This is a story about Dutch aristocrats, Royal incest, Rasputin and the ill-fated Romanovs.
Hint: It could have easily been written by Dan Brown…thus the fanciful title.
In ancient kingdoms it was fairly common for brothers to marry sisters or sometimes close cousins. This practice – called Endogamy- persisted for thousands of years. Even modern European aristocrats engaged in Endogamy – and therefore- incest. The cause of this incest, however, was not some perverse impulse, but rather a desire to contain and maintain something called “mana”.
Throughout history, rulers believed they were superior human beings because they possessed a life-force much more powerful than what others had. Marrying close relatives insured that the “mana" remained within the family and was not diminished or weakened through Exogamy. The early Romanovs practiced Endogamy as did many elite aristocratic families.
My colleague Dr Langdon at Harvard discovered a remarkable historical fact concerning Dutch aristocrats living in New Netherlands (now New York State). Because of Endogamy, some offspring were born with quite abnormal physical and mental traits. Successive generations of in-bred aristocrats were producing offspring with clear signs of physical and mental degeneration. Out of disgust and shame, the parents banished these freaks to the remotest corner of the Dutch colony near the Canadian border to hopefully die off far away from home. Some survived – and married each other – producing even more sickly children with very low intellect. But the Mana remained just as strong!
While discussing this finding with an anthropologist from Russia, Dr Langdon discovered that elite aristocrats there did exactly the same thing with biologically freakish offspring. These unfortunate children were carted off to a remote area in Siberia where they were expected to die off in the harsh climate. However, not only did they not die off, they remembered why they were banished and abandoned and vowed revenge on the royal family for allowing this practice to occur. The surviving members of this group selected one man with the most “mana” who would be sent on a mission to infiltrate the inner circle of the Romanov family and destroy them. His name was Rasputin.
Before Rasputin made his way to St. Petersburg he went on a journey – a spiritual quest. During part of this journey he spent 40 plus days in isolation and without food - far away from civilized life. Anthropologists call this the “Vision quest”. Stories abound about men who survived this “rite of passage” being able to perform magic afterwards. Indeed, according to Christians, Jesus Christ began performing miracles following 40 days without food and in isolation in the desert.
There are many instances of Rasputin performing what some might call “miracles” and he greatly impressed the monks he met with his life-force shining powerfully from his fiercely hypnotic eyes. It is said that Rasputin either struck you as a “holy man”(starets) or as “one possessed by demonic spirits”. In any event, he got his big chance to enter the private world of the Romanovs when he was summoned on to care for Alexei the hemophiliac son of Nicholas and Alexandra.
Using his healing powers, Rasputin seemed to cure Alexei’s malady which, incidentally, was caused by too much in-breeding among the Romanovs. Having gained the trust and gratitude of Alexandra, Rasputin would graduate in time from a part-time spiritual advisor and personal healer to confidant and political advisor! His presence within the deeply religious family was seen as ruinous by many aristocrats close to the royal family and many citizens blamed Russia’s ills on Rasputin. Prince Felix Yusupov and others would eventually assassinate this controversial “starets”.
According to legend, his life force – already considered powerful by those who selected him-had become even stronger after the Vision Quest. So much so that Rasputin was not killed by the poison-laced wine they gave him or by the bullets pumped into his body three times at close range. His corpse- when it was eventually retrieved from the Neva River revealed the cause of death to be drowning and that Rasputin had struggled to the last moment trying to break through the winter ice.
This story came full circle when Dr Langdon told me of a certain Greet Hofmans who was a Dutch faith healer and "hand layer". For nine years she was a friend, confidante and advisor of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, often residing at the palace. Like Rasputin, this healer deeply divided the Royal family causing enmity and conflict. Hofmans would have ended up like Rasputin, but left the Dutch royal court in 1956 after receiving a letter warning that both she and Queen Juliana’s private secretary would be "assassinated if she did not leave “voluntarily".
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