The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 2

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The material evidence
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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, it is immediately apparent that the Stone is more than a ‘conventional’ meteoritic fragment. The image depicts a palm-sized mineral object whose appearance is broadly consistent with descriptions provided by Mme Roerich in her Legend of the Stone. One of these states that the Stone was to be kept in ‘the shrine brought from Rothenburg’ – which can be identified as the casket, familiar to the Roerichs’ followers from paintings, in which the Stone was kept – and describes the Stone as ‘shaped like a human heart’; another describes the object in the shrine as having ‘the shape of a flat fruit or heart, oblong in form’; and yet another says that the ‘fragment’ was ‘the length of [a] little finger’ and had the appearance ‘of grayish luster [sic] like a dried fruit’. Each description differs slightly, but it may be reasonable to conclude from the context in which they are mentioned that she was not describing unrelated objects.
The Chintamani Stone sent to the Roerichs in Paris in 1923. This version of the picture has been widely published in Russia, although usually altered by highlighting; this copy is closer to the original
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    Unusually for a meteoritic fragment, we see from the photograph that the talisman has a general axial symmetry and an overall form which seems quite specific. From a sharply-defined lower perimeter whose outline might resemble the shape of a leaf or petal, the upper part inclines at an angle of between approximately 60 to 70 degrees and rises to a ‘humped’ form reminiscent of a tortoise carapace, generally rounded but with slightly flattened sides, and with an axial ‘ridge’ across the top. On first impression the form suggests that it may have been worked on to approximate to a preconceived shape or artefact; however the form might alternatively be accounted for if, instead of having been removed from a larger parent stone and possibly worked on, it had been found separately as one of the shower of smaller stones created by the partial disintegration of the main stone on entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. In this case, and if it were an iron meteorite, it would be expected that the flattened underside, not visible in the photograph, would exhibit a pronounced ablation, or loss of material due to melting, leaving a seared edge such as that which appears in the picture as the lower rim. Such a stone created exclusively by natural processes, and exhibiting a remarkable degree of symmetry, would be a very rare find in the field and would undoubtedly be regarded as talismanic.
    The quality of the photograph makes it difficult to discern its surface characteristics, but it appears not to have any patination, allowing a generalised mottling and other surface features to be seen. If it had been smoothed and polished, one would expect an iron meteorite to exhibit the unique Widmanstatten structure which is a characteristic of this type, but the photograph is not clear enough to ascertain whether the mottling signifies this. There are indications it may have been given some decorative treatment on the aspect facing the viewer, where, following the form of the object, there seem to rise incised lines making a triangular shape, or possibly that of an inverted heart. Within this shape there is a solid circular shape of notably darker coloration. Alla Shustova suggests this may have resulted from the removal of a portion of the Stone which was set in the legendary ring of King Solomon – the notion that he possessed such a piece in his ring was stated in Mme Roerich’s Legend of the Stone. The photograph shows the Stone placed on an embroidered cloth, identifiable as that covering the casket Nicholas Roerich is seen holding in the well-known portrait painted by his son Svetoslav, and in which the Stone was said to have been wrapped when contained in the casket. In the centre of the cloth is a piece of Christian iconography – the IHS monogram, an abbreviation of Jesus’ name – and surrounding it is the prominent design of a radiant sun. The inclusion of roses in the floral embroidery suggests the cloth may have been an item of Rosicrucian significance. Beneath the cloth in the photograph appears to be the casket itself.
Portrait of Nicholas Roerich holding the Casket, by Svetoslav Roerich, 1928
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The embroidered cloth in which the Stone was wrapped in the casket
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    The Stone was received into the Roerichs’ custody at the Lord Byron Hotel in Paris on 6th October 1923. It was delivered by messenger from the Bankers Trust in Paris, with whom it had been deposited by an intermediary who is said, by an informant known to Daniel Entin, Director of the Roerich Museum, to have been a member of an unnamed French secret society. According to Daniel’s source, who claims to be its only American member, the society was at first reluctant to relinquish the Stone as the Roerichs were unknown to them personally, and the actual instruction to release the Stone came from yet another unnamed source. It was contained in the casket previously mentioned, which is familiar to Roerich’s followers from its depiction in paintings by the artist and his younger son Svetoslav. There exist some remarkably clear recent photographs of the front and reverse faces of the casket, clarifying previously indistinct details and revealing new ones. Both faces are divided into four panels by metal strapwork, and clearly visible on the panels of the reverse side are the painted letters MM, repeated in alternate colours on alternate panels, in old German script. Significantly, in a painting entitled Sacred Box, Svetoslav made the point of depicting the reverse side – not the front face with its one remaining hasp and latch fixing – presumably to reveal the letters.
The casket, front face
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The casket, back face
 
Sacred Box, by Svetoslav Roerich, 1928
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    The panels on the front, sides, and pitched surfaces of the casket lid are faced with decoratively worked leather, although in places this is much aged and corroded, while the panels on the reverse also seem to be faced with leather, but in this case it has remained relatively well-preserved. Squatting figures resembling sages or holy men are discernible on at least two of the leather panels, while in relation to the images on two of the panels is a version of the Buddhist ‘triad’ device, which was widely employed by the Roerichs. This device, in a similar graphic form, is also depicted in the top right-hand corner of Svetoslav’s portrait of his father holding the casket; it assumed profound symbolic importance for the Roerichs, their mission to the East with the Stone, and their other cultural projects, particularly the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace; aspects of its meaning are discussed in Section 8. On three of the panels on the front face images of birds are clearly seen, but their significance is not known. The style and character of the lettering on the reverse panels of the casket seems inconsistent with that of the other decorative work – it may be that the smooth surface of these panels has suggested the application of the painted letters at a later time.
    From other photographs made available by the Roerich Museum, we know that the casket was delivered securely packed in a pine box, on the lid of which was written the recipients’ names – ‘Monsieur et Madame N. Roerich’ – the address of the Bankers Trust or ‘Banquers Trust’ in Paris – 5 Rue Vendome – and the line ‘de la part de MM’ – ‘on behalf of MM’. The letters undoubtedly refer to Master Morya, Mme Roerich’s spirit guide, whose instructions and teachings are particularly in evidence in connection with the Roerichs’ travels to India, the first stage of their mission to Asia.
The pine box in which the Stone was sent to the Roerichs 
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    In the first edition of Nicholas Roerich’s book Shambhala, published in 1930, it was erroneously stated that this casket was called the ‘Cornerstone Casket’ and was installed in the foundation stone of the original Roerich Museum building – the ‘Master Building’ on Riverside Drive in New York in 1929; in fact the actual casket used for this purpose was another specially brought from India by two of Roerich’s closest co-workers, Sina Lichtmann and Francis Grant. In addition to the painting Sacred Box, and the portrait of Nicholas Roerich previously mentioned, the Roerichs’ casket is clearly depicted by Svetoslav in a well-known portrait of his mother, and is seen in sketchier but identifiable form in a number of paintings by Nicholas Roerich. However as far as is known there is no similar depiction of the Stone itself, in the form of the talisman in the casket, in paintings by either artist.   
Portrait of Helena Roerich, by Svetoslav Roerich, 1937. On her right is the casket, unlatched
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    On occasion, those who are supposedly closest to the Roerichs’ teachings make statements which seem to introduce inconsistencies into the understanding of the Stone derived from primary sources. For example, the author Ruth Drayer states in her book Nicholas & Helena Roerich about the ‘finger-length’ fragment that, while confirming it was a piece of the Chintamani stone received in Paris, it was a stone which she wore, which does not accord with it being kept in the casket. When I asked her for her source for this, Ruth stated it came from Mme Roerich’s book At the Threshold of the New World, but she added that what she had ‘pictured’ was ‘that she carried it in her pocket’. As far as is known, Mme Roerich’s writings only go so far as to state that she was instructed to keep the Stone ‘close to her’, seeming to indicate that Ruth’s statement was an interpretation of this phrase. Gvido Trepsa, picture researcher at the Roerich Museum, suggests that statements about a stone worn by Mme Roerich refer to one of the twenty-four small stones she received from an unidentified source in 1932 at a house she was staying in ‘beyond the Rothang Pass’ in the foothills of the Himalayas. Twelve of these were kept by her and twelve given to Esther Lichtmann, Sina’s sister-in-law, to take to America to give to co-workers. Presumably these are the stones Alla Shustova is referring to when she states that the Roerichs received other meteoritic stones containing ‘Moriy’ from their esoteric teachers, which were sent to co-workers. Further confusing the picture, Daniel Entin states from an ‘anecdotal’ source that the stones possessed by Mme Roerich and her husband did not derive from the Chintamani Stone – a fragment of which was said to be in the casket – but from another undisclosed source, and that the stone Nicholas had was larger than that of his wife. A clarification of this from Daniel has been sought. For the purposes of this enquiry, ‘the Stone’ discussed will be taken to be the talisman understood to have been contained in the casket, whose appearance is revealed in the photograph.
    There is some reason to believe that Sina Lichtmann – or Sina Fosdick as she became after re-marriage – was one of a very small circle of people who may have known more about the Stone than was ever published by the Roerichs. In an exchange of letters with her when she was Director of the Roerich Museum, she replied to my questions about the Stone saying that she was unable to add to what was already available in the Roerichs’ books, adding intriguingly, ‘I am not permitted to do so’. That the photograph belonged with Sina’s papers, as Gvido Trepsa suggests, could support the notion that the Roerichs shared with her confidential information about it. Daniel Entin, who succeeded her as Director in 1983, has ventured the opinion that today there undoubtedly exist those who have this information, but states that he is not one of them. Some might consider that his apparent reluctance to clarify the facts is difficult to reconcile with his pre-eminent custodial position. For his part, Daniel states that, rather than taking sides on differing or unconfirmed research findings, he prefers to understand how each such interpretation arises.
    A question also remains about the present whereabouts of the Stone. The presumption must be that it was taken to Russia from Bangalore in India by certain of the Roerichs’ followers after Svetoslav ended his days there in 1993. The problem is compounded because Daniel has said that, although the Stone is rumoured to be with Ludmila Shaposhnikova at the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow, he has been assured by his anonymous informant that it is not there at all.
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