Helena Ivanovna Roerich

Year of birth : 1879
Website : www.agniyoga.org


“ Prayers to the Creator are offered not only in temples -

the wax of the candle is consumed in the labor of life. ”

“ New Era, which is based on cooperation, equal rights, respect for labor, 

enlightenment, and on the perception of the beauty of Spiritual Leadership in its

myriad manifestations of primal, or psychic energy. ”

“ The woman who strives to knowledge and beauty, who realizes her lofty 

responsibility, will greatly uplift the whole level of life. There will be no place for

disgusting vices which lead to the degeneration, and destruction of whole countries. ”

Books by the Master

" Leaves of Morya's Garden I & II " ...  " New Era Community " ... " Agni Yoga " ... " Infinity I & II " ... " Hierarchy " ...

 " Heart " ... " Fiery World I II III " ...  " Aum " ... " Brotherhood " ... " Supermundane I II III IV " ...

" Letters of Helena Roerich, Vol. I-IX " ... " On Eastern Crossroads " ... " Foundations of Buddhism " ...

" At the Threshold of the New World " ...  " Woman "


Helena Ivanovna Roerich (born Shaposhnikova) (Russian February 12, 1879 – October 5, 1955) was a Russian philosopher, writer, and public figure. In the early 20th century, she created, in cooperation with the Teachers of the East, a philosophic teaching of Living Ethics («Agni Yoga»). She was an organizer and participant of cultural and enlightened creativity in the U.S., conducted under the guidance of her husband, Nicholas Roerich. Along with her husband, she took part in expeditions of hard-to-reach and little-investigated regions of Central Asia (1924—1928). She was an Honorary President-Founder of the Institute of Himalayan Studies «Urusvati» in India and co-author of the idea of the International Treaty for Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historical Monuments (Roerich’s Pact). She translated two volumes of the «Secret Doctrine» of H. P. Blavatsky, and also selected Mahatma’s Letters, from English to Russian.

Helena was born into the family of the well-known architectural academician of Saint-Petersburg, Ivan Ivanovich Shaposhnikov. Her father's great-grandfather was the burgomaster of Riga. He presented the cap of Monomakh to Peter the Great. Peter the Great was pleased with this welcome and granted his camp goblet and letter of grant to the great grandfather. Peter the Great also proposed that he move to Russia and take on Russian citizenship with the new family name of Shaposhnikov. 

Ekaterina Vassilievna Shaposhnikova, Helena’s mother, belonged to the age-old Golenischev-Kutuzov family, which originated from Novgorod at the end of the 13th century. Significant members of this family included General Mikhail Illarionovich Golenischev-Kutuzov, well-known poet of the end of 19th century; Arsenii Arkadievich Golenischev-Kutuzov, composer; and Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky.

Helena grew up and was educated in an atmosphere of the rich cultural traditions of her family. From childhood, she was inquisitive, independent and purposeful. Very early, she began to read the books from artistic, historical, spiritual and philosophic areas. She played piano excellently, and by the age of seven, she could read and write in three languages.

In 1895, Helena graduated from Mariinsky Gymnasium in Saint-Petersburg with a gold medal. Though the education she received there was excellent, Helena often also studied on her own. She learned a subtle perception of painting, knew Russian and European literature well, studied the history of religion and philosophy, and took great interest in the works of the Indian philosophers Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, and Tagore.

After finishing her education at gymnasium, Helena Shaposhnikova entered the Saint-Petersburg musical private school. The director of this school was I.A. Borovka, a senior of metropolitan conservatoire, and professor of piano playing. He was a noted figure in Petersburg’s musical culture of the time, and personally mentored Helena.

After graduating that school, which was aimed mainly towards revealing the most gifted candidates who should receive higher music education, Helena intended to continue her education in the Saint-Petersburg conservatoire. But her relatives banned her from entering the conservatoire, worried that she would be interested by the revolutionary ideas found in the student environment. Thus, Helena continued her education at home, where she perfected her grasp of foreign languages, and read many things.

Often Helena and her mother spent the summer at Bologoe in the Novgorod region, with her aunt E.V. Putyatina, at the estate of her husband, Prince P.A. Putyatin, well-known archeologist and collector. In 1899, at Bologoe, she met the painter and archeologist Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich. They fell in love, and in spite of Helena’s relatives opposition to their marriage, in 1901.

Nicholas and Helena had two children. In August, 1902 their eldest son George was born. Later he became a world-renown scientist and orientalist. Their younger son, Svetoslav, was born in October, 1904. He became a painter, thinker, and public worker. Helena Ivanovna paid great attention to the children’s upbringing. She read them the books, and taught them foreign languages and music. Together, they visited the best concerts, exhibitions, and theatre. She helped each of their sons to discover their own interests and dispositions, and created favorable conditions for their development. From their earliest years, the children grew up in a home where their parents were in frequent communication with the other artists of the era, such as Vrubel, Kuinji, Stassov, Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Block, Vl. Soloviev, and Bekhterev. Painter V. Serov once came to their home to draw Helena’s portrait.