L. Shaposhnikova “Relevance of the Roerich Pact in the Modern World; Published in the magazine “Cultura i Vremya” (“Culture and Time”) No. 4, 2005.
Relevance of the Roerich Pact in the Modern World
What is culture? Even among well-educated people, one can find very few who will be able to answer this question. Great artist, prominent scientist, famous traveler, and outstanding public figure Nicholas Roerich defined Culture like this: “Culture is reverence of Light, Culture is love of humanity. Culture is fragrance, the unity of life and Beauty. Culture is the synthesis of uplifting and sensitive attainments. Culture is the armour of Light. Culture is salvation. Culture is the motivating power. Culture is the Heart. If we gather all the definitions of Culture, we find the synthesis of active Bliss, the altar of enlightenment and constructive Beauty.”1
A major philosopher of the so-called Russian Silver Age, N. Berdyaev, pointed out the main features of culture: “One of the most ancient cultures, the culture of Egypt, arose in a temple, and its first creators were priests. Culture is related to the cult of ancestors, legend and tradition. It is full of sacred symbols; knowledge and images of another and spiritual reality is given in it. Any culture (even material) is a culture of spirit and any culture has a spiritual basis; it is the product of a spirit’s creative work with natural elements.”2
Both these excerpts, where we find the essence of true Culture which is defined as “the armour of Light” and “the synthesis of active Bliss” (N. Roerich), and as “knowledge and images of another and spiritual reality” (N. Berdyaev), testify to a different approach to Culture as such and to the latter’s relation to a higher state and dimension of matter. Embedded in the inner world of man, this relationship determines true creation in the space of culture, creation that undoubtedly bears an evolutionary character. “Through culture,” noted N. Berdyaev, “lies a way upward and forwards, not backwards, not to a per-cultural state of being. It is a way of implementing culture itself into a new being, into a new life, into a new heaven and earth. Only in this way can the barbarous sounds and gestures that have burst into culture be subordinated to a new cosmic harmony and a new cosmic rhythm. Not only Art, but also human creation will be irrevocably lost and will plunge into primordial darkness, if it does not lead to creation of life and creation of a new man and his spiritual path.”3 It was not only Berdyaev who emphasized the evolutionary role of Culture; many other prominent philosophers of the Silver Age, outstanding scientists and celebrated artists wrote about it at the beginning of the 20th century. According to N. Berdyaev, the essence of this role was, first of all, the fact that culture is new man’s spiritual way, without which no improvement of man, no expansion of his mentality, no ascent to a higher step of cosmic evolution are possible. In the long run, it is the cultural level of man, a nation and a whole country that decides their evolutionary fate and determines the process whereby life improvement takes place. In the Living Ethics, the philosophy of Cosmic Reality, created by Nicholas and Helena Roerich in collaboration with an anonymous group of Eastern Masters, it is quite convincingly proved that it is Culture that is one of the most important foundations in humanity’s evolution. This idea permeated all Nicholas Roerich’s creative work, both artistic and philosophic. It was he who tried to bring the prevailing and confusing views about Culture to at least some semblance of order. This confusion was far from harmless and often resulted in the belittlement of Culture, a situation that was undoubtedly the reason for major crises in the life of whole countries and nations.
Any earthly phenomenon, its essence, its influence on human beings is determined by the interaction of spirit and matter in its space. Mankind exists in two forms of being: Culture and civilization. Both these phenomena cover all manifestations of human life, and there is nothing beyond them. This two-winged structure of humanity’s existence requires deep understanding of this phenomenon, and strict observance of the necessary harmony that pertains between the wings of the evolutionary flight of mankind itself. Conditionally speaking, if Culture is the spirit of humanity’s being, then civilization is this being’s organization, or its matter. However, strange as it may seem, these two notions, Culture and civilization, are still being confused. One is often substituted for another. “We often speak of those significant conceptions: Culture and civilization,” wrote N. Roerich. “To our surprise we find that even these thoughts, which seem to have such subtle roots, have also already been subject to misinterpretation and perversion. For example, up to now many people consider it fitting to replace the word Culture with civilization, forgetting completely that the Latin root of ‘cult’ has a very deep spiritual significance, whereas civilization has as its root in a civic and social structure of life.”4
These two types of activities, seemingly so closely interrelated, have different sources of origin and different contents and purpose. Identification of civilization and Culture results in a confusion of underlying notions, and in the underestimation of the spiritual factor in the history of mankind. Substitution of one notion for another, which happens quite often, makes it possible to impose alien functions on Culture and to attribute to civilization that which has been absolutely untypical for it. As a result, myths of “thousand-year kingdoms”, “eternally living teachings”, and “proletarian and bourgeois” cultures appeared.
We can allot to the domain of Culture those manifestations of the human spirit that pour out from the mysterious depths of man; these bear a natural character and are normal for man. Songs and music, artistic creation in all its forms, various cults, ethical issues, poetry, and many other things apparently appeared together with man; they have been growing and developing simultaneously with his mentality.
Unlike civilization, Culture is a self-organizing system of spirit, creating in accordance with level and quality of spirit’s energetics. In other words, self-organization of spirit is a form of existence of Culture. The creativity, of the Hierarchs, representing the spiritualized Cosmos participating in humanity’s evolution, shows itself, first of all, in the field of Culture, which, as a self-organizing system of spirit, is the energetic heart of evolution.
S. Roerich. Portrait of N.K. Roerich
This kind of influence on the evolution of mankind can be traced throughout humanity’s history, from the most ancient times until today. Cultural heroes of myths and legends, sages, teachers, anonymous and historical religious leaders and, finally, founders of spiritual and ethical teachings, all of them had relationships with cosmic Hierarchs, and, in a number of cases, were themselves subjects of cosmic evolution; that is to say, those who consciously affected this progress in evolution. Culture “is the deepest basis of life attached by the most sensitive silvery threads to the Hierarchy of Evolution,” wrote Roerich.5 “Culture rests upon Beauty and Knowledge. It grows through the realization of the blessed Hierarchy of Light. Thus mechanical knowledge and the fire of the heart must be added. In this lies the cardinal distinction between Culture and civilization.”6“The fire of the heart” not only distinguishes Culture from civilization, but it is the most important and necessary feature of Culture. An absence of this kind of energy in the space of Culture results in its destruction and annihilation. Roerich often uses words and phrases such as: “cordiality”, “the language of the heart,” and “understanding of the heart.” It is in Culture that the role of the heart has been comprehended and sensed since ancient times. Roerich’s definition “Culture is the heart” is worth a great deal. “…One should understand the heart not as a symbol but as a great laboratory, where the transmutation of our consciousness and therefore of our whole being is taking place,” Helena Roerich wrote. “…Without the development and refinement of the heart there is no progress possible. Therefore, in the foundation of each construction there must be laid the great magnet of the heart. Hence, the representatives of the new race will be known by refinement of the heart; this is key to all achievements.”7 In the Living Ethics, we find an exceptionally valuable book dedicated to the evolutionary role of the heart which bears the same name: The Heart. From this book, we learn that it is the heart that creates the space where our consciousness lies and where it develops. The heart is a bridge of communication between the Earth and the higher worlds. Contained in the heart is mind and thinking of a higher quality than in the intellect. This mind is called wisdom and it has a better and deeper cognition of the surrounding world than the intellect. Taking into account these features of the heart, the Authors of the Living Ethics set an evolutionary task of heart and intellect synthesis in order to further understanding of the world. Today scientists of different specialties have turned to the problems of the heart. In the USA, there is already the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart, whose research has confirmed many things we know from the Living Ethics. The Institute’s scientists, who applied new approaches to studying the heart, have discovered that the heart possesses, so to speak, its own internal brain and nervous system, and that it is capable of independent thinking. If a certain balance or harmony between the heart and the brain is achieved, man’s consciousness is expanded, which results in a more accurate and clear perception of the surrounding world. As we know, the problem of wisdom has been considered since antiquity. In suggesting a new system of cognition of cosmic mentality, the Living Ethics sets up the concept of wisdom as a more effective method of understanding than cognition by intellect. Public information specialists of the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart note: “A great number of cases, have shown the efficiency of wisdom of the heart in action.” It has been discovered that this “wisdom of the heart” has a direct relationship with man’s moral principles. A number of very interesting articles, written by scientists of the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart, have been published in such medical journals as: “The American Journal of Cardiology”, “The Medicine of Stress”, and “The Science of Integrity of Physiology and Behavior”.
The Living Ethics says that the New World predestined for our planet by cosmic evolution will be the Epoch of the Heart, where the heart will play the dominant role in cognition, expanding of consciousness, and spiritual perfection. Roerich’s words “Culture is the heart”, allow us to conclude that the heart is the main motive power of Culture and its spiritual centre. That is why the forthcoming epoch will inevitably be the Epoch of Culture. Proceeding from all this, we can say that Culture is not only an evolutionary and historical foundation of human society, but also its heart, while civilization is the intellect of this society. In destroying Culture, we injure
society’s heart, which can and often does result in its paralysis. Totalitarianism gives us many examples of heartless societies. And Russia was one of them.
Calling Culture “A Beautiful Garden”, Roerich places Beauty in first place as an energetic law of the harmony of spirit. “Awareness of Beauty will save the world,” he stated, repeating Dostoevsky’s words with a little amendment. This formula contains in fact the whole essence of cosmic evolution, which moves from chaos to order, from simplicity to complexity, from an elementary system to Beauty. As a category of spirit, Beauty refines the matter of life and energetics of man. Contemplation of Beauty forms in man a philosophical and refined contemplation of the world. Culture as such does not exist without creativity for it is creativity that fashions that energetic core without which a self-organizing system of spirit cannot develop from simplicity to complexity, from a dense state to a refined one. Creativity makes earthly man akin to God the Creator and thus reveals to him the evolutionary path in the starry spaces of the Cosmos. It is creativity as a phenomenon of Culture in its broadest sense that gives an opportunity to collaborate with the High Cosmic Hierarchy. Energetically intensified by “the language of the heart,” it gives birth to the man-creator’s chance to break through to the unknown, to infinity. “The language of creativity is that pan-human tongue understood by the heart. And what can be more light-bearing, more mutually appealing, than the language of the heart, in comparison with which all dialects of sound are meager and elementary? Only creativity in all its diversity introduces a peaceful, all-unifying stream into the entire constructiveness of life. And he, who despite all difficulties which encumber him, strives along the path of Light, fulfills the vital task of evolution.”8