The ICR Review of Ernst von Waldenfels’s book

"Nicholas Roerich – Kunst, Macht und Okkultismus"

(“Nicholas Roerich. Art, Power and Occultism”)


Nicholas Roerich is a great Russian artist, scientist, thinker, public figure. He belongs to the pleiad of the most prominent culture figures of Russia who his Motherland is truly proud of.
Nicholas Roerich contribution to the Russian culture as well as to the world culture is great. His creative achievements and ideas in art, science, protection of the world and peace evoked a warm response among the best and the brightest minds of XX century and are recognized all over the world. The number of publications about Nicholas Roerich’s life and creative activity is enormous.
Ernst von Waldenfels’s book "Nicholas Roerich – Kunst, Macht und Okkultismus" (Osburg, 2011) pretends to be an objective “biography” of N.Roerich but it is an ignorant attempt to misrepresent Nicholas Roerich by means of slander and lie, and to show him as a mediocre artist, poor intriguant and adventurer, who cooperated with the Soviet intelligence for the sake of glory, power and money.
These author’s statements are mere words; nothing proves them except quotations and references from the works of the same dishonest authors such as Shishkin O., Rosov V. and Andreev A. . The Ernst von Waldenfels’s statements are completely denied by the opinions of the great contemporaries of Nicholas Roerich, among them: Leo Tolstoy, the world known writer, Blok Alexander, a poet, Tretyakov Pavel, the famous collector, sponsor and founder of the Tretyakov Gallery, Stasov Vladimir, an art historian and critic, Baltrushaytis Yurgis, a poet-symbolist, Javāharlāl Nehrū, the outstanding politician of India and a thinker, and many others. Research works by modern authors also rebut the false statements; Belikov P.F. and Shaposhnikova L.V. who cooperated with the Roerich family and could know and evaluate the Nicholas Roerich personality are among them.

Waldenfels also misrepresented the Roerich philosophical heritage. He could neither understand the philosophical heritage nor think it over, as he himself admits in his book, so he declares Agni-Yoga or the Living Ethics to be “mystical teaching”, whereas the Living Ethics is a new philosophical system and an integral part of a new cosmic outlook formation process in Russia. This world outlook is brightly depicted in the work of the Russian philosophers, such as Solovyev V.S., Florensky P.A., Bulgakov S.N., Berdyaev N.A., Ilyin I.A. and such scientists as Vernadsky V.I., Tsiolkovsky K.E., Chizhevsky A.L.. The Living Ethics realizes itself through science and not through religious cult; its way of action is scientifically thought-over conscious ethics.
It is necessary to pay attention to the Waldenfels’ methods of writing the book which pretends to be a “biography” of Nicholas Roerich. Among them is a method of allegation of not existing facts and concealment of the actual ones. For example, the author writes that the Roerich expedition followed in the tracks of other previous expeditions (part 6, ch.2, p.367). Though it is well known that crossing the Western Himalayas from the South to the North, the Tibetan plateau from the North to the South with passing through Trans Himalayas and the Himalayas, and coming out into India - was an achievement of the N.K.Roerich’s Central-Asian expedition, and this route had not been travelled through by any other expedition before. Then the author says that the Central-Asian expedition did not discover anything new, though all true researchers know quite well that the Roerich expedition has collected a great number of scientific facts and stuff (ethnographic, folk, linguistic), a lot of archeological monuments were found and researched, dozens of mountain tops and crossings were marked and specified on the map for the first time. The biggest scientific expedition of XX century considerably enriched our knowledge and understanding of the great Eastern culture.
It is also fabricated by Waldenfels that N.K.Roerich was an agent of the Soviet intelligence, that he made agreements with it and executed its orders. Thus Waldenfels repeats the O.Shishkin’s fantasies and ignores the fact that in 1996 the Tverskoy Inter-municipal Court of Moscow on the basis of the International Centre of the Roerichs’ claim recognized the O.Shishkin’s information - which was published in the “Segodnya” (“Today”) newspaper and said that Nicholas Roerich was the Soviet intelligence agent and tried to capture power in Tibet by military force - to be false and to discredit the honor and dignity of Nicholas Roerich and his family.
It’s worth noting that the archives of the International Centre of the Roerichs keep the documents which prove irrefutably that N.K.Roerich was not an agent of the Soviet intelligence and that the Soviet secret service was tracing him and his family during the Central-Asian Expedition, reported on him and interfered with his work. Waldenfels ignored the facts and the documents while writing his book.
The author refers to the memoirs of Esther J. Lichtmann and Louis L. Horch, who robbed and betrayed Nicholas Roerich when he was alive; the author gives their memoirs as unquestionable facts while an objective researcher should investigate critically the memoirs of true enemies of the investigated person.
Waldenfels’ methods are characterized not only by unfair shuffling of facts, by pulling quotations out of context, by suggestion of sense which the cited original does not have. The methods also lack clearness and system of description: we can not clearly understand the events of Nicholas Roerich’s life and creative activity; there is no clear context of his life, of his oeuvre as an artist, scientist, thinker and traveler in Russia, Europe, the USA, and India. It is with this blurriness the methods juggling becomes possible, which leads to great difficulties for a reader in correct evaluation of the originals used by the author, in true understanding of important events of the life and creative work of the great representative of the Russian culture , and in evaluation of the Roerich contribution to the XX century culture.
One more important point is worth mentioning: Ernst von Waldenfels in unduly familiar manner writes about the greatest image in the world outlook of millions of people of the East, which personifies perfectness, justice and wisdom on Earth – about Shambala. Such attitude to the other peoples value is possible only from a person who is absolutely an alien to culture.
In conclusion it is necessary to say that the Ernst von Waldenfels’ book does not meet the requirements of a biographical work. More over, it contains slander, fantasy which insults deeply all people who appreciate and understand contribution of the Russian art, philosophy and science to the world cultural heritage.
It is a pity that the advertising in mass media and presentation of the book took place at the eve of the Days of Russian culture «Russian Spring 2012» celebration in Germany.

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