There has been much discussion recently about the Banner of Peace and its status in the world and in the Roerich movement. I would like to add to this discussion some of our own experiences with the Banner.
Roerich’s painting, Madonna Oriflamma, which hangs in our Museum, was originally made for the center in Bruges, Belgium, which was promoting the Roerich Pact and the Banner. Oriflamme (the French spelling, because that was where it was most used as a word) is a banner, or a symbol, meant to inspire and lead. It was often carried into battle. Madonna Oriflamma is the Mother of the Banner. The Banner's symbol is Chintamani. In many Asian countries, the name Chintamani is normally used for the symbol of the three dots in the one circle, even when it is used in mundane ways, as decoration for clothing or furniture. So Chintamani is not a term unique to the Teaching. As has been pointed out over and over, even by Nicholas Roerich himself, the Banner symbol is of ancient and universal origin. Over the years, people have searched for the instances of its use mentioned by Roerich in his articles about the symbol. I myself wrote to the Fine Arts Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, and received from them a slide of the painting by Hans Memling called Adoration of Christ, in which Christ has the symbol displayed on his chest, very large. In The Descent from the Cross, by Titian, Joseph dominates the foreground, facing the Cross with his back to the viewer, and his cloak is covered with the symbol. In both cases, it means simply the Trinity, the Christian Trinity.
I once asked Ludmila Shaposhnikova about the same symbol on the coat-of-arms of the city of Samarkand, which Roerich also mentioned, and she went to a cabinet and took out a little lapel pin of the Samarkand coat-of-arms, with the Chintamani sign at the very top. She presented the pin to me, and I still have it. And everyone knows the painting by Roerich of the rocks in Mongolia, where the symbol is repeated over and over on the rocks. We have the actual photograph from which the painting was made. So the symbol has had universality, everywhere and throughout time, and cannot belong to anyone. It is, after all, the Banner of the Lords, as described in great detail in the book Hierarchy.
Nicholas Roerich himself did give the symbol many years ago to our Museum as its logo, and the Board of Trustees applied to the Copyright Office in Washington to have it trademarked as belonging to the Museum. The application was refused, precisely on the grounds that it is a universal symbol, and is not subject to copyright protection. We were informed, however, that if we added the motto of the Banner, Pax Cultura, with the image of the Banner, we could then register it that way, and we did so. The Pax Cultura Banner is to this day a registered trademark of Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York. The certificate of registration is in our files. If you want to see that certificate, you can find it at this link:
. We therefore have a legal right to control its use, but that does not mean we have an ethical right to refuse to permit its use to people who want to use it with reverence for its meaning. As I’ve pointed out before, the legal and the ethical are not necessarily the same.
We do not try to control the use of the Banner by anyone, but sometimes the legal right has its benefits. It is possible, for example, to misuse the Banner (one can even promote killing for peace), and we have from time to time invoked our right to prevent such distorted uses. Otherwise, we have been happy for others to use the Banner and its symbol, to spread knowledge about it and to promote its use. We have no ethical right to try to prevent that. The more people know about it, the more they think about its meaning, the more chance we will have for peace in the world. Let us hope that no one ever tries to prevent others from using the Banner in a wise and reverent way. Let us hope that no one ever thinks of it as their "property", as if such a thing could be owned. Some things are beyond ownership. It would be like claiming that the rays of the sun are someone's property.
While I am here, I’d like to wish everyone a good, or at least a better, year. This is a time when we look back on the year just passed, and look forward to the year to come. We make many promises to ourselves for self-improvement and a more disciplined adherence to the Teaching.
For me, and for us at the Museum, the last year was wonderful in many respects. There is much joy in spreading the message of the Teaching and of the Roerichs to thousands of people who come from all over the world. Our activities continue to grow.
But there was also much pain, caused mostly by the terrible divisiveness and battling in the Roerich world. We in New York have been slandered and insulted, attacked and maligned, for reasons that I still do not really understand. The slanders continue, until now. Why should this be necessary? Is it productive, is it helpful to the Roerich movement in the world? All over the planet, there are many independent groups working to promote the Teaching and the Roerich “idea”, in complete freedom to fulfil their task as they see fit. Nothing controls them but their own conscience and sense of discrimination. We believe in this -- a horizontal structure, one might say, of independent and freely cooperating groups. Only in this way can the best work be done. There will always be diversity of thinking about how to best achieve the goals that everyone shares. And there must always be room for this diversity, in an atmosphere of full respect rather than of criticism and condemnation. Let us hope that the coming year and those that follow will see more love amongst us who have been taught so well to believe in the power of love.
Daniel Entin, Director
Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York
January 11, 2003