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In 1869, a dark, charismatic star fell from the heavens and into the unruly wilds of Siberia. The small, rural town of Pokrovskoye saw the birth of Imperial Russia’s most notorious heretic and gifted healer–a man blessed by the Holy Mother’s visitation, and whose fingers spun the gilded fates of the Royal Family, and Imperial Russia, into new endings. With healing hands, divine prophesy, and sweeping visions, Grigori Rasputin utilized all the privileges of being a Holy Fool, while leaning on the taboo and transgressive rites of such mysterious Eastern and Russian Orthodox cults, like the Khlysty, the Skoptsy, and the True Believers.
Before Rapsputin became the divine physician and prophet-on-retainer for the Romanov’s, he consumed and exploited every limit-experience which availed itself to him. The victims of his excess, and his ecstasy, were as numerous as those whom he healed, and his reputation for lechery, and drunken philandering, meant that few in the town of Pokrovskoye were surprised when he abandoned his wife and children to pursue life as a “pilgrim” after a series of spiritually profound experiences while he was deeply inebriated. Rasputin would continue to exploit, manipulate, sexually coerce, and leverage his power (at first his magnetic charisma, and eventually his capital and reputation as esteemed by the Royal Family), in order to take what he wanted.
But before those times, and, as it serves us to remember, during those times, Rasputin proved himself to be a miraculous healer, a breathtakingly accurate prophet, and prayerful force. As a child, he was renowned for predicting deaths (and their causes) within the village, and had shown preternatural skill in healing horses simply through whispering to them, and stroking their coats with his spindly fingers. It was believed that his impenetrably dark, deep-set eyes saw the hidden secrets of those he gazed at, and villagers could often judge someone’s culpability in accused crimes by whether or not they refused to meet Rasputin’s gaze. It was rumored that his extreme and virile magnetism had even cured sex workers he solicited from their sexually transmitted illnesses, and the predictions he had regarding local harvests, and his ability to change them via his prayer, made him indispensable. Rasputin accomplished acts of healing for the tsarevich, Alexei, that no medical doctor could explain. He predicted the fall of the Romanov’s down to describing the weather of the day. But how did he hone his skills so divinely? Why did the Holy Mother, Queen of Heaven, visit this sexually insatiable and compulsively drunk peasant?
Concurrent with Rasputin’s religious awakening and calling toward monk-hood, subversive brands of Eastern Christianity were sweeping the overlooked regions of the often feared Siberia, and expansive and variegated lands of Russia. Rasputin was rumored to have been lured into an itiatiatic and radicalizing cult referred to as the Khlysts, or “Khlysty”, wherein the fundamental belief was that your prayers meant more to God if they came after you sinned diabolically. Khlysty consumed great deals of wine, or psychedelic forest foliage, danced until they became possessed by spirits, and engaged in orgiastic acts with each other. Once they had sinned so deeply, they prayed for days straight for God’s forgiveness, self-flagellating, fasting, and kneeling until their knees were bruised. It is said that this became the fundamental spiritual philosophy of Rasputin, and it deeply informed his sense of divine communication: the greater the sins, the holier the man. Did it also, perhaps, create his nearly superhuman strength and perceived immortality, wherein it took many, many hours, and many, many attempts, in order for the mercenaries to kill him?
This class will discuss the incredible complexity and creativity of Grigori Rasputin, while surveying the phenomenon of transgressive cults and folk-magical beliefs in Russia at this time, and some of the distinctive astrological forces at work within the life of Rasputin, and his synastry with the Romanov’s and Imperial Russia’s fall. We will examine the autiobiographic, the mystical and religious, the psycho-spiritual and the socio-philosophical. But most importantly, we will directly address the “moral problem”, the ethical uncertainty of engaging with Mighty Dead who were mightily immoral–practitioners who we might wish to necromantically engage with for our own skills, even if we would keep a wide berth from them in life. Can you separate the man from his actions? Does the very real healing he performed compensate for the cult-leader style manipulation and exploitation he engaged in? And does “Mighty Dead” mean esteemed and respectable, or can it mean powerful and notorious? Join me while we discuss the man, his myths, and the mystery of Russia’s most notorious heretic.