Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
Nicholas Roerich
Estate Museum
in Izvara

Shambhala

A Letter


My dear friends, at New Year, had you turned back or were you striving forward? A good year! Not a wish, but a command must be in this call! It must be good, for those who desire to work, who devote themselves to educational work.

December 17th, 1916, late at night the train left. It was unheated. Our relatives thought our departure was madness. Sviatoslav remembers exactly how we wrapped ourselves in all our blankets, at twenty-five degrees below zero. The dream of action! And the snow-covered rocks of Finland rose before us as the first messengers of the future Himalayan heights. E. I. was so impatient to go; she knew well the hardships of the way but nothing could stop her.

And you have now become so flexible, and all-armed to encounter obstacles and attacks, as though they were only inevitable stones and dust on the path. And before you are manifest the image of slander and distortion. You are becoming hardened and do not take to heart attacks in the press. You know that all this has its specific meaning. And the main reason—ignorance, that ignorance which permits entrance to darkness and calumny. In 1918 I had an amusing experience: I was apparently buried in Siberia; I was not even there at the time. Requiems were chanted and obituaries were written. Of course, during our remote journey, one may imagine how many false interpretations took place. I was shown a clipping of an interview with A. N. Benois. Even Benois was led astray and repeated the Parisian gossip and told of the anathema of the Pope. At the time when, according to the interview of Benois, I was in Lhassa, I was really passing Altai. Amusing!

The main thing concerns friends. I rejoice at your information about Zuloaga, Mestrovic, about Takeuchi, this unseen active friend! How does “Adamant” look in Japanese? Greetings to Stork for the idea of an international literary contest.

Friends, you are all so different, yet all striving. America, South America, India, China, Egypt, all unite and lose their casual frontiers. Your sudden paths to Asia, and my last sudden coming to America! All this in manifold episodes becomes indescribable but tensely unforgettable.

Remember the furious rains on Altai, when S., although valiantly acknowledging the necessity of the trip, all wet and plaintively silent, asked of space: “Will it end?” Or Nettie on the “sea of ice” in Chamounix. And the coming of Franc, among the dances of the American Indians in Santa Fe. And the falcon-like decision of L. in Mon-hegan. And O. valiantly deciding in Geneva. And S. M. with the coin of Elijah. Or Sv. marching on horseback through the mountain path of Sikhim with a book in his hands. Or the parting on the railroad station of Berlin and Tch. asking: “And thus it happened?” And Tat. and Georg. in Paris on the Rue de Messine, “could they wait?” Or W., who although he agreed to meet the unexpected, nevertheless, in India awaited the roar of the tiger. Or the tension of Sh. on the Lyons Railroad Station. And the Philosopher-warrior R. in Rome. And the anxiousness of Newb.: his apparatus spoiled at the crossing through Yarkent-Daria. And Av. who courageously walked the deck of the ship during the “mountainous” sea. And the caressing approach of B.

And you remember the evening of December 9th, 1924, and all that happened around the statue of St. Roque? So it evolved, incident upon incident; and so it blossomed. To all friends greetings! And you, build constantly! Build high towers!

Again we go away beyond mail communication, and wish to see all your work directed only into the future. Directed toward those masses among whom art penetrates with such difficulty. Toward universities, schools, the people’s and workers’ clubs, libraries, village communities, railroad stations, prisons, hospitals, orphan asylums. There the new consciousness is growing. There they await. And creation is growing together with labor. And all obstacles are only the birth of possibilities.

Speak to the people about creation in all work. Say that nothing should impede them, that each obstacle should be turned into a happy possibility. I used to say to pupils: “Imagine for a minute that you are Raphael and I am the Pope. I shall set up all kinds of conditions for your composition, and you will retain everything and by your free consciousness will create above all obstacles. If the consciousness lives freely in you, nothing will diminish it.” And let all pupils create in all branches—in art, in ballet and in singing. Until suddenly they will sing their own song and give their own dance. By all measures let them sharpen the creative gifts.

In 1924 the article “Star of the Mother of the World” ended: “Not reclining on clouds, nor playing upon harps, not hymns of inertia, but constant and illumined labor is predestined. Not a magician, not a teacher beneath the tree; not the folds of the toga, but the workman’s garment of the true toil of life will lead us to the resplendent gates, will lead in full readiness and inconquerability.”

Since then two years have elapsed. You are fighting on the entire, varied educational front. The work calls you forward. Not desire, but assurance must be transmitted to your work; you will never cease; in other words, never grow old!

But do not think, my friends, that having begun the letter about China, I count myself among the enemies of China. You know well my admiration of the old Chinese art and philosophy, as well as of the wonderful Con-fucian chants, which not so long ago we heard in New York. But if, on the back of a passer-by, you see a scorpion or a tarantula, it is your duty to tell him. To-day the Chinese sea is so stirred, that in the formless foaming of the storm you cannot see the pillars of foundation; and instead of deep clear water everything is muddy. But I continue to believe that sincere demonstrations of all the outgrown forms and superstitions will bring only good.

May the Amban, if he likes, read these wishes of mine. No doubt he will also understand soon, that when we speak of art, science, and of beauty and culture, we touch the very best and most living, motive powers of humanity. I hope that this letter, even if not very soon, will reach you sometime and that we again will feel as if united, and distances will again seem non-existent.

Greetings to all Friends!

Ulan Bator Khoto
January, 1927



Museum Address: 188414, Izvara Village, Volosovo District, Leningrad Region, Russia.
Phones: +7-813-73-73-273 (group tours); Phone/Fax +7-813-73-73-298 (general)
Museum Director: Cherkasova Olga Anatolievna E-mail: isvara_museum@mail.ru