It is added on November, 8th 2009
The Necessity of Roerich’s Pact in Today’s World
What is culture? Even among well-educated people, only a few could be found who would be able to answer this question. The great artist, outstanding scientist, famous traveler, and remarkable public figure Nicholas Roerich gave the following definition of Culture: “Culture 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.”[1, p.63]
The major philosopher of the silver age N. Berdiayev pointed out the main peculiarities of culture. “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 kind 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 the natural elements.”[2, p.166]
Both of these two quotations, in which we find the essence of true culture determined by N. Roerich as “the weapons of Light” and “synthesis of active Benefit,” and by Berdiayev as “knowledge and a different kind of spiritual reality,” testify to a different approach to Culture as such, and to its relation to a higher state and dimension of matter. This relation, passing through the inner world of man, determines real creativity in the space of Culture, creativity which, undoubtedly, has evolutionary character. “Through culture,” N. Berdiayev pointed out, “the way upward and forward, not backward, lies in a pre-cultural state. This is the way of the conversion of culture itself into new being, new life, new heaven, and new earth. Only in this way, can the barbarian sounds and barbarian gestures which have burst into culture be submitted to the new cosmic harmony and new cosmic rhythm. Not only art, but human creativity, as well, will irrevocably perish and plunge into initial darkness if it does not become the creativity of life, creativity of a new man and his spiritual way.”[3, p.418] The evolutionary role of culture was noted by not only Berdiayev, but also by other major philosophers of the Silver Age, and outstanding scientists and famous artists of the beginning of the 20th century wrote about it, as well. The essence of this role was, first of all, the fact that culture, as N. Berdiayev put it, was the spiritual way of the new man, without which the improvement of man, expansion of his mentality, and his ascent to a higher stage of Cosmic evolution were not possible. The level of culture of man, nations, countries, in the long run, determines their evolutionary fate, determines the process of improvement of their lives. The Living Ethics, the philosophy of cosmic reality created by Nicholas and Helena Roerich in collaboration with an anonymous group of Teachers, quite convincingly proves that it is Culture that constitutes one of the most important foundations of the evolution of humanity. This idea penetrated all of Nicholas Roerich’s writings, both artistic and philosophic. It was he who tried to bring to at least elementary order the confusion of existing views on the concept of Culture. This confusion was far from harmless and often resulted in diminishing Culture as such, which, beyond all doubt, conditioned major crises in the lives of whole countries and nations.
Any earthly phenomenon, its essence, its influence on the state of humanity is determined by its interaction of spirit and matter. Both these phenomena cover all manifestations of the life of humanity, and beyond them there is nothing more. The two-wing structure of mankind’s existence requires deep understanding of this phenomenon and the strict observation of the necessary harmony between the wings of the evolutionary flight of mankind. If culture, conditionally speaking, is the spirit of man’s being, then civilization is the arrangement, or matter of this being. However, strange as it may seem, the confusion of these two notions – culture and civilization – continues to take place. One is often substituted for the other. “The notions of Culture and civilization have to be repeated meaningfully,” N. Roerich wrote. “Surprisingly, we have to notice that these notions, which seem so precisely determined by their roots, are already subject to reinterpretation and distortion. For example, until now, many people have believed it quite possible to substitute the word ‘Culture’ for ‘civilization.’ At that, it is absolutely overlooked that the Latin root ‘Cult’ itself has a very deep spiritual meaning, while ‘civilization’ has in its root ‘civil,’ the public structure of life.”[4, p.28]
Both of these types of activity, which seem so closely interconnected, have different sources of origin and different contents and purposes. The identification of civilization and Culture results in the confusion of the underlying concepts, in underestimation of the spiritual factor in the history of mankind. The frequent substitution of one notion by the other provides the possibility to impose on Culture functions untypical for it, and to ascribe to civilization something that is absolutely uncharacteristic of the same. It has resulted in myths about “thousand-year kingdoms,” “eternally alive teachings,” “proletarian” and “bourgeois” cultures.
To the sphere of Culture, we can refer those manifestations of the human spirit which 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 thing which seem to have appeared together with man, which grew and developed simultaneously with his consciousness.
Culture, unlike civilization, is a self-organizing system of the spirit, creating in accordance with the level and quality of this spirit. In other words, self-organization of the spirit is a form of the existence of Culture.
The creation of the Hierarchs, representing spiritual Cosmos and participating in the evolution of mankind, shows itself, first of all, in the sphere of Culture, which, as a self-organizing system of the spirit, is the energetic heart of evolution.
The history of this kind of impact on the evolution of mankind can be traced from the most ancient times until today. The cultural heroes of myths and legends, sages, Teachers, anonymous and historical religious teachers, and, at last, creators of spiritual and ethical teachings – all of them were connected with cosmic Hierarchs, and, in a number of cases, they acted themselves as subjects of Cosmic evolution, that is, those who consciously affected this evolutionary course. Culture “is a very deep foundation of life, connected by high silver threads to the Hierarchy of Evolution,”[5, p.54] 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 delineation between Culture and civilization.”[6, p.227]
“The fire of the heart” is a most important and necessary particularity of culture as such. The absence of such energetics in the space of culture results in its destruction and death. Roerich often used the words “heartiness,” “the language of the heart,” “the understanding of the heart.” It is in culture that, from the most ancient times, the role of the heart was understood. Roerich’s definition that “culture is the heart” is valuable. “The heart should be understood not as a symbol, but as a great laboratory where the transmutation of our mentality is taking place, and consequently, of all our essence,” Helena Roerich wrote. “Without the heart’s development and refinement to a subtler state, no advancement, no progress is possible, that is why the great magnet that is the heart must be laid in the basis of any construction. Thus, representatives of a new race will be distinguished by the refinement of the heart, this key to all achievements.”[7, p.289]
In the Living Ethics, we find a very precious book called The Heart that is dedicated to the heart’s evolutionary role. We learn from it that the heart is the space where our consciousness is placed and where it is developing. The heart is a bridge for the relationship between the Earth and the Higher worlds. Such understanding and thinking of a higher quality than those of the intellect are contained in the heart. This understanding is called wisdom, which cognizes surrounding reality more qualitatively and deeply than does the intellect. Taking into account these peculiarities of the heart, the Living Ethics authors set forth the heart’s and intellect’s evolutionary task of synthesis in subsequent cognition of the surrounding world. Nowdays scientists of various specialities have turned their attention to the problems of the heart. In the United States, there already exists the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart, whose research has confirmed a lot of what we know from the Living Ethics. The Institute’s scientists, in applying new approaches to the study of the heart, have discovered that the heart possesses, if it may be so stated, its own internal brain and nervous system and is capable of independent thinking. If a certain balance or harmony is achieved between the heart and the brain, human mentality is expanded, which results in a more accurate and clearer perception of the surrounding reality. It is known that wisdom was familiar to people from very ancient times. The Living Ethics, suggesting a new system of cognition of cosmic thinking, sets forth wisdom as a more effective method of cognition than cognition through intellect. “Many cases,” the information specialists of the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart point out, “have illustrated the efficiency of the heart’s active wisdom.” It was discovered that the “heart’s wisdom” is directly related to the moral foundations of man. The scientists of the Institute of Mathematics of the Heart published a number of highly interesting articles in such medical magazines as “The American Journal of Cardiology,” “The Medicine of Stress,” “The Science of the Integrity of Physiology and Behavior.”
The Living Ethics says that the new world destined for our planet by the Cosmic evolution is the Epoch of the Heart, where the heart will play the leading role in cognition, the expansion of mentality, and spiritual improvement. Roerich’s words “Culture is the heart” give us the opportunity to come to the conclusion that it is the heart that is the main engine of culture and its spiritual center. And that is why the oncoming epoch, the Epoch of the Heart, will inevitably be an Epoch of Culture. Proceeding from all this, one can say that culture is not only an evolutionary and historical foundation of human society, but its heart as well. At the same time, civilization is the intellect of this society. Destroying culture, we injure the heart of the society what can result, and often does result, in its paralysis. Totalitarianism gives us many examples of heartless societies. And Russia was one of them.
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 the 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 to man-creator the opportunity to break through into the unknown, into the Infinity. “The language of creation is that universal human language which 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 sounding dialects are scarce 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 an necessary task of evolution.”[8, p.153]
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.” Energies, which, in 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 the field of Culture, where the high spiritual potential necessary for receiving these kinds of energies is concentrated. Energies that approached the earth but did not meet in their way softening spiritual-energetic structures capable of lowering their intensity can acquire a destructive character.
Civilization, as was already mentioned, is an arrangement of life, an organization of its solid matter. Various types of civilizations have appeared and have been formed in the history of mankind. Their character has been determined by, first of all, their degree of interaction with Culture, for civilization appears in the energetic field of Culture. It can only be said that in many cases, early civilizations were created and developed together with Culture and actively interacted with it. At the 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, 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 came and passed, appeared and were destroyed, while the eternal spirit of Culture, the carrier of which has always been humanity as a whole, remained, passed the cycles of its development through many generations, strengthening the spirit and expanding the energetic possibilities for their further evolution.
Roerich draws our attention to the fact that, in the interaction of Culture and civilization, the priority must be given 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 the health, and only in the third place – wealth.”[9, p.93]
In the energetically integral structure governed by the Great Laws of the Cosmos, spirit and matter pulse and strive for the synthesis 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.
Bourgeois revolutions, having pragmatic and materialistic character, stabilized and developed the gap formed in the integral 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 forming 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 unscrupulously pushed away the spirit, and deprived human society of the collective energy it needed. It broke links with the Higher, doubted 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 the true being.”[10, p.172]
This machine, the technogenic civilization of the 20th century, does not need any more philosophy, true art, religion in the real sense of this word. It substitutes the entertainment industry for Culture and forms on it the basis 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 the spirit and matter, making more difficult the further evolutionary ascent of man.
When we say that mankind is at a dead end, having flooded the planet with machines, 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 it. 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 which was holding the planet like two wings was destroyed. A shift took place, and everything went wrong. Not within the tide of the evolution regulated by the Great Laws of Cosmos, but along a potholed and dusty road leading to a dead end, threatening energetic catastrophes.
The distortions in the interaction of culture and civilization that we are observing now have caused another negative phenomenon. Probably, for the first time in the history of mankind, at the juncture of the 20th and 21st centuries, the technogenic civilization started to influence culture, diminishing, and often bringing to nothing, the role assigned to it by cosmic evolution and the history of humanity. It is the influence of the technogenic civilization on art that resulted in the neglect of beauty in some areas, loss of the sense of beauty, and formation of all kinds of ugly objects. And of course, the most terrible thing is when such creations become fashionable, acquiring wide popularity. Machines’ forms have entered the arts, and music has started to repeat the primitive rhythms of working equipment. We now are observing a new process when the expanded civilization that got hold of human souls, in the full sense of this word, starts to destroy beauty, the subtle energetics of creativity, and for knowledge substitutes an ignorance based on the unrestricted consumerism of modern society.
Each phenomenon, Roerich stated, has its cycles of development, its upsurges and declines. In the 20th century, Culture and civilization reached a crucial point in differentiation, in separation. 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 physical world is to bring closer the spirit and matter, the achievement of 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, as Roerich asserted, 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. “The beneficial Synthesis,” Roerich wrote, “will help to introduce into everyday life sanative high notions and will teach us to embrace all those multiple things that only yesterday seemed either empty abstractness, or inapplicable clumsiness, or just funny, from the point of view of conventional habits, prejudices, and superstitions.”[11, p.31]
Nicholas Roerich was characterized by one remarkable feature. His thought, philosophically profound, was always implemented into action. When he comprehended the evolutionary significance of Culture as the bearer of evolution, he understood that Culture should be not only developed as a foundation of the Cosmic evolution of mankind, but must be protected as well. In the 20th century, the situation with Culture was not the best. World War I, all kinds of military encounters, revolutions, the neglect of Culture in peacetime – all this resulted in devastating processes in space, which, beyond all doubt, slowed down its development, and, at the same time, in a most negative way affected the evolution of mankind as a whole. During military conflicts, temples, libraries, galleries, and other priceless objects of Culture were ruined. Human ignorance destroyed cultural values that had been accumulated for many centuries, burned original manuscripts, destroyed the thought contained in writings, annihilated pieces of art – storages of precious energetics. In other words, it eradicated landmarks of the evolutionary path of mankind, which affected, of course, all spheres of its life. The 20th century passed through the phenomena of acute crises, at the basis of which, in one way or another, lay the crisis of spiritual culture on the planet earth. The 21st century is witnessing global crises that mankind cannot yet cope with. Ignorance and a low level of mentality undermine the foundations of Culture. Knowledge and beauty, however, often negated and destroyed, belong to the space of Culture and are, according to Helena Roerich’s definition, the “crown of cosmic evolution.”
We are grieving over the loss of Louvain’s library,” Nicholas Roerich wrote with bitterness in 1930, “and the irreplaceable beauty of the cathedrals of Reims and Ieper. We remember the multitude of treasures of private collections that were lost at the time of the world’s troubles, but we do not want to inscribe words of hostility. Let us just say ‘Destroyed by human misapprehension and restored by human hope.’ But still, fatal mistakes in this form or another can be repeated, and new multitudes of monuments to human deeds can be destroyed again.”[12, p.103] His anticipation came true. World War II leveled to the ground very precious monuments of Culture, destroyed a great number of priceless pieces of art, devastated the ancient carriers of spiritual energetics. And N. Roerich turned out to have be right in his anticipation, and not only in his anticipation, but in his global action which he undertook a few years before the beginning of World War II. This was the creation of Roerich’s Pact, famous throughout the entire world, aimed at the protection of cultural values in periods of military operations and in times of peace. Nicholas Roerich believed that the Pact imposed obligations not only on the nations that signed it, but on society as a whole. Roerich’s Pact had a broad character and counted to a certain extent on a mass movement for the protection of Culture. “We shall not be tired to keep saying,” he wrote, “that, beside government recognition, the active participation of the public is needed. Cultural values decorate and elevate all of life in all its manifestations. And that is why active concern for them must be shown by everyone.”[13, p.142] Roerich asserted that “a public element should lie at the basis of a common cause.”[14, p.131] It is hard to overestimate the importance of this idea. Only society as a whole can do something real for culture, for it is society, and not the powers that be, that is its carrier, it is society, and not state officials, that can truly organize the protection of culture. Culture itself, being a space of free creation, has public and traditional roots. Culture is created by society and for society.
“Beside governmental resolutions,” N. Roerich wrote regarding the Pact, “it is public opinion that is the first protector of the national treasures that have world significance.”[15, p.163]
He paid special attention to this kind of activity among the Russian people possessing rich cultural heritage. “The Russian people,” the artist pointed out, “as an heir of a glorious future, must become special protectors of Culture.”16 What did the words “special protectors of Culture” mean? It is known that in the thirties, a destructive process under the name of “cultural revolution” was underway in the USSR. At that terrible time, thousands and thousands of monuments of culture were destroyed senselessly and heartlessly by the authorities’ instruction. Roerich made a protest against it.
The destruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow aroused a most negative reaction in him, which he could not keep to himself. “The powers that be! Say firmly and resolutely that such devastations are inadmissible. […] The powers that be! Say louder and louder that the destruction of cultural treasures is inadmissible and will forever place the destroyer on a list of shame.”[17, p.141]. But authorities in his Motherland kept silent and did not pay attention to either his appeals, nor to the International Pact for the protection of cultural values, which they refused to sign. Helena Roerich, outstanding philosopher and public figure, repeated Nicholas Roerich’s words. She wrote of a new epoch in which Culture would dominate, emphasized the extreme necessity for its protection in those spheres in which it was not only violated, but also destroyed. “Fight with all your power, fight for your rights in the name of the common benefit, in the name of culture! Half-measures are always destructive. Demand a complete victory. Complete liberation, so that all means be directed at the expansion of the culture of the country! Actions, great actions are needed now.”[18, p.93] The appeal, written by Helena Roerich as long ago as 1931, has not lost its urgency today. The authorities in Russia were changed long ago, and many things have changed in the country in the recent years. But the significance of Culture is still not well understood, still actions causing damage to Culture are undertaken, still urgent is the problem of the protection of Culture. Roerich’s Pact not only remains a burning issue, but acquires even acuter character today, requiring a solution both at the level of the authorities and at the level of the public itself. The Russian authorities do not go into processes taking place in the space of culture and do not try to comprehend them, but just follow blindly the tendencies formed in it. In these authorities’ cultural policy, the above-mentioned domination of civilization shows itself clearly enough. The Russian authorities, due to their narrow-mindedness and often just ignorance, their lack of understanding of the role of culture and its significance for the country’s general development, set forth as a priority not culture as such, but civilization, issues separated from culture. So, the general policy of our authorities is first of all directed at material, social, and economic problems. They are not aware that this policy’s current lack of success is caused by the attitude towards culture, which proceeds from the “leftover principle.” At the same time, public opinion which is now being formed in Russia, also does not always pay due attention to the situation in culture. Historically, it has so happened that comprehension of the essence of culture and the urgent need for its protection has been understood by just a few people. There is no clear understanding that the renaissance of Russia is first of all determined by the protection and development of culture. The government playing with the so-called national idea strikes with its illiteracy, and at times absurdity. All kinds of phenomena are suggested to form this idea, including sports, in particular, soccer. And none of those who have real power has ever mentioned culture in connection with it. A national idea cannot be created in three months, as former President of Russia Boris Yeltsin once demanded. It is developed for centuries, and only in this form can serve as a stable uniting factor. What but culture can become such an idea? Its powerful spiritual energetics like a magnet bring together the country’s national interests that form its future.
“Now our camp is in the middle of a desert,” N. Roerich wrote in an expedition diary. “Once, someone, through lack of knowledge, destroyed vast forests, remainders of which we saw. After the forests, the grass was gone. And the water escaped into the ground. Desert! Exactly like this, anything can be destroyed through ignorance and malice. And who will need this desert, material or spiritual. [...] The powers that be, say resolutely! Repeat it again, and keep talking about peace and creation.”[19, p.141-142]
This is a surprisingly precise image of culture – a forest keeping the environment in balance and providing all the necessary elements for its vital processes. The forest chopped down, everything turned into a fruitless desert. The “chopping” or destruction of culture has the same significance for society. There are creators of culture, and there are destroyers of culture. In today’s Russia, the number of the latter is continually growing. These destroyers include officials of all kinds and positions, who have many destructions on their accounts. They acquire cultural objects for purposes having nothing to do with culture, the authorities’ representatives issue permits for the liquidation of cultural monuments, the State Parliament (Duma) deputies pass laws against culture without thinking of the consequences of their ignorant acts. The Orthodox church hierarchs who campaign against the Roerichs as creators of culture should be mentioned among this number, as well.
The Banner of Peace became the symbol of Roerich’s Pact. Three small circles within a large one, signifying the unity of the past, present, and future in the space of Eternity and symbolizing the cosmic law of cultural succession. Banners of Peace, the International signs of evolution, are raised all over the world in those places where Culture is protected. The Banner of Peace has flown around our planet in a cosmic spacecraft, has waved at the North and South poles, has taken part in many major cultural events.
In 1930, even before the Pact for the protection of culture was signed, N. Roerich wrote: “This plan (The Pact for the Protection of Culture – L. Sh.) provides for a special flag that will be respected as international neutral territory; this banner must be raised above museums, cathedrals, libraries, universities, and other centers of culture.”[20, p.103]
I would like to present some quotations regarding the Banner of Peace by the cosmonauts who raised the banner above the planet Earth.
A. Balandin: “I think that the more often people come into contact with the Banner of Peace, the more often, before doing or saying something, they will consider whether or not they should really do it. Maybe, our spirituality, and just good, will be revived through this.”
A. Soloviev: “We are convinced that only on the basis of partnership and collaboration can a beautiful future be constructed in the 21st century. [...] Culture is the basis for the building of a common home for mankind. Toward this goal, Russian and International public organizations have started the cosmic project “Banner of Peace.”[22, p.104]
Michael Foal, American astronaut: “We have raised the Banner of Peace into the Cosmos in order to remind all people of our global responsibility for the fate of humanity and the planet. [...] Man’s travels into the cosmos [...] are the first steps in a new, single, cosmic culture, the symbol of which is the Banner of Peace.”[23, p.104]
P. Vinogradov: “We have raised the Banner of Peace above the planet so that Culture may forever outstand war and hostility on our planet. We call for the construction of new spiritual, scientific, and artistic collaboration of all people and peoples of the Earth.”[24, p.104]
When you listen to these speeches or read them, you start to understand very well that those who have been into outer space better than anyone else understand its essence – the construction of a new World, the creation of a new Culture. The Living Ethics, which contains a system of cognition of a new cosmic mentality, also functions under the Banner of Peace and its symbols. “Let us purposefully construct,” Helena Roerich wrote, “a stronghold of culture – the knowledge of the Living Ethics and beauty. Knowledge and Beauty are the basis and the crown of cosmic evolution.”[25, p.59]
Unfortunately, under the contradictory circumstances of our existence, far fewer than the majority understand the significance of the “crown of cosmic evolution” and do not recognize the beginning of the epoch of new cosmic thinking.
“There will be a time,” Helena Roerich predicted, “when the Banner of Peace, the Banner of Culture will cover the whole world.”[26, p.102] As known, a lot has already been done for it. And still a lot is left to be done. This process is not easy. Not everybody is aware that the Banner of Peace is the symbol of culture and cosmic evolution.
“The history of the Pact,” Helena Roerich pointed out, “is a very instructive book in which the sides of light and darkness will be very clearly marked, and peoples will see for themselves that all that was constructive, all that had a future ahead of it, supported the Pact’s ratification and the acceptance of the Banner. The Banner of Peace is a great touchstone for humanity’s mentality.”[27, p.351]
The State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia turned out to be incapable of passing the test on this touchstone. The Banner of Peace hung in the Duma beginning in 1995, giving a certain hope that this important state body would not only comprehend the essence of this symbol, but would also pay attention to the necessity of protecting culture. For almost ten years, Duma deputies contemplated this Banner, listened to lectures on culture and about Roerich’s Pact. All this did not have any noticeable impact on the Duma. In 2004 the Banner of Peace was removed. This demand was instigated by the Duma deputy, the journalist Kroutov. But it does not matter who instigated it. There are still many such Kroutovs on the Earth. It is they who embody the dark rows of the adversaries of culture, it is they who do not pass the test for a worthy level of morality. Those who hurried to remove this Banner without even the formal decision of the Duma itself proved to be irresponsible and ignorant. Those who did not speak against Kroutov, who called the Banner of Peace “the sign of Satan” turned out to be irresponsible too. The deputies incurred shame on themselves in removing the Banner of Peace. It so happened that in the autumn of the same year, during the birthday celebration of the outstanding artist and philosopher Svetoslav Roerich, the Banner of Peace was handed by cosmonaut V. Afanassiev to the Vice-Speaker of the Indian Parliament in Delhi, and it is now held in the Parliament of India. It is India, where our compatriots Roerichs worked and created for many years, that passed the test for culture, unlike the State Parliament of Russia. During celebrations dedicated to S. Roerich’s birthday, two people representing the International Center of the Roerichs, the ICR President Y. Vorontsov and L. Shaposhnikova, were received by Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Natvar Singh. Both, when speaking of the Roerichs, called them a bridge between the culture of India and Russia. Is such deep penetration into the essence of the Roerichs’ cultural activities characteristic of our high officials? I am afraid not. The attitude toward the Banner of Peace in our Duma revealed another situation. The Duma and its deputies do not take much interest in what is happening beyond their walls, do not pay attention to what is said and written beyond their space. If it were not so, then hardly would the Banner of Peace – the symbol of world culture – have be driven out of the Duma. And it was only the Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Culture Yelena Drapeko who forwarded a letter to the State Duma Speaker B. Gryzlov with a protest against bureaucratic arbitrariness. Touching upon the history of Roerich’s Pact and the Banner of Peace, Yelena Drapeko wrote: “The significance of the Banner of Peace is the fact that, by way of the protection of human creations, respect for the spiritual values by which all of mankind lives is laid into the consciousness of the masses and the oncoming generation. [...] I believe it fit to note that, despite A. Kroutov’s personal opinion, which is specified in his speech dedicated to the Banner of Peace, the significance of the latter is not at all diminished in the eyes of the world’s public. The Committee for Culture [...] receives many appeals from public organizations and citizens who are insulted by the words of the said deputy and by the fact that the Banner of Peace, on the pretext of repair or a change in exhibition, was removed from the session room lobby on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Pact of Peace.
On February 20, 2005, in the Moscow House of Journalists, a public conference on the subject “Culture Against Terrorism” was held, in which was discussed the situation with the Banner of Peace and was adopted an appeal to the State Duma drawing its attention to the necessity of keeping this symbol of humaneness, morality, and the protection of cultural values in the building of the Russian Parliament. The presence of the Banner of Peace in the Duma will undoubtedly create the necessary ground and atmosphere for the development and strengthening of the great idea of the protection of cultural values, so clearly necessary for the physical and spiritual health of mankind.
More than half a year has passed after that shameful anti-cultural act in the State Duma of Russia, but nothing has changed. The Banner of Peace is still not there. There is no way of thinking that the letter did not reach Gryzlov. One might rather think of another thing – of the Parliament speaker’s alienation from the issues of culture, complete deafness in this respect, and lack of understanding of the role of culture in our society. This is probably the worst thing. And as long as the powers that share Gryzlov’s level of mentality allow Kroutovs and Kourayevs to implement their anti-cultural ideas, we will not be able to assert and protect the heart of our being – Culture.
“Be ready to respond with dignity to all ignoramuses and destroyers of Culture! The Banner of Peace and Culture must be understood now as a great symbol,” Helena Roerich wrote.
On April 15, 1935, when Roerich’s Pact for the protection of Culture was signed by the heads of a number of states, N. Roerich once again reminded everyone of the significance and the evolutionary essence of the Banner of Peace, the symbol of this Pact. “Let the Banner of Peace stream above the centers of Light, above the shrines and citadels of the beautiful. Let it stream above all deserts, above lonely secret abodes of Beauty, so that deserts burst into blossom from this sacred grain. The Banner is raised. It will not be lowered in the spirit and the heart. With the lighted fire of the heart, the Banner of Culture will blossom. So may it be!”
“So may it be!” we shall repeat after our great compatriot who brought to our Planet the knowledge of Culture and Cosmic evolution so needed by us. And let the Banner of Peace – the symbol of Culture and new cosmic mentality – lead us forward, to a new World of high spirituality, expanded consciousness, and flourishing Culture.”
1 N. Roerich. The Flaming Citadel. Riga, 1991. p. 63
2 N. Berdiayev. The Meaning of History. Moscow, 1990. p. 166.
3 N. Berdiayev. The Philosophy of Creation, Culture, Art. Moscow, 1994. v. 2. p. 418.
4 N. Roerich. The Flaming Citadel. p. 28.
5 ibid. p. 54.
6 N. Roerich. The Power of Light. Mosocw, 1999. p. 227.
7 The Letters of Helena Roerich: In 2 v. – Minsk, 1992. p. 289.
8 N. Roerich. The Power of Light. p. 153.
9 ibid. p. 93.
10 N. Berdiayev. The Meaning of History. p. 172.
11 N. Roerich. The Flaming Citadel. p. 31
12 The Banner of Peace. Moscow, 1995. p. 103.
13 ibid. p. 142.
14 N. Roerich. Culture and Civilization. Moscow, 1994. p. 131
15 The Banner of Peace. p. 163.
16 ibid. p. 170.
17 ibid. p. 141.
18 The Letters of Helena Roerich. v. I. p. 93.
19 The Banner of Peace. p. 141 – 142.
20 ibid. p. 103.
21 The ICR archive.
22 qtd. in: “The Banner of Peace on Cosmic Orbit.” Fiery World. 1998. No. 2 (17). p. 104.
23 ibid. p. 104.
24 ibid. p. 104.
25 The Letters of Helena Roerich. v. I. p. 59.
26 ibid. p. 102.
27 ibid. p. 351.
L.Shaposhnikova, newspaper "Culture", № 14, 2005
translation from http://en.icr.su/evolution/pact/today/