Throughout Russian history, there were many individuals who captured the interests and curiosity of scholars both domestic and foreign, but one stands out as the most ambiguous. Grigori Yefimovitch Rasputin, the so- called “Mad Monk” or “Siberian Mystic Healer”, has gained notoriety throughout the world for his astounding medical feats involving the stopping of the sometimes never ending bleeding of hemophiliacs. In the time of Rasputin, 1864-1916, there were no effective medical means to stop the bleeding that plagued hemophiliacs, yet the mystical powers of one man had the power to do so. Since there were no written records compiled at the time to account for his legacy, the stories of Rasputin have been passed along throughout time by believers and skeptics alike.
It is said that as early as 1900, Rasputin had gained fame in Eastern Russia as a faith healer, or wandering holy mendicant. He was said to have had the powers of precognition, foreseeing the future, clairvoyance, seeing events happening elsewhere, and healing the sick without medication or therapy. Many have attributed Rasputin’s powers to the arts of the Orientals, which he had picked up along his travels. Many groups in Russia wished Rasputin dead, because they could not logically interpret his actions and could not rationalize his power. He was seen at this time as a sort of “Devil’s Advocate”, because no one believed that a Holy Man could posses such powers. His methodology was not that of the time period he lived in, and just as it is today, people fear what they cannot understand in rational means. Though Rasputin was a savior for many, he was looked upon by the majority of Russian peoples as a fraudulent evil doer. No matter what the general consensus was, Rasputin extended the lives of many where they would have surely died without his help.(Candler 1).
From an early age Rasputin’s mystical powers were present. When he was only a child, he had the ability to calm and heal farm animals. He also possessed the powers of clairvoyance at an early age. He could judge a man’s motives and character with just a glance into his eyes. On one described occasion in his childhood, Rasputin was in bed with a fever, when he envisioned the face of a man stealing a horse. Rasputin identified the man, who was a rich and prominent villager, and though the man denied the accusation, it was later proven that he was the thief. These small accomplishments of his youth, along with the teachings he received at the Monastery of Verkhotourie, provoked Rasputin to speak with the holy hermit Makari. Makari informed him that God had some large tasks for him to overcome, and that he must travel abroad to sacred sites to enrich his knowledge of the divine. He spent many years of his life wandering as far as Mt. Athos in Greece, walking twenty-five to thirty miles a day with little or no sustenance, searching for enlightenment.(Kwapien 1-2).
While traveling abroad, Rasputin was introduced to some of the remaining heretical sects of the Old Believers. During this time, thousands of Old Believers were persecuted by the Patriarch Nikon, as he attempted to cleanse Russia of these sects and enforce Orthodox Christianity. Those who escaped fled to Siberia and continued to establish churches and communities. Nikon’s rapid persecution of these sects weakened the Orthodox Church and gave rise to groups such as the Khlysty, which Rasputin is said to have taken part in. Their secret rites were extremely sexual and orgiastic in nature, and it was believed that through sexual sin, one could gain repentance. It has been said that Rasputin strengthened his powers through sexual acts performed while taking part in the Khlysty.(Kwapien 1-2).
Rasputin’s greatest feat in spiritual healing was the aid he provided the Tsarevitch Aleksei, a hemophiliac, in 1912. Aleksei had inherited the blood disorder from his mother, Alexandra, and the Romanov family had a history of the affliction. Aleksei had been badly bruised by his own actions and was bleeding to death. Nicholas and Alexandra were extremely reluctant to invite Rasputin, because their son’s condition was kept secret, in fear that if this information was made public, he would never become tsar. Finally, realizing the powerlessness of the boy’s doctors and the seriousness of his affliction, Rasputin was called to St. Petersburg.(Hollenbach 3).
Rasputin came to the boy’s bedside, and with only a few spoken words and a wave of his hand, pronounced the Tsarevitch cured. Rasputin had induced a feeling of calm and a sense of well-being in the Tsarevitch, which amazingly changed the boy’s body, slowing his bleeding, sending him into a deep tranquil sleep, and eventually stopping the bleeding altogether. Doctors were baffled, and Nicholas and Alexandra were forever thankful. According to those who viewed these actions, Aleksei did recover fully. Though this seems like something out of a fairy tale, Rasputin did indeed cure the Tsarevitch.
It has never been conclusively proven as to how Rasputin did in fact heal the afflicted, but the evidence in hand strongly points toward hypnosis. In hematology, the study of bleeding in hemophiliacs, it has been proven that the emotional state of a hemophiliac directly effects the flow of blood through the capillaries. Anger, discomfort, and mental anguish can cause an increase in blood flow, and if these feelings are turned to calm, comfortable, and jubilant, the blood flow will in turn decrease.It is hypothesized that Rasputin hypnotized the Tsarevitch and put his mind at rest, thus slowing the blood flow.(Massie 191). J. B. S. Haldane, a British geneticist said
“it is also possible that by hypnotism or a similar method, he was able to produce a contraction of the small arteries capillaries. These last were placed under the regulation of the autonomic nervous system and although they are not normally controlled by the will, their contraction can be provoked in the body of a hypnotized subject” (Massie 190).
This account along with research done throughout a three-year period, points to hypnosis as the only logical means of Rasputin’s healing abilities.
In Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, from 1961-1964, a research project was conducted by Dr. Oscar Lucas. One hundred and fifty teeth were taken out of hemophiliac patients without using a single transfusion. Under normal circumstances extracting teeth from a hemophiliac would be major surgery, and would require massive amounts of transfused blood. Dr. Lucas used hypnotism to erase his patient’s fears, because this procedure would normally cause panic and unrest to hemophiliacs. The doctor is quoted as saying “An emotionally tranquil patient has less bleeding difficulty than one emotionally distressed. Bleeding engenders fear and fear of bleeding is considerably greater in the hemophiliac than in non-bleeders. The anxiety which results may be averted through hypnosis” (Massie 190). This evidence is the proof that was needed to understand the miracles of Rasputin. Using hypnosis, or some other means of comforting the Tsarevitch, the anxiety and fear which would have otherwise caused him to bleed to death was relieved, and replaced with feelings of tranquility which slowed the flow of blood through his capillaries.
Though Rasputin was viewed by most during his time as the “Mad Monk”, a shady and notorious character, modern science and methodology has proven that Rasputin was a pioneer of spiritual healing. In these times of little or no medical means to cure bleeding hemophiliacs, Rasputin used the power of his mind to induce his patients into healing themselves. Rasputin’s methods are a perfect example of mind over matter, and he single-handedly pioneered a totally new type of medicine substantially before its time.
Candler, Will. “Rasputin and the Myths Surrounding Him.” 1996.
Hollenbach, Liz. “Rasputin: Poet. Magician. Healer. Prophet. Holy Monk.” 1997.
Kwapien, Robert. “Will the Real Rasputin Please Stand Up.” 1996.
Massie, Robert. Nicholas and Alexandra. Atheneum. New York. 1968. (190-191).