Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

Those who are to become priestesses are mostly young girls who by the vow of their parents or for some other reason are consecrated from an early age to the service of God, or of this or that saint. They are given to the temple in childhood, where they are taught and prepared for everything necessary, as for example, for the sacred dances.

When several days after I first saw this class I went to see the performance of the genuine priestesses, I was astounded, not by the sense and meaning contained in their dances, which I did not as yet understand, but by the external precision and exactitude with which they performed them. Neither in Europe, nor in any other place where I have lived and have watched with conscious interest this sort of automatized human manifestation, have I seen anything to compare with this purity of execution.

We had been living in this monastery about three months and were beginning to get used to the conditions existing there, when one day the prince came to me with a sorrowful face. He said that that morning he had been called to the sheikh, with whom were several of the older brethren.

‘The sheikh told me,’ continued the prince, ‘that I have only three years to live, and he advises me to spend this time in the Olman monastery, which is on the northern slopes of the Himalayas, in order to make a better use of these three years for what I have dreamed about all my life. The sheikh said that if I should consent to go he would give me the appropriate guiding instructions and would arrange everything so that my stay there would be productive. Without hesitating, I immediately consented and it was decided that in three days I should set out for the monastery with certain qualified persons.

‘I therefore wish to pass these last few days entirely with you, who happen to be the man nearest to me in this life.’

The unexpectedness of it all dumbfounded me; and for a long time I was unable to say a word. When I had recovered a little, I could only ask him, ‘Is it really true?’