Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

4. Community

In 1926 the Roerichs brought Community, one of the Living Ethics books, to Moscow. The book touched upon many problems that had arisen in the young state, so both Nicholas and Helena Roerich hoped that it would be published. But it was neither published, nor, I believe, even read. The leaders of the country were busy with other problems and did not pay attention to the fact that Community was a sort of warning, addressed, primarily, to them.

The Citadel of Great Knowledge has been existing from times immemorial,” Helena Roerich wrote, “and is standing at the continuous watch of the evolution of mankind, observing the current of world events and emplacing it within the salutary tideway. All the Great Teachers are connected to this Abode. They are all its Members. Versatile are the activities of this Citadel of Knowledge and Light. The history of all times, all peoples, keeps evidence of this assistance, which is concealed from publicity and usually comes at turning points of world history. Its acceptance or avoidance was unchangeably accompanied by the country’s corresponding heyday or decline.

This assistance, in the form of the warnings or advice of whole Teachings, appeared with highly unexpected and diverse aspects. These warnings continue throughout history like a red thread. With a few exceptions, all such warnings remained unnoticed.”1

The book Community pointed to another important aspect of the activities of Those Who created the Living Ethics philosophy in the 20th century. It contained a clear prevision of this country’s bitter and tragic experience and an attempt to warn of the trends that lead to such an occurrence. The originality, and, I would say, uniqueness of the book’s approach was the fact that these previsions had cosmic resonance. They were closely related to the laws of the evolution of the spiritual Cosmos. Everything is interwoven into a united whole here: the social being of man and his cosmic essence. The concept of unity was striking with its beauty and harmony. Later, already in a different Living Ethics book, I found its extremely short formulation: “The way of evolution passes, like a thread, through all physical and spiritual degrees. That is why both state and public systems can apply all cosmic laws to the improvement of their forms.”2

It would be a mistake to directly correlate the concrete revolution that took place in October of 1917 with those ideas and statements about the essence of revolutions in general that we find on the pages of Community. To do so means to narrow the world outlooks of both the Living Ethics’s Authors and the Roerichs. But, at the same time, it should not be denied that, in some of their aspects, these ideas relate to the Russian Revolution, as well, for it was carried out as an act of evolutionary inevitability whose purpose was to create. “The evolution of the world,” Community says, “is constituted by revolutions, or explosions of matter. Each revolution makes progressive movement upward. Each explosion is structured to act along a spiral. That is why each revolution by nature is subject to the laws of the spiral. That is why those who are concerned with the progress of the revolution’s achievements are right.”3 In other words, a revolution is a kind of energetic instrument in the hands of evolution, which promotes the appearance of new forms, or, rather, new combinations in the matter of the social, economic, or cultural life of the people and the country. The word revolution assumes a very broad interpretation across various levels in Community.

The acute contradiction between the level of consciousness of those who enacted the revolution and the tasks of the revolution itself did not only reduce the effect of the creative act of evolutionary inevitability, but formed a threat for the fate of this historical act as a whole. Violence and destruction flooded the country and deformed the spiritual essence of the revolution itself.

The famous Russian writer V. Korolenko wrote to A. Lunacharsky in 1920: “The people who have not yet learned to use the voting procedure, which cannot formulate their prevailing opinion; who proceed to the establishment of social justice through individual robberies (your expression: “the robbing of what was robbed”); who start the kingdom of justice with the connivance of illegal mass shootings, already lasting for years; such people are far from heading the best aspirations of humanity. They need to learn themselves and not teach others.”4

The social revolution contained a flagrant discrepancy between the tasks and the means for achieving these tasks. The tasks objectively carried in themselves evolutionary inevitability, striving for the creation of a New World of justice, harmonious human relations, liberated labor. And the means for achievement reflected the level of consciousness of the people and its leaders. And the means that were unworthy of the aims changed in the course of time the essence of those aims and turned them into something opposite to the initial essence. That is how the free will of the people used the opportunity provided to it by cosmic evolution. “But everyone has his own discretion,”5 Community says. The people’s energetic potential proved to be higher than their consciousness, and this discrepancy most fatally affected those new combinations of arrangements of life, which the new step of cosmic evolution carried. The new forms, which were inculcated with the help of violence and compulsion, while not yet having appeared, were already destroyed, lost their essence, and did not serve their purpose. Korolenko called those means criminal. “And you are guilty of [a crime. – L. Sh.]. You substituted order for instinct and expect that the nature of man will change by your order. For this encroachment upon the people’s freedom of self-determination, you will get your retribution.”6

The “creators” of the new Russia not only interfered in the spiritual nature of man, but also violated the natural historical process developing in accordance with the Great Laws of the Cosmos. Not even suspecting these laws’ existence, ignorance was killing the past, thus depriving the country of a future. Before the eyes of a whole nation, and, moreover, with its help, they were sawing a huge tree of centuries of culture for the sake of new sprouts, which could not exist without the juices of that same tree. The deficient and ignorant thinking of the new “creators” could not correlate the appearance of those sprouts with the tree itself, and so the new branches were killed together with the old trunk and roots.

The book Community was brought to Russia at that time, when, after a short reprieve, they again started sawing the country’s tree of life. The Teachers who had created the book were not able to suspend this fatal process of the destruction of the people’s spirit and culture, but they had the opportunity to try to explain something. They wrote that there is no future without the past. They asserted that no matter in what way one or another nation developed, its future progress is impossible without those spiritual accumulations that it created in the past. Only those accumulations form a true support in evolutionary movement. “One must build in such a way such that all the past coincide with the future.

All that is erroneous and incidental is destroyed, but the thread of knowledge must not be affected. This is not a concession to the past, but is the flow of eternity.”7 “The flow of eternity” cannot be interrupted, otherwise outraged time will sweep away those who dared to interrupt it. The destruction of the spirit and knowledge creates obstacles in the path of this flow. “The luxury of destruction has been left in the pages of history. The world does not need new elements, but new combinations. And the way of a new conqueror is illuminated not by the glow of fires, but by glimmers of newly attracted energy.”8 These words contain an extremely important essence. For thousands of years, cultural and historical evolution has prepared new combinations of the elements constituting them to render to them at a certain time the necessary energetic quality, which will form a new, higher turn in the evolution of mankind. The “newly attracted energy,” corresponding to such energetic quality, becomes the element that creates in the next stage.

At the first stage of evolution, the tendencies toward unification, as opposed to those toward separation, come to the foreground. Unification requires the development of common human collaboration, or cooperation, as this process is called in the book Community. The social arrangement of the future of mankind will become communal, or communist. This idea is the core of the entire book. “Just as the understanding of evolution is born from the observation of the earthly way, each human organism bears community in its structure.”9 In other words, the idea of community is already formed at the natural-energetic level. “The Teaching of Community must go in accordance with the phenomena of energy.”10 But can it be deemed that community, or commune, which is mentioned in Community is that very communism that Marx, Engels, and Lenin professed? Hardly. The book, created by the Teachers, speaks about community as a natural evolutionary phenomenon. This notion is interpreted by them much more broadly than just as a social and economic category and has a deeper philosophic character. Community, according to the Teachers’ concept, must serve as the basis for the spiritual improvement of man and the development of his free and creative labor.

The issue of the relationship to property in the framework of a community is considered to be one of the most important ones. The revolution in Russia settled this question in its own way. It created the conditions for the seizing of this property and its redistribution in the favor of the class that came to power. Such redistribution, carried out in a country with a general low level of consciousness, resulted in a number of disastrous consequences both in the material and the moral spheres. The slogan “the robbing of what was robbed” caused an irrevocable chain reaction. In connection with this dangerous tendency, V. Korolenko wrote to A. Lunacharsky in one of his letters: “You have killed bourgeois industry, you have not created anything in its place, and your commune is a huge parasite feeding on this corpse. Everything is destroyed: houses, taken away from former owners and not restored by anyone, are falling apart, fences are dismantled for fuel, in short, general collapse is underway. [ . . . ] It is all kinds of robbers who are doing the best. And this is natural: you base everything on egoism and demand dedication at the same time.”11 Korolenko noticed the great contradiction of the Russian Revolution: social egoism and dedication could not coexist for a long time. Society allowed a place for only one of these. It would be naпve to believe that under the existing conditions, social egoism could disappear on its own, renouncing the sense of property. “The sense of property,” the Community creators wrote, “is not measured in things, but in thoughts. So, the community must be accepted by consciousness. One can have things and be not acquisitive.”12

The substitution of a material substance for the sense of property, which is a category of consciousness, seems one of the major distortions in the revolution’s spiritual movement. If you have things, you are a proprietor; if you do not have things, you are not. The result was that the revolution’s ethical and moral orientations were displaced and violated. Envy, born by the wrong understanding of economic equality, and robbery, canonized by the state (peasants robbed the landlords, Committees of the Poor robbed “efficient” peasants, repressive authorities robbed arrested activists in the fight against “kulaks,” etc., etc.), killed the sprouts of new combinations of the set-up of the country’s life and consolidated the old ones, covered shamefully, as if with a fig-leaf, by high-sounding slogans. “Modern leaders believe,” one of the Living Ethics books shrewdly noticed, “that they are building a New World, and it does not occur to any of them that their new world is just a shadow of the old one. A New World moves along new ways.”13 The New World differently settled the problem of “to give or to take.” “A victim of misery” is what they called the one who joined the community because of the lack of hope. Having suffered a complete failure, a man sacrificed his misery, and the price of failure was miserable. But it is the one who brought his misery that considered himself the major contributor: he sacrificed, and he rejected, and he preferred, he is the one waiting and presenting the bill.

We prefer a sacrifice of happiness. The one who has something to renounce is not so waiting for payment.

So, build a community following the landmarks of donations.”14 Now that we judge many things from the positions of the dramatic experiences acquired by us of our social reorganizations, we cannot deny the truthfulness of the above said. Man, consciously participating in the construction of a New World, gives. The deliberately false concept, “I am fighting to take,” is fruitless and would not stand a moral test.

The basis for a community, the Teachers state, must be labor. Voluntary, creative labor that is free and brings happiness. The quality of community members’ labor determines the level of their consciousnesses. Science and art must become elements of everyday life for the community members. Knowledge and a high level of consciousness must be the natural criteria that determine the hierarchy in the community. The leader surpasses the rest in terms of the quality of his knowledge and performs at the same time the role of the Teacher. New energy, psychic energy, is actively used in creative labor and contributes to the improvement of man. The community lives an intensive spiritual life, which is the main spring of all its achievements. “The community is a repository of all possibilities and all accumulations.”15

The Teachers pay great attention to the ethics of human relations, to such moral notions as dignity, justice, and many others.

I have made just a schematic sketch of those community ideas that are contained in the book. But even this is enough to understand: we see not a real community, but some kind of an ideal, one can say, Utopian image. But are we correct in this case? We know that Utopia is a dream of a just and happy world or of a place where such a world has already realized itself. But we ask ourselves the question: how and from where did this dream appear? It can be answered thus: through the natural reaction of man to the imperfection of the world in which he lives. But such a statement contains much obscurity. Reasoning like this, we, firstly, do not take into consideration either the complexity of the process called Life, or the cause-and-effect relationships emplaced in this process. Secondly, we should pay attention to the well-known fact that the dream of a just and happy world, or utopia, came for some reason from the East. The European utopia was a secondary phenomenon. In the East there was something that served as a real source for this kind of dream. How truthful is such a supposition? From the point of view of evolution, the idea of community in its pure form is a cosmic category. It is logical to suppose that the spiritual Cosmos promotes its ideas not only with the help of energetic exchange, the concept of which is contained in the Living Ethics, but also by way of direct communication with higher entities. To the latter, obviously, the Living Ethics’s creators themselves, the Teachers, or Mahatmas, belong. Their extremely few groups are located in several Ashrams situated in the Himalayas. Those who are familiar with the Roerichs’ works (artistic, scientific, and literary) remember the legends of Shambala, Belovodye, Islands of the Immortal, etc. These legends reflect the reality of the Ashrams of the Teachers, the communal arrangements of which is close to the ideal described in Community. “And you should,” this book says, “remember Our Community and follow it in harmonious labor.”16

The Community of Teachers works for the Common Benefit. The idea of the Common Benefit itself, as an energetic principle in the spiritual and cultural evolution of mankind, found its clear expression in the philosophic thought of the 20th century. A. Losev, one of the major Russian philosophers, determined a true intellectual as a man of high consciousness, carrying in himself the idea of “the interests of the human well-being,”17 in other words, of the same Common Benefit, according to the Teachers’ formulation. “The ideology of intellectualness,” Losev wrote, “is arising on its own and from nowhere; it acts without understanding its actions; and it pursues the goals of the common human well-being, without having any idea of what this is.”18 In other words, an objective, natural, historical process forms in the social sphere an ideology that creates intellectuals in the true and the highest sense. The attitude of a man or a whole nation toward the idea of the Common Benefit is the criterion that measures the level of consciousness as such.

The process of the formation of the community idea and its practice was quite long. Our historical experience knows various forms of community, which all have different essences and purposes: tribal community, neighborhood, family community, etc. Later, communities that were related to cultural and spiritual movements started to appear. Ancient India, for example, had “ashrams,” or communities appearing around a certain spiritual Teacher. In the time of Buddha, communities in monasteries existed. In Russia, there were also monastery communities; into these Sergey of Radonezh introduced the true spirit of common life. Monk communities conducted intensive educational activities and in many ways served as a moral example for the people. However, afterward, these communities gradually lost their initial cultural and moral character. Nevertheless, the ideology of communal life, supported by the community arrangement of the Russian pre-revolutionary village, still lived among the people for a long time. Probably due to this, the idea of communism that was brought by the revolution got the people’s direct response from the very beginning. Immediately after the revolution, working peasants’ communes appeared. Among them there were many communities that united spiritually like-minded people, for example, supporters of L. Tolstoy’s ideas, all kinds of religious sects, etc. We find mention of the latter in a most interesting document, “Memorandum Report on How to Raise Agricultural Yield Capacity and Enhance Collective Farm Construction,” written in 1929: “There are also such peasants who have already gotten rid of proprietary psychology and for a long time, by their deep conviction and not just by need, have been striving for socialism and communism, like, for example, Dukhobrs (Spirit Wrestlers) and other sectarians-communists, who have created exemplary collective farms.”19 The report’s author, I. Tregubov, speaking against compulsive collectivization, emphasized the necessity of a spiritual basis for a commune or collective farms. But nobody paid attention to the ideas expressed in the report. We know that collectivization caused irreparable damage not only to agricultural production itself, but to the spiritual basis of the village, its traditional culture. What became apparent to some individuals in 1929 was foreseen by the Authors of Community in 1926: the violation of the community’s principles of arrangement, orgies of violence, alienation of the state from the spiritual basis, the abrupt transformation into the barracks type of socialism. They warned of the approaching catastrophe, but were not heard. For the uniting tendency of cosmic evolution, totalitarianism was gradually substituted, and the free will of the new leader played a most important role in this process. The idea of community and collaboration was distorted, the Great Laws of the Cosmos were violated. “A million people in rows, at parade venues,” Teyar de Chardin wrote. “A million people standardized at the factory. A motorized million people… And all this just results in the most awful enslavement! A crystal instead of a cage. An ant-hill instead of brotherhood. Instead of the expected leap of consciousness – mechanization, which will inevitably follow from totalization…”20

“Obviously before you,” we read on the pages of Community, “great values are thrown into the mud. Obviously, the ways to the World Community are trampled underfoot.”21 Causes gave birth to effects. The New World’s builders took the desirable for the real. Among many other mistakes, they made this one, too, which would bring them countless problems afterward. A colorful curtain of enticing illusion would cover reality. Orientations would shift, and “shortsighted obviousness” (according to the Authors of Community) would be identified with reality. On the way to the New World, one of the most cunning dangers would arise. “It must be observed not as it is desirable, but as it is in reality,”22 the Teachers warned. “A constructor cannot make fantasies about the soil under the building. Such a situation is even more criminal, because the material outlook provides most unlimited legal possibilities.”23 The discrepancy between our “material outlook” and reality will only start to be comprehended by the country decades after. Born by the deviation from the right way, illusions were based on a lie, conscious for those who were interested in them and unconscious for those who obediently and thoughtlessly followed the “illusionists.” It was an oral and written lie, in a muddy flow spread over the country from all the levels of the governing structure. The Teachers, “in the name of the future of mankind,”24 warned against, first of all, lies in books: “Lies in books must be persecuted as a type of grave libel. [ . . . ] To occupy by lie a place in national book storages is a grave crime.”25 They spoke against “slavish obsequiousness,” against fear, against “infantile materialism,” which distorted and narrowed the wide range of the communist world outlook. They shrewdly and precisely defined the carriers of such qualities. “Remember that not illiterate people will fight stubbornly against reality, but those little scribes will fiercely persist in their shortsighted obviousness. They will think that the world within their range of vision is real, and all the rest, not visible to them, is a harmful invention. What lies at the basis of this poor narrowness? The same property that has just changed the form. This is my piggery, and that is why everything beyond it is unnecessary and harmful. This is my obviousness, and so there is nothing beyond it.”26 Those “little scribes,” spreading the sense of property on the spiritual life of people, presented the greatest danger for the country. It is by relying upon them, vain and ambitious “pioneers,” that the leader, dictator, rose. The Authors of Community saw him quite clearly already in 1926. They did not mention his name, understanding that the situation was not favorable for that, but their individual notes give us quite a real image of a concrete person, whom the country just started to call its leader in that year. Already at that time, they foresaw many of his actions. “How indecent it is of a driver to change the direction to the opposite,”27 we read. Community draws attention to the inadmissibility of low consciousness in a leader and, at the same time, gives us to understand that such a circumstance is already the reality for the country. “A sectarian dreams of seizing power in order to subdue everything to his inflexible consciousness.”28 “Mass leadership obliges to the expansion of consciousness.”29 And here are some more statements having concrete character of estimation: “Bad is the driver who only applies the plan to either daytime or night. You cannot move with confidence when thinking of the leader’s meagerness.”30 “Bad is the leader who conceals true danger. It can only be overcome by complete knowledge.”31 “Man, sowing terror, is terribly scared himself.”32 “It is not pretentious stammering before a method of recognized authority, but struggling and flaming with the search for reality.”33

The year of 1926 was that turning point when the country faced the choice: either the Common Benefit or “the darkness of fetishism.” Unfortunately, the latter was realized. “Let us remind of the qualities that are absolutely inadmissible in a community: ignorance, fear, lying, hypocrisy, a mercenary spirit, appropriation, drinking, smoking, and filthy language.”34 In the course of time, all this appeared not only in the community, but in the state as a whole. To this black list, the Teachers added also violence, against which they warned especially. “Of all types of violence, a violently established commune presents the most criminal and ugly of sights. Any violence is doomed to a reaction of the worst kind.”35 Within three years compulsive collectivization started, which in a few decades turned into “the worst reaction:” collapse of the country’s agrarian basis and the moral decline of the village. “Nobody can become established through soulless orders alone. Violence is a vestige.”36 Violence gave birth to repressions, the premonition for which we sense in the pages of Community. “Nether a capitalist police search, nor inquisitor prisons are admissible.”37 Mass repressions in the country were excused by Stalin’s notorious theory of the intensification of class struggle in the course of the construction of socialism. “Labor is impossible in the environment of hostility, anticipating the approaching events,” the Authors of Community wrote. “Construction is unimaginable in the middle of explosions of hatred. The commonwealth struggles with misanthropy.”38 Violence was accompanied by all kinds of prohibitions, restrictions, and negations. “Do not follow tyrants and wild fanatics with prohibition and negation. Do not become like gilded fools in ignorance and conceit.”39

Ignorance and violence prevented the growth of consciousness, deprived man of his ability to differentiate between good and evil, slavery and freedom. “You want to put out the flames of knowledge, but an ignorant community is a dungeon, for community and ignorance are incompatible.”40 On the pages of Community, we find also a certain forefeeling of the barracks type of socialism, with leveling instead of equality, with new submission instead of freedom. The new leader steadily led the country to this. “They will say we have rejected joys for the sake of community. Answer: what kind of funeral community yours is, if it is based on meagerness! How sentimentally dreary are privations! How hungrily they eye prohibited delicacies!

The phenomenon of privations is alien to Us, for taking in al excludes deprivation. Our Teaching suggests a rich, happy, and interesting world. Nowhere are prescribed fetters and flagellation.41 This short extract accurately captures the psychology of a compulsive barracks commune: . artificial privions for the sake of a mythological future for some people, and promiscuous permissiveess for others. The craving for “forbidden delicacies,” in the course of time, turned those “delicacies” into the goal of the human life. We know that this was followed by the loss of the spiritual element, the decline of morality, the blurring of the borderlines between the notions of yours and somebody else’s, etc. Community, or commune in its real sense did not work in Russia. I believe, that it was nt a secret for the Authors of “Community” Autors. But s pages emanate neither hopelessness, nor disappointment. We were shown how difficult the way to the commune is, we were warned of this way’s dangers. But the final sentence was not pronounced. Matter creates its new combinations. Cosmic evolution again provides possibilities for advancement. “When man finds himself in an imperfect community, terrified, he rushes in the opposite direction; – this is wron <...> [ . . . ]re The faione community should be the reason for new communal structures. So, think of new possibilities.”42. This is alreay written for us, the people of today. The following prophecy is addressed to us, too: “You will see all mirages and will know the uncontestable reality of the approach of World Collaboration. approach”43. The f the necessity and inevitability of Collaboration between people, between nations and countries on the planetary scale, and, finally, within the limits of the spiritual Cosmos – is a most imrtant gift of evolution and its most important requirement at that stage, which that we have now app.

The more attentively we read Community, the more useful and sometimes unexpected for us are the things we find in it. It would be good if we perceived them and did not reject them, as did those people of yesterday who paid our today for their negation. To us, the people of today, are addressed the words showing the inevitability of the manifestation of psychic energy, another gift of evolution, in our life. “Let us, first of all, remember that it is impossible to postpone the delivery of a mature fetus. Let us look back at the pages of history: the time for the liberation of thought came, and fires flamed, but the thought did flow. The time for the people’s reign came, and the shootings thundered, but the peoples did rebel. The time for the development of technology came, the old thinkers got horrified, but the machines did start up, pulsing together with the tempo of evolution. Now the time for the comprehension of psychic energy came. All inquisitors, retrogrades, old thinkers, and ignoramuses may be horrified, but the possibility for new achievements has matured in all countless possibilities of power. Inquisitors and retrogrades can build prisons and lunatic asylums, which will be useful for them as working colonies. But the mature stage of evolution cannot be moved aside. Likewise, mankind cannot be deprived of all means of communication.”44

If we, the people of today, do not accept this gift, we shall pay with the tomorrows of our children and grandchildren.

Let those who have read Community think about the experience of the past, the essence of which the book reveals to us. This experience is directed into our future. It is the demonstration of this unbreakable relationship between the past, present, and the future that determines this book’s value and uniqueness.

5. Culture and civilization

One of the main focuses of the Living Ethics philosophy and Nicholas and Helena Roerichs’ studies is on Culture as one of the foundations of the cosmic evolution of mankind. In his scientific and literary studies, Nicholas Roerich widely used the Living Ethics methodology and thus made clear many ontological issues, including, first of all, the problem “Culture – civilization.”

The notions of Culture and civilization have to be repeated meaningfully,” he wrote. ”Surprisingly, we have to notice that these terms, which seem so precisely defined by their roots, have already become subject to reinterpretation and distortion. For example, until now, many people have believed it quite possible to substitute the word “culture” for “civilization.” In doing so, they absolutely overlook that the Latin root “cult” itself has a very profound spiritual meaning, while civilization has in its root the civil, public structure of life.”45

If culture is the spirit of the creative activity of man, civilization, or, simply, the organization of human life in all its material, civil aspects, is the matter of these activities. Both these types of activity, seemingly so closely interconnected, have different sources of origination and different essences and purposes. The interchangable use of “civilization” and “Culture” results in the confusion of their underlying notions, the underestimation of the spiritual factor in the history of mankind. The substitution of one term for the other, as often happens, provides the possibility to impose on Culture functions that are uncharacteristic of it and to ascribe to civilization what was absolutely untypical for it. This has resulted in the appearance of myths about “thousand year kingdoms,” “eternally alive teachings,” and “proletarian” and “bourgeois” cultures.

N. Berdiayev, whose views in many ways coincided with those of the Roerichs’, gave the following definition of culture: “Culture is related to cult, it develops from the religious cult, it is the result of the differentiation of the cult, of its contents, spread in all directions. Philosophic thought, scientific cognition, architecture, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, morality – all are contained in organic integrity in the church cult, in the form still not unfolded and undifferentiated. One of the most ancient cultures, the culture of Egypt,” he wrote, “started in the temple, and its first creators were priests. Culture is connected with the cult of ancestors, with legends and tradition. It is full of sacred symbols, it contains knowledge and a different sort of spiritual reality. Any culture (even material culture) is the culture of the spirit; any culture has a spiritual basis, it is the product of the spirit’s creative work on natural elements.”46

Roerich not only developed and deepened what was said about Culture by Berdiayev, but he also introduced many absolutely new notions and definitions. “Culture,” he wrote in one of his essays, “is reverence for Light. Culture is love for man. Culture is a sweet fragrance, the blend of life and beauty. Culture is the synthesis of lofty and subtle achievements. Culture is the weapons of Light. Culture is salvation. Culture is an engine. Culture is a heart. If we collect all the definitions of Culture, we shall find a synthesis of active Benefit, a center of education and creative Beauty.”47

To the sphere of Culture we can refer those manifestations of the human spirit that seem to pour out of the mysterious depths of man, have natural character, and are characteristic of him: song and music, artistic creation in all its manifestations, various religions, ethical issues, poetry, and many other things seem to have appeared along with man himself, they grew and developed simultaneously with his consciousness.

Culture, unlike civilization, is a self-organizing system of the spirit, acting in accordance with the level and quality of this spirit. In other words, the self-organization of the spirit is a form of the existence of Culture. A new science that was born in the 20th century and called “synergy” provides certain directions for finding out the laws of this ability for self-organization. Synergy mostly deals with biological self-organization. At the biological level, scientists managed to “palpate” a certain universal principle related to any energetic structure, including to the spirit, as well.

In the energetic field of the spirit, there exist the same exchange processes that form the basis for all cosmic phenomena, starting with human society and finishing with interstellar space. Such an energetic exchange forms or transforms the spirit into a system of Culture. Synergy justly states that only open systems yield to self-organization.

In addition to this, an important condition for the origination of a self-organization process, no matter in what environment it may be, is an initial deviation from balance. Such a deviation can take place due to directed energetic influence from outside or can appear within the system itself. Since we have turned to the discoveries of modern science, we should also mention McCulloche-Pitts’ theorem, one of the most important theorems in cybernetics: a certain self-organizing system can only be modeled by a system ten times more complicated.

These theses contain the main fundamental laws governing the formation of Culture as a self-organizing system of the spirit. Conditionally, we can divide them into objective ones and subjective ones. The objective laws act at the level of regular energetic exchange processes, while the subjective ones are connected with more complicated phenomena that are related to high self-organizing systems capable of directed energetic impact. Both objective and subjective factors in the formation and development of culture as a self-organizing system of the spirit constantly interact. If the objective promoters of Culture can be referred to the conditionally called natural phenomena, then the subjective ones, and I will not make any mistake here, are related to the subjects of cosmic evolution, whom the Living Ethics calls the Hierarchy of Light. One can now hardly negate the existence of the spiritual Cosmos, in which energetic entities that have reached high degrees of evolution play a most important and purposeful role. The activity of the cosmic Hierarchs participating in the evolution of mankind manifests itself, first of all, in the field of Culture, which, as a self-organizing system of the spirit, is the energetic heart of this evolution.

This kind of impact can be traced throughout the history of mankind from the most ancient times until today. Cultural heroes of myths and legends, sages, teachers, anonymous and historical, religious teachers, and, at last, the creators of spiritual and ethical teachings – all of them had relationships with the cosmic Hierarchs, and, in a number of cases, they acted themselves as subjects of cosmic evolution, that is, they are those who consciously affected this evolutionary course. Culture “is a deepest foundation of life, connected by the highest silver threads with the Hierarchy of Evolution,”48 Roerich wrote. “Culture rests on Beauty and Knowledge. It grows due to the comprehension of the blessing of the Hierarchy of Light. That means that to mechanical cognition the fire of the heart must be added. This will already make the first step in distinguishing Culture from civilization.”49

In calling culture a “Beautiful Garden,” Roerich puts Beauty, as an energetic law of the harmony of the spirit, in the primary position. “The Awareness of Beauty will save the world,” he repeated Dostoyevsky’s words with a slight modification. This formula actually contains the whole essence of Cosmic evolution, which moves from chaos to order, from the simple to the complicated, from an elementary system to Beauty. Beauty, as a category of the spirit, refines the matter of life and the energetics of man. The contemplation of beauty forms in man the philosophic and subtle contemplation of the world. Culture as such does not exist without creation, for creation is that energetic core without which a self-organizing system of the spirit cannot advance from the simple to the complicated, from a solid to a subtle state. Creation makes an earthly man akin to the God-Creator and thus shows him the evolutionary way in the starry spaces of the Cosmos. It is creation as a phenomenon of culture in the broadest sense that secures the possibility of collaboration with the high cosmic Hierarchy. Energetically amplified by the “language of the heart,” it gives man-creator the opportunity to break through into the unknown, into the Infinity. “The language of creation is that universal human language that is understood through the heart. And what can be more luciferous, more mutually understandable than the language of the heart, in comparison with which all dialects sound meager and primitive? Only creation in all its versatility injects a peaceful uniting current into all life structures. And the one who, despite surrounding difficulties, strives along this way of Light, fulfills a necessary task of evolution.”50

Such high energetic manifestations of the human spirit as heartiness and love are an integral part of Culture as such. Without these qualities, Roerich justly argued, there is no cultural man. In Roerich’s rich and multicolored palette of Culture, there is no place for the spiritless, stiff “educated bigots,” those who know which fork they should use to eat fish, but who have no knowledge of those higher powers contained in themselves. Culture cannot exist without natural links with the Higher. Its self-organizing system is formed under the direct influence of contacts with worlds of a higher state of matter, higher dimensions. As Berdiayev wrote, culture “contains knowledge and a different kind of spiritual reality”. This “different spiritual reality” entered man with the first sparkles of his consciousness, with the first forms of his creative work. The 20th century gave us an enormous amount of material in which there are all kinds of relationships with this “different spiritual reality.” The energies that, as the result of the most complicated energetic exchange processes taking place in the Cosmos, approach the Earth can fulfill their positive role only having passed through the field of Culture, where the high spiritual potential that is necessary for the receiving of these kinds of energies is concentrated. Energies that approached the earth but did not meet in their way the softening spiritual-energetic structures that are capable of lowering their intensity acquire a destructive character.

The Living Ethics, the Teaching that opened to us the energetic world outlook, speaks about higher worlds, the Subtle and the Fiery Worlds, which impact many phenomena on earth and whose elements are comprised in our Culture. The new period of the Earth’s existence, coming with another evolutionary stage, will even further intensify our relationship with the “different spiritual reality.” Roerich, drawing our attention to this circumstance, quoted one of the Living Ethics paragraphs: “Do not let us forget that every moment must belong to the New World. The World of Thought makes a live link between the Subtle and the Fiery Worlds, it comes as the nearest engine of the Fiery World. Thought does not exist without Fire, and Fire turns into thought capable of creation.”51 This step of thought that creates is one of the stages in the cosmic evolution of mankind for which we are only prepared by Culture, as a form of the spirit’s existence on our planet. There is no other path to cosmic evolution. Those who are incapable of following this difficult and complicated path fall out of the evolutionary passage destined for our planet. They will be caught by the spiral of involution, will be thrown down, and will need to climb up again by way of suffering and torture. The Great Laws of the Cosmos are inexorable, and the energetic processes developing in the Cosmos are irrevocable.

Not many people understand that Culture as such still nests on only some peaks, and that the paths to those castles of the human spirit’s ascent are still extraordinarily difficult, and who knows, maybe, even more difficult than they have been during some past epochs.”52 Earthly matter, irrespective of its form, resists this ascent with its energetics, which is unwilling to leave the comfortable state of inertia and in all ways interfers with that process of its own refinement, toward which the dynamic and immortal spirit strives. But it is not the matter of this form form that supports the spirit, but it is the imperishable and indestructible spirit that supports this matter and secures its possibility for transfer into a higher quality.

Nichoas Roerich developed a completely new concept of Culture, penetrated with the Living Ethics ideas and inbued with practical evolutionary significance. Among various achievements of the 20th century, this real concept, related to the problems of cosmic evolution, was one of his most important findings. And when we comprehend this concept, understand its specific features and its essence, the difference between Culture and civilization will manifest itself even more acutely, and the confusion of these terms will become inadmissible.

Civilization, as the Teachers state, is the organization of life related to material creation, the main form of matter’s activity in our solid world. Various types of civilizations have appeared and have been formed in the history of mankind. Their characters have been, first of all, determined by their degree of interaction with Culture, for civilization itself appears in the energetic field of Culture. This process has not yet been studied, as the character of Culture itself has not yet been comprehended. It can only be said that, in many cases, early civilizations were created and developed together with Culture and actively interacted with it. At its initial stages, civilization was a kind of a frame for the precious stone of Culture, and the correspondence of this frame to the stone itself, or the degree of their harmony, determined the quality of this or that period in human history, its spirituality and cultural extent. Sometimes the frame wore out, fell apart due to various circumstances, and then the stone itself was surrendered to the power of the elements, often destructive. Sometimes civilization receded from Culture, or approached it, but never, throughout the last two millenniums, and earlier, too, did it exist separately from Culture. The complete deviation of civilization from Culture is a specific feature of the 20th century, the century standing on the threshold of new evolutionary changes in the life of the planet. Representing, unlike Culture, the perishable, transient matter of human life, civilizations have come and passed, have appeared and been destroyed, while the eternal spirit of Culture, the bearer of which has always been humanity as a whole, has remained, has passed the cycles of its development through many generations, strengthening the spirit and expanding the energetic possibilities for their further evolution.

The majority of philosophers and culturologists of the last century, irrespective of whether or not they distinguished Culture from civilization, wrote mostly about civilization of the 20th century and its specific features. N. Berdiayev’s studies, to my mind, are the most significant of these. “Civilization, in contrast with culture,” he wrote, “is not religious in its very essence, the intellect of ‘education’ wins in it, but this intellect is already not abstract, but pragmatic. Civilization, in contrast with culture, is not symbolic, not hierarchic, not organic. It is realistic, democratic, mechanistic. It wants not the symbolic, but the ‘realistic’ achievements of life, wants real life itself, and not similarities and signs, or symbols of other worlds. [ . . . ] Civilization is the substitution of the means of life, the instruments of life for the goals of life. The goals of life fade, close. The people’s consciousness of civilization is directed exclusively at the means of life, at the technique of life. [ . . . ] The correlation between the aims and means of life is confused and distorted.”53

Roerich draws our attention to the fact that in the interaction of Culture and civilization, the priority should belong to Culture, which will save civilization from many deformations characteristic of the same. “Let us remember the behest of Light,” he wrote, “that, first of all, the most important thing for us will be the spirit and creation, then comes health, and only in the third place, wealth.”54

The most ancient period of human history gives us evidence that at that time there was no so sharp division between Culture and civilization, which appeared afterward. Obviously, it was a single and integral self-organizing system of the spirit and matter of human activities, the so-called initial synthesis. The mythology of various peoples quite expressly reflects this phenomenon. Ethnographic materials also confirm this. The clan, for example, was a category of initial civilization, but its existence was impossible without the clan’s divinity. Instruments of production and weapons were consecrated on clan and tribal altars. Primitive cosmogony was closely related to orientation in space in time. Fire was sacred not only in the shrine, but also in the home fireplace, where food was cooked.

Sacred groves, sacred rivers, sacred mountains were connected with the ecology of the locality where the people worshiping them lived. They were covered by certain taboos, wisely and strictly regulating the necessary ecological balance of huge territories. The inclusion of nature itself in the integral system “Culture – civilization” was one of the typical and most important distinctive features of the system itself. This unification with nature, the ability to live in the same rhythm with it, is characteristic of initial synthesis, which at times made the elements of Culture and civilization so indistinguishable. The differentiation of these two concepts started with the exclusion of nature and natural phenomena from the system itself, with the separation of man from nature. This “beginning” was quite long and continued, probably, for thousands of years. A most essential manifestation of this process was the advancement of religions, which were more developed in comparison with paganism, and then their final victory. The rupture of relations with nature and the subsequent obliviation of nature by man facilitated the appearance and establishment of the “technological civilization” and resulted in a grave ecological misbalance, which, already by the 20th century, has set our planet on the verge of catastrophe. Throughout human history the forms of the interaction of Culture and civilization, and sometimes the transformation of one into the other, or, rather, a change of their proportions in the lives of certain societies, have been very diverse. But the main tendency of interaction has been the growing discrepancy between these two notions, in the deepening of the differences between them in the West, and, to a lesser extent, also in the East.

In the history of humanity, we find various combinations of Culture and civilization, which have produced various results. “Towers of the spirit can be created in the same place where towers made by hands are soaring.”55

Harmony is just a step toward the synthesis of Culture and civilization, which will specify and spiritualize the structures related to the arrangement of life of man himself. This synthesis will take place at a higher level than that existing in the initial historical periods.

In the energetically integral structure governed by the Great Laws of the Cosmos, spirit and matter pulse and strive for the synthesis that is destined to them by evolution, now approaching, and now receding from it. That is why now epochs of the prime of Culture appear, and then civilization becomes cultural, then again material civilizations prevail, and then Culture recedes to the background, sometimes incapable at all of influencing civilization. This regularity was noticed by Roerich: “Again, like in all spirals formed in increments, we see some almost completed circles, but sometimes, an almost unperceivable increase of consciousness creates a new step, which is reflected across many pages of the history of the arts. We see how specialization and synthesis rotate.”56

Bourgeois revolutions, having pragmatic and materialistic character, stabilized and developed the gap formed in the integral body of the phenomenon “Culture – civilization.” The epoch of the Great Alienation of Culture from civilization had started. Spirit receded from matter. Matter started to make claims for power over spiritual values. Separated from Culture, civilization started to form a one-sided materialistic mentality where pure pragmatism prevailed, which destroyed the last remainders of the idealism of the 19th century. Man himself, his soul, feelings, his complicated internal life were alienated from society, its new values and new materialistic tasks. Matter, as never before, assumed dominating positions, aggressively and unceremoniously pushed away the spirit, and deprived human society of the collective energy it needed. It broke links with the Higher, doubted the existence of cosmic collaboration, and appropriated the functions of God-Creator, assured of a possibility to create everything by hand and intellect. “In civilization,” N. Berdiayev wrote, “spiritual energy exhausts, spirit, the source of culture, fades. Then starts the domination over human souls not of natural powers, barbarian powers in the noble sense of this word, but of the magic kingdom of machinery and mechanics substituting itself for true being.”57

This machine, the technological civilization, stops needing philosophy, true art, religion in the real sense of this word. It substitutes the entertainmnet industry for Culture and forms on it the bases for “mass culture,” which serves the matter of society, but by no means its spirit. It indulges the base feelings and instincts of the human body, kills its energetics, interferes with the development of the harmony of spirit and matter, making more difficult the further evolutionary ascent of man. “Old Europe,” Berdiayev wrote with bitterness, “betrayed its past, renounced it. The religionless, vulgar, middle-class civilization conquered its old, sacred culture. The fight of Russia and Europe, of the East and the West, looked like a fight of the spirit with soullessness, religious culture with religionless civilization.”58

When we say that mankind is at a dead end, having flooded the planet with machines, having subdued man to these machines, having caused irreparable damage to the nature of the Earth, and, correspondingly, to man himself, we must understand the reason for all this. This reason is the discrepancy between Culture and civilization, the belittlement of Culture and extolment of material civilization. Once, for a number of concrete reasons, the balance that was holding the planet like two wings was destroyed. A shift took place, and everything went wrong. Followed was not the way of the evolution regulated by the Great Laws of the Cosmos, but a potholed and dusty road leading to a dead end, threatening energetic catastrophes.

Justly believing that the optimal development of technology is needed not only by civilization, but by Culture as well, Roerich posed logical questions: what for, for what purposes, can powerful technical means be used? Into whose hands will they fall, how will they affect the spiritual development of mankind as a whole, how will they tell on the growth of mankind’s consciousness?

In his studies Roerich tried to show the true role of spiritual Culture and comprehend those distortions and deformations that contemporary civilization brought into the life of human society. He gave Culture the priority role in all fields of human activity. In observing the grandiose economic catastrophe that seized the capitalist world in the 1920-30s, Roerich better than anyone else understood that it was not so much an economic, as a spiritual crisis of the bourgeoisie, who are devoid of culture’s civilization. The state of the economy was but the consequence of that situation in Culture, which civilization itself created. Any crisis phenomenon in the contemporary world, and he understood this absolutely clearly, is related, first of all, to the violation of the balance between Culture and civilization. “They thought that the material crisis of the world could be settled by material calculations. But leprosy has gone too far. The crisis of the world is not at all material, but spiritual. It can be only healed through spiritual renovation. The cold language of the brain has cheated the calculators, and it is again urgently necessary to turn to that eternal language of the heart that created the golden epochs.”59

The search for a “higher,” “truly cultural” solution was always Roerich’s main aim when he comprehended and processed the most important problems. A “higher solution” was always dictated by the ways of evolution. These same ways brought optimism to the most complicated and, seemingly, unsolvable situations.

Every phenomenon, Roerich asserted, has its cycles of development, its upsurges and declines. In the 20th century, Culture and civilization reached a culmination point in differentiation, in separation. Both spirit and matter, overcoming formidable crisis phenomena (usually accompanying the disintegration of an old system and the establishment of a new one), are going out into the evolutionary channel of inevitable synthesis. And only synthesis can bring the system “Culture – civilization” to the state that will correspond to the main trend of Cosmic evolution. In the long run, the purpose of evolution in our solid world is to bring closer spirit and matter, to achieve harmony between them at a certain stage, and finally, their synthesis, which will result in the creation of spiritual matter and will raise its energetic level. This synthesis, according to Roerich, will change the essence of civilization, will make it spiritual, will turn Culture and civilization into an integral phenomenon, acting already at a higher qualitative level than in its initial version. “Beneficial Synthesis,” Roerich wrote, “will help to introduce into everyday life sanative high notions and will teach to embrace all those multiple things that only yesterday seemed either empty abstractness, or inapplicable clumsiness, or just silly, from the point of view of conventional habits, prejudices, and superstitions.”60

1 The Letters of Helena Roerich. Riga, 1940. v. 1. 425–426.

2 Fiery World. III, 65.

3 Community. Urga, 1927. 2. v, 1.

4 “Eyewitness’s Notes.” Memories, Diaries, Letters. Comp. М. Vostryshev. Мoscow, Sovremennik [Contemporary], 1989. 621.

5 Community. Riga, 1926. 247.

6 “Eyewitness’s Notes.” Memories, Diaries, Letters. 619.

7 Community. Riga. 215.

8 ibid., 214.

9 Community. Urga. 2, XI, 6.

10 Community. Riga. 249.

11 “Eyewitness’s Notes.” Memories, Diaries, Letters. 615-616.

12 Community. Riga 85.

13 Brotherhood. 389.

14 Community. Riga. 188.

15 ibid., 237.

16 Community. Riga. 17.

17 Newspaper Sovietskaya Cultura [Soviet Culture]. 1989. No. 4.

18 ibid.

19 Horizon. 1989. No. 1. 29.

20 P. Teyar de Chardin.Human Phenomenon. 203.

21 ibid., 94.

22 Community. Riga. 161.

23 ibid., 196.

24 ibid., 199.

25 ibid., 94.

26 ibid., 206.

27 ibid., 161.

28 ibid., 237.

29 ibid., 131.

30 ibid., 194.

31 ibid., 154.

32 ibid., 157.

33 ibid., 162.

34 Community. Riga. 178.

35 Community. Urga. 3, II, 3.

36 Community. Riga. 268.

37 Community. Urga. 3, II, 3.

38 Community. Riga. 273.

39 ibid., 99.

40 ibid., 119.

41 ibid., 263.

42 Community. Riga. 226.

43 ibid., 258.

44 ibid., 248.

45 N. Roerich.Flamy Citadel. Paris, 1932. 41.

46 N. Berdiayev.The Essence of History. 166.

47 N. Roerich.Flamy Citadel. 93.

48 N. Roerich.Flamy Citadel. 77.

49 N. Roerich.The Power of Light. Southbury: Alatas, 1931. 207.

50 N. Roerich.The Power of Light. Мoscow, 1999. 153.

51 N. Roerich.Flamy Citadel. 192.

52 N. Roerich.The Power of Light. Мoscow, 1999. 255.

53 N. Berdiayev.The Essence of History. 167–169.

54 N. Roerich.The Power of Light. 88.

55 N. Roerich.The Power of Light. 207.

56 ibid., 64.

57 N. Berdiayev.The Essence of History. 172.

58 N. Berdiayev.The Essence of History. 162.

59 N. Roerich.The Sacred Watch. Harbin, 1934. 80.

60 N. Roerich.Flamy Citadel. 45.


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