Vol 3, No 9       

And We Open the Gates
Nicholas Roerich painting
Bolling Collection, 1922
Belovodye: The Search for Shambhala
translated by Timofey Reshetov


Like the legends of the Grail Quest, the Secret Legend of Belovodye[1] is an allegory containing symbolism that can be comprehended only through the hearer's own spiritual understanding — by one who has "eyes to see and ears to hear" its layered esoteric meanings.

According to "V.G.," who became the historical source for this legend, it was given to him in 1893 by a celibate priest named Vladimir at a monastery in Vyshensky. The narration was vouchsafed to him only after he had asked insistently three times to hear it, and it was told to him on three successive evening. But there were conditions to hearing the story: "You may relate this saga for the first time only to one who asks you insistently. After that, your vow of silence is relieved."

The legend, he learned, had been handed down by a succession of priests, who also had vowed not to repeat it for the first time until asked persistently to do so.

According to V.G, a Russian Orthodox cathedral already existed in Kiev at the time of Duke Igor, and Vladimir of the Secret Legend was Duke Igor's grandson. It was allegedly 986 CE when Duke Vladimir was considering what religion to adopt, and 988 CE when the duke was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. Accordingly, the Secret Legend of Belovodye places the death of its protagonist, Father Sergiy, in 1043 CE, during the rule of Yaroslav the Wise.

The legend states that in a thousand years the "forces of hell" will rage "with blind fury." But the Faith will endure: "The forces of pure Light, of unearthly fire, will overthrow the enemies. The Living Fires will cure the wounds of the happy country. On the ruins of the old, a new Great People will arise, rich in the beauty of Spirit. The best of the Chosen Ones will carry the Word of the Living God to all countries of the Earth. They will give peace and goodwill to the world, and will open the Gates of Life of the Future Age."

We are here publishing, with permission and the considerable effort and devotion of its translator, Timofey Reshetov, the entire Secret Legend of Belovodye.

The Secret Legend of Belovodye

rand Duke Vladimir, the Red Sun, willing to change the faith, sent six rich embassies into foreign lands in order to find out what the faith was there. After comparing these other faiths, his task was to choose the best one for himself and his people.

Shortly after the embassies had been sent, a pilgrim, Father Sergiy, came to the Grand Duke. In his youth, Father Sergiy had gone from Kiev to Tsargrad[2] and been converted to Christianity on the Sacred Mountain of Aphon, where he also was tonsured.[3]

Now, he wandered the whole year 'round, across the lands of the Grand Duke and neighboring ones, watching the way people lived, helping everyone as best he could, and confiding the light of truth to the worthy ones.

And once in every three years, Father Sergiy would come to Kiev to see the Grand Duke.

Great was the joy of Father Sergiy when he learned about the sending out of the embassies and, specifically, that one of them had been sent to Tsargrad. For according to him there was no faith superior to the Russian Orthodox Christianity that was the religion there.

The Grand Duke was equally pleased to see Father Sergiy, but felt sorrow that he hadn't come earlier, for the Duke had wanted to send Father Sergiy himself as the head of the embassy to Tsargrad.

The Grand Duke confided to Father Sergiy of an old man who had often appeared in his dreams, pointing out that one more, a seventh, embassy should go out — but he didn't know where they were supposed to go.

After thinking about this, Father Sergiy replied that since the embassy to Tsargrad had already been sent, he had no answer. But the Grand Duke persisted. He ordered Father Sergiy to divine within seven days where the seventh embassy should be sent.

More than willing to help, Father Sergiy kept an austere fast, prayerfully begging the Most High to vouchsafe him a revelation that he could deliver to the Grand Duke.

On the seventh night, in a dream, the superior of the Aphon monastery where Sergiy had been tonsured appeared to him and reminded him of an old saga in which another King had sent out Wise Men to the East. In this story, the Wise Men had discovered the mystical country of Belovodye. One of the peculiarities of that country, according to the legend, was that not everyone could find it — only a chosen one, one who had been called.

When Father Sergiy communicated this story to Grand Duke Vladimir, the latter was so inspired by what he had heard that he decided to send an embassy toward the East, to the unknown country — and Father Sergiy was appointed to lead it.

After much effort the embassy was set up.

Father Sergiy was given six nobles as helpers, many great warriors, and a large number of servants. Altogether there were 333 people in the embassy.

Once the high water went down, the embassy started off toward the East, due to return in about three years.

During the first year, news came from the neighboring countries that the embassy had been seen on its way East. Then, all went silent.

Three, seven, twelve years passed... but no news came from the embassy.

First it was expected, then its destiny was worried about, then the lost were grieved for. After some 28 years with no news, the embassy started to be forgotten. And, finally, time wiped it all away.     [Continued — The Secret Legend, Part II]

  1. Belovodye literally means the (area of) White Waters [this and subsequent footnotes were provided by the translator, Timofey Reshetov—ed.].
  2. Tsargrad, literally "Tsar City," the ancient Russian name for the capitol of Byzantium, later Constantinople, and now known in the West as Istanbul.
  3. Literally, "cut his hair" — that is, became a monk.

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