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Vladislav Sokolov, PhD, senior research fellow
United Scientific Centre for Cosmic Thinking Problems
International Centre of the Roerichs (Moscow)

English translation of Russian original:
Elena Bobrova (Verkh-Uimon, Altai)


In the multi-faceted space of the current art movements, there is one which is becoming increasingly significant nowadays and which is known by the name “Cosmism”. This is an obvious fact of no small importance in the history of art and culture as a whole, which sets for us many questions of ideological nature. With a deep insight into the essence of art it becomes evident that knowledge as such can come into our lives not only through the space of philosophical reflection or the achievements of empirical science. Art is likewise a method of cognition, a different one, but in its own way effective and meaningful. In this regard, it must be said that Cosmism as an art movement appeared to be a natural extension of the spiritual search which lit up Russia brightly at the turn of the 19-20th centuries, with the concept of Beauty in its highest sense as one of its essential foundations. Perhaps, that is the reason why the keen interest of a modern viewer to Cosmism in art is far from a tribute to the order of the day, but is rather a feeling of something primordial that is always inherent in the depths of human nature as complex and yet unknown as the Universe itself.

The numerous spaces of existence closely related to our earthly reality arise in the works of the Cosmists. On their canvases, some human and at the same time unearthly faces are looking down and, though their eyes, the otherness with all its alluring ineffability seems to invade our world. We are witnessing the events that are being played out far beyond our planet, but for some reason they are so close and sometimes unspeakably understandable to us. While ascending with our thought and heart into the spheres of the supreme existence displayed on these paintings, we feel as if we went back to the depths of our own nature...

So, what is this phenomenon – Cosmism in art – like? What part does it take in our lives, and where are its roots?

Let us note that Cosmism in art, be it painting, drawing or sculpture, is not just a subject-matter relating to the images of various facets of the physical cosmos. First of all, it is the revelation, through common, mundane art techniques, of some supermundane, deep and spiritual essence of the phenomenon, of something that is behind the dense form of the imaged object, be it a man or a product of his hands, an act or a process, a cosmic body or an earth's landscape. As the academician L. Shaposhnikova noted, one of the most important ideas that have emerged in the field of Cosmism, or cosmic thinking, is the consideration of Space not only in purely astronomical terms and concepts, but "in all its richness of energies and diversity of the states of matter" [1, p. 25]. Everything in this dual world has its invisible foundation, a hidden from the eyes cause of terrestrial phenomena which the most sensitive masters can not only catch, but also engrave in the dense forms of a particular type of work. This invisible foundation left a powerful mark on the ancient mythology layer, on a number of philosophical systems and ethical teachings coming to us from the depths of thousands of years.

For more than a century, Cosmism in art has been paving the way to the hearts of its contemporaries. On the one hand, it acts as a vivid reaction to the call of time, of a particular epoch experienced by humanity, and on the other hand, it seems to be beyond the Earth current time, including the necessary principles which we call timeless values, such as an unbending striving for victory of the good, for the Higher top of being, a work for the Common Good, high Knowledge, etc. Through the forms quite recognizable as well as new or sometimes faraway, the art permeated by Cosmism brings a New beauty to our life, and together with it, the image of a new and better way of life that can find the real embodiment only under the condition that the man himself would realize the need to his own qualitative change.

These ideas of a New World and a New Human, as well as of the crucial role of art in their transformation, lit like a bright flash the space and time of the turn of the 19–20th centuries, when there was a spiritual revolution in Russia which resulted in the forming of a new cosmic thinking. Many prominent scientists, philosophers and artists took part in the formation of this new kind of thinking. Among them, there were the artists M. Čiurlionis, N. Roerich, P. Utkin, K. Yuon, also the members of the artistic association "Amaravella" P. Fateev, V. Pshesetskaya, A. Sardan, S. Shigolev, B. Smirnov-Rusetsky, V. Chernovolenko, as well as many other creators. A spiritual revolution is a cosmic phenomenon in its tasks and by its very nature, for it involves, above all, a change of thinking and consciousness of a man of a certain epoch. The end of the 19th – early 20th centuries are not accidentally marked by a selfless work of the prominent artists who caught so sensitively the inevitability of the evolutionary changes that crystallized a new cosmic world-view. The brush of the Cosmists was as well subjected to the facets of this world-view. Their invaluable merit consisted in the fact that, despite the fierce resistance of the external world and the hardships of the first decades of the twentieth century, they were not only able to translate the ideas of a New World, a New Man and a New Beauty, but also by their sacrificial work to pave the way for the future creators. And today we can see their successors bearing the same ideas in their art.

Alas, the consciousness of humanity does not change quickly. The formation, distribution and development of cosmic thinking is a lengthy process, and the period of time in which we live now is permeated with it. It will continue in the future, since a certain stage of the cosmic thinking development takes at least several centuries. Therefore, a spiritual revolution that began in Russia more than a hundred years ago, continues till this day, and there is a lot of evidence for this fact in the actual scientific and philosophical space, as well as in art where Cosmism have embraced many aspects of artistic creativity. At the same time, the cosmism movement in art in the 20th century, being inseparable from the spiritual revolution, followed the difficult path of the latter, having met with misunderstanding and a strong opposition from the totalitarian regime.

The first phase of the Russian spiritual revolution lasted since the end of the 19th century up to the social revolution of 1917 which gradually came into conflict with the former [2]. At the same time, the forces that created a very difficult situation for the development of cosmic thinking later on, had not strengthened quickly, as they were growing ripe during the 1920s. Therefore, even after 1917, there still were certain conditions for the development of the new ideas that the Cosmists reflected on their canvases, seeing clearly beyond the physical plane of existence into the creative space of cosmic evolution. In the subsequent years, until the early 1950s, the spiritual revolution was neglected, like a sort of underground. Thus, considering the artistic creativity of that time, any symbolism of otherness or disclosure of the internal spiritual foundations of a man were out of the question, since back in the 1930s, it was already supplanted by the brute matter of the socialist realism.

In the post-Stalin period, the sprouts of the spiritual revolution began to appear again, marking a kind of its second wave. However, despite the fact that the hard totalitarian regime was rooting in the past, the spiritual movement did not emerge from the underground in all its openness and breadth, as the ideological stamps were still alive, especially those concerning the art.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s – 1980s years, the creation of a New Beauty continued, but in the forms hidden from the eyes of the masses, without coming out into the open, living only in the workshops of a few artists and in the minds of those who understood their art. Among these creators, there were some representatives of "Amaravella”, survivors of Stalin's repressions: B. Smirnov-Rusetsky, V. Chernovolenko, P. Fateev. They remained faithful to the principles and the amazing ideas of their art.

Cosmism gradually acquired a new space of freedom in art; it was especially evident in the late 20th – beginning of the 21st centuries. The spiritual revolution entered a new phase of its development on the turn of the millennium, being in essence an expression of the call of cosmic evolution and having a great spiritual and creative potential intended for a long time. It was at the turn of the millennium that Cosmism in art gained a new impetus and new, more favorable conditions for its manifestation, despite the difficult economic situation, all sorts of social upheaval and a complex process, full of contradictions and uncertainties, of the recognition of the artists' free self-expression, that took place at that time. We will not make a mistake, if we say that this new stage of the Cosmism movement in art became possible due to the energy of the prior creators who impregnated their space and time, through which they passed with courage, without changing their ideals or beliefs, with the images of both earthly and cosmic beauty.

Since the 1990s, the Museum of Nicholas Roerich in Moscow initiated by Svetoslav Roerich, the youngest son of the great Russian artist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich, became a real magnet for the contemporary Cosmists. In his work, S. Roerich continued to develop the same cosmic orientation that was taken by his father – Nicholas Roerich – one of the initiators of Cosmism in art. So far the Museum has hosted many exhibitions which reflect the reality of a New Beauty from different angles and the inevitability of New Knowledge presented in a figurative art form.

The Cosmism art focused on the disclosure of the inner essence of any phenomenon and cosmic existence foundations, brings knowledge and, to some extent, understanding of the subtle-energy reality of Light – which is one of the manifestations higher dimensions of Macrocosm's and microcosm's spiritual world. Through the high energy of that Light, without which the Life, as something of a broad, cosmic value, does not exist, one can feel the waves and rhythms of the Higher worlds and catch at the same time the artist's reflection on the nature of light, on its role and importance in the inner world and human evolution. Among these works are the paintings of Oleg Vysotsky, Gennady Karepov, Elena Voinova et al.

The Cosmists have a gift of overcoming a phenomenon of great significance in our physical world - time. Scenes from the Earth's history, legends and mythology combined with sacred symbols or traditional folk ornament emerge from ancient times, reviving in the paintings of today, not in their initial forms, but as a message that they carry throughout the thousands of years. This information is able to encourage or prevent, reveal the secrets of the human inner world or guide to the principles of our evolutionary path. The examples of such works are the paintings by Nina Volkova, Theodosia, Lola Lonely, Vasily Vyatich and others.

Among the unearthly forms variously presented in the works of the Cosmists, there are the personalized images of spiritual cosmos that find their clearest expression as the beautiful, big-eyed female and male figures of creators and guardians, sages and leaders (for example, in the works by Alexander Belov, Svetlana Kapitonova etc.). These representatives of the otherness – the worlds of a different state of matter or the physical worlds of other planetary systems – are convincing, realistic in their unearthlyness, kind and beautiful, and therefore, particularly close to us. For beauty is beauty everywhere and its magnet, no doubt, moves the evolution in all the infinite spaces of the Universe. There is no stillness in the Space, everything is in the process of movement, development and cooperation, as the impulses from the higher realms of cosmic reality are penetrating into the world of dense matter, and the worlds themselves are approaching each other, while the superfine apparatus of the artist, who first brings us Knowledge about the unearthly, feels that all.

Throughout the history of mankind, among very different peoples, in all parts of the world, the call of the supreme has always resonated with the spiritually strong people, those whom we call the sages, heroes and holy men. These powerful spirits came into our world as creators of new teachings and supreme Knowledge carriers, as religious reformers and unknown hermits, as distinguished scholars and leaders of nations. Without their sacrificial heroism and hard work there would be no human spiritual development and the foundations of human culture, this pivot of the human cosmic evolution, would not have been formed. The great images of them are brightly embodied by the Cosmists in painting and sculpture (in the works by Yuri Kuznetsov, Yuri Ushkov, Alexey Leonov etc.). Through the ages these images will serve to descendants as high examples, essential to our evolutionary true progress and our best achievements.

The assertion of the mundane and supermundane forms of beauty, of the human energy structure and possibility to transform the inner world, of the universal rhythms and a great purpose of life, - has some deeper causes of its manifestation in the Cosmism art. For instance, the beauty, according to this new world-view, is a special, refined and high in its quality energy coming to the Earth from the other levels of multidimensional Cosmos and originating in its most evolutionarily High Spaces.

The evolution of the man, the planet and the Universe is being realized by one of the most essential principles of the Universe and its creative power - the Beauty that comprises everything that follow the path of perfection. It brings the harmony, without which it would be impossible to convert the Chaos into Cosmos, or the Order in every form, including those of an inner world of an individual. Beauty imbues the human spirit with the high energy of this harmony, strengthens the internal space of human culture, and contributes to the growth of consciousness. This latter notion is very significant for a person, since a new, expanded consciousness is a necessary condition for the perception of the evolutionary new Knowledge. The great mission of the Cosmists' high art which carries a real beauty is to advance our consciousness, and, thus, to adjust it to the perception of new Knowledge.

Furthermore, a high art itself, as mentioned, is one of possible ways to understand the world and man, and it has a meta-scientific character. It goes through the inner world of the man-microcosm, inseparable in its essence from the Macrocosm with its different states of matter and energy. The value of true art lies in the fact that its initiator (creator) is an artist, a highly cultured person, or in other words, the one, who has, according to the cosmic law of compliance, the ability to perceive many aspects of the Universe’s existence and different levels of its constituent matter, as well as to penetrate with his spiritual vision in such areas that are not subjected to a purely empirical cognition. Right from there the creator brings to our earthly world the images of the otherworld beauty, just as real as the beauty of our surroundings and, above all, achievable to a certain extent in the future, which a man of high culture is able to create. It is important that the art of the Cosmists directs our consciousness to the very possibility of the evolutionary transformation of man by reflecting the facets of the great cosmic Unity – a supreme guiding concept. By applying artistic techniques the creator reveals the deep relationships between the worlds and their inhabitants, he tells in symbolic form about those cosmic laws which serve as the basis for both - this Unity and the transformation of the microcosm's inner essence.

The images of beauty and of transformed man inherent to a true art are inseparable from such an important part of the meta-science as meta-history, the main sources of which are the worlds of higher states of matter [3, p. 210]. A multifaceted comprehension of the meta-history phenomenon is implemented today in the works of L. Shaposhnikova. This phenomenon cannot be ignored when referring to the deep essence of art itself and its role in cosmic evolution. Meta-history, which, according to the research by L. Shaposhnikova, is the spiritual part of the historical process and the result of the creative cosmic evolution, carries the knowledge related to other worlds’ higher states of matter [3, p. 200]. The connection of true art "with meta-history is ultimately close and often serves as a source for the earthly knowledge" [4, p. 20]. In general, such a link leads to the understanding of the fine mechanisms of interaction between our planet and the spiritual Cosmos with its creative forces and ethereal beauty. High art plays an important evolutionary role on our planet, as its creative process, while paving the way to the comprehension of the facets of the Infinity, experiences the influence of the creative power that pervades the worlds of higher states of matter. The envisioned beauty and spirituality come from there …

A true art comes not only from the creator's ability to feel the harmony and rhythm of a high level, which are the beauty basics, but also from his sense of great responsibility for the quality and meaning of his work. The world depicted on canvas is not only a subjective reality, but a reality that objectively comes into existence caused by the force of the artist's creative thought. From the standpoint of cosmic worldview, an idea, being subtle powerful energy and belonging to an earthly creator-microcosm, is able to come, still in some incomprehensible way, into contact with the Macrocosm's work and create its own worlds in the fine spaces of the latter. These worlds, once they have found a real existence in the spaces with a different state of matter within the multidimensional Cosmos, have further a corresponding impact on our earthly reality in the course of the grandiose stream of energetic and informational exchange, which involves people and the planet. The character of this impact depends on the individuality of the artist, on the quality of his consciousness and thoughts.

The ancient knowledge about the interaction between Macrocosm and microcosm, developed in the modern scientific and philosophical thought, should be comprehended in all its diversity and beauty. One of the most striking evidence of this reciprocity is the human ability to a genuine creation, which may occur only in contact between the inner world of an earthly creator and a world of a higher state of matter which is, in its turn, permeated with a powerful rhythm of the ultimate creative force of the Universe. As a result of such an interaction, the humanity learns a lesson that can rightfully provide a genuine art and the artwork of the Cosmists in particular, bringing the Light of spirituality and various manifestations of beauty to our world. Without it, our evolution would be impossible.


1. Шапошникова Л.В. Исторические и культурные особенности нового космического мышления // Объединенный Научный Центр проблем космического мышления. М.: МЦР, Мастер-­Банк, 2005.

2. The subject of spiritual revolution in Russia in details covered in works of L.Shaposhnikova. Q.v.: Шапошникова Л.В. Град Светлый. М.: МЦР, Мастер-Банк, 1998; Шапошникова Л.В. Тернистый путь Красоты. М.: МЦР, Мастер­-Банк, 2001; Шапошникова Л.В. Философия космической реальности: [вступ. ст.] // Листы Сада Мории. Книга первая. Зов. М.: МЦР, Мастер­-Банк, 2003; Шапошникова Л.В. Великое путешествие. В 3 кн. Кн. 3: Вселенная Мастера. М.: МЦР, Мастер-­Банк, 2005 etc.

3. Q.v.: Шапошникова Л.В. Земное творчество космической эволюции. М.: МЦР, Мастер-­Банк, 2011.

4. Шапошникова Л.В. Метаисторическая живопись Н.К. Рериха. М.: МЦР, Мастер­-Банк, 2013.