Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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1994 – “N. Roerich’s Artistic and Philosophic Heritage and Problems of Modern Civilization” (October 7–10)

International public and scientific conference on the subject "N. Roerich’s Artistic and Philosophic Heritage and Problems of Modern Civilization”

International public and scientific conference on the subject "N. Roerich’s Artistic and Philosophic Heritage and Problems of Modern Civilization” was held in Moscow from October 7 to 10, 1994. The conference organizer was the International Center of the Roerichs supported by the Russian Cultural Foundation, the International Association of World Foundations, the Russian Academy of Arts, the Institute of Youth – Center for Youth Training “Democracy and Development”.

More than 800 representatives of 111 CIS cities, Austria, Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, India, Latvia, Lithuania, the USA, Estonia, Finland, and other countries participated in the conference.

Extracts from reports

А. Yanshin

Friends! The end of the last and the beginning of the present century was an epoch of an extraordinary explosion, extraordinary upsurge of the Russian science and Russian culture. Historians of literature call that period “the Silver Age” of Russian poetry, leaving the name of “Golden Age” for the era of Pushkin and Lermontov.

Among composers, the “Mighty Handful” with Rimsky-Korsakov at the head was formed and was creating at the end of the XIX century. Sobinov and Shalyapin’s stars rose in the opera firmament.

Our specific philosophic thought developed very intensively, and interest for it was shown in all corners of the world: Solovyev, Berdiayev, Bulgakov, Florensky, Lossev. Science flourished at that time too. Those were the years of Vernadsky’s maturation, the years of activities of his teachers’: Mendeleyev, Dokuchayev. It was in general an amazing epoch!

And at the background of that time talents, Nicholas Roerich’s personality already stood out. It stood out due to the fact that he was not only a painter, but also a scientist, archeologist, historian, ethnographer; it stood out due to the style of his painting, though he had powerful contemporaries: Serov, Vrubel, and Surikov, Repin, Vasnetsov still continued painting as well. And afterwards, when Roerich seriously took up philosophy, his creative work significance even rose above that general high level.

N. Roerich was a scientist, was a philosopher, was a remarkable painter whose paintings make human spirit stand still. Man forgets everyday life trifles and starts thinking of the eternal. Societies for studying N. Roerich’s creative work, museums with his paintings exist not only in his motherland in Russia, and not only in India where he lived the last decades of his life, but also in the USA, Germany, and in a number of other countries. Man of any nationality, any confession is in need of Nicholas Roerich’s creative work. Anyone who is searching for spirituality of being always gravitates toward Roerich, tries to penetrate deeper into his thoughts, tries to follow his calls.

N. Roerich and his contemporary V. Vernadsky, our great scientist, turned their attention, their looks to the philosophic thought of the East. Pragmatic trends of the Western philosophy did not satisfy, and Nicholas Roerich, when still living and creating in Russia, considered studies of Swami Vivekananda and old Indian philosophers. He often remembered and quoted Confucius in his publications, though he himself was closer not so much to Confucius, who was still pragmatic, taught how to behave, taught ethics and morality of life. Nicholas Roerich was rather closer to Lao Tzu, great Chinese wizard who looked for a nuclear of spirituality in all being.

<…> remembering N. Roerich’s creative work, we cannot help mentioning the light name of his spouse Helena Roerich, who was not only his faithful life companion. Her philosophic studies have not any less significance than those of Nicholas Roerich himself.

The Roerich couple was a double star, both constituents of which shone equally brightly. The International Center of the Roerichs pursues a great cause not only preserving the Roerichs’ creations in the form of archives, but also promoting their ideas and acquainting with those creations large masses of people.

L. Shaposhnikova
the ICR First Vice-President,
the N. Roerich Museum General Director

Historical Process as a Cosmic Phenomenon

<...> Historical process in its widest sense is the basis of our life associated with its many phenomena, such as culture and civilization, the mankind spiritual and material development, economy and politics, and other manifestations of human activities. Different levels of man’s existence, from the lowest and to the highest, one way or another are related to the historical process, and to different extents affect the latter. To comprehend what is historical process in all its diversity means to understand and correctly estimate the laws and peculiarities of the humanity development in the past, to realize the aims of this development in present, and to cognize the main trends of our future.

Mistakes and failures which pursued and continue to pursue the mankind are due first of all to incorrect understanding of the essence of the historical process in space and its goals in time. This does not mean that in case of correct comprehension of this process we shall successfully avoid all mistakes and failures, and shall move along the wide road of history without any obstacles. <…>

The XX century turned out to be crucial for the planet and humanity as a whole. This century stood on the threshold of grandiose changes related to the cosmic evolution of mankind and its new turn approach. Our century is the result of the mankind historical and evolutionary development for at least three millenniums. Accumulated during this time energetics resulted in a number of social convulsions, reflected in a “scientific explosion” which formed a new model of the Universe and other approaches to its study, filled with new contents the philosophic thought, non-traditional structures of which made basis for the planet’s new mentality. <…>

Movement for more, deeper and more correct comprehension of the historical process, and first of all, in this country, started already in the first quarter of the XX century, simultaneously with the “scientific explosion”. By that time, three flows of thought were formed, which were directly involved in this complicated intellectual work. First of all, it is necessary to mention a whole group of scientists dealing with experimental science, in which Russian researches, such as V. Vernadsky, K. Tsiolkovsky, A. Tchizhevsky, V. Bekhterev, and others, dominated. The second group was constituted by a galaxy of most interesting Russian philosophers whose activities coincided with the “silver age” of the Russian poetry and who represented, and I shall not make any mistake here, the “golden age” of Russian philosophy. Those were N. Berdiayev, P. Florensky, V. Soloviev, S. Bulgakov, I. Ilyin, and others. Their fates were tragic. Some of them were physically eliminated by the totalitarian regime, others became exiles working abroad. And, finally, the third flow was represented by a whole series of amazing books called the Living Ethics, or Agni Yoga. Those books were created by an anonymous group of Teachers in collaboration with H. and N. Roerichs who conveyed to us this most important for the XX century Teaching. This Teaching ideas were consonant with scientific achievements of the most outstanding scientists of this century.

Of course, there were certain differences in the views of those contemporary thought flows representatives, but the concept of the historical process which stated that this process has a natural character and is related to the laws of nature itself was common for all of them. Vernadsky asserted that any phenomenon can be only understood by way of determination of its place in the scientific reality of Cosmos. Tsiolkovsky contemplated various powers of cosmos and the Will of the Universe. Tchizhevsky drew curves of earthly historical events dependence on the Solar activity and captured unknown rhythms in this interaction. The rhythms of the Sun reflected the pulse of a higher energetic structure of which the Living Ethics spoke – the Cosmic Magnet. <…>

If experimental science step by step worked its way through to that cosmic reality which exerted most decisive influence not only on earthly plane phenomena, but on man as such, the Living Ethics Teaching, which appeared at the crucial point of the mankind development, already carried in itself an integral and formed concept of the new energetic world outlook. That outlook comprised the best of the Eastern and Western thought achievements, combined antiquity and modernity in its conclusions. Having been formed in the natural flow of Cosmos, this Teaching carried in itself a charge of effectuality on the threshold of the approaching evolutionary turn and had one essential difference from previous teachings given by great spiritual Teachers. If the teachings of the past realized themselves through religion and cult practice, the Living Ethics implemented itself through science. That is why this Teaching ideas were so consonant to achievements of science itself. Including man in the system of Cosmos as integral part of the same, the Teaching creators stated that man is part of cosmic energy, part of elements, part of reason, part of higher matter. <…>

Cosmic evolution which man undergoes is governed by great laws of Cosmos. In the framework of these laws effect, a most important for any individual man and the mankind as a whole process is developing, which involves transfer from an object of evolution, that is from unconscious attitude towards it, to a subject of evolution, or its conscious cognition and development of ability to correctly use the great cosmic laws which govern not only the Big Cosmos energetics, but also all levels of our earthly being. Evolution subjects which have reached high steps in their development make the Hierarchy of spiritual Cosmos playing a most important role in the evolution of humanity as a whole. <…>

The historical process in which we are participants is to this or that extent one of the most important constituents of cosmic evolution. This process is formed in the space of interaction of spirit and matter, and is determined by this interaction energetics. That same space contains cycles of upsurges and declines of historical periods themselves which are directly related to evolutionary processes of spiritualization and refinement of matter, as well as the ways of improvement of man himself, high peaks of his spiritual achievements and terrifying abysses of his falls.

“The subject of the world historical destiny of man, one of the outstanding philosophers of this century N. Berdiayev wrote, is the subject of liberation of creating human spirit from the bowels of natural necessity, from this natural dependence on and enslavement by the lower elemental sources”. In other words, the historical process main contents are this interaction of spirit, or the world of freedom, with matter, or the world of necessity. And evolution itself, contributing to expansion of the space of spirit, is aimed at freedom, refinement of matter, and improvement of quality of energetics itself. <…>

If the cosmic evolution is endless in the space of Infinity, being a roaring, changing ocean of energies, the historical process has its beginning and exhausting itself end, limited by the type and state of matter in the framework of which it takes place.

Our historical process beginning originates in such a complicated phenomenon as mythology. <…>

Analysis of myths of different periods of time and different spaces provides grounds for an assertion that mythology carried in itself other, different from the earthly, reality. It contained different space and different time, and participants of sacral and cosmogonic acts possessed such abilities and possibilities which could not be given by the three-dimensional world of the Earth. <…>

It is from this “other reality” that our history started, and not to take into consideration this circumstance means not to understand the philosophic essence of the historical process itself. Mythology is a product of cosmic evolution and the result of energetic interaction of spirit and matter at various levels of the Universe. <…>

The great cosmic law of teaching testifies that the humanity advancement in evolution and its participation in the historical process is impossible without a Teacher, heavenly or earthly. That is why representatives of spiritual Cosmos, or cosmic Hierarchs, appear on the Earth to bring knowledge to the humanity, to expand its mentality, and to explain what it has not cognized by that time. Sacrificing for some time their further ascent, the Hierarchs and Teachers return to the three-dimensional earthly world, in other words, perform involutionary for them act, to assist the evolution of mankind. They also play a most important role in our historical process, and not to take it into account means to assess this process one-sidedly. <…>

Regularly incarnated or consciously returning to the Earth persons include famous historical personalities, rulers, military commanders, spiritual teachers, great artists and philosophers. We admire those people, their heroism, intellect, wisdom, their mastership. But it does not occur to us that they are perished in involution gods who are carriers of a special mission performed by them through the earthly historical process. In other words, they execute on the Earth the live Cosmos’ dictates, or as Tsiolkovsky put it, the Will of the Universe, without which cosmic evolution cannot develop, earthly historical process cannot exist. <…>

And the last that should be mentioned is the considerable influence on the historical process of energetics of the worlds of higher dimensions and other states of matter. <…>

The internal, in-depth character of interaction of man with the higher worlds makes this interaction one of the most important. And sometimes, one of the decisive factors in life and activities of man, no matter to which sphere these activities would refer. Negation of such statement unchangeably results in incorrect, one-sided comprehension of the whole historical process and its motive powers. <...>

Т. Rottert
the ICR Museum Department Chief

N. Roerich’s Life and Creative Work

<...> Nicholas Roerich is a man, at mentioning whose name the thought comes that he was if not the last, then at least one of the last representatives of High Renaissance, whose talents and interests maximally expressly testify to this. He was a painter and writer, philosopher and poet, ethnographer and archeologist, public figure and traveler, but, probably, first of all, in all kinds of his versatile activities, he was scientist and researcher.

And some strange phenomenon is witnessed now. Usually, in the course of time, the contours of a figure which passed away from this world start getting erased, become vague and blurred. As to Roerich, everything comes the other way about.

Nowadays, the name of Roerich rises higher and higher, becomes brighter and more and more significant. It is already long ago, when he was still alive, that it was said that the artist was conferred a name. When it was and is pronounced, any qualifications and explanations become unnecessary. <…>

Living in India, N. Roerich remained a Russian artist and a Russian man, and all that was created and collected by him was to belong to Russia according to his bequest. His father’s will was executed by his son Svetoslav Roerich who passed over to this country this gift which made the basis for the Roerichs Soviet Foundation, presently transformed into the International Center of the Roerichs.

There is a big difference between two seemingly close in meaning and sounding words: inheritance and heritage. But inheritance is something commonplace and earthly, and heritage is a high and significant notion. Only select representatives of the mankind leave to the people inhabiting the planet of Earth their heritage. And it is this high notion that we encounter getting acquainted with the materials that arrived by the Aeroflot special flight from India in Moscow in the spring of 1990. About 440 pieces of art by N. Roerich arrived in his Motherland, the family’s manuscripts, archive and library, more than 60 paintings by S. Roerich who, same as his parents, never separated himself from Russia.

Nicholas Roerich’s paintings represent emotional and spiritual upsurge of the artist who was able, with common paints on canvas or carton, to raise most profound philosophic problems with which the mankind has been and will be concerned as long as life on the Earth exists. The artist was concerned with issues of beauty, formation of people’s world outlook with its help, their attitude towards each other, towards nature. <...>

N. Tiutiuguina
Critic of Arts, Researcher of the
N. Nesterov Arts Museum,
the Roerich Society President

N. Roerich and the Living Ethics about Art

<...> From the most ancient time, monuments of art capture the humanity spiritual potential which until today nourishes us with beneficial energy and contributes to our evolutionary development. “Cognition of the miracle of art opens the gate into the kingdom of Beauty”, Roerich stated. “Pure art is an authentic message of the radiant manifestation of Spirit. It is through the art that you have the Light”, we read in the Living Ethics (“The Call”, January 1, 1921).

The XX century provided new possibilities for comprehension of pieces of art as not only objects of history, but as objects capable of arousing in their contemplator a special emotional state which can be determined as a state of spiritual upsurge. Art criticism has been formed nowadays as a science which has elaborated its own criteria for pieces of art assessment. Accepted in art criticism analysis is based first of all on revelation of a piece of art spiritual potential through obvious, expressible in words visual methods used by the artist. But modern estimation and re-estimation of recognized values has shown the weak aspects and one-sidedness of such approach towards art. We have encountered with a change of a piece of art estimation from positive to negative and vice verse within a short period of time. Same as Rembrandt’s contemporaries did not appreciate his latest creations in the XVII century, and the depth of his canvases golden radiance was perceived much later, we also go back trying to newly comprehend the Russian art of the beginning of the XX century, to feel its intransient values, and leave to the art of socialist realism just the right of a phenomenon reflecting a specific period of history. <…>

New comprehension of pieces of art is provided in the Living Ethics books and is called by Nicholas Roerich energetic world outlook. It is necessary to note that only those forms of creative work are referred to pieces of true art in Agni Yoga and Nicholas Roerich’s speeches, creating which the creator, consciously or unconsciously, strives for the Light, that is for the worlds standing on an evolutionary step immeasurably higher than the one on which the humanity is now. At that, created forms are endlessly diverse, but the essence captured in them through psychic energy of man striving for eternal spiritual values continues having effect throughout centuries and promotes a less developed spirit along the path of evolution. <…>

Among known to the world types of art, painting has most completely asserted its color possibilities. And it was not by chance that Nicholas Roerich captured his greatest spiritual potential on canvases allowing to maximally concentrate the creator’s spiritual impulse in the colors of our solid matter world. <…>

In the Living Ethics and Nicholas Roerich’s paintings, we can find today all possible trends in comprehension of art as the drive of human evolution. A call sounding for an artist is to reflect the higher worlds; for a contemplator striving for beauty – to learn to cognize harmony through the color power of art; for a physicist – to study subtle energies captured in a piece of art; for a physician – to use the healing effect of art; for a historian – to look at the cultural heritage of mankind from other world outlook positions. And everyone’s task on the Earth is not only to scoop from the inexhaustible source of Beauty, but to create beauty oneself in one’s everyday life. <...>