positive emotional state, meditative running, energy and personal power development, stopping "internal monologue" and work with Kundalini rising.’
The spectrum of methods used in the school was amazingly wide: dynamic and static hatha-yoga exercises and pranayamas from classic Yoga, Chi-Gong and Tai-chi movements, spontaneous dances, work with chakras from Tantra Yoga and microcosmic orbit from Taoist yoga, practices from Slavic pagan sorcery, Hesychasm, Bulgarian Om Ram school (Aivankhov), Gurdjieff's teaching, Sufi movements and others. The founders of the school, being incredibly gifted mystics, developed the ability to "plug" into different mystical traditions and intuitively combine culturally different, but essentially compatible mind/body methods. “
“If the methodology of initial and middle stages in training was brilliant, the interpretation of the higher states of consciousness by the founder of the school was not accurate. This caused discussions and disagreements between the senior teachers of the school, including authors of this essay.”
“ After the recent changes in the country the mystical schools began to move "above ground". Together with started import of spiritual traditions from India and from the West, the Russian spiritual life is a curious scene now. There is much opening and integration, and much confusion too.”
A living perfect master of Surat Shabd Yoga puts an end to all of this confusion by advocating a way of life that explains all religions and brings to the practitioner first hand experience of the self and God. It has also been called Sant Mat of the Teachings of the Masters.