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EXACTLY A MONTH HAS ELAPSED since I finished the first series of my writings\u2014just that period of the flow of rime which I intended to devote exclusively to resting the parts of my common presence subordinate to my pure reason. As I wrote in the last chapter of the first series,11 had given myself my word that during the whole of this time I would do no writing whatsoever, but would only, for the well-being of the most deserving of these subordinate parts, slowly and gently drink down all the bottles of old calvados now at my disposal by the will of fate in the wine-cellar of the Prieure, and specially provided the century before last by people who understood the true sense of life.
Today I have decided, and now I wish\u2014without forcing myself at all, but on the contrary with great pleasure\u2014to set to work at my writing again, of course with the help of all the corresponding forces and also, this rime, with the help of the law-conformable cosmic results flowing in from all sides upon my person from the good wishes of the readers of the first series.
I now propose to give a form understandable for everyone to everything I have written down for the second series, in the hope that these ideas may serve as preparatory constructive material for setting up in the consciousness of creatures similar to myself a new world\u2014a world in my opinion real, or at least one that can be perceived as real by all degrees of human thinking without the
And indeed, the mind of contemporary man, of whatever level of intellectuality, is only able to take cognizance of the world by means of data which, whenever accidentally or intentionally activated, arouse in him all sorts of fantastic impulses. And these impulses, by constantly affecting the tempo of all the associations flowing in him, gradually disharmonize the whole of his functioning, with such sorrowful results that it is impossible for any man, if he is able to isolate himself even a little from the influences of the established abnormal conditions of our ordinary life and is willing to think about it seriously, not to be terrified\u2014as, for example, by the shortening of our life with each decade.
First of all, for the swing of thought; that is, for establishing a corresponding rhythm for my thinking and also for yours, I wish to follow somewhat the example of the Great Beelzebub and imitate the form of thinking of one highly respected by him and by me, and perhaps already, brave reader of my writings, by you, if of course you have had the daring to read through to the end all of the first series. That is to say, I wish to introduce at the very beginning of this writing of mine what our dear-to-all Mullah Nassr Eddin1 would call a subtly philosophical question.
I wish to do this at the very beginning because I intend to use freely, both here and in my later expositions, the wisdom of this sage, who is now recognized almost everywhere and upon whom, it is rumoured, the title of The One and Only is soon to be officially conferred by the proper person. And this subtly philosophical question may already be sensed in that sort of perplexity which is bound to arise in the consciousness of every reader of even the very first paragraph of this chapter, if he compares the many data on which his firm convictions about medical matters are based with the fact that I, the author of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, after the accident which nearly cost me my life, with the functioning of my organism not yet fully re-established owing to the incessant active effort
carried out my rest quite satisfactorily during this time chiefly by the use of immoderate quantities of alcohol, in the form of the above-mentioned old calvados and of its various full-strength virile cousins.
As a matter of fact, to give a completely true and exhaustive reply to this subtly philosophical question thus propounded impromptu, one must first reach a just verdict on my personal guilt in failing to fulfill exactly the obligation I had taken upon myself —to drink down all the remaining bottles of the said old calvados.
The point is that during this time appointed for my rest, despite all my automatic desire, I could not limit myself to the fifteen remaining bottles of old calvados which I mentioned in the last chapter of the first series, but had to combine the sublime contents of these bottles with the contents of two hundred other bottles—enchanting even to look upon—of the no less sublime liquid called old armagnac, so that this totality of cosmic substances might suffice for me personally, as well as for the whole tribe of those who have become in recent years my inevitable assistants, chiefly in these sacred ceremonies' of mine.
Before pronouncing this verdict on my personal guilt, one must finally take into account that from the very first day I changed my custom of drinking armagnac from what are called liqueur glasses and began drinking it from what are called tumblers. And I began to do so instinctively, it seems to me—obviously so that, in the present case also, justice might triumph.
I do not know about you, brave reader, but the rhythm of my thinking is now established, and I can begin again, without forcing myself, to wiseacre in full blast.
In this second series I intend, among other things, to introduce and elucidate seven sayings which have come down to our day from very ancient rimes by means of inscriptions on various monuments, which I happened to come across and deciphered during my travels—sayings in which our remote ancestors formulated certain aspects of objective truth, clearly perceptible even to contemporary human reason. I shall therefore begin with just that one saying which, besides serving as a good
Only he will deserve the name of man and can count upon anything prepared for him from Above, who has already acquired corresponding data for being able to preserve intact both the wolf and the sheep confided to his care.
which was made by certain learned men of our times—of course not from among those breeding on the continent of Europe—clearly showed that the word wolf symbolizes the whole of the fundamental and reflex functioning of the human organism and the word sheep the whole of the functioning of a man's feeling. As for the functioning of a man's thinking, this is represented in the saying by the man himself, a man who, in the process of his responsible life, owing to his conscious labours and voluntary sufferings, has acquired in his common presence corresponding data for always being able to create conditions for a possible existence together of these two heterogeneous and mutually alien lives. Only such a man can count upon and become worthy to possess that which, as affirmed in this saying, is prepared from Above and is, in general, foreordained for man.
It is interesting to note that among the many proverbs and ingenious solutions of tricky problems habitually used by various Asiatic tribes, there is one—in which a wolf and, instead of a sheep, a goat also play their part—that corresponds very well, in my opinion, to the gist of the ancient saying I have quoted.
The question posed by this tricky problem is to find out how a man who has in his possession a wolf, a goat and, in the present case, a cabbage, can transfer them across a river from one bank to the other, if one takes into consideration on the one hand, that his boat can carry only the load of himself and one of the three objects at a time, and on the other hand, that without his direct observation and influence the wolf can always destroy the goat and the goat the cabbage.
And the correct answer to this popular riddle clearly shows that a man can achieve this not solely by means of the ingenuity which every normal man should have, but that in addition he must not be lazy nor spare his strength, but must cross the river an extra time for the attainment of his aim.
Returning to the meaning of the ancient saying chosen by me, and keeping in mind the gist of the correct solution of this popular riddle, then, if one thinks about it without any of the preconceptions always arising from the results of the idle thoughts usual to contemporary man, it is impossible not to admit with one's mind and agree with one's feelings that anyone calling himself a man must never be lazy, but, constantly devising all sorts of compromises, must struggle with his self-avowed weaknesses in order to attain the aim he has set himself: to preserve intact these two independent animals confided to the care of his reason, and which are, by their very essence, opposite to each other.
Having yesterday finished this, as I called it, 'wiseacring for the swing of thought; this morning I took with me the manuscript of a synopsis I had written in the first two years of my activities as a writer, which I intended to use as material for the beginning of this second series, and went into the park to sit down and work in the shade of the historic avenue of trees. After reading the first two or three pages, forgetting everything around me, I became deeply thoughtful, pondering on how to continue further; and I sat there without writing a single word until very late in the evening.
I was so wrapped up in these reflections that I did not once notice that the youngest of my nieces, the one whose task it is to see that the Arabian coffee which I usually take, particularly when doing any intensely active physical or mental work, does not become quite cold in the cup, changed it, as I afterwards learned, twenty-three times.
In order that you may understand the seriousness of this engrossed thoughtfulness of mine, and picture to yourself, if only approximately, the difficulty of my situation, I must tell you that
after I had read these pages and remembered by association the entire contents of the manuscript I had intended to make use of as an introduction, it became quite clear to me that all this over which I had, as is said, panted during so many sleepless nights, would now, after the changes and additions I had made in the final editing of the first series, be of no use at all.
When I understood this I experienced, for about half an hour, the state which Mullah Nassr Eddin defines by the words to feel oneself plunged in galoshes up to the eyebrows'; and I was ready at first to resign myself, and came to the decision to rewrite this entire chapter from beginning to end. But afterwards, continuing to recall automatically all sorts of sentences from my manuscript, I remembered, among other things, the place where, in order to explain why I took an attitude of merciless criticism towards contemporary literature, I had introduced the words of a certain intelligent, elderly Persian which I had heard in my early youth, and which, in my opinion, could not have better described the characteristics of contemporary civilization. I considered it impossible to deprive the reader either of what had been said on this subject or of all the other thoughts, so to say, artfully imbedded in this passage, thoughts which, for anyone able to decipher them, can be exceedingly valuable material for a correct understanding of what I intend to elucidate in the last two series in a form accessible to any man seeking the truth.
And so, these considerations compelled me to think out just how, without the reader being deprived of all this, it could be possible for the form of exposition I had first employed to correspond to the form now required after the great changes made in the first series.
In fact, what I had written during the first two years of this new profession of mine—which I was forced to adopt—could no longer correspond to what was now required, since I had then put down everything as a first version in the form of a synopsis understandable only to myself, intending to develop all this material in thirty-six books, devoting each book to one special question.
exposition which might be understandable to others, at least to those specially trained in, so to say, abstract thinking. But since, little by little, I had become more adroit in the art of concealing serious thoughts in an enticing, easily grasped outer form, and in making all those thoughts which I term discernible only with the lapse of time ensue from others usual to the thinking of most contemporary people, I changed the principle I had been following and, instead of seeking to achieve the aim I had set myself in writing by quantity, I adopted the principle of attaining this by quality alone. And I began to go over from the beginning everything I had written in the synopsis, with the intention now of dividing it into three series and of dividing each of these, in the final version, into several books.
And my becoming so deeply thoughtful today was perhaps also because, just yesterday, there had been freshly revived in my memory the wise ancient saying, always to strive that the wolf be full and the sheep intact'. Finally, when evening drew nigh and, from below, the famous Fontainebleau dampness began to come through my English soles' and affect my thinking, while from above various of God's dear little creatures, called little birds, began to evoke more and more frequently a chilly sensation on my completely smooth cranium, there arose in my common presence the bold decision not to have any regard for anyone or anything but simply to insert in this first chapter of the second series, as what present-day professional writers would call a digressive development, certain polished-up fragments of this manuscript, pleasing to me personally, and only afterwards, in continuing further, to hold myself strictly to the principle I had decided upon for the writing of this series.
And this solution will be all the better both for me and for the reader, since I will thus be spared any extra new exertion of my already over-exhausted brains, and the reader, particularly if he has read through everything I have written before, will be able, owing to this digressive development, to represent to himself what kind of objectively impartial opinion is formed in the psyche of certain people, who have by chance been more or less correctly
When this introduction was originally planned for the thirtieth book, I entitled it Why I Became a Writer', and described in it the impressions accumulated in me in the course of my life which are the basis of my present not very flattering opinion of the representatives of contemporary literature. In this connection, as I have already said, I introduced the speech which I had heard long ago in my youth, when I was in Persia for the first time and happened one day to be in a gathering of Persian intelligentsia where contemporary literature was being discussed.
One of those who spoke a great deal that day was the elderly, intelligent Persian whom I have mentioned—intelligent not in the European sense of the word, but in the sense in which it is understood on the continent of Asia, that is, not only by knowledge but by being.
It is a great pity that the present period of culture, which we call and which people of subsequent generations will of course also call the "European civilization", is, in the whole process of the perfecting of humanity, as it were, an empty and abortive interval. And this is because, in respect of the development of the mind, that chief impeller to self-perfection, the people of our civilization cannot transmit by inheritance anything of value to their descendants.
The fundamental cause of this corruption of present-day literature is, in my opinion, that the whole attention in writing has gradually, of itself, come to be concentrated not on the quality of the thought and the exactitude with which it is transmitted, but only on the striving for exterior polish or, as is otherwise said,
And in fact you can spend a whole day reading a lengthy book and not know what the writer wished to say, and only when you have nearly finished, after having wasted so much of your time— already insufficient for the fulfillment of the necessary obligations of life—do you discover that all this music was built up on an infinitesimal, almost null idea.
All contemporary literature falls by content into three categories: the first covers what is called the scientific field, the second consists of narratives, and the third of what are called descriptions.
The scientific books usually contain collections of all sorts of old hypotheses already obvious to everyone, but combined in different ways and applied to various new subjects.
In the narratives or, as they are otherwise called, novels—to which bulky volumes are also devoted—for the most part there are descriptions, without sparing any details, of how some John Jones and Mary Smith attain the satisfaction of their "love"—that sacred feeling which has gradually degenerated in people, owing to their weakness and will-lessness, and has now in contemporary man turned completely into a vice, whereas the possibility of its natural manifestation was given to us by our Creator for the salvation of our souls and for the mutual moral support necessary for a more or less happy life together.
The third category of books gives descriptions of travels, of adventures, and of the flora and fauna of the most diverse countries. Works of this kind are generally written by people who have never been anywhere and have never in reality seen anything, by people who, as is said, have never crossed their own doorsteps; with very few exceptions, they simply give rein to their imagination or copy various fragments from books written by others, former fantasists just like themselves.
With this puny understanding of the responsibility and significance of literary works, the writers of today, in striving ever more and more for beauty of style, sometimes even invent an incredible hodge-podge in verse, in order to obtain what in their
Strange as it may seem to you, in my opinion a great deal of harm to contemporary literature has been brought about by grammars, namely, the grammars of the languages of all the peoples who take part in what I call the "common malphonic concert" of contemporary civilization.
The grammars of their different languages are, in most cases, constructed artificially, and have been composed and continue to be altered chiefly by a category of people who, in respect of understanding real life and the language evolved from it for mutual relations, are quite "illiterate".
On the other hand, among all the peoples of past epochs, as ancient history very definitely shows us, grammar was always formed gradually by life itself, according to the different stages of their development, the climatic conditions of their chief place of existence and the predominant means of obtaining food.
In present-day civilization the grammars of certain languages so greatly distort the meaning of what the writer wishes to transmit, that the reader, especially if he is a foreigner, is deprived of the last possibility of grasping even the few minute thoughts which, if expressed differently, that is, without this grammar, might perhaps still be understood.
In order to make clearer what I have just said; this elderly, intelligent Persian continued, I will give as an example an episode, which took place in my own life.
As you know, of all the persons near to me by blood, the only one still living is my nephew on the paternal side, who a few years ago, having inherited an oil well situated in the environs of Baku, was obliged to move there.
And so I go from time to time to that town, because my nephew, being always very occupied with his numerous commercial affairs, is seldom able to leave and visit me, his old uncle, here at our birthplace.
Almost all the inhabitants of the town of Baku and its environs are of diverse races having nothing in common with the Russians, and in their own households they speak their native languages, but for outer mutual relations they are compelled to use Russian.
During my visits there I came in contact with all kinds of people, and, having to speak with them for various personal needs, I decided to learn this language.
I had to learn so many languages in my lifetime that the learning of Russian did not present any great difficulty for me. Before very long I was able to speak it quite fluently but of course, like all the local inhabitants, with an accent, and only after a fashion.
As one who has now become to some degree a "linguist", I consider it necessary to remark here, by the way, that it is never possible to think in a foreign language, even though knowing it to perfection, if one continues to speak one's native language or some other language in which one is accustomed to thinking.
And therefore when I began to speak Russian, continuing all the while to think in Persian, I was searching mentally for words in the Russian language to correspond to my Persian thoughts.
And it was then that I became aware of various incongruities— at first quite inexplicable to me—in this contemporary civilized language, on account of which it was sometimes impossible to transmit exactly the simplest and most ordinary expressions of our thoughts.
Becoming interested in this, and being free of all life obligations, I began to study Russian grammar, and later the grammars of several other modem languages. I then understood that the cause of the incongruities I had noticed lay precisely in these artificially composed grammars of theirs, and there began to be formed in me the firm conviction which I have just expressed to you: that the grammars of the languages in which contemporary literature is written are invented by people who, in respect of true knowledge, are on a lower level than ordinary simple people.
out, among the many incongruities in the Russian language which I noticed at the very beginning, the one that led me to make a detailed study of this question.
Once, when I was conversing in Russian and, as usual, was translating my thoughts, which formed themselves Persian fashion, I found it necessary to use an expression which we Persians often employ in conversation,m y a n -
might, searching my memory for a corresponding word in Russian, I could not find one, in spite of my knowing by this time almost all the words of this language used either in literature or for the ordinary mutual relations of people of all levels of intellectuality.
Not finding a corresponding word for this simple expression so often used by us, I of course at first decided that I simply did not yet know it, and I began to search in my numerous dictionaries and to inquire of certain people who were considered authorities, for some Russian word which would correspond to this Persian meaning of mine. However, it turned out that in modem Russian there is no such word at all, but instead a word is used, namely, yah gohvahriou, which means in Persianm y a n -s o i l -y a r a m , in French je parle and in English "I speak".
Since you Persians have the same sort of thinking faculty as I have for digesting the meaning conveyed by words, I therefore ask you: could I, or any other Persian, on reading in contemporary Russian literature a word corresponding to the meaning ofs o i l -y a r a m , accept it without instinctive disturbance as having the same meaning as the wordd i a r a m ? Of course not:s o i l -yaram andd i a r a m —or "speak" and "say"—are two quite different "experienced actions".
This very minor example is characteristic of thousands of other incongruities to be found in all the languages of the peoples who represent the so-called flower of contemporary civilization. And it is these incongruities which prevent the literature of today from serving as the basic means for developing the minds of those peoples who are considered representatives of this civilization and also of those peoples who at the present time—obviously for reasons already suspected by certain persons with common sense
and are therefore, as historical data bear witness, usually called backward. Owing to all these incongruities of language existing in contemporary literature, any man—particularly a man from races not included among the representatives of contemporary civilization
—who has a more or less normal thinking faculty and is able to give words their real meaning, will of course, on hearing or reading any word used in an incorrect sense, as in the example just given, perceive the general thought of a sentence according to this incorrectly employed word, and as a result will grasp something quite different from what the sentence was intended to express.
Although the ability to grasp the meaning contained in words differs in different races, the data for sensing the repeated experienced actions which are already well established in the process of the life of people are formed in all of them alike by life itself.
The very absence, in the present-day Russian language, of a word exactly expressing the meaning of the Persian wordd i a r a m , which I have taken as an example, can serve to confirm my seemingly unfounded statement that the illiterate upstarts of our time, who call themselves grammarians, and what is worse, are considered such by those round them, have succeeded in transforming even the language elaborated by life itself into, so to say, Germane r s a t z .
I must tell you here that when I began to study Russian grammar and also the grammars of several other modern languages in order to determine the causes of these numerous incongruities, I decided, being in general attracted to philology, to acquaint myself also with the history of the origins and development of the Russian language.
And my study of its history proved to me that formerly it had contained exactly corresponding words for all the experienced actions already fixed in the process of the life of people. And it was only when this language, having reached a relatively high degree of development in the course of centuries, became in its turn an object for the "sharpening of the beaks of ravens", that is to say,
an object of wiseacring for various illiterate upstarts, that many words were distorted or even entirely ceased to be used, merely because their consonance did not answer to the requirements of civilized grammar. Among these latter was the very word I searched for, which exactly corresponded to ourd i a r a m , and which was then pronounceds k a z i v a i o u . It is interesting to notice that this word has been preserved even up to the present time, but is used, and in the sense exactly corresponding to its meaning, only by people who, although they belong to the Russian nation, happen to be isolated from the effects of present-day civilization, that is to say, by people of various country districts situated far from any centre of culture.
This artificially invented grammar of the languages of today, which the younger generation everywhere is now compelled to learn, is in my opinion one of the fundamental causes of the fact that, among contemporary European people, only one of the three independent data necessary for obtaining a sane human mind has developed—namely, their so-called thought, which tends to predominate in their individuality; whereas without feeling and instinct, as every man with a normal reason must know, the real understanding accessible to man cannot be formed.
To sum up everything that has been said about the literature of our times, I cannot find better words to describe it than the expression "it has no soul". Contemporary civilization has destroyed the soul of literature, as of everything else to which it has turned its gracious attention.
I have all the more grounds for criticizing so mercilessly this result of modern civilization, since according to the most reliable historical data which have come down to us from remote antiquity we have definite information that the literature of former civilizations had indeed a great deal to assist the development of the mind of man; and the results of this development, transmitted from generation to generation, could still be felt even centuries later.
In my opinion, the quintessence of an idea can sometimes be very well transmitted to others by means of certain anecdotes and proverbs formed by life.
So, in the present case, in order to show the difference between (he literature of former civilizations and the contemporary, I wish to make use of an anecdote very widely known among us in Persia, entitled "The Conversation of the Two Sparrows".
They were discussing an event which had become the "burning question of the day" among the sparrows, and which had resulted from the mullah's housekeeper having just previously thrown out of a window, on to a place where the sparrows gathered to play, something looking like left-over porridge, but which turned out to be chopped cork; and several of the young and as yet inexperienced sparrows had sampled it, and almost burst.
While talking about this the old sparrow, suddenly ruffling himself up, began with a pained grimace to search under his wing for the fleas tormenting him, and which in general breed on underfed sparrows; and having caught one, he said with a deep sigh:
"In the old days we used to sit, just as now, somewhere upon a roof, quietly dozing, when suddenly down in the street there would be heard a noise, a rattling and a rumbling, and soon after an odour would be diffused, at which everything inside us would begin to rejoice; because we felt fully certain that when we flew down and searched the places where all that had happened, we would find satisfaction for our essential needs.
"But nowadays there is plenty and to spare of noise and rattlings, and all sorts of rumblings, and again and again an odour is also diffused, but an odour which it is almost impossible to endure; and when sometimes, by force of old habit, we fly down during a moment's lull to seek something substantial for ourselves, then search as we may with tense attention, we find nothing at all except some nauseous drops of burned oil."
This tale, as is surely evident to you, refers to the old horse-drawn vehicles and to the present-day automobiles; and although these latter, as the old sparrow said, produce even more noise, rumblings, rattlings, and smell than the former, in spite of all this
This anecdote seems to me an ideal illustration of what I wished to point out about the difference between contemporary civilization and the civilization of past epochs.
In the present civilization, as in former civilizations, literature exists for the purpose of the perfecting of humanity in general, but in this field also—as in everything else contemporary—there is nothing substantial for our essential aim. It is all exterior: all only, as in the tale of the old sparrow, noise, rattling, and a nauseous smell.
For any impartial man this viewpoint of mine can be conclusively confirmed by observing the difference between the degree of development of feeling in people who are born and spend their whole lives on the continent of Asia, and in people born and educated in the conditions of contemporary civilization on the continent of Europe.
It is a fact, noted by a great many people, that among all the present-day inhabitants of the continent of Asia who, owing to geographical and other conditions, are isolated from the effects of modern civilization, feeling has reached a much higher level of development than among any of the inhabitants of Europe. And since feeling is the foundation of common sense, these Asiatic people, in spite of having less general knowledge, have a more correct notion of any object they observe than those belonging to the veryt z i m u s s of contemporary civilization.
A European's understanding of an object observed by him is formed exclusively by means of an all-round, so to say, "mathematical informedness" about it, whereas most of the people of Asia grasp the essence of the object observed by them sometimes with their feelings alone and sometimes even solely by instinct.
At this point in his speech about contemporary literature, this intelligent, elderly Persian, among other things, touched on a question which at the present time is interesting many European, as they are called, propagators of culture.
The people of Asia were at one time greatly interested in European literature but, soon feeling all the emptiness of its content, they gradually lost interest in it, and now it is scarcely read there at all.
In the weakening of their interest in European literature, the chief part, in my opinion, was played by that branch of modem writing known by the name of novels.
These famous novels of theirs consist mainly, as I have already said, of long descriptions, in various forms, of the course of a malady which has arisen among contemporary people and which, owing to their weakness and will-lessness, lasts rather a long time.
The Asiatic people, who are not as yet so far removed from Mother Nature, recognize with their consciousness that this psychic state which arises in both men and women is unworthy of human beings in general, and is particularly degrading for a man —and instinctively, they assume an attitude of contempt toward such people.
And as regards the other branches of European literature, such as the scientific, the descriptive, and other forms of instructive exposition, the Asiatic, having lost to a lesser degree the ability to feel, that is to say, standing closer to nature, self-consciously feels and instinctively senses the writer's complete lack of any knowledge of reality and of any genuine understanding of the subject he is writing about.
interest in European literature, gradually stopped paying any attention to it, and at the present time disregard it completely; whereas among the European peoples, the shelves of their public and private libraries and bookshops are groaning from the daily increasing number of new books. The question must doubtless arise in many of you as to how what I have just said can be reconciled with the fact that an overwhelming majority of the people of Asia are illiterate in the strict sense of the word.
To this I will answer that nevertheless the real cause of the lack of interest in contemporary literature lies in its own shortcomings. I myself have seen how hundreds of illiterate people will gather
round one literate man to hear a reading of the sacred writings or of the tales known as the "Thousand and One Nights". You will of course reply that the events described, particularly in these tales, are taken from their own life, and are therefore understandable and interesting to them. But that is not the point. These texts—and I speak particularly of the "Thousand and One Nights"—are works of literature in the full sense of the word. Anyone reading or hearing this book feels clearly that everything in it is fantasy, but fantasy corresponding to truth, even though composed of episodes which are quite improbable for the ordinary life of people. The interest of the reader or listener is awakened and, enchanted by the author's fine understanding of the psyche of people of all walks of life round him, he follows with curiosity how, little by little, a whole story is formed out of these small incidents of actual life.
I cannot pass by in silence this new form of literature, since, aside from the fact that it offers nothing whatsoever for the development of the mind, it has, from my point of view, become the fundamental evil in the life of people today because of the poisonous influence it exerts on their mutual relations.
This form of literature has become very widespread in recent times because, according to my unshakeable conviction, it answers more completely than anything else to the weaknesses and demands which lead to the ever-increasing will-lessness of man. It thus accelerates in people the atrophy of even their last possibilities for acquiring those data which formerly still gave them a certain relative cognizance of their own individuality, which alone leads to what we call "remembering oneself"— that absolutely necessary factor in the process of self-perfecting.
Besides, owing to this unprincipled daily literature, the thinking function of people has come to be even further separated from their individuality; and thereby conscience, which was occasionally awakened in them, has now ceased to participate in this thinking of theirs. They are thus deprived of those factors which
To our common misfortune, this journalistic literature, which is becoming more widespread in the life of people year by year, weakens the already weakened mind of man still more by laying it open without resistance to all kinds of deceit and delusion, and leads it astray from relatively well- founded thinking, thus stimulating in people, instead of sane judgement, various unworthy properties, such as incredulity, indignation, fear, false shame, hypocrisy, pride and so on and so forth.
In order to portray to you more concretely all the maleficence for people of this new form of literature, I will tell you about several events which took place on account of newspapers, the reality of which was for me beyond all doubt, as by chance I had personally taken part in them.
I executor for the family, I was obliged to go to the place where this tragic event had occurred.
I found out that just before this event the father of this unfortunate family had read long articles for several days in succession, in one of the various newspapers he received, about a butcher shop where, according to these articles, special sausages were made from genuine products in some particular way.
Finally all this so tempted him that, although neither he nor his family cared for sausages very much, as all of them had been raised in Armenia where sausages are not eaten, he went and bought some. And having had these sausages for supper that same evening, all the family were mortally poisoned.
Some large firm had acquired, at a low price from an export concern, an enormous consignment of sausages originally destined for a foreign country, which had been rejected owing to a delay in shipment. To get rid of the entire consignment as quickly as possible, this firm spared no expense on reporters, to whom it entrusted this maleficent campaign in the newspapers.
During one of my stays in Baku I myself, for several days in succession, read in the local newspapers obtained by my nephew lengthy articles, taking up nearly half the entire paper, which went into ecstasies about the marvels performed by some famous actress.
So much was written about her and in such a handsome way that even I, an old man, was, as is said, fired by it all, and one evening, putting off everything I had to do and changing my established evening regime, I went to the theatre to see this wonder.
And what do you think I saw? Something corresponding, even in the slightest, to what had been written about her in these articles which filled up half the paper? Nothing of the sort.
I had seen, in my day, many representatives of this art, both the good and the bad, and without exaggeration I can say that for some time I had been considered a great authority on these matters. But even without taking into consideration my personal views on art in general, and speaking merely from an ordinary standpoint, I must confess that in all my life I had never seen anybody to compare with this celebrity for lack of talent and absence of even the most elementary notions of the principles of playing a role.
In all her manifestations on the stage there was such a complete lack of any kind of presence that I personally, even if aroused to altruism, would not have permitted such a wonder to fill the role of kitchenmaid in my kitchen.
a good round sum as a bribe, promising to double it if they should succeed in making a celebrity of his private lady-love, who up till then had been chambermaid in the house of a Russian engineer, and whom he had seduced, taking advantage of business appointments with this engineer.
In a widely circulated German newspaper I read, from time to time, lofty panegyrics glorifying a certain painter, and owing to these articles I formed the opinion that in contemporary art this painter was simply a phenomenon. My nephew, having just built a house in the town of Baku, had decided, in preparation for his wedding, to decorate the interior very richly. Since twice that year he had unexpectedly struck oil with signs of increasing output, which would assure him a considerable fortune, I advised him not to spare his money but to send for that famous painter to superintend the decoration of the house and to paint some frescoes on the walls. In this way his expenditures, already very great, would at least be of benefit to his posterity, who would inherit these frescoes and other works by the hand of this incomparable master.
And my nephew did so; he even went himself to invite this great European painter. And soon afterwards the painter arrived, bringing with him a whole train of assistants, artisans and even, it seemed to me, his own harem, of course in the European sense of the word; and without the slightest hurry he finally set to work.
The result of the work of this celebrity was that, firstly, the day of the wedding had to be postponed and, secondly, no little money had to be spent to bring everything back to its original state, so that simple Persian artisans might decorate, paint and embellish everything in a way more corresponding to genuine artistry.
In the present case—to give them their due—the reporters participated in building up the career of this mediocre painter almost disinterestedly, simply as comrades and modest side-line workers.
As a last example, I will tell you a sad story of misunderstanding, which was due this time to a "big shot" of this contemporary, especially pernicious literature.
One day, when I was living in the town of Khorasan, I met at the house of mutual acquaintances a young European couple and soon got to know them rather well.
They came to Khorasan several times, but each time only for a short stay. Travelling with his young wife, this new friend of mine was collecting all kinds of information, in many countries, and making analyses to determine the effects of the nicotine in various kinds of tobacco on the human organism and psyche.
After collecting the data he needed on this question in several Asiatic countries, he returned with his wife to Europe, where he began to write a long book on the results of his research.
But since his young wife, obviously owing to her youth and inexperience as regards the necessity of preparing for what are called rainy days, had spent all their resources during these travels of theirs, she was compelled, in order to give her husband the possibility of finishing his book, to take employment as a typist in the office of a large publishing house.
There often came to this office a certain literary critic who met her there, and having, as is said, fallen in love with her, tried, simply for the satisfaction of his lust, to get on intimate terms with her; but she, an honourable wife who knew her duty, would not yield to his advances.
But while, in this "faithful wife of a European husband", morality continued to triumph, there was nourished in this loathsome contemporary type, in proportion to the non-satisfaction of his lust, the desire for vengeance usual in such people; and by all sorts of intrigues he succeeded in getting her dismissed from her employment for no reason whatsoever. Then, when her husband, my young friend, had finished his book and published it, this specific ulcer of our times, because of his resentment, began to write in the newspaper to which he contributed, and also in other newspapers and periodicals, a whole series of articles containing all sorts of false statements, which discredited
And so, thanks to one of these unconscionable representatives of this unprincipled literature, things came to such a pass that this honest worker and his beloved wife, having spent their last resources and not having even the wherewithal to buy bread, by mutual pact, hanged themselves.
From my point of view, these literary critics, owing to the influence of their authority as writers on the general mass of naive and easily suggestible people, are a thousand times more pernicious than all the slobbering boy- reporters.
I myself knew a music critic who had never once in his life touched a musical instrument, and therefore had no practical understanding of music: he did not even know what sound was in general, or the difference between the notes "do" and "re" But, owing to the established abnormalities of contemporary civilization, he somehow occupied the responsible post of music critic, and thus became an authority for all the readers of a well- established and widely circulated newspaper. And it was, of course, according to his quite illiterate indications that unshakeable opinions were formed in all his readers on the question of music—that question which should in reality be like a beacon light for the correct understanding of one of the aspects of truth.
What the person writing in these papers really knows, or what is going on behind the scenes in the newspaper office, the readers never know, but take everything written in the papers at its face value.
According to my conviction, which has finally become as firm as a rock— and anyone thinking more or less impartially will come to the same conclusion—it is chiefly owing to this journalistic literature that any man who tries to develop by the means available in contemporary civilization acquires a thinking faculty adequate, at the very most, for "the first invention of
The leaders of contemporary civilization themselves, standing on a very low level of moral and psychic development, are incapable, like children playing with fire, of knowing the force and significance of the effect of such literature on the mass of the people.
According to my impression obtained from the study of ancient history, the leaders of former civilizations would never have allowed such an abnormality to continue for so long.
This opinion of mine may be confirmed by authentic information which has come down to us about the serious attitude towards daily literature taken by the rulers of our country not so long ago, in the period when it was considered one of the greatest nations, namely, when Great Babylon belonged to us and was the sole centre of culture recognized by everyone on earth.
According to this information, a daily press also existed there, in the form of what are called printed papyri, although of course in an incomparably smaller quantity than now. But at that time those who participated in such literary organs were only elderly and qualified persons, known to all for their serious merits and honourable lives; and there was even an established rule for appointing such men to these positions under oath, and they were therefore called sworn collaborators, just as now there are sworn juries, sworn experts and so on.
I became particularly well acquainted with the psyche, and could in general evaluate the being, of these products of contemporary civilization who fill the newspapers and periodicals with their various wiseacrings, when for three or four months, in that same town of Baku, I happened to be present every day at their gatherings and to exchange opinions with them.
Once, when I had gone to Baku with the intention of staying all winter with my nephew, several young persons came to him and asked his permission for their "New Society of Literati and Journalists" to hold meetings in one of the large rooms on the ground floor of his house, in which he had originally intended to establish a restaurant. My nephew at once gave his consent, and from the next day on these young people assembled, chiefly in the evenings, for their, as they called them, general meetings and learned debates.
Outsiders were admitted to these meetings and I often went to listen to their discussions, as I was quite free in the evenings and my quarters were very near the room where they assembled. Soon several of them began to converse with me and friendly relations were gradually established between us.
Most of them were still quite young, weak and effeminate, and the faces of some showed clearly that their parents must have been drunkards or had suffered from other passions through will-lessness, or that the possessors themselves of these faces had various bad habits concealed from others. Although Baku is only a small town in comparison with most of the large cities of today, and although the contemporary types who were assembled there represented, at the most, "low-flying birds", I have no hesitation in generalizing about all their colleagues everywhere. And I feel I have the right to do this, because later, when travelling in Europe, I often happened to come in contact with the representatives of this modem literature, and they all made the same impression on me, resembling one another like peas in a pod.
The only difference between them was in the degree of their importance, depending upon which literary organs they contributed to, that is, depending upon the reputation and circulation of the newspaper or periodical in which their wiseacrings found a place, or upon the soundness of the commercial firm which owned both the given organ and all of them— the literary workmen.
Green roses Purple mimosas Divine are her poses Like hanging memories and so on—is awarded the appellation of poet by those around him; and some of them even engrave this title on their visiting-cards.
Among these contemporary journalists and writers, esprit de corps is somehow highly developed, and they strongly support and immoderately extol one another on all occasions.
It seems to me that this feature of theirs is the chief cause of their spreading sphere of influence and of their false authority over the masses, and also of the unconscious and servile adulation with which the crowd bows down before these nullities, as with a clear conscience one can call them,
At the meetings in Baku which I have mentioned, one of them would go on to the platform and begin to read something of the order of the verses I have just quoted, or speak about why the minister of some nation had expressed himself during a banquet concerning some question or other in such a way and not otherwise; and then the lecturer would in most cases finish his speech by making an announcement more or less as follows:
"I now yield the platform to an incomparable luminary of the learning of our time, Mr. So-and-so, who by chance has come to our city on particularly important business and has been so kind as not to refuse to come to our meeting today. We will now have the privilege of listening to his enchanting voice with our own ears."
"My dear ladies and gentlemen, my colleague has been so modest as to call me a celebrity." (It must be said here that he could not have heard what his colleague had said, since he had come in from another room to which the door had been closed,
and he had opened it himself when he came in, and I knew very well the accoustics in that house and the solidity of the doors.) Then he would continue:
"The celebrity is not I, but he—he is known not only everywhere in all our great Russia, but throughout the whole civilized world. Posterity will pronounce his name with palpitation, and no one will ever forget what he has done for learning and the future welfare of mankind.
"This god of truth is at present in this insignificant town not by chance, as it may appear to us, but doubtless for very important reasons known only to himself.
And only after such a preamble would this new celebrity pronounce several absurdities, as for example on the theme: Why the Sirikitsi Made War on the Pamakalpi.
After these learned sessions, suppers were always served, with two bottles of cheap wine; and many hid in their pockets some bit of hors-d'oeuvre, either a piece of sausage or a herring with a piece of bread, and if by chance anyone else noticed this they would usually say: "This is for my dog—the rascal already has the habit—always expects something when I return home late."
On the day after these suppers an account of the meeting always appeared in all the local papers, written in an incredibly pompous style; and the speeches were more or less accurately quoted, but of course no mention was made of the modesty of the supper or of the making-off with a piece of sausage for the dog.
Such are the people who write in the papers about all sorts of "truths" and scientific discoveries, and the naive reader, who does not see them or know their lives, draws his conclusions about events and ideas from the empty words of these writers, who are neither more nor less than ill, inexperienced and "illiterate", as far as human life is concerned.
In all the cities of Europe, with very few exceptions, the writers of books or newspaper articles are just such immature scatter-brains, who have become what they are owing chiefly to their heredity and their specific weaknesses.
From my point of view there can be no doubt whatsoever that of all the causes of the many abnormalities of contemporary civilization, the principal and most obvious one is this same journalistic literature, owing to its demoralizing and pernicious effect on the psyche of people. It astonishes me extremely that not a single government, among all the peoples of contemporary civilization, has ever become aware of this, and that not one of them, although expending more than half of what are called the government revenues on the maintenance of police, prisons, judicial establishments, churches, hospitals, etc., and on paying numerous civil employees, such as priests, physicians, agents of the secret police, public prosecutors, propagandists, and the like, for the sole purpose of maintaining the fidelity and morality of its citizens, spends a single cent on undertaking something or other in order to destroy at its root this obvious cause of many crimes and misunderstandings;
And so, my brave reader, who is perhaps already standing with one foot in galoshes, as I have finished with this speech—which I tacked on here only because, from my point of view, the ideas expressed in it could be very instructive and useful, especially for those adorers of contemporary civilization who naively consider it immeasurably higher than former civilizations in respect of the perfecting of human reason—I can now conclude this introduction and pass on to the reworking of the material intended for this series of my writings.
In beginning to rewrite this material with the intention of giving it a form as understandable as possible and accessible to all, the thought has arisen in me that this work of mine should also be carried out in accordance with a very sensible counsel for living often employed by our great Mullah Nassr Eddin and
As regards carrying out the first half of this very sensible counsel of our wise teacher, I have nothing to be concerned about, since the ideas I intend to introduce in this series will themselves abundantly fulfill it. But as regards what is pleasant for myself, this I wish to attain by giving to the pre- designated material a form of exposition which, from now on, will make my existence in some respects more bearable among the people who meet me than the one I had before my activity as a writer.
In order that you may understand what I wish to convey by the expression bearable existence, it must be said that, after all my travels in those countries of the continents of Asia and Africa which for some reason or other in the last fifty years have come to interest many people, I have long been reputed to be a sorcerer and an expert in questions of the beyond'. And in consequence of this, everyone who met me considered that he had the right to disturb me for the satisfaction of his idle curiosity concerning these questions of the beyond, or to compel me to relate something or other of my personal life or some incident of my travels.
And no matter how tired I might be, I was obliged to answer something, as otherwise people became offended, and feeling ill-disposed towards me, would always, whenever my name was mentioned, say something to harm my activities and belittle my significance.
That is why, in revising the material destined for this series, I have decided to present it in the form of separate independent tales, and to insert in them various ideas which can serve as answers to all the questions often put to me, so that if I should again have to deal with these shameless idlers, I may simply refer them to this or that chapter, whereby they can satisfy their automatic curiosity. And this, at the same time, will give me the possibility of conversing with some of them merely by the flow of associations, as is habitual to them, and will also sometimes provide a necessary breathing- space for my active thinking which
Of the questions often put to me by people of various classes and different degrees of informedness, the following, as I recall, recurred most frequently:
What is life, and why does suffering exist? Do I believe in the occult and spiritualistic sciences? What are hypnotism, magnetism, and telepathy? How did I become interested in these questions? What led me to my system, practised in the Institute bearing my name?
So I shall now arrange this series in separate chapters, serving as answers to the first of the enumerated questions, namely, What remarkable men have I met? I will distribute in the separate tales about these meetings, according to a principle of logical sequence, all the ideas and thoughts that I intend to make known in this series in order that they may serve as preparatory constructive material, and at the same time I will answer all the other questions often asked me. Furthermore, I shall arrange these separate tales in such an order that, among other things, there may stand out distinctly the outline of my, as it were, autobiography.
Before going further, I consider it necessary to explain exactly the expression a remarkable man', since like all expressions for definite notions it is always understood among contemporary people in a relative, that is a purely subjective, sense.
As a definition of who may be considered and called remarkable, I will simply say, for the present, to cut a long story short, to what men I personally apply this expression.
From my point of view, he can be called a remarkable man who stands out from those around him by the resourcefulness of his mind, and who knows how to be restrained in the manifestations which proceed from his nature, at the same time conducting himself justly and tolerantly towards the weaknesses of others.
I happened to see them because my father used to take me as a child to the contests where these poeta s h o k h s , coming from various countries, such as Persia, Turkey, the Caucasus and even parts of Turkestan, competed before a great throng of people in improvising and singing.
One of the participants in the contest, chosen by lot, would begin, in singing an improvised melody, to put to his partner some question on a religious or philosophical theme, or on the meaning and origin of some well-known legend, tradition or belief, and the other would reply, also in song, and in his own improvised subjective melody; and these improvised subjective melodies, moreover, had always to correspond in their tonality to the previously produced consonances as well as to what is called by real musical science the 'ansapalnianly flowing echo.
All this was sung in verse, chiefly in Turko-Tartar, which was then the accepted common language of the peoples of these localities, who spoke different dialects.
These contests would last weeks and sometimes even months, and would conclude with the award of prizes and presents— provided by the audience and usually consisting of cattle, rugs and so on—to those singers who, according to the general verdict, had most distinguished themselves.
I witnessed three such contests, the first of which took place in Turkey in the town of Van, the second in Azerbaijan in the town of Karabakh, and the third in the small town of Subatan in the region of Kars.
In Alexandropol and Kars, the towns where my family lived during my childhood, my father was often invited to evening gatherings to which many people who knew him came in order to hear his stories and songs.
At these gatherings he would recite one of the many legends or poems he knew, according to the choice of those present, or he would render in song the dialogues between the different characters.
On the evenings before Sundays and holidays, when we did not have to get up early the following morning, my father would tell stories to us children, either about ancient great peoples and wonderful men, or about God, nature and mysterious miracles, and he would invariably conclude with some tale from the Thousand and One Nights', of which he knew so many that he could indeed have told us one whole tale for each of the thousand and one nights.
Among the many strong impressions from these various stories of my father's, which left their mark on my whole life, there was one that served for me in later years, perhaps no less than five times, as a spiritualizing factor enabling me to comprehend the incomprehensible.
This strong impression, which later served for me as a spiritualizing factor, became crystallized in me while, one evening, my father was reciting and singing the legend of the Flood before the Flood and there arose between him and a certain friend of his a discussion on this subject.
This took place at the period when, owing to the dictates of life circumstances, my father was compelled to become a professional carpenter.
This friend of his often dropped in to see him at his workshop, and sometimes they would sit all night long pondering on the meaning of the ancient legends and sayings.
His friend was no other than Dean Borsh of Kars Military Cathedral, the man who was soon to become my first tutor, the founder and creator of my present individuality, and, so to say, the third aspect of my inner God'.
On the night when this discussion took place, I too was in the workshop, as well as my uncle, who had come to town that evening from a neighbouring village where he had large market-gardens and vineyards.
The discussion arose when my father had finished the twenty-first song of the legend, in which a certain Ut-Napishtim relates to Gilgamesh the story of the destruction by flood of the land of Shuruppak.
After this song, when my father paused to fill his pipe, he said that in his opinion the legend of Gilgamesh came from the Sumerians, a people more ancient than the Babylonians, and that undoubtedly just this same legend was the origin of the account of the Flood in the Hebrew Bible and served as a basis of the Christian world view; only the names and some details had been changed in certain places.
The father dean began to object, bringing forward many data to the contrary, and the argument became so heated that they even forgot about sending me off to bed as they usually did on such occasions.
And my uncle and I also became so interested in their controversy that, without moving, we lay on the soft shavings until daybreak, when at last my father and his friend ended their discussion and parted.
How once, having met together, They resolved to flood the land of Shuruppak. Clear-eyed Ea, saying nothing to his father, Anu, Nor to the Lord, the great Enlil, Nor to the spreader of happiness, Nemuru Nor even to the underworld prince, Enua, Called to him his son Ubara-Tut, Said to him: Build thyself a ship, Take with thee thy near ones,
The data formed in me, during my childhood, thanks to the strong impressions I received during this discussion on an abstract theme between these two persons who had lived their lives to old age relatively normally, led to a beneficent result for the formation of my individuality which I first became aware of only much later, namely, just before the general European war;1 and from then on it began to serve for me as the above-mentioned spiritualizing factor.
One day I read in a certain magazine an article in which it was said that there had been found among the ruins of Babylon some tablets with inscriptions which scholars were certain were no less than four thousand years old. This magazine also printed the inscriptions and the deciphered text—it was the legend of the hero Gilgamesh.
When I realized that here was that same legend which I had so often heard as a child from my father, and particularly when I read in this text the twenty-first song of the legend in almost the same form of exposition as in the songs and tales of my father, I experienced such an inner excitement that it was as if my whole future destiny depended on all this. And I was struck by the fact, at first inexplicable to me, that this legend had been handed down bya s h o k h s from generation to generation for thousands of years, and yet had reached our day almost unchanged.
After this occurrence, when the beneficent result of the impressions formed in my childhood from the narratives of my father finally became clear to me—a result that crystallized in me a spiritualizing factor enabling me to comprehend that which usually appears incomprehensible—I often regretted having begun too late to give the legends of antiquity the immense significance that I now understand they really have.
There was another legend I had heard from my father, again about the Flood before the Flood', which after this occurrence also acquired for me a quite particular significance.
In this legend it was said, also in verse, that long, long ago, as far back as seventy generations before the last deluge (and a generation was counted as a hundred years), when there was dry land where now is water and water where now is dry land, there existed on earth a great civilization, the centre of which was the former island Haninn, which was also the centre of the earth itself.
The sole survivors of the earlier deluge were certain brethren of the former Imastun1 Brotherhood, whose members had constituted a whole caste spread all over the earth, but whose centre had been on this island.
These Imastun brethren were learned men and, among other things, they studied astrology. Just before the deluge, they were scattered all over the earth for the purpose of observing celestial phenomena from different places. But however great the distance between them, they maintained constant communication with one another and reported everything to the centre by means of telepathy.
For this, they made use of what are called pythonesses, who served them, as it were, as receiving apparatuses. These pythonesses, in a trance, unconsciously received and recorded all that was transmitted to them from various places by the Imastuns, writing it down in four different agreed directions according to the direction from which the information reached them. That is to say, they wrote from top to bottom communications coming from localities lying to the east of the island; from right to left those from the south; from bottom to top those which came from the west (from the regions where Atlantis was and where America is now); and from left to right communications transmitted from the place now occupied by Europe. As I have happened, in the logical course of the exposition of
this chapter devoted to the memory of my father, to mention his friend, my first tutor. Dean Borsh, I consider it indispensable to describe a certain procedure established between these two men who had lived normally to old age, and who had taken upon themselves the obligation of preparing me, an unconscious boy, for responsible life and deserve now, by their conscientious and impartial attitude towards me, to represent for my essence two aspects of the divinity of my inner God'.
This procedure, as was evident when I later understood it, was an extremely original means for development of the mind and for self- perfecting.
They called itk a s t o u s i l i a , a term derived, it seems to me, from the ancient
Assyrian, and which my father evidently took from some legend.
This procedure was as follows:
One of them would unexpectedly ask the other a question, apparently quite
For instance, one evening when I was in the workshop, my future tutor entered unexpectedly and, as he walked in, asked my father: Where is God just now?
Sari Kamish is a forest region on the former frontier between Russia and Turkey, where unusually tall pine-trees grow, renowned everywhere in Transcaucasia and Asia Minor.
My father answered that God was making double ladders there and on the tops of them he was fastening happiness, so that individual people and whole nations might ascend and descend.
These questions and answers were carried on in a serious and quiet tone—as though one of them were asking the price of potatoes today and the other replying that the potato crop was very poor this year. Only later did I understand what rich thoughts were concealed beneath such questions and answers.
so that to a stranger it would have seemed that here were two old men out of their senses, who were at large only by mistake instead of being in a mad-house.
Many of these conversations which then seemed to me meaningless grew to have a deep meaning for me later when I came across questions of the same kind, and it was only then that I understood what a tremendous significance these questions and answers had for these two old men.
My father had a very simple, clear and quite definite view on the aim of human life. He told me many times in my youth that the fundamental striving of every man should be to create for himself an inner freedom towards life and to prepare for himself a happy old age. He considered that the indispensability and imperative necessity of this aim in life was so obvious that it ought to be understandable to everyone without any wiseacring. But a man could attain this aim only if, from childhood up to the age of eighteen, he had acquired data for the unwavering fulfillment of the following four commandments:
Third— To be outwardly courteous to all without distinction, whether they be rich or poor, friends or enemies, power-possessors or slaves, and to whatever religion they may belong, but inwardly to remain free and never to put much trust in anyone or anything.
My personal relationship to him was not as towards a father, but as towards an elder brother; and he, by his constant conversations with me and his extraordinary stories, greatly assisted the arising in me of poetic images and high ideals.
My father came of a Greek family whose ancestors had emigrated from Byzantium, having left their country to escape the persecution by the Turks which followed their conquest of Constantinople.
At first they settled in the heart of Turkey, but later, for certain reasons, among which was the search for more suitable climatic conditions and better pasturage for the herds of domestic cattle forming a part of the enormous riches of my ancestors, they moved to the eastern shores of the Black Sea, to the environs of the town now called Gumush Khaneh. Still later, not long before the last big Russo-Turkish war, owing to repeated persecutions by the Turks, they moved from there to Georgia.
In Georgia my father separated from his brothers and moved to Armenia, settling in the town of Alexandropol, the name of which had just been changed from the Turkish name of Gumri.
When the family possessions were divided, there fell to my father's share what was considered, at that time, great riches, including several herds of domestic cattle.
When my father settled in Armenia with all his family, his shepherds and his herds, he was the richest cattle owner of the district and the poorer families soon gave into his charge—as was the custom—their own small number of homed and other domestic cattle, in exchange for which they were to receive from him during the season a certain quantity of butter and cheese. But just when his herd had been increased in this way by several thousand head of other people's cattle, a cattle plague came from Asia and spread all over Transcaucasia.
all kinds of accidents—even against their seizure by wolves, which happened rather frequently—he not only lost all his own cattle by this misfortune, but was forced to sell almost all his remaining possessions to pay for the cattle belonging to others.
Our family then consisted of only six persons, namely, my father, my mother, my grandmother, who had wished to end her days with her youngest son, and three children—myself, my brother and my sister—of whom I was the eldest. I was then about seven years old.
Having lost his fortune, my father had to take up some business, since the maintenance of such a family, and, what is more, a family which until then had been pampered by a life of wealth, cost a good deal. So, having collected the remnants of his former large and grandly maintained household, he began by opening a lumber-yard and with it, according to local custom, a carpenter's shop for making all kinds of wooden articles.
business experience, the lumber-yard was a failure.
He was finally compelled to liquidate it and to limit himself to the workshop,
specializing in the production of small wooden articles.
This second failure in my father's affairs occurred in the fourth year after his
first big calamity. Our family lived in the town of Alexandropol all this time, which happened to coincide with the period of rapid reconstruction by the Russians of the near-by fortress-town of Kars which they had taken.
The opening up of good prospects for making money in Kars, and the added persuasions of my uncle, who already had his business there, induced my father to transfer his workshop to Kars. He first went there alone, and later took his whole family.
By this time our family had already increased by three more cosmic apparatuses for the transformation of food, in the form of my three then really charming sisters.
As I was very quick at my studies, I wasted very little time on the preparation of lessons, and in all my spare time I helped my father in his workshop. Very soon I even began to have my own circle of customers, first among my comrades, for whom I made various things such as guns, pencil-boxes and so on; and later, little by little, I passed on to more serious work, doing all kinds of small repairs in people's houses.
In spite of the fact that I was then still only a boy, I very well remember this period of our family life down to the smallest detail; and in this setting there stands out in my memory all the grandeur of my father's calm and the detachment of his inner state in all his external manifestations, throughout the misfortunes which befell him.
I can now say for certain that in spite of his desperate struggle with the misfortunes which poured upon him as though from the horn of plenty, he continued then as before, in all the difficult circumstances of his life, to retain the soul of a true poet.
Hence it was, in my opinion, that during my childhood, in spite of great want, there constantly reigned in our family unusual concord, love and the wish to help one another.
Owing to his inherent capacity for finding inspiration in the beauty of the details of life, my father was for us all, even in the most dismal moments of our family life, a source of courage; and, infecting us all with his freedom from care, he engendered in us the above-mentioned happy impulses.
In writing about my father, I must not pass by in silence his views on what is called the question of the beyond. Concerning this he had a very particular and at the same time simple conception.
I remember that, the last time I went to see him, I asked him one of the stereotyped questions by means of which I had carried on, during the last thirty years, a special inquiry or quest in my meetings with remarkable people who had acquired in themselves data for attracting the conscious attention of others. Namely, I
asked him, of course with the preliminary preparation which had become customary to me in these cases, to tell me, very simply and without any wiseacring and philosophizing, what personal opinion he had formed during his life about whether man has a soul and whether it is immortal.
How shall I put it?' he answered. "In that soul which a man supposedly has, as people believe, and of which they say that it exists independently after death and transmigrates, I do not believe; and yet, in the course of a man's life "something" does form itself in him: this is for me beyond all doubt.
As I explain it to myself, a man is born with a certain property and, thanks to this property, in the course of his life certain of his experiencings elaborate in him a certain substance, and from this substance there is gradually formed in him "something or other" which can acquire a life almost independent of the physical body.
When a man dies, this "something" does not disintegrate at the same time as the physical body, but only much later, after its separation from the physical body.
assumed, a much greater sensitivity towards all kinds of perceptions. The sensitivity of its perception is in my opinion such as—you remember, when you made that experiment with the half-witted Armenian woman, Sando?' He had in mind an experiment I had made in his presence many years before, during a visit in Alexandropol, when I brought people of many different types into various degrees of hypnosis, for the purpose of elucidating for myself all the details of the phenomenon which learned hypnotists call the exteriorization of sensitivity or the transference of sensations of pain at a distance.
I made from a mixture of clay, wax and very fine shot a figure roughly resembling the medium I intended to bring into the hypnotic state, that is, into that psychic state of man which, in a branch of science which has come down to our day from very ancient times, is called loss of initiative and which, according to
the contemporary classification of the School of Nancy, would correspond to the third stage of hypnosis. I then thoroughly rubbed some part or other of the body of the given medium with an ointment made of a mixture of olive and bamboo oil, then scraped this oil from the body of the medium and applied it to the corresponding part on the figure, and thereupon proceeded to elucidate all the details that interested me in this phenomenon.
What greatly astonished my father at the time was that when I pricked the oiled place on the figure with a needle, the corresponding place on the medium twitched, and when I pricked more deeply a drop of blood appeared on the exactly corresponding place of the medium's body; and he was particularly amazed by the fact that, after being brought back to the waking state and questioned, the medium remembered nothing about it and insisted that she had felt nothing at all.
So, in the same way, this "something", both before a man's death and afterwards until its disintegration, reacts to certain surrounding actions and is not free from their influence.
One of the most striking of these persistent pursuits of his, which later produced in me an indisputably beneficent result, acutely sensed by me and noticeable also to those with whom I came in contact during my wanderings in the various wilds of the earth in the search for truth, was that during my childhood, that is, at the age when there are formed in man the data for the impulses he will have during his responsible life, my father took measures on every suitable occasion so that there should be formed in me, instead of data engendering impulses such as fastidiousness, repulsion, squeamishness, fear, timidity and so on, the data for an attitude of indifference to everything that usually evokes these impulses.
I remember very well how, with this aim in view, he would sometimes slip a frog, a worm, a mouse, or some other animal likely to evoke s uch impulses, into my bed, and would make me
Of all these persistent pursuits of his in relation to me, I remember that the one most worrying to the older people round me, for instance my mother, my aunt and our oldest shepherds, was that he always forced me to get up early in the morning, when a child's sleep is particularly sweet, and go to the fountain and splash myself all over with cold spring water, and afterwards to run about naked; and if I tried to resist he would never yield, and although he was very kind and loved me, he would punish me without mercy. I often remembered him for this in later years and in these moments thanked him with all my being.
himself in conforming to this regularity.
For instance, he was accustomed to going to bed early so as to begin early
the next morning whatever he had decided upon beforehand, and he made
no exception to this even on the night of his daughter's wedding.
I saw my father for the last rime in 1916. He was then eighty-two years old,
At the time of the Turkish attack on Alexandropol, when the family had to flee, he was unwilling to leave his homestead to the mercy of fate; and while protecting the family property he was wounded by the Turks. He died soon after, and was buried by some old men who had happened to remain there.
The texts of the various legends and songs he had written or dictated, which, in my opinion, would have been his most fitting memorial, were lost—to the misfortune of all thinking people— during the repeated sackings of our house; yet perhaps, by some
The individuality and intellectuality of my father can, in my opinion, be very well pictured in the mind's eye of the reader if I quote here a few of his many favourite subjective sayings', which he often used in conversation. In this connection, it is interesting to remark that I, as well as many others, noticed that when he himself used these sayings in conversation, it always seemed to every hearer that they could not have been more apt or better put, but that if anyone else made use of them, they seemed to be entirely beside the point or improbable nonsense.
He is deep down, because you are high up.
If the priest goes to the right, then the teacher must without fail
turn to the left.
If a man is a coward, it proves he has will.
A man is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence
Truth is that from which conscience can be at peace.
No elephant and no horse—even the donkey is mighty.
In the dark a louse is worse than a tiger.
Once you can shoulder it, it's the lightest thing in the world.
A representation of Hell—a stylish shoe.
Unhappiness on earth is from the wiseacring of women.
He is stupid who is clever'.
Happy is he who sees not his unhappiness.
The teacher is the enlightener, who then is the ass?
Fire heats water, but water puts out fire.
Genghis Khan was great, but our policeman, so please you, is still greater.
zero: only then will your hens be safe.
If you wish to be rich, make friends with the police.
If you wish to be famous, make friends with the reporters.
If you wish to be full—with your mother-in-law.
If you wish to have peace—with your neighbour.
If you wish to sleep—with your wife.
If you wish to lose your faith—with the priest.
To give a fuller picture of my father's individuality, I must say something about a tendency of his nature rarely observed in contemporary people, and striking to all who knew him well. It was chiefly on account of this tendency that from the very beginning, when he became poor and had to go into business, his affairs went so badly that his friends and those who had business dealings with him considered him unpractical and even not clever in this domain.
And indeed, every business that my father carried on for the purpose of making money always went wrong and brought none of the results obtained by others. However, this was not because he was unpractical or lacked mental ability in this field, but only because of this tendency.
This tendency of his nature, apparently acquired by him when still a child, I would define thus: an instinctive aversion to deriving personal advantage for himself from the naivete and bad luck of others'.
In other words, being highly honourable and honest, my father could never consciously build his own welfare on the misfortune of his neighbour. But most of those round him, being typical contemporary people, took
advantage of his honesty and deliberately tried to cheat him, thus unconsciously belittling the significance of that trait in his psyche which conditions the whole of Our Common Father's commandments for man. Indeed, there could be ideally applied to my father the following paraphrase of a sentence from sacred writings, which is quoted at the present time by the followers of all religions everywhere, for describing the abnormalities of our daily life and for giving practical advice:
In spite of the fact that he often happened to find himself in the midst of events beyond the control of man and resulting in all sorts of human calamities, and in spite of almost always encountering dirty manifestations from the people round him—manifestations recalling those of jackals—he did not lose heart, never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself.
The absence in his external life of everything that those round him regarded as advantages did not disturb him inwardly in the least; he was ready to reconcile himself to anything, provided there were only bread and quiet during his established hours for meditation.
Owing to circumstances of my life not dependent on me, I have not personally seen the grave where the body of my dear father lies, and it is unlikely that I will ever be able, in the future, to visit his grave. I therefore, in concluding this chapter devoted to my
father, bid any of my sons, whether by blood or in spirit, to seek out, when he has the possibility, this solitary grave, abandoned by force of circumstances ensuing chiefly from that human scourge called the herd instinct, and there to set up a stone with the inscription:
WE BOTH ARE HIS
SO MAY ALL BE
FOR OUR NEIGHBOUR.
AS I HAVE ALREADY MENTIONED in the previous chapter, my first tutor was Dean Borsh. He was at that time dean of the Kars Military Cathedral and was the highest spiritual authority for the whole of that region conquered not long before by Russia.
While I was attending the Kars municipal school, choristers for the choir of the fortress cathedral were being chosen from among the pupils of this school and I, having then a good voice, was one of those chosen. From then on I went to this Russian cathedral for singing and practices.
The fine-looking old dean, who was interested in the new choir chiefly because the melodies of the various sacred canticles to be sung that year were of his own composition, often came to our practices; and, loving children, he was very kind to us little choristers.
Soon, for some reason or other, he began to be especially kind to me, perhaps because for a child I had an exceptionally good voice, which stood out even in a big choir when I sang second voice, or perhaps simply because I was very mischievous and he liked such rascals. In any case, he began to show an increasing interest in me and soon even began to help me prepare my school lessons.
Towards the end of the year, I did not come to the cathedral for a whole week, because of having contracted trachoma. Learning of this, the father dean himself came to our house, bringing with him two military physicians who were eye-specialists.
My father was at home when he came, and after the doctors had examined me and left (having decided to send an assistant to give me a copper sulphate cauterization twice a day and apply golden ointment every three hours), these two men, who had lived their lives to old age relatively normally—with almost identical convictions, in spite of having received their preparation for responsible age in entirely different conditions—talked with each other for the first time.
From this very first meeting they took to each other, and afterwards the old dean often came to see my father in the workshop, where, sitting on the soft shavings at the back of the shop and drinking coffee made there by my father, they would converse for hours on all sorts of religious and historical subjects. I remember how especially animated the dean would become when my father said anything about Assyria, about the history of which my father knew a great deal, and which for some reason or other at that time greatly interested Father Borsh.
Father Borsh was then seventy years old. He was tall, thin, with a fine- looking face, of delicate health but strong and firm in spirit. He was a man distinguished by the depth and breadth of his knowledge, and his life and views were quite different from those of the people round him, who in consequence considered him peculiar.
And indeed, his outer life gave grounds for such an opinion, if it were only for the fact that, although he was very well off and received a large allowance and the right to special quarters, he occupied only one room and a kitchen in the guard's house at the cathedral, whereas his assistant priests, who received much less than he, lived in quarters of from six to ten rooms with every kind of comfort.
Conscientiously fulfilling his obligations, he gave all his spare time to science, especially to astronomy and chemistry; and sometimes, for a rest, he worked at music, playing the violin or composing sacred canticles, some of which came to be very well known in Russia.
Several of these canticles, which had been composed in my presence, I happened to hear many years later on the gramophone, for example, '0 Thou Almighty God', 'Calm Light', 'Glory to Thee', and others.
In order, as he said, not to lead others into temptation, he tried to make these visits inconspicuously, since he occupied a very eminent position in the town and almost everyone knew him by sight, whereas my father was only a simple carpenter.
He said that he saw in me a very capable boy and that he considered it senseless for me to stay in school and drag out the eight-year period, merely in order to receive at the end a three-class certificate.
And, in fact, the arrangement of the municipal schools was then quite absurd. The school consisted of eight grades and one was compelled to attend each grade for a year, receiving a final certificate equivalent only to the first three classes in a higher school.
That is why Father Borsh advised my father so convincingly to take me away from school and have me taught at home, promising to give me some of the lessons himself. He said that, if I should need a certificate later on, I could simply take, in any school, the examination for the corresponding class.
After a family council this was settled. I left school and from then on Father Borsh undertook my education, teaching me some subjects himself and also providing other teachers for me.
At first these teachers were the candidates for the priesthood, Ponomarenko and Krestovsky, graduates of the Theological Seminary who were serving as deacons at the cathedral while waiting for posts as army chaplains. A physician, Sokolov, also gave me lessons.
Ponomarenko taught me geography and history; Krestovsky, Scripture and Russian; Sokolov, anatomy and physiology; mathematics and other subjects were taught me by the dean himself.
Although I was very capable and learning came very easily to me, I nevertheless scarcely found time to prepare so many lessons and rarely had a single moment free.
A great deal of time was spent in going and coming from the house of one teacher to that of another, as they lived in different districts; particularly long was the walk to Sokolov, who lived at the military hospital at Fort Chakmak, three or four miles from the town.
According to his notion a priest should not only care for the souls of the members of his flock but should know all about their bodily diseases and how to cure them.
As he conceived it, the duties of a priest should be combined with those of a physician. He said: ]just as a physician who does not have access to the soul of his patient cannot be of any real help to him, so also one cannot be a good priest without being at the same time a physician, because the body and soul are interconnected and it is often impossible to cure the one when the cause of the illness lies in the other.
He was in favour of my having a medical education, though not in the ordinary sense but as he understood it, that is, with the aim of becoming a physician for the body and a confessor for the soul.
I myself, however, was drawn towards quite another way of life. Having had from my early childhood an inclination for making all sorts of things, I dreamed of technical specialization.
Afterwards things continued by themselves and I, being capable, was able to progress in both directions. I even found time to read a great many books on various subjects, either given to me by Father Borsh or which fell into my hands.
The father dean worked intensively with me in the subjects he had undertaken to teach me. Often after the lessons he let me stay with him, gave me tea, and sometimes asked me to sing some canticle he had just composed, to verify the transcription for the voices.
During these frequent and extended visits he would have long conversations with me, either on the subjects of the lessons I had just finished or on quite abstract questions; and little by little such a relationship was formed between us that he began to talk to me as to an equal.
I soon got used to him and the feeling of shyness I at first had towards him disappeared. Retaining all my respect for him, I nevertheless sometimes forgot myself and began to argue with him—which did not in the least offend him but, as I now understand, even pleased him.
If a youth but once gratify this lust before reaching adulthood, then the same would happen to him as happened to the historical Esau, who for a single mess of pottage sold his birthright, that is, the welfare of his whole life; because if a youth yields to this temptation even once, he will lose for the rest of his life the possibility of being a man of real worth.
gratification of lust before adulthood leads to a youth's becoming a monstrosity. But when the youth is grown up, then he can do whatever he likes; just as with madjar—when it is already wine you can put as much alcohol in it as you like; not only will it not be spoiled but you can obtain whatever strength you please.
His views on man and the aim of man's existence differed completely from those of the people round him and from everything I had heard or gathered from my reading.
'Until adulthood, man is not responsible for any of his acts, good or bad, voluntary or involuntary; solely responsible are the people close to him who have undertaken, consciously or owing to accidental circumstances, the obligation of preparing him for responsible life.
The years of youth are for every human being, whether male or female, the period given for the further development of the initial conception in the mother's womb up to, so to say, its full completion.
From this time on, that is, from the moment the process of his development is finished, a man becomes personally responsible for all his voluntary and involuntary manifestations.
According to laws of nature elucidated and verified through many centuries of observation by people of pure reason, this process of development is finished in males between the ages of twenty and twenty-three, and in females between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, depending on the geographical conditions of the place of their arising and formation.
As elucidated by wise men of past epochs, these age periods have been established by nature, according to law, for the acquisition of independent being with personal responsibility for all one's manifestations, but unfortunately at the present time they are hardly recognized at all. And this, in my opinion, is 0wing chiefly to the negligent attitude in contemporary education
As regards responsibility for their acts, most contemporary people who have reached or even somewhat passed the age of adulthood, strange as it may seem at first glance, may prove to be not responsible for any of their manifestations; and this, in my opinion, can be considered conforming to law.
One of the chief causes of this absurdity is that, at this age, contemporary people in most cases lack the corresponding type of the opposite sex necessary, according to law, for the completion of their type, which, from causes not dependent upon them but ensuing, so to say, from Great Laws, is in itself a" some- * thing not complete".
At this age, a person who does not have near him a corresponding type of the opposite sex for the completion of his incomplete type, is nonetheless subject to the laws of nature and so cannot remain without gratification of his sexual needs. Coming in contact with a type not corresponding to his own and, owing to the law of polarity, falling in certain respects under the influence of this non-corresponding type, he loses, involuntarily and imperceptibly, almost all the typical manifestations of his individuality.
That is why it is absolutely necessary for every person, in the process of his responsible life, to have beside him a person of the opposite sex of corresponding type for mutual completion in every respect.
This imperative necessity was, among other things, providentially well understood by our remote ancestors in almost all past epochs and, in order to create conditions for a more or less normal collective existence, they considered it their chief task to be able to make as well and as exactly as possible the choice of types from opposite sexes.
Most of the ancient peoples even had the custom of making these choices between the two sexes, or betrothals, in the boy's seventh year with a girl one year old. From this time on the two families of the future couple, thus early betrothed, were under the mutual obligation of assisting the correspondence in both
In order that at responsible age a man may be a real man and not a parasite, his education must without fail be based on the following ten principles.
From early childhood there should be instilled in the child:Belief in receiving punishment for disobedience. Hope of receiving reward only for merit. Love of God—but indifference to the saints. Remorse of conscience for the ill- treatment of animals. Fear of grieving parents and teachers. fearlessness towards devils, snakes and mice. Joy in being content merely with what one has. Sorrow at the loss of the goodwill of others. Patient endurance of pain and hunger. The striving early to earn one's bread.
To my great distress, I did not happen to be present during the last days of this worthy and, for our time, remarkable man in order to pay the last debt of earthly life to him, my unforgettable tutor, my second father.
One Sunday, many years after his death, the priests and congregation of the Kars Military Cathedral were much astonished and interested when a man quite unknown in the neighbourhood requested the full funeral service to be held over a lonely and forgotten grave, the only one within the grounds of the cathedral. And they saw how this stranger with difficulty held back his tears and, having generously recompensed the priests and without looking at anyone, told the coachman to drive to the station.
Rest in peace, dear Teacher! I do not know whether I have justified or am justifying your dreams, but the commandments you gave me I have never once in all my life broken.
BOGACHEVSKY, OR FATHER EVLISSI, is still alive and well, and has the good fortune to be an assistant to the abbot of the chief monastery of the Essene Brotherhood, situated not far from the shores of the Dead Sea.
This brotherhood was founded, according to certain surmises, twelve hundred years before the Birth of Christ; and it is said that in this brotherhood Jesus Christ received his first initiation.
I met Bogachevsky, or Father Evlissi, for the first time when he was a very young man and when, having finished his course at the Russian Theological Seminary, he was waiting to be ordained to the priesthood and was a deacon at the military cathedral of Kars.
Soon after his arrival in Kars he consented, at the request of my first tutor. Dean Borsh, to become my teacher in place of Krestovsky, another candidate for the priesthood, who several weeks before had received a post as chaplain to a regiment somewhere in Poland. Bogachevsky had then taken his place at the cathedral.
he soon won the confidence of all the cathedral clergy, even of Ponomarenko, who was also a candidate, but crude and, in the full sense of the word, a boor, and not on good terms with anyone. With Bogachevsky, however, he got along so well that they even shared the same lodgings, taking rooms together near the public gardens dose to the military fire-brigade.
Although I was then still very young, my relationship with Bogachevsky soon became very friendly. I often went to see him in my spare time, and when I had afternoon lessons I would often stay after they were finished, either to prepare other lessons or to listen to his conversations with Ponomarenko and with the acquaintances who were always visiting them. Sometimes I helped them in their simple household.
Among those who often came to see them was an army engineer, Vseslavsky, who was a fellow-countryman of Bogachevsky, and an artillery officer and pyrotechnical expert named Kouzmin. Seated around the samovar, they would discuss anything and everything.
I would always listen very attentively to Bogachevsky and his friends, as, reading at that time a large number of books on the most varied subjects in Greek, Armenian and Russian, I was interested in many questions; but because of my youth I naturally never joined in their conversation. Their opinions were authoritative for me, and at that time I had a great veneration for these men on account of their advanced education.
It was, by the way, all the conversations and discussions of these men, who gathered at my teacher Bogachevsky's to kill time in the monotonous life of the remote and very boring town of Kars, which awakened my ever- continuing interest in abstract questions.
Since this interest played an important part in my life, leaving a definite mark on my entire subsequent existence, and since the events which stimulated this interest occurred during the period to which belong my memories of Bogachevsky, I will dwell upon them a little longer.
Once, during one of these conversations, a lively discussion arose about spiritualism and, among other things, about table-turning, which at that time was a subject of absorbing interest everywhere.
The army engineer asserted that this phenomenon occurs through the participation of spirits. The others denied this, attributing it to other forces of nature, such as magnetism, the law of attraction, auto-suggestion and so forth; but nobody denied the existence of the fact itself.
I, as usual, listened attentively and every opinion that was expressed deeply interested me. Although I had already read a great deal of 'anything and everything', this was the first time I heard about these matters.
This discussion about spiritualism made a particularly strong impression on me because of the recent death of my favourite sister and my grief over it, from which I had not yet recovered. In those days I often thought about her and involuntarily questions arose in my mind about death and life beyond the grave. What was said that evening seemed to be in response to the thoughts and questions which had unconsciously arisen in me and were demanding a solution.
As a result of their discussion they decided to make an experiment with a table. For this a table with three legs was necessary, and there was one in the comer of the room; but the specialist in these experiments, the army engineer, would not use it because there were nails in it. He explained that the table had to be without iron, and so they sent me to a neighbouring photographer to ask whether he had such a table. Finding that he had one, I brought it back with me.
It was evening. Having closed the doors and turned down the light, we all sat down round the table and, placing our hands on it in a certain way, began to wait.
Sure enough, in about twenty minutes our table did begin to move, and when the engineer asked it the age of each one present it tapped out the numbers with one leg. How and why it was tapping was incomprehensible to me; I did not even try to explain anything to myself, so strong was the impression of the vast, unknown fields opening up before me.
What I had heard and seen agitated me so profoundly that when I went home I thought about these questions all that night and the next morning, and even decided to ask Father Borsh about them during my lessons. This I did, and told him about the conversation and experiment of the previous evening.
'All that is nonsense,' replied my first tutor. 'Don't think and bother about such things, but learn what is necessary for you to know for leading a tolerable existence.' 60
And he could not resist adding: 'Come, you little garlic-head' —that was his favourite expression—'think! If spirits can really tap with the leg of a table, it means that they have some physical force. And if they have, why should they resort to such an idiotic and moreover complicated means of communicating with people as tapping with the leg of a table? Surely they could transmit whatever they wished to say either by touch or by some other
Much as I valued the opinion of my old tutor, I could not accept his categorical reply without criticism, the more so since it seemed to me that my younger instructor and his friends, who had been through the seminary and other higher educational institutions, might know more about some things than the old man who had studied in the days when science was not so advanced.
My question was thus left unanswered. I tried to solve it by reading books given me by Bogachevsky, the dean and others. My studies, however, did not allow me to think very long about anything extraneous, and after a time I forgot about this question and thought no more about it.
Time passed. I studied very hard with all my teachers, including Bogachevsky, and only occasionally, during the holidays, went to visit my uncle in Alexandropol, where I had many friends. I went there also to earn money. I always needed money for personal expenses, for clothes, books and so on, and also now and then for helping some member or other of my family, which at that time was in great want.
I went to Alexandropol to earn money, firstly, because everyone knew me there as a 'master of all trades' and I was always asked to make or repair something. One person wanted a lock repaired, another a watch mended, a third a special stove hewn out of the local stone, and another a cushion embroidered for a trousseau or for decorating the parlour. In short, I had a large 61
clientele there and plenty of work and, for those rimes, I was very "well paid. I also went to Alexandropol because in Kars I mixed with people of the 'learned' and 'superior' circles, according to my youthful understanding, and I did not wish them to know me as an artisan or to suspect that my family was in need and that I was compelled to earn money for my own expenses as a simple craftsman. At that time all this deeply wounded my self-love.
And so at Easter that year I went as usual to Alexandropol, which was only about sixty miles from Kars, to stay with the family of my uncle, to whom I was much attached and whose favourite I had always been.
*I don't quite believe it myself,' said she, 'but something that was foretold about you has already come true, and I am afraid that the rest of it might also come true.' And she told me the following:
At the beginning of the winter the half-witted Eoung-Ashokh Mardiross came to Alexandropol, as he did each year, and for some reason or other my aunt took it into her head to summon this fortune-teller and ask him to foretell my future. He had predicted many things awaiting me and, according to her, some of them had already occurred. She then pointed out certain things which had indeed happened to me during this time. 'But thank
l right side; the other, that you are in danger of a serious accident from a fire-arm. You should, therefore, be very cautious wherever shooting is going on,' concluded my aunt, stating that, although she did not believe this lunatic, it was in any case better to be careful.
I was very much astonished by what she told me, because two months before a carbuncle had indeed appeared on my right side, which I had to have treated for a month, going to the military hospital almost every day to have it dressed. But I had not spoken
However, I did not attach any great importance to my aunt's story, since I did not believe at all in any of this fortune-telling, and I soon quite forgot about this prediction.
In Alexandropol I had a friend named Fatinov. He had a friend, Gorbakoun, the son of a company commander in the Baku regiment, which was stationed not far from the Greek quarter.
About a week after my aunt's story this Fatinov came and asked me to go with him and his friend to shoot wild duck. They were going to Lake Alagheuz at the foot of the mountain of the same name.
I agreed to join them, thinking it would be a good opportunity for a rest. I was really very tired, as I had been working hard studying certain absorbing books on neuropathology. Moreover, I had been very fond of shooting since early childhood.
Once, when I was only six years old, I had taken my father's rifle without permission and had gone out to shoot sparrows, and although the first shot knocked me down this not only did not discourage me but even added zest to my love of shooting. Of course they at once took the rifle away from me, and hung it so high that I could not possibly reach it; but out of old cartridge shells I made myself another one, which shot the cardboard bullets I had for my toy gun. This rifle, loaded with small lead shot, hit the mark no worse than a real one and became so sought after among my comrades that they began to order such fire-arms from me; and besides passing for an excellent 'gunsmith', I began to earn a good income.
And so, two days later, Fatinov and his friend called for me and we went off to shoot. We had to walk about fifteen miles, so we started at daybreak in order to arrive by evening, without hurrying, and be ready early the next morning for the ducks to rise.
Rising before dawn, we divided the shores of the lake between us and began to wait for the birds to fly. On my left was Gorbakoun with his service rifle. He fired at the first duck that rose while it was still very low, and the bullet hit me right in the leg. Fortunately it passed clean through, missing the bone.
Of course this spoiled the shooting-party. My leg was bleeding profusely and began to be painful, and as I was unable to walk, my comrades had to carry me all the way home on an improvised litter made with the rifles.
The coincidence of this accident with the prediction of the local oracle made me think a great deal. On a later visit at my uncle's house I heard that Eoung-Ashokh Mardiross had returned to the district and I asked my aunt to send for him.
The fortune-teller came. He was tall and thin, with very faded eyes and the nervous, disordered movements of a half-wit. He shuddered from time to time and smoked incessantly. He was certainly a very sick man.
Sitting between two lighted candles, he held his thumb up before him and stared for a long time at his thumb-nail until he fell into a doze. Then he began to tell what he saw in the nail, first of all saying what the person was wearing and then what would happen to him in the future. If he were telling the fortune of someone absent, he would first ask for his name, the details of his face, the general direction of the place where he lived, and if possible his age.
Across from my uncle's house was some vacant land, in the middle of which was a little grove of poplars. I liked this spot and used to go there with a book or with work of some sort.
Children were always playing there, gathered from all parts of the town— children of all colours and different races. There were Armenians and Greeks, Kurds and Tartars, and their games made an incredible noise and commotion—which, however, never disturbed my work.
One day I was sitting under the poplars, busy with some work ordered by a neighbour for his niece's wedding the following day. My task was to draw a monogram on a shield—to be hung over the door of his house—a monogram combining his niece's initials with those of the man she was to marry. I had also to find space on the shield for the day of the month and the year.
Certain strong impressions somehow deeply imprint themselves on one's memory. I remember even now how I racked my brains to find the best way to fit in the figures of the year 1888. I was deep in my work when suddenly I heard a desperate shriek. I jumped up, certain that an accident had happened to one of the children during their play. I ran and saw the following picture:
In the middle of a circle drawn on the ground stood one of the little boys, sobbing and making strange movements, and the others were standing at a certain distance laughing at him. I was puzzled and asked what it was all about.
I learned that the boy in the middle was a Yezidi, that the circle had been drawn round him and that he could not get out of it until it was rubbed away. The child was indeed trying with all his might to leave this magic circle, but he struggled in vain. I ran up to him and quickly rubbed out part of the circle, and immediately he dashed out and ran away as fast as he could.
This so dumbfounded me that I stood rooted to the spot for a long time as if bewitched, until my usual ability to think returned. Although I had already heard something about these Yezidis, I had never given them any thought; but this astonishing incident, which I had seen with my own eyes, now compelled me to think seriously about them.
Many years after the incident just described, I made a special experimental verification of this phenomenon and found that, in fact, if a circle is drawn round a Yezidi, he cannot of his own volition escape from it. Within the circle he can move freely, and the larger the circle, the larger the space in which he can move, but get out of it he cannot. Some strange force, much more powerful than his normal strength, keeps him inside. I myself, although strong, could not pull a weak woman out of the circle; it needed yet another man as strong as I.
If a Yezidi is forcibly dragged out of a circle, he immediately falls into the state called catalepsy, from which he recovers the instant he is brought back inside. But if he is not brought back into the circle, he returns to a normal state, as we ascertained, only after either thirteen or twenty-one hours.
To bring him back to a normal state by any other means is impossible. At least my friends and I were not able to do so, in spite of the fact that we already possessed all the means known to contemporary hypnotic science for bringing people out of the cataleptic state. Only their priests could do so, by means of certain short incantations.
Having somehow finished and delivered the shield that evening, I set off to the Russian quarter, where most of my friends and acquaintances lived, in the hope that they might help me understand this strange phenomenon. The Russian quarter of Alexandropol was where all the local intelligentsia lived.
It should be mentioned that from the age of eight, owing to chance circumstances, my friends in Alexandropol as well as in Kars were much older than I and belonged to families who were considered socially higher than mine. In the Greek part of Alexandropol, where my parents formerly lived, I had no friends at all. They all lived on the opposite side of the town in the Russian
I remember that the first person I spoke to about the phenomenon which had so greatly astonished me was my good friend Ananiev, who was also much older than I. He did not even listen until I finished, but authoritatively stated:
'These boys simply played on your credulity. They were pulling your leg and have made an ass of you. But look, how smart this is!' he added, running to the next room and putting on, as he came back, his brand new
uniform. (He had recently been appointed a postal-telegraph official.) He then asked me to go with him to the public gardens. I made the excuse of not having time and went off to see Pavlov, who lived in the same street. Pavlov, who was a treasury official, was a very good fellow but a great drinker. At his house were the deacon of the fortress church. Father Maxim, an artillery officer called Artemin, Captain Terentiev, the teacher Stolmakh and two others whom I hardly knew. They were drinking vodka, and when I came in they asked me to join them and offered me a drink.
It must be said that that year I had already begun to drink, not much, it is true, but when I was invited to do so, as sometimes happened, I did not refuse. I had begun to drink owing to an incident in Kars. One morning, being very tired from studying all night long, I was about to go to bed when suddenly a soldier came to call me to come to the cathedral. That day a service was to be held at a certain fort—I do not remember in honour of what—and at the last minute it was decided to have the choir for it, so the attendants and orderlies were sent to all parts of the town to call the choristers.
Having had no sleep all night, I was so exhausted by the walk up the steep hill to the fort and by the service itself that I could hardly stand on my feet. After the service a dinner had been prepared at the fort for the people invited and a special table had been laid for the choristers. The choir- master, a hearty drinker, seeing how weak I was, persuaded me to drink a small glass of
second glass all my weakness disappeared. After that whenever I was very tired or nervous I took one or two, or sometimes even three, small glasses. On this evening also I took a glass of vodka with my friends, but, however much they tried to persuade me, I refused a second one. The company was not yet drunk, as they had only just begun drinking. But I knew how things usually went in this gay crowd. The first one to get tipsy was always the father deacon. When only slightly intoxicated he would, for some reason or other, begin to intone a prayer for the repose of the soul of that true believer, etc., the late Alexander I.... But seeing that he was still sitting there glum, I could not resist telling him what I had seen that day. I did not, however, speak so seriously about it as I did to Ananiev, but instead spoke somewhat jokingly.
Everybody listened to me attentively and with great interest, and when I finished my story they began to express their opinions. The first to speak was the captain, who said that he himself had recently seen some soldiers draw a circle on the ground round a Kurd who begged them almost in tears to rub it away. Not until he, the captain, had ordered a soldier to erase a part of the circle, was the Kurd able to get out of it. 'I think,' added the captain, 'that they take some vow never to go out of a closed circle, and they do not go out of it, not because they cannot, but because they do not wish to break their vow.'
The deacon said: 'They are devil-worshippers and under ordinary circumstances the devil does not touch them, as they are his own. But as the devil himself is only a subordinate and is obliged by his office to impose his authority on everyone, he therefore, as you might say, for the sake of appearances, has limited the Yezidis' independence in this way so that other people should not suspect that they are his servants. It's exactly like Philip.'
Philip was a policeman who stood at the street-comer and whom these fellows, having no one else available, sometimes sent for cigarettes and drinks. The police service there at that time, as is said, 'even made the cat laugh.
'Now if I,' the deacon continued, 'make a row, let's say, in the street, this Philip is obliged without fail to take me to the police-station, and for appearances' sake, so that it should not seem strange to others, he will of course do so, but as soon as we turn the corner he will let me go, not forgetting to say, "Please, a little tip . . ."
The artillery officer said that he had never heard about such a phenomenon and that, in his opinion, nothing of the sort could exist. He much regretted that we, intelligent people, should believe in such marvels and, still more, rack our brains about them.
Stolmakh, the teacher, retorted that on the contrary he firmly believed in supernatural phenomena and that, if there were much that positive science could not explain, he was fully convinced that, with the present rapid progress of civilization, contemporary science would soon prove that all mysteries of the metaphysical world could be fully explained by physical causes. 'In regard to the fact you are now talking about,' he continued, 'I think it is one of those magnetic phenomena which are now being investigated by scientists at Nancy.*
He was going to say something more but Pavlov interrupted him, exclaiming: 'The devil take them and all the devil-worshippers! Give them each a half-bottle of vodka and then no devil will hold them back. Let's drink to the health of lsakov!' (Isakov was the proprietor of the local vodka distillery.)
These discussions not only did not calm my thoughts, but on the contrary on leaving Pavlov's I began to think all the more, and at the same time began to have doubts about people whom I had until then considered educated.
The next morning I met by chance the chief physician of the 39th Division, Dr. Ivanov. He had been called to see a sick Armenian neighbour of ours and I was asked to come and serve as interpreter. Dr. Ivanov had a good reputation among the
After his visit to the sick man, I said to him: 'Your Excellency,' (he had the rank of a general) 'please explain to me why Yezidis cannot get out of a circle.'
'Yes, hysteria . . .' and then he rattled off a long rigmarole about hysteria, and all I could gather from it was that hysteria is hysteria. This I already knew myself, as there was not a single book on neuropathology and psychology in the library of the Kars military hospital that I had not read, and read very attentively, carefully going over almost every line in my intense desire to find, through these branches of science, an explanation of the phenomenon of table-turning. Therefore I already well understood that hysteria is hysteria, but I wished to know something more.
The more I realized how difficult it was to find a solution, the more I was gnawed by the worm of curiosity. For several days I was not myself and did not wish to do anything. I thought and thought of one thing only: 'What is true? What is written in books and taught by my teachers, or the facts I am always running up against?'
Soon another incident occurred and this time I was completely bewildered. Five or six days after the incident of the Yezidis, while going one morning to the fountain to wash—it was the custom there to wash in spring water every morning—I saw a group of women at the comer talking excitedly. I went up to them and learned the following:
That night in the Tartar quarter ag o m a k h had appeared. This was the name there of an evil spirit which used the bodies of people who had recently died and appeared in their shape to do all sorts of villainies, especially to the enemies of the dead person.
I knew about the death and burial of this man, as his house was next to our old house, where our family had lived before our departure for Kars and where I had gone the day before to collect the rent from the tenants. I had also called on several Tartar neighbours and had seen the body of the dead man being carried out.
Several days before, during ad z h i g i t o v k a contest, he had fallen from his horse and, as they said, had twisted his intestines. Although a military doctor, named Koulchevsky, had given him a full glass of mercury to 'readjust his intestines', the poor man had died and, according to the Tartar custom, was buried very soon.
Then this evil spirit, it seems, entered his body and tried to drag it back home, but someone, happening to see this, raised an outcry and rang the alarm, and to prevent the spirit from doing any great harm the good neighbours quickly cut the throat of the body and carried it back to the cemetery.
It is believed there among the followers of the Christian religion that these spirits enter exclusively the bodies of Tartars because, according to the Tartar custom, the coffin is not deeply buried at first but only lightly covered with earth, and food is often put inside. It is difficult for spirits to go off with the bodies of Christians buried deep in the earth, and that is why they prefer Tartars.
This incident completely stupefied me. How could I explain it to myself? What did I know? I looked round me. Gathered at the comer were my uncle, the esteemed Giorgi Mercourov, and his son, who had nearly finished school, and a police official, all talking about this. All were generally respected; all had lived much longer than I and surely knew many things that I had not even dreamed of. Did I see in their faces indignation, grief or astonishment? No; they even seemed to be glad that somebody
Bogachevsky helped me very much, but unfortunately he soon went away, because two years after his arrival in Kars he was appointed chaplain of the garrison in a town of the Transcaspian region.
While he lived in Kars and was my teacher, he introduced into our relationship a certain peculiarity, namely, although he was not yet a priest, he confessed me every week. When he left he bade me, among other things, write out my confession each week and send it to him in a letter, promising that he would sometimes reply. We agreed that he would send his letters through my uncle, who would forward them to me.
A year later in the Transcaspian region, Bogachevsky gave up his duties as chaplain and became a monk. At the time it was said that the cause of his action was that his wife seemed to be having an affair with some officer, and Bogachevsky had turned her out and had not wished to remain in the town or even to hold office in the church.
Soon after Bogachevsky's departure from Kars I went to Tiflis. At this time I received two letters from Bogachevsky through my uncle, after which I had no news of him for several years.
Once, much later, I met him quite by accident in the town of Samara as he was leaving the house of the local bishop. He was then wearing the monk's habit of a well-known monastery. He did not immediately recognize me, as I had by then grown up and changed a good deal, but when I told him who I was he was very glad to see me, and for several days we saw each other often, until both of us left Samara.
After this meeting I never saw him again. I heard later that he had not wished to remain in his monastery in Russia and had soon left for Turkey, then for Holy Athos, where he also did not stay long. He had then renounced his monastic life and had gone to
This trader was a monk of the Essene Order who, having gradually prepared Bogachevsky, introduced him into his brotherhood. Owing to his exemplary life, Bogachevsky was appointed warden and, a few years later, prior in one of the branches of this brotherhood in Egypt; and later, on the death of one of the assistants to the abbot of the chief monastery, Bogachevsky was appointed in his place.
Of his extraordinary life during this period I learned much, when I was in Broussa, from the tales of a certain friend of mine, a Turkish dervish who had often met Bogachevsky. Before this time I had received another letter from him, again sent through my uncle. In addition to the few words of blessing, there were enclosed a small photograph of him in the dress of a Greek monk and several views of holy places in the environs of Jerusalem. When he was in Kars, still only a candidate for the priesthood, Bogachevsky had very original views on morality. He then said and taught me that on earth there are two moralities: one objective, established by life in the course of thousands of years, and the other subjective, pertaining to individuals as well as to whole nations, kingdoms, families, groups of people and so forth.
'Objective morality,' he said, 'is established by life and by the commandments given us by the Lord God Himself through His prophets, and it gradually becomes the basis for the formation in man of what is called conscience. And it is by this conscience that objective morality, in its turn, is maintained. Objective morality never changes, it can only broaden in the course of rime. As for subjective morality, it is invented by man and is therefore a relative conception, differing for different people and different places and depending upon the particular understanding of good and evil prevailing in the given period.
'For example, here in Transcaucasia,' said Bogachevsky, 'if a woman does not cover her face and if she speaks with a guest, everyone will regard her as immoral, spoiled and badly brought
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