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Observations placeholder

The Khlystys - Possessed by the Spirit



Type of Spiritual Experience



Khlysts or Khlysty (Russian: Хлысты) was an underground sect from late 17th to early 20th century that split off the Russian Orthodox Church and belonged to the Spiritual Christians (духовные христиане) tendency. 'Khlyst', the name commonly applied to them, is a distortion of the name they used. The original name was the invented word Христововеры (Khristovovery, "Christ-believers") or Христы (Khristy). Their critics corrupted the name.

A description of the experience

F Youssoupoff – Lost Splendour 1953

They claimed to be inspired with the Word and to incarnate Christ. They attained this heavenly communion by the most bestial practices, a monstrous combination of the Christian religion with pagan rites and primitive superstitions. The faithful used to assemble by night in a hut or in a forest clearing, lit by hundreds of tapers. The purpose of these radenyi, or ceremonies, was to create a religious ecstasy, an erotic frenzy.

After invocations and hymns, the faithful formed a ring and began to sway in rhythm, and then to whirl round and round, spinning faster and faster. As a state of dizziness was essential for the 'divine flux', the master of ceremonies flogged any dancer whose vigour abated. The radenyi ended in a horrible orgy, everyone rolling on the ground in ecstacy or in convulsions. They preached that he who is possessed by the 'spirit' belongs not to himself but to the 'Spirit' who controls him and is responsible for all his actions and for any sins he may commit.

The source of the experience

Christian mysticism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps