The destiny of a well-known komi scientist-ethnographer, writer, enlightener Kallistrat Falaleevich Zhakov was not easy. All his life he was in creative search, trying to open something new in science, literature, in understanding of the world, to find his own place in it and to help other people to find the truth. His searchings in many things (if not in everything) were determined by religious views, the basis of which was formed in consciousness of a thinker yet in early childhood.
Kallistrat Zhakov was born on September 18, 1866 in a small village of Davpon near Ust-Sysolsk (now part of Syktyvkar). He spent his childhood in the Komi-land - at that time the remotest province of Russian Empire. His father, a talanted engraver, earned additionally on ornamenting iconostases in Orthodox Churches, straggled in different villages of the Komi-land, with the boy accompanying him. Childhood impressions of these travels lay deep in the heart and soul of K.Zhakov. Spending much time in village churches, with priests, he absorbed the atmosphere of church spiritual life, and may be this resulted later in some of his decisions and behaviour. It is no mere chance that many years later Kallistrat Zhakov called iconostas of the Orthodox Church “symbolic remains of all the wisdom of ancient phylosophy”.
However, the parents of K.Zhakov didn`t strictly follow the norms of orthodoxy. His mother gave him milk to drink in fasting which was not allowed to do, and “was not too religious”, as K.Zhakov himself recalled later. The ideas of people of the Komi-land didn`t fully correspond to christian canons. Afterwards Zhakov wrote: “Imagination of the people of this land should be captured by mysterious, severe nature and be full of mysticism and distrust to nature and man”. This “mysticism”, the heritage of the former heathen beleifs, was widely spread among komi people, mixing up with Christianity, which gave grounds for researchers of the first third of the XX century to speak of “two- beleifs” of the komis. Thus, the childhood of Kallistrat Zhakov went in surroundings of wood-goblins, water-sprites and christian holy things.
Zhakov started to study at the age of four, his first books, except “ABC- book”, being christian church-service literature. At first the boy didn’t much wish to study it. Here is one of the episodes from his childhood, as Zhakov recalled it: “I am sitting and reading Psalter in sad voice”, my father working close-by watching my reading. But as soon as my father is distracted by some friend of his, “I immediately run away from home, and good-bye my learning for the whole day”. Of great importance here was the fact, that there was no religious or some other literature in the komi language at that time, while komi people knew Russian very poorly (Zhakov himself started to speak Russian freely only at the age of 15). Nevertheless, by the time of entering school ( it was when he was 11) Kallistrat Zhakov knew, according to him, “prayer-books, chasoslov (church- service book with every-day prayers), Psalter”. He very much wanted to study orthodox literature in the komi language. Once, on finding out that his coeval “knows “The Virgin”in komi”he so much wished to talk to him that had gone one hundred and fifty versts along Komi-land with his friend without any adults. When entering elementary school in 1877, Zhakov said: “ I want to know prayers in zyryan-language”. At school, which he finished in 1878, Kallistrat Zhakov, apart from reading and writing and arithmetics, studied “some biblical histories”(this was mentioned later in his autobiographic story). In 1878-1881 K.Zhakov studied mathematics, Russian language, Laws of God, history at the Ust-Sysolsk college.
In autumn 1881 K.Zhakov left the Komi-land and went to the Russian town of Totma, where, in spite of poor knowledge of the Russian language, he was admitted to the Teachers seminary (there were no such educational institutions in the Komi land). He found himself in quite new, unusual atmosphere, separated from his relatives and friends, from native land. Under the influence of people, surrounding him, the ideas of Zhakov of life and religion had changed. The seminarist was keen on reading Ch.Darvin, read avidly “The origin of man”, became materialist. “In less than a year I stopped beleiving into “water-sprites”, I stopped beleiving everything”, - he wrote of this time. “I became convinced that a thought is a chemical combination in a brain, that man developed from a monkey, and that there is no great God in heaven”. This change in him was noticed by his teachers, and one of them started to persecute him for “atheism”. The result was that on finishing the seminary in 1884 Zhakov was disqualified as a village teacher for “free-thinking”. In 1884-1886 K.Zhakov worked as an unskilled worker at a plant in Vyatka province, served as a clerk in the village of Kortkeros not far from Ust-Sysolsk. The priest of Kortkeros thought Zhakov to be an atheist, and not without reason, as at that time he had nothing in his head but “atoms, didn`t admit anything in nature”.
In 1887 K.Zhakov went to Vologda. In 1888 he entered the 5-th form of the Vologda college. During his studies he became keen on idealistic phylosophy, discovered for himself Kant, Tan. Studying of the works of Kant had changed all his inner world. Materialism he beleived in disappeared. In the 7-th form Zhakov was so much influenced by Kant that he felt it a burden to live: “The essence of things is non-understandable, sciences know only shadows, illusions, our feelings. What to live for?”- he thought, and took poison, but doctors saved him. K.Zhakov left the college, but in 1891 returned to Vologda, having decided to pass examinations without attending lectures. At that time he wrote his first, yet unskilled phylosophical works “About God” and “On boundaries in knowledge”.
After passing the exams Zhakov went to Petersburg, where he entered Timber Institute intending to become a forester, thus binding his lot with Zyryan forest that attracted him with its age-old mysteries. “Zyryans are surrounded by dense forest... This forest has become for them (zyryans) a living being, powerful, mysterious, terrible. Hundreds of years passed, when this terrible living being has divided in the mind of a primitive man into two beings - the forest, full of wonders and mysteries, and the God of forests, a stern master in them...”- he wrote later. But soon K.Zhakov got disappointed in his studies. A large city, the capital of the Empire, staggered him: “I saw thousands of workers living in poverty, I saw fuss, constant movement and absence of any naturality and justice”- he spoke. “What is this fussy life, going on in Petersburg and other large cities, for?” Neither was Zhakov satisfied with subjects he studied: “Natural sciences that are taught in the Timber Institute are of no use to me: there is no soul in them”. The life in Petersburg has become intolerable for him. The zyryan- student felt drawn back to province, this remore corner, to the non-fussy life of the village, where, as it seemed to him, spiritual life was preserved. And came back the interest to Holy Writ, better realized now, which seemed to have gone with childhood. “I wanted to become a priest”,- Zhakov recalled. G.S.Lytkin, komi scientist and enlightener, who lived in Petersburg (Lytkin`s book “Zyryan land under the Perm bishops and the zyryan language” impressed Zhakov greatly) approved his intention. The rector of the Alexander-Nevski monastery Vassian said to Zhakov:”It will be difficult for you to live among clergy-men”. But the latter, on receiving a letter of recommendation from the office of Ober- Prosecutor of the Holy Sinod to the Vologda bishop Ilarion, already at the end of December 1891 was in Vologda.
When he met with Ilarion, the question was either to study at the Ecclesiastical Academy or to devote himself to priesthood. The bishop advised him to live in the monastery. His resolution on Zhakov`s application was: “It is of no good for him to be idle, he should accustom himself to church-life”. Zhakov met Christmas in Zaozerskaya hermitage not far from Vologda. He lived in a cell, wore surplice of a lay-brother, read church-service-books, life-stories of holies, attended divine services, sang on choir, wrote work “On immortality and love”(“There, beginning with description of nature, I went up to the thought of immortality, of eternal beauty and of love”,- he recalled). It seemed, everything was OK, but... In some months after coming back from the hermitage Zhakov was intrusted to teach arithmetics at the monastery school. In enthusiasm, he started to give his pupils something of astronomy and physics, to tell them of the sun and the planets, on the origin of man. “There are sceintists,-he said,- who say that there was neither Adam nor Eva and that people originated from a monkey”. Rumours on his “heretical” ideas quickly spread in the monastery. The attitude to K.Zhakov had changed, he was treated with suspicion, a complaint was sent to the bishop and the prosecutor. “I understood,- K.Zhakov wrote later,- that I won`t be allowed to describe biblical and gospel events in lively vivid speech...I guessed that I`ll never be a priest, and even if I were, I`ll be unfrocked later. I had to find some other ways in life. I had to know myself, be satisfied with science and become an independent preacher of truth”. With this thought, on the 5-th month of his stay, Zhakov went away from Zaozerskaya hermitage.
On returning to Vologda Zhakov was arrested by police. He was interrogated of his views on religion, contacts with local “free-thinkers” and political convicts. From May 1892 to spring 1895 K.Zhakov was in Vologda under surveillance of the police, and so he could not leave the town. On setting free from surveillance, he wanted to pass the exams for school-leaving certificate, to enter a university, but plucked in the examination of the Law of God. Next year Zhakov passed the exams and entered the Kiev University, where he studied mathematics, geology, anatomy, psychology, phylosophy, history, philological sciences, going from physical-mathematical faculty to historical-philological, not knowing what to choose.
In spite of non-successful experience from his stay in hermitage, Zhakov didn`t lose interest to religion (not only to christian one). This interest increased in 1899, when after the 3-rd course he came back to his native-land, where he hadn`t been for 9 years. Zhakov visited many villages, known to him from childhood, but this time he saw them from new, unexpected side. He “for the first time looked at ...his native villages, great rivers, dense forests as a painter.. and was astonished by their beauty”. Leaving the Komi-land, he, “full of fairy-tale plots”, on his way to Ustyug wrote the work “Heathen world outlook of Zyryans”(published in 1901 in the journal “Nauchnoye obozreniye (Scientific survey)”. In autumn 1899 Zhakov was transferred to the 3-rd course of historical-philological faculty of the Petersburg University. He read papers in phylosophy and folklore. This was noticed by his teachers, and in 1900 K.Zhakov was sent by the Academy of Sciences on a study tour to the Komi land.This trip resulted in the work “Ethnological essay of Zyryans”written in autumn 1900 (published in 1901 in the journal “Living olden times”). In the above works the main place is given to religious beleifs of the komi people, their roots and present-day state. We may suppose that the author was interested not only in the scientific problem itself ; he considered himself to be an intergral part of Zyryan people and tried to find out, to understand the roots of his own world outlook. With these works started the transition of Zhakov to positions of religious phylosophy.
Analyzing the world outlook of komi-zyryans, the roots of their “mysticism”, K.Zhakov first of all addressed to natural conditions of the Komi- land - to its bounless spaces, covered with forests, with scattered villages stretching along river-banks. It is no mere chance, that the researcher accented his attention at this fact, as it was what he himself loved and appreciated most of all. As to cities, their civilization with cars (“dead cars..., pitiful product of human hands”), Zhakov thought them to be an obstacle on the way to free development of people, the force levelling human individuality. “I am dispirited with car-filled- cities, giving no leisure, no development for a person”, “I am a peasant, and I am perishing”,- he wrote.
Komi land made quite another impression, here were no large plants, highways, towns (with the exception of small Ust-Sysolsk) with their fussy social life.”Here are some other things”,- Zhakov wrote,- “the forest life. Almost all space here is covered with forests. They are the place of hunting and feats, the source of mysticism and poetry. Forests are... boundless, they have developed the liveliness in the character of a zyryan. There is as little of social mind in him, as much of wild, natural power... He is brave and courageous as a hunter,... he is a son of spacious forests”. “People living here should...keep to polytheism, beleifs, the essence of which is in personification of great natural phenomena”,- thought Zhakov. “The poetry of religion...is the expression of the nature of a locality, occupation of the people”. Forest and hunting, in the opinion of K.Zhakov, had the greatest effect on the formation of beleifs of zyryans. “The dense forest gave some concrete trend to shamanism in zyryans. The God of forest - Versa - was in the central place among other gods, if not in might, then in closeness to man”. “Zyryans live on river-banks,-he continued,-...River gives them food and water... Rivers are ways of communication. So another cycle...of beliefs...deals with water and its master - water-sprite”. “The third occupation of zyryans ...is farming. It depended on other gods, on the Sun, the God of thunder and lightning, the winds”. Zhakov thought that “versa”, the forest master, his wide - “ema”, their children, bear - “osh”, the God of the river -“vasa”- were the closest gods for komis. “Sacrifices were made to these close gods”. “Zyryans had ...sanctuaries, full of copper and wooden gods - gods of forest, water, fire etc. They had sacred birch-trees always decorated with animal skins”. They also had gods that “were far from people”: “The dome of heaven decorated with stars was the habitat of God “En”... The God of Sun and the God of Moon and heavenly Ox (eshka-meshka) also lived in the skies. Zhakov mentioned of “peculiar komi theory about “ort”- man`s double... When a person comes on a visit, his “ort”- shadow, double, the same as this person is, in the same clothes - comes with him. When a person dies, his “ort” continues to live, and it may be seen.
“Christianity didn`t bring any sudden change into this world of peculiar technology and mythology”,- K.Zhakov pointed out. Until now the ideas of people ...are full of mystic views on nature and man”, “the world outlook of the komis is nothing but heathenism, a bit changed, smoothed by Christianity, but not destroyed”. Zhakov spoke of “two-beliefs”of the komis, of their “religious duality”, odd combination of Orthodoxy with ancient heathen beliefs. (Undoubtedly, these remarks may be referred to religious views of Kallistrat Zhakov that were formed under the influence of not only Christianity and Heathenism, but of other religions and dogmas of the West and the Orient). “Two-beleifs”, Zhakov noted, ”gradually disappear in people under the influence of the Church and reading the Holy Writ”, slowly altering into “a truly christian dogma”. But even “now” when all previous gods are forgotten, the God of forest still plays a great role in ...beliefs, in superstitious stories. He now and then appears with his dog among hunters and begins to cry: “Tet, tet!”- this is how he calls his dog”.
Sadly K.Zhakov pointed out considerable differences in relation to religion in different generations of komis. “There is great difference between grandfathers and grandchildren in zyryans. Grandparents were trappers, magicians, mystics, singers. Their grandchildren are workers at timber-merchants, wood-cutters at Perm plants, there is little mysticism in their souls and absolutely no poetry”. “In the soul of growing generation, brought up under Russian plant-owner, you will find no former idealism that was formed in dense forests under the influence of heathen mythology and beginning of Christianity. People became materialists. Wealth and force, these are their gods... Religion doesn`t give consolation”. The loss of interest of new komi generations to the beliefs of their fathers and grandfathers, which Zhakov considered an integral part of culture, troubled him: “Sadness fills you when you look at young people... What for do they live in the North? What of the North do they have? Harmony between man and nature is destroyed, there is no sense in his existence”. The reason for these changes Kallistrat Zhakov saw in the industrial development and urban civilization. With the increase of occupation at different by-work in industry “people stopped working with zeal in agriculture, started to forget hunting, to be distracted from home, to forget speaking zyryan-language, became bad-tempered”. “Many of them stopped loving their motherland, lost respect to old customs and traditions”. Zhakov only ascertains this fact, not knowing where to find the way out. The solution will come only in two-three years...
In 1901 K.Zhakov graduated from the Petersburg University, for some time he worked at the Russian Language and History Department, prepared a dissertation on fairy-tales of zyryans. Then he taught at high schools, at Chernyaev cources, since 1908 he worked at Psycho-Neurological Institute. In the beginning of the XX century Zhakov went to several research expeditions, wrote a number of works of literature (stories, essays, fairy-tales, poems and an autobiographic story) and scientific works (on ethnography, folklore, linguistics, mathematics, literary criticism...).
Kallistrat Zhakov considered the development of original phylosophic theory which he called “limitism”- from the word “limes”- his main achievement (according to one of the key provisions of limitism “cognition is a variable quantity going to its limit, to being”, the prime reason of all is the “Prime Potential or the God” who is “limitless in all directions and in all senses, it is impossible to cognize him. He acts differently, but his attitude to cosmos is cognisable”. The works of K.Zhakov “The theory of variable and limit in gnosiology”, “Limitism: theory of variable and limit in gnosiology”, “The fundamentals of evolutional theory of knowledge (limitism)” etc. are devoted to limitism.
“I have been a materialist for a long time,- Zhakov recalled,- ...From the age of 23 I was the follower of Kant and an idealist... But I was not satisfied by any of these. From 35 I thought of their synthesis and came to my theory of knowledge”. “Limitism gets over materialism, idealism and scepsis”. “Limitism is a new method of studying the history of phylosophy and phylosophic history and all other sciences... It unites all sciences and religions”. Zhakov stressed: “Limitism comes to the doctrine on the Prime Potential, which is inexhaustible, simple, natural, free, wise, good and indivisible.This is a medial understanding of the world. Minimal permits only energy, maximal thirsts for God. So, limitism is a religion of science. The doctrine of Prime Potential is the kernel of science and religion”.
Kallistrat Zhakov addressed his theory not only to religious people, though he himself at the beginning of the XX century finally changed over to positions of religious phylosophy. “Limitism,- Zhakov wrote,- is a ground on which an atheist is able to unite with a believer. An atheist doesn`t recognize the God as he is unable to create him logically; a religious man feels the Gos without creating him. In limitism an atheist can logically find the God, while a baliever - to feel him. Thus, the point for an agreement is found”.
“There is God in every man,- Zhakov taught,- but He doesn`t show neither for him, nor for any other ; for Him to show, there is necessary work and love for the Creator”. One of the “Rules of life according to limitism”formulated by K.Zhakov read: “All your days try to find the God - your Creator”. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the first 3-4 decades from Zhakov`s life were devoted to this search. And then, on finding his Creator and the way to follow to preserve the spiritual life testated by forefathers, the thinker formulated his task as follows: “My task is to preach of my God, to wander on the Earth and, without slyness, with naivety of a child, to describe all I hear and see...This way I`ll create a fairy- tale of the world”. K.Zhakov thought the main aim of his activity of an enlightener to be “the distribution of evolutional religion”. At lectures he “spoke of the God and the world”, “of Prime Potential - the wise principle of the Universe”. “Everyone will perish without the religion”, - the scientist thought.
Though Zhakov wrote that “there is no higher phylosophy than Orthodoxy”, his religion, his God were not well inserted into the orthodox ( and even christian) canons. It is no mere chance that in one of the towns no listeners attending courses for teachers of church-parochial schools were admitted to his lectures: “one ecclesiastic” thought Zhakov to be non-orthodox, but “panteist”. Really, in his beleiefs of the next world the influence of religions of the Orient is reflected. He wrote: “Life in the next world is a potential life of spiritual remains of man...Dreams are also the potential of soul. Dreams are the symbol of the next world. Dreams, lethargy, hypnosis are analogs, symbols for cognition of the next world. As in dreams we see that we are attacked by different animals, the symbols of our instincts, so in the next world our worst feelings and deeds will appear before us as animals hungering after us”. “After corporal death of a man...the Prime Potential core of our being...remains, and on the Prime Potential core traces of out deeds and thoughts and thirst for life are left. So the Prime Potential core will reincarnate as another organism”. The researcher V.V.Muravyev pointed out the closeness of K.Zhakov`s ideas of God to masson understanding of God as the Great Architect of the Universe (but no information of Zhakov`s belonging to massons is available). Kallistrat Zhakov`s sceptic attitude to “official”Russian church is known: “I would like to go to pray to my Father, but how can I go if I know that my people are under pressure of ministers of religion in the home of my Father”. “There is necessary another language in religion, another church forms”. In his search for these new forms, for new language Zhakov , to some extent, followed Lev Tolsloi , the teachings of whom greatly influenced the views of the scientist.
All the rest period of his life K.Zhakov devoted to propaganda of limitism. In Petersburg he organized a circle for phylosophy, every year he went to different regions of the country with lectures on limitism. Zhakov visited China, Japan, twice he visited Finland. His works - scientific and fiction - were known in Germany, France. In spring 1917 Zhakov left Petersburg, he lived in Pskov, Tartu, Valga, at the end of 1921 he went to Riga. Everywhere supporters of his teachings were left. Besides his work on enlightenment, Zhakov wrote new scientific and literary works, worked as a teacher. He lived very modestly, almost poorly. At the end of his life he wanted to return to Russia, but death on January 20, 1926 prevented him to do so. But K.Zhakov hoped to remain useful for his favourite “child” even after his death: his balsamed body was to be kept in the “Temple of limitism”, from where his teachings, as Zhakov hoped, will be spreading all around the world. But in some time after the death of the creator of limitism his “evolutional religion of science” was forgotten. He was buried on one of Riga cemeteries, where from many decades later his ashes were brought to Syktyvkar.