Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Doukhobor Ideas

I received a lovely package in the mail this week from my cousin Peter in Canada. I reconnected with this branch of my Russian family last year. He sent me a calendar and a magazine commemorating 100 years of Doukhobor presence in Canada.

It has been quite a journey to learn more about my Doukhobor heritage. The more I learn about basic Doukhobor beliefs, the more I am amazed at how similar they are to my own belief system. I've written before that I find it amazing that I could have no 'conscious' exposure to Doukhobor ideology in my past, and yet have come to many conclusions in my own spiritual quest that are present in the Doukhobor belief system.

In the magazine he sent me, there are two aritcles that I'd like to share. One is called "Who Are the Doukhobors?" I'll share a part of that first. I resonate deeply with many of the concepts expressed in it.

The second is an article entitled, "Be Devout: Fundamental Doukhobor Psalm." I'd like to share it here, because so much of it represents the beliefs that I have come to in my own spiritual quest.

Who Are the Doukhobors?

In 1785, Archbishop Ambrosius of the Russian Orthodox Church referred to a group of Russian religious dissidents as "Doukho-bortsi." The term means Spirit Wrestlers - he intended it as a derogatory label, meaning thse people were struggling against the Spirit of God. However, they adopted the name, saying: "We are Spirit Wrestlers because we wrestle with and for the Spirit of God against those things which are evil." They had come to the belief that in struggling for a better life they would use only the spiritual power of love rather than any form of violence paying heed to the biblical maxim: 'Resist not evil."

The Doukhobors base their religious philosophy on two commandments: "Recognize and love God with all they heart, mind and soul;" and "Love they neighbor as thyself."

"What is God?" they are asked.

"God is a word, God is spirit, God is love. WHere there is love, there is God."

"What is a soul?"

"The soul is the reflection of God'[s spirit in that person."

The Doukhobors understand Jesus Christ to have lived and died in the flesh. He arose in spirit and continues to arise in those people who follow his teachings. This is the resurrection.

Inspired by the high ideals and dynamic leadership of Peter V. Verigin the Doukhobors made a decisive stand against militarism and all forms of violence. "War," they believe, "is incompatible with Christianity."

On June 29, 1895 about 7,000 Doukhobors burned all their weapons in a decisive demonstration of pacifism - to kill another being is to kill the spirit of God within that person.

The Doukhobor stand against killing coupled with their stand against military service and the oath of allegiance met with harsh oppression by the Czarist State and Church authorities. This extreme persecution attracted worldwide attention and with the help of humanitarians such as Lev Tolstoy, Vladiir Chertkov and their collegues and contacts in arrangmenet with Clifford Sifton; Canadian Minister of the Interior, some 7,500 Doukhobors were able to immigrate to Canada in 1899 as suitable immigrants to develop the area then known as Assiniboia in the Northweat Territories.

Their agrarian communal society was a glowing tribute to their slogan "Toil and Peaceful Life."

Be Devout: Fundamental Doukhobor Psalm

Be devout, trust in God. Love Him with all your heart. Be zealous towards His holy church. All His Commandments sacredly revere and observe. Follow the path of virtue; shun all vice. Be prudent. Having in mind the end, always maintain the right perception of your means.

Do not idly let go by an occasion for worthy deeds. Do not embark on any venture without careful deliberation, and in your reasoning do not hurry. Be not tardy, except only under special circumstances and occasions. Do not believe everything you hear. Do not desire everything you see.

Do not proceed to do everything you are able to. Do not proclaim everything you know, but only that which should be proclaimed. That which you do not know, do not affirm, nor deny; best of all - enquire; then wilt thou be discreet.

Bed temperate. Do not partake of food without hunger. Without thirst, do not drink, and that only in small quantities when required. Avoid drunkenness as you would Hades. Intemperence begets sickness, sickness brings death. The abstemious live healthily and in continuous well-being.

Be meet, not arrogant - keeping more to silence than to talkativeness. When someone is speaking - keep quiet. When someone is addresing you - pay attention. When someone is relaying orders to you - fulfil them, and do not boast. Do not be obstinate, quarrelsome or vain. To all be affable, to none be a flatterer. Be thou also righteous.

Do not desire anything belonging to others; do not steal, but in whatsoever you may have need, seek it through your labor. In poverty ask for help; when it is given, accept it and be thankful. Whatsoever you ahve borrowed - return; whatsoever you have promised - fulfill.

Be courageous, always willing to labor. Leave off all idleness and laziness. If you wish to start some project, measure well your strength in nadvance, then proceeed without letting up. In adversity, do not lose hope; in prosperity, do not morally deteriorate. Hold thriftiness in esteem. Keep careful observation of the different occurrences in life of inconstancy, misfortune and sorrow.

Over that which the patient forbear, the fainhearted sigh, lament and wail. Be benevolent and gravious. Give to him that asketh of thee, if though hast; help the poor, if thou canst. If anyone has hurt thee - forgive him; if thou hast hurt anyone - reconcile thyself with him. It is very commendable to refrain from holding grudges. Forgive the sinner; accede to the reconciler. If you yourslef will love your fellow man, you shall in turn be loved by all people. Be thou also obedient to elders, compainionable to equals, and courteous to subordinates. Greet those whom you meet; return the greeting of those who greet you.

To the enquirer, give answer; to the ignorant, give advice; to the sorrowing, give comfort. Do not envy anyone. Wish well to all. Serve each and all as much as you are able to. With your good deeds you shall please all people. Your friends shall love you, and your enemies will not be able to hate you. Always speak the truth; never lie. Observe all this, and good fortune shall always be your lot.

Glory to God!

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