Thursday, June 9, 2022

Xinjiang | Roerich Expedition | Mahatmas

 In his book Trails to Inmost Asia George Roerich ends Chapter VI with, “On June 1 [1926] we sailed on the Lobkov '[a river boat plying the Irtysh River] from Zaisan [Zaisan Lake in what is now Kazakhstan] to Semipalatinsk and Omsk on the Siberian Railroad.” Chapter VII opens with them arriving in Verkhneudinsk, a city on the Siberian Railroad, during the first week of September. Verkhneudinsk (now Ulaan-Ude) is located 1415 miles ATCF east of Omsk and just  east of Lake Baikal in what is now the Autonomous Republic of Buryatia in the Russian Federation. What had happening in the intervening three months? What is not shown on the official map of the expedition and not mentioned by George Roerich in Trails to Inmost Asia or in any of Nicholas’s books is a detour they made to Moscow. Here they would have detailed discussions with Bolshevik officials about launching a Shambhala War and creating a New Shambhala in Inner Asia. 

It may have appeared that the Roeriches had made a spur-of-the-moment to interrupt their khora by making a detour to Moscow, but actually the trip been in the planning for a couple a years. In early 1924, a year before the expedition began, Elena had been in touch with Master Morya, who declared, “Now business needs to be done with the Bolsheviks.” M.M. laid out the agenda: “A trip to Moscow, where the one who will come from the East [Nicholas] will be received with honors. From there, he will travel to Mongolia. In the middle of 1926, you can be in Mongolia in the center of the Orient, since, from now on, this country is the center.” After receiving these revelations Elena was ecstatic. “Now everything has changed. Lenin is with us,” she wrote in her diary. Meanwhile Nicholas was putting out feelers to Moscow. In December of 1924, while still in New York, he had contacted the Soviet embassy in Berlin, Germany. According to one historian, “In exchange for Soviet support of his new expedition, the painter offered to monitor British activities in the area and to trumpet the Bolshevik agenda by highlighting similarities between Buddhism and Communism.” It is not clear if Roerich mentioned to Soviet officials that the expedition was actually being funded by American capitalists, including industrialist Charles Crane and Wall Street tycoon Louis Horch. 

The plans for the Moscow trip picked up steam by March of 1926 when the Roerich Expedition reached the northern rim of the Tarim Basin. Here the Mahatmas began bombarding Elena with messages. While in Aksu, on March 10, she received  from them a ““decree’ (Ukase)” apparently meant to be passed on to officials in Moscow imploring them to recognize the union of communism and Buddhism. If the officials  did not heed the plea, then they will pass “all threads into other people’s hands,” the Mahatmas concluded somewhat enigmatically. On March 17, near Kucha, Elena received a message meant for the Panchen Lama. “‘The Sword of the Buddha is blazing and the time of Maitreya has come,’” read the message for the Panchen Lama. He was apparently being prepped for the role he was supposed to play in the Shambhala War. One historian notes: “A question inevitably comes to mind at this point: why did the mahatmas not appeal to the Lama directly instead of sending him their instructions through the Roeriches, but no explanation can be offered.” The very next day, in Kucha, the Mahatmas dropped on Elena a nine-point proposal for the future cooperation of communism and Buddhism. This proposal was to be presented to communist officials if and when the Roeriches reached Moscow.

By then the Mahatmas had gone into overdrive. On April 5, while on route to Urumqi, Elena received from them yet another message intended for Georgi Chicherin, a career diplomat who had been a close friend of Lenin and  was now serving as  Soviet Union’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Now all they had to do was get to Moscow so they could deliver these missives. But first they needed visas to proceed to the Soviet Union. These, they hoped, could be acquired in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Province, China.

The Roeriches reached Urumqi on April 11. That same day they met with Alexander Efimovich Bystrov, the Soviet Consulate-General, who recorded the meeting in his diary:

Roerich came to me for a confidential talk; he said he had already been travelling with his wife and son for three years. They have travelled all over India, Little Tibet and a part of China and were willing now to traverse Soviet Russia. He has many materials collected during his journey, which he thinks, may be of use to the USSR. He also said that he was carrying a casket with the earth from the tombs of India’s great men for the tomb of V.I. Lenin—it’s a gift from the mahatmas (mahatmas are learned men, who have attained spiritual perfection and who dwell in the depths of the Himalaya Mountains).

The Roerich’s met again with Bystrov on September 16. Bystrov also made a note of this meeting:

Today Roerich along with his wife and son visited me and mentioned many interesting details of their journeys. They say they study Buddhism and are in touch with mahatmas, from whom they often receive guidelines about their future plans. By the way, they stated they are carrying letters from these mahatmas to Comrades Chicherin and Stalin. They say the goal of these mahatmas is the unification of Buddhism and Communism and the creation of the Great Eastern Union of Republics. The Roeriches told me that Tibetans and Hindu Buddhists share a popular prophecy that their liberation from foreign yoke will come from Russia, from the Reds (Red Northern Shambhala). The Roeriches carry to Moscow several of these prophecies. According to the Roeriches, their trips to India, Tibet, and Western China are the fulfillment of an assignment given by the mahatmas, who supposedly also instructed them to go to the USSR and then to Mongolia, where they should get in touch with Panchen Lama (Dalai Lama's assistant responsible for spiritual life who escaped from Tibet to China) and bring him to Mongolia. From Mongolia the Roeriches plan to organize a spiritual march to Tibet to free it from the English yoke.

In subsequent meetings the Roeriches read to Bystrov extracts from a book  they were working on called New Era Community. Much of it was messages from the Mahatmas. “Lenin is action. He sensed the necessity of new construction,” intoned Master Morya, adding “The appearance of Lenin should be accepted as a sign of sensitivity of the Cosmos.”

Artist’s depiction of Master Morya

Then the Roeriches dropped a real bombshell. Master Morya and the other Mahatmas had sent messengers to Karl Marx in London and Lenin in Switzerland with news of the Shambhala prophesies and both had replied, “‘Let Shambhala come soon!’” Marx had died back in 1883 so apparently the Mahatmas were involved in Shambhalic intrigues as far back as then. Lenin had died in 1924 but he had been in Bern and Zurich, in Switzerland, in 1916. Presumably this was when the Mahatmas’ messengers caught up with him. The voluminous writings of both Marx and Lenin remain silent on the subject of Shambhala, however. 

George Roerich, Nicholas Roerich, and Alexander Bystrov in Urumqi

Bystrov was understandably taken back by these revelations the Roeriches had dropped on him. “All this is rather obscure for the time being,” he wrote in his diary, adding. “I still cannot grasp what kind of man Roerich is.” He wrote the Soviet consul  in Kashgar  asking what he know about the enigmatic Russians who had turned up on his doorstep, but he got no reply. The Roeriches turned on their charm, however, and as the meetings with Bystrov progressed he fell more and more under their sway. Soon they managed to “magnetize” the Russian consul, just as they had done with Horch, the Lichtmans, and many others. Before long he asked them if they would become his spiritual gurus. This would need the approval of the Mahatmas, whom Elena consulted. It turned out that Bystrov had in a previous life-time been one of the bodyguards of Akbar the Great (1542-1605, third Emperor of the Mughal Empire in India), and had actually saved the Emperor’s life when he had been bit by a black cobra. As we have seen, Elena believed that her uncle Evgeny Ivanovich Shaposhnikov (b. 1814), the one who never came back from an expedition to Inner Asia and was rumored to be living with the “Himalayan Brotherhood”, had in one of his former lives been Abu’l-Fazl, author of the Akbarnama, a biography of Akbar. Now another reincarnation from the time of Akbar had popped up in the lives of the Roeriches. Anyhow, the meritorious act of saving Akbar’s life by one of his previous incarnations seemed to resound in Bystrov’s favor and he was duly admitted into the “Maitreya Sangha”, apparently a newly coined term for followers of the Roeriches. Like many inductees into a cult he was also given a new name—Ravinchar. 

Now a confirmed follower of the Roeriches, he was  let in on some of the details of the Great Plan. The Panchen Lama was going initiate a Shambhala War which would result in the combined forces of communism and Buddhism initiating a New Era in Asia.  Nicholas Roerich, operating under the nom-de-guerre Ak-Dorje, would be the Panchen Lama’s general or at least aide-de-camp in this war. It might be noted  here that back in 1924 Nicholas and his son George met with the Bolshevik ambassador to Germany, Nikolai Krestinsky, while on a trip to Berlin. Nicholas had been in touch with Krestinsky earlier, while still back in New York. Nicholas outlined the expedition he had planned through Inner Asia and offered to provide intelligence briefs on what he discovered to Soviet officials, including Georgi Chicherin, Commissar of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. In short, he would be spying for the Soviet Union. These briefs would be signed with the code name Ak-Dorje, which apparently meant “White Hard Arrow” or “White Hard Lightning” in Tibetan. 

Earlier in the expedition, while still in Darjeeling, Nicholas had already assumed the same name, Ak-Dorje, while Elena styled herself either a messenger or an emanation of White Tara, a Buddhist deity who countless eons before had vowed to always be reborn in a woman’s body. George went by the name of Narukhan, who was said to be a Mongolian prince. As they proceeded on the expedition they handed out flyers in Tibetan which read:

Thus the prophecies of ancestors and the wise ones come true. Behold what is predestined when in the fifth year [1925] the messengers of northern Shambhala warriors appear. Meet them and accept the new glory of Tibet and Mongolia. I will give Thee my sign of lightning. May all remember: where one receives Tara's blessing, there will be the ray of Maitreya, where one hears the name of Ak-Dorje, there will be a wheel of justice, and where the name of Narukhan appears, there will be the sword of Buddha. Shambhala will show the galloping horse and give arrows to all loyal sons of Buddhism. Behold and wait. 

The message to be deciphered from this was that the Roeriches—here Ak-Dorj, White Tara, and Narukhan—were heralds of the Shambhala War which would usher in the New Age in the East. Nicholas even managed to have some of these flyers smuggled into the Panchen Lama’s home monastery of Tashi Lhunpo in Shigatse, Tibet. 

All the while the Roeriches had been pestering Bystrov for Soviet visas so they could proceed on to Moscow. Finally in early May the Soviet Union’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Georgi Chicherin, wired Bystrov permission to grant the visas. Before leaving Urumqi Nicholas drew up a new Will in which be bequeathed basically everything to his wife Elena. He nominated as executors of his estate Alexander Bystrov, the newly minted Ravinchar; Georgi Chicherin, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs; and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Communist Party. On May 14 they departed from Urumqi on horse-drawn cart. The party crossed into Russia at the Kuzeun border post on May 29 and proceeded to Topolev Mys, the port on Lake Zaisan, in what is now Kazakhstan. They continued by boat on down the Irtysh River to Omsk, where they planned to catch a train to Moscow. According to Roerich, “The train arrived at midnight. An OGPU [secret police] agent passed by, giving me a wink that all goes well. We are traveling sub rosa…”

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