Seminar in Yalta
After firmly announcing that there was no way that I was going to Russia in 1990, I just got home from 11 days in Moscow and Yalta. I could not attend the astrology conference in Moscow in late September because I was already scheduled for that time and also (originally) because I felt that it was priced too high. (As I wrote in the last Asteroid-World, I was notified during the summer that the conference fee and hotel costs had been reduced by about half). But in late July, at the San Francisco Conference on astrology and psychology, I was invited to join a group going to the U.S.S.R. to participate in a seminar conducted by a group of Russians from Siberia. The group was led by a woman psychiatrist and her lawyer husband and included other healers and individuals interested in psychic phenomena. The seminar activity was left rather vague, but was to include a mutual sharing of healing procedures by the hosts and the visiting Americans. According to Francine, the U.S. organizer, the Russian hosts had promised to take care of all costs for food, lodging and transportation while we were in Russia and we were only responsible for our airfare to Moscow.
The opportunity seemed too good to pass up, so off I went after less than two weeks at home following the S.F. conference and a camping trip up the west coast almost to Canada. Our group of Americans included five women and three men from a variety of backgrounds but all involved in service professions and open to “new age” ideas. All are currently living in California except for an east coast psychiatrist. Francine had been in Russia for some weeks in the spring of 1990 where she met Sasha and Olga, the leaders of a group called Caravan, and they asked her to choose a few Americans to participate in one of their seminars. They have been conducting their healing sessions for native Russians for a few years, starting after Gorbachev opened the door to unorthodox ideas and practices, and they wanted to try out their techniques on some Americans. They would like to present their work to Americans in Russia and in the U.S., and wanted to get reactions from some Americans who shared their interest in unorthodox healing methods and in psychic phenomena.
Francine did a good job of choosing U.S. participants, assembling a compatible team which included two practicing psychiatrists, one with considerable experience with parapsychology and the other very involved in alternative healing techniques. Another participant is a medical student in his last years of school preparing to be a psychiatrist. The student and one of the psychiatrists had been to the U.S.S.R. and spoke fairly fluent Russian, which proved to be very helpful. Another member of our team is working on a Ph.D. in transpersonal psychology with an emphasis on Native American traditions. With my background in anthropology and an unorthodox variety of psychology (using astrology as my diagnostic tool), we shared a lot of interests. Francine and another team member had worked with several of the “new age” systems which try to explore and train the mind; Mind Dynamics, Life Springs, Inward Bound, etc. Our eighth member was a professional photographer who is a psychic and has been a subject in a variety of parapsychology research during the last 20 years.
Our first few days were spent in Moscow, sightseeing, waiting for the leaders of Caravan to decide on the location of the seminar, and applying for internal visas to go outside Moscow. The weather was mostly overcast, sometimes drizzly, with smog to match L.A., but we were able to visit Red Square to see the Kremlin and a variety of churches, museums and the big Gum department store which demonstrated the shortages we have all read about. I phoned Farida, the Moscow psychologist-astrologer that we met at UAC in New Orleans, and was able to visit her home on three evenings and she and her architect husband also drove me around Moscow, describing the sights. Local astrologers were invited for each of the evenings at her apartment, so I had a chance to learn a little about their approaches, but obviously could not get much detail in a short visit, especially where their ideas had to be translated. One young man whose father was also an astrologer had written a very complex computer program which was supposed to rectify a chart with an unknown birth time. Of course, I tried it out on my own chart but it didn’t work, giving me a choice of Leo or Libra rising rather than my Taurus. I learned from Farida that her Center in Moscow includes about 30 professionals in the healing arts, and that they offer a three year course of study and a diploma to those who complete it. There is a year of healing techniques including nutrition, exercise, acupressure, etc., a year of psychology, mostly modern humanistic/transpersonal, and a year of astrology! People can also just take individual courses if they want. At my last evening at Farida’s place, there were also six American psychologists who had just come to Moscow to teach Psychosynthesis, Assagioli’s approach. Additional Americans were simultaneously teaching in Leningrad, and several were going on to Tbilisi after Moscow. The door is open.
While in Moscow, we visited one of the biggest open-air flea market, garage sale, arts-and-crafts displays that I have ever seen. The only comparable one in my experience was one I saw near Paris, France in May 1989. I bought a set of nesting dolls, one of the traditional Russian crafts. Mostly, they make plump ladies wearing shawls, but I got a political set which, like many other things, has only been allowed since Gorbachev came to power. The biggest, outer doll is a very good representation of Gorbachev with successively smaller ones inside that including Brezhnev, Khrushchev, Stalin, and Lenin. Purchases of other members of our group included a Russian army uniform, an electric samovar (traded for five packs of U.S. cigarettes), paintings, shawls, medals, etc. We were all very impressed by the Moscow subway! It was clean and efficient and cheap. For five kopeks (the local equivalent of $.05, you can ride anywhere in Moscow, changing from one train to another in a maze of tunnels. It runs from 5 A.M. to 1 A.M. the following day, as fast as one train leaves the platform, another comes on its heels, and they are all full with people standing! Moscow has more people than New York, and with relatively few private cars, the city could not function without the subway. There were taxis and some private cars also picked up people, functioning as taxis without a license. Prices were very reasonable if you had a Russian-speaking native handling the transactions as we did.
While still in Moscow, we met a psychic healer named Alyana who had been born in Siberia but had lived in Moscow for ten years. I did her chart and was impressed by her potential talent for healing which was suggested by exact aspects between Vesta, Saturn, and Pluto that were also closely tied to Mercury and Jupiter. The first three, two planets and an asteroid, are the “obsessive-compulsives” of the zodiac. When strongly aspected in the chart, they show the capacity for the intense concentration and focus which I have found with people who can directly influence the physical world with the mind. The close aspects to Mercury and Jupiter connected the capacity for “tunnel vision” to the normally more diffusive mental ability. Of course, a capacity for power through mental concentration is not always used for healing. I have seen similar patterns in the charts of people who used their focused willpower ruthlessly for personal gain. Alyana also demonstrated her psychic ability by singling out a member of our group who had been ill some months earlier. Alyana wants to come to Los Angeles, so those of us who live here may help her get a visa and come for a visit in early 1991.
The Siberian hosts who had invited us to Russia had originally planned to have the seminar in the Caucasus Mountains, but they decided that there was too much unrest in that area. Their second choice was Alma Atta, but that was also ruled out because of social unrest, so we finally went to Yalta which was beautiful! We stayed in an inn in the mountains outside the town, surrounded by forests and close to the Black Sea where we went swimming almost every afternoon. The climate was perfect, with blue skies and sunshine, warm enough to have hibiscus in bloom. The inn had small A-frame cottages scattered over the hillsides in addition to a five-story building and a conference room for our meetings. We usually had breakfast in a little cafe which was perched high up on one hill with a great view, and lunch in a larger restaurant in a valley below where there were outdoor tables and benches under roofs but not screened. Flies were one of the minor nuisances. Dinner was mostly in a restaurant in Yalta after the outing at the beach. There was certainly no shortage of food, at least for tourists. In Yalta, we had several varieties of seafood at almost every meal, including caviar, smoked fish, and tiny shrimp called krill. Even in Moscow, for those who could afford to buy from the farmers’ markets that were outside almost every subway station, there were plenty of fruits and vegetables, and we were given ample amounts of meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and bread. We were told that in Moscow there were lines to buy bread and that sometimes the stores ran out, but the only lines we saw were for cigarettes. I was told in Moscow that a trainload of millions of cigarettes had recently been hijacked and destroyed and that half of the cigarette factories in the country had been shut down, supposedly for “repairs.” The current theory is that the KGB and Nomenclatura (communist officials) are behind the actions which are designed to make people angry at Gorbachev.
Our Yalta seminar was designed to include physical exercise as well as mental diagnostic and healing techniques, so every morning the group was invited to climb the nearby mountains, and every morning I declined. The only other member of our group who was in my age range was the psychic photographer. She went on one climbing expedition and regretted it later since she came home so exhausted she had to miss a couple of the afternoon excursions to the beach. We did a variety of mental exercises and discussions in the late morning and evening, and could have done much more if we had not spent so much time waiting for food and eating and getting everyone together. Caravan had brought over an American to teach them some of the techniques of the hypnotist Erickson and of NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming), and they were convinced of their value, but I remain pretty dubious about the left-right-up-down eye movements as a reliable tool for diagnosing whether people are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. I was also dubious about the validity of one of the psychic experiments in which a blindfolded person was supposed to locate someone with whom empathy had previously been established by breathing in unison and looking into each other’s eyes. I was actually successful in the experiment but I am convinced that I had auditory clues to guide me. I was also dubious about a theory that people get too much oxygen and need more carbon-dioxide (?) This idea was advanced by a Siberian doctor who was not a member of Caravan. Since almost everything described by the Caravan people had to be translated into English by a Moscow interpreter who was not a member of Caravan, it is possible that I did not fully grasp some of what was being presented, and a Caravan spokesman did say that they were somewhat cautious about accepting the full theory about oxygen.
I did a brief exposition on astrology for the staff of the inn since our hosts were hoping to use it for future seminars and they were demonstrating the type of material being offered. I also described the basics of astrology for the seminar members. A translator from Moscow had come with us, so the talks were pretty choppy with breaks after almost every phrase to repeat what I said in Russian. I also did personal charts for most of the seminar leaders who were all from the Siberian “science” city of Novosibirsk. They were very interested in the psychological approach to astrology, having only seen traditional ideas in the past, and have asked me to come back next year to teach a seminar just devoted to astrology. Only one of their leaders had studied the subject and he had been trying to deduce planetary positions from an astronomical ephemeris that required adjusting from constellational positions. He actually had his own Mercury, Venus, and Mars in the wrong signs. When I left, I gave him my ACS ephemeris for this century and my ephemeris for the first four asteroids, along with information from the ACS International Atlas on latitudes and longitudes for Russian cities and UT equivalents for the different time zones. He was ecstatic.
The trip was certainly interesting, though I did come home very tired with only three hours of sleep on the last night in Moscow and 19 hours in transit back to L.A. We even had a train ride in a Russian “sleeper,” taking twenty-four hours to reach a city near Yalta and another two hours on a bus to actually get there. The terrain around Yalta is too mountainous for a close approach by plane or train except for helicopters. The plane ride back to Moscow took less than two hours if we omit the time waiting in the airport and on the plane. When you enter the Russian plane after climbing the ladder, you are in a baggage storage compartment lined by shelves on which you can deposit your luggage. Then you climb an inner set of stairs to reach the upper level with the seats. The train was divided into compartments with facing upper and lower berths so four people shared each compartment. The berths were reasonably comfortable and were provided with sheets, a blanket, pillow and pillow-case, and a towel. Some of our group got off at some of the stops in little towns to buy food from farmers, including fruits, vegetables, dried fish, bread, and some prepared food including boiled and peeled new potatoes which were still warm and baked things for which I have no name.
Memory Vignettes from the trip: Being met at the Moscow airport with flowers for each member of our group, receiving flowers again when we got off the train to change to the bus for the last leg of the trip to Yalta, and flowers again as we prepared to board the plane to return to the U.S. Several small groups of Russian soldiers looking rather bemused but allowing themselves to be photographed with one of our group. An amused old farmer when I tested his watermelon in my usual fashion by holding my ear against it and patting it gently. A sound like a hollow drum testifies to ripeness; a dull thud says “nyet.” The longest uninterrupted moving stairway that I have ever seen running down the equivalent of several floors to a maze of subway tunnels. Having hot chocolate in Gorky Park and feeding the cookie crumbs to the ducks. In an officially atheist country, an astonishing number of really gorgeous churches, many with their distinctive “onion” domes covered with gold.
Our whole group from the U.S. had pretty much the same reaction to the experience. We were glad that we went. We felt that we were in a “time warp” most of the time, out of our normal milieu including out of touch with what was happening in the world. We were impressed with the sincerity, generosity, spirituality and love of our hosts, the leaders of Caravan. We will help them plan a seminar in the U.S., probably in Ojai next year in cooperation with a local organization, but we have advised them to focus on their Russian techniques rather than the transplanted American ones like NLP. They are all taking crash courses in English, so by next year, there should be less need for an interpreter. He worked very hard to meet all of our needs and desires, but his translations were a bit of a jarring note since he barked them like a top sergeant while the Caravan leaders were all soft spoken, really loving people. If a Caravan seminar does happen in California next year, I will let you know about it.