I have known of the Roeriches - Nicholas and Helena - for decades. I have even read a few books authored by Helena. I have been reading one (AUM) intermittently for months. But, I didn’t really begin to “discover” the Roeriches until a few weeks ago. Now, I begin to see what I have been missing!
What recently captured my attention was some of Nicholas’s art work, like the one above. He painted over 3000 canvases in his lifetime. I don’t know if they are all like this one, but I was “taken away” by most of the pieces that are available for viewing at http://roerich.org.
I am presently reading his book called Shambhala. (Synchronistically, I started calling my house-retreat Shambaba-La last winter.) All of Nicholas’s major writings are free for reading online at the above address. His biography can be found there, as well. I got Helena’s story, which is largely interwoven with her husband’s, at Wikipedia.
Basically, the message of Nicholas Roerich’s multi-faceted work is “Let us be united — you will ask in what way? You will agree with me: in the easiest way, to create a common and sincere language. Perhaps in Beauty and Knowledge.”
Helena was a huge support for all that Nicholas did (besides raising their two sons) and the gift was mutual. Her unique work - the Living Ethics Teaching (Agni Yoga) - began in 1920, in collaboration with The Great Teachers (Mahatmas) of the East. Agni Yoga is “a new philosophical system relating to spiritual and cultural evolution of mankind.” The system has many similarities to other great traditions and teachings. The Agni Yoga series of books are all online at http://agniyoga.org.
Both sides of the Roeriches work mesh with my own studies and now give them an added dimension. It feels a bit like “finding another home,” as the Gems of the Orient have called to me repeatedly in this lifetime.
One more note for now borrowed directly from the Nicholas Roerich Museum: “At counterpoint to these themes in Roerich's painting is the image of Woman and her destined role in the coming era, and we can assume that what Helena Roerich wrote to a friend in 1937 reflects Nicholas' own point of view: ‘...woman should realize that she herself contains all forces, and the moment she shakes off the age-old hypnosis of her seemingly lawful subjugation and mental inferiority and occupies herself with a manifold education, she will create in collaboration with man a new and better world... Cosmos affirms the greatness of woman's creative principle. Woman is a personification of nature, and it is nature that teaches man, not man nature. Therefore, may all women realize the grandeur of their origin, and may they strive for knowledge.’ (published in Letters of Helena Roerich 1935-1939, vol. II)”