Kars Military Cathedral (Holy Apostles Church) 2009
In Meetings With Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff refers to his tutor as Dean Borsh. It was not the Dean’s real name – although Borsh may characterize the Dean – as being similar to the famous dish Borsh, with its a kaleidoscope of flavors and textures. Served with sour cream, it is both sweet and sour, as education itself has sometimes been described. Borsh is said to be the national dish of both Ukraine and Russia and is believed to be medicinal particularly for digestive complaints.
“Dean” is primarily a Catholic title. The more usual orthodox term for that role is Archimandrite – the Kars Military Cathedral was presided over by an archimandrite. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity an archimandrite is a senior priest ranking just below a bishop. His duties generally include providing spiritual guidance and counsel to both clergy and laity, overseeing the spiritual life of the diocese, performing sacred liturgies and sacraments, and teaching the faith. His duties would likely also include appointing and overseeing clergy, fundraising, hearing confessions, and providing pastoral care to the sick and dying.
The historical record of the Cathedrals’s archimandrites after the Cathedral was completed in 1881 is as follows:
1881-1883: Archimandrite Arseniy (Smirnov)
1883-1890: Archimandrite Vladimir (Nikolsky)
1890-1895: Archimandrite Nikodim (Bogoyavlensky)
The man whom Gurdjieff refers to as Dean Borsh is Archimandrite Vladimir Nikolsky. In 1877, Nikolsky was appointed as the rector of the Kars diocese in Kars, Turkey. The diocese had been established in 1875 after the Russian victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. He participated in the organization of the diocese and the cathedral prior to being appointed Archimandrite.
He was, as Gurdjieff recalls, a prolific composer of sacred music, writing over 100 canticles during his lifetime. (Many of Nikolsky’s canticles are still sung in Russian Orthodox churches today.) Records show that he died in 1890 and was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral.
Dean Borsh – The Great Saroonoorishan in The Tales
In The Tales Beelzebub requests of the captain of the Karnak that after their visit to the holy planet Purgatory, he alter the course of the Karnak so that he may visit the planet Dekaldino. He adds:
“The point is that, in the present period of the flow of time on that planet, the Great Saroonoorishan, my first educator, so to say the fundamental cause of all the spiritualized parts of my genuine common presence, has the place of his permanent existence.
“I should like, as at that first time, before going to the sphere on which I arose, to profit by this occasion and fall once more at the feet of the prime creator of my genuine being, the more so, since just now, returning from my perhaps last conference, the entire satisfactoriness of the present functioning of all the separate spiritualized parts of my common presence was revealed not only to me myself, but also to most of the individuals I met, and in consequence, the being-impulse of gratitude towards that Great Saroonoorishan arose in me and is still inextinguishably maintained.
“I very well know, my dear Captain, that I am giving you no easy task, because I have already been a witness of the difficulties in carrying out this same request of mine, when, returning for the first time after my gracious pardon to the place of my arising on the planet Karatas, I desired before descending onto it, to visit the surface of the planet Deskaldino. On that occasion, when the captain of the intersystem ship Omnipresent had agreed to this and directed the falling of the Omnipresent in the direction of the atmosphere of that planet and was indeed able to carry out my request, I was able, before my return to my native land, to reach the surface of the planet Deskaldino and I had the happiness of greeting the Great Saroonoorishan, the creator of my genuine being-existence, and to receive from him his ‘creator-benediction,’ most dear and most precious to me.
Dean Borsh is the Great Saroonoorishan.