Gary Lachman. The Return of Holy Russia.
(Rchester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2020, 425 pp.)
Gary Lachman’s book could more accurately have been titled “The Return of the Silver Age”; but the Return of Holy Russia is more dramatic; and more easily understood by those unfamiliar with Russian literary currents. Lachman has written on spiritual; and intellectual thinkers in Russia; such as his In Search of P.D. Ouspensky: The Genius in the Shadow; of Gurdjieff and his more recent Dark Star Rising.
The Silver Age in Russian intellectual history; goes from about 1900 to 1922. It ends when the Soviet power is consolidated; and a Marxist ideology becomes the State-imposed framework. Some of the Silver Age writers go into exile; in particular to France and the USA; where they continue writing. Others stay on in the USSR; hoping that a more liberal period might follow.
Some who stayed in the USSR formed an unofficial network; and kept in touch with each other. As Lachman points out; there have always been “underground” networks of thinkers in Russian life. At times; they were more structured within international Masonic lodges. More often the networks were informal; but people recognized each other as being “on the same wave length”. These networks became more visible in the 1970s; with the circulation of samizdat (self-published) manuscripts.
What is it to be Russian and What is The Role of Russia in the World?.
A recurrent theme in Russian thought has been “what is it to be Russian and what is the role of Russia in the world?” Pr-Silver Age writers such as A. I. Hertzon (1812-1870) and M.A. Bakunin (1814-1870); proposed a federation of Slavoic peoples; both as protection against an expansionist Western Europe; and as a way of expressing their cultural nature. For Bakunin; the Slavs should form a federal state – a “Slavoic Rada”. Such a federation would be a bridge between Western Europe and Asia.
With the Silver Age; more religious and spiritual elements entered into the image of the nature and role of Russia. The Russian national character has a unique spiritual strength; created by patience during suffering. For some; the religious element is directly associated with Russian Orthodox Christianity. For others such as Ouspenski and Gurdjieff; there is a more esoteric-spiritual tradition at work. There is a secret community of saints at work in the world behind the scenes; the seekers of wisdom. The theme of Holy Russia is common to all.
With the end of the USSR; interest in esoteric and non-orthodox spirituality can be expressed openly; and is found at all levels of intellectual and spiritual life. Writings of Silver Age writers published in Paris; or the USA are now being published in Russia. There is a strong interest in human potential techniques of meditation, yoga, and exploration of inner worlds. Garry Lachman has written a useful guide to these important intellectual currents; which also impact Russian stratigraphic policy – currents which merit being better known.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.