Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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L.V. Shaposhnikova. The Metahistorical Meaning of the Roerich Pact

The Roerich Pact, a most important evolutionary action aimed at preserving and strengthening culture on our planet, is a document that has united the meta-historical and historical processes.

It should be noted that the idea of such a pact had been suggested by N.K. Roerich already before World War I, as he had intuitively felt its necessity even before it became his planetary mission.

In the early 1930s, several years before World War II, a public movement emerged that would later result in the Pact to be later called the Roerich Pact. It was a legal document aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of the planet both during peaceful and war times. The Pact was supported by a number of states of America and the president of the USA Franklin Roosevelt. However, the Soviet Union did not sign it.

We could in fact limit this text to the analysis of the Pact, its history, and its anti-military orientation. But the Roerich Pact is more interesting and profound in its meaning than just a plain document protecting cultural heritage. There are three issues closely connected to the Roerich Pact that reveal one more of its meanings, and this meaning might be the most important one. These three issues are as follows: Helena Ivanovna Roerich's letters to Roosevelt, a prophetic series of paintings by Nicholas Konstantinovich, and the Banner of Peace, the symbol of this Pact with deep evolutionary meaning.

As we know, in 1935-1936, after the signing of the Pact, Helena Ivanovna wrote several unique letters to the president of the USA containing brilliant analysis of the international situation. Especially emphasizing the role of Russia, she proved the necessity of a union between Russia and the USA.

It is hard to tell what Roosevelt's reaction to these letters was, as we do not have his answers in our archive. Maybe they are to be found in some other place, and we will discover them someday. So far, we can only assume that these letters had a certain impact on the USA and Russia concluding an alliance already during the war.

It was almost during the same period that N.K. Roerich started his prophetic pre-war series. In 1931 he painted “Flowers of Timur”. We can see a mountain landscape, a tower with a signal fire warning about the danger of war, and an armored rider straddling a horse. Although this painting comes from an entirely different period than that in which we live now, its meaning is still quite clear, and it symbolically reminds our contemporaries about the ever-threatening danger.


The next painting, “Armageddon”, depicting an ancient city in flames and people leaving it, was created by Roerich in 1936. It points directly to the events coming. This is how Europe would look like soon after: burning cities destroyed by bombings, and strings of refugees going nowhere.

These were warnings in painting, but no one paid attention to them. World War was impending, but people did not believe it and kept doing their usual things. And suddenly, on the painting “Svyatogor” (1938), a Russian epic hero emerged. However, it was not yet clear what deed he was about to perform.

It was with “Svyatogor” that the motive of Russia, incarnated in several symbolic paintings, entered the prophetic series. Here is, for example, “Armageddon”(1940): fire and smoke cover the houses, the sky is reflecting the crimson fire-flashes. Russia was also threatened by Armageddon, but an even worse one. While “Svyatogor” was as if set to perform a deed, “Armageddon” came as a direct hint at the war that Russia would inevitably get involved into. Not particularly hoping for the understanding of his warnings, Roerich created a series of paintings about the war that was threatening Russia. “Messenger from Himalayas” (1940) pointed at the place where these warnings were coming from. There is a man gliding on the surface of a mist-covered mountain lake on a frail bark, his face indiscernible, his clothes simple, and his bark insecure.

This painting was followed by “The Heroes Awaken” (1940), which also bore symbolic character: Russian heroes in helmets and chain armor are waking up in a large secret cave. According to the artist’s ideas, it was these heroes who were to face the first attack. However, the artist's Homeland was sending unfavorable messages, and no one there believed in the fatal attack to come. So, Roerich painted “Message to Tiron” (1940) basing on the legend of Tiron who didn’t believe the warning about the murder and thus perished.

In early 1941, Roerich created the painting “The Blind Man”. There is a man rushing about a street of an ancient town, not knowing what is happening, and where he should run. In this rushing of his, he is coming closer and closer to the burning houses expelling flames and sparkles.

And finally, there is a unique painting “Geser Khan” (1941) that overwhelms the spectator by its tragic beauty. The sky is covered with fiery red colors, and it is hard to tell whether these are reflections of conflagrations or of a bloody-red sunset. Against this scary background, there is a small swift figure of a rider bending his bow, ready to shoot an arrow to warn the people of the inevitable disaster.

The disaster did come to the artist's Homeland on June 22, 1941. Those who were responsible for their own land had not listened to any of the warnings.

The warning sent from Himalayas were not the only ones. But no one believed neither the official messages nor the reports from the foreign intelligence service. An exhausting war came to the fields of Russia, and 1942 became the most tragic and, to a certain extent, even hopeless year. It was during this fatal year that the enemy army occupied a huge territory of the USSR. In that year Nicholas Konstantinovich created two paintings that ended the prophetic series on the Patriotic war 1941-1945.

However, there was still a long way to go before 1945. One of the paintings was dedicated to Alexander Nevsky. The Russian commander is riding a horse across the bloodstained ice after the victorious Battle of the Ice, his head sinking down. The killed Russian warriors are lying around, and he feels great sorrow for the terrible price that had to be paid for the victory. This prophecy about the price that Russia would have to pay for victory in the Patriotic war, was real. But back then, in the hard 1942, it was very difficult to believe in victory.

In the same year, 1942, he created the painting that he briefly and expressively called “Victory”. Against the background of a Russian mountain landscape, there is a Russian warrior killing the dragon of war and evil with his sword.

These prophetic paintings testify not only to the talent of Roerich as an artist, but also to many other things that connected him to the process of cosmic evolution.

This evolution was also reflected in the symbol which is to be seen on the Banner of Peace, the distinguishing sign of the Roerich Pact. This symbol is very complex. Roerich himself explained it as follows: these are the past, the present, and the future united in the single ring of eternity, or the three circles of time enveloped in the large circle of eternal time.

It could also be said that it is a symbol of Time. It is well-known that the time of our dense world differs a lot from that of the world of higher substance. While in our world the time is differentiated into the past, the present, and the future, the world of higher substance knows no such differentiation, and the past, the present, and the future are united into one single phenomenon symbolically depicted by the inseparable ring of fate on the Banner of Peace.

The combination of the differentiated time of the dense substance and the integral time of the higher substance thus represents the path of cosmic evolution: from the differentiated time of the inferior substance to the integral time of the eternal superior one. In this respect, this symbol reveals the highest cosmic law that seems very simple to us: in the cosmic evolution, it is the Superior that guides the inferior. That is to say, the inferior substance is not capable of following the cosmic evolution without the guidance from the superior one.

In this symbol, we can also discern the second cosmic law which is no less important: each earthly phenomenon has two sides, the earthly and the celestial (cosmic) one, the latter connected to the higher substance. The problem in this case consists in seeing this other side, feeling it, and being able to use it in our cognition of our side’s reality. For that matter, the history of the humanity provides us with the examples that are far from favorable.

All the three issues connected to the Great patriotic war of the mid-twentieth century and the cosmic evolution come from the same source, without which the Roerich Pact would be a regular international treaty. It is this source that gives the metahistorical status both to the oeuvre of Helena Ivanovna and Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich as a whole and to their Pact activities in particular. As Nicholas Konstantinovich put it, the metahistorical process on planet Earth is “history without the historians’ knowledge”.

The metahistorical process is a poorly, if at all, studied part of the earthly historical process, representing its most important spiritual side that connects this process to the higher cosmic substance. It is via the metahistorical process that the cosmic law “In the cosmic evolution, the Superior guides the inferior” is fulfilled. Such guidance must have vivid spiritual and material preconditions.

We know that from the very ancient times on to the present, there is a group of Masters dwelling on the Earth who stand on a much higher step of the cosmic evolutionary ladder than we do, their metahistorical creativity forming the earthly metahistorical process. The Roerich Pact was one of the most important moments in the metahistorical process. It is through the Pact that the real connection of the earthly historical process to the cosmic evolution was fulfilled.

The Masters transmit their ideas through their Messengers incarnated on the Earth with their own special mission. In this case, we are dealing with Helena Ivanovna and Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich.

It is now widely known that it was through the Roerichs that one of the Masters transmitted the philosophy of the Cosmic Reality, or the Living Ethics. This philosophy embraces knowledge about the universe, the cosmic evolution, the new cosmic thinking, and the new system of cognition. The Living Ethics is not only a metahistorical source, but also the basis of the cosmic thinking functioning inside the space of culture. According to this doctrine, the humanity’s cosmic evolution is based on the energy space of culture.

It is also known that Helena Ivanovna Roerich was receiving the philosophy of the Cosmic Reality in the same period when Nicholas Konstantinovich was working on the Pact. The Pact on the protection of cultural and historic monuments and their institutions emerged as a result of cooperation between its authors and the Masters, and was fully based on the metahistorical ideas of the philosophy of Cosmic Reality.

It was the Roerich Pact that brought the possibility of the advancement on the cosmic evolutionary ladder to the humanity.

But why was it the monuments and their protection, in the widest sense of this word, that was stated as the main task in the Pact? What relation do they bear to the meta-history and the cosmic evolution? My answer is: the relation is very direct.

The cultural monuments are the energy of the culture itself. It is common knowledge that there can be no energy without substance; it does not exist in a free state. And if there is no energy, neither the motion nor the Cosmic and Earthly phenomena and processes can come to life. The higher the state of substance is, the higher its energy becomes, and the monuments of true art bear huge stocks of such energy.

The last book of the Living Ethics reads: “The forces of darkness understand perfectly well how many powerful emanations the works of art radiate. Such emanations can be the best weapon against the attacks of darkness. The forces of darkness strive either to destroy the works of art or at least to turn the attention of the humanity away from them.”

“It should be remembered that the denied work of art, deprived of attention, cannot radiate its wholesome energy. There will be no living connection between the cold spectator or listener and the closed creation. The sense of transforming the thought into the work is very deep, that is to say, it is a magnet gathering energy. Each work thus lives and contributes to the exchange and accumulation of energy.”

“Amidst Armageddon, you can make sure that the influence of art is very strong. A whole era could be preserved due to the great concern. Our depots are full of many things that people considered to be lost, and maybe some of them will be returned to the nations that were unable to preserve them.”

“We have saved many works of art. We have seen how hard the dark forces tried to impede such healing conditions. But the Highest spheres inform Us when the humanity needs help. This predestination has been known in the thin world for a long time.”

“We do not conceal anything about the urgent measures, because the present Armageddon has the task to decompose all the energies of the humanity. This is what the dark forces hope for, but We know what to oppose to them. So be attentive to where our care goes[1].”

This unique fragment gives us a fairly clear picture of the energy of various works which is the basis for the cosmic evolution. That is why the protection of this energy from destruction and elimination is the most important issue in the formation of the metahistorical process that creates the space for the realization of the cosmic law “In the evolution, the Superior guides the inferior”.

It is the energy of art and architecture that is essential for facilitating the influence of the Superior on our evolution. This energy also serves as a transmitter of the architectural images from the world of the higher state of substance down to the dense world.

The architectural monuments that persisted to this day and have energy and beauty, serve in their turn as the link to the cosmic substance of the higher state. If such an architectural work is destroyed, the energy of our evolution is significantly damaged, and this damage instantly affects the energy of the cultural field. The more works of true art and architecture are destroyed, the weaker the cultural space becomes, and the dark forces immediately use this weakness to impose their forgeries and various ‘kitsches’ on it.

The cosmic task of the Roerich Pact that was created in cooperation with the Superior is the protection of the evolutionary energy of the Earth. The humanity has not known such a pact before. Its emergence in the 20th century AD was conditioned by the crisis in many artistic areas and, first of all, in the creativity of the cosmic evolution.

There is only one way out of this hard situation: to strengthen the energy of the cultural field of the country and the planet. The Roerich Pact has not yet been fully comprehended, either philosophically or spiritually. It is high time we understood its cosmic nature and origin, because the Roerich Pact is not only a legal document, but also an entire phenomenon related to the metahistorical cognition and cosmic evolution.

In the 20th century, the USSR did not sign the Roerich Pact, and in the 21st century, Russia continues to destroy not only the culture and its monuments, but our evolutionary energy as well.Do those people who are actively doing all this really understand what they are doing? Their ignorance has no limits.

N.K. Roerich once said that ignorance is the worst crime of all, and we are now witnessing this terrible crime. I won’t dwell at length on the cultural situation in Russia: it is worse than ever. The question is what is to be done with this. What is especially dreadful and significant is the attempt of the state and the society on different levels to destroy the Roerichs’ heritage, exclude it from the artistic and scientific space, and, finally, completely forget about the great Roerich Pact phenomenon.

Only the resistance of the people who understand the true significance of culture, beauty, and their monuments will help us to preserve the invaluable treasures of our planet as a whole and our country in particular.

There is no future without the past, Nicholas Roerich stated. By destroying the past, its cultural and historic monuments and their energy, we are destroying our own future. And it is our future that the Roerich Pact serves.

It is our own responsibility to preserve our past for the future, and fulfill the Roerich Pact ideas on the preservation of the cultural heritage of this past. The past is connected to the future by our present, where we live, work, create, and struggle for the sake of our future. If we stop doing all this, we will kill our future.

The Roerich Pact is a real sign of cosmic evolution, our guideline on the long and difficult evolutionary path of the mankind. The Roerich Pact is fully aimed at this evolution that states Light, Beauty, and Peace. So let us not forget that the Roerich Pact in its fulness is a cosmic phenomenon connecting us to the world of higher substance through our own cultural heritage. And this world is guiding us on the path of cosmic evolution, allowing us to avoid the traps of chaos and darkness.


1. The Aerial, 122.