Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the H

Postby admin » Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:04 am

Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men's souls.

-- Daniel Burnham, American architect


Seven: The Great Plan: Nicholas and Helena Roerich

On December 26,1923, in eastern Tibet, one hundred heavily armed Buddhist monks, hidden in the morning fog, saddled their horses and quickly galloped northward away from Tashilumpho monastery, heading toward Mongolia. In the middle of the crowd, shielded on all sides by his bodyguards and followers, rode the ninth Panchen Lama (1883-1937), abbot of the monastery and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was running for his life from the wrath of the Dalai Lama. In the eyes of Lhasa, the Panchen Lama, who ruled as a powerful local lord and refused to pay taxes, was a dangerous separatist defying the efforts of His Holiness to turn Tibet into a modern nation-state. The officer sent to chase the fleeing party was quite fond of the mild and friendly abbot and did not rush to fulfill his assignment. Pretending to be ill, he camped with his detachment for two days, and when the pursuit was renewed, it was too late: the Panchen Lama was far ahead of his pursuers, deep in Chinese Mongolia beyond the reach of the Dalai Lama. The runaway abbot settled into a self-imposed exile near the border with Red Mongolia.

After the Panchen Lama's escape, a prophecy spread throughout Inner Asia that the runaway abbot would come back to Tibet as the king of Shambhala and punish evildoers. The Panchen Lama's own grim predictions added to the general excitement:

The time has already arrived when it is rather difficult to escape such terrible sufferings. Dead bodies will fill the ravines and channels and rivers of blood will flow. Even if there will be roads, there will be no one to walk along them. Even if there will be yurts, there will be no one to live in them. Even if there will be clothes, there will be no one to wear them. Remember that the supreme nobles will be exterminated by diseases, and also the lower poor ones will be troubled by illness. Rich and poor will be equal. Only good ones and evil ones will be distinguished. [1]


The flight of the Panchen Lama stirred diplomatic and spy games that involved England, Japan, China, and Red Russia. Surprisingly, each, for its own reasons, wanted the Panchen Lama back in Tibet. China had plans to use him as a puppet to keep the Land of Snows in its orbit and disrupt nation-building in Tibet. Britain wanted to reconcile the runaway abbot with the Dalai Lama to make Tibet into a nation that would serve as a buffer between British India and Red Russia and China. The Bolsheviks were wary of the Panchen Lama hanging around the borders of Red Mongolia, where he enjoyed skyrocketing popularity and could present an ideological challenge to the sprouts of Communism. Added to this was a slim hope that he might be used to help the Bolsheviks get a foot into the Forbidden Kingdom. Finally, Japan, a latecomer to this game, wanted to use the Panchen Lama and his Shambhala war to squeeze the Chinese out of Inner Asia.

In the same fall of 1923, a peculiar, sage-looking European appeared in Darjeeling in the northernmost part of India near the Tibetan border. A plump man with a round face and a small Mongol-styled beard, he moved and talked like a high dignitary. He announced that he was a painter, and, indeed, from time to time people could see him here and there with a sketchbook, drawing local landscapes. Yet, even for an eccentric painter, he acted strangely. To begin with, he argued that he was an American, although he spoke English with a heavy Slavic accent. He also demonstrated a deep interest in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly in the Maitreya and Shambhala legends, which was not unusual -- except that the painter had a ceremonial Dalai Lama robe made for himself and donned it occasionally, hinting he was the reincarnated fifth Dalai Lama, the famous reformer in early modern times. His behavior raised the eyebrows of local authorities, who passed this information along to the British intelligence service.

As strange as it might sound, the "sage" did strike a chord with some local Tibetan Buddhists, for several visiting lamas did recognized him as the reincarnated Dalai Lama by the moles on his cheeks. At that time, no one except several close relatives and disciples of the painter knew that he had a grand plan, which included dislodging the Dalai Lama, bringing the Panchen Lama back to Tibet, reforming Tibetan Buddhism, and establishing in the vast spaces of Inner Asia a new theocracy, which he planned to call the Sacred Union of the East. He saw the flight of the Panchen Lama as an occult signal of the coming Shambhala war that would bring to the world the new golden age of Maitreya. The name of this ambitious dreamer was Nicholas Roerich.

Education of a Practical Idealist

Roerich, who liked to call himself a practical idealist, came from a family with Baltic German roots on the paternal side; his father was a notary and his mother, a Russian, came from the ranks of city burghers. Nicholas had three siblings: an elder sister and two younger brothers. Since early childhood, his great passion was archaeology. As a nine-year- old, Roerich already took part in archaeological digs. This love for the past, legends, and fairy tales would remain with him for the rest of his life, and from the beginning he took legends and prophecies seriously, considering them reflections of actual events.

Another of Roerich's passions was art, for which he had a great talent. By 1917, he was already a famous and accomplished painter, working in the Art Nouveau style and portraying spiritual scenes, gradually shifting from Slavic primitivism to Oriental mysticism. Favorite subjects were various Buddhist and Hindu mythological characters depicted against mountain landscapes of blue, purple, yellow, and orange. [2] Many contemporaries noted one characteristic that united his canvases-they were cold and solemn. Devoid of emotion, Roerich's images were reminiscent of spiritual messages. A fellow painter and colleague described his art thus: "The world of Roerich represents a fairy tale clad in stone. He spreads colors on his paintings firmly like a mosaic. The forms of his art do not breathe and have no emotions at all. They are eternal like the rocks of cliffs and caves." [3] Roerich himself explained that his goal was to capture and depict the ideal forms of life and therefore he liked to paint from his head rather than from his heart.

In 1901 Roerich met and married his soul mate, Helena Shaposhnikova, the daughter of a famous St. Petersburg architect. It was a happy marriage: Helena and Nicholas were not only a couple but also fellow dreamers, which contributed to Roerich's conversion to the life of a spiritual seeker. They would share all their spiritual and geopolitical adventures. Their two sons, George and Svetoslav, who were made part of their Great Plan, later became scholars, explorers, and painters. The only troubles were the horrible headaches and fits that haunted Helena, the results of two serious head traumas. One was received during her childhood and another in adulthood when she fell on her head from an upper bunk in a train compartment. After the second trauma, Helena began to have visions of fire and flames that consumed her entire body. Another serious damage to her health might have been caused by prenatal trauma suffered when her mother had unsuccessfully tried to abort her. [4]

Everything changed when Helena reinterpreted those fits as an invitation to converse with otherworldly forces. Such an approach was unusual during that time when Freudian psychiatry was becoming a cultural fad and such things were treated as illness. Helena later claimed that a message came from her otherworldly teacher informing her that the fits were the result of the discovery of new energy centers in her body and that the work of these centers was what produced the excruciating pains. [5] The fire and flames she saw inside herself accompanied by visions and voices became the manifestation of Agni Yoga (Fire Yoga), a spiritual system the couple later worked into a new creed after they moved to the United States in 1921.

As soon as she converted her sickness into spiritual experiences, Helena's life became a bit easier. Now the headaches, horrific images, and visions that continued to haunt her became messages from otherworldly spiritual teachers. Moreover, Helena soon learned to put herself intentionally into a trancelike mood in order to receive information from the "other side." The other side was two spiritual masters who represented the Great White Brotherhood hidden in the Himalayas -- spiritual baggage Helena borrowed from the famous Helena Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy. Just as in the case of Blavatsky, Helena Roerich's hidden masters were Hindu men who first appeared to her in London's Hyde Park. Eventually, the spiritual masters who visited Helena began to appear to Nicholas as well.

From early on, Nicholas Roerich nourished grand dreams. The painter was convinced that he was predestined for a great role in life. In fact, he never tried to hide his self-importance: "I have a big ego. Although this sometimes gives me moments of difficulty, I am glad that I have much of it. Like a good whip, my ego makes me move forward fast. Without such a source of energy I would not be able to accomplish many things." [6] Since childhood, Roerich was also fond of playing roles of imagined persons, usually great historical and mythological personalities. Eventually this habit became his second nature. His round face, pink cheeks, well-groomed hair, and small beard seemed like a mask that could be cast aside in an instant and replaced by another one.

This ability to wear different masks later helped him play different roles and cultivate useful people. The mysterious Roerich skillfully penetrated different spheres, including the court of the tsar. Smart, cunning, and polite, he knew well when and how to flatter and be courteous. His approach was usually very simple: "Make friends with a person" and "listen to him and let him speak." This talent in captivating useful people not only brought him many contacts and riches, but also enabled him to pursue his utopian projects. In fact, in their relations with people, Nicholas and Helena never thought in terms of emotions and friendship. The world was strictly divided into those who were useful and those who were useless. The people who surrounded them were just pawns in their schemes. Such an approach was natural, for the couple was not concerned about individuals-their goal was to bless all of humankind. Thus, one of their closest associates, Frances Grant, was a "good instrument." Rich and powerful philanthropists from New York, Washington, and Chicago were "useful for the future." Even the painter's own brother Vladimir was put on this grading scale: he would "be useful in our work." [7]

In 1909, another important event in Roerich's life aroused his interest in Tibetan Buddhism and triggered his quest for Shambhala. A group of Tibetan Buddhists in St. Petersburg headed by Agvan Dorzhiev, the Buryat Buddhist monk and envoy of the Dalai Lama to the Russian court, received Tsar Nicholas II's blessing to erect a Tibetan Buddhist temple in the Russian capital. Backed by bohemian spiritual seekers and cultural dignitaries fond of Theosophy and Buddhism, Dorzhiev was able to convince the tsar (who was prone to mysticism) that it would be good for both spiritual and geopolitical reasons. Playing on Russian- English rivalry in Asia in hopes of shielding Tibetan sovereignty from English and Chinese advances, the Dalai Lama's ambassador told the tsar that inhabitants of the Forbidden Kingdom viewed the Russian emperor as the king of northern Shambhala who would protect their country from the aliens' intrusions.

Roerich eagerly joined the project, designing stained glass for the temple. The painter also became fascinated with Dorzhiev's stories about Shambhala, the mysterious Buddhist paradise somewhere in the north. No less captivating was the Buryat lama's dream of bringing all Tibetan Buddhist people together in a united state under the protection of the Russian tsar. Roerich and the "learned Buryat lama," as the painter referred to Dorzhiev, had many cohorts among Russian intellectuals and aristocrats, whose cultural life was saturated with the occult. The early twentieth century in Russia was the time of the so-called Silver Age -- an incredible resurgence of humanities, music, art, and esotericism. Even some Marxists, to Lenin's dismay, paid tribute to this cultural renaissance, openly pondering how to elevate humans to the status of gods and how to turn communism into the religion of a new age. In St. Petersburg and Moscow salons, people were talking about the end of the Enlightenment era and its rationalism, turning away from Western civilization to the Orient. Theosophy, the first modern countercultural spirituality, which at that time was heavily loaded with Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, flourished among Russian people of arts and letters.

At the end of 1916, just on the eve of the Bolshevik takeover, Roerich and his family, as if sensing which way the wind would be blowing, conveniently left St. Petersburg and settled in a quiet summer cottage amid pine woods in Finland, away from the coming revolutionary storm. This turned out to be a very smart decision, allowing the Roeriches to avoid the bloodiest period in Russian history: the Communist Revolution of October 1917, mob attacks on "bourgeois" intellectuals, and the brutalities of so-called War Communism imposed by the Bolsheviks on Russia. This lack of hands-on experience with the "joys of Communism" might explain why later it became so easy for the couple to make friends with Red Russia.

Soon, invited by a rich admirer to exhibit Nicholas's paintings in London, the Roeriches moved to England. Here they could forget about everything and continue their Silver-Age lifestyle, joining the Theosophical Society and frequenting occult and spiritualist salons. In 1919, replicating experiences of her famous predecessor Helena Blavatsky, Helena Roerich had her spiritual breakthrough: in London's Hyde Park she "met" her Himalayan spiritual masters (mahatmas), named Morya and Khut-Humi. Later, Khut-Humi somehow dropped out, and the couple dealt only with Morya, who became their spiritual guide for the rest of their lives.

Although the Roeriches were able to rub shoulders with fellow spiritual seekers in England, they were not happy in London. Helena and Nicholas wanted something bigger than just being a minuscule part of a large Theosophical crowd. There was no room for them to spread their wings to become spiritual teachers. The great occult celebrity Peter Ouspensky far overshadowed the newly arrived couple with budding mystical aspirations. Just across the English Channel in France, the flamboyant George Gurdjieff was a magnet drawing European seekers to his spiritual school. Even in the world of painting, Nicholas Roerich was relegated to a secondary role in the shadow of such European giants as fellow emigres Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich. Helena and Nicholas, who liked to compare themselves with Prometheus, could not stomach such a situation. Like this ancient Greek hero, they dreamed about storming heights, stealing fire to bring it to people.

For a while they played with the idea of moving to India and making that country a staging ground for their worldwide spiritual mission. In fact, they had already made contact with the famous Hindu writer and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, who promised them "light, space and quietness, but not dollars." Yet the Indian option was swiftly cast aside. In one of her letters, Helena made a sarcastic remark about this offer: one could find such "treasures" in any desert. [8] The couple did need money and fame, and in this respect America sounded far more appealing. Again, like their prominent predecessor Blavatsky, they chose to move to New York City. Morya, the newly acquired spiritual guide from the Himalayas, backed up this decision. Before embarking overseas, Roerich confided to one of his friends: "He guides me and my family. Now he has given me a new assignment-to instill spirituality into American art and to establish an art school there named after the Masters." [9]

Soon after arriving in America in October 1920, the Roeriches pioneered their teaching, an offshoot of Theosophy called Agni Yoga that invoked fire, the recurrent image from Helena's visions and a symbol of destruction and creation. At the center of Agni Yoga was the idea of reincarnation, giving people the opportunity to improve and raise themselves to the level of the divine beings in the Himalayan Great White Brotherhood. These masters, who included Morya, guided humankind in its spiritual development and from time to time sent out sages to speed up this spiritual evolution. Of course, Helena and Nicholas were thinking about themselves as these sages-messengers sent to enlighten humankind. In his Shambhala (1930), the painter hinted about their historical mission: "Verily, verily, the people of Shambhala at times emerge into the world. They meet the earthly co-workers of Shambhala. For the sake of humanity, they send out precious gifts, remarkable relics. I can tell you many stories of how wonderful gifts were received through space. Even Rigden-jyepo [Rigden-Djapo, king of Shambhala] himself appears at times in human body. Suddenly he shows himself in holy places, in monasteries, and at time predestinated, pronounces his prophecies." [10]

Communication with the brotherhood was conducted through Morya, who began to issue detailed instructions regarding all aspects of the Roeriches' lives, from their political preferences to family matters. To get in touch with the master, Helena entered a trancelike state and recorded her messages by automatic writing, a technique popular among contemporary spiritualists. Although not blessed with divine headaches, Nicholas nevertheless learned how to get in touch with Morya, and from time to time he contacted the master, relying only on automatic writing. Turning his head aside and covering his eyes with the palm of one hand, the painter usually "talked" with Morya while simultaneously writing down the messages from the otherworld.

The new teaching drew initial converts: Frances Grant, a reporter, and a Russian Jewish couple, Sina Lichtmann-Fosdick and Maurice Lichtmann, two piano teachers who had moved across the ocean long before the revolution and had become almost fully Americanized. Soon another Jewish couple joined the group: Natty and Louis Horch, who had lost their first child and were searching for spiritual comfort. Louis, a currency speculator whose face was disfigured by a horrible trauma to his skull, turned out to be a treasure trove for Nicholas and Helena. By the early 1930s, he would blow more than one and a half million dollars funding Roerich's artistic and geopolitical ventures. In 1924, Nicholas Roerich added to this group George Grebenstchikoff, a writer and expert on Siberian geography and ethnography. Another prominent member of the inner circle was George Roerich, one of the Roeriches' two sons, whom they specially sent to Harvard and then to the Sorbonne in France to be groomed as an Orientalist. George was expected to learn about Tibetan and Hindu traditions-necessary assets for a future Shambhala warrior who was to assist his parents in their geopolitical plans.

Image
Figure 7.1. Nicholas Roerich's inner circle, December 7, 1924. Left to right, sitting: Esther Lichtmann, Sina Lichtmann-Fosdick, Nicholas Roerich, Natty Horch, Frances Grant; standing: Louis Horch, Sofie Shafran, Svetoslav Roerich, Maurice Lichtmann, Tatiana Grebenstchikoff, George Grebenstchikoff.

There were other close contacts and associates who were never fully informed about the Roeriches' ultimate goals. Among them were industrialist and philanthropist Charles R. Crane; Frank Kellogg, U.S. Secretary of State under Hoover; and later on Henry Wallace, FDR's Secretary of Agriculture, who was admitted into the painter's inner circle but at the same time was not completely devoted to his plans. The most trusted disciples received specially designed rings and esoteric names -- symbols of belonging to the elect. [11] The rest of their friends and acquaintances, Nicholas stressed, should not be told of their longterm goals. For the general public, Roerich was to remain simply a painter and archaeologist interested in Oriental cultures. In 1922, after establishing his Master School of United Arts in New York, Roerich reminded the inner circle, "There are two sides of our school: the pretend illusionary one, which exists for all surrounding people, for many things must not be mentioned, and the real one-those wonderful events and miracles known only to US." [12]

Dreams of an Asian Spiritual Kingdom

The couple believed that World War I and the collapse of empires, along with bloody class and ethnic fights all over Eurasia, were a necessary purgatory: an Armageddon that would eventually bring a new golden age of universal happiness and spiritual bliss, which the Roeriches interchangeably called the Shambhala kingdom and the age of Maitreya. To Nicholas and Helena, the disorder that reigned in Inner Asia after the downfall of the Russian and Chinese empires and the expanding prophecies about mighty heroes that would come to deliver people appeared to provide an ideal stage for them to tryout their role of saviors. Sometime by 1923, the Roeriches concluded the moment was right for them to plug into and use Shambhala and similar prophecies to build in Asia a powerful spiritual state based on reformed Buddhism: "For those who imagine Shambhala as a legendary invention, this indication is superstitious myth. But there are also others, fortified by more practical knowledge." [13] The Roeriches assumed that, if properly channeled, these prophecies might develop according to the scenario prescribed by the Great White Brotherhood.

The flight of the Panchen Lama from Tibet in December 1923 was seen as another powerful sign from the otherworldly brothers for them to step up. Without an assertive spiritual leader, thought Roerich, Tibetan Buddhists would "become prey to the intrigues of the retrograding lamaistic parties." To signal the coming of the new age, the painter would act as that assertive leader by bringing the Panchen Lama to Lhasa, fixing the situation, and making sure that the thirteenth Dalai Lama would be the last. The authority of the Yellow Pope (a derogatory nickname Roerich frequently used to refer to the sitting Dalai Lama) was to be erased: "The sacred army will purge Lhasa of all its nefarious enemies," and "the realm of righteous will be established." Roerich was convinced that all Tibetans were just awaiting "the prophecy that a new ruler from Shambhala, with numberless warriors, shall come to vanquish and to establish righteousness in the citadel of Lhasa." [14] An expedition to Inner Asia, headed by the painter and disguised as a scientific archaeological enterprise, was to accomplish this task.

The final goal of this venture gradually crystallized into what Helena and Nicholas called the Great Plan-an idea to bring all Tibetan Buddhist people of Asia, from Siberia to the Himalayas, together into the Sacred Union of the East with the Panchen Lama and Roerich presiding over this future theocracy. This state was to be guided by reformed Buddhism cleansed from what the painter and his wife considered "shamanic superstitions," adjusted to the original teachings of Buddha, and injected with the Roeriches' Agni Yoga. The couple envisioned this utopia as a commonwealth of people who would live a highly spiritual life and work in cooperatives-the economic foundation of this new state.IS Their theocracy would stir a spiritual revival in the rest of the world. This grand dream certainly did not spring up overnight. For Helena and Nicholas, the Great Plan was a work in progress that continued from 1921 to 1929 and then was renewed in 1933-35.

Although they were dreamers, the Roeriches were not totally out of touch with reality. In fact, Nicholas and Helena's geopolitical scheme would not have sounded outlandish to their contemporaries, as many of them, both on the left and on the right, seriously believed there were absolute solutions to the world's problems, and that political and cultural messiahs were capable of delivering salvation. These solutions were usually based on collectivism and suppression of individuals to the will of a nation, class, or religion. With their grand geopolitical scheme designed to guide humankind to the correct spiritual path, the Roeriches perfectly fit their time.

At the end of 1921, the otherworldly teacher Morya gave his first hints on how to proceed with the unification of Inner Asian peoples into a spiritual kingdom: "In this life, without a fairy tale, you must visit us in Tibet, then go teach in Russia. I witness this by those happy events that take place in America" (August); "Think about Tibet, help to bring about harmony" (September); and finally, "Urusvati [Helena], I lead thee to the revealed Lhasa" (December). [16] The master also recommended they reread such spiritual classics as Ouspensky's Tertium Organum (1922) and Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine (1888) in order to be armed philosophically for the grand Asian journey.

On July 29, 1922, when "conversing" with Helena and Nicholas, Morya delivered a stunning revelation: in his past life, Nicholas had been the fifth Dalai Lama (1617-82), one of the most prominent Tibetan leaders, who brought the people of the Forbidden Kingdom together and had the famous Potala Palace built in Lhasa. On that same day, the painter learned that the Great White Brotherhood had chosen him to go to Tibet as a spiritual ambassador and then to proceed farther north to Russia. The otherworldly master added that when they went to Tibet the couple would have to shed their European dress and replace it with Oriental garments. After Tibet, upon their arrival in Russia, Maurice Lichtmann would welcome them with the Torah in his hands and on behalf of the Jewish nation would "deliver a welcoming address to the East." At the end of their journey, prop he sized Morya, representatives of various Inner Asian and Siberian peoples would come together and consummate the Sacred Union of the East. Eventually, out of this Asia-centered theocracy the superior race of people would spread the light of true spirituality all over the world. [17]

Like many Western intellectuals, including contemporary Theosophists, Helena and Nicholas were convinced that humankind's enlightenment and salvation would come from the East. This habit of looking to the Orient as the source of high wisdom has a long history. It started during the Enlightenment and then received an additional boost from Romanticism in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the beginning of the twentieth century, quite a few intellectuals had built up in their minds an idealized ancient Orient soaked in rich spiritual life and contrasted it to the imperfect contemporary West that scared Western seekers with its materialism, industrialization, and individualism.

Much like contemporary Theosophists, the Roeriches merged their Asia-centered geopolitical utopia with Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory, which had become fashionable at the end of the nineteenth century not only in the sciences, but also in the humanities and popular media. Following their predecessor Blavatsky, the Roeriches talked about a coming superior race that would dislodge spiritually degenerate races in the process of evolution. The Great White Brotherhood from the Himalayas and its messengers (the Roeriches) could speed up this evolution by navigating human beings toward the better future beyond materialism. To be exact, both Blavatsky and the Roeriches meant a spiritual evolution, not a biological one. At that time in the West, this kind of talk about superior and inferior species and races, as well as grading cultures into primitive and advanced ones, was common, taken for granted, and never raised any eyebrows. Politicians, writers, scholars, and scientists all shared this mindset.

Besides Blavatsky's Theosophy, another powerful out-of-Asia source for the Roeriches was the Siberian autonomist movement. For some reason, all existing writings about the Roeriches somehow downplay this movement's influence on their geopolitical ideas. Autonomists were a small but outspoken group of Russian writers, artists, and scholars in Siberia, headed by the folklore scholar Grigorii Potanin (1835-1920), who worked to boost the status of their area within the Russian Empire. These men and women of arts and letters were convinced that their vast northern Asian homeland was a colony of European Russia. To them, Siberia was destined for a better role than to serve simply as a dump for common criminals and political prisoners and as the source of raw materials. At one point, when they became too vocal in demanding autonomy for Siberia, the Russian tsar condemned Potanin and several of his friends to exile in the European part of Russia. The emperor surely did not want to give these cultural rebels such a treat as an exile to Siberia.

Of special interest to the autonomists were the indigenous cultures of Siberia and Inner Asia. Potanin and his comrades were on a mission to use archaeological, folkloric, and ethnographic materials to show that Siberia, with its ancient Asiatic legacy, was a land steeped in rich culture more ancient than that of European Russia. The Russians in Siberia were not counted. As Europeans and newcomers to the area, they did not have ancient roots. What counted were lore, legends, and the ethnography of the indigenous folk of the Altai, Tuva, Buryat, and Mongolia. Like any cultural separatists living on the periphery, autonomists argued that their land was better and more ancient than other places: "The older the better" is the mantra of all nationalists and separatists who try to empower themselves. Talking and writing about the creative role of Inner Asian nomads were an important part of the autonomists' agenda. As if anticipating present-day politically correct historians, Potanin and his friends worked hard remaking the Mongols from ruthless barbarians and conquerors into noble cultural heroes and civilization carriers. At one point, Potanin went as far as arguing that Bible stories and Anglo-Saxon lore originated from Mongol and Siberian legends carried to the West and conflated with Middle Eastern and European oral culture.

Nicholas Roerich equally liked to indulge in such talk about nomads as cultural heroes. Moreover, for him, the Inner Asian nomads were potential foot soldiers in the coming Shambhala kingdom. Not spoiled by Western civilization, they would become the spearheads of the world's liberation. Potanin's books about Turkic and Mongol legends became must-reads in the curriculum of Roerich's arts and humanities Master School in New York. The painter especially liked how Potanin worked with facts, finding links other writers somehow did not see. For example, if the Hebrew name Solomon sounded similar to Solmon, a character from the old epic tales of the Mongol and Altaian people, Potanin quickly concluded that Hebrew mythology had been affected by Asian nomads.

Although Roerich read Potanin's works and from them picked up many Asia-centric ideas, the only autonomist he had a chance to interact closely with was George Grebenstchikoff, whom he met while visiting Paris. This fellow emigre and struggling writer from southern Siberia was one of Potanin's close followers. Grebenstchikoff bragged about traces of Mongol blood in his veins and struck a chord with Roerich by expounding on the special historical role of his "ancestors" in world civilization. Roerich was drawn to Grebenstchikoff's stories about the traditions and mysteries of Siberia and Inner Asia. His stories about the landscapes and legends of the Altai sounded especially fascinating, and Roerich began to dream about this picturesque mountain country at the intersection of Siberia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan as the center of his future spiritual kingdom. He and Helena contemplated erecting Zvenigorod (the city of bells), the capital of their future Pan -Asian state, in the Altai. The Siberian writer turned out to be so useful to the Great Plan that Nicholas concluded, "Grebenstchikoff knows everything." [18]

Special efforts were made to bring Grebenstchikoff from Paris to New York to keep him around as an expert on the area. The writer, who lived a miserable life in France, was more than happy to join the Roeriches' inner circle. Roerich gave him money (that came from Horch), helped him to settle in America, and endowed him with a new esoteric name: Tarukhan (from Tarlyk-khan, supposedly a Mongolian great grandfather of Grebenstchikoff). Helena and Nicholas made sure that Grebenstchikoff felt comfortable and secure in his new home. Once Helena instructed one of her sons, "Be close to Tarukhan. It is not only our request, it is also Mahatma Morya's order. Help our American friends understand the complexity and power of his character and the beauty of his visions. He is absolutely necessary for our project. I want them to trust him more. They will not be able to accomplish anything without him!"19 In exchange, the writer eagerly fed the geopolitical fantasies of the painter and his wife with his ethnographic tales.

The painter spent many hours with Tarukhan, inquiring about landscape, particular sites, and prophecies of the Altai. Grebenstchikoff's stories about the mysterious Belovodie (White Waters Land) layered well on what the painter read about Shambhala. Belovodie was a prophecy shared by Altai Russian Orthodox schismatics who envisioned a utopian land of plenty where they could worship freely without being harassed by the tsarist government. The painter was equally captivated by Grebenstchikoff's talks about the Oirot prophecy that sprang up at the turn of the 1900s among indigenous nomads of the Altai; the legendary chief Oirot was a personification of the glorious seventeenth-century nomadic confederation of Oirot tribes and their prince Amursana. Local nomads expected this legendary character to resurrect and save them from the Russian advance into their land and culture. For Roerich, both Belovodie and Oirot were local versions of the Shambhala prophecy. In hindsight, Roerich turned out to be more useful to Tarukhan than vice versa. After 1929, Grebenstchikoff gradually and politely disentangled himself from the adventurous couple and their dangerous projects and eventually built up a successful career in the United States as a writer and college professor.

Not a small influence in stirring the Roeriches' geopolitical dreams was the book Beasts, Men and Gods (1922) by Ferdinand Ossendowski, a former Russian-Polish reporter in St. Petersburg exiled by the tsar to Siberia in 1905 for his revolutionary activities. There he became a professor of chemistry at Tomsk Polytechnic College and later secretary of finance for the White government of Siberia and a leader of the White resistance against the Bolsheviks. Ossendowski's action-packed book, which reads as half adventure story and half esoteric thriller, is a hair-raising account of his escape from the Bolsheviks southward through Tuva and Mongolia after the White cause collapsed in Siberia in 1921. En route, the professor got stuck with the bloody sadist Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, who, as we have seen, dreamed, like Roerich, about building a grand pan-Asian empire.

In breathtaking style, Ossendowski described his actual life-and-death adventures as well as local landscapes, cultures, and prophecies of Asian nomads. A central theme is how the Bloody Baron hijacked Mongol prophecies. Roerich, who read and reread the book, certainly noted how quickly Ungern, an ordinary cavalry officer with average intelligence, by chance happened to liberate the Mongols from the Chinese and was elevated by the nomads to semi-divine status. The painter might have assumed that if such a mediocre and mean individual was able to stir indigenous prophecies and to entrench himself in the Tibetan Buddhist world, it surely would be easier for a person of a higher intellectual caliber like himself, who knew more about cultures of the area and, unlike the crazy baron, had a noble agenda, to do the same. The Roeriches took very seriously what they read in Ossendowski's book. Unlike bashers of Beasts, Men and Gods who unwarrantably accused Ossendowski of making up all his stories (critics could not forgive him for weaving into his text Alexandre d'Alveydre's myth of subterranean Agartha), the Roeriches knew exactly what Ossendowski was talking about. After all, the couple had their own personal source to check the facts in Ossendowski's book: Nicholas's brother Vladimir was the White officer in charge of the supply train in the Bloody Baron's army. After Ungern's demise, Vladimir escaped from the Reds, made his way to China, and settled in Harbin. [20]

Obstacles, Magic Stone, and Reincarnation as the Dalai Lama

Early in 1923, armed with ideas of spiritual advancement, brotherhood, and collectivism, the Roeriches concluded the time was right for them to go and build their new-age kingdom of peace, love, beauty, and spirituality in the heart of Asia. Their teacher Morya instructed them along the same lines: "It is time for the fairy tale to become real." [21] Yet, George, who had purposely been sent to Paris to be trained in Tibetan and Hindu studies, nearly ruined the Great Plan with his reckless behavior. At the end of 1922, when Master Morya kept sending his messages preparing the family for the Asian venture, George suddenly announced that he was going to get married. Away from the watchful eyes of Nicholas and Helena, George had fallen in love with a fellow Russian emigre, a beautiful and highly intelligent brunette named Marcel Mantsiarli, a Theosophist and follower of Jiddu Krishnamurti.

George was excited and wrote to his parents that his beloved was not only a beautiful girl but also a mystically inclined and sensitive person, and, "most importantly, she is devoted to our cause." [22] Helena and Nicholas were infuriated. A marriage on the eve of such a grand enterprise? This was a disaster! Helena was so mad that she immediately showered George with letters denigrating Marcel: the girl was five years older than George and simply wanted to trap her innocent boy. Even Master Morya interfered, giving Helena an alarming warning: "The reputation of the son that 1 need so much is being shattered." For George, the uncompromising position of his parents became a real drama. Marcel's mother, who specially came to New York to fix the problem, could not convince Helena to change her mind. The son desperately pleaded, "I beg you, 1 ask you, do not break my happiness." [23] Despite all of his pleas, nothing was able to melt the hearts of the messengers of the Great White Brotherhood. The spiritual crusaders who were about to bring enlightenment to Asia and then to all of humankind could not afford to have such a trivial thing as love meddle with their Great Plan. Eventually, George's parents took him away from Paris on a trip across Europe. Under their pressure and brainwashing, George broke up with the girl-a choice he regretted for the rest of his life.

Ironically, as soon as they settled "George's problem" another potential Shambhala warrior fell into precisely the same trap. Colonel Nikolai Kordashevsky, an eccentric Lithuanian aristocrat of Polish descent from Lithuania whom the Roeriches had similarly groomed as part of their future Asian venture, suddenly fell in love as well. Surely the devil's forces were at work here, putting obstacles before the forces of light. Kordashevsky, a former White officer who had fought the Reds in Siberia, was a die-hard romantic and spiritual seeker. He loved monarchy and, like Baron Ungern, toyed for a while after the collapse of the Whites with the idea of moving to Tibet to serve the last true monarch-the Dalai Lama. But he changed his mind and returned to Europe. After a brief and disappointing experience with the celebrity occult teacher Gurdjieff, who exhausted the officer-aristocrat with his rigorous physical training, Kordashevsky wandered around Europe seeking new spiritual experiences. While in Paris in 1923, he stumbled upon Nicholas Roerich, who mesmerized him with his Asian plans. Soon, Kordashevsky was introduced into the painter's inner circle by receiving a ring and the esoteric name Chakhembula.

Bored to death on his Lithuanian estate, the colonel craved action and was ready to depart for Tibet right away. Helena and Nicholas had to restrain him. Waiting for orders from his new guru in New York, Kordashevsky was killing time by reading Theosophical books and Nordic legends and composing a novel about Joan of Arc when he suddenly fell in love with a local high-school teacher, a soul mate fascinated with the mysteries of ancient Egypt. This development presented a new challenge for the Roeriches, and it took another batch of letters to convince the romantic colonel to drop the girl. How could Kordashevsky afford such childish nonsense, Nicholas Roerich chastised him, when soon he was to saddle a horse, draw his sword, and ride into the heart of Asia? Kordashevsky followed the advice of his guru and forced himself to drop the girl.

Although the Roeriches were contemplating building an Inner Asian theocracy based on reformed Tibetan Buddhism and Agni Yoga, they had not settled on an exact itinerary of their activities. A tentative plan was to enter the area as an embassy of Western Buddhists, then somehow to contact the Panchen Lama and bring him to Tibet. After that they hoped to play by circumstances, going farther northward to Mongolia and Russia, stirring up en route Shambhala and other local prophecies. To finalize their plans, the family decided to make a reconnaissance trip to Sikkim, a small Indian principality in northern India conveniently located on the southern border of Tibet.

The Roeriches did not simply buy tickets and casually depart to India. Since theirs was a historical mission sponsored by the otherworldly forces of the Great White Brotherhood, they needed an occult blessing, at least in the eyes of their friends and associates. On the way to Sikkim, the couple stopped in Paris to secure identification documents. The Roeriches still held Russian passports issued before the Bolshevik revolution, and they did not want to draw too much attention to themselves in India by using passports of a nonexistent state. France aided the White Russian emigres, providing them with necessary papers.

The occult blessing arrived, as Nicholas and Helena explained to their adepts, on the morning of October 6, 1923, when someone knocked on the door of their room at Lord Byron Hotel. George Roerich opened the door. The visitor introduced himself as a clerk from the Paris Bankers Trust, handed him a mysterious package, and immediately departed. When Helena, George, and Nicholas opened the package, they found a small box inside decorated with silhouettes of a man, woman, kingfisher, and four gothic letters engraved "M" on the edges. However, the real surprise was inside the box -- a black shiny aerolite. The next day telegrams flew to all associates of the Roeriches in various countries: 10 and behold, the Great White Brotherhood had entrusted the Roeriches with the sacred Chintamani stone. This magic jewel, which possessed incredible power, was to be carried on their Asian expedition and delivered to the Shambhala kingdom.

In Tibetan Buddhist tradition the Chintamani stone is known as a wish-granting gem. Ferocious deities, protectors of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, were frequently portrayed on sacred scrolls holding this stone. On these scrolls the Chintamani is depicted as either an ordinary jewel or a stone engulfed in flames-this theological link to the Roeriches' Agni Yoga might have been why they were attracted to this sacred item. The Roeriches described the Chintamani as a powerful occult weapon that would help their Asian mission. Now they could act not only as prophets who could fulfill wishes by using the wish-granting gem, but also as protectors of the Buddhist faith: "The stone draws people like a magnet. Entire nations can rise up if one lifts the stone. An enemy can be destroyed if you say his name three times looking at the stone. Only people who are pure in their spirit and thought can look at it." [24] It is highly probable that George Roerich, a professional student of Tibetan Buddhism who was shrewd in intricacies of this tradition, fed the Chintamani legend to his parents, who layered on it their own personal mythology and then manufactured the entire story about the mysterious gift.

The couple's fantasy moved further. The Roeriches wrote to their friends that the Chintamani was not only about Asian tradition: the magic gem was also known to the ancient Druids and to European Meistersingers as Lapis exilis. The stone delivered to the Roeriches was wrapped in a piece of old fabric; on it was an image of the sun with mysterious Latin letters inside the sun circle: I.H.S., which might be rendered as In hoc signo [vinces] (by this sign [you will win]). The same Latin abbreviation was inscribed on the banner of Constantine the Great, the famous Roman emperor who first legalized Christianity. Weaving Buddhist and European mythology together, the Roeriches said that the Chintamani magically disappeared and then reappeared at crucial historical moments to be handed to the righteous ones who would guide humankind to a better future. Of course, the righteous ones were the painter and his wife.

Armed with the power of the sacred stone, George, Helena, and Nicholas, the three Shambhala warriors, reached Bombay on December 2, 1923. By railroad, the family quickly traveled to northern India, where they stopped in the town of Darjeeling (a corrupted version of dorje lingam [hard penis]), [25] the capital of Sikkim. Here, in the town famous for the tea that grows in the area, the Roeriches established their temporary base. For their residency they picked not just any house, but a small summer cottage called the Palace of Dalai, on the southern slopes of the Himalayas; the place was once used by the thirteenth Dalai Lama when he had to flee from the Chinese in 1910. The painter and his wife feasted their eyes on the picturesque site surrounded by mighty cedar trees. From their windows they could enjoy a divine view of the Himalayan ridges and valleys. [26] Somewhere north of these mountain ranges lay mysterious Shambhala and its prophecies, waiting to be stirred and awakened.

Image
Figure 7.2. Nicholas Roerich with visiting Buddhist monks, who recognized him as a reincarnation of the fifth Dalai Lama, Darjeeling, India, 1924. Standing, right to left: George Roerich, Lama Lobzang Mingyur Dorje, Nicholas Roerich, Helena Roerich.

The reconnaissance trip to Darjeeling turned out to be very stimulating. Nicholas spent his time not only painting awesome Himalayan landscapes and contemplating the coming Shambhala war, but also rubbing shoulders with visiting Tibetan Buddhist monks. A group of them from the Moru monastery visited the painter in April 1924; stunningly, they recognized him as the reincarnation of the great fifth Dalai Lama by the moles on his right cheek, which formed the shape of Ursa Major, thereby confirming what Master Morya had already revealed to the couple. But Nicholas had not simply sat waiting to be discovered as the reincarnation. Rather he had actively worked for this by donning lama vestments when entertaining his native and nonnative visitors. By all his demeanor and talk, Roerich emanated high dignity and spiritual wisdom. The strategy worked.

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Figure 7.3. Nicholas Roerich, wearing his Dalai Lama robe.

Yet, not everything was going well for him. British intelligence noted the strange Russian and put him under close watch. The painter sensed this attention and diplomatically never bragged about that miraculous recognition or his historical mission in Asia. Instead, he let other people do the talking. It was here in the "hard" tea town of Darjeeling that Roerich first heard about the Panchen Lama's flight from Tibet-news that prompted the painter to speed up his Great Plan. The escape of the spiritual leader of Tibet was a sure occult sign that the Shambhala war was coming. The prophecy was hot, and he needed to move quickly to unleash its energy in order to bring about the new age.
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Re: Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the H

Postby admin » Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:14 am

Part 1 of 2

Every century the Arhats make an effort to enlighten the world. But until now, not one of these efforts has been successful. Failure has followed failure. It is said that until the day when a lama will be born in a Western body and appear as a spiritual conqueror for the destruction of the century-old ignorance, until then there will be little success in dissolving the snares of the West.

-- Nicholas Roerich, Altai-Himalaya


Eight: Shambhala Warrior in a Western Body: Nicholas Roerich's Asian Ventures

In the spring of 1924, the Reds, previously viewed as nothing more than the servants of Satan, suddenly turned into allies. Nicholas and Helena Roerich realized that the success of their plan to build their Sacred Union of the East needed backing by one of the great powers in the area. Red Russia was their choice: what if they linked their project to the Bolsheviks' attempts to stir national liberation in the East? Besides, Nicholas did not like the British anyway because they had been trying to disrupt his attempts to enter Tibet. Their teacher Morya blessed this political turnaround: "Now business needs to be done with the Bolsheviks." [1]

Soon, the master unveiled the following political itinerary for the couple: "A trip to Moscow, where the one who will come' from the East will be received with honors, From there, he will travel to Mongolia. In the middle of 1926, you can be in Mongolia in the center of the Orient, since, from now on, this country is the center:' After receiving these revelations, Helena noted in her diary, "Now everything has changed. Lenin is with us." [2]

Inspired by this new turn of events, Nicholas Roerich did not stay in India for long. Leaving his wife in Darjeeling, he and George rushed to Europe, where they showed up at the gates of the Soviet embassy in Berlin and were welcomed by Nikolai Krestinsky, Bolshevik ambassador to Germany. Roerich began by explaining that he was planning an expedition to Inner Asia to paint local landscapes and do some archaeological digs. Since the envisioned route would go through southern Siberia and Mongolia, the painter needed Soviet diplomatic and logistic backup. In exchange, Roerich volunteered to promote the Bolshevik cause and to gather intelligence information on British activities in the area. Like his idealistic comrades, Krestinsky lived in expectation of the world Communist revolution-the Marxist second coming. Well aware of this revolutionary prophecy, Roerich readily massaged the diplomat's Bolshevik ego. In Tibet and in the caves of the Himalayas, the painter confided, hundreds of thousands of Hindu mahatmas and Buddhist lamas looked with hope to Red Russia. All these people, Roerich continued, circulated militant prophecies and preached the triumph of communism, for it matched the ancient teachings of Buddha, who had advocated equality and communal living. These Oriental folk hated the British and were eager to join the Bolshevik cause.

Roerich also played on the Bolsheviks' anti-England paranoia, exaggerating British activities in Tibet: "The occupation of Tibet by the English continues uninterrupted. English troops infiltrate the area by small groups, using all kinds of excuses." [3] In reality, there was no English occupation of Tibet or of any other area north of the Himalayas. In fact, the thirteenth Dalai Lama skillfully played one great power off another and did not allow anyone to make inroads into his theocracy. The cost-saving British never actually planned to take over the Forbidden Kingdom, even during their 1904 invasion of Tibet. Their goal was to open up the country for trade and keep it as a territorial cushion between India and Russia/China.

Haunted by the specter of the British threat and lacking reliable information about Inner Asia, Bolshevik diplomats were susceptible to Roerich's bluff. In fact, before the painter visited the Soviet embassy in Berlin, Georgy Chicherin, Bolshevik Commissar for Foreign Affairs, was already convinced that Tibet was almost a colony of England. Satisfied with the talk, Krestinsky promised to support Roerich and immediately sent a report to Chicherin, knowing that his Anglophobe boss would be pleased. Before the two parted, they agreed that Roerich would send intelligence briefs and sign them using the alias Ak-Dorje, which means "White Hard Arrow" or "White Hard Lightning" in Tibetan. Chicherin became excited and wrote back to Berlin, stressing that through Roerich Red Russia could get a foothold in Tibet: "Dear comrade, please do not lose from sight that half-Buddhist and half-Communist you wrote me about earlier. So far we have not had such a good bridge to these important centers. Under no circumstances should we lose such an opportunity. How we are going to use this opportunity, however, will require very serious consideration and preparation." [4]

In October 1924, the painter and his son stunned their American associates by suddenly resurfacing in New York and announcing that from then on the Bolsheviks should be treated as comrades. Roerich also revealed he was planning to take a land concession in the Altai in southern Siberia, officially for mining and agricultural purposes, but actually he planned to set up the capital of his Sacred Union of the East in this area. Krestinsky was not Roerich's only Bolshevik contact. On the way to New York, he had stopped in Paris where he met Leonid Krasin, a Bolshevik ambassador to France, and discussed with him the Altaian concession. Back in the United States, the painter got in touch with Dr. Dmitri Borodin, a plant physiologist and rather shady character whom the painter and his friends nicknamed Uncle Boris. After the Bolshevik revolution, Borodin moved to the United States, where he represented the Soviet Commissariat for Agriculture. A few years later he became an immigrant, working first as a zoology instructor at Columbia University and then as a researcher in a biology laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. A well-rounded but very unscrupulous individual, Borodin served as Roerich's Bolshevik liaison, helping the painter stay in touch with Soviet diplomats in Montreal, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow. Uncle Boris not only assisted Roerich in securing the concession in Altai; he also became involved in his Great Plan.

It appears that through Borodin, Roerich tried to probe how the Bolsheviks would react to his scheme to blend Tibetan Buddhism with Communism and to the whole idea of the Sacred Union of the East. An entry from the diary of Roerich's secretary on December 7, 1924, is very revealing:

Borodin told N. K. [Roerich) that now the most important thing for them is the unification of Asia. As for the business [the concession] they have been recently discussing, it is a secondary matter. N. K. asks him if he is aware that the unification of Asia can be accomplished through religion. Borodin responded that he knows. Does he realize that this unification can be accomplished by using the name of Buddha? Borodin agreed. Will those in Paris [Soviet diplomats) agree with this? Borodin responded that they are not stupid and understand everything. So both men came to a complete agreement, which made this day very important. [5]


Why did Borodin, a plant physiologist, suddenly become so concerned about this geopolitical scheme? It is highly likely that he worked either for Comintern or for OGPU, or for both, as Comintern was rapidly turning into an informal arm of OGPu. As a representative of the Soviet Commissariat for Agriculture, an ideal cover for any spy, Borodin traveled widely throughout the United States and Canada. Through him, Roerich's name might have showed up on Com intern and OGPU radars. It is little wonder that during Roerich's 1926 visit to Moscow OGPU was most supportive of the painter's Tibetan expedition. The Roeriches did not care who Uncle Boris was and what he actually did for a living. The most important thing was that Borodin was useful for the Great Plan. In one of her letters, Helena instructed her son Svetoslav: "Be nice and decent in front of Uncle Boris. It is important to make a good impression on him. Do not forget that all rich people like to spy on their associates, and our Uncle especially excels in this:'6 The Bolsheviks' interest in the Roeriches' venture could have been twofold. First, the painter was useful as a source of information on Tibet and surrounding areas. Second, his Shambhala scheme contained a promising opportunity. If successful, it could give Red Russia a chance to navigate political developments in the Forbidden Kingdom according to the Mongolian scenario. Although Chicherin cautioned against reckless behavior in Asia that could provoke England to seize Tibet, by supporting Roerich's expedition, the chief Soviet diplomat and his more adventurous associates from Comintern and OGPU had nothing to lose. The Roeriches' party was going to travel as a scientific expedition under the American flag and the Buddhist sacred banner (tanka), a handy, cheap, and safe option for the Bolsheviks to penetrate the area without exposing themselves.

After all, with a total lack of the industrial working class (which Bolsheviks considered the chief mover and shaker of the Marxist prophecy) in Tibetan Buddhist areas, anything and anybody that could wake up Asian masses for revolution sounded attractive, whether this be lamas' anti-foreign sentiments or prophecies like Shambhala. In any case, for the Bolsheviks the Roeriches' Sacred Union of the East was a political gift, which, if they played their cards right, could draw Tibet closer to Red Russia. If the Roeriches got involved in an international scandal or any other trouble, they could be safely cast aside as an American expedition.

In the early 1920s, still dizzy from their success in Mongolia, the Bolsheviks were ready to roll on to Tibet and farther southward to India, but they were not yet fully aware that Tibet was not Mongolia. The Forbidden Kingdom was not occupied by a foreign power that gave Red Russia an excuse to go there and milk national liberation sentiments. Rumors about the British threat to Tibet that the Bolsheviks lived by turned out to be false. Unlike his Mongolian neighbors, the Dalai Lama had no intention of appealing to Red Russia for help, preferring to play off one great power against another and keeping all of them at bay. Precisely because of this smart strategy, Tibet managed to survive as an independent nation from 1912 to 1951, before it was overrun by Communist China.

Gradually the Bolsheviks began to realize that it would be hard to sway the Forbidden Kingdom to Red Russia's side. Under these circumstances, the Roeriches' plan to bring the Panchen Lama back to Tibet and to stir the Shambhala war might have looked appealing to the them. In any case, Red Russia wanted to see the Panchen Lama back in Tibet and away from Mongolia. The man was hanging around with two hundred armed nomads along the southern border of Red Mongolia, performing collective Kalachakra initiations for local Mongols and inducting them into the ranks of Shambhala warriors. It was hard to predict what would come out of that.

The Bolsheviks became worried when the Mongols began looking at the Panchen Lama as their new shepherd after they lost Bogdo-gegen in 1924; the reincarnated head of the Mongol Buddhists died from old age and numerous ailments, and the Bolsheviks forbade searching for his new reincarnation. At any time, even against his will, the Panchen Lama could become a dangerous spiritual weapon in the hands of anti- Bolshevik forces; this became especially true in the second half of the 1920s after Red Mongols began cracking down on religion. Though the abbot of the Tashilumpho monastery was not a die-hard anti-Communist, he did allow himself anti-Bolshevik statements, rebuking the Reds for harassing top lamas. At the same time, always cautious, the abbot refused to join or even support any active resistance to the Bolsheviks. In fact, the Soviet secret police never considered him an enemy, believing there was a good chance to draw the spiritual leader of Tibet to Moscow's side at least as a temporary ally. [7] But still the Bolsheviks were wary of his presence among the Mongols and felt they could sleep better with the Panchen Lama back in Tibet.

No doubt Roerich treated his Bolshevik contacts in the same pragmatic manner as useful and disposable allies. Although, like many contemporary intellectuals, Roerich was captivated by then-popular ideas of collectivism and social evolution and had a strong leader-redeemer complex, it is highly unlikely that he was totally in love with Soviet Communism. The flirt with the Bolsheviks appeared to be a smokescreen to accomplish his occult goals of building his own totalitarian theocracy. After all, from his otherworldly abode, Master Morya, Helena and Nicholas's alter ego, explicitly encouraged a healthy opportunistic approach to the Bolsheviks: "One can grow wonderful nuts by putting one's own seed into an alien shell," and, "Talk about Lenin and Marx without mentioning drawbacks of Marx. I guarantee your success, but you have to be patient. [8] The Roeriches rendered these commands of the master into instructions for their associates: "Talking about legends and prophecies, one needs to draw more attention to practical life, stressing how good life will be in the New Country under cooperatives. We need to point out that Buddha built communist commonwealth, and Christ propagated communist order. Moreover, it will be useful if we recognize that Lenin is the most important Communist. [9]

To Inner Asia with a Detour to Moscow

Roerich was so impatient to embark on his Sacred Union of the East project that he could not even wait for his Soviet visa. In the summer of 1925, the painter was already back in Darjeeling, ready to make a leap into the heart of Asia. Master Morya was equally excited, hurrying the Roeriches to move and shake the whole area:

The teacher believes the invasion of Tibet is useful. The flow of events will affect religion, and you will succeed by responding to religious complaints. Therefore, do not waste your time; note all signs related to religious feelings. Each sign is valuable. Find out to what extent monks are now discontent. Learn how many people do not accept the new order [a reference to army and police reforms in Tibet assisted by the English]. Alien uniform disgraces holy places. A strike will thunder over the desert. Udraia [George Roerich] should think about wearing a lama robe. Only the robe will defeat the uniform. The new times require a new shell. A correct route will lead to a bloodless victory. It is not our plan to shoot from cannons. One good sure shot at Buddha might make up for an entire battle. Behold, the sons of Israel will come back to those who wait for M [Maitreya] and turn the holy dream into a reality.


The otherworldly teacher encouraged the Roeriches to stir Tibetan monks against the power of the Dalai Lama: "Mold is growing in Lhasa, and an old lama who is sitting by an altar is thinking about galloping to the north. [10]

After travelling by automobile and rail from Darjeeling to Srinigar in Kashmir, the Roeriches' expedition set out in August 1925. It looked more like a religious procession than a scientific-archaeological enterprise. Passing through Ladakh and then into western China, the party engaged local people in talks about Shambhala and Maitreya, dropping here and there hints about the coming Armageddon followed by a new age. The Buddhist robes that Nicholas and George donned from time to time enhanced the importance of the mission in the eyes of locals. The elder Roerich presented himself as a sage named Ak-Dorje-the same name he used in his reports to Soviet diplomats in Berlin. Helena became the messenger of the goddess White Tara, and George was acting as the Mongolian prince Narukhan.

Ak-Dorje distributed dozens of flyers written in Tibetan to the lamas they met en route. Some of these texts included only the phrase "Maitreya is coming," while others contained a more elaborate text:

Thus the prophecies of ancestors and the wise ones come true. Behold what is predestined when in the fifth year [1925] the messengers of northern Shambhala warriors appear. Meet them and accept the new glory of Tibet and Mongolia. I will give Thee my sign of lightning. May all remember: where one receives Tara's blessing, there will be the ray of Maitreya, where one hears the name of Ak-Dorje, there will be a wheel of justice, and where the name of Narukhan appears, there will be the sword of Buddha. Shambhala will show the galloping horse and give arrows to all loyal sons of Buddhism. Behold and wait. [11]


A batch of these flyers was sent to the Tashilumpho monastery to be distributed among the Panchen Lama's followers. The purpose of all this showmanship was obvious: the painter and his wife wanted to arouse rumors among the indigenous folk about their party being messengers of the great northern Shambhala and the coming age of Maitreya. In other words, the Roeriches were spreading propaganda in an attempt to stir a religious war in Inner Asia. And sure enough, word began to spread about a strange and mighty prophet.

In April 1925, the expedition reached the capital of Sinkiang: Urumchi. Here Roerich met and befriended Alexander Bystrov, the local Soviet consul general. The painter immediately confided to him that he had ambitious plans to merge Buddhism and Communism. Roerich also informed Bystrov that from China he would be going straight to Moscow to meet Stalin and Chicherin and hand them two important messages on behalf of thousands of Hindus and Buddhists. On the evening of April 16, 1926, after meeting Nicholas and Helena, the consul wrote in his journal:

Today Roerich along with his wife and son visited me and mentioned many interesting details of their journeys. They say they study Buddhism and are in touch with mahatmas, from whom they often receive guidelines about their future plans. By the way, they stated they are carrying letters from these mahatmas to Comrades Chicherin and Stalin. They say the goal of these mahatmas is the unification of Buddhism and Communism and the creation of the Great Eastern Union of Republics. The Roeriches told me that Tibetans and Hindu Buddhists share a popular prophecy that their liberation from foreign yoke will come from Russia, from the Reds (Red Northern Shambhala). The Roeriches carry to Moscow several of these prophecies. According to the Roeriches, their trips to India, Tibet, and Western China are the fulfillment of an assignment given by the mahatmas, who supposedly also instructed them to go to the USSR and then to Mongolia, where they should get in touch with Panchen Lama (Dalai Lama's assistant responsible for spiritual life who escaped from Tibet to China) and bring him to Mongolia. From Mongolia the Roeriches plan to organize a spiritual march to Tibet to free it from the English yoke. [12]


With the assistance of Bystrov and the OGPU secret police agents, the Roerich expedition safely crossed the Soviet-Chinese border, bypassing customs. In the Siberian town of Omsk the party was placed on a train. The painter wrote in his diary: "A train arrives at midnight. An OGPU agent passes by and with his eyes lets me know that everything is in order. We are passing under the Sign of the Rose [in other words, secretly]." [13] On June 10, 1926, the Roeriches were in Moscow, where they met Chicherin, Meer Trilisser, head of the foreign espionage branch of the OGPU secret police, and several other Soviet dignitaries. The most promising meeting was the reception at OGPU. Sina Fosdick, Roerich's secretary who prepared this event, was happy to record in her diary: "The most memorable meeting was in GPU, where the names of Maitreya and Shambhala were pronounced and where we came with the name of the Master. The offers of cooperation were met with enthusiasm. Several times we met with those who have all power. [14]

The adventurous couple also presented their Moscow hosts "mahatmas' messages" calling for advancement of Communism into Asia and beyond. Manufactured by Helena and Nicholas and translated into Tibetan by George to make them look authentic, then "translated" into Russian for the Bolshevik leaders, these letters were infested with sugarcoated flattery: "In the Himalayas we know about your deeds. You demolished churches that became dens of lies and superstition. You destroyed mercantilism that became the conduit of prejudices. You eliminated the outdated prison of education and marriage based on hypocrisy. You squashed the spiders of enrichment and closed the doors of night brothels. You relieved the earth from the traitors and moneymakers. You recognized that religion is the teaching about the matter. You recognized the ephemeral nature of private property and saw the evolution toward the future world commune." [15]

Without beating around the bush, Roerich laid out for the Bolshevik leaders his program to secure the alliance between Communism and Tibetan Buddhism:  

1. Buddha's teaching is revolutionary.

2. Maitreya represents the symbol of Communism.

3. The millions of Buddhists of Asia can be drawn into the movement to support the idea of the commune.

4. The basic law of Gautama Buddha easily penetrates the minds of the masses.

5. Europe will be shattered by the alliance between Buddhism and Communism.

6. The Mongols, Tibetans, and Kalmyk now expect the fulfillment of Maitreya prophecies, and they are ready to apply them to the current evolution.

7. The escape of the Panchen Lama from Tibet provides an incredible opportunity to stage a revolt in the East.

8. Buddhism explains the reason for the negation of God.

9. The Soviet government needs to act quickly, taking into consideration cultural conditions and prophecies of Asia. [16]

Posing as a representative of Hindu and Tibetan masses, the painter painted with wide strokes on a vast Asian geopolitical canvas: "If the Soviet Union recognizes Buddhism as part of the Communist teaching, our communities will furnish active assistance, and hundreds of millions of Buddhists scattered over the world will provide necessary and unexpected power. We need to adopt measures to introduce Communism as the step in the coming evolution." [17] The Roeriches nourished hopes that the Bolsheviks would embrace this scheme and attach to their expedition a Red cavalry unit that would accompany them on the second leg of their journey through Inner Asia.

Although they swallowed some of the Roeriches' bluff, Chicherin and other Bolshevik leaders were not so naive as to immerse themselves totally in such a reckless plan. Chicherin and Trilisser made it clear that direct involvement of Red Russia in their Tibetan venture was out of the question. Besides, the Bolsheviks had mixed feelings about the painter himself. They certainly enjoyed his praises of Communism as well as his utterances about the evils of private property and the joys of communal living. However, as atheists and materialists, they were not thrilled about Roerich's talk of Buddhism, Theosophy, and spirituality. It was little wonder that Trilisser, while supporting the Roeriches' expedition, flatly refused to give them permission to print in the Soviet Union their books about the foundations of Buddhism and Agni Yoga. To the chief of the Bolshevik foreign espionage network, this stuff was pure idealistic propaganda.

Despite the ideological differences, Chicherin and OGPU gave Nicholas the green light and also promised logistic and diplomatic support. Trilisser instructed one of OGPU's colorful characters, Jacob Bliumkin, to provide assistance of all kinds to Roerich's party. This young operative, who came from the Jewish quarters of Odessa in southern Russia, joined OGPU at the tender age of seventeen, right after the revolution. His favorite pastime was dining, wining, and bragging among Moscow's bohemian poets and writers. Occasionally, this revolutionary romantic and "man of theater" (as one of his sweethearts called him) liked to toy with verses himself. By the early 1920s, Bliumkin was already a seasoned terrorist, provocateur, hit man, and master of disguise. He even managed to leave a visible trace in modern European history by murdering in 1918 a German ambassador to Russia in hopes of provoking a new round of war between Russia and Germany. Relating this episode to his friends, this revolutionary adventurer always stressed how he confidently pulled out his Colt revolver, like characters from his favorite silent movies. At the same time, he usually omitted how, while escaping from the embassy, he received a bullet in his buttocks. [18]

In 1926, Bliumkin was conveniently assigned to Mongolia as the chief advisor to the sister secret-police structure and arrived in the country of nomads simultaneously with the Roeriches. It is also highly probable that Trilisser or Bliumkin verbally gave the painter assignments. Dr. Konstantin Riabinin, a participant of the second expedition, later remembered, "Since the time we left Urga [capital of Mongolia] and all the time en route, I was under the impression that Moscow had entrusted the professor [Roerich] with an important assignment related to Tibet." [19]

Back to Asia: Altai to Mongolia

On July 22, 1926, Roerich and his party were on their way back to southern Siberia. There, from the Altai, they planned to launch the second leg of their Asian venture. In the middle of August, the expedition crossed the borders of the Oirot Autonomous Region, an autonomy set up for the local Turkic-speaking nomads (half Buddhists and half shamanists) by the Bolsheviks to foster the nationalistic feelings of local nomads. This was the Mountain Altai, the homeland of the Oirot prophecy that the painter viewed as a local version of Shambhala.

Roerich was especially thrilled to learn that in this area, on the fringes of the Mongol- Tibetan world, many nomads were shedding shamanism and switching to Buddhism. He believed this shift confirmed his spiritual forecast regarding Inner Asia: people were phasing out dark rituals and moving toward the ancient teachings of Buddha. Of course, he too would ride this movement. As earlier in Darjeeling, Roerich could not resist the temptation to step into the local prophecy. He started toying with the idea of impersonating Oirot, the legendary redeemer of the Altai nomads. He listed the places he had visited during the first leg of his Asian journey as if they were sites visited by Oirot and then hinted that local nomads already knew that "the Blessed Oirot is already traveling throughout the world, announcing the great Advent." Another hint was even more explicit: "About the good Oirot all know. Also they know the favorite Altaian name-Nikolai." [20] Blindly loyal to her guru, Roerich's secretary, Fosdick, immediately caught the mood of the teacher when they entered the Altai and suddenly began referring to Roerich as Gegen (a reincarnated one). [21]

As the reincarnate Oirot, Roerich would proceed through the Altai, then enter Mongolia from the north (from northern Shambhala!), and, accompanied by the host of legends, triumphantly continue his route southward to Tibet. The "Blessed One" was convinced that all pieces of his occult puzzle were placed incredibly well. What he did not see behind the Oirot prophecy, taking it as a local version of the Shambhala legend, was naked Altai nationalism wrapped in spiritual garb. Singing hymns to Oirot and Burkhan (the face of Buddha), who commanded Oirot, nomads of the Altai craved unity and sovereignty. Since they shared a similar culture and fate, the Altaians tried to empower themselves by dropping clan-based shamanism with its impromptu rituals and rallying around the Oirot prophecy familiar to all of them, then layering traits of Buddhism on top of this. In other words, it was an unconscious effort of these people to help bond themselves into an Oirot or White Altai nation, as they sang in their hymns.

Unlike Roerich, the Bolsheviks knew better. They understood that the Oirot people were restless, awaiting the legendary redeemer who would shield them from Russian advances into their land and culture. The Bolshevik answer to this explosive spiritual brew was simple and clever. The Communist Revolution, they explained to the nomads, was a fulfillment of the prophecy, and Lenin was the reincarnation of Oirot. To sugarcoat this message, autonomy was offered to the people of Oirot with their own indigenous Oirot Bolshevik leaders at the top. Many frustrated nomads, who at first did not trust the Bolsheviks and were about to leave the Altai for Mongolia and China, swallowed this bait and stayed home. By the end of the 1920s, the explosive prophecy would gradually subside.

As Roerich proceeded, a few months later the same blinders prevented him from detecting pure nationalism behind the Shambhala prophecy, which the Red Mongols milked during their fight against the Chinese. Still worse, not only did Roerich not understand the demonic power of nationalism over people, but also, as a true citizen of the world, he refused to acknowledge it, thinking only in terms of global humanity. Quoting the song of northern Red Shambhala composed by Mongol revolutionary soldiers in 1921, but dropping the first lines that mentioned a mortal fight against Chinese infidels, Roerich retained only its "spiritual" verses: "We march to the holy war of Shambhala. Let us be reborn in the sacred land." [22]

At the end of August 1926, the party safely crossed the Mongolian border. Again, on orders from the Bolshevik secret police, their baggage safely bypassed customs. In Mongolia, an unpleasant surprise awaited the painter and his wife. They had to wait for seven more months for permission from Chinese and Tibetan authorities to enter their countries. Yet, as always, the couple did not lose their spirits and did not waste time. While Roerich worked on his paintings, his wife was able to publish a small book on the basics of Buddhism, one of the texts Trilisser would not allow them to print in Red Russia.

There is also circumstantial evidence that while in Mongolia Roerich did get in touch with the Panchen Lama. With the help of his Bolshevik benefactors, he might have made a quick automobile trip to Beijing to meet the runaway Tibetan abbot, who resided in the Chinese capital at that time. A Soviet diplomat named Boris Pankratov remembered meeting the painter in Beijing in the spring of 1927: "Roerich nourished a hope to enter Tibet as the twenty-fifth king of Shambhala, of whom people would say that he came from the north and brought salvation to the whole world and became king of the world. For this purpose, the painter was dressed in a ceremonial lama priest robe." [23] Since Roerich was prone to all kinds of adventurous tricks, one cannot totally exclude the possibility of a secret visit to the Chinese capital and talks with the Panchen Lama. Still, whether Roerich met him or not, the cautious abbot never became involved in the painter's scheme.

While in Mongolia, the Roeriches were in close contact with Bliumkin, their guardian angel from OGPU, and with Leo Berlin, another secret police officer working in Mongolia under the cover of the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. [24] Roerich's son George, who spoke Tibetan fluently, helped Bliumkin close an arms deal with a representative of the Dalai Lama. Moreover, the two spies helped the Shambhala warriors with logistics and supervised the departure of the "artistic and archaeological expedition" from Urga. [25]
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Re: Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the H

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Part 2 of 2

The Tibetan Venture: High Hopes and Grand Failure

When all permissions were finally secured, the party departed on April 13, 1927. The Soviet embassy provided automobiles, which allowed the Roeriches to quickly reach the southernmost border of Mongolia. There they switched to camels and entered western China, an area populated by warlike tribes, infested with bandits, and contested by several Chinese warlords. Moscow OGPU sent a radiogram to a warlord friendly to the Bolsheviks, asking him "to provide all possible help to Roerich's expedition." [26] The party again took the form of a spiritual march. In addition to the Stars and Stripes, the expedition proceeded under the Maitreya banner, a sacred tanka attached to a flagpole. Anticipating the grand historical mission that awaited them, Roerich wrote, "With this holy banner, we can reach the most beautiful lands and we can awaken ancient cultures for new achievements and for new splendors." [27]

The expedition was not just a family business anymore. A few more people had joined the couple and their son George: Dr. Riabinin, an enthusiast of Tibetan medicine the Roeriches knew from their prerevolutionary days in St. Petersburg; a young Theosophist from Siberia named Pavel Portniagin; and the lama Danzan Malonov from Agvan Dorzhiev's Buddhist Kalachakra temple in Leningrad. Malonov was a seasoned "Red pilgrim" who, two years earlier, had participated in the Bolshevik Lhasa venture headed by Sergei Borisov. Malonov was most likely attached to the party by OGPU or Chicherin to perform special tasks. Two more members, aristocrat-romantic Colonel Nikolai Kordashevsky and Alexander Golubin, a merchant who worked for an English trade company, joined the party in Chinese territory. As former White officers who fought against the Reds in Siberia, the two had not wanted to risk their lives entering Red Mongolia. The expedition also included twenty Buryat and Mongol armed guards.

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Figure 8.1. Nicholas Roerich holding tanka depicting Maitreya. Vrga, Mongolia, March or April, 1927.

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Figure 8.2. Onward to Lhasa under the Stars and Stripes and the sacred Maitreya banner: the Roerich camp at Sharagol Valley, Inner Mongolia, December 1927- January 1928.

On the way, Nicholas Roerich watched for signs of the Shambhala prophecy, noting various anomalous phenomena and observing the behavior of the nomads. In the evenings, he conducted instructive spiritual talks, enlightening his comrades about the coming evolution of humankind, the advent of a spiritually superior sixth race, the world commune, cooperative labor, the evils of private property, Maitreya, Shambhala, and the sacred Great White Brotherhood. In the meantime, in her tent Helena engaged in dialogues with their otherworldly teacher, Master Morya. Occasionally, to boost the spirit of the Shambhala warriors, Roerich turned on an American gramophone, and over the mountains flew the tunes of "Forging of the Sword," "Call of the Valkyrie," and "Roar of Fafner" by Richard Wagner, the painter's favorite composer. Wagner's pieces resounded high in the mountains, "radiating heroic realism." [28]

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Figure 8.3. Nicholas Roerich with his Shambhala seekers on the eve of their departure to Tibet. Left to right: Konstantin Riabinin, George Roerich, Nicholas Roerich, Pavel Portniagin, Sina Lichtmann-Fosdick, Maurice Lichtmann. Urga, Mongolia, March or April, 1927.

As before, special efforts were made to promote rumors among local nomads about the party as messengers of Shambhala and the new age of Maitreya. The painter constantly reminded his travel companions to remember that now they were all walking heroes: "All our steps are destined to become legends, which people will compose about our journey. And who knows, they might be great legends. On the threshold of the coming of the sixth race, all events are destined to become special." [29] Morya was pleased with how the legend making was developing and encouraged his earthly students: "The legend is growing. You need to proceed to Tibet without hurry, sending around rumors about your Buddhist embassy. The appearance of the embassy under the banner of Buddha is something that has never been seen before in the history of humankind. In the name of Maitreya Commune, you need to topple false teachings .... Each evening talk about Shambhala! Shambhala prepares the coming of Maitreya .... Plan your movement to make sure that each phrase you utter turns into a legend. Remember, you already stand above regular human beings." [30]

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Figure 8.4. A last photo in the company of Red Mongol troops before the Roerich expedition moved southward across the Mongolian border. Konstantin Riabinin is in white hat; on his right is George Roerich; Sina Lichtmann-Fosdick, second from left, has a holstered gun on her belt. Altan-usu, Gobi Desert, May 1927.

Part of this legend making was the erection of a Buddhist stupa (suburgan) in the Sharagol valley in Inner Mongolia. Into the foundation of the structure devoted to Maitreya the Roeriches placed a specially minted order of All-Conquering Buddha, the text containing the Shambhala prophecy, in Tibetan, a silver ring with the word Maitreya, and a blue silk scarf (a traditional goodwill gift in Tibetan Buddhism). Local Mongol chiefs accompanied by crowds of nomads flocked to the Roeriches' camp to take part in a consecration ceremony officiated by a local Gegen (reincarnated one). That same evening, from the other world, Master Morya expressed his approval: "The erection of the suburgan affirms the legend, and therefore it is useful. The Teacher is happy with this." [31]

Overcoming various natural obstacles and brandishing their rifles to scare away bandits they met en route, the travelers proceeded through western China, then crossed the most dangerous leg of the journey -- the vast salt desert of Tsaidam -- and finally, in October, reached the Tibetan border in the Nagchu area. Here the Shambhala warriors had to face a formidable problem, which eventually ruined their hopes to conquer Lhasa. Despite an official permission to enter the Forbidden Kingdom issued by a Tibetan envoy in Mongolia, the party was detained by armed border guards. The Roeriches could not figure out what was going on. Although not formally arrested, they were blocked and not allowed to proceed further. Playing by the script he had prepared in advance, Nicholas explained to the local governor that they were emissaries of Western Buddhists on a mission to bring Western and Eastern believers under the benevolent wing of His Holiness. Yet all was in vain. Roerich's high talk and all his inquiries were brushed aside with the advice to stay and wait for Lhasa's instructions.

Little did the travelers know that the formidable wall on their way to Tibet was erected not only by the Lhasa officials but also by Lt. Colonel Bailey, the English spy stationed in Sikkim entrusted with monitoring all Bolshevik activities in Inner Asia. In 1925 he had figured out the Borisov "Buddhist pilgrims" mission sent to Lhasa by Com intern, OGPU, and the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. Then, in 1927, through his Kalmyk and Buryat agents, Bailey had exposed another Moscow mission to Tibet, the one headed by Arashi Chapchaev, which had departed from Urga just before Roerich launched his own expedition.

To the seasoned English shadow warrior, Roerich, whom Bailey already knew from the painter's stay in Sikkim, was no different from such disguised Bolsheviks as Borisov and Chapchaev. And, besides, like his Red predecessors, Roerich was coming from the same place, Red Mongolia. In Bailey's eyes, Roerich's Buddhist trappings-vestments, sacred scrolls, and his Shambhala and Maitreya talk-were simply part of a devious and more sophisticated Bolshevik conspiracy to dislodge Britain from Asia. For his part, the Dalai Lama, who had just gotten rid of the phony Mongol pilgrim Chapchaev, again had to deal with another intruder of the same caliber. The Lhasa ruler definitely did not want such a headache. The English spymaster recommended that Tibetan authorities immediately block the movement of the «American" expedition, and Lhasa followed this advice. Although Bailey was not totally wrong about Roerich's mission, at that point he did not yet realize that the painter was playing his own game. All in all, it did not matter. The lieutenant colonel would have hardly changed his plans had he found out Roerich was not actually a Bolshevik.

After halting the Roeriches at Nagchu, the Tibetans did not know what to do with them. To allow these suspicious folk to proceed farther was dangerous. Yet forcing them back to Mongolia in the middle of winter would surely have killed all members of the expedition. The Dalai Lama certainly did not want to place this sin on his shoulders. While Lhasa was mulling over what to do, the party of Shambhala warriors was literally marooned for five months in freezing weather and thin air on a high-altitude plateau. At one point, George Roerich blacked out, narrowly surviving a heart attack, which did take the life of one of them: Lama Malonov, the alleged secret police informer. On November 8, 1927, Portniagin wrote in his diary: "Temperature is minus 27 Celsius. This morning the doctor said, 'From the viewpoint of medical science and physiology, our situation is catastrophic, and we all shall die. Only a miracle can save US."' [32]

Besides suffering from cold and oxygen deficiency in the high altitude, the travelers were forbidden to purchase food from the locals. Yet Nicholas and Helena never lost their spirit. Obstacles only empowered them, and the painter cheered up his comrades: "Occult work must be done in fresh air and in the cold." [33] While Helena continued to conjure Master Morya in her tent, Nicholas inspired the party with stories about the beauties of the Shambhala kingdom they would eventually reach. For his companions, shivering from piercing winter winds, he drew pictures of a beautiful mountain valley blossoming with subtropical vegetation. It would be as magnificent as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, he told them.

On February 17, 1928, after prolonged deliberations, Lhasa officials finally worked out a solution. The Roeriches would proceed quickly through Tibet, bypassing the capital, and going straight to Sikkim to Bailey's home. Let the English spy deal with them.

When they finally arrived in Sikkim in mid-May, Lt. Colonel Bailey welcomed the exhausted travelers into his residence, acting as if nothing had happened. He even hosted them for a while, offering hot baths and good foods. It took the experienced operative only a brief chat with the painter to figure out that Roerich was not a Bolshevik but simply a dangerous eccentric.  [34] Yet, as a professional spy, he had no remorse about what he had done to Roerich and his companions. Better to be on the safe side.

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Figure 8.5. In "friendly" hands: English spy Lt. Colonel F. M. Bailey, Political Officer in Sikkim, hosts his unsuspecting opponent Nicholas Roerich. Left to right, sitting: Mrs. F. M. Bailey, Nicholas Roerich, Helena Roerich; standing: Nikolai Kordashevsky, George Roerich, Konstantin Riabinin, name not recorded, F. M. Bailey. Bailey residence, Gangtok, Sikkim, May 24-25, 1928.

After parting with the hospitable Bailey, the Roerich party was nearing the end of its journey. The long Asian odyssey, which cost $97,000 and took the Roeriches all over Eurasia, was finally over. The Shambhala war the painter wanted to unleash in Inner Asia had fallen through miserably. So had his plan to bring all Tibetan Buddhists into the Sacred Union of the East. But the couple did not want to simply say good-bye to their comrades and go their separate ways. The grand magic drama that had started with the miraculous manifestation of the Chintamani stone required at least a magic ending. And the Roeriches provided it. The painter suddenly announced to his friends that he, along with Helena and George, would leave the rest in order to proceed straight to the forbidden Shambhala kingdom: the Great White Brotherhood was calling them. Exclaiming "It is nice to believe in the fairy tale of life;' the Roeriches parted with their comrades. [35] Dr. Riabinin sadly watched how the three riders galloped away and soon blended in with the horizon, lowering the curtain of mystery behind them: "We Europeans who accompanied Nicholas and Helena must say good-bye to them, for we are not supposed to know their future path. Will the messenger of Shambhala accompany them?" [36]

Botanical Expedition with an Occult Spin, 1935

The major result of the Roeriches' mission to Inner Asia was their complete disillusionment with official Tibetan Buddhism. The painter and his wife became equally frustrated about the Bolsheviks, who did not wholeheartedly support their Great Plan, so they decided to delete the Reds from their lives as well. Their otherworldly teacher shared these frustrations, and in his usual cryptic manner stated that in the future city of knowledge there would be nothing red, not even red flowers. Only blue, white, and violet would remain. Trying to close this page of his life, the painter had all mention of the Bolsheviks, including his Moscow visit, purged from further editions of his books.

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Figure 8.6. Nicholas Roerich's Master Building, intended to become a spiritual beacon for humankind. It featured brickwork that gradually shifted from dark to light as the building rose.

The failures they experienced only hardened the couple's determination not to give up on their dream: "Blessed obstacles, through you we grow." [37] By that time, the Roeriches were so firmly entangled in their visionary world controlled by Master Morya that there was simply no way back. Roerich's books, and especially Helena's spiritual diaries, clearly showed that the two spiritual seekers were not opportunistic actors. The couple came to truly believe in their own theater of magic, becoming totally convinced they had been chosen by hidden masters of the Great White Brotherhood to speed up human spiritual evolution. The symbol of this grand mission became a skyscraper that Louis Horch, the Roerich's major donor, built in 1929 to accommodate spiritual and artistic projects of the painter. Located at 310 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, this twenty-four-story Master Building (a reference to Master Morya) was to become a cultural and intellectual beacon for humankind.

What the Shambhala warriors needed now was a new sponsor to back up their Great Plan. The United States became their natural choice, and the ocean of flattery that the Roeriches earlier showered on the Bolsheviks was now redirected toward America and particular politicians: President Herbert Hoover, the influential Republican senator from Idaho William Borah, and later President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the pages of Nicholas Roerich's books published after 1929, Mongol and Kalmyk nomads share legends about the "generous Giant;' the "one who feeds people"-references to Hoover's American Relief Association, which fought famine in Soviet Russia in 1921-22. The most ridiculous statement was a flattering remark addressed to Borah: "A letter from him is considered a good passport everywhere. Sometimes in Mongolia, or in the Altai, or in Chinese Turkestan you can hear a strange pronunciation of his name: 'Boria is a powerful man.'" "This is so precious to hear," added Roerich without a hint of irony: the sweeter the talk the better. [38]

The biggest coup was making friends with Henry Wallace, a rising politician from Iowa, the Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice President in the FDR administration. Wallace came to the political spotlight during the Great Depression, when millions of unemployed workers, bankrupt farmers, and the majority of intellectuals came to the firm conclusion that the days of capitalism were over and that the future belonged, if not to communism, then definitely to a greater welfare state that would take care of people and tame unruly profiteers. Like many on the FDR team, the Iowa politician became disgusted with the free market going wild. Yet unlike his comrades, Wallace looked beyond social and economic change, contemplating a spiritual transformation of the human being. A deeply religious man, he attributed many social evils to the materialism of Western civilization. Thus he joined the growing tribe of Caucasian people who searched for redemption in Native American, Oriental, and Western esoteric traditions. This quest drew him to Indian shamans and Theosophy and led him to explore the influence of stars on Iowa cereal crops. In the early 1930s, Wallace was still looking for his spiritual niche. The plant physiologist Borodin, who had taken Roerich's project of the Sacred Union of the East so close to his heart, helped the seeker find the "correct" path. Sharing with Wallace a common interest in drought-resistant plants, Uncle Boris had courted the future Secretary of Agriculture since the end of the 1920s. Hearing of Wallace's spiritual side, Borodin revealed that in New York City there lived a man who would be able to quench his spiritual thirst. Thus, Wallace was drawn into Roerich's circle.

The painter immediately saw that the highly positioned seeker could be very useful for his Great Plan and began to gently cultivate this valuable contact. Massaging Wallace's ego, Roerich prophesized that he was destined to become the next president. Soon Wallace was admitted into the inner circle, receiving a ring and the esoteric name Galahad -- a reference to the legend that Galahad, along with Parsifal, took the Holy Grail to the Orient. Fascinated with Roerich's prophecies and stories about travels to Buddhist areas, Wallace withdrew from the mainstream Theosophical Society and took up the Roeriches' cause. When Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture, the couple was eventually able to reach out to FDR, who already knew about the painter and his Master Building through his mother, Sara, a woman with esoteric leanings.

Soon Helena Roerich corresponded directly with the president, sending FDR her "fiery messages" peppered with advice about domestic and international politics. [39] In February 1935, she finally felt comfortable enough to reveal to the chief executive the details of the Great Plan, hinting that the United States might help this noble project: "Thus, the time for reconstruction in the East has come, and let us have friends of the Orient in America. The Union of Asian peoples is envisioned. The unification of the tribes and nationalities will proceed gradually. They will have their own federation. Mongolia, China, and the Kalmyk will counterbalance Japan. Mr. President, in this project of unification we need your good will." [40]

Meanwhile, rubbing shoulders with Wallace, Roerich suddenly saw an opportunity to use this friendship for his occult geopolitics. In the wake of the horrible drought that hit the Central Plains, the Department of Agriculture started looking for drought-resistant grasses and cereals, sending out its people to various parts of the globe, including Central and Inner Asia. When Roerich found out about it, he was quick to offer himself as an expert on Asian plant life. According to the painter's occult calendar, it was a good time for him to step out of the shadows and attempt to launch again the Sacred Union of the East: on December 17, 1933, the thirteenth Dalai Lama died. This "happy news;' surmised the painter, would surely trigger a chain of events. To his circle of the elect he announced, "Now we have reached the future!" [41]

By the end of December Wallace was already in Roosevelt's office, trying to sell his boss on the idea of an Asian botanical expedition that would include Roerich and his son George. The president, who would soon take a personal interest in Roerich's cause, liked the project and gave his go-ahead. At the same time, the Secretary of Agriculture indirectly tried to prepare FDR for something bigger than simply a botanical venture, vaguely hinting that the political situation in Asia was always quite intriguing because of various ancient prophecies and legends. At the last moment, Wallace's worried subordinates convinced their boss to attach two actual plant scientists to the expedition. The Roeriches did not like this idea at all and immediately dissociated themselves from the agriculturalists by traveling separately.

Instead of going to Tibet and western China, the areas that earlier were so dear to his heart, the painter now rushed to northeastern China: Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Why such a sudden change of itinerary? At first glance this choice did not make much sense, but if we look closely at the geopolitical situation in northeastern China at that time, all pieces of the puzzle fall in place.

The death of the Dalai Lama was surely an important occult sign. Yet there was no popular turmoil and discontent in Tibet at that time. At the same time, Manchuria, Chinese (Inner) Mongolia, and Red Mongolia were all on fire. In 1931, Japan, a rising imperialist giant, suddenly invaded China and occupied the northeastern part (Manchuria). From there, Japan now threatened the Soviet Far East, Mongolia, and central China, reviving in the Mongols' hearts hopes of liberation from the Chinese settlers and indigenous Bolsheviks who now crusaded against Tibetan Buddhism. In an apparent gesture of goodwill, Japan stimulated these hopes by setting up for the Mongols an autonomous region within Manchuria called Hsingan. Meanwhile, in 1929, the Soviets and their indigenous fellow travelers stopped courting lamas in Mongolia and unleashed merciless attacks against these former allies. Many monasteries were shut down, their properties confiscated, and lamas along with the rest of the nomads forced onto collective farms. A spontaneous rebellion of common Mongol shepherds and lamas against this assault began in 1931 simultaneously with Japan's invasion of Manchuria. Red Russia faced a real risk of losing Mongolia to Japan, and the Far East quickly became one of Stalin's major security concerns.

As they always did in times of great troubles, the Mongols tried to empower themselves with familiar prophecies. Rebellious lamas looked at the advancing Japanese army as legions of the legendary Shambhala king finally coming to deliver them from misery. [42] The venerated Panchen Lama added his voice to these sentiments: "The happiness will come from the East. Japanese and Mongols are people of the same kin, and Mongols should worship the Japanese emperor. One needs to struggle against the Red menace." Samdin, a Mongol Comintern spy who was hanging around the runaway Tibetan abbot, alerted his Moscow bosses that it was the first time Panchen brought up the Japanese in his talks, which was dangerous. Soon word spread all over Red Mongolia that the Panchen Lama himself would come and lead the Mongols in a war against the Red infidels. Although he did not provide any practical help to the rebels, his spiritual presence was powerful enough to arouse concerns. The Panchen Lama was traveling back and forth along the southern border of Mongolia, initiating nomads into the ranks of Shambhala warriors. The same Comintern agent worriedly reported, "The Panchen Lama spreads around holy prophecies, which speak of the holy yellow war of Shambhala." [43] The talk about the Shambhala holy war disturbed not only the Bolsheviks, but also Chinese settlers who had seized nomads' lands in Inner Mongolia and now had to face their wrath.

This was the explosive situation that Roerich craved to step into, and word about the coming Shambhala war in and around Mongolia was welcome news for him. Again it was time to set in motion the Great Plan: "Imagine, suddenly an invincible Mongolian army shows up and begins to win and to act-amazing!" [44] If successful in Manchuria and Red Mongolia, the painter could easily make an alliance with Japan and, drawing the Panchen Lama to his side, advance northward to Siberia and then southwest to Tibet. While dreaming about riding the Mongol revolts against the Bolsheviks and the Chinese, Roerich also planned to tap into the manpower of thousands of White Russian emigres who resided in eastern China by offering as a spiritual role model St. Sergius of Radonezh, a medieval Russian Christian saint and patron of the military. The irony of the situation was that this saint had spiritually mobilized the Russian princes against the Mongol yoke. But the painter never mentioned this uncomfortable fact.

Image
Figure 8.7. Nicholas Roerich's image of himself as St. Sergius the Builder in charge of a mighty army and under protection of the all-seeing eye of Master Morya.

As usual, Roerich imagined himself as the head of the whole movement. On one of his canvases, he portrayed himself as St. Sergius surrounded by an army of warriors with spears ready for an attack. The painting also shows the face of Jesus Christ at the feet of the saint and the familiar all-seeing eye of the Great Architect of the Universe, an image borrowed from Freemasonry. Moreover, in conversations with his American associates Roerich began to talk openly about himself as leader of the future Asiatic theocracy. If other painters, musicians, and humanities professors could be politicians and even heads of states, the painter remarked, he could be top. [45]

Helena fed these ambitions by constantly saying that it was a time of the assertive politician, pointing out that all over Asia, Europe, and even in the United States people were opting for strong-willed leaders. Observing the megalomaniacal dreams of his friend, George Grebenstchikoff, Roerich's expert on Siberia, now cautiously stepped aside, refusing to back up a new geopolitical venture. In fact, the writer could not resist making fun of the painter in his poem about the false tsar Dmitri, a seventeenth-century pretender who, backed up by a Polish king, tried to claim the Russian throne. Roerich was so angry that he excluded Grebenstchikoff from his inner circle.

As during his journey to Tibet, troubles pursued the Shambhala warrior from the very beginning. In August 1934, on their way to Manchuria, the painter and his son stopped in Japan. There, without any official credentials, the painter began to act as a high American dignitary, meeting the Japanese secretary of war and praising him for the job the Japanese occupation army was doing in China. Three years earlier, the United States had condemned Japan for invading China, and Roerich's behavior now looked very embarrassing. Roerich, who did not like that the United States favored China over Japan, viewed the Land of the Rising Sun as a positive force because it backed up the Mongols.

As soon as the botanical expedition stepped on Chinese soil, George Roerich got in touch with a representative of the Panchen Lama. But, surrounded by a tight ring of intelligence agents from various countries, the spiritual leader of Tibet exercised extra caution and again refused to get involved in any grand scheme or conspiracy. Accompanied by several armed guards recruited from the ranks of Russian emigres, the Roeriches then made a blitz visit to Manchurian Mongols right on the border with Red Mongolia, mingling with local princes and lamas. From Manchuria, Roerich and his son drove to Inner Mongolia, where they met Teh Wang, leader of the Mongol national liberation movement against the Chinese, promising him American support-another reckless step that further raised the eyebrows of U.S. diplomats in China and Japan.

En route, George kept a detailed diary, which seems more of a military journal than travel notes. He carefully scanned the topography of places they visited, measured hills and distances between various sites and towns, noted major intersections, and provided detailed information about the Japanese military transportation system, the movement of Japanese troops, and the plan of Teh Wang's headquarters. In short, this was a blueprint for developing future defensive and offensive plans. [46]

Image
Figure 8.8. Nicholas and George Roerich during their "botanical expedition" to China with an occult spin. Manchuria-Inner Mongolia, 1934-35.

Simultaneously, at a monastery press in Inner Mongolia, Roerich had his brief biography printed in Mongolian to be distributed among local lamas. Again, as during his abortive Tibetan venture, the goal was to build up his image as the divine messenger of a new era with links to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This silly text filled with praises for the painter was written in 1926 by Tseveen Jamtsarano, a former cultural leader of Red Mongolia who befriended the Roeriches during their long stay in Urga in 1926. Jamtsarano, a Bolshevik fellow traveler, who, like Roerich, toyed with the idea of marrying Buddhism and Communism, endorsed the painter as a new Asian messiah: "Spreading all over the world, the name of the great Teacher Roerich, became the greatest in all countries. In future, if trouble happens somewhere, he will teach us and light our path." [47]

Besides this spiritual propaganda, the Roeriches explored Buddhist manuscripts in the monasteries they visited and collected samples of herbs used in Tibetan medicine. With such an intensive geopolitical, cultural, and medicinal agenda, there was hardly any time left for drought-resistant plants. During the sixteen months of their expedition, the Roeriches were able to produce specimens of only twenty plants, whereas the two botanists sent by the Department of Agriculture brought home more than two thousand plant samples, including 726 soil-conserving grasses. [48]  
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Re: Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the H

Postby admin » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:32 pm

Epilogue: The End of Red Shambhala

Red tide: a brownish-red discoloration of marine waters that is lethal to fish.

-- Random House Dictionary of English Language


Roerich's careless steps and his megalomaniacal taste for adventure again backfired. First of all, he was noticed by the Japanese intelligence service and put on their close-watch list. Spies from the Land of the Rising Sun tried to figure out whom the painter worked for. Was he an American or Russian agent? In fact, the Japanese had been monitoring him on and off since the mid-1920s, reading his correspondence to his brother Vladimir, who had settled in Harbin in eastern China after escaping from the Bolsheviks.

Despite Nicholas Roerich's warm gestures to Tokyo supporting Mongol independence, the Japanese did not trust the painter. They became alarmed when, during his side trip to Harbin, a city that accommodated thousands of White Russian refugees, Roerich suddenly began acting as the future leader of the entire Russian emigre community. The Japanese were especially mad at the painter for speaking harshly against Konstantin Rodzaevsky, head of the Harbin-based Russian Fascist Party, whom Japanese intelligence was grooming as the chief of all Whites.

Thinking the Americans had purposely planted Roerich to disrupt this plan, Japanese intelligence unleashed a smear campaign in the press against the painter. The intercepted letters that Nicholas wrote to Vladimir in 1926 on the eve of his Tibetan expedition were excavated from the intelligence archives and made public. [1] Although in a heavily distorted form, parts of his Great Plan were now exposed. The press wrote that Roerich was a Mason, which was not true, and a messenger of the mysterious Great White Brotherhood that sought to establish a great Siberian state -- which did contain elements of truth. Several newspapers drew attention to his brief romance with the Bolsheviks, wondering if it was still going on. Meanwhile, the American press raised hell, speculating about some hidden U.S. governmental agenda linked to the Roerich Manchurian expedition. So again the painter was caught in the crossfire of diplomatic, spy, and media games.

Still worse, the State Department informed his patron Wallace that the Soviets had sent a confidential protest to the American government, complaining that the dangerous emigre Roerich was wandering along the borders of Red Mongolia. The Bolsheviks were worried that "the armed party is now making their way toward the Soviet Union ostensibly as a scientific expedition but actually to rally former White elements and discontented Mongols." [2] To the last moment, Wallace backed up Roerich and dismissed all insinuations against his "botanist." Only when he realized that the painter had become a diplomatic embarrassment for the government and that his own career was now on the line did the Secretary of Agriculture call off the expedition, cut funding, and terminate all contact with his former guru. Eventually, along with Louis Horch, another sponsor who dropped Roerich, Wallace turned against the painter, initiating a tax-evasion lawsuit against him and seizing all his properties in the United States. FDR felt embarrassed about the whole situation and personally interfered, promising Horch and Wallace to call the judge who handled the case in order to guarantee the "correct" verdict. And sure enough, Roerich, who trusted Horch to do his finances, was indicted. Betrayed and humiliated by his esoteric partners Logvan and Galahad, Roerich never came back to the United States, wisely choosing to settle in India.

Manchurian Candidate: The Conclusion of Roerich's Odyssey

What went unnoticed at the time was that in January 1933 in Leningrad, right on the eve of the Manchurian expedition, Boris Roerich, another brother of the painter who remained in Red Russia, was suddenly released by OGPU for good behavior before his sentence expired; in May 1931, the Bolshevik secret police had set up and then arrested Boris for attempting to smuggle his own antique items to the West. Yet, there is an interesting detail here. Boris's three-year sentence seems more a house arrest. An architect by profession, he was confined to work at the secret technical bureau, designing the Big House, which headquartered the Leningrad branch of the secret police and Stalin's summer cottage! Here Nicholas Roerich's brother worked under Nikolai Lansere, the Soviet architectural star who received a similar sentence. [3]

Image
Figure E.1. Left to right: Konstantin Riabinin, Boris Roerich, Sina Lichtmann- Fosdick, Nicholas Roerich. Urga, Mongolia, April 1927.

From Boris's recently declassified secret police file it is clear OGPU was using him as a tool in some sophisticated game that most certainly involved Nicholas Roerich. As early as February 1929, the secret police searched Boris's apartment, trying to find materials that might implicate him in espionage. Two months later he was recruited by OGPU and began working as its secret informer. Then two years later OGPU suddenly framed and arrested him for smuggling, sentencing him to three years in a concentration camp. Yet, hardly had two months passed before this draconian sentence was miraculously waived and replaced by benevolent confinement in the golden cage of the secret technical bureau. [4]

But this strange story does not end here. From 1936 to 1937, now in Moscow and again with Lansere, Boris Roerich worked on the monumental project of the All Union Institute of Experimental Medicine (VIEM), the notorious "new age" Stalinist research center described in chapter 4. What followed was even more stunning. From 1937 to 1939, during the period of the Great Terror when hundreds of thousands of Soviet intellectuals, including Lansere, and numerous Bolshevik bureaucrats were either shot or locked in concentration camps for a good deal less than being relatives of "enemies of the people." Boris continued his career as if nothing was happening and even improved his material conditions by moving to an elite neighborhood in Moscow, where he quietly died a natural death in 1945. [5] It is notable that during the same time when the architect lived safely in Moscow, Dr. Konstantin Riabinin, who never fought or spoke against the Bolshevik regime, was rearrested and placed in a concentration camp for fifteen more years simply for his association with the "English spy" Nicholas Roerich during the Tibetan expedition!

The facts of Boris Roerich's biography look shocking. Even without having such a "dangerous" brother, Boris, simply as a former White officer who fought against the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, was a prime candidate if not for execution then at least for a twenty-five-year sentence in a concentration camp. Still, by some providential force, the Bolsheviks' vengeance never reached him. How to explain this miracle? What was the magic shield that protected Boris Roerich? The most obvious answer is that this magic guardian was his adventurous brother. Remembering that the use of relatives to guarantee the cooperation of victims and the loyalty of OGPU agents was standard practice for Stalin's secret police, all pieces of the puzzle fall in place.

It is quite possible that Boris was a bargaining chip in some devious and sophisticated spy game that involved Nicholas Roerich. I will not repeat here the far-fetched argument made by Moscow writer Oleg Shishkin that after 1919 or 1920 the painter was always a paid Bolshevik spy and that his Master School in New York City was a cover for a Soviet spy ring. [6] There is simply no credible evidence to support such a case. At the same time, one cannot totally exclude the possibility that at some point Roerich was simply blackmailed by the Soviet secret police and forced to perform occasional clandestine assignments, especially during his Manchurian venture. These assignments might not have necessarily contradicted his Great Plan. They could include monitoring Japanese military activities near Red Mongolia's border, the location of their troops and military hardware, the status of Manchuria as a puppet state, and the general geopolitical situation in the area, a major concern for the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Bolshevik intelligence threw a tremendous amount of resources and manpower into the Far East, recruiting hundreds of unemployed White emigres to spy on the Japanese. Besides, putting on a leash as a possible agent of influence the prominent Russian emigre who worked to unite White Russians and Mongols in a sacred crusade against Communism was not a bad idea. Viewed from this angle, the protest quietly delivered by the Soviets to the United States in 1935 regarding Roerich's "armed and dangerous party" might have simply been a good smokescreen to smooth the mission of the reluctant agent.

As long as Boris remained in the hands of the Soviet secret police, the painter's cooperation could be safely solicited anytime. There were signs that after their failed Tibetan venture Nicholas and Helena Roerich wanted to drop the Bolsheviks and find another sponsor. The couple probably thought their involvement of Moscow in their 1920s' geopolitical scheme was a one-time thing. If they thought so, they made a fatal mistake. If Nicholas Roerich wanted to drop the Bolsheviks, most likely they did not want to drop him. At the least, we know that Boris Roerich, who in 1922 was ready to leave Russia to join his brother in New York, never got his chance.

After his second attempt to launch the Sacred Union of the East from Manchuria failed and after the Master Building was seized by Horch, Nicholas and Helena, along with their two sons, settled in northern India in the picturesque Kulu Valley. Right next door, beyond the Himalayan ranges, loomed the Tibet these "Shambhala warriors" failed to conquer. Immersing himself in painting local landscapes and entertaining occasional visitors, Roerich finally had to lay to rest his grand dreams of becoming the spiritual redeemer for humankind. Here in Kulu, the painter peacefully died in 1947 from prostate cancer. His wife followed him eight years later.

Yet before he died, during the Second World War when Russia was attacked by Nazi Germany, Roerich suddenly again became openly pro- Soviet and patriotic. Moreover, after the war ended, he approached the Soviet government, asking permission to return to Russia. Did the old man expect some special treatment from Stalin for occasional services he might have provided to the Bolshevik regime? Or was he simply an old, naive idealist nostalgic for his motherland? Who knows? Fortunately for him, Red Russia refused to issue such permission. Roerich, who did not know anything about real life in the Bolshevik utopia, was certainly unaware how lucky he was. What could await him in Stalinist Russia in case he returned? The atmosphere of total suspicion, suffocating propaganda, and possibly a prison sentence.

In 1957, after the death of Stalin, George Roerich, a linguist and Tibetan scholar who was always part of his parents' Great Plan, followed his father's footsteps; he asked for and did receive permission to immigrate to the Soviet Union. The Soviets not only let him in but also awarded him a prestigious job as a senior research fellow at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies. Three years later he died from natural causes. The younger son, Svetoslav, an architect, lived a long life and died in 1993 at his estate in Bangalore, India. None of them left any offspring. It surely looked as if some divine punishment was inflicted on the Roerich clan for their attempts to meddle with human evolution and to elevate themselves above God.

Shambhala the Sinister: The Fall of Gleb Bokii and His Red Merlin

In 1925, when their Shambhala expedition to Inner Asia fell through, the cryptographer Gleb Bokii and Alexander Barchenko began looking for traces of the mysterious kingdom within the Soviet Union. Using Special Section money, Barchenko traveled all over the country, contacting esoteric and occult groups and gathering prophetic lore. By the turn of the 1930s, it was getting harder to do such things. The dictatorship Stalin had been patiently building since the 1920s had matured, turning into a full-fledged totalitarian state. The dictator, rapidly being turned into a Red messiah to be worshipped and obeyed, was ready to phase out all his old comrades, the early Bolsheviks who, like Bokii, sometimes questioned things and for whom Stalin was not an authority.

Bokii's Special Section was gradually stripped of its functions, which were delegated to other departments of the secret police. Moreover, research into occult and paranormal phenomena and into engineering better human beings was now shifted to VIEM. By 1934, Bokii's section was relegated to its original tasks, ciphering and deciphering, and it even lost its name. It was no longer Special, but simply Section Nine. Although Bokii now occupied the prestigious rank of Commissar of State Security, the secret police equivalent of an army marshal, he did not have as much power as earlier. It was just a matter of time before the chief cryptographer would find himself on Stalin's hit list. By 1934, when all dissenting voices were silenced, it became dangerous to talk about things that did not fit politically correct and officially sanctioned lines. All occult and esoteric societies had already been wiped out, and their members were laboring in concentration camps. The general atmosphere in Red Russia forced people to become mute and invisible. Now Bokii had to think twice when meeting his friends and acquaintances, and especially before indulging in talks about the mysterious, occult, and paranormal. Such behavior could be easily interpreted as subversive. So the cryptographer caved in and began to avoid Barchenko.

Oblivious to what was going on around him, Barchenko, the aspiring Red Merlin, did not want to give up. He was still compulsively obsessed with his dream to enlighten the Bolshevik elite about Shambhala and Kalachakra and to teach them how to model and predict the future. In early 1936, he tried to press his OGPU patron to put him in touch with Viacheslav Molotov and Kliment Voroshilov, Stalin's two closest advisors. But Bokii wisely ignored this request. Barchenko then turned to Little Karl, Feodor Karlovich Leismaier-Schwarz, one of the former secret police officers who had introduced him to Bokii in the first place. Probably driven by the same desire to partake of the great cause, Leismaier-Schwarz, now working as a photojournalist in Leningrad, foolishly agreed to Barchenko's request. Both naively believed that Leismaier-Schwarz's brief stint as a secret police officer during the first days of the revolution would open doors to the corridors of power. Although Little Karl was not able to reach any Bolshevik dignitaries, he was able to hand the synopsis of Barchenko's ancient science to Voroshilov's secretary.

Barchenko waited for a year and, having received no answer, made a more dangerous move. He decided to go straight to Stalin to enlighten him about Shambhala and Kalachakra. Turning again to Little Karl, he gave him a hazardous assignment -- to get into the Kremlin and prepare a personal meeting between Barchenko and the Red dictator! A few months later, when interrogated by Stalin's agents, Leismaier-Schwarz remembered, "Barchenko complained to me that it was very hard to penetrate party and state leadership. He was frustrated with Bokii, who was not active enough to fulfill Barchenko's guidelines and who could not set up a meeting with Stalin. So I volunteered to fulfill this task. Barchenko accepted my offer and said, 'Try to meet Stalin personally."' [7] This time, not only did Little Karl fail to reach Stalin, but he also attracted the attention of the secret police.

It is hard to explain what drove Barchenko and Leismaier-Schwarz to such reckless behavior. In 1937, when people all over Russia, especially in capital cities, lay low, paralyzed by fear of the Great Terror, and when everybody carefully tried to exercise self-censorship, Barchenko still boldly dreamed about upgrading Communism through the wisdom of Shambhala and Kalachakra. He might simply have become a prisoner of his grand delusion to the point of obsession and conveyed this virus to the spineless Leismaier-Schwarz. Another possible explanation is that, after losing Bokii, who generously funded his esoteric trips, he felt the need to latch on again to a powerful sponsor (the higher the better) to continue his quest. In all fairness, the advent of the totalitarian state would have sooner or later consumed Bokii, Barchenko, Leismaier-Schwarz, and the like anyway. They simply stood out too much with their suspicious esoteric agenda. Still, by his careless behavior Barchenko sped up the process. In the atmosphere of total suspicion and mistrust that reigned in 1930s' Russia, his paranoid zeal to reach out to the Bolshevik elite backfired.

The final judgment came on May 16, 1937. On that day, the "Bloody Dwarf" Nikolai Ezhov, the new secret police chief appointed by Stalin to purge old members of the Bolshevik Party, summoned Bokii to his office. The cryptographer was always surprised why his former wife, Sofia, and her husband, Moskvin, welcomed this five-foot-tall, not-very-educated, mediocre underclass fellow to their apartment. What did they find in this petty bureaucrat with the watery eyes of a sadist? Maybe it was his agreeable nature and good voice: the dwarf excelled in singing ballads. Moskvin had stupidly promoted him as a secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, where Stalin noticed the obedient workaholic clerk and took him under his wing.

When Ezhov demanded that Bokii turn over all compromising files Bokii had kept since the 1920s on top Bolshevik bosses, adding that this was Comrade Stalin's order, the cryptographer could not restrain himself: "Who cares about your Stalin. It was Lenin who put me into my position." [8] By saying this, Bokii signed his own death warrant. For the next two days the cryptographer was interrogated by one of his colleagues, Commissar of State Security Lev Belsky, [9] assisted by a semiliterate senior lieutenant from Kazakhstan, Ali Kutebarov, a product of the Bolshevik affirmative-action program.

Bokii was originally accused of espionage for England and of being a member of a secret Freemason society that tried to predict the future-a reference to the long-defunct esoteric commune United Labor Brotherhood (ULB) created by Barchenko. The cryptographer did not hide his doubts and frustrations about the revolution, and he also described how his interest in esoteric ism drove him to Barchenko's ancient science and the Shambhala quest. Trying to save his life, Bokii revealed the names of friends and acquaintances who took part in their esoteric talks and classes. A few days later, all of these people were rounded up and arrested. Based on their stories, Belsky eventually made up a case about a subversive religious and political Freemason order called Shambhala-Dunkhor with branches all over the world, including Red Russia. According to his scenario, this sinister secret society was used by England to penetrate the minds of top Bolshevik leaders and control them. It was obvious that the compulsive grand dreams nourished by Barchenko now boomeranged. In the hands of this Stalin henchman, Shambhala, the resplendent and peaceful Tibetan Buddhist paradise, was turned into its opposite -- a sinister destructive force that threatened Red Russia.

The transcript of Bokii's interrogation, which was heavily edited by Belsky, reveals the process of the invention of the counterrevolutionary Shambhala-Dunkhor society:

Belsky: Give me detailed testimony about the spy activities of Barchenko.

Bokii: The spy activities of Barchenko were mainly focused on building up a network of espionage. The work proceeded in two directions. First, it was the organization of a spy network on the periphery. Second, it was a penetration into the party and governmental circles. The latter was done to take over the minds of leadership and, following the example of Masonic organizations in capitalist countries like, for example, in France, guide their activities in a needed direction. For the work on the periphery, Barchenko used various religious and mystical sects of Eastern origin. For this purpose, he made frequent trips to different areas of the Soviet Union, establishing connections with local sects and meeting their foreign emissaries. To penetrate the Soviet ruling circles, Barchenko tried to make some of them interested in his scientific research, its significance for the country's defense, and so forth. Getting somebody interested in this scientific side, he gradually disclosed his teaching about Shambhala. Then, wrapping his victims in the web of mysticism, he used them for espionage purposes. That is how he brainwashed me and penetrated OGPU. [10]


Belsky's imagination notwithstanding, in the 1930s Shambhala indeed became somewhat of a threat to Soviet leadership. Lamas who revolted in Mongolia against Communism linked this legend to the Japanese army that advanced into Manchuria, viewing it as the army of Shambhala. Besides, in Stalin's Siberian backyard Buryat clergy, furious about the forced Soviet collectivization and assault on their faith, began to send around chain letters with the same prophecy about the coming Shambhala war against Red enemies of the Buddhist faith. As early as 1929, right at the beginning of the Stalin "revolution," Agvan Dorzhiev and his lama friends, before erecting a new Kalachakra prayer site in the Trans-Baikal area, placed in its foundation nine hundred thousand steel needles, symbolizing the iron warriors of the future Shambhala king. In 1937-38, when the last Buddhist monasteries were shut down in Siberia, Soviet media began to link the Shambhala prophecy to fascism and Japanese militarism.

Image
Figure E.2. Lev Belsky, the Bolshevik secret police investigator, who in 1937 manufactured the case about a sinister anti-Soviet worldwide clandestine organization named Shambhala-Dunkhor.

Although Belsky pressed Bokii hard to provide specifics of his spy activities, he was not able to dig anything up except for Bokii's mysticism and his membership in the long-defunct ULB. Moreover, even the edited transcript of the interrogation shows that, while playing to Belsky's script, Bokii nevertheless tried to water down the accusations of espionage in order to break the whole case. Moreover, at one point he flatly rejected all espionage accusations:

Belsky: Why did you seek contacts with counterrevolutionaries and spies?

Bokii: I never sought any special contacts with spy elements. I sought contacts with the abovementioned sects and cults because I was lured by Barchenko's mystical teaching. I do admit that I placed mastering the mysteries of this teaching above the interests of the Communist Party and the state. In my eyes, the high task of mastering the scientific-mystical mysteries of Shambhala justified the deviation from the Marxist-Leninist teaching about classes and class warfare. However, I did not specially plan to do any harm to the party or the Soviet power, and not a single member of our order was known as a spy or a person who had links to spies ....

Belsky: What spy activities did you conduct personally, and what particular spy assignments did you receive from Barchenko?

Bokii: I never received direct espionage assignments from Barchenko. By being immersed in Barchenko's mysticism, I simply neglected interests of the state and covered his activities by the name of the Special Section, which assisted him to conduct spy work.

Belsky: The investigator does not trust you. Trying to shift the investigation away from your spy activities, you want to move it in the other direction. I suggest that you sincerely confess your spy work. ...

Bokii: I cannot add anything to what I have already told you. [11]


To make the cryptographer look creepier, the stories about Bokii's naturist commune and group sex were added, along with the collection of mummified penises found in his apartment. So the cryptographer looked like a perfect degenerate and a pervert through and through. Still, all this did not make a spy case convincing enough to please Stalin. It seems that at this point the crude Kutebarov entered the game. During a second interrogation in August 1937 (one wonders what happened to Bokii during the previous three months), the cryptographer suddenly confessed that, on top of other evil things, the Shambhala- Dunkhor order planned to blow up the Kremlin and assassinate the Red dictator at his retreat on the Black Sea.

A second interrogation usually took place when a victim did not cooperate. The arsenal of tools of persuasion varied. They included beatings, squeezing of genitals, breaking ribs, burning with cigarettes, and urinating on detainees. Yet the most effective and "cleanest" method was the practice of using victims' relatives as hostages. One of Bokii's daughters suffered from asthma and could have been a good bargaining chip for his interrogators. [12] Whatever methods they used, Belsky and Kutebarov cracked the cryptographer along with other members of the Shambhala-Dunkhor "ring." It is essential to note that Bokii was disposed of not because he was involved in mysticism and the esoteric Shambhala quest that did not fit Marxism, but because he belonged to the old revolutionaries who never viewed Stalin as the Red messiah. With or without Shambhala, merely by belonging to the old Marxists, Bokii was doomed to be exterminated, as were thousands of his colleagues. On November 15, 1937, after a closed trial, which was conducted by three secret police officers and took only fifteen minutes, Bokii was condemned to death, executed, and cremated on the same day. [13]

All the other people who had unfortunately associated themselves with Bokii and Barchenko were also executed in 1937, including Kondiain, Leismaier-Schwarz, Moskvin, and others. Bokii's former wife, Sofia Doller, was also zealously interrogated and after a "sincere" confession was promptly shot. Yet she was not included in the ranks of the Shambhala-Dunkhor culprits. Ezhov ordered that she be made part of a separate but no less exotic case. Belsky and Kutebarov assigned her and the doctor of Tibetan medicine Nikolai Badmaev to the role of Japanese spies. According to the secret police script, the Japan ordered Doller and Badmaev, her and Moskvin's close friend, to dispose of Ezhov by using exotic herbal poisons delivered from Tibet. [14]

Two years later Stalin ordered the execution of the executioners themselves. "Bloody Dwarf" Ezhov, who, to stretch his muscles, once in a while liked to descend to a secret police cellar to perform an execution, now himself was shot by his colleagues in the same cellar after listening to false accusations of terrorism, spying, and homosexuality. A year later, Belsky and Kutebarov followed their boss.

The last one of these Shambhala seekers to be shot was Barchenko, chief of the "spy ring," who fought for his life to the very end. The failed Red Merlin eagerly cooperated with the investigation and played to the changing scenarios of his investigators, implicating himself and others in all kinds of crimes and adding more details from his life as early as 1917. Already condemned to death, he still struggled to extend his days, resorting to familiar "scientific" tools. On December 24, 1937, he wrote directly to Ezhov. In this last pathetic appeal he masochistically pleaded, "I was informed that my case has been completed. I fully disarmed myself with no loophole for retreat and revealed to the investigation all details, events, and names from my past. I clearly understand that I am responsible for what I did and do not ask you to soften my fate. Yet, let me draw your attention to the fact that I discovered a physical phenomenon unknown to modern science." The rest of his long letter was designed to awe the chief of Stalin's secret police with another miraculous scientific story. Now it was a legend about the secret of energy regulation used by bacteria -- a discovery that promised to arm Red Russia with an "extraordinary powerful weapon" to fight epidemic diseases and protect the country from bacteriological attacks. [15] The message was obvious: please, save me, I still can be useful.

Yet nothing helped, and on April 25, 1938, with a bullet in the back of his head, the Red Merlin followed his brethren from the Shambhala-Dunkhor order. Who was Barchenko? A sincere, naive spiritual seeker who became the prisoner of his compulsive dream or a talented scientist, as his Russian biographer Alexandre Andreyev hinted. [16] Probably the former. A dropout medical student and an occult-fiction writer, he never had a systematic knowledge of biology, physics, or other sciences. Contrary to his claims, neither was he an expert on Tibetan Buddhism. Even in the field of esotericism, Barchenko unfortunately did not create anything new, simply adjusting Alexandre d'Alveydre's "subterranean blues" to the Communist utopia. What he definitely excelled in was trumpeting his ancient science, a smorgasbord of Kalachakra, d'Alveydre's Agartha, and Eliphas Levi's books. Clearly a charismatic spiritual adventurer, Barchenko convinced himself and several dozen people around him that he knew how to Scientifically engineer a society free of social ills, and in this capacity he kept offering himself to the Bolshevik elite.

Red Pilgrims to Ashes: Shumatsky, Borisov, and Others

No less tragic was the fate of those romantic Bolsheviks who in the 1920s rushed into Mongolia, western China, and farther to Tibet to build the Red Shambhala paradise by stirring indigenous prophecies and instigating lamas to revolution. By 1930, after nationalist movements in China, India, and other Eastern countries failed to mutate into a Communist revolution, the Bolsheviks realized that the project of world Communism was going no farther than Mongolia. Soviet fortunes were at low ebb, and Stalin ordered all outreach ventures to be halted, concentrating on his domestic agenda. [17] It was clear that Communism could not win over nationalism, which showed no indication of exhausting itself as the Bolsheviks expected. In a decisive move, the dictator cracked down on the Communist indigenous elites that had expanded their influence in the 1920s. He also slowed down affirmative-action programs for indigenous ethnic groups and stopped flirting with religions. The brief romance with Tibetan Buddhism was over.

Red Russia was quickly turning into an isolated Communist fortress, shutting down contacts with the outside world. Comintern, an organization specially created to sponsor worldwide revolution, became an unnecessary appendix. Crippled by arrests of its agents, it was eventually shut down. Commissar for Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin, a Russian noble turned Bolshevik diplomat, was quickly losing his power. At first, he retreated to Germany to relax from the suffocating police-state environment Stalin was creating. Then, not wishing to betray the cause, Chicherin returned and quietly retired in 1929, then conveniently died in 1936 on the eve of Stalin's Great Terror, which mowed down all of Chicherin's team.

Sergei Borisov was one of the first to go down. This Oirot Bolshevik, who helped to foment revolution in Mongolia and then as a "lama" led an expedition to Tibet, made a good career in the foreign affairs commissariat, serving as deputy chair of the Eastern Department. On September 10, 1937, Borisov was tried and shot along with hundreds of other early Bolsheviks working in the Soviet Foreign Service. Elbek- Dorji Rinchino, the Buryat intellectual and first Red dictator of Mongolia who dreamed about the vast pan-Mongol Communist empire, was executed a year later. At least, unlike Borisov, who was simply shot for no reason as a Japanese spy, Rinchino was disposed of with a good official excuse as an unreformed proponent of pan-Mongolism. Agvan Dorzhiev, another player in the great Bolshevik game in Inner Asia, ended his Shambhala quest in a secret police prison morgue. By the 1930s, futile compromises with the Bolshevik regime morally broke down this former Dalai Lama ambassador to Russia. In 1937, with the advent of Stalin's Great Terror, secret police shut down his Kalachakra temple in Leningrad as a "counterrevolutionary cell," and Dorzhiev decided to return to his home in Siberia, hoping to spend his last years in peace and prayer. Yet once there the feeble eighty-four-year-old Buryat lama was immediately arrested as a Japanese spy. The Shambhala seeker did not even live to see his execution, dying from a heart attack after his first and only interrogation.

Boris Shumatsky, the polyglot Bolshevik organizer equally at home with his Yiddish-speaking kin, Russian workers, and Buryat or Mongol nomads, followed his former comrades-in-arms. This revolutionary who wanted to bring Communism to all of northern Eurasia constantly clashed with Stalin when trying to secure more self-government for indigenous people in Siberia. As early as the 1920s, Shumatsky was already out of favor with the budding dictator, who did not like this assertive Jew from Siberia. After a brief stint as president of the university that trained Comintern agents, Shumatsky was made the chief Bolshevik censor supervising the emerging Soviet cinema. In 1938, he was sentenced to execution for the crime that perfectly fit his latest position: Shumatsky found out he was planning to assassinate Comrade Stalin during a movie screening for the dictator.

Of all the Bolsheviks and their fellow travelers who conjured Red Shambhala in Inner Asia, the most prominent one to survive Stalin's slaughterhouse was the chubby Mongolian Choibalsan, former member of Com intern's Mongol-Tibetan Department. In 1937, this short and shy former junior lama was elevated by Stalin to the position of Mongolia's dictator. His predecessor had lost his life for wondering aloud how it was possible to eliminate one hundred thousand lamas -- a goal the Russian dictator set for his Mongol comrades. Choibalsan, who preferred listening and doing to asking questions, took this assignment seriously. He cracked down on his former brothers, wiping out those who resisted and sending those who were mute and submissive into his army to serve as soldiers or to concentration camps to perform hard labor. By 1940, the Mongol Buddhist clergy was decimated. [18] When rounded up to be sent to Siberian camps, many lamas could not comprehend the magnitude of the whole event, believing they were being shipped to northern Shambhala, the cherished land of spiritual bliss. Thus came true the dream of the lama bandit Ja-Lama, who in his small totalitarian paradise in the Gobi Desert dreamed about making "lazy" lamas perform productive labor.

In the summer of 2009, I was returning to the United States from Moscow, where I had completed gathering archival material for this book. Having a ten-hour wait before my flight, I decided to go to downtown Moscow to find sites linked to major characters in this book. The place where in the 1920s Bokii and Barchenko conjured their Shambhala project was not difficult to find. The four-floor structure at 21 Kuznetsky Bridge then belonged to the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. The two upper floors, which to Chicherin's chagrin accommodated Bokii's Special Section, are now apartments. In an adjacent building around the corner on Lubyanka Square, Chicherin, Shumatsky, and Borisov worked out their Mongol and Tibetan schemes.

I came to enjoy my small tour of Red Shambhala sites, and upon landing in New York I decided to continue it. Now my destination was 310 Riverside Drive, Nicholas Roerich's skyscraper. The Master Building is still there, solid and sound. In fact, now it is a historic landmark. Somewhere down below in the foundation is a treasure chest containing Tibetan coins and a letter with the prophecy of a new golden age. A young, intelligent-looking fellow wearing earphones came out of the building. He explained that the building was now completely occupied by apartments and that he had heard some weird Russian painter once owned the skyscraper. He looked surprised (if he actually understood what I was talking about) when I said that the weird painter designed this magnificent tower-like structure to become the Master Building, beacon of knowledge and highest spirituality for all humankind.

I was about to add a couple of words about Roerich and his wife, but the man was already walking away. I smiled to myself: Busy people, both in Moscow and New York, are deeply immersed in their twenty-first- century hectic lifestyles. Why should they care about forgotten ideological alchemists who tried to engineer noble human beings and build a perfect society in which all problems would be solved once and for all -- a quest that took them, along with millions of their contemporaries, on a path of self-destruction?
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