MOSCOW -- Fifteen years ago Eduard Naumov was thrown into jail for making money off parapsychology. Armed police surrounded the ESP guru's apartment house and hauled him out of a sick bed.
Yet the other day, as Soviet television cameras whirred, Naumov lectured to an audience of 1,000 on bioenergy fields, unconventional medicine, reading auras and moving matter by mind power.
'I sent invitations to those legal officials who put me away, but they were ashamed to come to my triumph,' said Naumov, 56. He credits his 'rebirth' to glasnost, the new Soviet openness.
Enthralled by ESP literature of the 1960s, Naumov abandoned biology and traveled the breadth of Russia in search of faith healers, those who heard voices or recalled rows of numbers ad infinitum.
In the vast, brooding land where Rasputin 'stopped' the bleeding of hemophiliac Czarevich Alexei and a faith healer called Dzuna treated the failing Brezhnev in the 1970s, Naumov tapped native roots.
In Georgia he found Lida Aleksyan, 42, who heals the unsightliest of burns with herbs. In the Ukraine, Nikolai Kasyan, 51, a chiropractor with a waiting list of 9,000. In Leningrad, Nina Kalugina, 62, who claims to reverse compass needles and move match boxes by concentrating on them.
As the emerging impressario of Soviet parapsychology, Naumov participated in international conferences in Moscow in 1966 and 1968. He met the son of renowned parapsychologist Edgar Cayce, Hughlynn (a framed portrait hangs on Naumov's wall), and became known internationally.
On March 25, 1973, it all collapsed.
'Police with guns surrounded my apartment block, as if I were going to shoot my way out,' Naumov said, holding his hands as if balancing a revolver and laughing.
'They burst in, pulled the cover off me -- I had a temperature of 104 -- and yelled, 'Put the gold and diamonds on the tables, on the table right now.' My mother (then 61) was screaming.'
The Brezhnev era rules were then explained to him.
'Why do you have contacts with the West? That is not for you, that is for us.'
'You are starting a business .... Why do you keep trying to push yourself ahead of others.'
His next two years were spent in Moscow's Butirsky Prison.
'They (the prisoners) loved Eduard,' his mother, Valentina, 76, interjected.
'I lectured them on parapsychology, the paranormal,' Naumov said. 'They moved me from cell to cell so other prisoners could hear.'
Prison, however, cut his contacts with the West. It dated his black-white films of power-of-suggestion hypnotists making ordinary people paint like Raphael or play like Rachmaninoff. On his release, engagements dropped off.
'I had many difficulties, many threats that they would try me again, and exile me from Moscow,' he said. 'It was difficult to work.
'Now I can say this all openly, but before, they could condemn me for it.'
From his dark times, Naumov cherishes most the appeal for his release by U.S. astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who flew to the moon with Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa on Apollo 14 in 1971.
Mitchell, who has written extensively on parapsychology, visited the Soviet Union last year and met Naumov. In his comeback appearance Naumov, in his master-of-ceremony black blazer and gray slacks, publicly thanked Mitchell.
For his official re-emergence, authorities gave Naumov the spacious auditorium in the steel-and-glass headquarters of COMECON, Soviet counterpart of Europe's Common Market.
A screen flickered with his films of a woman giving birth in the Black Sea (psychonautics), of snow nudies lounging in near ice, of spirit-surgeons operating without instruments in the Philippines and abetted only by a knife in Brazil.
To cap Naumov's rehabilitation, articulate Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Aksenov also thanked Mitchell from the stage of Naumov's one-man symposium on 'psychotronics,' the preferred Soviet term for parapsychology.
But Naumov still lacks both the ultimate imprimatur and the greatest perk: permission to travel abroad.
He has invitations to lecture outside Russia and yearns to go to the United States in December for an international conference on parapsychology. His voice quivers even talking of the trip.
But even in Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnostsized Russia, no one just hops on a plane and flies off.
After Zhdaenek Raedeck, a Czech and president of the International Association of Psikhotronika, spoke at Naumov's meeting, Naumov thanked him and said: 'You have been in our country some 45 times and I have not been in your country even once.'