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): http://www.roerich.org/
Link to Drayer’s book: http://goo.gl/IrxpnP