The Shadow of the Gloomy East/Chapter 11

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In the Dusk of the Palaces

RETURNING from the borderlands, from the semi-savage Russian villages and settlements, let us look into the magnificent palaces, often of historic character.

The palace of Tsarskoye Selo, the abode of the stricken Tsaritsa Alexandra of Hesse, the palaces of Princess Yuryevska, Count Sumarokov-Elston, Prince Orlov, Countess Ignatieva, Prince Putiatin, Countess Kleinmichel, Prince Golitzin, Prince Bielosielski-Bielozierski, even those of some of the Grand Dukes, concealed behind their thick walls and magnificent crystal windows interesting and somewhat uncommon happenings.

Crowds of unknown individuals, some with a doubtful past, had a free entrance within their gates. Vagrant monks and nuns from distant monasteries and convents, brought for show to the curious and for prayer to the pious, wonderful relics, similar to the "piece of the ladder" which Jacob saw in his sleep, according to an anecdote from the time of Paul I, or the "legs of the holy martyrs Boris and Gleb." They kept telling of wonderful miracles on the graves of many, not yet canonised, saints, they celebrated masses accojding to an unknown rite, perhaps of some nonexistent monasteries and churches. There were epileptics and hysterical women who, during the attacks of illness, foretold future events and tendered political advice. Just like the famous "klikusha"[1] Daryushka, an agent of Rasputin, Prince Putiatin, and the Commander of Imperial Headquarters, General Woyeykov, warned the Tsaritsa against the Minister of Education, Count Ignatiev, who was an opponent of German policy, and against the famous lady-in-waiting, Mrs. Wasilchikova, the author of the notorious letter to the Tsaritsa, reminding the Princess of Hesse that she was Empress of all Russia.

The well-fed, white-bearded, bald monk, "Ivanushka the Barefooted," with his red legs and his toes always carefully pedicured, amazed and piqued the educated public of Petersburg, when seen bare-footed, in a black cassock, with a distaff adorned with a gold ball set with precious stones, walking slowly and majestically along the Nevski Prospect, topping the crow r d by a head and evoking general amazement by his athletic shoulders and bull's neck.

But when the news spread that Ivanushka was a frequent visitor of the Tsaritsa, and that he was very intimate with the house of Countess Kleinmichel, where mysterious nocturnal services were held, during which "Christ appeared," the indignation in the capital was so intense that the gluttonous monk was obliged to disappear from the hospitable banks of the Neva.

In the year 1910 there appeared in the capital an old wanton who, with skilful impudence, advertised herself as "the incarnate mother of God," claiming a husband, Joseph, and a son, Jesus. Crowds flocked to the Madonna, who healed the sick and comforted the distressed, sprinkling them with the water of the Neva or merely touching them with her hand. People kissed her feet and her robes, and contributed rich offerings, which the thrifty old woman saved up to buy land and houses in the provinces.

A campaign which the clergy and some organs of the press launched against her was suddenly stopped. The police, the censor, and the Holy Synod explained to the zealous popes and editors that an attack on the "Mother of God" is unseemly because … she was honoured with an audience of the Empress in a private house!

For several years afterwards the "Madonna" continued her activity unhindered, till one of her visitors, a person of some standing, was robbed. Police inquiries proved that "the hand lifted up to bless" had taken an active part in the theft, together with that of the husband, Joseph. The case was not brought before Court, but the religious adventuress was obliged to withdraw from the capital.

Another illuminating instance was furnished by the Prior of the Orthodox cathedral of Kronstadt, Ivan Siergieyewich Kiyin, known as Ivan of Kronstadt I met him several times.

He was a cunning, nervous, and clever priest, who knew how to enthral the masses with his prayers and preachings, to sway those who turned to him for advice with his word or a glance of his eyes. He was a master of hypnotism, of suggestion, and could submit to his will single individuals as well as whole multitudes.

He would have remained a goodly spiritual father and a zealous priest, but for a bigoted and crafty old woman, the wife of a wealthy merchant, Gulayeva, the friend of Pobedonoscev and of several officials of the Imperial Court.

She succeeded in rousing the interest of powerful members of the Court camarilla in the young priest, and soon she proposed to Ivan a deal. Gulayeva was to become the manager, Ivan—perhaps unconsciously—the actor; he was to employ his talents as a priest and preacher; she was to exploit the gullible public.

The enterprise was launched successfully. After a year had passed people were talking everywhere of the "Miraculous healings," revelations, prophecies, and "resurrections" of the dead wrought by Ivan of Kronstadt.

Money, honours, high connections and influence were the reward of these mighty deeds.

"The Holy Man—the Prophet of God," was proclaimed aloud.

The objections and jealousy of the clergy were overruled by Tsar Alexander III, who worshipped Ivan, and on his death-bed sent for him to receive the blessings and to kiss the hands of the wonder-worker in pious ecstasy.

When, after the Tsar's death, Gulayeva tried to enlarge her business by raising the rank of her client and spread abroad that Ivan was the "Messiah," who for the second time had descended upon the earth, the clergy rose against such blasphemy, and it was only the protection of the Dowager-Empress that saved him from any other punishment than being relegated to Kronstadt, and enjoined to mind the business of the cathedral, not to work miracles, and not to claim kinship with God.

Soon afterwards he died, and the untiring Gulayeva began to advertise the miracles wrought upon the grave of the saint. This new enterprise was carried on until October 1917, when the Bolsheviks put an end to her trade by destroying his grave and casting his remains into the sea.

Numbers of the nobility had considered it a great honour to receive the "holy father" in their palaces. For this privilege they paid Gulayeva a fee of five hundred roubles, and waited sometimes months for their turn to enjoy the blessing of his presence.

Such was the Russian fashion of "Christian mysticism," while at the same time close by was celebrated the "feast of the fiends."

It was an obsession of secret worship, a diseased enthusiasm for "black and white thaumaturgy," and neither an innocent diversion nor a scientific investigation.

The most realistic political game or the most vital intrigue on a grand scale was often played behind the scene. There was nothing of pagan rite in it.

I mentioned once before that I was coaching the son of an official of the house of Prince Leuchtenberg, a cousin of the Tsar.

I met there many high dignitaries of the Imperial Court, and one of them invited me to his home. A newly-arrived Paris celebrity was to be there—the famous king of occultists, "Professor" Papus.

The seance was not a success. Some vague glimmers of light, some murmurs and noises, some cold touches—that was all that this "Mahatma" could achieve. I saw many much more interesting phenomena in the occult and spiritist circles in Paris, and later on in Central Asia.

But after a few days I learned many sensational things.

In the palace of one of the most influential of the Grand Dukes, and in the presence of the Tsar and the Tsaritsa, Papus conjured up the apparition of the spirit of one of the dead Tsars, who called upon his successor to embark on a policy hostile to Berlin, to make war on Germany, and to be on his guard against the policy of Count Witte and the influence of an "unknown" but powerful and beautiful woman, In whom all the people present saw … the Princess of Hesse, Empress of Russia.

After this bold, and even for Russia too obvious, intrigue, Papus was obliged to leave the country in great haste, never to return. After him came other Buddhist and masonic agents, and continued the policy of their master on a smaller scale, in a more cautious manner.

Equally mysterious, though less influential, was one Onore, for some time an obscure Siberian official, who had studied several years the shamanism of the Altay natives, and finally started his own practice, which consisted of nothing but personal and collective hypnotism.

Soon the fame of his miraculous cures of nervous diseases reached the larger Siberian towns, and numerous parties of patients came to consult Onore, The latter grasped quickly that Siberia was too small for him, and he went to Petersburg. Here at first he healed the poor from charity, as it seemed, and he made himself a great name. After a time he received wealthy people who paid him high fees. Then the Medical Council interfered, and prohibited his practice on the ground that the hypnotist had no medical education. However, this intervention had little effect, and he exercised his remunerative gifts among ever increasing circles without fear of the authorities, although several accidents dangerous to the health and even the life of patients occurred in his consulting-rooms.

For the usual thing happened. Some personages of the Imperial Court, who were always quick to exploit the Tsaritsa's interest in mysticism and the secret sciences, engaged him just as they had Rasputin, Papus, Daryushka, "Klikushka," Ivan the Barefooted, and other "godly men,"

Onore was introduced into the Rasputin group, the leader of which was Countess Ignatieva, and the guide into the apartments of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace was the untiring "specialist on saints and fiends," the Prince Putiatin.

From this moment Onore became the welcome guest of the most reactionary drawing-room sets in Tsarskoye Selo, where he hypnotised the Tsaritsa, and attended to her during her nervous attacks.

In Petersburg and Moscow several people were known as priests and priestesses of the "devil worship" (Diabolism). Amongst them were two Orthodox priests, several men of letters, three variety artistes, and a General Shuman. Strange tales were told of the abomination of the "black mass" and of the diabolic orgies of the Satanists, similar to those recounted about the "Club of Sixty-nine Ladies," the intimate rendezvous of ladies and gentlemen on Odd Thursdays or "innocent Mondays," about a whole series of psychological and psychic groups, clubs, societies, and gatherings.

Opium, hashish, cocaine, alcohol were all indulged in; religion was the worship of spiritual disease, as it is before the downfall of nations and empires.

The mad "feast during pest" was held secretly in magnificent palaces, and with each year it became ever more obvious that a tremendous catastrophe must ensue, with all its terrors. The crash came on October 17, 1917, when the people, the soldiers, and alien agents fell upon the nobles. The mad hatred of the mob then turned against the intelligentsia, which passed away without a trace, leaving the Russian people deprived of its moral leaders.


  1. Epileptic Woman.