by Elena Tonetti, 1996
by Elena Tonetti, 1996
Modern Russia is celebrating Christianity. Again.
In the chaos of Russian upheaval, after 70 years of enforced atheism, when religion was forbidden and declared "opium for common people", there exists an enormous thirst for spiritual knowledge and guidance. People ache for some way of answering big questions - how to make their life more meaningful and how in the world did it happen that their beautiful beloved country is in such poor condition?
For centuries Russia has been going from one miserable mess right into another twilight zone of chaos and self-destruction. That process is very Russian, very predictable, and too dysfunctional for politicians to figure out. It is especially hard because of the enormous scale of the situation; it occupies a little over 1000 years and 11 time zones. It is too big for the average human brain. Especially taking into consideration the tricks our minds play on us: our own personal events are more important to us: our jobs, kids, dealing with traffic, credit card debts, sexual attractions, whatever our everyday- a- thon consists of,- make the big events fade away and the big questions hard to formulate.
I remember, when I was in high school, history was definitely not something that caught my attention. I was merely memorizing the dates of strange bloody events that schoolbooks presented as the history of humankind. Altogether it didn't make much sense, but I didn't give it a second thought. Incongruency in history books, with the heavy metal flavor of Soviet propaganda carefully crafted by a small group of people who probably pretended that they had a lost case of Alzheimer's disease did not have a chance to be noticed.
Everything has changed, however, according to an indisputable law of Life. At some point, I realized I wanted to understand what had really happened.
There is a great expectation that in spirituality Russians can now find their answers. It seems like there is nothing else that they can count on. With sacred Hope they are turning their faces back to long forbidden images of Christian icons, because on Russian soil "spirituality" means "Russian Orthodox Church". In recent memory old Russia is identified with Christianity. In fact, in Russia, the religion and the figure of Jesus Christ himself look absolutely native Russian. With remarkable disregard for reality going back to church promises relief. Spirituality once again is being substituted for by religion.
In the past few years Russians got busy restoring run down churches and rebuilding the ones that were thoroughly dynamited into piles of rocks during Stalin's and Khruchev's era. The established attitude nowadays is that Christianity will bring a comforting solution to the hardships of life. The purpose of my essay is to share the insight that it was the forced baptizing of Russia that brought the never-ending chain of disasters into the country in the first place.
The Tataro-Mongolian tribe, that enslaved Russia in 11 hundreds, in the very beginning of Russian Christianity, for 300 years threw the normal development of the country way off its course. The countries to the west from the occupied territories (Europe) had their chance for gradual economic growth, while Russia kept Mongols from going further to the West. They dealt with the severity of paying dues to nomads for 300 years, barely surviving their own decay.
The great Russian researcher Lev Gumilev published his study in which he came to a conclusion that the tribe of Mongols that occupied Russia wasn't even big, something about 30 000 horsemen. They had to come from afar, enduring all the hardships of traveling. How could they possibly conquer such large territories? History books present it as a stroke of their good luck but I want some more logic.
Glancing further and further back into the past, I tried to find a more or less peaceful place that enjoyed some social harmony on that vast territory. I found it finally over a thousand years ago. It was a well - functioning, passionate, pagan Russ. With strength to survive, barter, trade, and all sorts of social and spiritual rituals for healing purposes, Russ was rapidly developing its technology and producing a handsome-looking, strong population.
Everything changed almost overnight. Prince Vladimir, the elected ruler among other princes of Russ, came back from Constantinople, Byzantine, absolutely charmed by Christianity. What a beautiful way to unite the nation and have complete control over it! "The churches are so incredibly beautiful with all the icons and frescoes, the services are mesmerizing with all their incense and angelic singing, the ideas are so simple and disarming - how can anyone resist it?" he thought to himself.
But resist they did. When he came home and pronounced that new religion, he didn't bother to explain its deep meaning, nor did he bother to understand it himself. Establishing the ideas of brotherly love, humbleness, non-violence, etc. took the form of a civil war with mass graves all over Russ. The introduction of Christianity in Russ wiped out the best of the nation, as it usually happens in wars and as it would repeat itself later many times in history through Crusades and witch hunts all over Europe, when hundreds of thousands of people were burned at the stake alive in the name of Jesus Christ for no particular reason.
It wasn't that Russians didn't like the way of Christ, they just never had a chance to grow fond of it. They resisted the way it was forced on them. People who live passionately, protect their way of life passionately. In reality, there was little resistance to speak of...Vladimir's horsemen would storm into village after village, separate those who disagreed with new order and were willing to fight, lock them into the community ritual building and burn them alive, leaving the rest shocked out of their senses and seizing those who tried to run away and warn their neighbors. For those runaways there existed a particularly cruel routine: the horsemen would bring them back to the village, gather the survived people, take those runaways and tear out their tongues and pour boiling oil down their throats.
It was not a pretty picture when it was all over. Those who survived - a dispirited and submissive crowd of women, children, and elderly, had to learn the new ways of worship. They tried, as best they could, to adapt and survive. They didn't do a very good job. At this point they became a very easy prey for aggressive tribes of Mongolian nomads who plundered the southeast regions. And, of course, the Mongols came and enslaved Russ for 300 years.
It took over 300 years for Russians to gain their strength back! Three hundred years to accumulate enough energy to overthrow Tataro-Mongolian tyranny!
What happened was this: huge crowds of beautiful Russian women were caravanned to the Mongolian Steppes where they were used as disposable sexual slaves, displaced and disheartened, nevertheless producing children. What kind of offspring can oppressed, miserable women produce? - Disloyal, disgraced and confused. They grew up and with every generation they were weakening Mongolian army more and more.
Meanwhile in Russ, children grew stronger and angrier with every generation, and the day came when Russians finally dislodged that Mongolian yoke forever.
But the tragedy had already gone too far. Russians had no memory - no oral or written tradition on how to run their society without oppression. Too many generations had lived under the cruel law of tyranny. It was a society of orphans with orphanage mentality. So they reproduced the only system they knew, and established their own tyranny. Now Russians themselves were oppressing their fellow underprivileged Russians. And in a very sophisticated manner! Ivan the Terrible, who emerged pretty soon after the Mongols were gone, created an extremely powerful institution of espionage, surveillance, and denunciation inside the country. Sort of a prototype of KGB in the sixteenth century interior design.
Ever since the establishment of Christianity in Russia there was no bright spot in Russian history; no break for the common people. They have been worked to the ground with no mercy, first by Mongols, then by a small percent of wealthy Russians. There is no other precedent in history, that I know of, when one part of the nation, it's bigger part was officially brutally enslaved by a small part of the same nation. There was slavery all over the globe, there is nothing new about that, but everywhere else slaves were foreigners: prisoners of wars, deliberately kidnapped for that purpose members of other ethnic groups. In Russia big masses of Russians were legally owned by their fellow Russians.
And all along Churches proudly carried their beautiful golden heads above Russian towns and villages. Their authority was unquestionable. Even obvious contradictions to Christ's wisdom didn't lessen the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on people. Christ brought the message that people are God's children, but the Church insisted that they are God's slaves. It obviously helped them to justify slavery - "Oh, but we are all slaves, not only you..." they said.
Christ's message was about God's love; the Russian church insisted that the main drive behind every choice people make should be fear of God, and that fear of God's punishment should fill everyone's heart. It was all twisted and perverted into exactly the opposite. Each town had hundreds of churches. It all looked very pretty. Architecturally, Russian churches were beautiful masterpieces. It's a pity that they were destroyed by Stalin and Krushev - but the truth is, those churches were not doing their job. They were beautiful buildings disconnected with their purpose to serve as places of meting with God. The Church became the dominating, controlling institution whose explanation of Christ's teaching was heavily layered with misinterpretations and outright lies. A lot of people would disagree with me, I know. But I would say: "the proof is in the pudding." If the churches were not disconnected with the Source of All, they'd still be there. No human - created dynamite would be able to ruin them. I believe so. There would not even be an attempt to ruin them in the first place.
The Russian government is restoring churches now all over Russia. What a waste! That's exactly what author Ken Wilber calls "riding on a regress-express." Instead of being instrumental in liberating and elevating people's spirits, the Russian church was an incredibly beautiful instrument of justification and support of oppression. Its beauty was very deceptive.
A thousand years after the baptism of Russia, history repeated itself. As beautiful as Karl Marx's utopia of communism was, on Russian soil it manifested itself into exactly the opposite. The main ideas of communism were basically the same as the Ten Commandments of the Bible, slightly transformed into an atheistic religion of decent living, where everyone gives to society from the best of his or her potential, skills, wisdom, produce, etc. and receives everything he or she needs for free. It was a barter-exchange idea. I give away everything I can and receive everything I need. Sounds great!-but very impractical.
Here in America, I heard the same question several times: "Now when you see both, what do you think is worst - Communism or Capitalism?" This question doesn't have an answer. What was happening in Russia was pure Fascism, not Communism. Just like during the inquisition, hundreds of thousands of people disappeared into the night, jerked out of their beds from their families, in their pajamas right into torture chambers for no particular reason. No society has lived in Communism yet. As no society has lived in Christianity yet.
In my attempt to understand the reasons behind the in congruency between beautiful Christian ideas and the struggle of many generations of people to enforce them or resist them, I realized that in congruency originates with the figure of Jesus Christ himself. There is a big gap between the Idea, the Myth of Christ, the Great Expectation and Projection of Christ Consciousness and the real physical person, the flesh and blood of a Jewish man from Nazareth. He was a great guy all right, there is no doubt about that. But having His physical body was as challenging and frustrating for Him as for us. He had to, more or less, obey the same rules. God created our physical reality, designed it's laws and His Son did not come here to violate them. According to God's design having a body- is a challenge by itself. Plus on top of that - all the demands of advanced communication skills!
Now I suggest something radical. Let's imagine that Jesus Christ didn't get Himself killed at early age of 33. Let's imagine that He lived happily ever after to a ripe old age somewhere in a peaceful village humbly being a role model for all His teachings - healing people, talking to them endlessly, explaining over and over again everything patiently, forgiving people's inability to relate to him and change their sinful ways overnight. Imagine Him writing all His books Himself, as many as He wanted. Why didn't He write His books? Wouldn't it be sweet?
Looking realistically at the beginning of his end we can see a well-established society with its order, laws, and a respected group of elders. Now here comes a very handsome young man who starts, in a very irritating manner, accusing them of doing everything wrong and insisting that he is the one to tell them how to run their lives from now on. Imagine if that would happen nowadays, say, in Congress...what would American Congress do to such a man?
It wasn't any different back then! And it didn't matter who he was, how righteous he was, or how much personal power he had. When he allowed himself to be inconsiderate, obnoxiously disrespecting the crowd and its leaders he was asking for trouble. Why was he acting this way?
He couldn't help it. His own power turned into a big problem. The thing is - that much power doesn't come without enormous ego and pride. It's part of the package. You want big muscle, everything else comes in size large, too. And size large he was: an incredibly magnificent, enchanting, magnetic young man. He was very intelligent too, intelligent enough to be aware of his problem. He was talking about it, saying all the right words - about the importance of being humble and conquering pride. He understood it all, he just couldn't handle his own big charge that was driving him into a big tragedy. It was making him very sad.
He did not come here to die. Certainly not for anybody's sins. Centuries later church leaders made it look very comforting - God had sent his own son into our world to be sacrificed for our sins. Maybe this sounds comforting for some people, but for all I know about God out of my own personal relationship with that which I just agreed to call "God" for short, for local purpose of this article, which is a nickname for something that has no name, the Source of All that penetrates every aspect of every reality and does not belong to any reality, that potent nothing that the space between realities is pregnant with - for all I know about it: sending one's own son purposefully to be sacrificed is absolute nonsense. Yes, my dears, we have to take back our full responsibility for our misery and for all the fun we had sinning - no way around it.
I've heard about every argument about the sacred mystery of the crucifixion and the nobility of sacrifice. It's extremely hard to part with that heroic image of epic proportions. I'll tell you what - there was nothing sacred about it. It was plain ugly, bloody, and dirty with all the screaming and tears that come with it. The guards were sweaty and bored; for them He was no different than any other lowlife they'd pinned before, and they were cursing to the right and to the left for women and flies to back off. And He was crying from fear and pain.
He was not born into this world with the purpose to end up like this. It was an unavoidable tragedy and that much He knew. Now we are getting to the interesting part. Stay with me.
He was hoping that He would be able to avoid it. He believed that the power of His knowledge, the connection He kept with the Source of All, and His ability to remember who He was and why He came would carry him through safely. You see, when a magnificent soul like His is getting ready to enter our world in a physical body, it sort of pulls closer first and tries to figure out what needs to be done here. The problem is that from above, from that blissful orgasmic state of existence there is no chance to estimate the degree of misery on our Planet of Tears. No way to measure the hardship of being imprisoned in one physical body at a time and having to deal with the low, heavy frequency that is the property of our physical reality that actually makes the material reality possible in the first place.
From that non-existing existence, it all looks very easy - "I'll just go and tell them! I'll go and bring them the message - that life is not a struggle! Just open your heart to Love and all suffering will disappear, because people will take care of each other. People can choose to stop their suffering at any moment by using their minds as it was intended - to reconnect with the Source of All and each other in a conscious way that will heal all wounds." How beautiful and clear! And it sounds so easy! "That shouldn't be a problem...How do I need to be equipped?"
And here comes a catch. The human body has a very intricate design. Two thousand years ago, there were only two modes available: strong or sensitive - not both in the same body. Either you get charged with power and you don't see anything around or you get to experience the world through your senses but don't have enough energy to effect anything. Don't ask me why...
So His choice was strength, of course. All the consequences of that choice that were very predictable, because strength in men comes in a package with pride in geometrical proportion. According to the same human design, every human society or tribe has built-in mechanisms for dealing with individual pride that protect it from the chaos of being pushed and pulled in too many different directions by different individuals. These are very simple, effective, predictable mechanisms of leveling and grounding upstarts, or, in the worst case scenario, eliminating them entirely.
Pride is a terminal disease in high doses. I'm not making that rule. I'm just dutifully sharing my observations. In His case - He voluntarily O.D.ed, going against all odds, knowing that there was no way around it.
He had a bright, powerful presence with a tragic end. He did not complete his mission of living what he was preaching, of modeling his message of Love, of being there for the needy and the sick. Instead, he left controversial memories and confused followers. Why didn't he write books, so you and I could enjoy reading them over and over again? In those books he could have said everything He wanted exactly the way He wanted, not leaving any room for misinterpretation, guessing, or quarrels. Why didn't he?
Because he couldn't sit still! He was driven into action. His power was out of His control. He had set precedents of angry, impatient reactions when people did not want to hear Him. He was getting upset easily when people did not accept His way. That example of behavior would have a long history. That body language of a powerful, angry, righteous man was easy to understand and replicate. And sadly enough it was repeatedly reproduced, out of all the things that he offered. Being a role model of his scale was a great responsibility because his every small move was multiplied hundredfolds in the eyes of the crowd. Even though there were very few of his outbursts of anger, they left a legacy of aggressive righteousness that brought much grief to hundreds of thousands of people later on through history of Christianity on our planet. It was exactly those outbursts of anger that Spanish inquisition used as justification of their unthinkable brutality in the name of Jesus Christ. The way He modeled anger, gave people permission to be intolerant.
Those who want to get hysterical at this point, like children who first realize that Santa Clause doesn't really exist, I invite to look around. Can you logically, reasonably, soberly, with no preconceived notion, look at the evolution of humankind through the historical events of, say, the last three thousand years and tell me if you notice any dramatic difference between people's sinful ways before and after His Death? What changed? According to the Christian Church, His death was a turning point in people's spirituality. That was His mission - through His death to open the pathways for people to follow. So, what has really changed? I whisper: "Nothing."
Of course, it brought a big local change for all the people who grew dependent on having Him around, but globally nothing changed. In fact, the last two thousand years have been more brutal than all the previous thousands put together. As they say: "The proof is in the pudding."
So, if His death changed nothing, maybe He didn't have to die? He didn't have to. He would be my hero, if He would have managed to stay alive, but to stay alive was a greater challenge than to surrender and get killed.
Now, after I have explained my point of view about the matter, I can wholeheartedly sing praise to that great man and express my endless gratitude to Him. In spite of the obvious failure of His direct mission, He did all of us an undeniable service. When He parted finally with His mortal remains, and returned back to that neighborhood reality, from which He previously had planned His journey 33 earthly years ago, He reunited with His spiritual family - other fellow magnificent souls and all together they had a great time sorting out His earthly experience.
And what came out of this meeting was a conclusion that they have to go easy on us. There came a realization that life on Earth really is a great challenge, if even one of them had a hard time handling it. So, there goes the proverbial reparation of our sins. Instead of a confused "Why in the world are these people so stupid down there?", there came a warm and compassionate understanding of our struggle to survive. So, in that light He did become our Savior, because with their understanding came their unconditional support for anyone who is willing to open up and receive it. Alleluia!
P.S. Just as I thought that I finished this article, I gave it to a friend to read. He got very upset with me for having such an Antichristian attitude. That reaction surprised me,- he was missing the point. It is not what I'm about. I am absolutely not opposed to Christian values and ideas. They are very beautiful, I accept them completely and even more,- I'm doing my best to live by them.
What I was saying is that with great spirit comes great responsibility because it has greater degree of freedom. Freedom is the highest form of challenge available to us. Let's say in the hierarchical pyramid of challenges, having freedom is the last one, on the very top. On the evolutional level of the soul that is ready to face personal freedom and all responsibility that comes with it - it is not the freedom to go along with little moods and it is not the freedom to be lazy or mean. It is a highly disciplined commitment.
And when a person like Jesus Christ with His degree of greatness gives a precedent of dysfunctional behavior, even just few times in His entire life, it has catastrophic long lasting effect on generations to come. With all my do respect and appreciation of His teaching, I thought that if He would be able to role model it himself and stay around for another 40-50 years and write His books himself, it would save us all a lot of grief.
Any way I wrote this article because I was asked to, by a man whose judgment I respect to put my concept in writing. If he wouldn't ask, I probably wouldn't have done it. It's actually a very hard work- writing, I'd rather be dancing or playing with my kid. These are just my own speculations on the matter, I don't intend to convert anybody or convince that this is the only way to look at it. For me personally my visions have logic, they just make more sense to me than any other speculations. So I accept mine. You don't have to. Your peace of mind is your own responsibility.