Book 3. The Space of Love (1998)
What to agree with, what to believe?
My meeting with Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin and my ac-quaintance with his amazing school took place after my second visit to Anastasia. After seeing this school I had virtually no lingering doubts about Anastasia’s pronouncements on raising children, or about the way she communicated with our son. But back there in the taiga everything within me had rebelled against her. I didn’t want to believe her. At least not everything she said.
As I write these lines I can hear many readers saying, either aloud or to themselves: “Come on, how could he possibly doubt? After all, there have been so many times he was obliged to concede that she was right, and still he carries on like an idiot, unable to perceive a new phenomenon!”
My daughter Polina sent me a videocassette from one of the readers’ conferences. I watched as a scholar from Novosibirsk by the name of Speransky declared right from the podium:
“Megre is incapable of fully grasping what Anastasia says. He hasn’t the brains for it.”
I do not feel offended by him — on the contrary, his whole talk was most interesting. The audience listened with bated breath, and thanks to him I have been able to comprehend that Anastasia is an Essence — a self-sufficient substance.
I myself have no expertise in such matters — I’ve been involved in a completely different line of work. But what about all those who are into studying Nature, or children — why have they been keeping so quiet, barely uttering a peep about what they know? And even children in their letters to me tell me I should be more attentive to what Anastasia says and does.
But I can respectfully assure my readers that I have indeed become much more attentive to her; nevertheless, I cannot refrain from arguing with her, or from doubting. I cannot refrain since I am unwilling to admit that I and our whole society are complete idiots. I am unwilling to believe that we are heading down a path of degeneration.
And so I am trying to find at least some justification for our actions. Or some reason for saying her world-view is not applicable to our modern way of life. And I shall go on trying as long as I have the strength to do so. After all, if I didn’t, I would have to own up not only to the fact that she is right but also to the terrifying situation you and I find ourselves in today And if we are going to admit the existence of a hell, then we ourselves are paving the road to that hell.
Let’s just take, for example, the matter of child-raising. I’m speaking not just for myself, but for all others in the same boat, and I think there are quite a few of us.
I was an average pupil in school; my father punished me every time I got a poor mark. It wasn’t just a matter of keeping me from playing outdoors with other kids, or buying some toy — it was more severe than that. And all this struck fear into me — a fear greater than the strap. I was always in fear of something bigger. And every time I stepped up to the chalkboard, it was like stepping up to the scaffold. And I used to tear pages out of my dnevnik...2
Marvellous schooldays still ringing —
Textbooks and notebooks and singing!
So fast and fleeting alack!
No one can now bring them back.
Will they then vanish without any trace?
No, none can ever their mern’ry erase.
Remember the words to that song they taught us to make us believe how marvellous our schooldays were? Brainwashing, brainwashing! But we also remember — especially us ‘average’ kids (and we’re the majority, after all) — how glad we were to chuck those hated schoolbags aside just as soon as the summer holidays began!
And just how marvellous can schooldays be for a child who has a physiological need to move around, when here he’s required to sit a whole forty-five minutes in a prescribed pose, arms neatly folded on his desk, without hardly moving a muscle? Sure, the slow and sluggish types can take it, but what about the child who is agile, temperamental and impulsive by nature? But under the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, it’s as though everybody were robots, no individuality — “Sit there, or else...”, the child is told.
And the little fellow sits there, trying to endure the forty-five minutes and then, after a ten-minute break, another
forty-five, then a month, a year, ten years, and the only way out is to give in. Most importantly, to resign himself to the fact that he will have to keep resigning himself to things his whole life long. He will have to live the way society dictates, marry the way society dictates, and go to war directly the order is given. He must unfailingly believe in anything he is told.
People who willingly resign themselves are very easy to control. Only it’s best if they’re physically healthy and up to all sorts of tasks. But then they start drinking and taking drugs. But doesn’t a Man do this to escape, even for a moment? Doesn’t he try to escape from his prison of utter subjection to something his heart and soul cannot possibly comprehend? They don’t, in fact, pass all that quickly, those schooldays — they drag out in torture periods of forty-five minutes each.
Our great-great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers believed — and we today believe — that that’s how it should be, that the child is basically ignorant, and that he must be forced into things for his own good. And so today our children, our Vanyas, Kolyas, Sashas and Mashenkas4 attend school too, and we today, just like our forefathers centuries ago, believe that we are sending them there for their own good, for knowledge and the Truth. This is where we must stop! Let’s think seriously about it.
Let us remember Russia in the pre-revolutionary days. Our great-grandfathers are sitting at their schooldesks, not yet grown-up children. They are taught religion, history and what kind of life they are supposed to lead. Those that don’t learn by rote — or are slow to grasp the proffered world-view the way they’re told to — get a sound drubbing on their hands or head from the teacher, Tor their own good’.
But then the revolution comes along, and all of a sudden adults acknowledge that what the schools have been teaching the children is rubbish and brainwashing. Everything old is thrown out of the classroom, and a new indoctrination takes its place: “Religion is sheer nonsense. Man is evolved from monkeys. Put on red scarves, form up in lines, read poetry and, above all, glorify communism.” And so the Pioneers glorify communism, read poetry at the top of their lungs and give honour to adults. “For our happy childhood we thank you, our native land.” And once more those who don’t try hard enough are subjected to deprivations, beatings and public condemnation.
But then, in our own era, before our very eyes, all of a sudden new directives are handed down: “Take off the red scarves. The Red Plague overcame us. Communism — that’s nothing but terror and hypocrisy. Man from monkeys? Sheer rubbish. We have a different progenitor now The Market! Democracy! This is Truth!”
Where the Truth is, and where false dogma — is still by no means clear. But children once again are sitting at their desks without so much as a stir. And over by the chalkboard still stands a teacher as strict as can be...
For ages children have been under the shadow of a ‘spiritual sadism’. Fike a ferocious beast, invisible and frightening, it tries to chase each newborn child as quickly as possible into a kind of invisible cage. The beast has some faithful soldier-allies — who are they? Who is spiritually scoffing at our children? Scoffing at every Man that comes into this world? What is their name? Their profession? What? — can we simply accept that their name is ‘schoolteacher’ or ‘parent’? An
educated parent, perhaps? There’s no way I can accept that right off — what about you?
Today in Russia teachers are not being paid their wages on time. The teachers are on strike. “We won’t teach the children,” they say. Tell me, is it good or bad when someone is not paid the wages owed them? Of course, it’s bad. After all, people need something to live on. But what if there are actually ‘spiritual sadists’ among those on strike? Now tell me, is it good or bad not to give money to those who scoff at your child?
Anyway, the teachers’ strikes gave me pause for some rather interesting reflection. Right now all the major cities have private schools, whose organisers select the most talented teachers and pay them a decent wage — in the neighbourhood of twice what they would get in regular schools. Not all parents manage to get their children into a private school, even if they have enough to pay for the tuition. Simply because there are not enough private schools to go round. And why aren’t there enough?
The answer is simple — because there aren’t enough good teachers. The founders of private schools can’t find them.
Another question. If they can’t find teachers even at a good salary, who are all those people on strike? Now there’s a question for you. Only please believe me, I’m in no way wishing, out of the whole cross-section of our society, to point the finger at teachers alone. When I speak about them I’m including myself too. After all, I’m one of them. I too, after all — as a parent — made my daughter study what she was taught in school, and then, when perestroika came along, I asked her: “What is your teacher telling you about history now?” — only to hear in reply: “The teacher talks, but it’s, like, he isn’t saying anything.” And what could I say to my daughter about that? So I simply advised her: “Well, don’t go philosophising about it. Just get on with your studies.”
Today we have strikes, but is it only the teachers? Doctors are on strike, so are miners, so are academic researchers. The strikers write on their placards: “Down with the government!” “Down with the president!” It’s all quite logical, according to the strikers. After all, if there’s no pay, it means the authorities are not carrying out their duties.
Everything in their demands seems logical to us today, but what about tomorrow? Again, a question to be answered. Perhaps it will come out tomorrow that the government and the president have been standing on the bright side all along, saving the whole Earth from invaders and vampires. Perhaps against their will, unwittingly, risking loss of power under a hail of malevolence by their refusal to give money to sadists and destroyers of people’s souls and bodies, as well as the Earth. And yet the latter have hysterically portrayed themselves as martyrs in the public’s eye.
Today it’s martyrs. In the context of today’s positions and dogma. But tomorrow there will be a different dogma, and who will be portrayed as what is not yet clear. Anastasia says:
“Everybody is choosing an unreliable path for themselves. They always get what is coming to them, not in the next life, but in this one. But with the dawn of each new day each one of us is given the opportunity to determine whether their path is true or not, and the choice is up to you! You are free to choose which path to take. You are a Man! Become consciously aware of what you really are! You are a Man, born to be in paradise.”
I asked her:
“Where is it, that paradise? Who’s been leading us into some kind of swamp?” And she replied:
“Man creates everything for himself.”
Just try to fathom what she said next! She was affirming, after all, that the time has now come for the speeding up of some kind of processes in the Universe. And those whose way of life does not correspond to the natural laws of being will be subjected to trials — at first in the most ordinary way — clear and understandable, and these trials will serve as a good sign for becoming consciously aware of their actions and the path they are following. For those who don’t manage to do this, more troubles will ensue, and then they will have to forsake life in order to be regenerated as healthy beings — but only after nine thousand years.
And it turns out, according to her, that miners tearing open the veins of the Earth, modern medical doctors thrusting themselves into genetic engineering, scientists inventing deadly products — all these have already been shown the first sign in the form of their rejection by society and their failure to achieve financial peace of mind. Those of them who possess material goods today suffer even more from lack of moral satisfaction, as they are subconsciously aware of how harmful their activity is and how it is bringing no real good to anyone.
I tried to object, arguing that coal was needed for factories, but she countered:
“What factories? The ones that smoke and burn up the air intended for Man to breathe, and turn out steel to make machine guns and bullets?”
In other words, she maintains that the system we have created to provide artificial conditions for life is so imperfect that all its present achievements will result in terrible cataclysms.
The ground that has been dug up beneath our large cities — where natural underground streams and pure springs
welling up from the depths of the Earth have been replaced by systems of pipes and taps — is unable to restore itself and is rotting away, bringing this rot along with the water into everyone’s taps. Anastasia went on:
“The time will come when mankind will understand. The most important scientists will come and pay a visit to the grandmother on her plot of land. Famished, they will ask her to give them a tomato for something to eat. The scientists and their illusory creations are not needed by that grandmother today She knows nothing of them herself, nor does she want to know. She lives a quiet life without the scientists’ help, while they cannot live without her. They inhabit a world of fruitless illusions, leading nowhere. She is with the natural earth and the whole Universe. The Universe needs her, it does not need them.”
I tried to object that, if we don’t produce weapons but only take care of the land, we’ll become weak, and risk being easily conquered by technologically advanced powers that do have weapons.
“They are having a problem protecting themselves from their own weapons!” replied Anastasia. ‘And from the social cataclysms these weapons engender.”
“Sure,” I said, “they will abandon everything and come after our grandmothers on their plots of land — come after your dachniks — with their machine-guns, and our grandmothers will have no machine-guns of their own to fight back.”
“But will they get that far? What do you think? Will they not fight to the death among themselves over our grandmothers?”7
So there you have it. If we’re not going to argue with Anastasia and simply trust what she says, then we have to
admit to ourselves that we’re complete idiots, nothing but fruit-hungry worms. That’s not something we’re willing to own up to!
So, not understanding, perhaps, everything in Anastasia, I am trying to find at least some sort of justification of what we have been creating in our world. And should I not be able to find any reasonable justification, should I be obliged to admit that the path we are following is completely untenable, then... And what then? Let’s think about it a bit. Perhaps we should give our children the freedom to grow up without our dogma. And then ask the children where and which way we should go.
Anastasia talks about how children whom we have not corrupted spiritually will find the way to winning salvation for both themselves and us or, rather, to attain the paradise given us right from the beginning.
It turns out everything in our world is simple, yet not so simple. Why — tell me — why not extend the experience of Academician Shchetinin’s school to other places? Why not set up at least one such school in every major city? Well, it’s not all that simple, it turns out. I asked Shchetinin to set up such a school in Novosibirsk, and he agreed. But who is going to provide the space? A good question. I asked Shchetinin:
‘And what if people can be found in other cities to set up a foundation, would you be able to organise at least one such school in various cities?”
“It’s impossible to settle everything right away, Vladimir.”
“We shan’t be able to find that many teachers for all the schools.”
And again the thought: What’s this about there not being enough teachers?! Who are all those people out on strike?
Academician Shchetinin’s school is a regular government- supported institution, it’s not a private school. It comes under
the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation and does not charge tuition fees.8 But why is it located far away in the mountains, in a ravine? Why? And why was there an attempt on Academician Shchetinin’s life? And why was his brother killed? And why do the Cossacks9 help guard the school? Who doesn’t like this school? Who is it interfering with?
I was invited to a meeting with the Education Committee of the State Duma.10 Officials there had read the first two books — Anastasia and The Ringing Cedars of Russia. And there were people on the Duma Education Committee who shared and understood Anastasia’s views. Good people. I told them about Shchetinin — they know him very well, and have great respect for him.
“Then what’s the problem?” I asked. “Why is nothing changing in the educational system in this country? Children are suffering as they did before — every time they step up to the chalkboard it’s like going to the scaffold. And they still sit at their desks without stirring.”
I was saddened by their response, which, unfortunately, has tragic consequences for those who are still children today Paradoxically, it is the teachers, the teachers themselves who have turned out to be an insurmountable barrier, as I heard and understood this gruesome reply:
“What would become, tell me, of the whole raft of academic titles and degrees, the countless dissertations on the subject of child-raising? What would become of our research institutes? After all, they’ve worked out a whole system. The machinery has been set in motion, and its flywheel can’t be stopped with the wave of a wand. Anyone who has defended a doctoral thesis, especially one who has achieved professorial rank, is going to stick as hard as he can to his own views.” I also learnt how a woman member of the Duma lamented after visiting Shchetinin’s school:
“I don’t understand anything that’s going on in that school. It’s quite out of the ordinary — something like a sect.”
I wasn’t aware of the specific meaning of the word sect (Russian: sekta). Later I looked up the definitions in the dictionary, which read as follows:
Sekta (Sect) — from Latin secta — teaching, movement, school.
1. A religious community or group which has cut itself off from the prevailing church.
2. An isolated group of people absorbed in their own
narrow group interests.
It is not clear in what sense the Duma member was using this word, but I feel neither definition is really applicable to Shchetinin’s school. And if it has indeed cut itself off, has it cut itself off from the good or the bad? I think, if it has cut itself off at all, then it has detached itself from the sadistic treatment of children. As for the Duma, as long as its members make such statements, I have nothing to say. Let readers themselves consider whether and in what measure the second definition quoted above applies to certain factions in the Duma: ‘An isolated group of people absorbed in their own narrow group interests”. Does that mean they’re a sect?
Shchetinin was shot at. But he is a man. Now the Cossacks, perhaps, will help to some degree. And Anastasia promised to protect the ‘new shoots’. Now I realise it would be better for her not to come out of her taiga, at least for the time being. If she were just slightly more aggressive, she could easily zap dissertations, academic titles and all sorts of rot with her ray But no way! ‘A gentler approach,” she says, “is needed. People’s consciousness needs changing.”
Anyway, here I’ve gone and written down my thoughts about child-raising and our modern schools, only they’ve come out rather chaotic, not very sincere. Not very sincere, since if I were to describe how I really feel about our schools I’d have to resort to some pretty foul language. But my style of writing has somehow changed after my talks with Anastasia. There are a lot of words that simply wouldn’t fit in.
I would still like to say a word to all those teachers who have been able in spite of the system to impart to their children even a smidgen of good and, as Shchetinin says, “enrol them in the natural cosmic process”. Thank you! Along with my deepest respect!
And there’s another thing I have learnt from what Anastasia says about child-raising — namely, that first and foremost comes the conscious awareness of the child as an individual. By comparison with us adults youngsters are, of course, physically weaker, but at the same time immeasurably kinder than we are, unsullied, not bound by dogma. And before we go filling children’s heads with any kind of moralising, we need to understand something about the world ourselves. Ourselves! We need to think things through ourselves! And to forget about somebody else’s dogma, at least for a time.
As for us entrepreneurs, we too have to somehow seek out teachers in each city, help create foundations for the schools where we shall be teaching our children and grandchildren.