The Sinister Path as a distinctive school in Slavic-Russian paganism emerges in the mid-2000’s, arousing a great number of controversies and interpretations of its nature and place in tradition. Undoubtedly rested upon analogous schools of other traditions (Tantrism, Western Hermetism, Alchemy, Odinism, etc.) its initiator Veleslav offers a path that has never existed in Slavic paganism (although prerequisites and mythological motives are definitely existing). Tens of books by various authors since then have elaborated on the doctrine of the Sinister Path, which proves its great appeal for pilgrims of the Spirit.
What we encounter in The Great Perfection Doctrine is a substantial difference with traditional Western doctrines between the Left-Hand Path and the Sinister Path of Slavic-Russian paganism. The fundamental tenets of the former accentuate individualism and deification of the adherent, that is expressed in well-known motto “Not to revere God, but to become God”. For paganism however, such stand is not part of the Left Path, but rather it is basic reality, the natural ground. The Sinister Path of Russian paganism goes further, holding that deification of the adherent is possibly the last but not final stage of the Path of the Work. The fact is, Divinity in form of images, names and shapes must be sacrificed to the Ultimate, the Unthinkable in terms of language or images; sacrificed to the Sacred, which is absolutely numinous and is present beyond names and forms, something that was pointed at by the Rhineland mystics Meister Eckhart and John Tauler, or by the Neoplatonists. Herein Veleslav inherits the tradition of apophatic definition of the super-being of the Sacred.
In The Great Perfection Doctrine, the author Veleslav calls us to proceed with the search or the Sacred within us even further, to transcend both what he calls the Dexter and the Sinister Paths, his teachings leading us along the Path which is not the path in itself, to the conscious inactivity, and thus return to the Natural State of the Prime Source.
The Great Perfection Doctrine marks the first time popular author Veleslav’s works are available in English, making his crucial teachings available to a larger audience. According to Veleslav’s teachings, there are three paths in the World, or three steps to walk the One Path:
– The Right-Hand Path: the Path Away from one’s True Nature, the external work.
– The Left-Hand Path: the Path of Return to one’s True Nature, the internal work.
– The Path of the Great Perfection, or the Path which is not the path in itself: a way to remain in one’s True Nature without separation between the one who remains and spiritual “inactivity”.
In the words of Veleslav: “The Path of the Great Perfection is a timeless teaching of self-disclosure of our True Nature, of spontaneous permanence in the PRIMORDIAL without being permanent, of non-conceptualized grasp of one’s True SELF as the UNBORN.” The Great Perfection Doctrine lays down the basis towards grasping that True Self, to the rediscovery of our true divine essence.
What follows is an interview with the author, Volhv Veleslav:
– Greetings! You have published several books and articles in Russian, but Western audiences may not know of your work since “The Great Perfection Doctrine” will be your first work available in English; could you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?
Talking about myself is easy and hard in the same time. It’s easy because you know yourself better than others. But hard because a major part of the inner experience has overriding value for each man and will inevitably stay behind the dry facts from the biography.
If we are talking about facts, I came to this world the 8th of October of 1973, live and studied in Moscow. In the year 1998 I established the community “Rodolubie” (Родолюбие), which was first called the “Satya-Veda” – “The True Knowledge” in Sanskrit. In 1999 I was one of the co-founders of the Fraternity of Rodnovery Communities “Velesov Krug” (Велесов Круг, the Circle of Veles). Veles is the Slavic God of Wisdom, Underworld, Magick and the Path. He is the God of volhvs [priests, godi – trans.] and the Priest of Gods. The archetype of this figure is close to other Indo-European Gods like Hermes, Odinn, Shiva…
For the past 20 years, few dozen of my books on Slavic Paganism and some other Indo-European traditions have been published. And under the pseudonym Satyavan several of my books on Advaita, Tantra and Shivaism have also been published.
In 2009 I wrote the major part of the “Book of the Great Nav” which became a kind of “visiting card” for me today – there I speak not only about Slavic paganism in the narrow sense of the word but also use the conceptual languages of other mystical traditions, from Advaita and Dzogchen to Gnosticism and Alchemy.
Nevertheless, for the majority of Slavic Pagans – the Rodnovers – I still remain first of all as the author of such books as “Fundamentals of Rodnovery”, “Native Gods of Rus” and the “Slavic Ritebook”.
– What draw you first to the study of Paganism, and to become a Rodnover priest?
Craving to know the roots of my Kin, my origin in the meaning of Blood [as family genealogy – trans.] and Spiritual Ground – the Source of Wisdom which is more ancient and deeper than the one modern dominating religions can offer.
On the term “volhv”, perhaps it should be talked about separately. Different people in different epochs could put different meanings into this word, and therefore one needs to be sensitive enough not to be deceived by appearance and not to miss the essence behind many superficial interpretations. If we follow our terminology, being a volhv is not a position, but a vocation. A Spiritual Invocation from the Gods, if you will. If the priest in our terminology is a person chosen by people to perform some ritual functions, then the volhv is in a certain sense the chosen one by the Gods, the person with direct Knowledge (Spiritual Knowledge), not a functionary of religion, but a Spiritual Teacher.
Actually, it doesn’t matter who I am. More important is how much of what I write and talk about can become a tool for the internal work of everyone who reads or listens to me.
– Do you consider Rodnovery as a restoration of pre-Christian Slavic religion as such? Can that even be done?
I am totally opposed to all kinds of “restorations” in the sphere of the Spirit. Let the restoration and copying of gray antiquities be dealt with by museum workers and re-enactors (in our country, as in the rest of Europe, the reconstructive movement is now quite developed). For me Paganism is, figuratively speaking, the transmission of the Living Fire but not the preservation of ashes. Of course we rely on the Legacy of our Ancestors, but we do not build it in the absolute. It should be clearly understood that we are very different today from our ancient Ancestors, and this is normal and natural. It’s not normal when we try to imitate the forms that have become obsolete, and we are not able to distinguish them from the content, when we miss the living Spiritual impulse for the sake of compliance with formalities.
In my opinion Paganism is strong in that it is free from rigid dogma, from egalitarianism, and it cannot be based on any one “sacred scripture”. Our Scripture is, figuratively speaking, the Living Book of Mother Nature. Our Teachers are Life and Death and the Abyss of the UNBORN that is hidden behind them. Life is a flow which is always moving and not standing still. Death is the completion and renewal, Initiation and Spiritual Transfiguration. Together Life and Death constitute the Eternal Circle – the cyclical transformation of all that exists. But in the Center of this Wheel of Life and Death immobility reigns – the Silence of the Spirit. All of us are glimpses of the Eternal, clothed in transitory and changeable forms. Therefore do not be afraid of changes, searches and mistakes – life’s search is better than a dead formalism and dogmatic isolation.
There are many Folk traditions on Earth, but the Tradition – the Self-revelation of Spirit in the man’s Heart – is always one. Just different cultures and peoples talking about the Unspeakable on different languages and in every epoch the new forms came into the World, and working with them man founds his own Path from personal to Eternal, from changeable to Unaltered.
– Gurdjieff is obviously a big influence in your work, but could you mention other sources of inspiration?
I am close to different traditions and different Spiritual Teachers who relied on direct experience and were not afraid to take a step beyond the usual and ordinary. Dull moralizers from the dominant religions are not interesting to me, whereas people like G. Gurdjieff or Aleister Crowley are consciously overcoming the stereotypes of philistine thinking, and can be a vivid example of going beyond the borders of the picture of the World imposed on a person by a society in which the total “dictatorship of mediocrity” reigns.
If a person seeks only where everything is then he is doomed to find only what is already the property of the crowd. With madmen and geniuses it’s not necessary to agree in everything, but we can learn from them what the crafty businessmen from the religious business and selling sugary platitudes for housewives don’t know.
Mediocre people tend to confuse the emotional arousal received from attending planned religious events with the Spiritual Path. It is not by chance that many Sufi or Tantric masters who do not pursue popularity among ignoramuses are not understood and even persecuted by the crowd, while a hypocritical television preacher who lives by the repetition of trivial blossoms is considered respectable and extolled in a society where the “gregarious feeling” with success took the place of personal search.
– Even though your work is focused around the Slavic figures of Veles and Mara, do you think the concepts behind it are universal enough for people with different cultural and heritage backgrounds to be able to relate to it?
All the Names that we use when speaking of the Highest (or better, the Deep), all the words that we try to use to describe the Indescribable One sooner or later can be abandoned. Different peoples speak of the Divine in different languages but behind all descriptions lie a single Reality. Divine Names are just pointers to the Ineffable summoned to help a person gain immediate experience beyond words. To me, a Russian by Blood and living in Russia and thinking in Russian, it is natural to call the Spiritual Sky by our Native Names. But when a person of a different nationality and educated in another culture listens to me or reads my words, he can try to understand which Reality names indicate the names I use, without holding onto verbal indexes.
– A core theme in “The Great Perfection Doctrine” is the subject of the Path of Great Perfection, which you describe as “the path which is not the path in itself”; can you talk us about it?
Usually we are talking about the Three Paths, or more precisely the three aspects of one Path. So, there is the Right Path or the Path of Removal from the Source; The Sinister Path or the Path of Return; and the Path of Great Perfection, or the Path without a path. On the Right Hand Path (Десный Путь, десница – the “right hand”, the “giving hand” in the Slavic tradition) a man moves from the Center to the periphery, from Spirit to matter, from himself to others, to the outside world. On the Sinister Way (Шуйный Путь, шуйца – the “left hand”, the “taking hand”) a man rushes into himself, in search of his True Nature – from the periphery of matter to the Spiritual Center. The Path of the Great Perfection, also called the Path without a path, implies a clear vision of the illusion of any conditioned “path”, of any speculative description of “movement” from oneself or toward oneself. In fact, I cannot be further from MYSELF or closer to my SELF, to my True Nature, because I is I-AM originally: “Atman is a Brahman” as it says in the Upanishads. TAT TWAM ASI – THAT (Brahman) is I AM (Atman).
– To my understanding, you started off your spiritual journey deeply rooted in Pagan beliefs, but nowadays it seems you have deviated from that in order to create your own path, drawing influences from Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Gnosticism. Do you agree? Or do you still consider yourself a true Slavic Pagan?
Apparently, I have long gone beyond the scope of Slavic Paganism if we understand this term only the national culture, especially its agrarian component. This does not mean that I reject the folkish tradition. Simply, I can equally use those conceptual languages that I know to describe the Reality. The teachings of the Great Nav are more of my personal vision than the folkish tradition itself. The spiritual goals and tasks that I consider in the Teachings of the Great Nav are not limited to the goal-setting that was relevant for the Russian peasant, whose main task was physical survival in a rather harsh climatic and social environment. Now the conditions of our life are different and modern Slavic Paganism, in order to remain a living tradition, must solve them and not deal exclusively with the reconstruction of the past.
Generally speaking, Paganism – in its highest manifestation – is a conversion not to the past, but to the under-temporal, to the Eternal. The Legacy of the Ancestors can contribute to the acquisition of our immediate Spiritual experience, but it should not become an obstacle to its acquisition, replacing living experience with stereotypes of tradition. Ashes of old fires should not choke the Living Flame.
– Can you talk us about your community, Veles Circle? What are its goals and practices? Was it always you goal to create a community, or did you initially thought you would not be able to find like-minded people?
The “Velesov Krug” fraternity was once created to unite people who seek Wisdom within the flow of Slavic Paganism. It should be understood that different people have different opportunities and abilities and that the most important issues related to Life and Death, Spiritual Self-knowledge and Self-realization, a person is forced to find answers on his own. Of course at a certain stage the seeker can benefit from an external mentor, but only until the person is able to learn directly from the Inner Teacher – his True Nature.
Now, together with my colleagues in the Veles Circle, I communicate with a small number of people close to me, with whom we are united not only and not so much by the general ideology of the Slavic Rodnoverie but as the commonality of the Path.
– What are you currently working on, are you preparing any new books?
I do not like to talk about my plans in advance. I will only say that soon, perhaps, will be published my new book about my Eternal Beloved – the Great Dark Goddess, known in different traditions under the different Names…
– Thank you for your time!
Thanks to you too!
Translated by Askr Svarte