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The Divinity Of Father Ivan

It seems enough, in Russia, when a single individual is obsessed by
some more or less ridiculous idea, for his whole environment to become
infected by it also. The ease with which suggestions make their way
into the popular mind is amazing, and this reveals its strong bias
towards the inner life, the life of dreams. The actual content of the
dreams is of small importance, provided that they facilitate the soul's
flight to a better world, and supply some link in a chain which shall
attach it more firmly to the things of eternity. Consequently, those
who have any supernatural experience to relate are almost sure to find

An illiterate woman named Klipikoff one day proclaimed the good news of
the divinity of Father Ivan of Cronstadt. The incredulous smiles of
her fellow-citizens were gradually transformed into enthusiastic
expressions of belief, and Madame Klipikoff proceeded to found a
school. About twenty women began to proclaim openly throughout
Cronstadt that Father Ivan, the miracle-worker, was divine, and he had
difficulty in repudiating the honours that the infatuated women tried
to thrust upon him. According to the priestesses of this
"unrecognised" cult, Father Ivan was the Saviour Himself, though he hid
the fact on account of the "Anti-Christians"--that is to say, the
priests and the church authorities. Those who were converted to the
new doctrine placed his portrait beside that of the Divine Mother, and
prayed before it. They even fell on their knees before his garments,
or any articles belonging to him, and though the old man expressed
horror at such idolatry, he nevertheless permitted it. One of the
local papers described a ceremony that took place in one of the houses
where the pilgrims, who journeyed to Cronstadt from all parts of
Russia, were lodged. Father Ivan deigned to give his benediction to
the three glasses of tea that the hostess proffered him, and after his
departure she divided their contents among the assembled company, in
return for various offerings.

There were, however, cases in which, instead of kneeling before the
garments of miracle-workers or committing suicide, the visionaries
strove to reach heaven by offering up the lives of their fellow-men in

In the law-courts of Kazan a terrible instance of one of these
religious murders was brought to light. It was revealed that the
inhabitants of a neighbouring village had suspended by the feet a
beggar named Matiounin, and then, opening one of his veins, had drunk
his blood.

There are throughout Russia many records of proceedings brought against
such murderers--for instance, the tragic case of Anna Kloukin, who
threw her only daughter into an oven, and offered her charred body to
God; and that of a woman named Kourtin, who killed her seven-year-old
son that his mortal sins might be forgiven.

The vague remembrance of Abraham, who offered up his only son, and the
conviction that Anti-Christ, "born of a depraved woman, a Jewess,"
travels the earth in search of Christian souls--these are the most
obvious motives for murders such as we have described. Their real
cause sprang, however, from the misery of the people and their
weariness of life.

By a kind of reaction these murders--whose perpetrators often could not
be found--frequently gave rise to even stranger crimes and
disturbances. Suspicion was apt to fall upon any Jews dwelling in the
district, and there resulted trials, such as that of Beilis, or Jewish
_pogroms_ which filled the civilised world with horror.

Next: Among The Miracle-workers

Previous: The Brothers Of Death

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