This podcast is a conversation between David Silver and myself about the Russian mystic and painter Nicholas Roerich. Roerich, who died in 1947 also lived in the United States for many years during the nineteen thirties and died in India.
He and his wife Helena Roerich were deeply connected to the Masters of the Great White Lodge, best known in writings about Theosophy and they created a path called Agni Yoga. Roerich’s paintings, his greatest legacy were vivid colorful renditions of saints from all religions as well as many sites in nature, particularly the Himalayas.
Several hundred of Roerich’s paintings are on permanent exhibit at the Roerich Museum on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (Details and examples of dozens of the paintings at Roerich.org).
Though large forgotten in modern culture, Roerich had a huge influence on culture and politics of the first half of the twentieth century. In the U.S. he became close to both Henry Wallace and Franklin Roosevelt (in mid thirties went on an expedition to China and Mongolia on behalf of the US Dept. of Agriculture).
Roerich also conceived of a symbol called the “pax cultura” that was to be placed on artistic institutions so that during war time they would be spared in a similar way that the red cross was designed to signify hospitals. Thirty-five nations, including the U.S. signed the”Roerich Pact” to that effect but the brutality of World War II overcame its noble intentions.
Later, in India Roerich befriended future leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Ghandi.
In the world of arts, Roerich was an international force for elevating the purpose and stature of the arts and was a close friend and associate of Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Rabindranath Tagore, and H.G. Wells, among others as well as Igor Stravinsky for whom Roerich designed the sets for the famous and infamous debut of “Rites of Spring” in Paris in 1913.