I flew back to Kazakhstan and was sent on a business trip to Karaganda. There was nothing for me to do there and I went to a bookshop. I bought Somerset Maugham’s The Summing Up. I had read some of his books before and I liked them, but I hadn’t read this one. The author had spent his whole life searching for the meaning of life, he had gone through many trials, become rich and famous, had a family and children, studied all the subjects that interested me at the time—psychology, religion, philosophy, dramaturgy—to a high level, and at the end of his life concluded that these were not the things worth living for at all. At the end of the book, he writes that only Mercy and Beauty are worthy of his attention.

I was struck to the core, because everything he had written I had also studied, not at the same level perhaps, and not the same amount, because I had realized earlier on that it wasn’t worth it. For instance, you don’t have to study one philosopher, compare him with another, find their similarities and analyze their differences, because it’s almost immediately obvious when something is a lie.

I was also struck because Mercy and Beauty were not the things that made life worth living for me—I was not Somerset Maugham.

I read the Torah and see that it’s only a memorial. Even if it was ever relevant, I can’t find anywhere in it the kind of meaning that I’m looking for.

I read Schopenhauer, he writes that people worry what will happen after their death, but don’t think at all about what happened before their birth, even though they’re the same thing. In other words, after we die we will never be again, and that worries us; but before our birth we never were, and we couldn’t give a damn. And why is this the case?

I read about politics and realize it’s such a labyrinth, there are so many lies that you can just gather it all together and chuck it out to save yourself the time.

I read Professor Stoleshnikov, who writes about how the government lies to us and does what it wants with us. And clearly they do, but what can we do about it? Do we go to war, or just go on fuming?

I read about the ten habits that lead to poverty: self-indulgence; greed; doing things you hate; measuring your success by money; spending more money that you can afford to; going for short term gain; whining; comparing yourself to other people; measuring your wealth by money; isolating yourself from your own family.

Clearly, we could get rid of these habits without any wealth coming our way. I know that if I were to suddenly become wealthy, I wouldn’t live long. I’d quit my job and start drinking heavily, my liver would give out in a year at most. I start going to see Archimandrite Father Polycarp every vacation. Sometimes I make it over to see him a couple of times. I don’t understand what’s happening to me when I go there, but something’s happening. After visiting him, there is a change in my inner state and I don’t feel as bad as I did before.

My wife gives birth to a daughter. I look at her and realize despite the fact I always dreamed of having a daughter, she cannot be the meaning of my life.

I decided to become a muscle head, went to the gym and read up on bodybuilding. I have to do squats, deadlifting and bench pressing. I’m doing squats and something in my back snaps, but I carry on. Something in my back is holding me back but I carry on. Something has cracked so that I can barely move my leg and I can’t carry on anymore, somehow I walk, dragging my leg behind me.

I flew to Moscow. I got even more shitfaced than usual, punched through the middle of the bathroom door, frightened my wife, and she took our daughter and ran.

I went to my mother, told her about my leg, that it hurt. My mother, who has experience in these things, says, “It’s the spinal column.” I went off, got an MRI and went to see the doctor. The doctor says I’ll need an urgent operation because I have a slipped disk that is going to quickly wear down the nerves and then my legs will switch off. I tell the doctor, “If I need it, let’s get on with it—do it.” He says, “We have a waiting list and you’ll need to wait ten years.” What, are you all idiots in this world or something?

My mother calls a private clinic, we go there, I pay them the money. They’ll do the operation in a few days. I stay home on my own and drink vodka. I open up that page on the dating site again and find some dumb woman, she comes over and we get hammered.

At home there’s a pile of bottles, mess everywhere, the ashtray has smashed, I can’t pick it up because I can’t bend down. I’m drinking vodka and thinking, who’s to stop me throwing myself off the roof? If you can just get to the roof and throw yourself off, all this will be over immediately. So okay, maybe for a moment it’s going to hurt, but right now it hurts the whole time and you put up with it. Perhaps my heart will rupture as I’m flying? I read that death sets in with a rupture of the heart, interesting—how does it happen? Oh to hell with it—so what if it ruptures? you don’t need it anymore anyway, what do you want me to do about it?

But I still haven’t found the meaning of life! Let’s suppose that there’s a God, and He asks me why the hell did you throw yourself off the roof, when you hadn’t found the meaning of life? What can I tell him? Or I suddenly remember why I flew to Earth and it turns out I went to God myself at some point and asked Him to send me here and now I’ve thrown myself off a roof! And why did I throw myself off—because yet another dumb woman ran away from me? Well she can go to hell, let her run where she wants. The operation is going to get done, my leg will stop hurting, it will all get sorted out first time round, right? So I finished off that bottle of vodka and decided if life’s not as important as it was before, then I could always throw myself off the roof tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or after any number of years and it wouldn’t change a thing.

I had to find the meaning of my life, and not like before, more intensively.

Vera, my wife’s sister, calls and says, “I’m going to come over to your place now, if you don’t mind, and if you’re not going to get drunk.” I would still have carried on getting drunk, of course, but then how would I get to my operation? I’d have to go out myself in at least an acceptable state. “Come on over, it’s no trouble.” She arrived, cleaned up the mess, threw out the bottles, I sat in silence on the balcony for hours, smoking and looking out at the city lights. My wife came over before the operation.

The operation was a success, my spine went on hurting for another couple of months, then it stopped. I don’t do heavy lifting anymore.

I fly home, go to see my mother, sit down just like a piece of shit, I have no energy at all. I can’t and don’t want to do anything, I just drink beer and smoke. Mother says, “Go on, take a walk, the weather is lovely!” I can’t. I’m sitting in an armchair, barely alive, and thinking this is life—a kind of hard labor, my strength is gone completely even, I call a taxi and go home.

I don’t manage to get off the booze before the project starts up again, have to call a doctor with a drip bag, I come to myself after a couple of days and fly out to work.

I read Transurfing again and again. It’s quite obvious the water is crap, the air is polluted and the food contaminated. And what can we do? Okay, first I went and bought an AquaDisk. I make water in it, it’s beautiful. The water tastes good and it’s a pleasure to drink, you can have a few liters of it a day. The AquaDisk comes on the project with me, I’m drinking decent water, my energy levels increase.

I’ve bought a pH meter and I’m measuring everything that comes into my hands. Before the water filter the water measures 6.9, in other words it’s acidic, and after the water filter it’s 7.2, in other words alkaline, nothing but a miracle. I go deep into the subject of nutrition, decide to eat more alkaline foods, any kind of salad, meat once a day, then every other day, then twice a week, then I cut it out altogether, increase the pH level in my stomach. My condition drastically deteriorates, I’m dying, it’s like I’m splitting apart. If I don’t find an answer to the question “Why?” today, I’m not going to hold out till evening—I’ll burst.

I leaf through the Torah—what did people eat before? Apparently they were all vegetarians before the flood, and only ate plants, then after the flood they started eating meat as well. Why is this written down and what does it mean? It must have been the case or it wouldn’t have been written down, nutrition has always been relevant. Alright, so the Torah can’t answer my questions. Who can answer them? Transurfing had already got me into this state, there was no sense in asking it.

I remember I once read Evgeny Shadilov, he knows exactly what he’s talking about. I find his books and realize this is what happens when you suddenly decide to become vegetarian. I eat meat, pasta, buns, and I wash them down with coffee, I lower the pH level in my stomach and come back to life again in the morning.

I know you shouldn’t conduct experiments on yourself like this, especially when you’re over forty. You have to know exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what the effect is going to be.

I’m flying home on vacation and as we’re coming in to land my head starts splitting apart, it feels like it’s about to explode. I go to a decent clinic, pay them my money. They say my nose has been broken several times and now I can’t breathe through it at all. As a result, the pressure inside my head is not the same as it is everywhere else, and I’ll feel it especially on airplanes. They’ll need to do an operation, without it I won’t be able to go on living normally. After the operation it hurts everywhere, but I come back around.

I fly home, I start getting an allergy—when will it end already? I come to see the doctor at a private clinic and there’s this Georgian sitting there. He asks, “What kind of soap do you use?” 

“What kind? The usual kind, toilet soap, the kind they sell in the shops.” 

“That’s awful stuff, young man—soap smells delicious, but why do you think it smells that way?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Because there’s oil in it—just imagine if you took a piece of skin and rubbed oil into it, what would happen to the skin? That’s right, it can’t breathe, and nothing can get through it, so what happens then? Then—all the crap stays inside. Then you eat a bit of lemon, the crap turns to liquid and makes its way through the skin to the outside, it has to find a way out somewhere. And we can be certain you’ll get an allergic reaction in precisely that spot, all that crap is toxic.”

He didn’t need to explain anything further to me, I grasped everything very quickly myself. 

I tell the Georgian, “Do I understand you correctly that if I go to the pharmacy and buy some tablets, they’ll clog the skin up even more, so even if the crap has liquefied it won’t be able to get out?” 

He says, “Correct—it’s exactly the same industry. First they mutilate people with their soap, then they cure them with their tablets. By the age of fifty a person is apt to be quite ill but goes on living in order to work for the pharmacy.” 

Until this conversation I couldn’t have even imagined the scale of the deceit going on in this world!

“Thank you, doctor, you’ve opened my eyes to the problem, but is there any way out?”

“There is a way out, of course—buy some all union state standard household soap, it’s big and brown, use that instead.” 

The allergy went after three days, and I don’t get it anymore.

I fly back to the project in a different frame of mind—everything everywhere is a lie, and behind that lie is big business, which stands to benefit from lying. I tried reading something to get my head round it, and to change something, and I almost croaked. Why did it happen that way? Well, because all the authors who try to do something—and well done to them—they don’t quite fully understand what it is they’re writing about.

They cut me to pieces, it’s my second operation already, and if it carries on like this there won’t be a damn thing left of me. What alternative do I have? I don’t know, and I could hardly find out, because no one knows a thing in this world.

So okay, I’ll live this life one way or another then I’ll croak. What have I got to do? I’ve got to earn enough money to buy a house, plant roses, drink wine, make shashlik and just generally not depend on other people.

I open Excel and create a new spreadsheet. What do I have? I don’t have a damn thing. I work seventy-five days on and twenty-one days off. Let’s suppose that goes on till I’m sixty, hell knows how many more times that means. Well how many times is that exactly? Here’s how many. What’s the salary? How much of the money gets spent? How much is left over? What else have I got to buy in my life? In summary, what’s left? And it’s a very decent amount, I have enough for everything, to plant roses till I’m eighty, and not to have to talk with other people at all. Add more for your wife—when you snuff it, she’ll still have eight years left to live till she’s eighty. It’s easy, I’ll add a little here, take a little away from there, and there we have it, the wife won’t have to depend on anyone else till she’s eighty.

If I carry out this plan I will have settled all my earthly affairs. But what if I lose my job? You’ll find another job, the salary will be a little less or a little more, you’re a world class engineer, the world’s a big place, there’ll always be someone out there who needs someone for that job—Algeria, Nigeria, Oman, and a lot of other places where they build plants, and there’ll be enough of that in your lifetime, don’t worry.

In order to live more or less bearably till you’re eighty, what did you do when you were younger, those exercises using chi? And did the energy come from somewhere by itself? And how did you do it, do you remember? Then start doing it again, every day for fifteen minutes. Sit down, put your right hand to your left ear, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, focus on the dantian point; now your left hand, then both hands.

Tomorrow is Sunday, I can sleep, today I have to finish this book. Transurfing—how many times can you read it? How many pages are left, fifty? Read it to the end and be quiet, no one’s asking you to do anything else, nor will they.

Transurfing helps up to a certain point, even my wife found that. But why does it help, why does it work? Well because you know yourself that you need to start moving on this course, and everything else that is not of immediate concern, you shut off. It’s concentrating your attention and your energy on one object that exists in the real world at that particular time. The skill that you’ve acquired is something you can now use in your professional life, forever, it won’t get away from you, don’t read Transurfing anymore. There’s only one page left now!

What’s the advert at the end? The publishing company published P.D. Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. Alright, go have a smoke and go to bed.

Outside, it’s two in the morning, a full moon, I discard my cigarette butt and look up at the Moon. “Oh Lord, perhaps You’re on the Moon? Where are You, oh Lord? Do you even exist at all? Oh Lord, help me to find what I’m looking for! Please help me find it! I don’t know what it is, but I know that I won’t find it without You!”

I saw as clear as day a huge black cross break off from the Moon, fly down to me like a shadow and envelope me completely, I even straightened my shoulders. I smoked another cigarette and wondered what it was. Alright, I’m going home.

On the bedside table lies the book on Transurfing, I spread out on the bed, time to go to sleep, I switch out the light, and I’m almost asleep when I see the advert for P.D. Ouspensky. Why the hell didn’t you pay any attention to the advert before? Who’s to stop you finding that book online and reading it? Tomorrow is Sunday, you can sleep all day. Come on, get up, look for that book and read it, then you’ll know; if it’s just more rubbish you can throw it away and have done with it. You’re getting a Sign here, it’s always done this way in people’s lives, they always get Signs, but no one ever sees them. What did you study so much for? You’re forty-two now, and you started when you were fifteen. That means you’ve been studying twenty-seven years—and you still haven’t learned how to see the Signs? Alright—I see the Signs, stop yelling at me, I’ll get up and start reading, only I’ll go down and have a cigarette while the computer’s loading.

I found P.D. Ouspensky’s book, spent all night reading it, then all day, until I finished it. It was clear to me now—this is what I had been looking for.

But there’s nothing written in it about what to do, all that’s written in it is that it exists. But mustn’t there be people who know about it? There just can’t be. I just have to find these people now. The important thing is you can now picture what it is you are looking for, if only approximately.

I came across Lefort’s Teachers of Gurdjieff. Obviously it was all lies. Or perhaps not all of it? These so-called teachers couldn’t be teachers, because their ego shows through on every page. Picture the situation: You arrive hell knows where, you want to learn, you look for a teacher, and they start barking at you that you are total crap. You don’t need to go anywhere to find out that you are total crap—that much is clear. Then what was this book written for? To show you that in your city, not very far from your own home, there may be someone who knows The Path.

I came across the website of the so-called successors of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. The site is based in America but they have a branch in Moscow. There’s a book there, I read the whole thing and realize it isn’t just lies, it’s a load of crap, too. The person who wrote it, first off he’s a wuss, and second he’s a pervert. You have to look at the forum, but there it is: some pervert sitting there in America being fed from the spoon of another pervert. You wonder why people would go there, don’t they have eyes or something?

I went onto a site about Gurdjieff, there are a lot of books, music, videos, it’s full of photographs, but what else is there? There isn’t anything else. I came across another website, something to do with Islam. Dr Nurbakhsh is pretty decent, it seems like, and he has a lot of books. Shall we have a look at the things he writes? “A thousand years ago, the Sufis walked around in khirqahs.” The phrase “bullshit” comes to mind.

We move on to Hazrat Inayat Khan. Seems like kind and decent man, he’s written a lot of books. Alright, buy all of the books, let it be. You can read them in your old age while you’re looking at your roses.

Idries Shah. This guy knows what he’s talking about, I’m just not sure how to put it into practice, all his stuff is too intellectual. I’ll have to buy all his books, read them, get to grips with them. But where can I buy them? At the Enneagon publishing house.

Without a second thought, I put all the books they have in my shopping basket, I fly to Moscow and I buy them. I’ll figure out which books are worth reading, probably the ones with the cloth binding, and which I can use for firewood. What sort of forum do they have? Who’s arguing with who, and what about? They’re all arguing about something called dhikr, and whether you should read it in Russian or in Arabic. I don’t get this at all, what’s this “dhikr” and why would you read it at all? Ruslan Zhukovets has written an article about dhikr and they’re all arguing about it, it makes sense now. Now let’s read the article itself. And he’s right, if I read a name in Arabic, how will I even know what I’m reading? So why is everyone against him? Because they used to read it in Arabic before, and now they’re being told they have to read it in Russian and they can’t stomach it, so they’re all gabbing away. That’s another four books then—Ruslan Zhukovets—they probably have them on koob.ru, read them.

Ruslan knows what he’s talking about. If I were to start writing a book on welding, I’d write it like this too: clear, concise, and only what is absolutely necessary.

Why the hell did I come into this forum with my opinion? Who needs my opinion? Perhaps I took offence on behalf of Ruslan’s books? If you haven’t read them, why are you trying to pour scorn on them? What sort of crowd is this, all hung up on their Shah? And they call themselves “spiritual people.”

Father Polycarp is a spiritual person, I have no doubt about that. What did he say? “Why do you go on searching in the world’s garbage dump?”

You’re not spiritual at all, that’s why you’re arguing, fuming away, you want to hide your uselessness under a mask of intellect.

It only takes one Olsufiev to ruin everything. What did he tell me? “There are even more false disciples than there are false teachers. Idries Shah.”

What do you mean by this, Olsufiev? Why are you giving me such a hard time? Who do you think you are? Save your trashy words for all those illiterate and untranslatable writers. Don’t mess with me, it’s none of your damn business if I’m a false disciple or not!

Lapsan won’t rest, he also ruined everything. What did he tell me? Thank you for thinking so highly of me, believing I can improve myself, but I’m just the same as I ever was, and I’ll go on trying to spoil everything. Maybe you’re right, if I get an idea and expect it to happen it’s my problem, not yours. Reminds me of the penitentiary—you ask someone for a pen to write a letter and they tell you if you don’t have a pen it’s your problem, don’t put it on other people.

Apparently Alexei is a decent guy, but he writes too intellectually, I don’t understand it all. “Alexei, could you explain to me, what are Levels of Being? Do I understand correctly that they are life experience, social position, intellect, worldview, knowledge, literacy, and other things like that?” Alexei says, “All the things you have listed relate to one level only, and I would call that the level of bor-ing.”

Olsufiev dropped dead of heart trouble.