Porfiry Ivanov was a simple person – as simple as a mystic can be at all. He completed four grades of a church parish school, and didn’t have any other education. His memoirs are written without punctuation marks and capital letters – practically in one line. According to Gurdjieff’s classification, Ivanov belongs to the category of “stupid saints” – when a person has a high level of personal being, but a low level of understanding of what has happened to him and is happening to him. For example, a person follows a certain Way, receiving knowledge about its stages and the experience of passing through them. In the ideal, the level of a person’s being must correspond with the level of his knowledge – about himself, God, the Way and the world. Ivanov had a level of personal being that was very high, but had no knowledge of what was happening with him. The descent of Grace on a person does not at all imply the obtaining by him of the fullness of the Truth. Porfiry went through a transformation and acquired a message which he had to bring to people, but that did not bring him a clear understanding of what in fact had happened with him.
The lack of understanding of what is happening is on the whole very characteristic both for people who have passed through spontaneous transformation as well as for those who can be called “spontaneous mystics.” Thus, I call people whose perception somewhat goes beyond the usual bounds and therefore they see, hear and feel certain things connected with other levels of Reality. One of them might see energy; one of them receives messages; almost all of them have vivid, sometimes even prophetic dreams. Sometimes visions come to them regarding the essence of their lives, and also information comes about their mission. As a rule, this mission is quite exalted and honorable and other experiences are most often related to something majestic and divine. I have seen quite a few such “mystics,” and listening to their revelations is pure torture. They regard their experiences completely uncritically, preferring to consider themselves chosen by God or – at least – to be quite unusual people. Even if it is not pronounced aloud, it is definitely implied. They are bursting with the awareness of their uniqueness and very interested in the nature of their own “gift,” and they possess a very developed and inflated spiritual ego. Even so, they have no understanding at all of what is happening with them, and as a rule don’t want to understand it. As a rule, they are not ready to renounce their aberrations of perception, because it is unacceptable for them to become ordinary. People with fairly good spiritual potential and actual subtle perception most often become “spontaneous mystics,” but it begins to serve them as a compensation for an inferiority complex, creating great “spiritual” experiences out of small glimpses of perception.
Therefore, the mind gets into the act, and all kinds of visions and internal hallucinations, and also night dreams of their own grandeur become essentially constant. Often, a “vision” is revealed to them, thanks to which they begin to judge the state of those around them. “Spontaneous mystics” are practically untrainable, because they place their “perception” and their specialness above any knowledge, unless it enables them to imagine even more of themselves. They are loners, but they love the society of others like them in which they can share their “experience” and sing praises to one another. From practices and books they take only what they like and what enables them to acquire great power; therefore they all love energy exercises and performing magic. They differ from real spontaneous mystics by a lack of real change of being, a lack of real transformation. They are involved in endless beautification and strengthening of the ego, but nothing else, essentially, happens with them.
Porfiry Ivanov was a real spontaneous mystic, but he had no knowledge of transformation. He also had no knowledge how other people may reach such a state, because he simply didn’t the road to it. Sudden transformation is a good thing, but he who has experienced it cannot bring others to it, because he himself doesn’t know how he came to it. Nevertheless, Porfiry had a message, although that very lack of understanding of his own situation could not help but leave its mark.
Not long before his death, in 1982, Ivanov first published his so-called twelve recommendations or commandments, his “Child” [Detka]. By following it, a person can be healed of diseases and in general, become much more healthy. Its name comes from the address with which it begins: “Child” [Detka], you are full of desire to bring use to the whole Soviet people building communism. For this, you must try to be healthy.” The years spent in prisons and hospitals taught Ivanov how to deliver his message with the “right” words.
The first time he was detained was in 1935, when he propagandized his teaching ( we don’t know in what form it was expressed then) at a market in Rostov. He was then sent to a hospital, to the ward for the violently mentally ill, where the diagnosis of schizophrenia was then made. Apparently, Porfiry protested seriously against such treatment of him when detained. It must be said that subsequently, he behaved like a classic insane person, first trying to get to the Congress of People’s Deputies in order to explain his system to them, then trying to send letters to Stalin. On the one hand, such behavior can be considered a pure manifestation of insanity. On the other hand, imagine a person upon whom a higher mission has suddenly fallen, which outright demands fulfilment and realization. When a person knows that he can help people and that he must do this at any price. Of course, the easiest method would be to bring the government over to his side. Hence, by the way, the possible change in the concept of the message, with an accent on getting healthy. Many mystics imbued with a certain higher mission try either to befriend the government or even try to take it into their own hands. Thus, prophets, for example, would behave. By contrast with them, Ivanov’s mission seems trivial, but that doesn’t mean that for him it didn’t become the cause of his whole life and its entire meaning.
When the Will of God is manifested to you, it is very hard to refuse to obey it, or to be more precise – it is practically impossible. The Will doesn’t leave you a choice, which there is, for example, in the case of the possibility of making a step toward Surrender or refusing to do so. The impulse of Will burns you from inside, not giving you rest until you do what is required. The same thing happens with a message – the mystic must bring it to people, doing everything possible for this. The awareness of the importance of his mission and the very impulse of the message imbues the mystic with a power that helps him overcome various types of attacks connected with its dissemination. And when a person becomes “an unwilling mystic,” he can hardly get by without illogical and even stupid acts. As for schizophrenia, in the last years of his life, when Ivanov ceased to be persecuted, he continued to say strange things, which sounded unusual to atheists, but which were quite comprehensible to those who were at least a little acquainted with mystical practices and experiences. Madness can be interpreted in both ways. To someone, words about someone being a conduit of God’s Will might seem crazy, but someone else, it might be precise instructions how to celebrate the year of the Red Fire Monkey. Each person decides for himself how crazy this world is and the specific people in it.