The Religion Of Rasputin

The career of Rasputin provides one of the most disquieting chapters in

the history of sexual and religious emotions, and furnishes remarkable

proof of the close relationship which exists between these two sides of

human life, to all appearances diametrically opposed.

The supposed monk had undoubted hypnotic powers, and through his

success in sending people to sleep in his native Siberian village (in

eighbourhood of Tomsk), he earned the reputation of being a "holy

man." As they had never heard of either suggestion or hypnotism, the

Siberian peasants were all the more impressed by his miracles. Before

long he decided to make use of his mysterious power on a larger scale,

and departed for St. Petersburg, where the news of his exploits had

preceded him. The Tsarina, who suffered from insomnia, sent for him,

and--thanks also to certain qualities which it is best not to

specify--Rasputin's fortune was made in a day.

The village of his origin had an undesirable reputation, for its

inhabitants were loose-livers, and the scandal of the surrounding

countryside. But even in this environment the monk's family had made

themselves conspicuous by their low and unmentionable customs. The

young Gregory, known by the diminutive of Gricha, began his exploits at

a very tender age, and earned the sobriquet of Rasputin, which means

"debauched." He was mixed up in all kinds of dubious affairs--for

instance, thefts of horses, the bearing of false witness, and many acts

of brigandage. He was even sentenced more than once to be flogged--a

penalty of which the local law-courts made generous use in those days.

One of his boon companions, a gardener named Vamava, later became

Bishop of Tobolsk through his influence.

But the time came when Gricha thought it well to abandon his small

misdoings, and take up a more lucrative trade. He discarded his

peasant costume, and adopted a robe similar to that worn by monks.

Grave and serious, declaring that he was ranged "on the side of the

Lord," he went about begging importunately, on the pretext of wishing

to build a church. In this way he succeeded in amassing a very

considerable sum of money, and subsequently founded a new sect whose

bizarre nature surpassed that of any others that had recently seen the


Its chief doctrines were borrowed from the _chlysty_, with some

modifications to suit the decadent atmosphere of the Russian Court. It

taught that none could be saved without first having repented; and none

could repent without first having sinned. Therefore to sin became a

duty, and it may be imagined how full of attraction was this "religion

of sin" for those who had neither the will nor the desire to practise


Rasputin began proceedings in his native province. He was a marvellous

preacher, and easily attracted many followers, though some of the forms

taken by the new religion were indescribable. The believers of both

sexes were in the habit of assembling in an open field, in the midst of

which a bonfire was lighted. They would form a chain and dance round

the fire, praying for their sins to be forgiven, as they had repented

of them. Gradually the fire would die out, and the leader then

launched his command--"Now, my children, give yourselves up to sin!"

The sequel may be left untold, but truly the _saturnalia_ of ancient

Rome grow dim before the spectacle of the ceremonies established by


His hypnotic practices, combined with the attractions of his

"religion," only served to augment his popularity, and, burdened with

past glory, he arrived in the capital to win the favour not only of

ladies of high degree, but also of many prominent members of the

established church.

Father John of Cronstadt, whom he first visited, was deeply impressed

when Rasputin revealed to him the extent of his "intimacy with the

Lord," and introduced him to the Archbishop Theophanus, almost as great

a celebrity as himself.

Finding it impossible to establish the Siberian practices openly in St.

Petersburg, Rasputin made great use of hypnotism. The fascination that

he wielded over all in his vicinity gave authority to his words, and he

devoted himself to exorcising the demons that slept in the bodies of

the pretty sinners of high society. In this, scourging played a

considerable part, and as all sorts of illnesses and unsatisfied

desires were attributed to the "demons," the number of cases treated by

the "holy man" was almost incalculable.

Even the prelates whom Rasputin ousted from their positions in some

cases still continued to believe in him after his death. The Bishop

Hermogen, whom he disgraced at Court, declared, the day after the

assassination, his conviction that Rasputin possessed "a spark of

godhead" when he first arrived in Petrograd.