The Roerichs’ Stone: A summary of research findings

The Roerichs’ Stone:  A summary of research findings
Following from clues in their books and other primary sources, the Roerichs’ talisman, sometimes known as ‘Chintamani’ but generally called ‘the Stone’, was a palm-sized mineral object which can be identified as a piece deriving from the giant iron meteorite named Armanty in the scientific record, or in its original locality Mongon-temee, ‘Silver Camel’, and Mongon-tosh, ‘Silver Saddle’. The giant meteorite weighed about twenty-eight tons and formerly lay at the site of its fall in Mongolian territory in the foothills of the Altai mountains, the co-ordinates of whose impact pit are suggested as 46 52′ 37″ N, 90 58′ 35″ E. The location would therefore have represented the place described by Helena Roerich as the ‘foundation of Shambhala’ – the symbolic earthly focus of the sacred realm of Shambhala as the Roerichs would have understood it. The meteorite itself is no longer at this site, having been removed to Urumqi by the Chinese in 1965, but that is another story which is completely unconnected with the Roerichs’ activities. It is an open question whether Nicholas and George Roerich visited the site while they were in Mongolia in 1926-27; a cryptic account in Nicholas Roerich’s book Himavat, although evidence of the connection of the Stone to Mongolia, refers to an episode during their venture in Inner Mongolia in 1935. A question also remains about the present whereabouts of the Roerichs’ Stone, but the presumption must be that it is now in Russia. At present the best evidence of its actual appearance and characteristics is a photograph of it taken in 1923 held in the archives of the Roerich Museum in New York.
    The Mongolian meteorite seems to have been depicted as the image of the ‘sacred stone’ in Roerich’s set designs for Act One of Diaghilev’s ballet The Rite of Spring, and similarly also in the freize painting above the artist’s study at Kulu. The triad symbol depicted on this latter image and extensively used as a graphic device elsewhere by the Roerichs may be, in addition to other meanings, a symbol for Orion, and ‘Orion’ seems likely to have been a code word used by the Roerichs for Mongolia – suggesting the source of another name by which they knew the Stone, the ‘Gift of Orion’.
    The Roerichs received the Stone at the Lord Byron Hotel in Paris on the 6th October 1923. It was sent as a talisman whose main purpose was to invoke the success of their mission inspired by the idea of Shambhala. The impetus for this endeavour was a Buddhist prophecy about a future messianic age, which had acquired a contemporary significance amongst northern Buddhists and the Mongol populations in Buryatia, Mongolia and China, as an aspiration for a theocratic confederacy of Buddhist Mongol lands in Central Asia. In reality, this new sentiment owed much to the rise of Mongol national consciousness and the political weakness of China. The expectation was that the movement would develop first in Mongolia, and adherents looked to the Panchen Lama, the Buddhist leader with extensive religious jurisdiction in Mongolia and China, for religious leadership. Nicholas Roerich envisaged a secular leadership role for himself in due course in what is now often called the ‘Shambhala project’. Others who shared the aspiration for the theocratic idea, and who were well known to Roerich, included two prominent Buriat Mongols: one was a significant historical figure, the high Buddhist lama Agvan Dorjiev, whom Roerich acknowledges as his mentor on the subject of Shambhala; Dorjiev had envisaged using the Shambhala idea to promote Russian political influence in Central Asia, and his own conception of a great theocratic confederacy had earlier been formally presented to the Czarist authorities. The other prominent figure was the Mongolian scholar Dr Tsyben Zhamtsarano. Both men also knew of the Mongolian meteorite and its talismanic appeal for the Mongolian people – Zhamtsarano having had a field knowledge of it. For Helena Roerich, the particular purpose of the Stone was to enhance her clairvoyant powers. It was believed to facilitate communicating with and receiving instructions from her spirit guide, whom she called Master Morya – a name adopted from Theosophy – regarding the mission of the Roerichs to Asia. The Stone acted as an ‘instrument’ for her psychic work throughout the Central Asian Expedition of 1923-28 and afterwards, when the family settled in Kulu in northern India. Although many of these communications were transcribed and subsequently published, their nature and source are an open question, as they are understood to have been a wholly subjective experience.
    Nicholas Roerich generally maintained a discretion about his aims in Central Asia and the details of his contacts with those who were intimately involved in assisting his plans for the Shambhala project. Roerich saw his mission for Shambhala not only as a spiritual enterprise for mankind in general, but being a Russian patriot, as a way of strengthening both the interests of Russia and his own links with his homeland, and as such he was prepared to accept assistance from all quarters to realise his aims. Amongst those in Russia with whom he liaised, the most covert and intriguing – as revealed in researching the story of the Stone – was his relationship to Dr Alexander Barchenko, a parapsychologist who became a Bolshevik collaborator. Both Roerich and Barchenko had been members of the Martinist Order – a secret Rosicrucian society – in St Petersburg before the Revolution, and their esoteric interests continued to have much in common subsequently. Barchenko was interested in Buddhism, the legend of Shambhala and the esoteric powers he believed were to be found there. He also shared the Roerichs’ belief in the special properties attributed to the magnetism of meteoritic stones, which could supposedly be used to demonstrate the phenomenon of ‘distant influence’. At his unique psi-research laboratory in Moscow he conducted highly innovative experiments in such techniques on behalf of the Bolsheviks, with the aim of inculcating Revolutionary political ideas in the Soviet masses. Such beliefs about stones may well be traceable to a knowledge of shamanism; certainly Roerich had a well-developed belief in the talismanic power of sacred stones by at least 1909. The relevance of Barchenko lies in the extent of his involvement in the story of the Roerichs’ Stone and of the Central Asian Expedition.
    Roerich’s visit to Moscow in 1926, secret at the time, included in its various aims deciding on future arrangements for the Expedition. At some point a proposal had been put forward by Barchenko’s patron Gleb Bokiy, a Bolshevik Revolutionary who had formerly been, with Roerich and Barchenko, a member of the same Martinist lodge, to sponsor the Roerich Expedition. Bokiy now headed the ‘Special Department’ of OGPU – the secret police – which funded Barchenko’s psi-research laboratory – but in addition to esoteric and theocratic interests his proposal may also have had a political motive because the creation of a Buddhist-Communist synarchic state in Central Asia might have served Bolshevik aims in helping to turn the East against Western imperialism. Roerich’s code-word for Moscow was ‘Martin’, revealing his desire to liaise with his former colleagues on reaching the city. However, whether or not there had been a plan in which Roerich participated to obtain Bolshevik funding – resulting therefore in a possible measure of control in the conduct the Expedition – Bokiy’s proposal was overruled by Georgy Chicherin, Commissar for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Soviet government. At present, it seems that some of the Roerichs’ followers in Russia wish that certain information about his relations with the OGPU should be withheld, since, in an intervention apparently involving the then Russian Prime Minster Yevgeny Primakov, his OGPU file was removed from the former KGB archives prior to these becoming accessible for research in the 1990′s, in order to keep it closed.
    The sending of the Stone to the Roerichs in 1923 coincided with, or followed soon after, the formulation of their plans for the Shambhala mission, which were shared or perhaps co-ordinated with whoever sent it. The sender would certainly have been someone who was both very sympathetic to Roerich’s aims and had access to the talisman. Barchenko emerges as an obvious candidate – he had visited Mongolia and had also received a Buddhist Kalachakra initiation from Dorjiev – and the evidence for him is reinforced by suggestions that a fraternal Masonic or Rosicrucian – most likely Martinist – secret society in France had acted as an intermediary in delivering the Stone for the Roerichs. Dorjiev himself would be another possible candidate or facilitator, as would Zhamtsarano, and another Mongol, Khagan Khirva. In terms of planning the Expedition’s travels – and in answer to the apparent paradox of the Stone returning to Soviet territory, from where it seems likely to have been sent on to the Roerichs in Paris – it had always been Roerich’s goal from early on to journey to Mongolia, in anticipation of the signs of the prophesied ‘spiritual war’ of Shambhala, whether or not he was given permission to enter the Soviet Union: in fact this was something he had been uncertain of until reaching the Soviet frontier itself. Subsequently, in eventually reaching Mongolia, where they spent six months in 1926-27, the Roerichs seem to have been fulfilling their plan for the Stone to revisit its origin in the location which for them represented Shambhala – and a similar observation applies to their second venture to Central Asia in 1934-5, although whether on this enterprise the Stone accompanied them is an open question. On both occasions they seem to have had in mind a kind of symbolic reunification with the great meteorite, perhaps in the belief this would help to invoke the new messianic era. However, neither the Buddhist manifestation, which according to prophecy had been promised for 1936, nor the dream of Mongol unification, was ever to materialise – the anticipated Mongol uprising, which took place in Inner Mongolia in 1937 under the weak leadership of Prince Teh Wang, was soon extinguished by the Japanese.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: Update note 1

In 2009 a Russian acquaintance of mine, Tatiana Chernykh, asked questions on my behalf about the sender of the Stone to the Roerichs, during a visit to the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow. Subsequently she conveyed from her meeting with the staff something I found significant – she was told the sender was called, in Russian – ‘сим’. At the ICR it was not possible to determine further what kind of name this was, but I suggest it may have represented the Russian initial letters ‘с и м’ – an abbreviation either of a name, or perhaps more satisfactorily, of an organisation or society. If the former, conceivably it refers to Morya, who is mentioned on the inscription of the pine box in which the consignment was sent as the codified ‘MM’. If the latter, as with many abbreviations, the last letter – м – could be the key. Bearing in mind that, prior to the Roerichs receiving it, the Stone is said to have been held for safe keeping by a French secret society, and as the lid of the box was inscribed in French, the letters seem likely to refer to the French name of the society. The last letter may therefore plausibly be connected with a French Masonic organisation, or, since speculation about Martinist links already figures significantly my researches, a French Martinist society. Therefore, if I were to put forward my favoured suggestions for the meaning of the initials, they would be along the lines of ‘Société des Initiés Martinistes’ or ‘Société Internationale des Martinistes’. If this approaches close to a correct solution, it would be entirely consonant with the material about Roerich’s Martinist connections and the suggested sender of the Stone, discussed in Sections 7 and 15 of the main essay.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: Introduction and overview

This essay addresses certain aspects relating to the talisman of which Nicholas and Helena Roerich were the custodians, which is generally known as ‘the Stone’, or sometimes ‘Chintamani’, following from the name of the larger stone of which it is said to be a fragment. It is important to state at the outset that my approach to the subject is wherever possible evidence-based, in the sense of being likely to appeal to the historian, and that it generally aims to consider only such evidence of the Stone which arises from, and is related to, the Roerichs’ own lifetimes. Thus it generally excludes the various strands of previous history or ‘backstory’ of the Stone, whether found in the Roerichs’ books or otherwise, except where this is necessary in the historical context or for clarification at the interface of the given time-frame – that is, the point in 1923 when the Roerichs received the talisman. These strands of previous history give rise to many questions of their own and would need to be addressed separately.
    The text was compiled in its present form between August 2008 and September 2009. Some minor amendments and additions have since been made. As the Sections appear from the top of the blog in reverse order, they are listed below in the sequence of the printed essay, followed by a list of the main references and correspondents consulted. The inclusion of a source in the list does not imply that the author necessarily has a view about material not discussed in the text.

1   A talisman of many powers
Chintamani, the wish-fulfilling jewel mentioned in Tibetan religious tradition and Hindu legend, was one of the names Nicholas and Helena Roerich used for a possession which had two manifestations: firstly as a ‘spiritual treasure’, by which was meant the psychic faculty or ‘instrument’ each of them utilised; and secondly as the symbolic…

2   The material evidence
There is seemingly incontrovertible evidence of the material existence of the Stone. It lies in a photograph taken in 1923, soon after the Roerichs received the talisman in Paris, which has been made available from the archives of the Roerich Museum in New York. What is revealed is quite unusual, and while it may plausibly be a piece of meteorite…

3   The provenance of the Stone: introduction
The first crucial question is who sent the Roerichs their talisman and why. Immediately prior to its collection by the Roerichs at the Bankers Trust – and if we are to accept the information conveyed by Daniel’s mysterious informant – it had been held in the custody of an unnamed French secret society. One wonders why the society did not pass on…

4   The way of the Stone: the accepted story
While Mme Roerich had stated that the Stone would return to ‘the East’, reflecting the instructions of her guide to bring the Stone to the ‘fatherland’, it is unclear precisely where either of these terms refer to. ‘East’ could be open to broad interpretation, considering the route taken by the Central Asian Expedition…

The way of the Stone: the ‘Moscow version’
Roerich’s secret visit to Moscow was long-planned, and had it achieved everything he had hoped, might have changed the future course of the Expedition. Primarily Roerich wanted to go to Moscow to initiate spiritual and commercial enterprises in the Altai – the so-called ‘Great Plan’ – and to secure his onward travel arrangements to Mongolia…

6   Problems with the ‘Moscow version’
The Moscow story contains a number of unexplained contradictions. It means that Roerich had received the Stone in Paris in order to take it for Barchenko’s laboratory three years before arriving there, at a time when, even if he had planned the trip, he did not know whether he would be able to get permission for it, and before the laboratory had…

7   The Martinist connection
Roerich and Barchenko had known each other at least since 1909, when they had both been members of a St Petersburg lodge of the Martinist Order, a secret society affiliated to the Rosicrucians. Conceivably through the trust established through this friendship and the network of contacts it made available, the safe passage of the Stone to Europe…

8   The Stone as legend and symbol
It has long been believed by many of Roerich’s followers that the Stone was a piece of a large meteorite, but the rather obvious question about the identity and location of its parent stone – perhaps the most significant one after that of the sender – seems not to have been asked. One reason for this, apparent from what has been said earlier, may…

9   The Stone identified in the scientific record
If instead of being the creation of theoretical processes in the constellation of Orion, the main mass is presumed to be a scientifically recorded meteorite, it is perfectly possible to arrive at a description of its characteristics adduced from written evidence in the Roerichs’ books and certain pictorial clues, which can then be used to search the scientific…

10   The mysterious visitor in an icon of Modernism
I suggest it is possible to say, in support of the contention that Roerich believed his Stone was a piece of the Mongolian meteorite, that at the time of the Temple’s construction he may well have had some idea about the appearance of the main mass of the Chintamani stone. This arises because the identification of it as the Armanty stone can be…

11   Magnetism and magic
Barchenko probably also learned of the origin and purpose of the piece of the Chintamani stone concealed in the Temple, but his main interest in it would have related to its psi-properties which would have been relevant to his telepathy and mind-control experiments. From Constantin Ivanenko’s account of the Moscow story, it may be reasonable to…

12   A journey to sacred Shambhala?
It remains an open question whether the Roerichs visited the site of the Mongolian meteorite on either of their visits to Central Asia – the Central Asian Expedition itself, when, having reached Mongolia via the Altai region and Buratia, they were based at Urga for six months in 1926-27, or, nearly a decade later, during the venture sponsored by the…

13   The strange case of the wandering stone
The Armanty stone has seemingly eluded thorough scientific scrutiny in the West. This may in part account for the details of its fall site in the Catalogue of Meteorites being open to question – certainly the location in the scientific record is at odds with the information given by Namnandorj in Meteorites of Mongolia. The co-ordinates of the site…

14   A quest in an unexpected direction
As earlier mentioned, the Stone was also known to the Roerichs as the ‘Gift of Orion’. Given that they only disclosed information about it in cryptic form, it is highly significant to find a reference to this name in another context outside the Roerichs’ writings. Again it is Barchenko who is implicated, and it is information about his activities in this…

15   The provenance of the Stone: a discussion
In the story of the Stone we are faced with a number of unresolved lines of enquiry: from whom and by whom it was originally obtained; who sent it to the Roerichs; whether in its travels, its intended destination was India – having returned on the completed Expedition – or another point en route such as Moscow or Mongolia; and what are the…

16   Nicholas Roerich, the Stone and the legend of the graal
From the very start of my interest in the activities of Nicholas Roerich, I wanted to reach a view about the implication, evident in a number of passages in the Roerichs’ books, that the Stone, as a mineral talisman, was associated with the stone of the graal in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic poem Parzival. The question of the nature and origin of…

Main references

Alexander Andreev, The Buddhist Shrine of Petrograd
Kenneth Archer, dance researcher: correspondence
Alexander Berzin, The Berzin Archives, essays on Shamhbala, online; The History and Geography of Shambhala, in  Tibet Journal, vol. 1 no. 1
Basil Crump and Alice Cleather, Buddhism the Science of Life
Jacqueline Decter, Nicholas Roerich: the Life and Art of a Russian Master
Ruth Drayer, Nicholas & Helena Roerich; correspondence
Gordon Enders, Nowhere Else in the World
Daniel Entin, Director, Roerich Museum, New York: correspondence
Sina Fosdick, Nicholas Roerich 1874-1947, Nicholas Roerich centenary booklet; correspondence
Monica Grady, ed., The Catalogue of Meteorites
Ian Heron, Notes on the Meaning of the Gral in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, unpublished essay
Robert Hutchison, formerly leading the Cosmic Minerology Programme, Natural History Museum, London: interviews
Constantin Ivanenko, A Stellar Time for St  Petersburg (Russian); Metaphysical Mission of the Pentagon, online; correspondence
Philip Mantle and Paul Stonehill, The KGB, Tibetand UFOs, online
John McCannon, University of Saskatchewan: By the Shores of White Waters, in Sibirica vol. 2 no. 2; correspondence
Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac, Tournament of Shadows
Ochiren Namnandorj, Meteorites of Mongolia
Markus Osterreider, From Synarchy to Shambhala, online
Alexander Piatigorsky, formerly lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, London: interviews
Johan Quanjer, formerly publisher of The New Humanity journal: interviews
George Roerich,Trails to Inmost Asia; Tibetan Paintings
Helena Roerich,On Eastern Crossroads; Legend: Some Prophecies of the East, in ‘The Foreword’ journal, Dec. 1924; Agni Yoga series including Leaves of Morya’s Garden, Agni Yoga, Community, Infinity, Supermundane; Foundations of Buddhism; Letters of Helena Roerich; At the Threshold of the New World; The Leader
Nicholas Roerich, Himalayas – Abode of Light; Altai-Himalaya; Heart of Asia; Himalaya; Shambhala; Himavat
Vladimir Rosov, Nicholas Roerich: The Messenger of Zvenigorod, (Russian; English summary), online
Robert Rupen, A Tale of Two Roerichs, in Canada-Mongolia Review, vol. 5 no. 1
Alla Shustova, Treasure of the World (Russian); correspondence
Robert Silverberg, The Realm of Prester John
John Snelling, Buddhism in Russia; interviews
Richard Spence, Red Star over Shambhala, in New Dawn no. 109, July-Aug. 2008, online
St Theodore Gavras Society, The Grail in Crimea, online
Andrew Tomas, We are not the First; Shambhala – Oasis of Light
Gvido Trepsa, picture researcher, Roerich Museum, New York: correspondence
Alexander Voronin, Russia Atlantis Information, online
Robert Williams, Russian Art and American Money
Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, trans. A.T. Hatto
Andrei Znamenski, University of Memphis: Red Shambhala, lecture presentation; correspondence

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 16

16  Nicholas Roerich, the Stone and the legend of the graal
From the very start of my interest in the activities of Nicholas Roerich, I wanted to reach a view about the implication, evident in a number of passages in the Roerichs’ books, that the Stone, as a mineral talisman, was associated by them with the stone of the graal in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic poem Parzival. The association reinforces the fact of the focal importance of the Stone in the Roerichs’ mission, for in doing so they are invoking in their own talisman the powers they attributed to the stone of the graal, which in Wolfram’s poem is called lapis exilis, the ‘mean’ or ‘insignificant’ stone – in a sense, the fragment of stone.
    The Roerichs’ belief was that meteoritic stones could help to bring about on Earth changes prefigured in the cosmos – in their case envisaged as a transformation towards a new age for humanity in which new ethical ideas would be established. To them this meant the forging of a new consciousness, something which owed much not only to the various traditions of messianism which they espoused, but also to the idea of a universal spirituality transcending and unifying all life and matter – symbolically speaking, the immanence of the cosmic graal. This enables us to understand why, for example, in his book Shambhala, in the text of the chapter entitled Urusvati, Nicholas Roerich inserted the following seemingly cryptic Latin phrase: Lapis exilis dicitur origo mundi. In the light of the present context, this can be understood as meaning ‘the meteoritic fragment is said to be the origin of the world’ – or more specifically in the Roerichs’ conception, the foundation of their anticipated ‘New Era’. The passage was written in 1929 at Urusvati, the Roerichs’ home in Kulu in the foothills of the Himalayas, where they settled after the Central Asian Expedition, to await the manifestation of the new epoch.
    The question of the nature and origin of the stone of the graal has attracted many theories, and an identification of the Mongolian meteorite as the parent of Roerich’s Stone might have led to yet another. I tried to develop a plausible explanation to account for this idea, involving the possibility of the transmission of an earlier fragment from the Mongolian meteorite to Jerusalem around the time of the Second Crusade, at a point where it could have become an element in the graal story. However eventually I had to disassociate Roerich’s Stone from my understanding of the graal, since it did not fit in with a group of inter-related facts derived from the original text of the poem and other contemporary materials which were creating a coherent picture of its origin and meaning.
    The two main points internal to the text of Parzival come in answer to the questions, where is the graal to be found at the end of the main narrative, and which historical figure is the character of ‘Prester John’ in the story to be identified with? I suggest that the answers to both questions lie in India, where for centuries the original inheritance of Christianity survived independantly of Rome, and where a figure named ‘John’ who was said to have been appointed by St Thomas the Apostle, the bringer of that original message, as one of his spiritual successors, closely matches the details of ‘Prester John’ in Wolfram’s story. In the poem, the message of the graal concerns the inner spiritual changes which the main protagonists, Parzival and his oriental half-brother, Feirefiz, must demonstrate in order to transform their lives. After a climactic episode bringing about their reconciliation and redemption, Parzival fulfills his destiny to inherit the kingship of the graal in his European homeland, whereas Feirefiz – hitherto a ‘heathen’ – is baptised and marries the graal-bearer, Repanse de Schoye. The couple then set sail for Feirefiz’ homeland, India, a move in which it is seemingly implicit that the graal goes with them. In India Feirefiz begins to spread the Christian message, and there also they have a son whom they call Prester John, a name which becomes the title for the lineage of his successors. Clearly a parallel can be drawn between the ‘Prester John’ in Wolfram’s tale and the historical ‘John’ linked to St Thomas, each of whom became custodians of a transformational spiritual message.
    Whilst Wolfram’s text, thus decoded, reveals an understanding of the meaning and historical context of the graal in Parzival, the crucial factor in my realisation that Wolfram’s stone was unconnected with the Mongolian meteorite was an acceptance of the conclusion of a number of scholars, proposing that the origin of Wolfram’s term referring to the stone of the graal, lapis exilis, lies in a medieval version of the legend of Alexander the Great entitled Iter Alexandri ad Paradisum. In the legend, the stone is not a talisman possessing wish-fulfilling powers, but a mere insignificant symbol for the virtue of humility, which is the message contained in a parable recounted by a sage to Alexander after he had reached the gate of Paradise – and the symbol, with its message, is carried over as a principal theme in Parzival. The legendary tale also reflects the historical record of Alexander’s conquests, where, after reaching the river Indus, he heeded the counsel of the men under his command and ventured no further.
    Roerich had linked his Stone with the stone of the graal in Parzival, yet the evidence from the poem suggests that the symbol itself was a literary fiction whose meaning is concerned with a piece of knowledge about the conduct of life which, although undoubtedly belonging to the original Christian teachings, in Wolfram’s writing is hinted to be best upheld by the branch of the faith established by the followers of St Thomas the Apostle in India. If therefore Roerich had believed in a material connection between the Mongolian meteorite – assuming this was the source of his Stone – and the stone of the graal in Parzival, I now think he is very unlikely to be correct. However, in no sense does it diminish the value of some kind of poetic or metaphorical association, and this may well have been what Roerich had in mind – although, unlike the example of Alexander in the legend, or that of the custodians of the graal in Wolfram’s poem, possession of his Stone did not signify with him a curb on ambition.
The material on the graal in this Section summarises parts of my article ‘Notes on the Meaning of the Gral in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival.’ For the full article, visit .

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 15

15  The provenance of the Stone: a discussion

In the story of the Stone we are faced with a number of unresolved lines of enquiry: from whom and by whom it was originally obtained; who sent it to the Roerichs; whether in its travels, its intended destination was India – having returned on the completed Expedition – or another point en route such as Moscow or Mongolia; and what are the threads in the story which link the Roerichs to significant figures who may have played a part – Barchenko, Dorjiev, Zhamtsarano, the Panchen Lama and others. Then of course there are various other matters of fact: for what purpose the talisman was originally intended; whether it is identifiable as a fragment from a known meteorite; and where it is now. Many would consider it unacceptable that its location is presently unknown or concealed, and access to it is withheld.
     Roerich’s return visit to Moscow is perhaps at the crux of the sense of intrigue pervading the story of the Stone. In the context in which this took place, Roerich emerges as having met or had prior liaison with three groups of people in his homeland whose interests in his mission to Central Asia overlap, but do not coincide. The first group, whose most prominent members were Dorjiev and Zhamtsarano, were Buryat Buddhists, who, representing a culture which supposedly had access to knowledge of paranormal powers, and who were influential among their kindred populations in Central Asia, found themselves useful to the earlier aims of the Bolsheviks – although they soon recognised that in the uncertain times of the new regime, the ‘scientific’ contribution they could offer to the new society in this regard might not guarantee their survival. The second group, which would include Barchenko, behind whom was Bokiy, were now Bolshevik functionaries who in Czarist times had formerly been, with Roerich, members of the Martinist Order, and whose Christian-based esotericism had been overlaid – but not necessarily superceded – by a fascination with occult and paranormal practices. The third group, pre-eminently involving Chicherin and Lunacharsky, were members of the Soviet government who, as far as Roerich was concerned, were people he wanted to use as facilitators in the arrangements and permissions necessary for the Expedition, and the inception of his various enterprises in the Soviet Union. While all of these people were politically involved in the new society, the agenda of each group was by no means consonant with the others. Meanwhile Roerich had come to regard himself as a free agent with priveleged access to all those who he thought could advantage his aims – although in the period in question he had developed an unrealistic expectation of others to live up to his ideals. The vision of the future he made known to the Soviet leadership espoused an uneasy amalgam of Messianic, Buddhistic and Communistic ideas in which he described the Buddha as ‘the great Communist’, praised the achievements of Lenin – whom he made out to be a ‘Mahatma’ and a ‘fiery bodhisattva’ – and put forward the idea that it would be through the inculcation of Buddhist consciousness in the masses that Communism would be accepted. As Daniel Entin has thoughtfully observed, ‘Roerich, in political situations, could speak one way, act another, and think quite another’. Roerich’s own agenda appears to have indicated that he acted on the conviction that his own and – as a Russian patriot – his homeland’s interests in Central Asia would now be well served by siding with the Panchen Lama, and eliciting support for the plan to bring about the ‘New Country’.
    The question which has yielded a clear solution concerns the identity of the Roerichs’ Stone. It was put forward that, assuming the parent stone of the Roerich’s talisman entered the scientific record of meteorites, the prime candidate meeting the required characteristics is the Armanty stone; however, only an analysis of the composition of the Stone and a comparison of the results with known meteorites might settle the question of its origin. Two main points of corroboration for the identity emerged; these concerned Dr Zhamtsarano’s knowledge of the stone, and the similarity of this stone with Roerich’s image of the sacred stone in The Rite of Spring. A further point of possible corroboration is worth mentioning.
    There are a number of reasons to believe that Sina Fosdick, Roerich’s closest co-worker outside his family, knew more about the Stone than was ever published in the Roerichs’ books. She had one of the two photographs of it known to have been sent to co-workers, and stated in correspondence that she could say no more about it than had already been published. She may have played a part in translating the passage describing how the stone ‘lay visible upon the web of its native land’, and there is a possibility she codified her knowledge of the identity of the main stone – not the identity itself – in the Nicholas Roerich centenary booklet published by the Roerich Museum in 1974. This concerns her choice of Roerich’s works to illustrate the booklet with particular reference to his sketches of The Rite of Spring, and their disposition relative to the text. Out of a total of 22 images, no less than six are from The Rite of Spring, two of which, depicting Roerich’s scenic designs with the sacred stone for Act One, open and close her text. However, as with the suggested origin for the image of the stone itself in The Rite of Spring, the inference can only be made if the identity of the meteorite has already been arrived at.

    We can now consider the question of who was likely to have been involved in sending the Stone to the Roerichs. Trying to put a meaningful construction on the pieces of information relating Roerich’s associates to the story of the Stone requires evaluating the various lines of evidence and their consequences, and considering the motives of those involved. The information from Constantin Ivanenko, having regard to his proximity to sources in Russia and his sympathy towards Roerich’s activities, needs to be accommodated where possible. Surprisingly both Daniel, and the respected Russian researcher Vladimir Rosov, claim not to have known about Constantin’s version, but whereas the effect of Daniel’s information is often to lead the enquirer to an inconclusive position or a further unanswered question, Constantin’s account is at least a coherent explanation, albeit one which has serious inconsistencies with other material in a reasoned overview derived from primary sources.
    The main evidential thread begins with the presumption that a piece of the stone called Chintamani was placed in the St Petersburg Temple on the initiative of Dorjiev, who, immediately prior to the Temple installation, had been in Mongolia. The name Chintamani could plausibly have been given by him to invoke the realisation of Buddhistic aspirations, which as far as this discussion is concerned, focus on ideas about a Central Asian pan-Buddhist theocracy. The Panchen Lama undoubtedly knew about Dorjiev’s idea for the confederacy early on, although it was not until 1923 that a version of such a plan emerged with him as a way of re-establishing his status against the Dalai in the Buddhist world. Roerich understood the Panchen’s moves as a signal that the time for the ‘New Country’ had come, and responded by implicating the Buddhist leader in his own plans. Barchenko, who would have been kept informed about the progress of the Shambhala idea, and was himself approached about the question of Central Asian unification, became involved in Roerich’s plans by at least 1923.
     A crucial piece of evidence is that whoever sent the Stone would also have sent the cloth in which it was wrapped in the casket, which is seen in the photograph. The cloth is referred to in the well-known quotation, a phrase of which reads ‘…the enemy shall not steal the Shield covered with gold’, where the ‘Shield’ is synonymous the Stone, and the ‘gold’ refers to the embroidered cloth, which bears the image of a radiant sun. In the centre of the cloth is the monogram of Christ, and other floral motifs suggest it may be of Rosicrucian origin. Whoever sent the Stone would also have known of Roerich’s underlying aims for the Expedition, and regarded the Stone as a protective and auspicatory talisman which would help the Roerichs achieve these aims.
     It may be possible to exclude from a role as sender a close co-worker of Roerich’s, Vladimir Shibayev, a Theosophist from Riga who became Roerich’s secretary, and who prior to leaving the Soviet Union operated on behalf of Roerich a company for the export of artefacts. If he had been involved, it might be thought his role would have been to arrange the secure passage of the Stone between Roerich’s co-workers in Russia and its French destination. However, according to Shustova, the Stone was actually sent there by post, and significantly in relation to Shibayev himself, it is said he was the recipient of one of the two copies of the photograph which are known to have been made and which were sent to co-workers, a fact which raises the question why he needed this, if he was already familiar with the appearance of the talisman. Whether he had a Rosicrucian connection is an open question, but this is not known to be mentioned in the materials referred to.
     There are two early colleagues of Roerich who, according to Osterreider, shared with the artist a Rosicrucian connection – Alexander Barchenko and Gleb Bokiy. The cloth is one evidential item amongst several, as summarised in the following, which focus attention particularly on Barchenko as the sender of the Stone.

     1. In 1923 – the same year the Roerichs were sent the Stone – Barchenko had received a Kalachakra initiation from Dorjiev at the Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg. The high lama had been, a decade earlier during the construction of the Temple, Roerich’s mentor on the subject of Shambhala, and had himself some years before that, put forward his own conception of a great confederacy of Buddhist-Mongol lands. It seems very unlikely that Dorjiev would not have known of Roerich’s aims by 1923, or that these would not have been discussed with Barchenko.
     2. Barchenko was deeply interested in esoteric knowledge and the secret occult powers said to be employed in Shambhala. He had also visited Mongolia and his advice had been sought in matters concerning Central Asian unity.
     3. He knew about something called ‘the stone from Orion’ – a name not otherwise known to have been used by anyone except the Roerichs – and is said to have sought it during his researches in the Crimea in 1923.
     4. Roerich is said to have arranged to meet him in Moscow on his clandestine visit there in 1926. The ‘Moscow version’ of the Stone’s return to Russia – an episode where Roerich is said to have passed on the Stone for concealment in Barchenko’s psi-research laboratory, receiving in return a ‘conventional’ piece of meteorite – is however likely to have been misconstrued, since Roerich maintained custody of the talisman he received in Paris throughout the Expedition. However the story may be explicable as a consequence of errors in transmission – a likely explanation being that rather than Barchenko having received the Stone from Roerich, it was in fact Barchenko who had earlier sent the Stone to Roerich. This is not the only interpretation, however, as examined later.
     5. Barchenko, as a scientist specialising in psi-research funded by the Bolsheviks through Bokiy, was carrying out experiments based on magnetism and the supposed property of magnets to enhance powers of the mind to exert ‘distant influence’. This was not only something which Bokiy wanted to employ to spread revolutionary fervour and politicise the masses, but was closely related to the Roerichs’ belief that this property in meteorites could be used to facilitate mediumistic channelling from their sources of spiritual guidance – in their case in the service of Shambhala. The question also arises, how and from whom the idea of such a property in meteorites mainly originated. Each of the figures involved – Roerich, Barchenko and Dorjiev – could have played a part in cultivating the idea, which undoubtedly also had shamanistic roots.
     6. Roerich is rumoured to have sought help for the Expedition from certain Bolsheviks – amongst other people in Russia- whilst the Bolsheviks, through Bokiy, are said to have wanted to use the Expedition for their purposes. However this was overruled by Chicherin on behalf of the government.
     7. Roerich is reported to have attended a conference or meeting of parapsychologists while in Russia, where techniques of ‘distant influence’, of exactly the kind Bokiy and Barchenko are known to have been engaged in, were discussed.

     A straightforward hypothesis to account for the provenance of the Roerichs’ Stone follows from the motives and connections of Barchenko. If, for example, it is supposed Dorjiev brought to St Petersburg more than one of the talismans – for we are indeed informed there were a number of them – it would make sense if, a decade later, he decided to send one to Roerich to attract favour to his Shambhala project, something towards which Dorjiev would have been very sympathetic. Barchenko would have offered a confidential and secure channel through his Martinist connections so that the Stone could safely reach Roerich in Paris – although oddly, we are told that it was sent there by post. Thus it seems possible, in this scenario, to trace the provenance of the Roerichs’ Stone, via Barchenko, back to Dorjiev. More hypothetically, Barchenko could have obtained it from a contact he might have made – perhaps Zhamtsarano – during his visit to Mongolia in 1923. However, I know of no clear evidential trail beyond Barchenko by which to trace the origination of the Stone, so whatever might be said about it will be highly conjectural. Nevertheless, if the Stone was sent from Russia, then in my opinion, Barchenko emerges as the main candidate for actually consigning it to Paris.
     It has been a working assumption of this research that several people were involved in obtaining and sending the Stone. The question of from whom the talisman originated earlier on, or from source, would have to include Zhamtsarano, Dorjiev and even the Panchen Lama in this role, but it is worth bearing in mind that probably only Zhamtsarano had the field knowledge about the location of the meteorite identified as the parent of the Stone. One other rather shadowy figure emerges for consideration as an intermediary, either directly, or between the likely role of Barchenko and that of the ‘provider’, or the source, of the talisman. If we were to consider the factors we would be looking for to identify such a person, I suggest a very good match would be found in Khagan Khirva. In seeming to have similar geo-strategic and esoteric interests, he was also likely to have had the motive to assist Roerich; he was in the right place at the right time – meeting Barchenko in Moscow in 1923; he was rumoured to be a member of Roerich’s Martinist circle in Czarist days; he knew Zhamtsarano, and was in Mongolia during the artist’s sojourn there in 1926-27; and with Naga Navan, he was a member of the ‘Great Brotherhood of Asia’, as cited by Osterreider, a fraternity said to have been interested in the unification of Asia, and about which it would be useful to know more.

The ‘Moscow story’

Up to this point we have been discussing the provenance of the talisman which the Roerichs believed they were being sent, following from what they said about it. We must now return to what I earlier called the ‘Moscow story’ and consider it again, this time in the light of the doubt implicit in the italicised statement.
    It was reasoned earlier that Constantin Ivanenko’s story implying that Roerich was in effect returning the talisman to Russia to give it to Barchenko looks unsound. Constantin informs us that Barchenko is said to have handled two pieces of meteorite – the Roerichs’ Stone, and a conventional substitute stone, given to Roerich ‘in exchange’, as it were, for receiving the Stone for his laboratory, and to enable him to pass customs examination on exiting the Soviet Union. Apart from the inconsistencies in the story pointed out earlier – and bearing in mind the literary and pictorial evidence resulting in the general understanding that the Stone returned to India with the Roerichs – we have the evidence from the photograph that the Stone cannot be said to be a ‘conventional’ type of meteorite, in the sense that, even if it was an item collected in the field, it had the kind of form – in this case a notable axial symmetry – which would have given it a special status. All this suggests that Constantin’s version, in transmission as hearsay, has been misconstrued, although the story that Barchenko himself received at some point a piece of the Chintamani stone has to be taken seriously. If he did not receive it from Roerich, he could only have obtained it from a source – an individual – who was certain of its origin and authenticity. If we consider the sources who could qualify in this respect, we would again of course have to include Dorjiev, Zhamtsarano and the other figures discussed earlier.
    With the exception of what may lie concealed in Constantin’s story, there is no strong reason for supposing that anyone involved in sending the Stone misled the Roerichs about what they believed they were being sent in Paris, or that what they in fact received was not an exceptional kind of talisman – the one in the photograph – which they believed was a piece of the Chintamani stone. If Constantin’s information that on an earlier occasion another piece of the Chintamani stone had been installed in the Buddhist Temple is reliable, this would seem to strengthen the case for saying that Roerich’s Stone originated with Dorjiev, and was a talisman that represented to Roerich the Shambhala idea for which Dorjiev had been a prime mover.
    Nevertheless the ‘Moscow story’ probably has some basis in the facts, and certainly invites explanation. Apart from contributing to the idea discussed earlier that Barchenko was the sender of the Stone, one seemingly unlikely interpretation raises the uncomfortable possibility that the stone intended for the Roerichs, having perhaps originated with Dorjiev, and passed to Barchenko to send on to Paris, was in fact retained by Barchenko. This would account for the details in the ‘Moscow story’ that Barchenko received Roerich’s Stone and that it was installed at his laboratory, and that therefore the scientist needed to substitute for it another, conventional piece of meteorite which Roerich then took out of Russia. The differing details found in the ‘Moscow story’ are so unexpected that they cannot be ignored out of hand. In this scenario, the substitution would of course have taken place prior to sending the mineral to Paris in 1923, and would mean that it was the substitute stone which Roerich journeyed with from Paris to Moscow and beyond. It would also mean that the Roerichs would always have been unaware that the stone in their custody was not what they originally believed it to be. It needs to be emphasised, however, that not only are the statements in the ‘Moscow story’ inconsistent with what has hitherto been accepted, but they presently seem difficult to verify further, and so due account has to be taken of this when considering the relevance of this interpretation.

Who has custodianship of the Roerichs’ Stone now, and where is it located?

It is difficult to believe this information is presently unknown. The Stone and the casket are undoubtedly still located together. The recent digital photographs of the casket copied in Section 2, having been sent from Russia, presumably originated there. It would make sense to suppose that the Stone would have been taken to Russia from India after Svetoslav Roerich ended his days in 1993, probably with the knowledge of the custodians of the ICR. The Stone is rumoured to be with its Director, Ludmila Shaposhnikova; however according to an informant of Daniel Entin, it is not there at all.

    Our investigation of the Stone has demonstrated that to some extent it offers a way of penetrating Roerich’s secret activities. Obviously Barchenko emerges as a key intermediary and participant in certain of the circumstances relating to the Stone. Given that we can imagine that Roerich’s liasons with his various contacts in the Soviet Union took place not only separately, depending on how each could advantage him, but discreetly, it is his relations with the Bolshevik interests, through Barchenko and Bokiy, which emerge as the most obscure and intriguing. Dorjiev and Zhamtsarano shared and sympathised with Roerich’s idea of the Shambhala prophecy, but their identities and roles were touched upon subsequently by the Roerichs in their published books; Chicherin and Lunacharsky were seen as enablers, whose relations with Roerich became a matter of public record some time ago; but it was Roerich’s relations with Barchenko and perhaps Bokiy which appear to have been not only more profound but, as we can now judge, the most covert. The aims of Bokiy, and of Barchenko as a Bolshevik collaborator, were not only political but esoteric, even occult. What might Roerich have wanted to conceal in this relationship? Could the Barchenko connection have discredited the artist in some way? In what ways did each party want to use or take advantage of the other? Did Roerich actively seek their support and cooperation? Knowledge of the dealings Roerich may have had with his Bolshevik contacts might well cast light on these and a cluster of other questions: the lack of information about the provenance of the Stone; the reported rivalry between the Soviet government and the OGPU for the control of the Expedition; the perceived need to maintain secrecy, even today, over Roerich’s OGPU file; and of course the revelations about the esoteric powers and purposes of the Stone which are echoed in Barchenko’s extraordinary ideas and experiments concerned with techniques of ‘distant influence’. Therefore, does present discretion about Roerich’s file and the origins of the Stone aim to conceal the extent of the Bolshevik connection? If so, in the opinion of this researcher, the fact that his former Martinist associates now espoused Bolshevism misses the point – which is not about the political complexion of Roerich’s liaisons, but is primarily concerned with his many-sided pre-occupation with the legend and prophecy of Shambhala which fuelled his extraordinary and ambitious vision of Asiatic power.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 14

14  A quest in an unexpected direction

As earlier mentioned, the Stone was also known to the Roerichs as the ‘Gift of Orion’. Given that they only disclosed information about it in cryptic form, it is highly significant to find a reference to this name in another context outside the Roerichs’ writings. Again it is Barchenko who is implicated, and it is information about his activities in this case which may elucidate our knowledge about the Gift of Orion. In 1926, an expedition Barchenko led to the Crimea in search of ancient culture is said to have had a secret aim, which was to seek ‘the stone from Orion’. Did he receive this name from Roerich, and if so, had he misunderstood in some way what Roerich had told him? How were different stones of the same name linked? Since the parent stone of the Roerichs’ Stone belonged in Central Asia, it could not at the same time have been located in the Crimea, and yet the name Barchenko used meant that there must be an association between the stones understood to be located at these two geographically separate sites. I would suggest that the unavoidable explanation must lie in the existence of an otherwise unknown – or certainly obscure – belief held by the Roerichs which must have concerned the disintegration of a hypothetical large meteorite in the ancient past whose fragments were widely scattered. This may also account for a number of anomalous passages about ‘the Stone’ in the Roerichs’ writings, and although each fragment could justifiably be called ‘a stone from Orion’, the Roerichs would nevertheless have regarded the Mongolian stone as the parent stone of their talisman, for the reasons already given, and that was why for them, this was specifically the ‘Gift of Orion’.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 13

13  The strange case of the wandering stone
The Armanty stone has seemingly eluded thorough scientific scrutiny in the West. This may in part account for the details of its fall site in the Catalogue of Meteorites being open to question – certainly the location in the scientific record is at odds with the information given by Namnandorj in Meteorites of Mongolia. The co-ordinates of the site in the Catalogue entry are 47 N, 88 E, locating it in Mulei county of Xinjiang province, at this latitude some 150 miles or 240km inside China, while following the information given by Namnandorj from the Mongolian records, the stone lay close to the Chinese-Mongolian border on the Mongolian side, at a site whose co-ordinates would be closer to 47 N, 91 E. Not only from Namnandorj, but in Mongolian tradition, and demonstrably in the view of the Mongolian government in the 1920′s, the stone belonged in Mongolia. 
     Clearly one of the locations put forward is erroneous. The problem may have arisen because the fall site lay on a disputed strip of land between the Chinese-Mongolian border and the Bulgan river, which runs to the east of it. The issue is discussed by Namnandorj, where it is mentioned that the Chinese territorial claim at this point extended eastwards up to the river. For this reason the Chinese disputed Mongol ownership of the stone, which certainly at that time lay in the location described by Namnandorj. Maps, both contemporary and modern, clearly show that the border is drawn to the west of the river, so that the site of fall as the Mongols knew it and as cited by Namnandorj, lay in Mongolian territory. The only other factor having a bearing on ownership might have been whether the site asserted to be the correct one by Namnandorj was affected at the time by a legitimate border dispute.
     The Chinese, who also know the stone as the Gobi or Xinjiang meteorite, have provided co-ordinates – those given in the Catalogue – which at first appear to support their claim to the stone. Had it been true that the fall site was located 240km inside Chinese territory, this would never have given rise to a disputed ownership. Importantly, however, according to a report published in Sky and Telescope in December 1965, the Chinese undermined their case in two respects – by their removal of the stone from its actual impact site, and by initially stating that this site lay in Chingho county, on the Chinese side of the border with Mongolia – in reality this was adjacent to the actual Mongolian site – but then subsequently providing the demonstrably false co-ordinates. Thus it was that earlier in 1965 the Chinese authorities had sent a detatchment of forty men with a large tractor and a specially-built 24-wheel trailer with the task of transporting the stone across the Gobi desert to the city of Urumqi, a journey of some 400km from the original site. The two remarkable photos starting the sequence below seem likely to have been taken by the Chinese team sent to remove the stone and clearly show the shallow impact pit created by the fall. There appears to have been little or no disturbance at this stage in either the position of the meteorite or the impact pit; as such the first photo compares well with the depiction of the stone in Fig. 1 in the subsequent sequence. In Urumqi the meteorite was at first mounted on a stone platform, then on remounting placed on the present marble plinth, outside the Xinjiang Geology and Mineral Museum in the city.
The Armanty stone insitu - two photos probably taken at the time of its removal in 1965
Two views of the Armanty stone as mounted after its removal to Urumqi in 1965
The stone remounted, as exhibited today in Urumqi  
     It is an open question whether the removal of the stone was an action jointly agreed by the Chinese and Mongolian jurisdictions, or was carried out unilaterally. The removal also deprived science of the opportunity of studying the stone insitu, its fall in the distant past having created a large shallow impact pit. At the time of its removal, some organic material beneath the stone was said to have been taken away by the Chinese for scientific analysis to try to determine the date of fall, although the results of this are not known.
    To this day the Chinese continue to assert the correctness of the co-ordinates they gave for the location from which the stone had been taken. The Chinese view was personally confirmed in August 1994 by Dr Robert Hutchison, the then leader of the Cosmic Minerology Programme at the Natural History Museum, in conversations during a visit to Xinjiang hosted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Chinese offered no reason to Dr Hutchison for the removal of the stone to Urumqi. Although a visit to the fall site specified by the Chinese was said not to have been feasible at the time for ‘logistical’ reasons, Dr Hutchison was able to visit the stone itself in Urumqi on two occasions, 9th and 29th August. Subsequently he made two observations relating to its date of fall: he stated that the lack of legendary accounts of sightings of the passage of its fall through the atmosphere – which was likely to have been spectacular – and the surface condition of an exposed area of the stone which was likely to have been in contact with the soil insitu, were both characteristic of an ‘old’ fall – that is, one which took place in the distant past. Regarding the area of the stone Dr Hutchinson commented on, the appearance of the stone as mounted in Urumqi is on first inspection difficult to reconcile with its depiction in Figs. 1 and 2 below - and even the horizontal symmetry of the stone itself is such that, on overlaying outlines of the stone before and after removal, the possibility cannot be completely excluded that the stone has been mounted upside-down. 
     Nowadays the question of the site of fall can undoubtedly be settled by examining satellite maps, both to locate the impact pit and to examine the surrounding landscape. Fortunately there exist the two photographs previously referred to, showing the stone insitu prior to its removal in 1965, which, being possibly unique in also giving a good indication of the background landscape, can be used as cross-references. The pictures illustrate a short article about the Armanty meteorite published in the Soviet journal Meteoritika, Volume 22, 1962.
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
When I carried out my own investigation of satellite maps, I first went to the vicinity of the location Namnandorj described, 47 N, 91 E, and then searched the surroundings for terrain similar to the Meteoritika photographs. Scanning the Chinese-Mongolian border areas a short distance to the south, I found a surface feature which seemed to match the characteristics of both the fall site given by Namnandorj and the reference photographs. 
     Adjacent to the border on the Mongolian side is a rimmed oval feature, slightly narrowed at the eastern end, like a shallow pit or crater, and measuring approximately 1200m west to east and 600m north to south. Within the feature there appears to be a secondary elongated oval feature about 600m long, somewhat off-centre to the east, with a number of surface disturbances, ridges or undulations near its eastern end. The feature suggests that it may be of meteoritic origin, and if so is consistent with the angular descent of a stone from the east, impacting and settling near the east side of the ‘rim’, which itself would have been created by the scattering of debris forwards. I would place the impact point of the meteorite at 46 52′ 37″ N, 90 58′ 35″ E. The site can be viewed on Google satellite maps by entering the co-ordinates in the search field.
    The characteristics of the site’s surroundings observable in the Meteoritika photographs – a flat rock-strewn landscape fringed by foothills – are a convincing match with those in the satellite photographs. The picture on the title page of the article (Fig. 1) would look south across the Chinese border: the foothills and ridges in the middle distance, and the mountains beyond, correspond well with the satellite image. The other picture (Fig. 2) would look north-east: the escarpments in the middle distance match particularly well. Considering the probability of two sets of landscape features matching the satellite imagery in the close vicinity of the given location, many would say they provide incontrovertible proof that this is the Armanty site. Whether or not the site has been acknowledged and documented as such in current scientific literature, I have not hitherto encountered it; the recent history of the stone seems to have been forgotten about, or at least overlooked.
     As a corollary, using the co-ordinates given by the Chinese, a search on Google satellite maps for an impact feature, or for landscape characteristics similar to the Meteoritika photographs, yields nothing that can be imagined to match the features of the actual fall site which they depict.
     If the Mongolian feature is accepted as the Armanty site, we may draw a number of conclusions: that Namnandorj is correct in the information he gives and in stating that the site was in Mongolian territory, provided that the border was at that time also to the west of the site; that the site is located today in Mongolian territory; that the co-ordinates given by the Chinese are incorrect, being three degrees of longitude or about 240km to the west; and that since these are the ones given in the Catalogue of Meteorites, the entry should be amended. On the present evidence, the co-ordinates given by the Chinese are not only incorrect, they would appear to have been falsified in an attempt to demonstrate ownership of the stone; ironically however, they also provide the clearest indication that the removal of the stone was an illegal act. Far from lending support for their claim, their culpability would be compounded by the removal of the stone from its actual impact site.
    Thus unfortunately the great meteorite is no longer at the site of its fall, as it was during the Roerichs’ lifetimes. However, it will not go unnoticed by those who have followed and understood the direction of these researches, that if the meteorite is correctly identified as the parent of the Roerichs’ Stone, and if the site of fall is also correctly identified, then the location of the impact point of the great meteorite discloses the actual focus of the earthly Shambhala as the Roerichs understood it.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 12

12  A journey to sacred Shambhala?

It remains an open question whether the Roerichs visited the site of the Mongolian meteorite on either of their visits to Central Asia – the Central Asian Expedition itself, when, having reached Mongolia via the Altai region and Buratia, they were based at Urga for six months in 1926-27, or, nearly a decade later, during the venture sponsored by the American Department of Agriculture which was halted in Inner Mongolia in 1935. In the first case, in 1926 it is conceivable they might have approached the site, located in the far west of the country very close to the Chinese-Mongolian border, from the Altai. However a visit would have been much more likely to have taken place during the Roerichs’ ensuing lengthy sojourn in Mongolia, where the circumstances of the Expedition would have been more favourable in allowing the necessary preparations, and in particular the opportunities it offered for liason with Dr Zhamtsarano, who is likely to have had a detailed knowledge of the great meteorite’s location. The presumption must be that the Roerichs had now returned with the Stone to its homeland, and a tantalising reference to ‘a chip from a meteorite’ said to act as ‘a reminder of the basic energy, of the great Aum’ in the Agni Yoga book Community, which was originally written by Mme Roerich in Mongolia and first published in Urga, suggests that here was the place where the Stone was closest to the focus of its power. Although a visit to its parent stone is not mentioned in the Roerichs’ books about the Expedition, these accounts do not provide a comprehensive record of their activities during their stay in Mongolia, and a visit can only be discounted once their complete programme has been researched and is known to preclude it. There is a possibility that such a visit provides the solution to a ‘missing’ period of ten days which has been pointed out in the diary record of Dr Konstantin Riabinin, the Roerichs’ physician, who joined the Expedition at Urga; a return journey to the site within the period may well have been feasible using motorised transport, while the secrecy surrounding such a visit would be in keeping with other matters regarding the Stone.
    Nicholas Roerich’s book Himavat, published in 1946, contains a cryptic account of an episode alluding to a talismanic stone in the chapter entitled The Stone. This evidently refers to his 1935 visit to Inner Mongolia, and although the places mentioned are not known to have been precisely located by researchers, it can be stated that this region lies to the south of Mongolia, at some considerable distance from the site of the great meteorite in the far west of the country. However, while it is also unclear whether the stone he mentions is movable or lies in the landscape – indeed more than one stone may be referred to – the intention behind the account is undoubtedly to connect the Roerichs’ Stone to Mongolia. In the context of the episode, he mentions the stone of the graal in the German epic poem Parzival, and also Prester John, the fabled oriental Christian king mentioned in the poem. It would not be insignificant if Roerich had recalled this name in the context of the the fall site of the great meteorite. We can presume that Roerich’s understanding of ‘Prester John’ would have related to Central Asia – even though, since the legend associated with him spread far and wide, the Central Asian attribution is in fact very unlikely to identify correctly the historical figure behind the character in Parzival, a question however which is outside the scope of this essay. The point to note is that the name of Prester John is associated in Central Asia with the founder of the short-lived Kara-khitai empire, Yeliu Tashe, and the site of the great meteorite, being located at the eastern edge of the Dzungarian Gobi, places it in the vicinity of the north-eastern limits of Yeliu Tashe’s dominion.
    In a further significant detail relating to his Shambhala-inspired mission, in The Stone Roerich notes that the Panchen Lama, the guardian of the Kalachakra teaching, had blessed the place Roerich was visiting. It must be recalled that the flight of the Panchen from Tibet was the signal to much of the Buddhist world of the approaching era of Shambhala, and that the first ‘chip’ was said to have been obtained from him.
    Reiterating a point previously made, it goes without saying that, had the Roerichs believed the Mongolian meteorite to be the parent stone of their talisman, they would have been strongly motivated to journey there and would have regarded its fall site as the ‘foundation of Shambhala’: this was Mme Roerich’s phrase in Supermundane characterising the place where she says ‘the Stone from the far-off worlds… was first revealed’.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 11

11  Magnetism and magic

Barchenko probably also learned of the origin and purpose of the piece of the Chintamani stone concealed in the Temple, but his main interest in it would have related to its psi-properties which would have been relevant to his telepathy and mind-control experiments. From Constantin Ivanenko’s account of the Moscow story, it may be reasonable to conclude that in 1926 Barchenko may well have had a piece of the same or similar stone installed at his laboratory in Moscow, so that the guidance of the Masters of Shambhala could supposedly be channelled to members of the Soviet government. The Roerichs, and, from what is known of his work, also Barchenko, believed that the unique characteristics of iron meteorites, namely their magnetism and crystalline structure, were the basis by which these stones enabled psychic energy to be received, amplified and transmitted. The Armanty is not only this type of stone, it is the largest known meteorite in Asia, whose magnetism was said to be such that from a mile distant a compass could be used to find it. It is easy to imagine how intriguing this property would have proved to those who witnessed it, and how as a consequence seemingly outlandish possibilities might have been attributed to it. Many of the instruments Barchenko subsequently used experimentally to research the possibilities of ‘distant influence’ – the precursors of later so-called ‘psychotronic generators’ – were designed around magnets.
    Some years ago, there was said to exist a report from a British government official in the Soviet Union at the time, that while in his homeland, en route for the Altai in mid-1926, Roerich attended a meeting of parapsychologists where techniques of distant influence which might serve Communist revolutionary aims were discussed – precisely the aims of some of Barchenko’s experiments. This information is said to have come from an impeccable source, Sir John Sinclair, who was a leading British writer and teacher in the arcane tradition, and who had been researching Foreign Office archives containing despatches sent from British officials in the Soviet Union to the British government in London.
    The Roerichs, whose Stone was said by the artist to maintain a ‘magnetic connection’ with the main Chintamani stone lying in Shambhala, also employed the supposed psi-communication property of their talisman, but in their case to receive and channel communications from the spiritual Brotherhood, whose instructions they looked to for guidance on their endeavours and help in realising their aims on behalf of Shambhala. It seems they attributed to the Chintamani stone the capacity to act as a ‘receptor’ for the magnetism and other unseen energies of space, believing it could attune to changes in the ‘cosmic flux’ in such a way as to create the potential for the future transformation of planetary consciousness. In other words, it was believed that the successive epochs of evolution are prefigured in the cosmos, and the Roerichs, as initiates, could use the stones and their magnetic property as a medium for their esoteric work. According to the various prophecies they took account of, the Roerichs believed the transition to the next age was imminent, and that the year 1936 would herald significant events in the Buddhist world. Their aim with the Stone on their journey to Central Asia was to return with the talisman to its homeland of Mongolia, where, in communion with the powers of the parent Chintamani stone, it would become in some way ‘recharged’ or newly empowered. Conceivably in doing this, the Roerichs were enacting a kind of symbolic inauguration of what they called the ‘New Era’ – the new age of Shambhala. Ludmila Shaposhnikova, Director of the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow, being familiar with the teachings, and, as we are informed, having not long ago held the Stone in her hands and having reported experiencing the energy of its vibrations, writes as follows, according to the given translation, about the Roerichs’ mission to Central Asia and the function of the talisman and its magnetism:  ‘On route, Nicholas and Helena Roerich were to perform an important historical act – a rarest event to manifest once in several centuries. We talk about laying of magnet. Roerichs deemed that culture does not develop by itself, but has an impetus initiated by higher energy, higher reason. High cosmic energy has its own rhythm, which fills a magnet or a certain space. Contact with it conveys a sense of rhythm to the space, which further determines formation of a new type of culture. The Roerichs carried such a magnet, or the Treasure of the Angels. It was already mentioned fragment of a meteorite with high cosmic energy.’ 

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 10

10  The mysterious visitor in an icon of modernism
I suggest it is possible to say, in support of the contention that Roerich believed his Stone was a piece of the Mongolian meteorite, that at the time of the construction of the Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg he may well have had some idea about the appearance of the main mass of the Chintamani stone. This arises because the suggested identification of it as the Armanty stone can be cross-referenced with pictorial evidence from Roerich’s scenic decor for Diaghilev’s production of Le Sacre du Printemps.
    In preparing the production design for the first performance in 1913, Roerich had chosen the image of a large oak tree as the centrepiece of his decor for Act One. When this was criticised by Diaghilev, Roerich chose to use instead the image of a stone or boulder. Roerich’s depiction of this stone shows a good similarity in size, shape and characteristics with the great meteorite, which, because of its shape, was known in Mongolia as the ‘Silver Camel’ or ‘Silver Saddle’.
Sacre decor 1912, Kiss to the Earth, with tree
Sacre decor 1912, Kiss to the Earth, with stone
Sacre decor 1913
With each production of the ballet, Roerich seems to have improved its likeness, as if his information about it also improved; for example, in his 1944 designs, he depicted its upper surface with reddish-brown coloration, which might otherwise be thought inaccurate, but would correctly represent the patination on the exposed surface of an iron meteorite.
Sacre decor 1930
Sacre decor 1944
From what has previously been said, Roerich’s motive for choosing this image will be obvious: it would have been inspired by his sympathy for Agvan Dorjiev’s aspiration for the future Shambhala, and the knowledge Roerich is likely to have received from Dorjiev up to 1913 about the main mass of the Chintamani stone which seemingly symbolised this aspiration, and from which Dorjiev is said to have obtained a piece, not long before, for installation in the St Petersburg Temple.
The Armanty meteorite insitu; photograph published in 1962
    There may have been another iconic – although more idealised – representation of the main stone. In Roerich’s study in Kulu, above the picture-rail level, was a large horizontal painting depicting as its centrepiece a ‘rock’ having a similar ‘saddle’ shape to the Mongolian stone. Prominently superimposed on it was the Banner of Peace symbol – a triad within a circle. Here therefore is the triad – a symbol for Orion – on what may be an image of the Stone, the meteorite from which I suggest the Stone – also known as the ‘Gift of Orion’ – was obtained; it is appropriate to reiterate the point that ‘Orion’ may be a code-word for Mongolia.
Nicholas Roerich in his study at Kulu
The area of wall below the horizontal painting was occupied by a large triptych, the centre section of which depicts ‘Fiat Rex’, said by the author Alla Shustova to be ‘Vladiko’ or ‘Lord’ Morya, who carries a palm-sized incandescent object emitting luminous radiation from within the casket. On the left-hand panel a knight is holding a shield which faces ‘Fiat Rex’ and bears the triad device, while the corresponding position on the right-hand panel depicts a female figure also turned in his direction, who may represent Mme Roerich holding the casket. The symbolism seems fairly explicit and thus seems intimately related to the Roerichs’ mission with the Stone.
Fiat Rex

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