Can a mystic be normal – just like the rest of people? How much does contact with the mysteries of Being change a person, and how are these changes manifested in him? Finally, can a mystic be mad, virtually crazy? From history, we know of cases of the strange and mysterious behavior of mystics from all kinds of traditions. What was it dictated by – the nature of their experience and transformation or their own nature as a person, particularly vividly expressing itself after the removal of limitations on the mind? A number of speculative answers may be found, but truth is only known by experience. When our own experience is insufficient, we can turn to the experience of others, having looked at the life of an especially strange mystic, for example. Then, possibly, we will be able to understand the border between the madness of the ordinary mind and the mad statements of a person who tries to express the experience of the beyond.

Porfiry Ivanov was likely the most mysterious Russian mystic. For starters, it is entirely unclear how he became the person he has appeared to be to a wide public. It is known that until the age of 35, his life was not remarkable; he loved card games, drinking, and fairly often changed jobs. No one would have taken him for a “great Teacher,” as he is now often called. His rebirth took place suddenly and seemingly without reason – he left home for five days (apparently he left his wife for another woman), and then returned a different person. Where he was during his absence is totally unknown, and he himself never talked about it. We only know that from that moment, Ivanov became seriously interested in the possibilities of the human organism and his life in harmony with nature. Porfiry Korneyevich himself indicates a precise date – April 25, 1933 – when it dawned on him that a person’s illnesses and death are due to the fact that he lives separated from nature. Thus, was born the Idea from which his practical teaching grew, resulting in 12 commandments, which today are known as “Child” [Detka].  And here the question immediately arises: was this a vision and a commitment only at the level of the mind? Or did something more serious happen with Ivanov which changed not only his mindset but his entire existence as a whole?

There are two aspects which call attention to themselves in reviewing the story of Porfiry Ivanov’s rebirth. The first consists of the fact that the process of his assimilation to cold, his gradual emancipation from clothing, took about two years. At first he took off his hat in the winter, then his coat and then gradually reached the point that he was left only in his underwear. Here it could be said that in such a way, Ivanov accustomed himself to cold, and there can’t be any mystery in this. It can also be added that his abilities for hardening his own organism were outstanding and far greater than the rest of people. The second aspect simultaneously both confirms and denies the previous claim. It is related to the fact that not a single one of Porfiry Ivanov’s followers could come close to the level of being that their Teacher had, although he apparently left them direct instructions for how to do this. So here we are left with either admitting the mediocrity of Ivanov’s students and once again being amazed at the extraordinariness of Porfiry himself, or looking at the situation somewhat differently.

Not a single person, as hardened as he was, could remain naked in any cold for many hours. Such an ability, however, is demonstrated by some Tibetan mystics, whose internal warmth is so great that they can calmly sit in a snowdrift without freezing at all and can even warm the snow around themselves. And of course, this ability comes to them thanks to strict practices and internal discipline, which we don’t observe at all with Porfiry before the moment of his sudden change. Or, if you like, before the moment of his spontaneous transformation.