THE SPIRITUAL HEART:
An Interview with Deacon
of the Russian Orthodox
From: INWARD PATH, Russian Magazine for Human Development (92)
Alexander Mumrikov is a physicist by education, specializing in charmed-particle accelerators and ultra high-frequency energies. However, after graduating from Moscow University in 1970, he developed an interest in social psychology, and Tibetan yoga and other Oriental philosophies. In 1975, he abandoned physics and went to work at the Andrei Rublev Museum, publishing several articles on icon-painting and divine services. In 1979, he returned to physics and began to model the atmosphere of other planets and interstellar environment. In 1981, he changed jobs again, becoming an altarist in a Russian Orthodox Church, and in 1982, the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate asked him to head its department of theology and Bible studies. In 1989, he left the journal and went to live for a time at the monastery of St. Balaam in northern Russia. Two years ago he established a commune of the Life-Giving Cross of Our Lord, where he has been serving ever since.
INWARD PATH: FatherAlexander, you have chosen a road uncommon in the Russian Orthodox Church: You deal with groups of people, immersing them in a Christian vision of the world, but without having a base at any particular church or parish. What made you do that?
ALEXANDER MUMRIKOV: In the Christian tradition it was always considered that genuine concentration on your inner world and true religious faith can only be achieved by a monk or hermit. However, throughout the ages, only a chosen few could do this. In our day and age, people find it especially difficult to shut themselves up in a monastery, because monastic traditions have largely been lost, and besides, many find it hard to part with their secular way of life. I personally have a family and therefore cannot be a monk.
What those who lead a secular life can do is serve in the church. But this only provides a formal acquaintance with the tradition and doesn't give you the kind of intense spiritual development you achieve in a monastery. What's more, communal life has unfortunately left the Church, and human contact in church life is now reduced to praying together. After all, when people lived in a commune, they could help and support each other on their road to God.
That's why I've chosen a compromise: a road of spiritual self-realization—in secular life, not in a monastery. We have established a commune where we exchange knowledge, correct and support each other in our spiritual quest, pray together, and so on. A Christian commune opens the way to profound personal self-realization, but at the same time you feel you are part of the whole.
I.P.: What sort of people are in your commune?
A.M.: Mostly psychic people. They used to be interested in yoga, Buddhism, healing, and other related practices.
I.P.: Why did they join you? What do they find in Russian Orthodox Religion?
A.M.: Contact with God. Something you don't find in other practices. Other practices have taught them to cleanse their bodies and their minds, to use various forms of energy, and even to see and feel a world that is hidden from our eyes. However, in most cases their acquaintance with that other world was spontaneous and chaotic. During meditation, for instance, a person would come in contact with some sort of entity from another world, but had no idea of who or what it was or its influence.
I.P.: Like a puppy nuzzling up to different objects,trying to find its mother.
A.M.: That's right. Such behavior, although it does give some sort of idea of the world, is not very safe. But in the Russian Orthodox Church, the road of learning about a higher world and the destination have been charted long ago, through centuries of experience.
I.P.: I see. A straight path gets you to your goal—to God—much sooner. But how does one find that road?
A.M.: The Christian tradition teaches one to constantly turn to that other world, to address the saints, the Virgin, and through them, Christ. This prepares one for contact with God. But to come into contact with any being, you've got to know his language. In the Russian Orthodox Church that language is prayer, and you must mention the name of the higher being whose support you want. There is a prayer for each saint, for the Virgin, and for Christ.
I.P.: Is the prayer, and especially the name of the saint, perhaps like a wavelength that brings you in contact with that saint—a bridge between this world and the other?
A.M.: Yes, perhaps.
I.P.: Then, by the same principle, you could even contact God?
A.M.: No. Contact with the saints only prepares one for communication with God. Man, because of his physical nature, cannot communicate directly with God—he has lost this ability.
I.P.: Is it because the human mind can't withstand the intensity of vibrations from such contact?
A.M.: That's right. To communicate with God, you must first develop a special organ—the so-called spiritual heart. Potentially, that organ exists in every human being, but to be able to use it, you've got to awaken it. However, the spiritual heart cannot function constantly. St. John of Kronstadt said the spiritual heart dies every day and is reborn each time we pray. It's like a candle: now it burns, now It goes out.
"During meditation, for instance, a person would come in contact with some sort of entity from another world..."
I.P.: So the aim is to develop that organ and make its functioning as continuous as possible?
A.M.: That's correct.
I.P.: But what is that organ like? Does the spiritual heart have anything in common with the physical heart, or with what yoga refers to as the heart-chakra?
A.M.: The spiritual heart isn't a physical organ. Nevertheless, it's considered to be somewhere in the chest, a little above the physical heart or at its level in the middle of the chest, in other words, where the Oriental tradition places the heart-chakra. I think the heart-chakra is directly connected with the awakening of the spiritual heart: that chakra is a channel through which the spiritual heart functions.
I.P.: But if the spiritual heart is not manifested physically, how can you tell where it's located and whether it has awakened or not?
A.M.: When the spiritual heart has awakened, you feel a kind of burning, an influx of energy, a feeling of peace in your chest. When it only starts awakening, you feel pain in the chest. At first it's like heart pain, often quite strong. Those who don't understand what's happening, think it's heart trouble. We've had cases in our commune when people felt acute pain at the time when their spiritual heart began to awaken. Doctors thought it was a heart attack, but cardiograms showed no heart disorders. Objective evidence spoke of good health. When the action of the spiritual heart expands, you may feel pain in your chest or even your shoulders. At first the area of action expands, but then it is localized and forms a kind of sphere in the middle of your chest. After a while the pain goes away and you feel the action only once in a while.
I.P.: What methods does the Russian Orthodox Church offer to awaken the spiritual heart?
A.M.: Fasting, humility, meakness, charity, and so on. One of the most effective means is prayer. Above all, the so-called Prayer of Jesus, which the old monks used to practice. It goes like this: "My Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." In this prayer you pronounce the name of Christ, and that's very important, because He is one of the hypostases of the Trinity. So by pronouncing His name, you address God, and this enables you to tap, as it were, into the highest spiritual energies through your heart. In former times, Russian monks explained it like this: God enters your heart and resides there at all times. They combined the Prayer of Jesus with breathing exercises and kept saying it continuously throughout the day. They would reach a state where the prayer would constantly resound in their heart. This became known as a "self-motive prayer." They could be busy doing all sorts of things, while at the same time the prayer would constantly ring in their hearts. This constant contact with high spiritual energies enabled them to go without food or sleep for long periods of time.
I.P.: Do you think the city dweller of today could reach this state if he started practicing the Prayer of
A.M.: Theoretically, one could. But you've got to be very careful. Once, you could start practicing that prayer only under the guidance of a spiritual teacher, and prepare yourself for a longtime. The Prayer of Jesus is dangerous because it immediately carries you to a very high spiritual level. If you start saying the prayer many times a day, but then stop after a while, you can expect trouble. You could, say, be left face-to-face with the horrors of your own subconscious. There have been such cases in our practice
"To communicate with God, you must first develop a special organ —the so-called spiritual heart."
I.P.: If you practice the Prayer of Jesus and other methods offered by the Russia n Orthodox Church , does this guarantee that the spiritual heart will awaken and you can communicate with God?
A.M.: No, but this greatly increases the chance of such contact. Because the spiritual heart is not given as a" reward for something, it's a gift from God. It can be bestowed on an individual who, in the eyes of others, is utterly unworthy of it. It often happens like that.
I.P.: How does this affect one's life?
A.M.: First of all, things stop happening by accident. You feel a remarkable logic in the events around you—in other words, events seem to "conspire" to promote your spiritual development. You begin to see your whole life as continuous learning. You begin to have various difficulties, which you and those around you may see as trouble or tragedy. In actual fact, God provides these situations to teach you to overcome your attraction to the material world. In the Russian Orthodox Church, it's thought that if you begin to have problems, it means God loves you more than others and gives you a chance to develop by coping with those problems, by overcoming your ossified, inert state. If you choose that road and ascend to a higher spiritual plane, then your problems— whether a physical ailment or strained relations with others—become resolved by themselves.
Those who have embarked on the spiritual road also get help and support from higher entities-saints and angels. This support can be expressed in various ways: a prophetic dream or a miracle-working icon. The higher entities also respond to any request which doesn't have a selfish or ulterior motive. I had a case in my practice. An old-age pensioner was afraid the soaring rate of inflation would soon leave her with nothing to live on. She prayed to God and asked Him to help with some money. Her request must have been so sincere and ingenuous that it was heard and soon she won a large amount of money in a lottery.
Besides, when your spiritual heart has awakened, you often get a clear understanding of things which ordinary people find hard to fathom. You are literally "led by Spirit." You feel an influx of a higher heavenly energy, or the Holy Ghost. The influx of that energy makes you understand the inner logic and profound meaning of everything in the world. Creative people, like poets and artists, experience this from time to time. In an attempt to get down to the root of things, they sometimes stumble into that state.
"When the spiritual heart has awakened, you feel a kind of burning, an influx of energy, a feeling of peace in your chest."
However, in the Christian tradition this entails certain difficulties. You become somewhat unbalanced. This is because you are trying to break into a higher world that is concealed from us mortals, whereas God Himself must reveal that world to you in reply to a request or prayer. In this case you feel an influx of spiritual energy.
I.P.: But can a person cope with it?
A.M.: Yes. Divine Grace is such that spiritual energy comes to you in quantities that will not destroy. That's why you have to be a humble child before God. Open your heart to that energy, and it will come.
I.P.: Thank you for this insight into Russian Christianity.
A.M.: I considered it my honor.