Mystical Life

Nicholas & Helena Roerich

The Spiritual Journey of Two Great Artists & Peacemakers by Ruth A. Drayer


This was an enjoyable read that followed the lives of Nicholas and Helena Roerich as they fled the Russian revolution traveling the world looking to bring a measure of spirituality and art into everyday life. Although not a name recognized today, Roerich was very well known from the 20s until his death in 1947. He was primarily an artist who left a vast legacy of paintings (most of which remain in Russia). But he was also a bit of a Renaissance man dabbling in archeology, spirituality, travel, and efforts at conservation and world unity. Equally interesting was his wife, Helena, who was a psychic and healer who had contact with some of the Masters known to the Theosophists. She wrote and developed the foundational works of the Agni Yoga practice. Together, they functioned as a spiritually-driven couple who established a school of the arts in New York City in the 1920s.


Their pursuit of all things spiritual eventually took them into India, China, Mongolia, Tibet, and Siberia. The treks happen at a dangerous time when few Westerners have traveled these regions. They often find themselves in situations they are ill prepared for. As a travelogue, it’s a fascinating journey, but not one many of us would choose. We learn that the Roerichs are in search of signs of the coming of Maitreya (a future Buddha) and interested in establishing a New Country (Shambhala) that has been prophesized. All through the journey, they hear tales about Christ (Issa) having spent time in the East. Although Nicholas’ art is energized by the trek, they don’t seem to find what the Masters are leading them towards. They settle down in northern India.

Nicholas’ next chance for adventure north comes in 1934 when he is asked by the US government to lead an expedition into these regions to find seeds for drought resistant grasses to help recover lands being swallowed by the dust bowl. He agrees, but things don’t go to plan due to political instabilities in the region. Around the same time, Helena maintains a correspondence with FDR.


Roerich’s lasting legacy is his art and the signing of the Roerich Pact in 1935 by twenty-one nations including the US. The document was signed at the White House to protect artistic and cultural property, especially in times of conflict. Roerich was trained as an artist in Russia but also incorporates his sense of spirit with influences coming from peasant culture, Buddhism, and Theosophy. His work is overwhelmingly mystical.

The Roerich Museum (NYC):

Link to Drayer’s book:





















Filed under Book Review, Uncategorized

17 responses to “Mystical Life

  1. drstephenw

    Thanks, Ellis. Wonderful info I knew little about. My Roerich knowledge comes from his work before any of this happened. He was adviser and scenographer for the famous Rite of Spring debut with the Russian Ballet. The premiere that caused riots in Paris, and made Nijinsky and Stravinsky enfants terribles. That alone would have been an outstanding cultural contribution. Nobody talks about Roerich’s personal stake or story in that work, but given his fascinating nature I’ll bet there’s a story there that equals the riot.


  2. indiasologuy

    Hello Ellis. Thanks for stopping by at my blog. I love the Roerich’s work too. Have you been to their residence / museum in Naggar, Himachal, India? I was very impressed – some fantastic artwork there. I’ve only recently started blogging my travels, I’ll try to write that bit as a post. 🙂


  3. Quite a synchronicity, this. I was just in conversation with a kindred spirit about Nicholas and Helena Roerich. Lovely to see this … I’ll send the link along to my friend as well. Blessings, Jamie


  4. An epic art work. Thank you for refreshing our memories


  5. reanolanmartin

    I learn so much from you, Ellis!


  6. Thank you for this art/history lesson. Always good to learn about those who paved the way for us. sd


  7. What an interesting couple, I have seen the museum on the map of NYCity. Thank you for sharing, his paintings are really amazing


  8. Reblogged this on Supernal Living with Dana Taylor and commented:
    Interesting book review from Ellis Nelson. Be sure to see the artwork at the end. DT

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for including the art in this post. I’d never heard of him and the works are intriguing.


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