Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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The ICR Review of Ernst von Waldenfels’ book
"Nikolai Roerich – Kunst, Macht und Okkultismus"
("Nicholas Roerich. Art, Power and Occultism")

Nicholas Roerich is a great Russian artist, scientist, thinker, public figure. He belongs to the pleiad of the most prominent culture figures of Russia who his Motherland is truly proud of.

Nicholas Roerich's contribution to both Russian and international culture is enormous. His creative achievements and ideas in art, science, protection of the world heritage and peace evoked a warm response among the brightest minds of XX century and are recognized all over the world. There are countless publications about Nicholas Roerich’s life and oeuvre. Ernst von Waldenfels’ book "Nikolai Roerich – Kunst, Macht und Okkultismus" (Osburg, 2011) pretends to be an objective "biography" of N.Roerich, but it is no more than an ignorant attempt to misrepresent Nicholas Roerich by means of slander and lie, and show him as a mediocre artist, intriguant and adventurer, who cooperated with the Soviet intelligence for the sake of glory, power, and money.

These statements from the author are but mere words, proved by nothing except references and quotations from the works of the equally dishonest authors such as O. Shishkin, V. Rosov and A. Andreev. The statements from Ernst von Waldenfels are completely disproved by the opinions of such great contemporaries of Nicholas Roerich as Leo Tolstoy, world-famous writer, Alexander Blok, poet, Pavel Tretyakov, famous collector, sponsor and founder of the Tretyakov Gallery, Vladimir Stasov, art historian and critic, Yurgis Baltrushaytis, poet-symbolist, Javāharlāl Nehrū, outstanding thinker and politician of India, and many others. Research works by modern authors also rebut these false statements, the works by P.F.Belikov and L.V.Shaposhnikova, who cooperated with the Roerichs personally and got to know and evaluate the personality of Nicholas Roerich, among them.

Waldenfels also misrepresented the Roerich philosophical heritage. He could neither understand the philosophical heritage nor think it over, as he himself admits in his book, so he declares Agni-Yoga or the Living Ethics to be a "mystical teaching", whereas the Living Ethics is a new philosophical system and an integral part of the formation of a new cosmic worldview in Russia. This worldview is vividly depicted in the work of Russian philosophers, such as V.Solovyev, P.Florensky, S.Bulgakov, N.Berdyaev , I.Ilyin, and such scientists as Vernadsky, Tsiolkovsky, and Chizhevsky. The Living Ethics realizes itself through science and not through a religious cult; it is a scientifically thought-over conscious ethics, and it is acting as such.

It is necessary to pay attention to the Waldenfels’ methods of writing the book which pretends to be a "biography" of Nicholas Roerich; for example, the method of allegation of non-existent facts and concealment of the actual ones. For example, the author writes that the Roerich expedition followed in the tracks of other previous expeditions (part 6, ch.2, p.367), although it is well known that it was N.K. Roeich's Central Asian expedition that was the first to travel this route, having crossed the Western Himalayas from the South to the North, the Tibetan plateau from the North to the South, passing through Trans-Himalayas and the Himalayas, and finally coming to India. Then the author claims that the Central Asian expedition did not discover anything new, though all true researchers know quite well that the Roerich expedition collected a great number of scientific facts and materials, ethnographical and linguistical, discovered a lot of archaeological monuments, and examined dozens of mountain tops and crossings were marked and specified on the map for the first time. The largest scientific expedition of the 20th century considerably enriched our knowledge and understanding of the great Eastern culture.

It is also fabricated by Waldenfels that N.K.Roerich was an agent of the Soviet intelligence, making agreements with it and executing its orders. Thus Waldenfels repeats O.Shishkin’s fantasies and ignores the fact that in 1996 the Tverskoy Inter-municipal Court of Moscow, basing on the claim of the International Centre of the Roerichs, recognized Shishkin’s allegations that had been published in the "Segodnya" ("Today") newspaper - that Nicholas Roerich was the Soviet intelligence agent and tried to capture power in Tibet by military force - as not only false, but also as discrediting honor and dignity of Nicholas Roerich and his family.

It is worth noting that the archives of the International Centre of the Roerichs store the documents which prove irrefutably that N.K.Roerich was not an agent of the Soviet intelligence and that the Soviet secret service was tracing him and his family during the Central-Asian Expedition, reporting on him and interfering with his work. However, Waldenfels ignored these facts and the relevant documents while writing his book.

The author refers to the memoirs of Esther J. Lichtmann and Louis L. Horch, who robbed and betrayed Nicholas Roerich when he was alive, presenting their statements as unquestionable facts, while an objective researcher should always investigate the memoirs of true enemies of his character critically.

Waldenfels’ methods are characterized not only by unfair shuffling of facts, pulling quotations out of context, and suggestion of sense which the cited original does not imply. His methods also lack clearness and systematic character: we cannot comprehend clearly the events of Nicholas Roerich’s life and creative activities; a clear context of his life, his oeuvre as an artist, scientist, thinker and traveler in Russia, Europe, the USA, and India is simply not given. It is through this blurriness of methods that juggling becomes possible, which leads to great difficulties for the reader in terms of correct evaluation of the originals used by the author, as well as true understanding of important events of the life and creative work of the great representative of Russian culture and his contribution to the 20th century culture.

One more important point is worth mentioning: Ernst von Waldenfels writes about Shambhala, the central image in the worldview of millions of people in the East, representing perfection, justice and wisdom on the Earth, in an unduly familiar manner. Such attitude to the other peoples' values is possible only from a person who is absolutely alien to culture.

In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the book by Ernst von Waldenfels does not meet the requirements of a biographical work. Moreover, it contains slander and fabrications which deeply insult all those who appreciate and understand the contribution of Russian art, philosophy and science to the world cultural heritage.

It is deplorable that the advertising campaign in mass media and the presentation of the book both took place on eve of the Days of Russian culture "Russian Spring 2012" in Germany.