1/18 – Russian Enigma: Guest Editor’s Reflections

January-February 2016 / Leading Comments

Eugene Pustoshkin

Eugene Pustoshkin

Eugene Pustoshkin

Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone . . .
Fyodor Tyutchev (1803–1873), a poet

Russia is enigmatic mystery. It is full of paradoxes, contrasts, and opposites, a kind of simultaneous divergence of the opposites and coincidentia oppositorum, the country of both dissociation-fragmentation and the thirst for wholeness, healing, and transcendence.

Here, very rich coincide with very poor, scarcity of spirit coincides with spiritual abundance, damnation of souls with revival of spirit. It is the land of mass graves, crimes, the murdered and the oppressed, and the land of resurrection and stubborn aspiration for the energy of life. It is one vast multilayered space that spatially spans across the Eurasian continent—which in itself is a synthesis of Europe and Asia, East and West, North and South (and, as it often seems, a self-proclaimed antithesis to them all)—and temporally over a thousand of years. It has always been both central and peripheral (to different degrees and in different streams of evolutionary unfolding) to the ongoing history of the World. Glorious, and wicked. Passionately wholehearted, and painfully heart-broken.

This land gave birth to extremes and extremities, with centralized totalitarianism on one hand and abundant philosophy of anarchist freedom on the other. It has been both very revolutionary and very conservative, very advanced and very reactionary, very religious and very godless space-time configuration on the Earth. Even the materialists have always been guided by some passionate Idea that transcends boundaries and overflows usual limits, while always being in this stubborn dialectical tension with mediocrity of the average. It is the culture of integral philosophy of wholeness and profound mystical insights where the Christian teaching of the Russian West meets Judaism of the Jewish people, Islam of the central parts, shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism of the East. All of them were, as it was once thought, subverted by the ideology of militant atheism—whose adepts literally hunted down priests and shamans and kulaks, offering horrendous human sacrifices to their own sacred Idea (and also for their own greed and pleasure)—and communist dialectical materialism (producing their own cosmocentric visions and, in pragmatics, the initial conquest of Earth’s nature and outer space, or the cosmic frontier)—until their own Fall from the top of the hill.

In no way it is possible to offer a comprehensive glimpse of Russia just in one issue, however special we want it to be, even if it is devoted solely to this country, its land, its peoples, and its history. Yet a brief taste of its multisidedness, as well as its chronic impermanence, might at least offer a pathway towards a more trans-perspectival vision of this mysterious land and its peoples. It is important to understand: Russia is many worlds and multiple universes (worldspaces, ecosystems, genealogies and archaeologies of ideas, space-time-energy configurations, and arrays of interests) compressed into one semantic unity vaguely called Russian Federation (or the Russian Empire or the USSR). This name is misleading, and it partially stimulates the veil of amnesia, or forgetfulness about the abundant diversity of processes and fates, some of which burned so bright that they left an imprint in the world’s soul, while others passed away, seemingly unnoticed, seemingly leaving no trace—but is it so? Can we excavate the lost memories?

I was born in this country in the era of its great transition or/and great collapse, great fall and great attempt for resurrection, and have been going through a journey of soul searching, at first passionately hating and devaluing the land that gave me life and also so many sorrows to everyone, and then, eventually, coming to terms with many of its diversified trajectories and pathways and stories and sufferings, fighting for my life integrity, attempting to survive endless streams of paradoxes in order to unify them in love for the land where I was blessed to awaken to my own existence, as if forced to make my initial steps and live at first in the ashes, bearing witness to vicissitudes of tragically hopeless human projects for substantiality, sustainability, and self-assertion. And all of this was and is in order to finally see.

The key to this mystery which will not eliminate the Question itself, will never make it disappear (as if it were a ghost, if not Holy) but which will offer oceans of treasures and preciousness, in my opinion, is what Plato, that great mystical nondualist whose influence and teaching of Eros has been so powerful in the Russian culture, called anamnesis—re-membering or recollection. The veil of what Indians (who are sometimes considered both spiritually and politically close to Russians) called maya or illusory forgetfulness can be seen through, and once you see, the abundance of passionate intensity of human spirit reveals itself. The integral vision of this heightened intensive passion, when it reaches its peak intensity, seemingly redeems whatever suffering hundreds of millions of souls have fallen prey to in this largest country of the world—but only through dying alongside with them and experiencing these motions as if they were your own, collapsing your soul and shaking your heart in agonies and pride and dignity of a human being’s tragic confrontation with Being.

After all, there’s no conquest of Being, for Being always reigns. It is my belief that only through direct realization of our innermost nonduality with Being we may dissolve apparent knots of our suffering and find salvation from being trapped in pathetic fates and dualities.

This Integral Leadership Review’s Special Issue on Russia symbolically comes to life in winter. Winter is the time of the year which is probably associated with Russia most often. It is often believed that cold Russian winters are balanced with fierce fires of Russians’ hearts. But there are hearts which are just as cold, and times of years and lands where climate gets very burning hot. No simple metaphor would suffice, no simple view would be enough, no emotion would be expansive enough to grasp this universe.

What you will bear witness to in this issue is rather a series of sketches, of glimpses, of quick glances into some, if limited, parts of the Russian phaneron or phenomenal existence. In no way it will be sufficient. The issue is subdivided in at least two sequential parts, one of which is to be published in January 2016, and the other in February 2016 (with, hopefully, new articles coming after that). Now it is probably the most auspicious and most disadvantageous time to devote anything to Russia: it seems this country is playing an increasingly visible role in the world’s geopolitical affairs, with more and more people in the world trying to grok what is going on there, while it is also in the phase of a very serious economic and, apparently, sociocultural crisis.

More and more people in the world project their innermost and unconscious feelings and visions and hopes and aspirations on Russia (including its own citizens who are chronically disoriented as regards to how they can see themselves in relation to their country, its government and state)—it is so easy to encounter polarized projections of admiration and hatred, respect and devaluation, love and deprecation. Perhaps, only uniting dualistic thinking with nonconceptual cognition could bring forth any satisfactory reflection of the Russian World and its interrelatedness with and inseparableness from the emerging Planetary Civilization.

* * *

It is, perhaps, a part of the Russian character to see, first and foremost, things which are existentially difficult and tragic (and, nevertheless, real). I am aware that I am part of this cultural tradition, too. Even though I do want our readers to appreciate the seriousness of Russian problematics, still it is important to counter-balance the tragic and note that, despite of many complex issues and historical developments and obvious sociocultural disasters, creative life is not defeated, and Russian artistic and cultural intelligentsia has contributed and continues to contribute to the world’s treasury of humanity.

In the past there were Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Nikolay Berdyaev, Pitirim Sorokin (the proponent of “integral sociology” and founder of Harvard’s Department of Sociology), famous writers and composers and scientists, the list of names is very long. Today it can be seen in music—e.g., Gergiev, Temirkanov, etc.; sports, such as winter sports, hockey and, now increasingly, football, with the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 (I wrote on this in one of the previous ILR issues; see “On Potential Repercussions of Mega Sports Events in Russia”); in mathematics—e.g., Grigori Perelman who solved Poincaré conjecture (although science is undeniably in a critical position in many ways); in literature one can see the international interest in such Russian authors as Vladimir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin. (One can also mention Svetlana Alexievich, who is Belarussian but writes in Russian and has written a lot on the Soviet—and Russian—past which is common to former Soviet republics; she was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”) There are many names and areas I simply don’t know.

The beautiful Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony probably speaks better than any appreciative words I can utter:

In the “Integral world,” still small as it is, an increasingly significant role is played by Eros & Kosmos (see its abbreviated English version)—the Russian Integral online magazine that I co-founded with a team of volunteering collaborators (Victor Shiryaev, Gleb Kalinin, and others). Our contribution is still modest, but we’ve grown; and, in June 2015, we were, as it seems according to web traffic statistics, the second most popular Integral website in the world, even though we write mostly in Russian. Popularity varies on a month-to-month basis based on the kinds of materials we publish, but there’s a steady growth in our visibility and mission. We’d appreciate proposals for collaboration from our integrally informed allies from all around the world!

* * *

A few photo glimpses:

A bridge in Nizhny Novgorod

A bridge in Nizhny Novgorod

Kazansky Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Kazansky Cathedral in St. Petersburg

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Moscow City

Moscow City

Here Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived (St. Petersburg)

Here Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived (St. Petersburg)

Nizhny Novgorod in snow

Nizhny Novgorod in snow

An abandoned wooden hut in Nizhny Novgorod’s downtown

An abandoned wooden hut in Nizhny Novgorod’s downtown

Old Soviet relic in Moscow

Old Soviet relic in Moscow

* * *

The process of composing this issue has been helped by two great friends of mine, whose existence and presence I deeply appreciate. One is Lev Gordon, perhaps an example of a cosmocentric Integral thinker and a leader-in-making, with whom you can get acquainted in the very first installment of this Special Issue. The other is Alexander Malakhov, an authentic Integral scholar-practitioner from the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East of Russia, a social scientist of encyclopedic breadth and depth, a specialist in both social sciences and religious studies who is currently in the process of finishing his dissertation.

There is a third person, an Integral scholar-practitioner, whose wholehearted contribution to this issue and generally to the emergence of Integral consciousness in Russia is significant and keeps growing—her name is Marilyn Hamilton, the author of Integral City (a book I was honored to translate to Russian some years ago); Marylin has been in dialogue with Lev and me for several years already. She took the interview with Lev, which is definitely one of the central components of this issue. (A year ago I wrote about Lev, Marilyn, and Integral City in Russia in my essay “Integral City Development in the Russian City of Izhevsk.”)

The issue starts with what in ILR is usually called “Leadership Quotes.” Right away, this poses some difficult questions to me as an editor and an integral practitioner-activist. You see the term leadership is apparently problematic for today’s Russia. Some months ago Alexander Malakhov and I ran a brief survey in a group we co-moderate in VK.com, a Russian social network (a la Facebook), asking people about what topics they were most interested. People preferred to choose spirituality, self-development, psychology, parenting, etc.; what surprised us was that almost nobody chose leadership (liderstvo in Russian). What does it mean? How should we deal with this information? The only thing which is more or less certain is that Russians are, apparently, generally confused about the very concept of leadership and probably are lost in translation, since the very notion of leadership in its current form is mostly imported to Russia from the Anglophonic world. We definitely need additional investigation of this phenomenon.

So, I decided to approach the quotations section of ILR with a broad framework and conceived it as an opportunity to introduce the readers to some partial footprints of the Russian thought, not just on leadership but also generally on life. I did this, following the steps of a brilliant Russian thinker whom I consider to be one of my intellectual teachers—Vasily Nalimov (I never personally met him, because I was a child during his life and encountered his works only in my early adulthood, although, later on, I was blessed to meet his widow Zhanna Drogalina who shared with me some insights into Nalimov’s inner life and his spiritual connection with mystical Templars and showed me the place where this legendary Russia intellectual and spiritual gnostik lived).

Nalimov has always considered quotations and references to others’ works as a sacred opportunity to encounter the Other, to engage in dialogue with human beings whose minds and souls were devoted to great ideas—his books (such as Spontaneity of Consciousness) are often composed in the style of a constant polylogue with Plato and the Neo-Platonics, the Buddha, the Gnostics, Meister Eckhart, Descartes, Boehme, Kant and Heidegger and Dostoevsky, as well as Stanislav Grof and David Bohm and early Ken Wilber and Carlos Castaneda and Sir Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn and so many others spanning the entire history of humanity. The spirit of his thought was free and unobstructed and mystical in nature, even though he was a mainstream scientist, a mathematician (he developed probabilistic thinking to work on problems related to physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy of science, language, spirituality, and consciousness studies), highly respected by his colleague, this well-known Soviet mathematician, Andrey Kolmogorov. Nalimov, a GULag-survivor, was “hard scientist” (you can’t get any harder), and yet a deeply spiritual mystic.

Therefore, the quotations section is conceived not just as “Leadership Quotes” but as “Integral Quotes,” and it includes a diversity of quotes from Vasily Nalimov, Ken Wilber, Vladimir Solovyov, and others. I hope to expand this section in the second (February) installment of this issue. I highly recommend checking these quotes out, because they might convey something—a feeling, a spirit or a fleeting vision—which even a thousand of “comprehensive” and “systematic” essays might simply miss. If you think there are other quotations which should be added to this section (even post factum), please don’t hesitate and let me know.

The quotes section is followed by “Coaching/Leadership Tips,” which includes a short essay by Lev Gordon, one of our protagonists, in which he shares his leadership wisdom gained through international work at a top level. As I already mentioned, one of the central materials for this issue is Marilyn Hamilton’s extensive and detailed interview with Lev about his life and work in Russia and across other cultures (including pioneering the concepts and practices of Integral city development in the Russian city of Izhevsk as well as elsewhere)—make sure you don’t miss it! Lev himself is working on a series of interviews with leaders across Russia for the February installment of this issue. Let’s wait and see! Some great surprises might be awaiting us then!

The main part of the issue includes a number of articles and essays, of which I would especially recommend Anastasia Nekrasova and Irina Smirnova’s article “Who Benefits from Vertical Development in Russia Today?” and Oleg Bakhtiyarov’s essay “Psychonetics: A Russian Corpus of Psychotechnologies.” (In the February part of the issue this section will be expanded.) There are also contributions from George Koupatadze, a Russian immigrant who lives in USA for most of his life (he writes about his experience of receiving American university education and exploring Ken Wilber’s Integral framework there), and Elena Ryuse, an experienced coach and business trainer, who wrote two short essays about applying the notions from Integral AQAL Framework and Spiral Dynamics Integral towards corporate coaching and training in Russia. In the “Notes from the Field” section there is an honest essay by Anouk Brack, an integrally informed embodiment coach from the Netherlands, about her brief experience of work in Russia and encountering Russians.

In the book reviews section Alexander Malakhov and me are offering an overview of an important academic monograph Cultural Landscape: An Integral Perspective by Milana Ragulina (the book was published in Russian in 2015); it is written on what can be called emerging “Integral geography” related to the concept of “cultural landscape.” This is, in many ways, a ground-opening, if sketchy, academic publication which draws its inspiration from the works of Ken Wilber as well as Sean Esbjörn-Hargens & Michael Zimmerman and others, but is not limited to their formulations or insights.

More materials will come just in a few weeks (in February)—though, following a Russian intuition of impermanence and fluctuations of the Unpredictable, I hesitate to provide a specific list of potential contributions. For now it is almost safe to say that there will be contributions from Alexander Malakhov (including an overview of the history of the Russian/Soviet integrative thought) and Lev Gordon (with a series of interviews with Russian leaders). By the way, if you work with Russia or have interesting ideas about this country which you want to share, you can still submit your paper by February 5, 2016. Make sure to contact me at eapustoshkin@gmail.com.

Eugene Pustoshkin
Editor of the January–February 2016 Special Country Edition of the ILR on Russia

All photos here are by Eugene Pustoshkin.

This Special Issue’s cover includes Vasily Kandinsky’s painting “On White II” (1923).

About the Author

Eugene Pustoshkin is an integral psychologist, translator, and integral scholar-practitioner. He lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and currently serves as the Chief Editor of Eros & Kosmos (see: http://eroskosmos.org/english), the Russian Integral online magazine he co-founded; he is also the Bureau Chief / Associate Editor for Russia at Integral Leadership Review. Eugene graduated as specialist in clinical psychology from St. Petersburg State University, and now maintains private practice, offering counseling in Integral psychotherapy and mentoring in Integral Theory. He translated several books by Ken Wilber and works of other Integral authors. Since 2014, he has been organizing and co-facilitating (together with Helsinki-based therapist Sergey Kupriyanov, PhD in Medicine) Holoscendence workshops in Russia and other countries.

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