It is added on November, 4th 2009
The Realm of Culture
Recently we deplored the destruction of paintings of Goya and of the ancient Church treasures in Spain as well as the destruction of the churches in Russia since the revolution; then we heard of the burning of the valuable Shanghai Library and now we read in the newspapers that the President’s Palace in Havana was looted by a mob. Thus, besides war-destruction we notice continuous vandalism. Can one keep silent, when knowing of such destruction? Can we permit future generations to believe that we negligently allowed barbarians to destroy that which glorifies the high culture of mankind? It is our duty persistently to reiterate the imperative need of safeguarding the precious treasures from annihilation through crass ignorance. People take little account of the united measures that must be undertaken to avoid these most deplorable new indictments against our present age.
Let us look into the essence of things without being seduced by petty details. Usually these trifles alone hinder the discernment of actual facts. Our Banner, dedicated to the protection of all the true treasures of humanity, is being much discussed at present. There are many new proposals. Some are against open manifestations, lectures and pilgrimages in connection with this idea. Some state that one should only whisper about the destructions which take place, as though we could conceal so public a disgrace. Still others state that not only culture but even civilization is imperilled. And there are voices, which even suggest the immediate construction of a new Noah’s Ark. It is possible that civilization itself is already in peril!
Let us hope it is not so.
Many new names are suggested for the Banner, sufficiently long to contain all descriptions. But we know the danger of such long definitions when a short commanding S O S should be sounded.
Some suggest that the Banner be sold everywhere to spread it. Still others wish to keep the Banner and all considerations about it, in a hidden vault. Some wish to see the symbol of the Banner in the lapel of every thinking man. Others wish to conceal it and disclose it only during some new extraordinary mishaps. Some consider the wide interest and inquiries about the Banner as a most beneficial sign. But for others, for some inexplicable reason, this is a sign of extreme danger. Some consider that the Banner should be utilized only during war-time and preferably limited to Europe. Others justly affirm that the treasures of Egypt, Persia, India, Japan, China, the Americas and the entire world demand the same immediate protection. Some think that the League of Nations is an organization which makes decisions for the entire world, others point out that its jurisdiction does not cover even half the globe. Such is the diversity of opinions.
Some propose that during all international exhibitions this Banner made up of the flags of all nations should be shown. But others believe that it is impossible to have this Banner even in private premises, as it may hinder warfare. To some it appears to be a threatening sign of impotent “pacifism”; to others the Banner appears as a glorious defence of the dignity of mankind. Some regard it as imperative to insist openly on the safeguarding of cultural treasures everywhere. And others, again, desire to postpone all discussion, until after the passage of some law, although they themselves do not know from where they may expect this law – like a “deus ex machina.”
What is the meaning of all these apparently contradictory but insistent advices, suggestions and even demands? They simply signify the great interest in this Banner, which cannot fail to call forth the response of the human heart. We must become accustomed to this diversity of expression of the human mind.
One must know that no world problem was ever decided without the raising of all kinds of symbols. In all processions, manifold placards and emblems are carried – these in their inner essence serving the same ideal. Thus, even if some one become angered about the Pact and Banner – this is already good. Even though he be excited, in his anger he still thinks of the protection of treasures by which the human race evolves.
It has often been said that an open enemy is still closer to the truth, than an indifferent fool, who is neither hot nor cold, and who, according to all cosmic laws, will finally disintegrate. But life itself points to the entire imperativeness of the battle against vandalism. Each daily newspaper, every daily record directly or indirectly indicates the same need. If anyone suggests speaking in subdued tones, we must tell him: “When someone is ill at home, when the heart is torn by grief, would not it be inhuman to demand a tone of icy indifference?”
When something is dear to our hearts we cannot speak of it in frigid terms.
Everyone in this world who has loved someone or something, knows that it is impossible to speak of the beloved in mediocre expressions. The human spirit, during such moments of high tension, always finds a thundering vocabulary of enthusiasm and vigour. No graves, no extinguishers can quench the fire of the heart, if it senses the truth. How, then, were born attainments and martyrdoms, if not from the realization of the great Truth? Where was generated that unbreakable daring, that inexhaustible resourcefulness which humanity remembers even from its schoolbooks? The lovers of frigid words should forebear with the enthusiasm of others who exist by its lifegiving, strengthening fire. But let all suggestions be heard, for one cannot undo that which already exists. To those who propose to speak in freezing terms of the most precious concepts, we shall say: “All right, we shall also listen to you. We shall whisper, but it will be so thunderous a whisper as to reach every human heart.”
Even silence may be louder than thunder, as is so beautifully related in the Old Testament. But can we forbid the human heart to pulsate for that which is so vital and dear to it? How can we cease earthly and heavenly songs! To annihilate the magnificence of human creative songs would be to embitter and finally to kill the heart. But where is that phenomenal individual, who boasts that he can always do without the heart?
If in our hearts we call the Banner of Peace the Banner of Beauty this short denomination will of course resound in the heart but it would be inapplicable in life, because people are ashamed to speak of the beautiful.
Thus also do people act when they come upon the Great Realities. That which they ponder in the quiet of night, appears to them unrealizable and even shameful by day. When we look over everything already published and written about the Pact and Banner, every response that has come from distinguished personalities and from unknown workers, we want to be with these enthusiasts, who were not afraid to sign their full names in order to affirm the protection of human treasures. There are before us thousands of letters received from the Americas, from Europe and Asia. One would like so much to enumerate the multitude of names who have become friends through the noble sentiments they express, but this would take many pages.
According to the ancient traditions, an entire city was once spared because of a single righteous man. Then judging by the letters received, and marking upon our map the places of their despatch, one obtains a remarkable design of the sites where people are thinking of the preservation of the world’s treasures, beyond the limitations of nations and creeds. And how many more have not been asked! Continuously new friends have come from far-off who have heard about the Banner-Protector by accident. Therefore let us not prevent any scattered and solitary seekers from reaching the One Light. They all, in their own way, strive for constructive good.
In a far-encompassing whisper let us tell all those who come about love and friendliness; they did not come from egotistic motives, but they came in the name of spiritual treasures, in the name of everything beautiful that is spread in creative labor and cognizance. Whoever wants to cry out – let him do so. Whoever wants to whisper – let him whisper. But let us not impose silence upon any human heart, if it be open to Beauty and Good. If the unique vocabulary of attention and good become more voluminous than we thought, then let us only rejoice at this and let us continue to call for the preservation of the true treasures of the world. May our Banner be that sacred symbol of Peace, which by its presence will remind humanity of its evolutionary destiny!
I rejoice that the friends of Peace, Beauty and Knowledge will gather in Washington to affirm the Laws of the Spirit!
If the Red Cross flag protects physical health, then may the Banner of Peace preserve the spiritual health of mankind.
N. Roerich, Himalayas, 1932.
Roerich MuseumThe Fiery Stronghold,
The Stratford Company, Boston 1933