A Half a Century Experiment

By Sergei Vlasov
Photo by E. Ettinger

How to live without diseases? Generation after generation dreams about it. But even now, despite the tremendous medical achievements, we have to bitterly admit, that humanity doesn’t have less disease.

We will not discus serious illnesses – let’s take a common cold. According to statistics, more than half of all sickness falls into this category.
There are many various ways to stay healthy, but the best among them is the tempering-conditioning. Unfortunately the effect of cold on a human being has not been studied enough. However, the therapeutic properties of icy water were known millenniums ago. Many doctors still successfully practice this folk medicine today. For example, in the city hospital No.1 of Kaluga (Russia), the cold is used in treatment of neuroses and bronchial asthma. At the Kirov Sanatorium in Yalta, winter swimming is helping to treat hypertension and neurasthenia.

I.P. Pavlov explained the therapeutic influence of cold on an organism as a “shock treatment of the nerve cells” – a sudden affect on the nervous system. Still, there are many unanswered questions about the influence of cold on a human being.

This is why, in our opinion, the experiment of Porfiry Korneevich Ivanov, is so valuable. This citizen of the Voroshilovgrad’s region, has been testing himself for almost 50 years. He has so adapted himself to cold that he can spend many hours outside only in shorts and barefoot on snow!

He will be 85 years old and during his a half a century of being a friend to frost, he has never caught cold and was never sick with respiratory disease and flu. Before he began training himself, he was as sick as anybody else…

I found out about Porfiry Korneevich from the writer V.G. Cherkassov, a zealous follower of the simple system of superior health, created by Ivanov. And he is not alone: just in Moscow I know more than several dozen engineers, doctors, scientists who became followers of Ivanov. Following the example of “The Teacher” (as everybody call him), they run barefoot on snow, forgot about disease; though in the past they were frequently sick, now they thank the fate that brought them to Porfiry Korneevich.

Before visiting him in Verhny Kondryuchy village, where he now lives, I read about him in the book “The Reserves of Our Organism” written by two doctors: N. Agadjanyan and A. Katkov.
“In any frost he walks barefoot on the snow…and without feeling any cold”.
It sounded strange – doesn’t he really feel cold? This was the first question I asked Porfiry Korneevich.

- I am not feeling cold?! – He exclaimed – I feel it, even more than you. Only you are afraid of it I am not. I made a friend of the eternal human enemy.
- And you indeed are not getting sick?
- Why not? I am sick all the time: I am sick from the thought that I am capable, but prohibited to give my experience to people.
- Some say you believe in God.
- It's not absolutely true. I believed until I realized that God remains not in the sky, but on Earth in people who are able to be victorious over themselves.

This unusual man has a very interesting life. Born in a poor family, he became a coal-miner, like his father. He descended into the mine for the first time at age 15. He did variety of jobs there. In 1917 he was drafted by the Army.
- I didn’t make it to the Army – The Czar was overthrown. However, I participated as a partisan; derailed enemy trains, once burned the English airplane, for which the commanders rewarded me. After the war, I restored mines in Donbas, participated in the collective farms movement, and managed forestry.

Now, as he is approaching his ninth decade, he is impressive with the boldness of his reasoning. He was always this way – daring, courageous, thoughtful. Once, when he was in Caucasus and stood on the top of a high cliff, a thought came to him: “Why do people live such that while they are young the first half of their life is spent in well being, and then they reach maturity, and it seems that they should live a productive life, it is not happening – diseases jump on them, making them unfit, forcing them to think not of the business for which they came to Earth, but about themselves. Disease makes a man an egotist. Don’t all human sorrows happen from the inability to conquer powerlessness? No matter how much you bundle up – it doesn’t save you from disease. Why not do the opposite –not hide from Nature, but walk towards it, become close to it and merge with it?”

And Porfiry Korneevich decided to prove first to himself that “the unkind forces of Nature” (his expression) are possible to tame and use for benefit. He began to walk without clothes during frost, at first for a few seconds, then up to a half of a minute. Increasing it more and more, he was able to walk outside during snowstorm, wearing only shorts, and spend hours out in a field during strong winds and cold. He was returning home covered in snow and ice, the steam was rising from him, and people around him were perplexed whether he would be in bed with cold (or maybe with something more serious) tomorrow.

But this is all in the past. Now, having retired, Ivanov is set on the idea of transmitting his unique (unique indeed!) experience of tempering - conditioning to the people and scientists. And what about the scientists? They are not in a hurry…. Maybe they don’t know about Ivanov?

“I tell people, - Porfiry Korneevich says, - My dears, all your diseases are from your ignorance: from warmth, good food and rest. Do not be afraid of cold: it mobilizes (as they say now) the protective forces of your organism. Cold thrusts into the body a hormone of health. Let everyone think what is more important: the real thing or small enjoyments. For everything there has to be personal victory. A human being must live by Victory; if this would not happen – you would not be of much value. Why get treatment [from a disease] if it is possible to not let a disease into the body?!”

Marx has said that a civilized man must be able to withstand Nature as the ancient men did it. Porfiry Ivanov is able to withstand Nature. The basis for it is his system. He had been developing it for almost a half of the century and has been strictly following it for the same amount of time. The system is very simple at a glance and consists of seven rules. Some of them seem to be irrelevant to health. Judge for yourself.

1. Live with a constant desire to do good to people and once done –forget about it and hurry to do more.
2. Try to do everything with pleasure and joy. Until you have mastered the joyfulness of doing a job – consider that you don’t know how to do it.

It seems that he doesn’t speak about health, but really he speaks about the most important health – the health of soul. It is impossible to cure the body without it. Here are his other rules:

3. Don’t drink wine or vodka.

4. Fast once a week. At other times try to eat less meat, and eat less in general.
“Now people suffer from obesity, they eat twice more than their nature requires. Excess food prevents clear thinking.”

5. Walk barefoot all year around on grass or snow, at least for a few minutes a day.

6. Daily: morning and evening bathe in cold water. The photo correspondent Edward Ettinger and I experimented with this. At first, we declined it point-black. I was afraid to think about it, moreover, I was suffering from a sore throat and cold. Only when we saw how disappointed Porfiry Korneevich became (“And now you don’t believe me…”), we decided to risk it – for the sake of healing humanity.
But when he poured a bucket of icy-cold water on our heads and shoulders, we realized what it means to have an unearthly experience! By the way, after a half an hour my sickness was completely gone. We took the cold-water procedures every day, but only at the end of the fifth day of our visitation in the house of Porfiry Ivanovich did we begin to get a taste for it. We do not appeal to anyone to immediately follow our example. We are only telling the facts.
7. The last rule: Remain frequently with skin exposed to the air: summer and winter. “Let the body breathe and receive warmth from the cold.” Someone may think it is nonsense. But let’s hear from one of a followers of Ivanov -- I. Khvoshevsky PhD, a specialist in area of thermodynamics:

“As a result of his unprecedented experience, P.K. Ivanov was able to show that under cold conditions, the human organism begins to constantly produce inner energy. It could not be ruled out, that it echoes the ingenious hypothesis of Tsyolkovsky regarding gradual and free absorption of energy from surrounding cold bodies. Indeed, we know very little about the human being and his potential. Perhaps during unknown extreme situations an organism shows new, unknown capabilities; right now we can only guess about it. This is why the experiment that Porfiry Korneevich Ivanov conducts on himself for over a half of a century is so important. It is difficult to find a similar example of such perseverance…”

In the village, Ivanov has many followers. First among them is his wife Valentina Leontievna. Some time ago she was very ill, now, 70 years old, she considers herself perfectly healthy.

“I am afraid”, she says, “to miss even one day in winter of going undressed out in the frost and pouring on myself an icy water. What if disease would return, like it used to 25 years ago.

Valentina Leontievna, like Porfiry Korneevich, eats very little. Despite being very busy (like any other peasant woman), she tires less than before she became a friend to the cold and began fasting. It’s possible that the two factors are related to each other – one helping to overcome the other.

Really, the mysteries of the human organism are endless!

On our way to the airport we stopped by the Regional Party Center of Sverdlovsk-city to talk about Ivanov [with authorities]. The Secretary of the Regional Committee, Nadezhda Konstantinovna Kovaleva, said:

“Unfortunately, we aren’t able to evaluate this unique man. We don’t have the specialists for it here. And honestly speaking, we don’t have the time. The region is big and complicated, with extraction of coal being done. But if you would help to attract attention to Ivanov with publicity, scientists…".

This is what we are trying to do here.*

* This article was reprinted and translated from magazine “Ogonyek” No 8, 1982.

(Translated from the Russian by Marina Mars-Jones, U.S.A.)