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’.

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