Book 1. Anastasia (1996)
The highest evaluation of your personality comes from those around you.
Anastasia talked a lot about the people we call entrepreneurs, about their influence on public spirituality, and then took a twig and drew a circle on the ground. Inside it she drew many little circles, with a dot in the middle of each one. Off to the side there were more circles. It was like a map of the planets around the Earth, and she kept adding still many more little circles inside, and said:
“The large circle is the Earth — a planet inhabited by people. The little circles are small groups of people, linked together into collectives. The dots are the people in charge of these collectives. The way these heads relate to the people in their group, what they make them do, what kind of psychological climate they create through their influence will determine whether the people around them fare well or poorly. If the majority fare well, a bright ray emanates from each of them and from the group as a whole. If poorly, then the ray is dark.” And Anastasia shaded in some of the circles, making them dark. “Naturally, their inner state is influenced by many other factors as well, but in the space of time during which they are in this group, the principal thing is their interrelationship with the person in charge. For the Universe it is very important that a bright radiance should emanate from the Earth. The radiance of the light of love and good. This is mentioned in the Bible, as well: ‘God is love5.
“I feel sorry, very sorry, for the people you call entrepreneurs. They are the most miserable of all. I would so much like to help them, but it is difficult for me to do that all by myself.”
“You’re mistaken, Anastasia. The most miserable people in our society are the pensioners, people who can’t find work, can’t afford a roof over their heads, or even food or clothing. An entrepreneur is someone who has all these things in greater abundance than other people. He has access to pleasures which others can’t even dream about.”
“What specifically, for example?”
“Well, even if you take the average entrepreneur, he will have a modern car and apartment. He will not have any problems with food and clothing.”
‘And what about joy? What does he find satisfaction in? Come and see for yourself.”
Once again Anastasia led me to the grass and, like the first time, when she showed me the woman dachnik, she began to show me other scenes.
“You see? There he is, sitting right now in a car you would call pretty snazzy You see — he’s sitting alone in the back seat, and the car is air-conditioned — it has its own micro-climate, so to speak. His chauffeur is driving it very smoothly. But look and see how worried and pensive the entrepreneur sitting in the back seat is — he is thinking, working out plans, he is afraid of something. See — he has picked up what you call a telephone. He is upset... Yes, he has just received some news... Now he must quickly evaluate the situation and make a decision. He is all tensed up... Thinking. Now he is ready, the decision has been made. Now look, look — he appears to be sitting peacefully, but his face betrays doubt and concern. And there is no joy”
“That’s work, Anastasia.”
“That is away of life, and there is no respite in it from the moment he wakes in the morning until the moment he goes to bed at night, or even in his sleep. And he sees neither the leaves unfolding on the trees nor the streams of spring.
‘All around him are perennially envious onlookers, desiring to have what he has. His attempts to fence himself off from these by what you call bodyguards, a house — more of a citadel, actually — do not bring any complete sense of peace, since fear and worry have crept in and will forever remain with him.
“This goes on until his dying day and just before the end of his life, he feels a sense of regret that he is obliged to leave it all behind.”
‘An entrepreneur has his joys,” I observed. “They come when he obtains a desired result, or fulfils a plan he’s thought up.”
“Not true, Vladimir. He never gets to enjoy his acquisitions, since along comes another plan immediately to take its place — a more complicated plan, and the whole process begins again from scratch, only with greater challenges.”
This forest princess painted me a rather sad and gloomy picture of our outwardly well-off social class, and this was not a picture I felt like accepting. I attempted a counter-argument:
“You forget, Anastasia, their ability to reach a set goal and obtain the good things in life, excited glances from women, respect by people around them.”
To which she replied:
“Sheer illusion. There is nothing of the sort. Where have you ever seen a respectful or an excited glance directed at a passenger in a snazzy car or at the owner of the fanciest house in town? Not a single person will confirm what you have just said. These are but glances of envy, indifference and irritation. And even women cannot love these people, because their feeling is mixed in with their desire to possess not only the man but his property too. The men, in turn, cannot really love a woman, for there is no way they can free up enough room for such an important feeling.”
It was useless to look for further arguments, since what she said could be confirmed or refuted only the people she was talking about. As an entrepreneur myself, I never really thought about what Anastasia was describing, never analysed how many minutes of joy I actually experienced, and most certainly could not do this for anyone else. For some reason it is simply not accepted in entrepreneurs’ circles to whine or complain — everyone tries to show himself as successful and content with life.
This is no doubt why most people hold the stereotype image of the entrepreneur as someone who has received more than his share of good things in life. Anastasia was perceiving not the externally expressed feelings, but those which are more delicate and hidden in the inner recesses of one’s heart. She was measuring a person’s state of well-being by the amount of light she could detect in them. As to the scenes and situations she was able to see, I felt I was picturing them more from listening to her. I mentioned this to Anastasia, and she responded:
“I shall help you now. It is simple. Close your eyes, lie down on the grass, hands out to the sides, and relax. Picture in your mind the whole Earth, try to see its colour and the pale bluish glow emanating from it. Then narrow the focus of your imagination’s ray so that it does not take in the whole Earth. Rather, make it narrower and narrower until you see concrete details. Look for people where the bluish light is stronger than in other places. Keep on narrowing your ray and you will eventually focus on one person, or a small group. Now try again, with my help.”
She took me by the hand, ran her fingers along mine, resting her fingertips in my palm. The fingers of her other hand, which was lying on the grass, were pointed upward. I went through in my mind all the steps she outlined, and began to get a fuzzy image of three people sitting at a table engaged in a lively conversation. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, as I wasn’t picking up any voices at all.
“No,” said Anastasia, “those are not entrepreneurs. Wait a moment, we shall find some.”
She searched and searched with her ray, peering into offices both large and small, private clubs, party celebrations and bordellos... The bluish glow was either very weak or not there at all.
“Look — it is night-time here already, and this entrepreneur is sitting alone in a smoky office. Something is not right... But look at that one, how contented he looks, in a swimming pool, surrounded by pretty girls. He is tipsy, but there is no glow. He is simply trying to run away from something, his feeling of self-satisfaction is artificial...
“This one is at home. There is his wife, and his little one is asking him something... The telephone is ringing... You see there, he has become serious again, and pushed his family to the background...”
All sorts of situations became illuminated one after another, some of them outwardly good and some not so good... until we happened upon a most frightening scene. All at once appeared a room, probably in some apartment, quite nice-looking, but...
On a round table lay a naked man, his hands and feet tied to the table legs, his head hanging over, his mouth covered with brown sticky tape. At the table were sitting two burly-looking youths — one of them with a close-shaven head, the other with smooth, slick hair. A little distance away, under a floor lamp, there was a young woman in an arm-chair. Her mouth was also taped over, and she was tied to the chair with her linen sash bound tight around her waist. Both her legs were tied to the chair legs. She was wearing nothing but a torn undergarment. Next to her was sitting a thin, wiry man who was taking a drink of something, possibly cognac. On a small table in front of him lay a chocolate bar. The youths sitting at the round table weren’t drinking. I could see them pouring some kind of liquid over the chest of the man lying on the table — vodka, or pure alcohol, and set it alight. A break-in, I surmised.
Anastasia shifted her ray away from this scene. But I cried out: “Go back! Do something!”
She went back to the scene and replied:
“I cannot. It has already happened. This cannot be stopped now. It should have been stopped earlier, but now it is too late.”
I watched spellbound and suddenly got a clear glimpse of the woman’s eyes, filled with sheer horror and not even pleading for mercy “Do something!” I cried to Anastasia. “If you have any heart at all, do at least something!”
“It is not within my power. Everything has been, so to speak, programmed in advance, but not by me. I cannot interfere directly. They have the upper hand right now.”
“But where’s that goodness of yours — your powers?”
Anastasia didn’t say a word. The horrifying scene began to blur a little. Then the older man who had been drinking the cognac suddenly disappeared.
All at once I felt a weakness throughout my body.
I could also feel the arm Anastasia was touching start to grow numb. I could hear her somewhat weakened voice say, with evident difficulty in getting out the words:
“Take your hand away, Vladi—.” She couldn’t even finish saying my name.
I stood up, and drew my hand away
My arm just hung there as if paralysed (as happens sometimes when you get a tingling sensation in your arms or legs) and went completely white. Then I wiggled my fingers a little and the numbness began to go away
I looked at Anastasia in shock. Her eyes were closed. The blush had drained from her cheeks and it seemed as though there was not a drop of blood left under the skin on her hands and face.
She did not even seem to be breathing as she lay there. The grass for about three metres all around her had also become white and bent over. I realised something terrible had happened and cried out:
‘Anastasia! What’s happened to you, Anastasia?”
But there was not even the slightest response to my cry Then I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her body, which was no longer supple but had somehow gone limp. There was no response — her completely white, bloodless lips remained silent.
“Can you hear me, Anastasia?!”
She opened her eyelids ever so slightly and looked at me through her dimmed eyes, which had lost all their characteristic expression. I grabbed a flask of water, lifted up Anastasia’s head and tried to give her something to drink, but she was unable to swallow. I looked at her, feverishly wondering what to do.
At long last she managed to move her lips just a tiny bit and to whisper:
“Carry me over there... to the tree.”
I lifted her limp body and carried it out of the circle of whitened grass, and laid it down by the nearest cedar tree. In a little while she started to come round, and I asked:
“What happened to you, Anastasia?”
“I tried to fulfil your request,” she quietly said, and a moment later added: “I think I succeeded.”
“But you look so bad — you almost died!”
“I violated the natural laws. I interfered in something I should not have. That required all my strength and energy. I am surprised that they held out at all.”
“Why did you take such a risk, if you knew it was so dangerous?”
“I had no choice. After all, you wanted me to do something. I was afraid that if I did not fulfil your request, you would lose all respect
for me. You would think that all I can do is talk, that I am all words... And that I could not do anything in real life.”
Her eyes looked at me enquiringly and pleadingly Her soft voice trembled a little as she spoke.
“But I cannot explain to you how to do it, how this natural system works. I feel it, but I cannot explain to you in a way you could understand, and your scholars, probably, will not be able to explain it either.”
She bowed her head, fell silent for a while, as though mustering her strength. Then she looked at me once more with pleading eyes and said:
“Now you are going to be even more persuaded that I am abnormal, or a witch.”
All at once I felt the tremendous urge to do something good for her, but what? I wanted to tell her that I did consider her a normal human being, a beautiful and intelligent woman, but in all honesty I didn’t feel about her the way I usually felt about women, and she with that intuition of hers would not believe me.
And then I suddenly recalled her story about how her great-grandfather customarily greeted her as a child. About how this old greyhaired fellow would stand on one knee before the little Anastasia and kiss her hand. I got down on one knee before Anastasia, grasped hold of her still pale and slightly cold hand, kissed it and said:
“If you are indeed abnormal, then you are the best, the kindest, the cleverest and the most beautiful of all abnormal people ever!”
At long last a smile once more alighted upon Anastasia’s lips, and her eyes looked at me in gratitude. A rosy blush was coming back to her cheeks.
‘Anastasia, that was quite a depressing scene. Did you choose it deliberately?”
“I was looking for something good, just as an example, but I could not find anything. They are all held in the grip of their worries and cares. They are constantly facing their problems all alone. They have practically no spiritual communication.”
“So what can be done? What can you suggest, apart from pitying them? And I should tell you: these are strong people, these entrepreneurs.”
“Very strong,” she agreed, “and most interesting. It is as though they are living two lives in one. One life is known only to them and not even their family, while the other is the outward life, which people around them see. They can only be helped through increasing their sincere, spiritual communication with each other. They need to strive, with complete sincerity, for purity of thought.”
‘Anastasia, in all probability I shall try to do what you have asked. And I shall try to write a book, and establish an organisation of entrepreneurs with pure thoughts, but only in a way that I can understand.”
“It will be difficult for you. I shall not be able to offer you sufficient help, I have little strength left. It will take a long time for my strength to recover. For a time I shall not be able to see at a distance with my ray. I am having difficulty seeing you right now with my ordinary eyesight.”
“Don’t tell me you’re going blind, Anastasia!”
“I think it will all get better. Only it is a pity that for some time I shall not be able to help you.”
“You don’t need to help me, Anastasia. Just try to keep yourself for your son and help other people.”
Soon began to distance itself from the diminutive figure of the taiga recluse standing all alone in the shallow water near the riverbank.
All at once Anastasia rushed out of the water and started running along the bank after the boat.
Her long hair, trailing behind her from the headwind, looked like a comet’s tail. She tried to run very fast, probably using up all her remaining strength in an effort to do the impossible — catch up to a speeding motorboat. But even she wasn’t up to that. The distance between us gradually increased. I started feeling sorry for her fruitless efforts. Wanting to shorten the difficult moments of parting, I pushed down on the gas lever with all my might.
Then the thought flashed through my head that Anastasia might think that I had taken fright once more and was running away.
The motor, now roaring in bursts, lifted the boat’s bow out of the water, making it speed forward faster and faster, and increasing the distance between us even more.
As for her... Oh Lord! What was she doing?
Anastasia ripped off the wet skirt that was slowing her down and cast aside her torn clothes. She increased her tempo, and the incredible happened: the distance between her and the boat gradually began to decrease.
On the path ahead of her loomed a steep slope, leading to an almost vertical drop-off. Continuing to press the gas lever to the limit, I thought that the incline would stop her in her tracks and bring this difficult episode to a quick end.
But Anastasia continued her headlong rush, occasionally stretching out her arms in front of her, as though using them to sense the space ahead.
Could it be that her eyesight had become so poor that she couldn’t see the slope?
Without slowing down in the least, Anastasia ran straight up the slope. Reaching the top, she fell on her knees, threw up her arms toward the sky, turned slightly in my direction, and began shouting something. I could hear her voice over the wild roar of the motor and the noise of the waves. I heard as though in a whisper:
“There are sha-a-allows ahe-e-ad, sha-a-allows, su-u-unken lo-o-ogs!”
I quickly jerked my head forward, not fully able to grasp what was happening, and gave such a hard pull on the rudder that the lower side of the sharply tilted boat almost submerged to the point of taking on water.
A huge sunken log, one end grounded in a sandbar, the other barely visible on the surface, lightly scraped against the side of the speeding boat. If it had been a direct hit, it would easily have torn a gaping hole in the thin aluminium bottom.
Once out in mid-channel, I turned to glance at the cliff and whispered in the direction of the lonely figure standing on her knees, which was slowly being transformed into a vanishing dot:
“Thank you, Anastasia!”