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


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