Arya Sangha or Assembly of the Wise

Fictitious Tibet: The Origin and Persistence of Rampaism

by Agehananda Bharati
Part VI

E.J. Brill

I do not know how many of the readers of The Third Eye and the books that followed it, by the same author, actually believe in these cretinistic confabulations. But this is beside the point--for even if a reader tells us that he or she does not really believe in these things but that they serve as an inspiration, consolation, edification, and what not, this does not reduce the tragedy of the situation; far from it, it enhances the pathetic quality of the whole set.

We cannot take our emotional cues from things, events, and persons whose nonexistence we know. Taking instruction from parables is a different thing, it is morally and intellectually admissible. But the tales contained in The Third Eye do not even qualify as parables, since no moral qualities attach to mystical surgery and kite-flying and the whole lot of events the author has generated in his comic strip. We cannot admit the aesthetical argument either; the operation to open the third eye, the mystical apparitions, etc., may not be true or morally important, but they are pleasant to contemplate. If this were the only reason why people read The Third Eye, we could dismiss it with a shrug. But it isn’t; for even where the aesthetic quality of these story is praised, it is not done with a view to obtaining esoteric knowledge--and esoteric knowledge cannot be had from esoteric lies.

Within about half a year from the time I read the manuscript, and reported to the publishers that the book is a fraud and should not be published, Messrs. Secker & Warburg evidently also asked other Tibetologists and people who know the subject matter, among them Hugh Richardson, the last British and the last Indian Government Resident in Lhasa; Marca Pallis, the British scholar-traveller; and Heinrich Harrer of Seven Years in Tibet fame, whom Mr. Richardson had once put under arrest in Lhasa.

All of these people concurred, and gave the publishers independent, identical reports: the book is a fraud, the man is a fake. However, publishers are not harbingers of authenticity, but businessmen. They published the book in spite of the negative reports, anticipating its sales potential. And they were right. I understand that six British editions sold close to eighty thousand copies. The German translation, wouldn’t you know it, sold close to a hundred thousand, and comparable numbers of copies were sold on other European languages.

Mr. Richardson and some other irate scholars then took the initiative into their own hands, to trace and subdue the writer. It didn’t take long: the Tibetan Lama turned out to be Mr. Hoskins, an Irish ex-plumber, who sat it out in various libraries in London, reading science fiction, pseudo-orientalia including, no doubt, Blavatsky, and concocting this amazing book. These findings were published in the British Press, and booksellers were warned about the matter so as not to be involved in fraud. E.J. Brill, the famous oriental publishing house and book agent in Leiden, Netherlands, circumvented the issue by advertising the book and adding a note in small print, indicating that the book was no genuine study of Buddhism or Tibet, but that it was interesting for the experiences it conveyed.

Now one would have thought that the disclosures about Rampa-Hoskins and Lhasa-Hyde Park might impede, if not stop, the production. Far from it. Most of the millions who kept buying the book and its follow-ups did not know about the facts--they simply hadn’t read the statements in the British press. Quite a few, however, did read or hear about these disclosures, and remained followers, no less ardent, of the Lama; to wit, two Canadians, who called me long distance from Toronto one night, saying: "Sir, you are a wicked person. You say Lama Lobsang is an Irish plumber; well, he may be in the body of an Irish plumber, but the soul of a Tibetan Lama lives in him." "Well, then I can’t win’" I admitted, and they hung up.