The Life of Maximilian Voloshin • Poet of the Inner Revolution
I don’t take sides, I favour nobody.
I am a voice of springs inside me
written by Alla Levitan, Tatiana Bobkova and Richard Payment, with translations by Serhiy Haletko and Natasha Levitan
Maximilian Voloshin was a great poet. He was an artist, a visionary, a man insight who stood as one in his allegiance with Truth.
Voloshin is today unknown in the West, untranslated. He is forgotten in a time when neither the artist or the poet are held in esteem, when truth is misunderstood.
Maximilian Voloshin’s clear understanding of the human condition enabled him to see past the thick illusion of events of his own Russian nation – the revolution and civil war that lead to the creation of the Soviet Union.
Voloshin developed a “spiritual and religious world vision” of “a single world witnessing from which everything radiated.”
In self-knowledge and art, Voloshin always chose “the most reasonable way: make oneself an artist, personally experience and realize the differences.”
He clearly sensed the moment of his realization of spiritual essence and his link to the Absolute. “Something has happened.. I have never been so overwhelmed with joy, strength and confidence..., a feeling of joy, strength and completeness of existence, comprehension of a hidden spiritual sense ... when the heart opens.”
It was his spiritual and religious perception of the world that helped Voloshin to develop divine principles of purity and innocence, devotion, resiliency – drawn primarily from his attitude to the Earth:
Temptations, weaknesses at times.
Despite all that, whenever I
Faded in sorrow and delight,
My light has never gone out.
Maximilian Voloshin did not take sides. He stood as one with the Truth.
SEEKING THE HUMAN TRUTH: reborn at the century’s turn
Born in Kiev in 1877, on Whit Monday when the Earth is said “to celebrate Her birthday,” Voloshin spent much of his youth in Crimea, a land of many cultures, fabled as far back as even the ancient Greeks in the songs of Homer.
From childhood he was noted for his remarkable memory and eagerness to perceive reality – “to see, understand, know and experience everything.” He started writing verses as early as secondary school and became extremely demanding of himself. Voloshin’s distinctive way of thinking allowed him to realize at an early age that the existing educational system was not a source of true knowledge. “None of the ideas or bits of knowledge have ever been picked up from either a secondary school or university,” he observed.
Voloshin’s destiny was favourable to his spiritual seeking. At the age of sixteen he moved to the Crimea, to Koktebel, a place that he later identified as a “true motherland of his spirit.” At this young age, Voloshin developed a “new attitude of a European to Earth and human beings,” realizing the Divine Nature of the Mother Earth:
Is not difficult to realize.
A seedlet that brings forth a life,
A secret of blossom, for instance,
In plants and in stones – everywhere,
In mountains and clouds above them,
In beasts and in starlets up there
I hear the singing of flame....
I’m kneeling down to kiss the ground,
The night wraps everything around,
My lips are feeling it is close,
The wormwood-scented breast of Yours,
Oh, Mother Earth!
In later years, the young Voloshin studied law in Moscow, a time he called a “futile and fruitless search.” “We are,” he wrote, “in a jail of discovered spaces. The spirit chokes in the old world’s embraces.”
As a result of his voice in student protests, Voloshin was sent in exile in remote regions of the Russian Empire in Middle Asia. This perhaps was a blessing. In a caravan of camels, he travelled the deserts, absorbing the cultures of the East. This banishment to Middle Asia brought to him an acquaintance with Asia and the Orient which was, as Voloshin admits, “crucial for his spiritual life.” He was gifted a realization of his own spiritual essence. He sensed “the antiquity and relativity of European culture.” At twenty-seven years, Voloshin now considered the turn of the century as “the year of his spiritual birth.”
Born in the spirit,
Right at the turn of the century?...
I found myself in the heart of Asia
Wisely interned there by destiny?
These years established the bedrock of his spirituality, which sprouted within him as an intense seeking in Paris in about 1900. There to study art, he found instead frustration amid the fruitless bounty of his teachers and their blinkered students. But from this came a realization of his spiritual essence. “It was a sense of desert – that breadth and balance that a human soul is given when it returns to its original motherland.”
His acquaintance with the Orient helped him to see the scantiness of European knowledge, true and imaginary values of European civilization. Later Voloshin mentioned that during his studies in the West he was “only a sponge absorbing everything through eyes and ears.” Travelling around Europe for many years Voloshin mastered the art of the paintbrush and pencil, as well as the art of the word.
Maximilian Voloshin got to know the entire European culture in its origin and then he screened off all that was “European” so that only the “human” remained. After that, he turned to other civilizations – India and China – to learn and “seek after the Truth.” An opportunity to come closer to the Orient in its origins – Buddhism – was the first religious step for Voloshin. In the “wanderings of his spirit,” he was trying to find the single religion that would embody the highest and all-permeating spirituality, a culture with internal integrity, harmony and balance in all parts, excluding contradictions between individual and society, belief and knowledge, mind and emotions. Voloshin was familiar with an Oriental system of the universe and believed in the existence of many gods, although he admitted that he could not think of his spirit outside Christ.
Touring Europe, Voloshin began to realize the role of the Mother in spiritual transformation. He wrote about Mary’s presence at the crucifixion of Jesus. “To the right of the cross there is the Mother and a lancebearer, to the left – John and a spongebearer.”
WAR AND REVOLUTION: I am in everyone
Voloshin’s concentration on the Divine and his understanding of differences between eternal and non-eternal existence helped him not only to preserve the purity of his spirit throughout revolutionary and post-revolutionary time but also foresee the course of events. “An interest in occultist cognition was so great that it completely distracted me from Russian events in 1905 and held me away from Russia.... Neither war or revolution ever frightened or disappointed me: I had expected that would occur and be even worse. On the contrary, I felt well-adapted to the conditions of revolutionary existence and acting.”
A vision of “cosmic moral sense” of these events enabled Voloshin to remain a detached witness in the continuing drama:
Close to all, but strange to everything
Voloshin’s optimism and “justification of reality” that he considered his first and only duty to the world were based on his internal need to leave it all to God’s Will:
Yet to accept it all in full
And keep it in oneself forever.
Maximilian Voloshin not only refused to participate in war, but also started an active “struggle against terror irrespective of its colours.” This gave the poet an “extensive and valuable revolutionary experience.”
All are in me, and I’m in everyone.
So zealots, every of its kind
Thought that a poet was to find
For them protection, and advise them too.
But then I’ve done all that I ever could
To prevent the brothers from ruining themselves and killing each other.
Voloshin’s spiritual stance enabled the poet “in most troubled times” to find such words and perspective that were “acceptable to both parts.” His tolerance and ability to resist the temptation of hatred, contempt, “sacred anger,” and “keep tirelessly loving both enemies and monsters of cruelty and even allies” was strengthened by a belief that love will in the future be a sole basis for human society.
In 1917 Voloshin returned to Russia. This was just at the time of the bloodletting of the revolution. “When a mother is sick, the children don’t leave her,” he said.
Compassionate, fearless and dynamic, Voloshin rushed to protect the innocent. Without taking sides, Voloshin opposed only the terror. He hid refugees from both sides within his house. Faced with the question of how to stand against armed terrorists, Voloshin’s answer came in revelation. From within, he realized that “all the positive creative forces of man are only in Love.” Now armed with that power of Love, he saw the events around him in a new light. Compassion replaced anger. The executioner, he realized, needs salvation more than the victim. He believed in the good inherent in every person – even the most hopeless.
“The more a person is cruel and dirty with blood,” Voloshin wrote, “the easier it is to change his will, if you approach him without anger, without fear and without condemning him. I experienced it many times in the meetings with the most terrifying officials in charge when I had to persuade them to spare people’s lives.”
Voloshin noted that perhaps people’s prayers are not heard because they always pray for the victim, while it is the executioner who actually needs salvation. So, while dealing with a terrorist, he put his attention on him and prayed intensively to the Divine to save him from killing the people. His faith and dedication were so strong that, to everyone’s surprise, he always succeeded. People could not understand how he could make these miracles happen.
THE LIFE OF A NEIGHBOUR: in unselfish service
Typical of Voloshin’s unselfish service, he once saved the life of a neighbour. The czarist White Army had arrested a man named Marx and threatened to kill him only because he had been a distinguished civil servant when the Red Army had controlled the village. The man’s work had in no way been connected to politics. The soldiers simply felt that he was guilty of serving the Red Army – guilty by association. As Maximilian Voloshin was a neighbour, Marx’s wife and daughter came to enlist his assistance. Voloshin, along with the family, immediately joined the train that was transporting the prisoners. Voloshin protected Marx throughout the journey by simply telling the soldiers not to kill him. Upon arrival, the prisoners were separated and Voloshin found himself alone on the street. As it grew dark, he did not know where to go. Voloshin wanted to find the person who held the fate of Marx’s life, but he did not know which way to turn. Marx was surely in danger of being executed at any moment. In despair, Voloshin prayed to the Divine Power that he might meet the right person. Within moments soldiers arrived on the scene and arrested Voloshin for violating the local curfew. They took Voloshin to the main quarters of the White Army. There, officers quickly recognized Voloshin, as he was a famous and respected poet. One of the officers even invited Voloshin to his house for dinner.
As the Divine would design it, Voloshin’s host for dinner was the very man who held sway over Marx’s life. Voloshin, in his simple approach, asked the officer to spare his neighbour. The soldier became angered. “All the people like him must be killed.” Voloshin realized that further mental argument would only act to entrench this position. Instead, he simply let the officer continue. He allowed him to speak out in his anger. While he was speaking, Voloshin put his loving attention on him. He prayed to God. In a short time his dinner host became more relaxed. He became calm. His words took a different course. “But if you want to save this man,” he said and he went on to explain what actions Voloshin should follow to save Marx’s life. He told Voloshin to request a civil court hearing. At this hearing Voloshin testified on Marx’s behalf. He told the judge that Marx’s actions were free of any politics. He said that Marx was not supporting the Red Army in his job, but rather supporting local peace and order.
A REFUGE FOR FREE-THINKERS: a sanctuary for all
Voloshin’s intervention extended to all people. Once when some fishermen were barred by the military from fishing their usual waters, Voloshin was asked to lend assistance. Flying a white flag of peace from a fishing boat, Voloshin approached the armed naval ships. Once on board, the sailors recognized Voloshin. Such was the high regard for the poet that, after the reading of a few poems, the sailors granted the fishermen free access to their fishstock.
Maximilian Voloshin’s miracle was that he did not take sides. He simply spoke the Truth.
After the Russian civil war and the establishment of the Soviet state, Voloshin opened the doors of his home to the poets, writers, artists, scientists and free thinkers of his nation. Trying to translate his convictions and principles into life, Voloshin made his house in Koktebel an ashram for free-thinkers. In this sanctuary, he could faultlessly foresee the talent of a young poet, encourage him and teach him an internal vision. Following a divine principle of learning, he demanded as much from others as from himself in creative work.
People came so that they might find refuge from the insane atmosphere of the cities and so that they could feel like human beings, not slaves or machines. There they discussed the real events of Russia without fear of arrest. Almost all the major poets and writers of the nation, Voloshin’s contemporaries, came to enjoy his generous hospices.
THE ART OF VOLOSHIN: inspired by the Earth
In his creative work, Voloshin’s main principle was to fully dissolve his own ego in art. During his studies in Europe he was attracted by an anonymous and nationwide feature of medieval architecture. Voloshin believed that individualistic art of modern times would give way to a collective art in the future.
In his daily life the poet denied any material benefit. “My formula: property is only what we give. We are slaves of all the things that we cannot give away.” According to a famous Russian poetess, M. Tsvetayeva, his source of inspiration was the Earth itself. “Voloshin’s creative work is dense, weighty and significant like that of the substance itself with all strength coming not from above, but from the Earth., the Earth he would so much walk on, the Earth where he now rests.” Through his paintings and poetry, Voloshin was trying to let us identify with his meditative state, sense of vibrations, joy of the awakened spirit so that a human being in thoughts and deeds, would be as pure as the primordial nature that revealed itself to the poet:
Together with trees,
The soul is aspired, exulting, into the distances...
And waves of mountains, and a mirror of a bay,
And heaven’s peace in silence of the Earth.
Throughout the remaining years of his life, Maximilian Voloshin wrote about the destiny of his Mother Russia and the world. He believed that Russia would gain strength in overcoming her obstacles. He knew that Russia would become a great spiritual country. Voloshin was a critic of materialism and fundamentalism. He wrote about the transformation of the human being that would occur when “love will melt the world.” He knew that this inner transformation was a necessity.
In his very last years, Voloshin wrote poems depicting the lives of Russian saints who worshipped Mary, the mother of Christ. He saw Her hand in helping them overcome the persecution of the state and of the Russian Orthodox Church. In these poems he recognized Mary as the saviour at the time of the Last Judgement.
THE POWER OF LOVE
“We live in an era when everything is displaced in the world,” he observed. “There are no foundations, no feeling of gravity. We don’t know where is up and where is down. Europe is torn down by war. Russia is torn down by revolution. The time has come when one, with eyes closed like a blind man, has to get in touch with those inclinations and those points of support within himself which have slipped away in the external world.” With uncompromising vision of spirit, Voloshin saw that “There exist two powers within the creative will of man: the force of perception and that of Love.... All positive creative forces of a man are only in Love.”
In Maximilian Voloshin we can see a model of unconditional love and pure compassion. n
“Along Cain’s Ways, Tragedy of Materialistic Culture”
by Maximilian Voloshin, 1922
translated by Natasha Levitan
It needed a slave to take away its sweet,
To comfort its insides with pure oil,
To feed it coal and take away its excrements,
And then it started asking for itself,
The swarming bundle of muscles and of wills
Brought up in hungry discipline
And greedy rude who cheapened his spirit
For joys of mediocrity and comforts.
Machine has taught man to think appropriately
And logically discuss the findings.
It visually proved to him
That there is no spirit, only substance,
That man is nothing but a machine himself,
That the starry cosmos is merely a mechanism
To manufacture time, that thought
Is just a simple product of the brain digestion,
That mere sustenance defines the spirit,
That genius is a degeneration,
That culture means an increase in the number
Of the consumer needs,
That the ideal is general well-being
And stomach satisfaction,
That there is One Universal Worldly Stomach
And there is no other Gods beside it....
The rotary press machines spawn
Day and night the printed pages.
Newspapers manufacture truth,
One truth for each hour of the day,
But not a single line is printed of a human -
The very ancient, hidden fire..
more Voloshin's poems.