The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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 record for a matching stone. Much of this information can be derived from Nicholas Roerich’s book Himalayas – Abode of Light, published in 1947, which included the important chapter Legend of the Stone written by Helena Roerich and reprinted from her book On Eastern Crossroads, published in 1931. Even so, such a matching stone might only have been the parent of the piece Roerich believed he was given, since we can presently only make reasoned deductions about the origin of the object the Roerichs were sent according to what they said about it, and a definitive identification can only be made by a comparison based on an examination of the actual fragment.
     For the purposes of the search, the description needs to take into account the following pieces of information:

     1.  The Stone was a piece of a larger meteorite.
     2.  There was a link between the Stone and the main mass which was characterised as ‘magnetic’, suggesting this was an iron meteorite, the type that exhibits this property.
     3.  The Stone was associated with the idea of Shambhala as Roerich understood it. Roerich stated that the main stone ‘is lying in Shambhala’, while his wife wrote that its site became the ‘foundation of Shambhala’. Roerich’s main underlying aim for the Central Asian Expedition was to help bring about the ‘New Country’, sometimes now called the ‘Shambhala project’, intended to unite the Buddhist lands of Central Asia into a new theocratic entity. The signal for this would be some kind of ‘holy war’ of Shambhala, which was expected to begin in Mongolia, and which, according to prophecy, was to be accompanied by a new Buddhist manifestation.
     4.  It was part of Roerich’s mission to return with it to its ‘homeland’ which was ‘in the East’. Roerich’s utmost destination for the main Expedition in Central Asia was Mongolia. Roerich was told that following this return journey, there would be a ‘new development’ in the Stone’s ‘homeland’, seeming to foreshadow the expectations concerning Shambhala.
     5.  The Stone was known about by Buddhist and Mongol scholars – in other words, members of the Buriat intelligentsia – who would have been people known to Roerich, and who must have received their knowledge of it because of its cultural or geographical proximity. High Lama Agvan Dorjiev and the scholar Dr Tsyben Zhamtsarano were the pre-eminent figures in this group whom Roerich knew well, and who are identified with the Shambhala idea. This item of evidence, along with item 2 above, is inferred from the passage in Himalayas – Abode of Light quoted in Section 1.
     6.  The main stone was not hidden or concealed, but was said by Mme Roerich to lie ‘visible upon the web of its native land’ – the landscape of its homeland – that is, where it fell. If doubts discussed in Section 6 about the translation of this passage and about what the author had in mind can be put aside, this is a particularly significant statement: it tells us that the stone would have been too heavy to be moved, and is another reason for believing it was a large iron meteorite. It is extremely rare for meteoritic stones found in the landscape not to have been moved, and even rarer for those too heavy to be moved, to be found lying on the surface of the landscape.
     7.  The name ‘Orion’ used in connection with the Stone, and the use of the ‘triad’ symbol as a graphic device by the Roerichs, may, in addition to other meanings, indicate a link with Mongolia. These interpretations are not mentioned by other researchers as far as I know, and are discussed in Section 8.

     If this evidence is accepted, two questions immediately follow: what was the identity of the main mass of the meteorite, and what can be said about its location? All meteorites which are known about are entered in the scientific record, and this would certainly apply to larger stones known about in the twentieth century. The record is compiled in The Catalogue of Meteorites, now in its fifth edition which was published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press. At the time I consulted the Catalogue for a matching stone I used the fourth edition, published in 1985 by the Natural History Museum, but the relevant information about the ‘candidate’ meteoritic stones I shortlisted and in particular the details of the selected stone remain essentially unchanged in the current edition. I made the identification on a visit to the Library of the Museum on 19th February 1991.
     A search in the Catalogue for stones that match the above criteria reveals one outstanding ‘candidate’. This is a large iron meteorite now called Armanty, which fell in remote antiquity at a site in the vicinity of the Bulgan river in the foothills of the Altai mountains in Mongolia, about 300km south-east of the sacred peak Belukha. The stone weighs about twenty-eight tons, making it by far the largest known meteorite in Asia and the fourth largest on record. It was recorded in 1898 and first studied scientifically by Russians in 1939, who gave it the name now used. In Mongolia it was called Mongon-temee – ‘Silver Camel’, or Mongon tosh – ‘Silver Saddle’, because of its shape.

Two views of the Armanty stone insitu

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The upper part of the map of the Roerich Expedition published in Altai-Himalaya, shown in full in Section 4, enlarged and centred on the location of the Armanty meteorite as it was at the time of the Expedition. The site of the great meteorite lay just to the south of the range marked ‘Altai Mountains’, and happens to fall immediately to the left of the ‘M’ in that inscription and under the ‘M’ of the name of Mongolia above it. The Chinese-Mongolian frontier, not shown on the map, passes very close, to the west of the location. 

     Accounts of the stone in Mongolia tell that for the Mongol people it was a sacred stone, and the local population believed it to be an abode of earth spirits. As an iron meteorite, its magnetism was said to be such that up to a mile distant from the stone, a compass could be used to find it. The meteorite was believed to be composed of solid silver because of the bright crystalline appearance of the exposed interior of the metal, prior to the formation of a patina.  A modern description of the interior of the stone speaks of it as having a ‘whitish-grey interior that contains shining specks of metallic iron’, which brings to mind Mme Roerich’s description of her ‘finger-length’ Stone in Legend of the Stone as ‘of grayish luster’, while a recent observation of its exposed surface notes that its underside – the part originally in contact with the soil when insitu – is heavily corroded. The latter is characteristic of an ancient fall, and also suggests how the removal of pieces may have been facilitated. It is noteworthy that, as the stone is seen today, there are indications of large and small pieces having been prised off from the corroded underside, while more incisive methods including blowtorch work have been used to achieve this elsewhere on the exposed surface.

This photo is said to show the Widmanstatten structure of the Armanty stone. The Roerichs’ Stone, if it derived from the Armanty stone, and were it to be cut and polished, would be expected to show a similar crystalline structure.

      The details of the Armanty stone in the Catalogue were such that I was reasonably confident I had identified the stone correctly. Clearly the next step was to look for at least one other separate trail of evidence regarding the stone which might provide an independent corroboration of the identification. On my next visit to the Library I therefore sought relevant material about the stone published elsewhere. I discovered it in a pamphlet entitled Meteorites of Mongolia by Ochiren Namnandorj, first published in Ulan Bator in 1958 and republished in English in Miami in 1980. In fact the pamphlet provided a rich seam of additional information about the meteorite, and crucially named an individual who not only had an intimate knowledge of the stone, but was also known to have been a colleague of Nicholas Roerich: Dr Tsyben Zhamtsarano.

Dr Tsyben Zhamtsarano 

     Roerich would have first made his acquaintance in pre-Revolutionary St Petersburg, where Zhamtsarano was a university teacher. Namnandorj’s pamphlet is a crucial source of information about the scholar’s close knowledge of the great meteorite, and finding him mentioned in this context was confirmation from a new direction of a direct link between Roerich and the stone I had earlier identified solely on the basis of a description. As a geographer and ethnographer Zhamtsarano had a field knowledge of the stone and had written about it in a book on the Torgut Mongols. Namnandorj relates that in 1928 the scholar successfully opposed a proposal to have the stone melted down so that the metal – erroneously thought to be silver – could be used to augment the State Treasury in Ulan Bator. As the stone was treated as sacred by the people of Mongolia, it was generally forbidden to remove pieces of the great meteorite, although the present surface does show signs of such tampering, but interestingly, one of the very few people who may have been in a position of sufficient authority in Mongolia to permit pieces to be taken would have been Zhamtsarano.
     Following the initial identification of the Stone, I considered my discovery of Zhamtsarano’s close knowledge of the meteorite to be the most important evidential corroboration of its correctness. Subsequently I would suggest a further significant, though evidentially more tenuous, corroboration based on Roerich’s pictorial representations of the sacred stone in his set designs for Diaghilev’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps. This arises from the circumstances of Roerich’s involvement in the construction of the Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg, his contact at that time with Dorjiev, and the the fact that during 1912-13 the artist was also working on the designs for the first production of the ballet. It seems that coincident with, or following soon after, receiving certain instruction from Dorjiev about Shambhala, Roerich changed the centrepiece of his scenic decor for Act One of the ballet from a large tree – this having been criticised by Diaghilev – to a stone which bears a notable resemblance to the Armanty meteorite as it appeared insitu. The pictorial evidence on which this is based is given in Section 10.
     In a rare autobiographical passage in his book Himalayas – Abode of Light, Roerich acknowledges Dorjiev as his informant on the subject of Shambhala: ‘It was during the construction of a Buddhist temple in the Russian capital that I first heard of Shambhala. Being a member of the committee, I met with a very learned Buriat lama who was the first to pronounce the name Chang Shambhala [Northern Shambhala]. It will be known some day why this name pronounced under such circumstances had such a great significance.’ This not only certainly refers to Dorjiev, but the latter statement must refer to the high lama’s aspirations for a ‘great Buddhist confederacy’ in Central Asia, an idea Roerich would adopt as his own after he went to America. It is hard to imagine he would not have learned about the Chintamani stone, the ‘chip’ obtained from it which, as mentioned in Section 1, the high lama had evidently installed in the Temple, and its role and purpose in the Shambhala idea, from Dorjiev himself at this time – and he may well also have received from him an impression of the stone’s appearance. Such information might also have been supplemented by Dr Zhamtsarano, who was also connected with the Temple, and who also shared Dorjiev’s theocratic aspirations. As previously stated, I consider Zhamtsarano’s knowledge of the Mongolian stone as an important corroboration of my identification, being the only known reference to an individual within Roerich’s circle who was familiar with the one meteorite which matches the information in the Roerichs’ books. In the event of Zhamtsarano having consented to the removal of a piece for the Roerichs, he would, like Dorjiev, have had a strong motive in his sympathy for Roerich’s aims, and, as a geographer, he knew its precise location, and therefore also knew that the Stone lay at the heart of the ‘New Country’ – Mongolia. Of course, a higher, spiritual authority would have been the Panchen Lama, from whom the first fragment was said by Constantin Ivanenko to have been obtained, but I know of no strong evidential leads from which to develop this line of enquiry.
      I would suggest that Roerich believed the Stone he received after he left Russia, in Paris in 1923 – and while he was formulating his own mission to Asia on behalf of Shambhala – was from the great meteorite in Mongolia, because he knew his talisman had a precedent – in other words, he not only already knew from Dorjiev about the main stone, but, following from the information Constantin has given us, he also knew that an earlier piece of it had been received by Dorjiev and installed by him in the foundations of the Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg. Roerich’s understanding would have been that both this first piece, and his own Stone, would have derived from the same main mass which Dorjiev called Chintamani: this has been identified in this research as the Armanty meteorite – though by what name Roerich might have known it other than Chintamani, is an open question. If Constantin’s account of the first piece of the stone is correct, we are also entitled to say that Roerich’s early interest in sacred stones, which was so eloquently expressed in his magnificent painting of 1905, Treasure of the Angels, would have received by 1913 a specific orientation from the personal contacts he would have made and the knowledge he received about Shambhala during the realisation of the Temple project, in which he played a part.

Treasure of the Angels

The idea that Roerich represented the main Chintamani stone, identified here as the Armanty meteorite, as the sacred stone in Le Sacre du Printemps, is described further in Section 10. Contingent on that result, the ideas arose that Sina Fosdick had knowledge of this identity, based on her selective use of Roerich’s images from the ballet in a Roerich Museum publication, and that Roerich also represented the meteorite on a wall painting in his studio at Kulu. These are discussed in Sections 15 and 10 respectively.  

     Roerich’s plans evidently involved both Dorjiev and Zhamtsarano, so we may infer he had kept in touch with them prior to returning to the Soviet Union. Certainly it is known that Dorjiev awaited the artist’s return and expected to meet him. Although Dorjiev had been in Moscow in 1926 to conclude an agreement to convert the Buddhist Temple into a Tibetan-Mongolian mission, the meeting with Roerich did not take place in the city, but at Verkhne-Udinsk when the travellers eventually reached Buryatia. Whether Dorjiev was in a position to assist Roerich at this time is an open question; while he would have been sympathetic to the idea of a new theocratic entity in Central Asia,  the conditions prevailing in the later 1920’s were such that he is said to have formed the opinion that the artist’s ambitions in this connection were now unrealistic. The full scope of Roerich’s collaboration with Zhamtsarano after the Expedition reached Mongolia is also an open question and an interesting one, given mention of their liasons there by George Roerich – the artist’s elder son – in his account of the Expedition, Trails to Inmost Asia. Conceivably the Roerichs’ relatively long sojourn of six months in Mongolia in 1926-27 may have been in part the result of an expectation of the arrival there of the Panchen Lama, to become the spiritual figurehead in the ‘New Country’, but mention of this subject, together with that of his parents’ esoteric interests, including all matters specifically relating to the Stone, finds no place in George’s scholarly book. Certainly the Roerichs’ prolonged stay in Mongolia would have allowed them ample opportunity to arrange a journey to the site of the great meteorite, but this must remain an open question until our knowledge chronicling Roerich’s actual programme of activities in Mongolia is complete enough to answer it.

     In 1998 I made known my initial findings regarding the identity of the Stone to the Roerich Museum in New York and the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow. The Directors of both these institutions were non-committal, as have been all the authors and researchers with whom I have since corresponded. However, no serious contrary evidence has become known to me subsequently which would cause me to doubt the identification.   

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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 have been Mme Roerich’s assertion that the Stone was a piece from a meteorite supposedly deriving from the constellation of Orion, which meant that it was not generally looked upon as a conventional type of meteorite. The Roerichs’ followers today who accept their writings about the legendary history of the Stone are content to repeat the story – Andrew Tomas stating, for example, that ‘the Chintamani stone is alleged to have been brought to Earth… from one of the solar systems in the constellation of Orion, probably Sirius… by a space voyager…’, while Constantin’s version has it that the Chintamani ‘Crystal’ was brought to Shambhala ‘from Orion via Sirius’… ‘millions of years ago’ by ‘ET [extraterrestrial] messengers’. Gvido Trepsa apparently endorses its origin in Orion, but implies that it travelled from there in a special dimension of space and time. According to Alla Shustova, the Chintamani stone was received by the ‘Brotherhood of Light’ during the age of Atlantis, and now lies concealed in a special underground repository, where it is unavailable to ‘ordinary people’, including scientists, because, since it belongs to esoteric tradition, these people are unable to believe in it.
    How the foregoing early history of the Chintamani stone could be known about is an open question. Clearly scientists of all kinds would be keen to examine such an other-worldly and elusive stone; but, since both the Roerichs’ Stone and the ‘chip’ installed in the foundations of the Buddhist Temple are said to have derived from this stone, the subject at this point undergoes a contextual shift, crossing the interface from unverifiable legend over to verifiable reality. Obviously since the Roerichs’ Stone was a material object – if we are to believe it is the object depicted in the photograph – the Chintamani stone itself must also exist as such.
    Bearing in mind Mme Roerich’s use of the name ‘Gift of Orion’ in referring to the Stone, its legendary origin seems to have been given some pictorial support in Nicholas Roerich’s painting of 1924, Burning of Darkness.
Burning of Darkness
The painting contains an astronomical cryptogram in which the three central stars in the belt of the constellation of Orion depicted in the night sky above the horizon – to the right of the peak to the right of centre – are aligned with the casket, which itself closely coincides with the position of the star Sirius relative to the Orion constellation. The Masters who bring the casket are depicted in procession on a mountainside, perhaps inspired by Belukha, the sacred peak of the Altai, whose name Roerich said meant ‘Orion, dwelling of gods’. Nevertheless Mme Roerich’s assertion about the origin of the Stone in Orion, which has been interpreted literally by many of her followers, certainly invites a question about its credibility, in the sense of whether this can be established as verifiable fact – not least given the present lack of access to material evidence – or whether instead ‘Orion’ was a code-word adopted by the Roerichs, a ploy they frequently used to obscure sensitive information. 
    There is a graphic clue to ‘Orion’ which was widely used by Roerich, and it is the triad device. As a graphic motif he generally placed it within an enclosing circle, as in the example above – and this is the form in which he adopted it as the symbol for the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace movements. As previously mentioned, the triad is depicted in the top right-hand corner of Svetoslav’s portrait of his father holding the casket – in this example being placed within a triangle. The triad is a symbol widely used in Buddhism and elsewhere, as Roerich pointed out, but he is not known to have mentioned that it is also in fact a symbol for Orion, a constellation which is strongly associated with Mongolia – a land in whose night sky the stars ‘shine like torches’. The triad is found as a sigil and a decorative device in Mongolia, as Roerich certainly observed – something which is known about from photographs – while the Orion constellation would appear to play a part in the creation myth of the Mongols, said in The Secret History of the Mongols to involve the celestial union of a fox with a doe, an episode which was believed to be the genesis of the lineage of Genghis Khan. The link with the myth is preserved in the Khalka language of Mongolia, where the same word is used for ‘Orion’ and ‘deer’, and a closely similar word is used for ‘doe’. It may therefore be said that for the Roerichs, the destiny of their Stone, like the destiny of the lineage of Genghis Khan for the Mongols, was ordained in the ‘dwelling of gods’ – the constellation of the ‘three stars’. When speaking of Mongolia, it is also necessary to bear in mind that both Nicholas and Helena Roerich were intensely proud of the Mongolian blood-lines in their own ancestry.
Mongolia Stones by Nicholas Roerich, 1933, probably painted from the photo below 
Photo of triad sigils representing the Three Treasures of Buddhism on Mongolian rocks
Nicholas Roerich, left, and George Roerich, right, with an unidentified member of the expedition party in Inner Mongolia, China, during the latter part of the 1934-35 venture sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture. The depiction of the ‘Banner of Peace’ symbol on the rock clearly reflects the character of the triad images in the photo above, and was undoubtedly placed there by the Roerichs to invoke the prophesied Buddhist manifestation which they expected would herald the ‘New Era’ of Shambhala.
    I suggest that in addition to being known as the name of a constellation, for the Roerichs ‘Orion’ was a code-word for Mongolia, or else a figure closely connected with Mongolia. The implication of this would be that the name ‘Gift of Orion’ may indicate an origin for the talisman in Mongolia, or a source for it who was a Mongol figure known to Roerich – or both.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 7

The Martinist connection
According to Markus Osterreider in his scholarly article From Synarchy to Shambhala, 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 may have been facilitated. Likewise, once reaching Moscow, it would be reasonable to suppose that Roerich would have expected to receive further assistance from his Martinist contacts, and certainly Roerich is said to have met Barchenko there. It is surely not insignificant that Roerich’s code-word for Moscow was ‘Martin’, deriving from the surname of the founder of the Martinist Order. The code-word, thus decrypted, suggests it was chosen to invoke the realisation of aims shared by an associate, or associates, whose identity he wanted to keep secret.
    From a suggestion in Constantin’s story about the Stone being sent to Europe through a ‘Masonic or Rosicrucian network’, and from Daniel’s source that it was in the temporary custody of an unnamed French secret society, it seems at least plausible that the Stone was sent to Paris with the help of members of the Martinist Order, and its fraternal organisation, the Ordre Martiniste in France. The arrival of the Stone in Europe was said by Mme Roerich to have ‘illuminated’ an organisation which is generally thought to have been the League of Nations, and it furthermore seems plausible to suggest that the intermediary recipient was a Martinist who understood the powers of the Stone to influence the organisation’s inception.
    A fellow member of the St Petersburg Martinist lodge in 1909 along with Roerich and Barchenko was Gleb Bokiy, who became a Bolshevik revolutionary and then head of the Petrograd Cheka, and subsequently ran the ‘Special Department’ of the OGPU, whose concerns included cryptography and paranormal methods of mass control. Bokiy was one of those who attended Barchenko’s Kalachakra study group; he supported the scientist’s research work and became his patron, for example securing government funding for the psi-research – so-called ‘neuroenergetics’ – laboratory Barchenko established at the All-Union Institute for Experimental Medicine in 1925. Barchenko and Bokiy, through the OGPU, are said to have wanted to sponsor the Roerich Expedition for their own purposes, which seem to have involved both esoteric and political interests. In pursuit of the former, they are believed to have wanted to discover and research the occult powers supposedly to be found in Shambhala, in order to use them to help control and politicise the mass of the population. To this end by 1925 they had begun to organise their own expedition in search of Shambhala, but this had been abandoned by the time of Roerich’s arrival in Moscow the following year, and it has been suggested they decided instead to use the Roerich Expedition to achieve their aims.What Bolshevik political interests the Roerich Expedition might have been used to serve is an open question. According to the historian Andrei Znamenski, the idea of a Buddhist-Communist synarchic state in Central Asia certainly fitted in with the Bolsheviks’ early geostrategic aspiration of turning the East against Western imperialism. However – apparently in an example of the rivalry between the government and the secret police – the Bolsheviks’ intention of controlling the Expedition is said to have been overruled by Georgy Chicherin. Chicherin, who called Roerich ‘our Buddhist’, is said to have favoured the artist’s own agenda, seeming to conclude that in travelling under the protection of the American flag during its return leg, the Expedition was best able to discreetly assist Soviet interests. Nevertheless, suggestions persist that as it made its way through western China to Tibet, the Expedition could have been used as a cover for Soviet agents involved in developing political contacts and in intelligence-gathering.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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 even been established. It is known that Roerich had planned to reach Mongolia even if he had been refused entry to the Soviet Union, and although in an exchange of telegrams at Urumqi, Georgy Chicherin, the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, had given Roerich reason to expect entry into Soviet territory, the family had in fact been uncertain of being given final permission up to the point they actually reached the frontier post at Chuguchak. The Moscow story may also mean that, had the Stone been sent to ‘the West’ from Russia, he was simply returning it there. If Barchenko had wanted a piece of the Chintamani stone, he could surely have obtained it through his contacts at the Petrograd Temple.
    Evidently Barchenko, a scholar with wide interests in ancient culture, religion and the occult, saw no incompatibility between his Communist creed and Buddhism, a non-theist faith which he believed prefigured ‘atheist’ Communist philosophy. Having learned about Kalachakra on a visit to Mongolia, in 1923 he is said by Constantin to have received initiation by Dorjiev into Kalachakra in the Petrograd Temple, and subsequently to have formed a Kalachakra study group in Moscow to spread Shambhala teachings amongst higher Bolsheviks. His instruction would have appealed to them because he was apparently convinced that the Kalachakra doctrine contained a ‘scientific’ analysis of historical cycles which presaged the Communist theory of dialectical materialism, and the prophesied imminent era of Shambhala would therefore have been a demonstration of its correctness. Around this time, Barchenko seems also to have been regarded as influential in the development of Soviet relations with Central Asia, being visited by two shadowy figures, Naga Navan and Khagan Khirva, representing Tibetan and Mongolian interests respectively, who sought his cooperation in this direction.
     If the alternative story is correct, it may mean, for example, that Barchenko would have been unable to obtain a piece of the Chintamani stone, and, at an early stage in the Expedition, Roerich had received knowledge of this and had decided to ignore the instructions given to them by their teacher to bring the Stone to the ‘fatherland’, and give it to Barchenko instead. Mme Roerich maintained in Legend of the Stone – published in 1931, three years after the end of the Expedition – that their Stone was ‘returning to the East’, and therefore, given the circumstances cited earlier relating to the first version of the Stone’s travels, Moscow would seem to have been insufficiently ‘East’. When Mme Roerich’s spirit guide Morya instructed that the Stone should be taken to the ‘fatherland’, this would have been understood by the Roerichs as ‘ancestral land’ – that is, either Mongolia or Tibet. This would be distinct from the Roerichs’ homeland, Russia, which would have been described as ‘motherland’, not ‘fatherland’. In the important passage quoted earlier from Nicholas Roerich’s book Himalayas – Abode of Light about the location of ‘the chief body’ of  ‘the miraculous stone’ and a closely similar passage in Supermundane by his wife, which speaks about the place where the Stone ‘was first revealed’ becoming the ‘foundation of Shambhala’, the Roerichs only went so far as to make a cryptic disclosure of the whereabouts of the main mass of the Stone –  that is, that it lay in ‘Shambhala’.
     In what appears to be another statement about the main mass, Mme Roerich in Legend of the Stone wrote that ‘the Stone rests visible upon the web of its native land’, seemingly alluding to knowledge of an actual location – or at least her visualisation of it in a landscape. Gvido Trepsa at the Roerich Museum has cast doubt on the interpretation of the Russian word ткань – which in the passage is rendered as ‘web’, but generally means ‘cloth’ or ‘fabric’ – as referring to landscape, suggesting instead it should be taken literally, and that therefore it refers to the embroidered cloth on which the Stone was depicted in the photograph taken soon after the Roerichs received the talisman in Paris. The full passage reads in the Russian явно же камень покоится на ткани родины своей, and a literal translation would have been ‘obviously or manifestly the Stone rests on the fabric of its native land’, so the translation in the book nuances the meaning in some respects – ‘visible’ refers specifically to the visual sense, and ‘web’ avoids the direct translation of ‘cloth’ – a woven artefact. Furthermore the verb покоиться suggests permanence, rather than, for example, something arranged for a photograph. These points seem to imply that the translator knew that what the writer had in mind was an object in a landscape rather than the object in the photograph, and that ткань was used metaphorically. The context of the passage also suggests this was what was meant, but there is a much stronger, probably conclusive reason for believing this. Surprisingly perhaps, much of the material in Legend of the Stone was written by Mme Roerich in her notebook diary in 1923, and the passage in question is dated 10th September of that year. However, the Roerichs did not receive the Stone until 6th October, and therefore the passage cannot have referred to the photograph which was taken subsequently. Thus the evidence suggests that ‘web’ should be taken to mean the ‘texture’ or surface of a landscape, rather than the embroidered cloth in the photograph. Regarding the Roerichs’ intended destination with the Stone, if the various statements discussed here do refer to a real location, and if the Roerichs’ mission was to return their Stone, or return with it, to that location, this would not be Moscow, but a destination associated with Roerich’s Shambhala project and the location of the prophesied spiritual ‘war of Shambhala’, which would be Mongolia.
     Regarding the so-called substitute stone, we have Roerich’s own statement that his luggage was not searched on entry to the Soviet Union, which is inconsistent with customs officials having an interest in a specific item of its contents when exiting, which is implied in the Moscow story. Relinquishing the Stone in Moscow would also have denied Mme Roerich the subsequent use of the talismanic ‘instrument’ which enhanced her mediumship, as it is otherwise supposed she continued to employ the Stone to assist her in receiving the teachings transmitted by her guide Morya, later known as Allal Ming, many of which were published as the Agni Yoga series.
     I would suggest that the Moscow story is a misconstrued reading of events connecting Roerich and Barchenko, who is nevertheless probably involved in some way in the story of the Stone. It is tempting to imagine Barchenko as the prime candidate for sending the Stone to the Roerichs in Paris, or at least that he was involved at some point in doing so. His 1923 Kalachakra initiation in the Petrograd Temple would have enabled him to have contact with Dorjiev and perhaps to receive the second piece at that time. Dorjiev would have been sympathetic towards Roerich’s aspirations – which were likely to have been inspired by the proposal Dorjiev himself had earlier formulated for a Central Asian pan-Buddhist theocracy – and Barchenko would have been in the position of being able to act as an intermediary. This line of speculation is elaborated upon in Section 15.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 5

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 in anticipation of the ‘New Country’. This included acquiring the requisite passport and obtaining assistance from the Soviet state security organisation or ‘secret police’, the OGPU, regarding the protection and safe passage of the Expedition. In addition, he revealed during two interviews with Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Commissar for Education, and an unnamed OGPU official, that he wished to negotiate for himself an accommodation with the Soviet regime which included an institutional presence in his native country similar to that which he had established in America, and freedom of travel across Soviet frontiers at all times. These explanations are said to have been recorded in Roerich’s secret police file, which, owing to exceptional measures taken in the 1990’s when other archives at the Lubyanka were opened up, and apparently involving the intervention of the then Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, was moved to the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow, where it remains closed to researchers to this day. My own source for the information about the file’s content was the Russian philosopher Dr Alexander Piatigorsky, with whom, in London in 1984, I had lengthy discussions about a paper I had written on Roerich. Dr Piatigorsky himself had received the disclosure of the secret content at a time when he was still a Soviet citizen living in Moscow, from the typist who had typed the original OGPU report. Although Roerich undoubtedly smoothed his reception in the Soviet capital by issuing a personal manifesto – a version of which was included in the limited-edition volume Himalaya published in New York in 1926 – reiterating a belief held by Dorjiev and other Russian Buddhists that Communism and Buddhism could be reconciled, from his optimistic agenda, only the travel arrangements relating to the trip to Mongolia were actually realised. Lunacharsky had informed the artist that no absolute guarantee of his freedom of travel could be given, and privately advised him that he should leave the Soviet Union soon, while it was still possible for him to do so. Regarding the Moscow visit, however, and according to Constantin Ivanenko, there was rumoured to have been an additional, esoteric purpose concerning the Stone itself and involving a figure Roerich had known for some years in Czarist times. He was Dr Alexander Barchenko, a scientist trained in biology who had specialised in parapsychology, and was now the director of a psi-research laboratory he established in Moscow in 1925, which was funded by the Soviet government through the OGPU.
Dr Alexander Barchenko
    Constantin’s alternative version of the destination of the Stone tells of a story that has apparently circulated in Moscow for a number of years, in which Roerich’s piece of the Chintamani stone – the one received in Paris – was ‘implanted’ by his followers at Barchenko’s psi-research laboratory in the city. The laboratory was located close to the Lubyanka, and the intention of concealing the ‘chip’ there was allegedly to create a ‘psi-communication terminal’ so that leading members of the Soviet government who worked at the OGPU headquarters could receive guidance from the Masters of Shambhala, because – the capital having now moved to Moscow – the piece at the Buddhist Temple in (the renamed) Petrograd could no longer be used so effectively for this purpose. We can see from this information that the Roerichs’ belief in the psi-enhancement property of meteorites – in their case a blend of spiritualism, Theosophy, and shamanic and natural magic – was evidently shared by Barchenko, although he now deployed his talents in the service of the new regime, for whom he is known to have developed innovative and often bizarre telepathy experiments aimed at the control and Sovietisation of the masses.
    After relinquishing his piece of the Chintamani stone, Constantin states that Roerich was given, as a substitute, a ‘conventional’ type of meteorite from a Soviet collection. The stated reason for this was to enable the Roerichs to pass customs inspection when exiting the Soviet Union.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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 Stone seems to have remained in India with Mme Roerich in 1924 while Roerich made a return visit to the United States. Beginning in 1925, the Roerichs’ journey with the Stone took them first to Ladakh, then across the Karakorum Range and through Chinese Turkestan. In a secretly-planned move the Roerichs then crossed the Soviet border and reached Moscow, at which point the trail of the Stone diverges, in the sense that two versions of its destination are available to us.
The map of the route of the Roerich Central Asian Expedition as it is represented in Nicholas Roerich’s travel diary Altai-Himalaya, published in 1929. Note that the route for the journeys to and from Moscow, via Omsk, is omitted.
    In the first version, its subsequent travels are generally thought to be identical to the route taken by the Roerichs themselves, as they continued eastwards across the Soviet Union to Mongolia, then southwards to Tibet and eventually returning to India. In this scenario either Mongolia or Tibet could plausibly be identified as the ‘fatherland’ of the Stone in the spiritual as well as the geographical sense. A passage in Legend of the Stone contains a seemingly unequivocal passage confirming that the Stone travelled with the Expedition from Mongolia to Tibet: ‘The camels bring the Stone to Tibet. Across the desert they carry It and with It a new power’. There is also implied here a sense of a mission which had recently been, or was expected soon to be, accomplished, to which the Stone would lend its energy, and perhaps in so doing, become itself additionally empowered. A passage in Roerich’s book Shambhala also hints that the artist’s mission required that the casket, and presumably also its contents, should return to India: he states he was departing from his ‘young friends’ and going on the Expedition ‘for their sake… in order to bring to them the treasure casket’. From the foregoing, it would be entirely reasonable to suppose that Roerich’s journey with the Stone to the utmost destination he seems to have been determined to reach – Mongolia – represented for him the symbolic inauguration of the new era of Shambhala.
    The well-known portrait of Nicholas Roerich holding the casket, painted by his son Svetoslav in 1928, may also hold one of the clues that Mongolia represented the hoped-for culmination of the artist’s mission for Shambhala. The picture was based on a photograph taken in 1928, after the Expedition had returned to India. However the author Andrew Tomas, in his book We are not the First, said it portrayed Roerich in Mongolia, and that the casket he is holding contained ‘a stone from another planet’ – in other words, the Stone itself. This location may well have been his understanding, from the personal contact he had had with Roerich, although in a later book, Shambhala – Oasis of Light, Tomas altered the location to ‘Tibet’, perhaps his way of correcting it on learning that the picture itself was painted after the Roerichs’ return to northern India – in fact, most probably at Kulu, where they eventually settled after the Expedition. Thus it is known for certain that the casket returned to India with the Roerichs, and Roerich’s gaze of profound reverence on the casket suggests that on his return it also contained the Stone, and that therefore his mission with it ‘to the East’ may have been accomplished en route – or at least that certain of the preconditions may have existed, even if the hoped-for events themselves did not materialise.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 3

The provenance of the Stone: an 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 the Stone directly to the Roerichs in Paris, and whether the Roerichs at that time knew of their role or identity. Depositing the Stone at the bank may have been a move on the part of the society to preserve its own anonymity – something of course that is presently the wish of Daniel’s informant – but even though the society had been reluctant to release the Stone, one might have expected a relationship of trust to have been established with Roerich – particularly given such evidence as is available of the possible identity of the society, with whom the artist, it can be supposed, would have had an affinity. Curiously also, the society apparently retained sufficient interest in, or responsibility for, the Stone after its release to send two of their number to follow its journey with the Roerichs when they departed on their mission to the East – eventually losing track of them, as Daniel surmises, after they had reached Moscow. It might be thought that in initially sending the Stone to the society, it was not originally intended for the Roerichs at all, but this is not borne out by the available evidence. Furthermore, and as far as is known, sending the Stone for the Roerichs was not a matter of them retrieving an item of personal property. Daniel has suggested that the unnamed society which held the Stone was the Priory of Sion, noting that Roerich is said to have met its Grand Master, Jean Cocteau, in Paris in 1913, while engaged on the decor for Diaghilev’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps. Yet the point is at odds with the society’s reported reluctance – albeit a decade later – to pass it on to Roerich, and its distrust of his subsequent moves with it – the reason being that Cocteau was still at that time its Grand Master. A stronger candidate for the secret society will emerge in due course.   
    From the photographs of the box, there are indications of there having been an earlier label on the lid, and it seems possible from the inscription, written in French directly on the lid, that the box had been re-addressed in France. One might well imagine that this writer knew the significance of the letters MM. Had a member of the society re-addressed the consignment, and if so, whose instructions were being represented?  Our attention naturally now turns to the sender of the Stone to France, and therefore also to the problem of the identity of MM – the spirit guide ‘Master Morya’. How Morya is to be understood on the range of possibilities which include a real identity, a coded identity, a discarnate intelligence in communication from the spirit world, or a subjective phenomenon which was a product of autosuggestion, visualisation or imagination, is not a question which is known to have a clear answer.
    According to Alla Shustova, the Roerichs’ Stone was ‘a pure gift of Morya’. Importantly, she not only confirms that it was ‘a piece of a meteorite’ – in other words, it derived from a larger meteoritic stone, which can be taken to refer to the main Chintamani stone – but states that it was one of a number of such talismans. She informs us its functions would be both protective and divinatory, and would assist the Roerichs to focus on their aspirations. Importantly also, they had been expecting to receive the Stone in Paris, and were instructed by their spirit guide Morya that they should bring it to the ‘fatherland’, which lay in ‘the East’. They also knew in advance that this journey with it would signify ‘a new development’ there. In Legend of the Stone Mme Roerich herself wrote how the Stone was ‘returning to the East’, and that the ‘New Country’ would ‘go forth to meet the seven stars under the sign of three stars’ [of the constellation of Orion] which sent the Stone to the world’, expressions which seemingly allude to Roerich’s Shambhala project.    
    It cannot be assumed that whoever arranged to send the Stone to Paris would have been the same person who actually obtained it from source, and perhaps there were also other intermediaries in ‘the East’, and others again who knew its meaning and purpose. Who these people may have been, as well as a possible identity for the French secret society and the reason for its involvement, will emerge from the evidence in due course. In the first-mentioned role, however, we can probably exclude as a likely candidate Vladimir Shibayev, a Theosophist from Riga who later became Roerich’s secretary, and who prior to leaving the Soviet Union operated on behalf of Roerich firms called ‘World Service’ and ‘Pan Cosmos’ for the export of artefacts. The reason for saying this is that he was the recipient of one of the two copies of the photograph of the Stone taken in Paris, which, according to Shustova, are known to have been made – the other being Sina Fosdick. If he had been involved, it seems likely he would already have knowledge of the Stone’s appearance, and would not have needed the picture. Although it might be expected that Roerich’s co-workers in the Soviet Union would have been anxious to arranged a secure passage of the Stone to France, according to Shustova it was in fact sent there by post.

High Lama Agvan Dorjiev, Roerich’s mentor on Shambhala
    It seems the aim in sending the Stone was to enable the Roerichs to obtain custody of a talisman which they probably already knew about, and whose meaning and purpose was certainly known to them. It would seem to follow from this that the sender at source must have been someone with whom they had been in prior close liaison. To be more specific, whoever originally decided on sending the Stone undoubtedly did so in the full knowledge of Roerich’s intended mission on behalf of Shambhala, and to betoken its good fortune. This sender may also have anticipated or have had some foreknowledge of an event Roerich regarded as highly significant for the inception of the Shambhala project, which was the flight into exile of the Panchen Lama from Tibet in December 1923. It was understood that the Panchen originally aimed to go to Mongolia, and these events signalled to his Buddhist followers there, to Roerich, and undoubtedly also to Agvan Dorjiev and much of the Buddhist world, that the prophesied age of Shambhala was imminent. In fact the immediate causes of the Panchen’s move owed more to political difficulties with the Dalai in Tibet, but it gave the Panchen the timely opportunity to aspire to establish his own dominion amongst his followers in western China and beyond. According to the translators of Mme Roerich’s book The Leader, Gleb Drobychev and Burt Wilson, Nicholas Roerich was to become the secular leader of the ‘New Country’, which they say it was his mission to found, while the Panchen Lama was to be its spiritual head – although whether this latter role was Roerich’s aspiration, or his expectation based on a prior understanding, is not known. The Roerichs’ mission on behalf of Shambhala seems to have been encrypted in the full statement of the passage in Legend of the Stone mentioned earlier: ‘The New Country shall go forth to meet the seven stars under the sign of three stars which sent the Stone to the world. Prepared is the treasure and the enemy shall not take the Shield covered with gold.’ Thus the manifestation of the prophesied spiritual ‘war of Shambhala’ would appear first under the ‘three stars’ of Orion – which, as will be reasoned later, is undoubtedly a codified reference to Mongolia – and would meet the ‘seven stars’ – similarly perhaps, a reference to China, where the Panchen Lama’s spiritual jurisdiction was based, but equally possibly, symbolising the path towards the future perfection of humanity according to the seven-fold evolution expounded in the teachings of the Theosophical Brotherhood. The ‘treasure’ is of course the Stone, the ‘Shield’ is plainly a metaphor characterising one of its purposes for the Roerichs, and the ‘gold’ which covers it seems likely to be the embroidered cloth in which it was wrapped – but who precisely the ‘enemy’ refers to, who might undermine its power, is an open question.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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, 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
    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
The embroidered cloth in which the Stone was wrapped in the casket
    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
The casket, back face
Sacred Box, by Svetoslav Roerich, 1928
    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 
    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
    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.

The Chintamani of the Roerichs: Tales of an extraterrestrial talisman: 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 counterpart of the ‘treasure’ in material reality, which was a talisman of mineral nature. This is said to have been a ‘chip’ or piece from the main mass of a large meteoritic stone located at a place known by a legendary name – Shambhala.
    In the Buddhist Kalachakra scriptures, Shambhala is the sacred kingdom where the Buddha’s teachings are preserved. In Buddhist tradition generally, Shambhala is believed to have been a hidden realm somewhere in Central Asia including Tibet, while many adherents have spoken of ‘Northern Shambhala’ as a real location to the north of Tibet – by which Mongolia is indicated. When certain Buddhist teachings were re-interpreted and absorbed into western Theosophy, Shambhala became a place imagined as a focus through which the ‘Brotherhood’ or ‘Ascended Masters’ – members of the spiritual heirarchy who had reached the highest states of consciousness – guided the spiritual evolution of humanity. The idea of Shambhala was particularly important to the Roerichs because it was identified with a Buddhist prophecy, originating in the Kalachakra teachings, which predicted the eventual triumph of Buddhist enlightenment over non-belief, and this played a part in inspiring a contemporary Buddhist theocratic movement and the Roerichs’ own mission in the East.
    The scarcity of evidential material about the Roerichs’ talisman, often simply referred to as ‘the Stone’, but sometimes as ‘the Treasure of the World’, has resulted in the accumulation of legend, hearsay and mythologising about it, much of which has become accepted as fact. For example, in an often-repeated assertion, we are told that although it was understood to be meteoritic, the Chintamani stone was not a conventional type of meteorite because allegedly it had originated in the constellation of Orion. The reason for this idea seems to lie in another name for the Stone used by Mme Roerich, who sometimes called it the ‘Gift of Orion’. Some elucidation of the origin of the name is found in a passage in her book On Eastern Crossroads, published in 1931, where in the important chapter entitled Legend of the Stone she states that it was ‘…the sign of three stars [of the constellation of Orion] which sent the Stone to the world.’ By interpreting this information literally, and taking it together with other passages in the Roerichs’ books indicating a meteoritic stone, many of the Roerichs’ followers arrive at an explanation of its actual origin in Orion – and Mme Roerich herself evidently insisted this was the correct one. Certainly in ancient times Orion was a source of awe and wonder, and provided an impetus for storytelling – now treated as myth – which played its part in transforming human consciousness, but here we are supposedly dealing not only with a spiritual message but with a mineral object. The legend has been elaborated upon by Constantin Ivanenko, a Russian researcher in metaphysics and parapsychology, whose involvement in the continuation of the Roerichs’ work in St Petersburg means that his information about the Stone needs to be taken seriously and looked at in conjunction with other elements of the story which are known about. According to Constantin, we are apparently expected to believe the nature of the Chintamani stone, or ‘Crystal’ as he also calls it, was real, but can only be understood as a product of theoretical astrophysical processes in one of the stars of Orion.
    Notwithstanding this, the Roerichs are said to have received their talisman while visiting Paris in 1923, but it seems not to have been the first piece of the Chintamani stone known about. Constantin informs us that in 1912, the high Buddhist lama Agvan Dorjiev, a native of Buryatia, is said to have obtained a piece of it in Tibet from the ninth Panchen Lama, Chos-kyi Ni-ma. In 1909 Dorjiev had initiated a project to build a Buddhist Temple in St Petersburg, and soon after his return to Russia he is said to have installed this stone in the Temple foundations. As Constantin wrote, ‘Inside the Temple foundation is said to be hidden a piece of the sacred Chintamani Crystal brought from Shamballah by Holy Lama Agvan Dorjieff, preceptor of Dalai Lama XIII’. Constantin has not disclosed, if indeed it is known to him, where the Panchen Lama had himself obtained the stone. However it is known that Dorjiev visited Lhasa in 1912 to obtain additional funds from the Dalai Lama to continue the construction, although whether he met with the Panchen at this time is an open question. It is significant in relation to the possible sources of this stone that immediately following the Tibetan visit, in January 1913, Dorjiev is reported to have travelled to Mongolia, and to have signed a Tibetan-Mongolian Treaty in Urga (Ulan Bator). Regarding the application of the term ‘Chintamani’ to the stone, the assumption must be from Constantin’s information, that it originated with Dorjiev.
   The ‘chips’ or pieces of the Chintamani stone were believed by the Roerichs to have a special property, which was to enhance psychic communication, and in particular to open channels to receive instruction and guidance from the ‘Ascended Masters’ of Shambhala. Pieces of the Chintamani stone were said to maintain a ‘magnetic connection’ with a main stone located at Shambhala – which, for the Roerichs, was likely to have had an identifiable location. The idea is found most clearly in Nicholas Roerich’s book Himalayas – Abode of Light, published in 1947, and the passage in which it occurs is perhaps the most informative statement about the Stone in any of the Roerichs’ writings: ‘Many… wonderful things have been told by educated Buriats and Mongols… of the miraculous stone coming from a far star, which is appearing in different places before great events… The chief body of this stone is lying in Shambhala, and a small piece of it is given out and wanders all over the earth, keeping magnetic connection with the main stone’. It seems reasonable to hypothesise that both the Roerichs’ talisman, the Stone, and Dorjiev’s ‘piece of the Chintamani Crystal’, have a common origin in the same main stone said to be located ‘in Shambhala’.
   Mme Roerich, who professed herself a psychic medium, is understood to have used the Stone given to them to enhance her powers. Ample evidence can be cited from her writings expressing her belief in the special properties she attributed to meteorites; for example in Illumination we read that meteorites could ‘transmute into action the ideas of space’, and in Supermundane that they act as ‘a focus for concentrating thought’ and serve ‘to accumulate energy [and]… to multiply energy’. She describes how ‘the Stone… helps to preserve the vibrational communications with the far-off worlds. Likewise, a small particle of the stone serves as a link with the Brotherhood’. She accounted for these properties by the presence of certain constituents in their composition, stating in Supermundane that meteorites ‘contain particles of remarkable metals’ which enhance mental and clairvoyant powers. Frances Grant, one of the Roerichs’ closest co-workers, alludes to the wish-fulfilling powers attributed to their ‘treasure’ in her book Oriental Philosophy, published in 1936, as being specifically linked to the promise of the future Buddha, Miatreya, who was hoped for by all adherents of northern Buddhism who looked upon the Panchen Lama as their religious leader: ‘Nor does Asia regard this blessed hour as remote – already, Chintamani, the Treasure of the World and token of his Coming, has appeared’. Alla Shustova, author of a study of the Stone published in Russia in 2005 and entitled Treasure of the World, confirms that the Roerichs’ Stone was ‘a piece of a meteorite’, and states that the special substance in the Stone which enhanced clairvoyant powers was called ‘Moriy’. Although of great interest, however, a discussion of Mme Roerich’s mediumship and the nature of her subjective experience is beyond the scope of this essay.
   In Roerich’s case, the Stone also acted as a propitiatory talisman on his Shambhala-inspired mission to Central Asia. [Note: ‘propitiatory’ meaning ‘bringing or invoking favourable influences’ derived from ‘propitious’ is not accepted dictionary usage but gives the required meaning. The word ‘auspicatory’ has the same meaning but is an archaic usage.] In addition to the stated purposes of his Central Asian Expedition, this ambitious and lengthy enterprise had two underlying and confidential aims. One of them, mentioned earlier, which the Roerichs alluded to using the expression the ‘New Country’, was to help bring about the contemporary interpretation of the idea of Shambhala in the form of a pan-Buddhist, pan-Mongol theocracy which included Buryatia, Mongolia, parts of western China, and Tibet. This was not a new idea, but had previously been put forward in 1907 by Dorjiev, and before him by another Buryat, Pyotr Badmaiev. Roerich’s other underlying aim involved a completely secret set of objectives in the Soviet Union. The nature of the Stone as a propitiatory talisman linked to these confidential activities may partly account for the non-disclosure of facts about it at the time, and the present difficulties in reaching a full understanding about it. Undoubtedly to satisfy the curiosity of those who knew of the Stone, while needing to maintain discretion about the actual circumstances surrounding it, the Roerichs embellished its story through the legends familiar from their books, and often clothed it in codified language.

A note on the origin of the sacred stone in Act One of ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’

   The idea came about incidentally during my researches about Nicholas Roerich. I had come across his name by chance in 1977 as a result of my interest in the graal, or grail, legends. Roerich was the custodian of a talismanic mineral which he usually referred to simply as ‘the Stone’. What interested me was that he seemed to imply a connection between this Stone and the stone of the graal, lapis exilis, which occurs in the German graal story Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach. (Richard Wagner based his opera Parsifal on this story, but in it he changed the symbol to a cup or chalice which is the conventional and universally recognised symbol.) Only Wolfram’s story makes it a stone, and because of other facts surrounding his conception, it is for me and for many people the version of the legend which comes closest to revealing the truth about the graal.

   The fact that Roerich made a link between a material object and something thought of as merely a symbol made it essential to try to identify his Stone. The reader of Roerich’s books is left in no doubt that the talisman seemed to embody the meaning of his esoteric work. A central aim of this work was the promotion of a contemporary interpretation of the idea of Shambhala, the ‘promised land’ of the Buddhists. The ‘Shambhala project’, as it is now sometimes called, envisaged the creation of a Buddhist-Mongol theocracy to fill the power vacuum in Central Asia in the 1920’s, and its two leading figures, the Buriat lama Agvan Dorjiev and the Mongol leader Dr Tsyben Zhamtsarano, were well known to Roerich. Was the use of the Stone as a propitiatory talisman in this endeavour based on its connection with the graal, or did Roerich make only a poetic connection because of the nature and supposed powers of the talisman?

   Initially my researches to discover the facts about Roerich’s Stone took time, as little of the information was then in the public domain. The custodians of Roerich’s work were seemingly reluctant to disclose information about any matters which had esoteric or political ramifications. This applied particularly to the Stone, which had been employed both as an ‘instrument’ which, it was believed, had the power to conduct and enhance psychic energy over distance, and was also implicated with the Shambhala project, which had involved public figures. It was possible, of course, that the people I was in touch with  may not have known all the facts I wanted. Every statement and item of information about the Stone in Roerich’s books and elsewhere had to be assessed and collated in order to reconstruct its story. I had learnt early on that it was generally thought to be a fragment of a giant meteorite, but it was not until 1991 that I found out crucial details about certain of its meteoritic characteristics which, together with other information, enabled me to search for a match for the parent stone in the scientific record. Fortunately there was only one likely ‘candidate’. It was then a question of looking for other material about this stone in the scientific literature to corroborate my identification. This arrived in the form of information connecting it to the work of Roerich’s colleague Zhamtsarano in a paper on meteorites originally published in Ulan Bator in Mongolia in 1958. This evidence was better than I had dared hope for and gave the confirmation I needed.

   The main mass of Roerich’s Stone was thus identified as a giant iron meteorite known to the Mongols as the Silver Camel, and which they hold to be sacred. It weighs about twenty-eight tons, making it by far the largest known meteorite in Asia and the fourth largest on record. It fell in remote antiquity at a site close to the Bulgan river in the foothills of the Altai mountains in Mongolia, whose coordinates are approximately 47 degrees north and 91 degrees east. It was first scientifically studied by Russians, who  recorded it in 1898 and know it by the name Armanty. The Chinese, who dispute the Mongol claim of ownership of the stone, call it the Gobi or Xinjiang meteorite. However maps clearly show that the stone fell in Mongolian territory and that the Chinese falsified the coordinates they gave to support their claim.

   Identifying Roerich’s Stone after so long was a rewarding moment. However, although I was convinced I had uncovered an important fact which, if it had been known about, was certainly closely guarded, Roerich’s followers maintained their previous discretion and were entirely non-committal. Of course the possibility also existed that a piece of lost knowledge about the graal had been revealed, a topic that will be addressed later. The information I now had on the nature and origin of the Stone threw fresh light on aspects of Roerich’s work and travels, his mindset and his motivations. It cleared up much of the mythology which has accumulated around it, which some of his followers continue to take literally. Many of them know the giant meteorite ‘lying in Shambhala’ by the name ‘Chintamani’, and knowing this name is also used to refer to Roerich’s fragment, light could now be shed on a significant episode where this name was used.

   Roerich’s mentor in his mission on behalf of the Shambhala idea was Agvan Dorjiev, whom he had  met in St Petersburg by at least 1909. In a rare autobiographical anecdote, he related that it was during the construction of a Buddhist Temple in the then Russian capital and from Dorjiev himself that he first learnt about Shambhala and its future importance. Dorjiev was the prime mover in the Temple project, which was completed in 1913, and Roerich had worked on it as artistic advisor. I had in my notes an interesting piece of information given to me by a Russian friend, Layla Garrett, quoted from a letter from a researcher in St Petersburg, Constantin Ivanenko, to the effect that Dorjiev had concealed ‘a piece of the Chintamani crystal brought from Shambhala’ in the foundations of the Temple, presumably to have it function as a conduit of subtle energy to favour his Buddhistic endeavours. It was now possible to say that Dorjiev’s ‘piece of crystal’ was another fragment from the great meteorite in Mongolia, which was thus located at the very heart of the geographical focus of the dream for the earthly Shambhala. Undoubtedly through his participation in the Temple project, Roerich became fascinated by the Shambhala legend, and we can easily imagine that he also became acquainted with the lore about the revered sacred stone.  He would in due course receive his own talisman, the Stone, in Paris in 1923, and would take it with him throughout his epic travels in Asia in the years 1923-28. Given that the meteorite fragments of Dorjiev and Roerich had a shared origin, and an identity of function as propitiatory talismans in relation to the Shambhala project, it would be natural to infer that Roerich obtained his fragment from Dorjiev or, as seems more likely, a member of his circle, although I have no absolute proof of this at present. The Buddhist Temple still exists and was restored to its original use in 1990.

   It was only after Roerich had left Russia in 1917 during the Revolution, and had subsequently made his way to the United States and established his cultural and educational institutions in New York, that it became evident he was formulating an active role for himself in support of the aims of the Shambhala idea. In fact he was in a far better position to do this outside Russia than within, since he had freedom to travel and to raise funds from the Russian diaspora and sympathetic Americans. In large measure it was his way of staying in touch with his homeland and enabling him to pursue cultural purposes which for him represented ‘the ideal’. He also believed that he could return to Russia and negotiate an arrangement to live there and establish institutions similar to those in America, and to travel freely, but on his risky and clandestine visit to Moscow in 1925 this was quickly refused. He did however meet Dorjiev one more time, in Verkhneudinsk in the Buriat Republic in 1926, and worked with Zhamtsarano for six months in Ulan Bator in 1926-27.

   Another piece of information I had in my notes was that in his scenic designs for Diaghilev’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, Roerich had substituted the prominent image of the tree in Act One with the image of a sacred stone. He had made the change at a late stage, shortly before the work’s premiere in 1913. By this time also the Temple project was close to completion. Roerich would by that time have been well acquainted with Dorjiev’s aspirations about the future Shambhala, and given that he knew about the fragment of the Silver Camel installed in the Temple, it seems probable that in addition to other information about it he had received an impression of its physical appearance. It seemed to me, in piecing together the story of the Stone, that the likelihood of Roerich’s change of mind being inspired by this knowledge was much better than plausible speculation – it was obvious that the motive for such a change of image lay in the artist’s sympathy for Dorjiev’s ideas. But as evidence for this, how closely did Roerich’s depiction of the sacred stone match that of the meteorite?

   The renderings of the stone in Roerich’s designs do show a good similarity in size, form and characteristics with the rare photographs of the Silver Camel insitu, set in its shallow impact pit amidst a bleak mountain landscape, published in the Russian scientific journal Meteoritika in 1962. Roerich made several versions of the image in his designs for the ballet dated 1929, produced in 1930, and 1944, produced in 1948, and it seems they develop into a better likeness of the great meteorite, as if his knowledge of it improved. It is not impossible that originally he saw early photographs of it, although more likely he had formed his impression of it from Dorjiev, or from Zhamtsarano, who had written about it in a book and very likely had a field knowledge of it. It is noteworthy that in the 1930 production the stone became more vertical, and that in the 1944 designs he depicted it with reddish-brown hues, something which might be considered unrealistic were it not for the fact that it correctly represents the colour of the oxidised patina on the exposed surface of an iron meteorite. The images from Le Sacre are a further, visual confirmation that the identification of the parent meteorite of Roerich’s Stone is correct, since the image might easily have been at odds with the other evidence which has thus far created a coherent picture; in other words it is a corroborative cross-reference.

   An unresolved question is whether Roerich visited the site of the main mass during his sojourn in Mongolia. It is known however that he returned from Mongolia in 1927 with a number of additional meteorite chips, and that some or all of these were given to certain of his co-workers. I suggest that one of these recipients, Sina Fosdick, made a coded disclosure that the sacred stone in Le Sacre did in fact represent the great meteorite, and that she did this through her selection of pictures for the Roerich Museum booklet published in 1974 to commemorate the centenary of the artist’s birth. Out of a total of 22 plates, no less than six are of the ballet, and designs for Act One both open and close the text.

   In the light of its historical and scientific status, it is regrettable that the main mass of the Silver Camel now suffers the indignity of being located some 300 miles away from the site of its fall in Mongolia. In 1965 the Chinese authorities sent a detachment of forty men with a large tractor and a specially-built 24-wheel trailer to remove the great meteorite and transport it across the Gobi Desert to the city of Urumqi. The removal clearly appears to have been an illegal act, an inference based on the Chinese having given – and continuing to give – a false location for the fall site which places it 125 miles inside Chinese territory. The stone is now set on a plinth outside the Xinjiang Geology and Mineral Museum in the city.

   The issue of the nature and origin of the stone of the graal in Parzival has attracted many theories, and Roerich’s implication of a connection with his Stone would have been yet another. I tried to develop a plausible idea to explain this, involving the possibility of the transmission of a fragment from the Silver Camel 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 dissociate Roerich’s Stone from my understanding of the graal, since it did not fit in with a group of inter-related facts derived from original texts and contemporary historical events which were creating a coherent picture of it. The crucial factor in this was my acceptance of the origin of Wolfram’s term lapis exilis in a medieval version of the legend of Alexander the Great entitled Iter Alexandri ad Paradisum. If therefore Roerich had believed in a connection between the Silver Camel and the graal, I now think this is very unlikely to be correct. Nevertheless, in no sense does it diminish the value of a poetic or metaphorical association, and this may well have been what he had in mind.

This text was sent to London ballet critic Neil Norman, for whom it was originally written, on March 26, 2007. Minor amendments and corrections have been made.