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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Books: Forgotten Authors: No. 9: T Lobsang Rampa

October 14, 2008

Christopher Fowler
The Independent (UK)
October 12, 2008

W H Auden was wrong; there are some books which are best forgotten.
By the time the memoir of a Tibetan monk entitled The Third Eye
turned up on the desk of Secker & Warburg, it had been turned down by
most leading houses. S&W took a punt and published it in 1956, and
the book shot into the bestseller lists, with the esteemed Times
Literary Supplement suggesting it was close to being a work of art.
Doubts were quickly raised by Tibetan scholars; after all, the book
included trepanation as a standard procedure for induction into
priesthood, neophyte monks zipping about on giant kites, and Rampa's
meetings with both his mummified former incarnation and an abominable snowman.

The press scented a story and exposed Rampa as a Devon plumber called
Cyril Hoskin, who had never been near Tibet. This Blavatskyan
revelation did not appear to bother his readers, who were happy to
purchase another 18 volumes of his Tibetan memoirs. Hoskin held back
a late chapter involving his visit to the planet Venus, and said he
had been possessed by the spirit of the monk after falling out of a
tree while trying to photograph an owl. He further stated that his
book Living With the Lama had been dictated by his Siamese cat Mrs
Fifi Greywhiskers. With an entire industry springing up around him,
as well as his family turning out books to capitalise on his success,
Rampa grew weary of being described as a con-man and decamped to
Canada, where he remained until his death in 1981. By now he had many
new Canadian fans who accepted the books as proof of Buddhist
principles, and were happy to endorse his unpublished chapters on
flying saucers. They still maintain his fan site, should you wish to
purchase the latest Lobsang Rampa calendar.

For non-believers the books are problematic, especially when Hoskins
explains auras or soul transference in terms that would make any
scientist fall off a chair laughing. Still, the books give an
alarming insight into the naivety of ideas about exoticism in the
postwar spiritual vacuum of the 1950s, and will always be tracked
down by intellectually inert seekers of easy enlightenment.
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