Roerich’s Banner of Peace
Maybe it’s the fact that almost all of Nicholas Roerich’s Diary Leaves is devoted to the Pact that would have seen this banner flying above all cultural and scientific buildings, in the same manner that the Red Cross flag flies above medical centres in times of war. But when I came across this article in his book, I thought I should investigate.
This sign of the triad, which is to be found all over the world, may have several meanings. Some interpret it as a symbol of the past, present, and future enclosed in the ring of eternity. Others consider that it refers to religion, science, and art held together in the circle of culture. But whatever the interpretation, the sign itself is of the most universal character.
The oldest of Indian symbols⸺Chintamani, the sign of happiness⸺is composed of this symbol, and one can find it in the Temple of Heaven in Peking. It appears in the Three Treasures of Tibet, on the breast of the Christ in Memling’s well-known painting, on the Madonna of Strasbourg; on the shields of the Crusaders, and the coat of arms of the Templars. It can be seen on the blades of the famous Caucasian swords known as Gurda.
It appears as a symbol in a number of philosophical systems; it can be found on the images of Gessar Khan and Rigden Djapo; on the Tamga of Timurlane, and on the coat of arms of the Popes. It is to be seen in the works of ancient Spanish painters and of Titian, and on the ancient ikons of St. Nicholas in Bari and that of St. Sergius and the Holy Trinity.
It can be found on the coat of arms of the city of Samarkand, on Ethiopian and Coptic antiquities, on the rocks of Mongolia, on Tibetan rings, on the breast ornaments of Lahul, Ladakh, and all the Himalayan countries, and on the pottery of the Neolithic Age.
It is conspicuous on Buddhist banners. The same sign is branded on Mongolian steeds. Nothing, then, could be more appropriate for assembling all the races than this symbol, which is no mere ornament but a sign that carries with it a deep meaning.
It has existed for immense periods of time and is to be found throughout the world. No one, therefore, can pretend that it belongs to any particular sect, confession, or tradition, and it represents the evolution of consciousness in all its varied phases.
When it is a question of defending the world’s treasures, no better symbol could be selected, for it is universal, of immense antiquity, and carries with it a meaning that should find an echo in every heart.
Today, when humanity is burying its treasures to save them from destruction, the Banner of Peace stands for other principles. It affirms that works of art and of genius are universal and above national distinctions; it proclaims, “Noli me tangere. Do not treat the world’s treasures in a sacrilegious way.”Roerich, Nicholas. Diary Leaves (pp. 164-165). Nicholas Roerich Museum. Kindle Edition.
I could not find this symbol anywhere on the shields of the Crusaders or on the coat of arms of the Knights Templar. But maybe I have a blind spot.
At any rate, even though Roerich worked hard his whole life to get this banner in place, it was not to be, in the end. And in times of war, cultural and scientific buildings seem still to be fair game. Such is the way of the world.