She Who Inspires
Helena Ivanovna Roerich was the heart, the mentor and the pillar of strength and inspiration to the Roerich family that played a very important role in Russian and world culture. "The four of us made up a single whole," were the words of Svetoslav Roerich, the younger son of Helena Roerich. And he was certainly right. The family created by Helena Roerich was the alliance of loving hearts united by common spiritual aspirations and ideas of philosophical Teaching of the Living Ethics, or Agni Yoga. The Living Ethics created by Helena Roerich in cooperation with a group of Teachers-Mahatmas, penetrated the entire creative legacy of all members of this unique family.
Nicholas Roerich and his sons, George and Svetoslav, appreciated greatly the role of Helena Roerich as a good genius who encouraged all members of her family to spiritual and creative accomplishments. In his memoirs, Svetoslav Roerich wrote: "For us and for everybody who closely knew her, this spiritual contact was a living affirmation of the higher truths of the Eternity. Her life shone like a living fire illuming the reality of the fine world, the realization of which would lead the humanity to new achievements and discoveries."
Helena Roerich was a person of amazing modesty. Having entered the life of a well-known artist, she always kept in the background. Most of her works were published under pen names. However, in his books Nicholas Roerich called her «She Who Leads».
"Together we overcame obstacles", wrote Nicholas Roerich about his marriage in the evening of life. "And obstacles turned into opportunities. I dedicated my books 'To Helena, my wife, my druginya, fellow traveler, inspirer.' In Petersburg, in Scandinavia, in England, in America, and in all Asia we worked, we studied, we broadened our consciousness."
«Druginya», an ancient Russian word for a «female friend», expresses precisely the spirit and character of Helena Roerich. One can say that many paintings of Nicholas Roerich actually have two authors. She played inspiring role in this creative work, or rather co-work. As N. Roerich wrote, "Together we created, and not without reason is it said that the work should bear two names - a masculine and feminine."
There is a great depth of meaning in the words "together we created". Helena Roerich always shone through every creative work of Nicholas Roerich, his poetry and fairy tales, his paintings and travels. Many canvases of the artist originated from her conceptions and visions. Nicholas Roerich always took into consideration her artistic intuition and refined taste. Helena Roerich was the first to see his new paintings. According to S.N.Roerich "Their creative co-work on all planes, not only on this our objective plane, was fruitful and sonorous. They supplemented each other and seemed to merge in a rich intellectual and spiritual harmony." The inspiring role of Helena Roerich had many manifestations. She followed her husband in the Central Asian expedition to the unexplored and insufficiently known areas of the Tibet, the Himalayas, and the Transhimalayas (1923-1928). "Helena Ivanovna crossed on horseback the entire Asia with us," wrote Nicholas Roerich, "she suffered from frost and hunger in the Tibet, but always set an example of good spirits to the entire caravan. And the greater the danger, the higher her spirits were, the more cheerful and ready to help she was. Her pulse was 140, still she tried to participate in arranging matters of the caravan and to settle all itinerary troubles. Nobody ever saw a sign of low spirits or despair in her face, though there were various reasons for that… Helena Ivanovna spared no efforts and was always ready to support, to cheer up, to explain. You can't help wondering what gives her such strength, particularly bearing in mind her weak heart…"
In his articles devoted to his wife, Nicholas Roerich wrote: "Justice, love for the laboring, and constant search for the truth transform the whole life round a young and strong spirit. And the entire home, the entire family - everything is built according to these blessed principles. All difficulties and all dangers are overcome under the same unconquerable guidance."
The atmosphere of love and understanding between Helena and Nicholas Roerich had a great impact on the development of the outstanding personalities of their sons George and Svetoslav. "Both in my father and mother there was the unique balance and harmony of two perfectly synchronized beings who realized the great ideal of life and lived the chosen path as a perfect example of dedication and fulfilment. Their radiant image always remain my greatest inspiration, my great source of happiness."
"My dear mother", recollected Svetoslav Roerich, "wisely directed our lives from the very beginning, kept vigilant watch over our interests, impulses, and feelings. She never insisted on anything, never tried to convince us of anything, but she always placed in our paths what we needed. From the early childhood my brother was interested in history, therefore she carefully collected books for him, took him to museums and institutions that could put him on the right track. My brother, George Nikolaevich, was at first keen on Egypt and at the same time on Central Asia. And he stood by this interest all his life."
"Natural sciences awakened my interest rather early. I was very keen on ornithology and zoology. Helena Ivanovna obtained all the books she could find for me. She bought us stuffed birds and bugs. Besides, beautiful gems and mineralogy drew my attention. So she collected different gems and minerals from the Urals and other places… Thus, our little world was full of wonderful impressions. A new great world opened out before us. Nicholai Konstantinovich and Helena Ivanovna always had their talks at our presence, and we listened closely to what they were saying. It had a profound effect on us."
Personality formation is a process of finding your place in society, in the surrounding world. Helena Roerich fully realized this, and from the very beginning she inculcated higher moral principles in her sons. "The most appalling thing," she wrote, "is to develop selfishness and stinginess in a child, since these qualities will limit its consciousness." Helena Roerich warned: "…One has to show great determination and to approve of every manifestation of tenderness in a young heart and notice its inclinations." She wrote about the upbringing of her sons: "When they were young, I sharply watched their likes, tastes and reading. I never let them read commonplace stories for kids. Their favorite books were adapted popular-science works on various fields of knowledge."
Compulsion was substituted by the cultivation of internal discipline and a sense of responsibility. "You are asking me about the methods of upbringing that were applied to my sons and yielded such great results," wrote Helena Roerich to a correspondent, "They were very simple. They primarily laid in the inculcation of love for the nature, books, and the arts from the early days. The right choice of books and teachers provided them with a wonderful foundation and helped them determine their interests and talents very early. Respect for labor, artistic and cultural atmosphere, discipline, the first moral foundations for the understanding of duty and personal responsibility, and, which is the most important, the example of their great father gave them an opportunity to relatively early reveal their inborn potentials. In addition to their bright talents and even mastership in certain fields, they bear in spirit the main principles of morality and the wisdom of love for their Motherland. Without any false modesty, I can say that I am justly proud of my sons."
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the family, inspired and led by Helena Roerich, was a prototype of a family of the Future, for the spiritualization of everyday life was an integral part of the family's way of life. They managed not only to fulfill their tremendous creative potential, but also to accomplish many undertakings aimed to resurrect the spirit and to level up consciousness of many people.