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Konstantin Serebrov

Mystic Underground – Konstantin Serebrov (2001)

Books of Konstantin Serebrov have been translated into different languages, mostly Dutch and English. These translations are published by the Dutch publishing house Serebrov Boeken (‘Serebrov Books’). They are divided in series and one such series is ‘Lessons of Master G.’ which consists of three books: Follow Me, Live Three Incarnations In One and On The Path of Alchemical Fusion. (And the ‘psychedelic’ appendix Adventures of Master G and his faithful Disciples Morose and Bitumen in the Nigredo Valley, or Modern Alchemy. Phantasmagoria).

It took a little searching, but there were originally two Russian books and the three translations have different editions with different titles. The first book was originally called Один шаг в Зазеркалье (2001) which Deepl translates to ‘One step into the looking glass’. This became The Mystical Labyrinth In Russia translated by Robin Winckel-Mellish (a South African who lived in the Netherlands) in 2006. In 2015 a new edition (a new translation?) was published as Follow Me by Gouri Gozalov (the Gouri in the book I guess) and Maria Toonen (a Dutch woman).

The there was the book Мистический Андеграунд (‘Mystic Underground’) also published in 2001. This book is translated into two parts. The first edition of the first part was published in 2006 as The Mystical Underground Of Moscow and in 2016 as Live Three Incarnations In One. The second half was first published in 2006 as On The Path Of Alchemical Fusion and kept its title in the second edition of 2017. The physical copies have quite high prices at Amazon.

The current review is about the two part translation of Мистический Андеграунд (‘Mystic Underground’) to be obtained -as mentioned- as the titles Live Three Incarnations In One and On The Path Of Alchemical Fusion.

Just as Follow Me we basically have diary entries of Serebrov (“Kasyan”) and sometimes Gouri. How they give up their jobs to follow “Master G.” (Vladimir Stepanov) around Russian territory, constantly meeting familiar and new people, talking about ‘the Path’ and stumbling into ‘situations of high temperature’. A bit more than in the first part of the trilogy, we hear G. explaining things, mostly the bad elements of the characters of Serebrov and Gouri (which are very alike in many ways). Even though even in the last two decades of the previous century interest in the esoteric was dangerous in Russia, in every city where they go, new recruits (“sea cadets”) for the “Ship Argo” which is “in search for the mystical Golden Fleece” are found. These recruits are often lovely young ladies, but can also be male brutes. For two books I had the impression that even though G. is able to change the atmosphere in a group, give his recruits mystical experiences, etc. the “School” was mostly a teaching environment. Rudolf Steiner “who was his [G.’s] favourite author”, a bit of Blavatsky, but mostly Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Berdyaev and to some extend “Mamley”  (Yury Mamleyev (1931-2015) the ‘founder’ of the “Iuzhinskii Cirle”?) are authors that are referred to. In what way does that explain G.’s abilities? As I wrote elsewhere, G./Stepanov came from the “Iuzhinskii Kruzhok” (‘Iuzhinskii Circle’, sometimes spelled ‘Yuzhinsky’). Several of the people in the book can also be linked to this circle. At one point G. remarks that he “had become completely disillusioned about the circles of Moscow philosophers”, but he obviously remained in touch with some of its members.

Even though Serebrov and Gouri are constantly scoffed by G. about three quarters into the second book (the first part of the ‘Mystic Underground’ translations) Serebrov starts to teach himself and Gouri is made “mayor” or the hometown of the two, meaning that his is supposed to lead the local ‘circle’. As the book continues, “Kasyan” becomes more and more of a teacher and Gouri at the same time his helper and a disciple, but Gouri’s spiritual path rises slower than that of Kasyan.

Towards the end of the book Kasyan and Gouri go into a three week drinking frenzy at the “Admiral” (another Iuzhinskii member) after which they are initiated into the mysteries of alchemy in somebody’s kitchen by means of a short ceremony.

The appendix plays six years later. It also bears Serebrov’s name, but the writing style is completely different and (contrary to the first three books), “Morose” (a new nickname for Serebrov who became depressed because of his lack of progress) is written about in the third person. It is a psychedelic book which reads like the report of the lucid dreams that become more and more frequent in Kasyan’s and Gouri’s lives.

All in all the books make alright reads. They are mostly reports of spiritual seekers and especially the look into the remains of the Iuzhinskii Circle are interesting. As mentioned before, there are no ‘clear cut lessons’, no practices that you can copy, nor even an indication how to get in contact with the “School” should you be interested in that. The books give much to think about, suggestions for spiritual development, but then in a very alcoholic, Russian way, but all as parts of a narritive.

2001 Serebrov Boeken

Follow Me – Konstantin Serebrov (2018)

After reading Practical Alchemy I noticed that English Serebrov books are available in the Amazon Kindle store which lowered the barrier to try some more of his writings. I bought the first two of the series “Lessons From Master G.”, Follow Me being the first one.

The book was originally published in 2001 in Russian and was first made available in English in 2006. Where after the first book I had to look around a bit who “Master G.” would be, the current title begins with a photo saying: “This book is in memory of Vladimir Stepanov a.k.a. Master G”. So no secrets about his identity.

Where in Practical Alchemy Serebrov is the master and G is only in the background, Follow Me tells the story of how the author met his master. Just as the other book, it is written as a story with people talking and thinking; the observations of the author.

I am not entirely sure when everything in the book took place, but the second book starts in 1982, so I suppose we are here talking late 1970’ies. Serebrov presents himself as a searcher for enlightenment who is acquainted with other people who have the same goal. At some point he dreams he has to visit a friend and there he meets a mysterious person “just call me G”. This is the beginning of a lengthy apprenticeship.

We follow Serebrov as he is taken onboard the metaphorical ship of Master G and in spite of having a job, he is constantly called to accompany G to cities all over Russia. He has to choose between “the path” and normal life. On their travels the author meets a wide range of different people, many of whom appear to be other disciples of G, often charming young ladies, some male brutes. Everywhere the author comes, he is mocked by the other people present. Apparently this is a method of G to “raise the Alchemical temperature” in order smelt the author’s gold and to burn vices. The author describes talks between himself and G and between G and other people giving a bit of an idea of what is going on, but do not expect some sort of coherent philosophy or initiatic path.

In my review of The New Age Of Russia I wrote of Stepanov (G): “He was quite the character in the more intellectual type of esoteric groups.” Serebrov does not present him as just an intellectual. G’s eyes show infinity, his touch gives Serebrov a mystic moment, G controls the spiritual atmosphere in his presence, etc. In other words, G is the initiate who has a very personal approach of recruiting and teaching his students. Towards the end he says:

I’m busy creating a mystical group that will continue building on the School in the worlds behind the curtains.

As the story goes on, the reader gets an idea of the esoteric undercurrent in Russia, what kind of people are involved, different cities are encountered, some of the (drinking) habits of these often upper class people, the risks of esoteric interest in Russian society etc. A humble author who mercilessly describes his own doubts and failings. I suppose in later books he develops the confidence who portrays in Practical Alchemy.

Practical Alchemy – Konstantin Serebrov (2006)

By some accident I ran into the name of Serebrov. He was (is?) said to be a Russian esotericist working with Alchemical symbolism. Out of curiosity I looked to see what books he has available and found a Dutch publisher that has a lot of his books. As a matter of fact, it seems that this Dutch publisher also takes care of (the) other languages. At first glance it seems that there are more books in Dutch than there are in English. I happen to have picked one that is available both in Dutch and English. Originally they were written in Russian.

The books are divided over series. Practical Alchemy is the third of a series of three, so perhaps not the best introduction. The book is written as a story around a gathering of spiritual seekers who meet up frequently and the book is a report of one such camp. As teachers we have the I-character (Serebrov?) and “Master G.” who is presented as Serebrov’s teacher. In the book there are a host of students, ‘green’, ‘doubting Thomasses’, more experienced, etc.

Right from the start the reader is presented with all kind of jargon. “Horizontal karma”, letting “the wheel of karma rotate in opposite direction”, “energetic cocoon”, “kundabuffer”, “Schooltemperature” and most of all: “reconsideration” (word in English, but with Dutch conjugations, suggesting that the word is in English in the original texts), “deleting personal history” and “cutting ethereal lines”. Some of these phrases are explained along the way, some are not.

Serebrov appears to have been active in the Russian ‘esoteric underground’ of the 1980’ies, where he was acquainted with the systems of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Castenada and with some Eastern systems. He is a not uncritical follower, but the students in the book do speak about “tensegrity” and “magical passes”. There are all kinds of exercises that are recommended to students, some daily. These exercises are oddly specific. Think of a person, breath in, pull in energy a few inches below your belly button, turn your head from left to right and back five times, breath out half of the air in your lungs, etc. And there are many such exercises, sometimes explained, sometimes only mentioned. (“Do daily Tao exercises.”)

There is quite some attention to all kinds of spiritual paths. Serebrov wrote about Yoga, Tao, Alchemy, etc., but the Orthodox Church is half of the path to God. The book gives a wee bit of an idea of the ‘Russian spiritual underground’, but stresses that real progress can only be made in a school lead by a real master, hence: “Master G.” and his followers, such as Serebrov. Yet it is remarkably hard to find information about the school, when and where they meet, etc. G. seems to be a man named Iurii or Vladimir Stefanov who introduced Guénon in Russia. Interesting.

For a large part, Practical Alchemy is yet again book for spiritual seekers with some exercises and the suggestion that the only true path is presented. This is poured into a story with characters many people can relate to. Amusing are the ‘Russian elements’ such as Wodka which flows abundantly.

What about the reason I bought this book in the first place? Yes, there is ‘spiritual Alchemy’ here. There are 21 beautiful pen drawings, with fairly simple Alchemical symbology, but still recognizable. Several of the major symbols are used to explain the spiritual path, the phases of Alchemy, the king and queen, etc. Serebrov does have an odd explanation of the ouroborous as the lower self, though. The Alchemical element actually is interesting, but the whole ‘packing’ is a bit too fluffy to my liking. On the other hand, much of what I read is dry and academic, so a few notes on the spiritual path are good reminders.

I am not immediately planning on getting other Serebrov books, but I am just going to see what is available and decide then.

2006 Serebrov Boeken, isbn 9077820043