Thursday, 20 September 2018

Q81: How much did Freemasons influence Doukhobors?

Yuri Zbitnoff of Boston, USA asks:

How much did Freemasonry influence Doukhobor theology?

I was doing a little digging to better acquaint myself with the spiritual origins of the Doukhobor world-view. Can you confirm or elaborate on the claims from this piece: Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History, on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website?


It is possible that Doukhobors could have been influenced a little by Russian Freemasons, very little.

The 'piece' you read was a paper presented in 1999 by Svetlana A. Inikova in Ottawa, at our conference: 'The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on their Unity and Diversity.'

Because 'Masons' are mentioned 8 times in her paper, you probably became curious for more. As of now, I do not know of anything more than what was presented in 1999.

After the Russian scholar Dr. A. I. Klibanov — 'the elder of Soviet sectarianism' — died in 1994, Inikova was appointed to his position at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, and continued his research of folk-Protestantism. In 1990, Inikova and I toured communities of Spiritual Christians in North America and produced 2 books about Doukhobors, both published in 1999. She never mentioned anything more about Masons that I recall.

In my opinion Lev. N. Tolstoy is the major origin of the world-view of Canadian Doukhobors. Many other European Protestant influences on Russia can be speculated about, some of which are listed in my 2013 lecture: ‘Evolution of the Doukhobor Movement’, see slides 5 and 7. The Masons could be added to these incomplete lists. We know that the Doukhobor movement evolved from centuries of acts of survival and adaptation by preceding human populations and societies, and more research can be done.

In the meantime, I view the Canadian Doukhobors as a type of  'Tolstoyan social movement' with a focus on creating a compassionate and caring world based on love and nonkilling. Lev Tolstoy is indeed an inspiration for the Doukhobors.
It was speculated that Russian Freemasons did influence some of the most zealous Spiritual Christian
Pryguny (Jumpers), and their offshoot tribes of Dukh-i-zhizniki in America.  At least one Prygun immigrated to California as a Mason, and in the 1980s his grandson, John Spoldsoff continued the family tradition by being elected to Head Mason    A link to that research conducted in the 1980s by Phillip and Ludmilla Efseaff, Oregon, USA, will be posted later.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ron Kalmakoff's New Recording

Ron Kalmakoff writes:

Some of you may remember me from my appearances starting at age 15 in Canora, Saskatchewan, or on radio and TV. Others may remember me living in Maple Ridge, BC, where I owned the Little Cricket Gift Gallery for 14 years.

More recently some of you may have seen me walking on one of the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, BC, searching for my latest inspiration.

Hopefully most of you will remember me as singer~songwriter Ron Kalmakoff. That is where my heart is today.

After 7 years since my last album, Turn Around in 2010, I am back with a new recording project: ‘Long, Long Time’, YouTube.

Send me email or buy my music at Bandcamp. I’d also like to hear from you via Facebook or Instagram.

Ron Kalmakoff is an accomplished recording artist who for a short time used the English stage-name “Ron Sommerfeld” (1974), but returned to his identity as a Doukhobor. His concerts and 1982 demo led to an appearance on the Tommy Hunter TV show, then CBC's Search For the Stars where he placed 45 among 700 performers. His music was played and sold in Europe. Ron now lives in Sunshine Coast, BC. His original website was online from 2011 to 2015. Songs and videos online:

Suggestions for 'World Beyond War' Conference in Toronto Sept. 21 - 22, 2018

The forthcoming peace conference in Toronto, Canada in September 2018 appears like the ultimate in world peace conferences. Its organizer is David Swanson, founder and Director of World BEYOND War.

The confirmed speakers are impressive, including retired Canadian anthropologist Dr. Saul Arbess, who is currently the Director of the Canadian Peace Initiative (formerly known as the Canadian Dept. of Peace Initiative) that I have been associated with since its birth in 2006.

The conference shows much promise, and these additions would make it more effective.

The Doukhobors should be included under 'War Abolishers' (right column). In 1895, 7,000 Russian pacifists in Russia burned their guns — a public declaration to the world that violence and wars are wrong and that non killing is the way of the future. As a Doukhobor, I have been taught that it is wrong to kill another human being because there is a spark of god/love/beauty in each of us, and war is a crime.

At least three speakers from important organizations should be included in the Speaker's List:
  • Prof. Johan Galtung, Transcend Media Service, a peace journalist for over 65 years. He is founder of Transcend International and rector of Transcend Peace University.
  • A representative for The Center for Global Nonkilling  founded in 2007 by the late Dr. Glenn D. Paige in Hawaii. Its goal: 'to promote change toward the measurable goal of a killing-free world'.
  • Sharon Tennison of The Center For Citizen Initiatives, California, builds bridges of peace through citizen diplomacy between Russia and the USA. 

World BEYOND War is a global network of volunteers, activists, and allied organizations advocating for the abolition of the very institution of war. Its success is described as being driven by a people-powered movement. Support their work for a culture of peace. World BEYOND War PO Box 1484 Charlottesville, VA 22902 USA

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Peace Billboard in Saskatchewan

Messages from Ed Lehman, President Regina Peace Council, Saskatchewan:
  • Photo of our peace billboard, erected May 25, 2018, outside of Qu'Appelle, SK, on the Trans Canada Highway (SK-1), about 55 km (35 miles) east of Regina.
  • Unveiling ceremony to be held at the billboard on Saturday June 16 at 2 p.m.
  • We paid for the east-facing side for one year, seen by west bound traffic.
  • Please forward this news.
Unveiling Ceremony, 16 June 2018
Canada - Act for Peace Not War.
  • Sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  • No Participation in Balistic Missile Defense
  • Stop Exporting Weapons of War
  • Oppose Regime Change Militarism
Regina Peace Council
in memory of Peter E. Gehl.

Peter Eric Gehl, 2008
Regina area resident and pacifist Peter Eric Gehl (1952 - 2016) was active in the Regina Peace Council, Regina Peace Quest (co-founder), the Canadian Peace Congress, and Canadians for Peace and Socialism.

PQ Regina Mourns Loss of Peter Gehl, by Ed Lehman, Peace Quest, October 25, 2016.

Lehman wrote: 'The Billboard was done in memory of Peter E. Gehl, a past president of the Regina Peace Council, a national board member of the Canadian Peace Congress, and a co-founder of PeaceQuest Regina. Peter was a life-long worker for peace and social justice.'

When Ed Lehman was asked by phone (June 6) "Why a billboard?", he explained: "To do something different. To get our message to more people. ... To do it more broadly. ... We are normally talking to small groups of people, when when we need to be talking to tens of thousands of people. ... That highway has lots of traffic."

When asked how they chose the message, Lehman said that they deliberated to be as brief as possible, to only post what was important and could be read by a passing vehicle. He added that it was expensive for them, so they paid for only one side, seen by west-bound traffic, for one year from May 25, 2018. They hope to get more exposure during the unveiling on June 16.

Contact Ed Lehman, President Regina Peace Council, 306-718-8010 or

Media Event on Saturday June 16 at 2 p.m.

To get more press coverage, the Regina Peace Council will host an unveiling ceremony next week, on June 16, 2018, at 2 p.m. on the east side of the billboard. Invite yourself and your friends.

From Regina, SK, take SK-1 east about 55 km (35 miles). U-turn back at Highway 35 (not to Qu'Appelle). Go west on SK-1 about 600 metres. It is the only billboard.

Billboard news so far

Peace Billboard Celebrated in Saskatchewan, by Ed Lehman, Peace Quest, June 19, 2018 — The peace dove (1961) art was one of several by Pablo Picasso, who was a 1950s promotor of the World Peace Council.

Billboard for Peace, Peace Alliance Winnipeg, Saskatchwan, May 27, 2018.

Peace Billboard in Saskatchewan, Spirit-Wrestlers Blog, June 6, 2018.


Comment Below

Please add any updates or posting about this billboard.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Are Doukhobors
    “people of the 25th century”?

By Andrei Conovaloff

What did Lev Tolstoy mean in 1898 when he wrote Doukhobors were “people of the 25th century”? And, in 1899 he wrote that in “500 years ... the majority of Christian[s]” will adopt Doukhobor beliefs. Was this a compliment, or a prophesy? Both?

I have seen the quote about Doukhobors being “people of the 25th century” by Lev Tolstoy several times in the past. Though it appears odd, I never bothered to question its source until this week.

The “25th century” phrase got my attention because it appeared 4 times on one page, in the promotion for this week’s USCC conference (May 18-19, 2018): “Spirit Wrestlers 2050: Call for Proposals” (link from: Iskra, issue 2125, April 2018, page 7):
  • At the end of the 19th century, author Lev Tolstoy called the Doukhobors “people of the 25th century”.
  • Today, more than ever, the world needs this 25th century thinking and action.
  • What are your ideas for action today that exemplify 25th century thinking?
  • … proposals are expected to be in alignment of the ideals and values that prompted Lev Tolstoy to call the Doukhobors “people of the 25th century”.
Are Doukhobors really “people of the 25th century”? Are they an advanced society, 400 years into the future? Hmm-m-m…. Star Trek people more than a 100 years ago? What did Tolstoy really mean?

A Google search finds more than a dozen requotes, but only one book cites the source — Andrew Donskov, Leo Tolstoy And the Canadian Doukhobors: An Historic Relationship, CRCRR, Jan 1, 2005, pages 30 and 168.
1898 December 5, letter from Lev N. Tolstoy to 2 of his daughters (Tat'yana and Mariya), Polnoe sobranie sochinenie (Complete collected works) volume 71, page 497.
I am glad that in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the death of Tolstoy in 2010, thousands volunteered from 49 countries to digitize most of Tolstoy’s work now online, with annotations, and page number anchor tags. 90 volumes of his complete works can be searched in Russian, and linked to by page number.

Here is a translated excerpt from that 1898 December 5 letter in context.

* 331. Т. Л. Толстой и М. Л. Оболенской.
1898 г. Декабря 5. Москва.
* 331. T. L. Tolstoy and M. L. Obolenskaya.
1898 December 5. Moscow.
Милые Таня и Маша.Dear Tanya and Masha.
... Нынче приехал Чернов (духобор). Вы, верно, мало говорили с ним. Я его очень люблю: такой же твердый, ясный, кроткий, как и все они, эти люди 25 столетия.… Today Chernov (a Doukhobor) came. You, of course, did not talk to him much. I love him very much. He is as solid, clear, and meek as all of them, these people of the 25th century.
В сравнении с ними особенно тяжелы те люди 15 столетия, среди которых живешь. In comparison with them, the people of the 15th century, among whom you live, are especially difficult.
Ужасно был дорогой спутник 11-го столетия. (7: Толстой, вероятно, имеет в виду какого-нибудь спутника по пути из Ясной Поляны в Москву.) My 11th-century travel companion was an awful person. (Note 7: Tolstoy probably had in mind some traveler en route from Yasnaya Polyana to Moscow.)
Миша ни то, ни се, всё в пьянстве эгоизма, но дурного пока ничего нет. ...
Л. Т.
Misha is neither here nor there, all in a drunken egoism, but there is nothing bad yet.
L. T. (Lev Tolstoy)

To paraphrase Uncle Lev in my words, he is saying that Doukhobors in December 1898 are “people of the future,” different from the backward (medieval) people of Russia, and especially ancient is Misha the drunk.

It appears to me that Tolstoy was having fun with words, antics with semantics, and “25th century” is used as a hyperbole, an exaggeration, along with the other numbered centuries.
  • 25th century = progressive, advanced — Doukhobors
  • 15th century = backward, medieval — Typical Russian peasants
  • 11th century = very undeveloped — Drunks
This is similar to the common Russian expression: “I haven’t seen you in a 100 years” — which can mean from “a while” to “a long time,” a few months to a year. Tolstoy appears to use "25th century" and "500 years" to mean a longer time, several years to several decades.

From Hyperbole to Metaphor to Slogan to Prophesy

BUT, for Canadian Doukhobors who commented on drafts of this article, Tolstoy's original hyperbole “people of the 25th century” has been expanded and transformed into a Doukhobor metaphor for people “ahead of their time,” embracing all the compliments and praise Tolstoy wrote and said about their ancestors and more. The phrase is now repeated like a slogan which combines and includes all their nonkilling legacies, and some interpret it as a prophesy to be fulfilled.
  • 1895Doukhobors burning their guns as a manifestation against militarism and wars, and obeying the 6th Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not murder’ — a brave historic action expressed by no other group.
  • 1897Tolstoy suggested giving Nobel Peace Prize money to "suffering and deserving" Doukhobors.
  • 1899 — Tolstoy wrote: "The Doukhobors’ faith approaches most closely the moral stature of people seeking God. Around 500 years from now the beliefs which made it necessary for the Doukhobors to resettle in [Canada, North] America will prevail among the majority of Christian peoples.” (Translation by Jack MacIntosh)
  • 2005 — Tolstoy "... indeed saw the Doukhobors as "people of the 25th century" — far ahead of their time." (Donskov 2005, page 168)
  • 2007 — "... the Doukhobor people were the people of the 25th century. That means it will be a long time before the rest of civilization catches up. When the first airplanes were invented many people thought they were evil ... against the spirit of God — he would have given us wings if he wanted us to fly ... You never hear them say if God had wanted us to be peaceful he would have made us that way ..." (Stenson 2007, page 150)
  • Much more .... Tolstoy and Doukhobors: A list of many online references.
Tolstoy died in 1910, long enough to learn that much of the social advantage Doukhobors had in the 1800s was lost in Canada, and elsewhere. The devastating economic setbacks due to protests by Freedomites, discrimination and repression by Canada, and mismanagement by two Verigin leaders, has been well documented, as was brutality of the two-thirds of Doukhobors remaining in the Soviet Union, and after perestroika The opportunity for a [post Soviet] revival ... has been squandered.” But the moral advantage remained mostly intact as many Doukhobors of all divisions continued the social movement of military resistance, spiritual Christianity, and promoting world peace in their own ways.

The task of defining and expanding 25th century thinking and action” around the world will be discussed this week at “Spirit Wrestlers 2050.” And, participants will submit “ideas for the future.

Lucky, Tolstoy literally gave Doukhobors 4 more centuries to become “people of the 25th century.”

I hope the USCC will post videos of the 2 meetings.

Enter your comment below.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Q80: What is the Origin of ‘borshch’?

During Orthodox Easter dinner on April 9th here in Ottawa, I served my traditional Doukhobor vegetable soup — borshch — which I cooked using my mother’s recipe.

My guests asked a question that never occurred to me:
'What is the Origin of borshch'

Tarasoff Doukhobor borshch.

In the past I was more concerned about the English transliteration of the Russian spelling which does not have a ‘t’ at the end. Q76: Correct Spelling of borshch?

Historically this was a staple Slavic poor peoples’ peasant soup, made year-round with local ingredients.

A Google search for ‘origins of borshch, borshcht, borsch, borscht’ returns what appear to be well researched histories with similar information. Russian and English Wikipedia histories differ. Here is a summary with 'Sources Online' listed below:
  • The origin of borsch is unknown, most likely, it appeared on the territory formerly occupied by Kievan Rus. Apparently, the widespread opinion that "borsch" [brshch] is an Old [East] Slavic name for beets, should be attributed to folk etymology .. [the word] ... is not … in dictionaries of ancient Slavic dialects, ....(2) (Russian Wikipedia)
  • ... [a soup like] borshch used to be the national food in Ancient Rome (8th century BC), where cabbages and beets were specifically cultivated for that purpose. … the modern version of borshch appeared around the 15th century. … the name came ... from the plant borshchevik (hogweed, cow parsnip) – one of the key ingredients … [and] or, from the word brshch, which meant beet in Old Slavonic. (1,4,5)
  • In the beginning, borscht was made with brsh root [Old East Slavonic term], not red beet root. Brsh, common hogweed ... was ... fed to swine ... also human food ... in the spring peasant would gather tender brsh leaves to cook as green and store the ... roots for winter soup. ... borshch ... originated in Ukraine. (page 5) (1)
  • Variations are widely distributed by migrating Slavs and peoples who carried and modified their borshch recipes around the world, including China. (3)
  • Variations are dictated by the land, weather, and local traditions, but also by circumstance: people from different cultures intermarry; families are both willingly and forcibly moved. (6)
  • Part of the family of sour soups, borscht is originally Ukrainian, … the beetroot-centered crimson version being the best-known. … white borscht, also called sour rye soup ... green borscht, packed with sorrel leaves [Щавель кислый, sour shavel’ ]. The consistent theme is that the soup has a sour taste, and that is can be eaten warm or cold (8)
  • “There are literally hundreds of recipes,” explained Halyna Klid, of the University of Alberta’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. “In Chernihiv province, a handful of buckwheat is added. In Lviv province, people use hunter's sausage.” …. There is also such a thing as bad borscht. (5)
  • borsch, borscht, … was not originally cooked with beets … the first experiment in transmitting the human voice from orbital flight involved the broadcasting of a borsch recipe ? (Burlakoff 1)
  • With nearly 200 fasting days per year, the Christian Orthodox Church had a profound influence on dietary habits of the faithful ... the most important of the prolonged fasts were the weeks before Christmas and Easter. Without meat, borscht got it's flavor from vegetables, ... (page 8) ... even a watermelon soup, ... in Paraguay, is called borscht. (page 9) (1)
  • Borscht belt is a "region of predominantly Jewish resorts in and around the Catskill Mountains of New York" (9)
Sources Online
  1. Gueldner, Rose Marie. A Taste of Tradition: Borscht, Glückstal Colonies Research Association Newsletter, November 2016, pages 5-9.
  2. Борщ, Wikipedia (Russian).
  3. Borscht, Wikipedia (English).
  4. Skorchenko, Evgenia. Of Russian origin: Borshch, RT Russiapedia.
  5. Schaap, Rosie. How borscht crosses the border between Ukraine and Russia: Can a pot of soup contain clues to the character of a country and its crisis?, Al Jazeera America, April 10, 2014.
  6. Hercules, Olia. Let Me Count the Ways of Making Borscht, The New Yorker, December 7, 2017.
  7. Meek, James. The story of borshch, The Guardian, March 15, 2008.
  8. Charney, Noah. Cooking the Classics: Borscht, Fine Dining Lovers, July 11, 2017.
  9. borscht (n.), Online Etymology Dictionary.
Books by Burlakoff
  1. Burlakoff, Nikolai. The World of Russian Borsch, Aelita Press, 2013, 240 pages.
  2. Burlakoff, Nikolai. Erol Beet and the Borsch Angel: How the Borsch Angel Got Her Name, Aelita Press, June 28, 2012. 32 pages.

What borshch means to me

As a comfort dish of many local culinary Slavic peoples, this soup dish is commonly made in a big pot to feed everybody for several days, and is often more delicious the next day.

Many Doukhobor and Mennonite websites talk about borshch (borsht, borshcht) as a popular dish amongst their population.

As I see it, borshch has become a world wide common dish with almost institutional qualities.

Because of their pacifist nonkilling stance, Doukhobor borshch was traditionally vegetarian, with dill, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, beets and butter being its most prominent ingredients. Today, 2018, only a small minority of Doukhobors are vegetarian, although those who make borshch make it without meat.

Most other non-Doukhobor borshch recipes often include meat as part of it although in the pioneering era, less than 10 percent of the population ate meat because it was largely not available and was expensive.

Borshch is utilitarian in that you could include almost any available vegetable that you have around and add meat if that is your preference. It’s cheap, available, communal and healthy. A universal dish! A similar soup was made in Roman times.

During the Soviet Union, borshch was the most common dish enjoyed at home and in restaurants. It was even used by Russian cosmonauts in freeze-dried form.

Borshch is a ritual dish for Orthodox, Greek, Roman Catholic and Jewish peoples in Eastern Europe. For Doukhobors, it is the first food served (without meat) at funerals.

In brief, for Doukhobors, borshch is a universal dish with Slavic heritage and communal roots, and is largely known for its association with hospitality, nonkilling and good health.

Thanks to our Russian ancestors who have for centuries made this delicacy a contribution to world culture, these are outstanding human qualities that society dearly needs today. Enjoy!

Bolshoe spasibo! [A Big thank you!]

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Issues for the World Peace Forum

Plans are in full swing to hold the 12th World Peace Forum in Toronto, Canada April 19 -22, 2018, organized by the Schengen Peace Foundation.

This year the program is "Leadership for Peace" — conflict resolution, connecting peacemakers to women, stability and peace, and finding common global values.

I will not be able to attend the Toronto Peace Forum. So I emailed to my peace network, some of whom are attending, a set of issues that I believe would make the Peace Forum more dynamic and relevant:
  • A paradigm shift from a war economy and culture to one based on nonkilling peace.
  • Support the United Nations to get rid of 'the scourge of war' and confirming that life is a human right and that nonkilling is the way of the future.
  • Disarmament is the road for getting rid of weapons of mass destruction and beginning a new era of normalizing civilized life.
  • Propaganda. Recognizing that wars have been started by misinformation. Because the media and the politicians have an important role in preventing wars, how do we encourage them to be professionally responsible?
  • Education. Bringing up children of goodwill requires good schools, full health coverage, housing, transportation, and a healthy environment; and continuing education for everyone.
  • Respect our neighbours including nations, via bridge-building, diplomacy, international laws, and Departments of Peace. Avoid regime change,  military bases abroad. Get to know the stranger.

Several replied:
From Steve Staples:

Thanks Koozma. First I had heard about it.
From Gord Breedyk:

Thanks Koozma, I will look for opportunities to make those points. We aren’t sure what the “Forum” will be like, never having attended before. However, we felt we couldn’t pass it up, since it is so close There are four of us from Civilian Peace Service attending.
From Bill Bheneja:

Thank you Koozma for pointing these excellent peace themes so succinctly.

Saul and I attended one of the earliest Peace Forums in Vancouver in 2006, one of the many workshops/seminars there was on Department of Peace; it was in connection with Second Global Summit of Departments of Peace conference being held in Victoria, we had several high level speakers including US Congressman Denis Kuccinich and Dot Maver.
From Peter Stockdale:

I agree.
From Murray Thomson:

Very good, Koozma, Champion of Nonkilling (I hate the word but love its meaning)! Stay nonkillingableforever.
Reply from Bill Bhaneja:

Thank you, Murray. It was great to be out with the like- minded. 100 years ago, people hated the word Nonviolence, except a few like Tolstoy and Gandhi. 100 years from now when we become sick of deliberately taking human lives, Nonkilling will be the word. That sounds so high minded!

As I post this article on April 4th, I am reminded that 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on this day in the USA by a lone gunman. Because King made a radical indictment of US empire, militarism, capitalism and racism, the main stream media demonized him. Here are King's words of wisdom which organizers of the World Peace Forum need to take to heart by speaking truth to power:
'We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . . When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.' — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967.
King's legacy is a moral reminder to all of us that we must persevere against the forces of evil not just with words but with deeds for nonkilling peace — or face human extinction. The 12th World Peace Forum is an opportunity to address this challenge. The question is: Will the participants dare to do so?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Peace Networking with Professor Beissel

Here’s how I happened to network with another amazing pacifist in Ottawa.

For years peace activists in Canada had planned a Vimy Ridge Anti-war Project, a simultaneous cross-Canada protest to educate the public that ‘the spectacle of war… where more than 10,000 were killed or wounded in 4 days’ in France in April 1919 is being glorified as the 'Birth of Our Nation'.

On November 11, 2016, I volunteered to assist an Anti-War Pop Up (#1) event about our national 100th Anniversary of the WWI Battle of Vimy Ridge, hosted by the War Resisters Support Campaign. This was an educational meeting at a bookstore to organize a larger event at the Ottawa Public Library on April 9, 2017: Anti-War Pop Up 2 : Public Readings of Plays by David Fennario.

Our library event strategically preceded the April 10, 2017, lecture in the same Auditorium about the Canadian National Vimy Memorial at the Vimy Visitor Education Centre 175 km north of Paris, France.
Henry Beissel

On April 9, I choose a good seat up front to take photos, and a late comer took an empty seat next to me. Four performers read from 2 recent plays by David Fennario: ‘Bolsheviki’ and ‘Motherhouse’. (See photo album.)

Afterward, during the question and answer session, the man next to me (photo right) stood up and made one of the most brilliant statements about pacifism I have ever heard. I really wanted to know who this man was, so before he departed I invited him for coffee. I immediately bonded with Henry Beissel as we shared our life stories, and exchanged emails.

Later by email I again thanked him, and he replied:
I don't wish to denigrate the presentation organized by the peace group, but I suspect what we heard was nothing new to any of us. The brutalities and idiocies of war have been written about, filmed and presented graphically time and time again, yet we're still carrying on with wars. What I want to know is what concretely can we do to end this vicious suicidal cycle.
That means trying to identify the root causes and proposing how to deal with them. I think I can make some contribution to research in this area, but I don't have the answers either. However, unless we zero in on an honest diagnosis we will never be able to find a cure. Of course, there may be no cure. In which case homo sapiens is doomed. I prefer to think that there is enough intelligence between the best humans to get us beyond aggression and violence.
In short, Beissel is disappointed that no solutions for world peace were discussed, nor were presented at later ‘peace’ events to which I invited him. See his comments on November 13, 2017 (Remembrance Day), and September 2, 2017 (film at Ottawa Peace Festival).

I agree that we are spending lots of time talking about promoting peace, but not actually doing it. How can it be done? Is peace possible to achieve?

I invited him to participate in our book project: 150 Canadian Stories of Peace. And he contributed 2 poems (below). I gave him a copy of the book, and asked him to send a comment in which he again raised the issue of human survival, analyzing arguments over emotion and instinct, cooperation vs. aggressiveness, concluding with the hope that the arts can save us from annihilation.

Henry Beissel is a retired professor of English literature, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and editor who lives in Ottawa. He was raised Catholic in Germany, and after WWII moved to Canada where he became a secular humanist. His wife Arlette Franciere is a translator of French and Russian and is an accomplished painter. We recently had dinner together so our wives could meet.

At one of our lunches together, Beissel told me about a book that inspired him and gave him the technology to recover from cancer some 20 years ago (Mike Samuels, M.D. and Nancy Samuels, Seeing with the Mind’s EyeRandom House, 1975). I got a copy and read it.

Beissel says that cancer is not a disease but a dysfunction of our immune system. He used visualization to shrink cancer to zero when he went through the treatment chamber and visualized the malignant cancer cells dying. He regularly uses visualization in his work.

We found that we share similar journeys:
  • In the 1950s I published The Inquirer in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with ‘an inquiring approach to social problems’. Then in the 1960s, for two years, Henry was professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he published eight issues of Edge, an independent periodical that addressed controversial topics.
  • Henry moved to Trinidad and Tobago for two years as a Canadian Aid Professor and returned to Concordia University in Montreal as a Distinguished Emeritus Professor. He and his wife settled in Glengarry County (a rural area between Ottawa and Montreal near Manville) on 100 acres of undeveloped bush where they built their own house with a study for Henry and a studio for Arlette. They lived there for 35 years while Henry commuted to Montreal (150 km to office each way). Their neighbour Gary Geddes was editor/ publisher of Cormorant Press whom I visited to publish my books about Doukhobors.
  • We both knew Canadian poet Al Purdy. I never met him personally, but corresponded with him in the 1950s and received his newsletter.
  • We are close in age. Henry is 88 (turning 89 on April 12, 2018), while I am 86. Both of us strive to maintain our good health and fitness. We both have set the bar high, striving to reach at least 110. ‘Who will be first?’


Update: April 7, 2018

This article is republished in The Shift Catalyst, Issue 7: Peace, April 8, 2018, a bi-weekly e-zine with 420,000 subscribers.