How a Plumber’s Ego Shaped the Western View of Tibet

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For hundreds of years Tibet had existed as a feudal society dominated by Lamaist Buddhism – an extension of the Mahayana – which eventually developed into its own distinct Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) movement. As a feudal society defined by a specific set of socio-economic conditions, the majority of the people lived out their lives in abject poverty, and very few possessed the ability to read and write. Becoming a monk or nun was a way for a family to secure clothing, regular food, shelter, and a Buddhist education for their children, even though many of these monastics institutions enforced a strict celibacy (inaccordance with the Buddhist Vinaya discipline), which prevented ordained individuals having children of their own, it is equally true that certain Lamas did marry providing they had not taken full monastic vows, etc. Just like medieval Europe, which was dominated by Christianity – with its burnings, hangings, drownings, and torture of those expected of witchcraft, or heresy, etc. – Tibet had similarly draconian ‘judicial’ punishments designed to deter law braking. One such deterrent involved the eyes of the convicted being ‘gouged’ or ‘scooped’ out with a spoon-like device. The point is that in the West – particularly amongst the white middle class that was taken-in by the Eurocentric teachings of the highly popular Theosophy movement – Tibet has been presented as a mystical place free of any notions of material reality. This ‘theosophicalised’ Tibet is nothing but a myth that has never existed anywhere other than in the imagination of the Christian dominated Western mind. This ethereal Tibet is simply another version of Jesus Christ whose actual existence cannot be proved, and whose return, nevertheless, is still imminent. This misrepresented Tibet ‘shimmers’ in the rarefied air of the Himalayas to such an extent, that even the maniacal Adolf Hitler fell for its myth, and despatched numerous Nazi expeditions to seek out the origin of his equally mythicized ‘Aryan Race’. The problem with this ‘imagined’ Tibet is that it tells us more about the Christianised European mind-set (which desperately seeks out genuine ‘miracles’), than it does about the genuine and real Tibet, its people, its history, its Buddhism, and its culture. As with all racist narratives, the European misrepresentation of Tibet excludes the ‘actual’ and ‘real’ Tibetan people from the narrative of their own history. In this context, Tibet has become nothing but a mythology and a plaything for the Eurocentric imagination. The belief in this misplaced and excluded Tibet has no benefit whatsoever for the real people of Tibet who to no longer appear to exist in the real world.

Cyril Henry Hoskin (1910-1981), a British plumber from Devon, never visited Tibet, had not trained within the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, could not read or Tibetan, and yet he made a very successful career for himself under the assumed name of ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’. From the 1950’s onward, he wrote a number of fictional books that presented an ‘imagined’ and highly ‘mystified’ Tibet, which he (and his publishers) deliberately and deceitfully presented to Western readers as ‘true stories’. His fame led to him being tracked down by a private detective, and exposé news articles being published about his duplicity in UK national newspapers. Despite being unmasked as a fraud, he continued to insist that he was ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’ and that his body was in fact occupied by a reincarnated Tibetan Lama! In the meantime, Hoskin continued to pen ever more outrageous books with bizarre story lines, despite the fact that even His Holiness the Dalai Lama (in 1972) stated that these books were nothing but ‘fiction’ and had no bearing upon the truth of either Tibetan culture or the practice of legitimate Tibetan Buddhism. As his fame grew, Hoskin’s statements became ever more egotistical, disrespectful, and demeaning to his readership. In the back of his book entitled ‘Doctor from Lhasa’ (Corgi 1963 edition), he states:

‘‘Kindness to Publishers’ Department   

Throughout the years since “The Third Eye” first appeared I have had a tremendous amount of mail, and up to the present I have always answered that mail. Now I have to say that I am no longer able to reply to any mail at all unless adequate return postage is enclosed. So please do NOT send letters to my Publisher for forwarding to me because I have asked my Publisher not to forward any letters.

People forget that they pay for a BOOK, and NOT a lifetime of free post-paid advisory service. Publishers are PUBLISHERS – not a letter forwarding service.

I have had letters from all over the world, even from well behind the Iron Curtain, but not one in several thousand people enclose return postage, and the cost is so much that I can no longer undertake replies.

People ask such peculiar things, too. Here are just some: There was a very desperate letter from Australia which reached me when I was in Ireland. The matter was (apparently) truly urgent, so at my own expense, I sent a cable to Australia, and did not even receive a note of thanks.

A certain gentleman in the USA wrote me a letter DEMANDING that I should immediately write a thesis for him and send it by return airmail. He wanted to use it as his thesis to obtain a Doctorate in Oriental Philosophy. Of course he did not enclose any postage; it was merely a somewhat threatening demand!

And Englishman wrote me a very, very haughty letter in the third person, demanding my credentials. And only if they were completely satisfactory to this person would he consider placing himself under my tuition, provided that there would be no charge for it. In other words, I was supposed to be honoured. (I do not think he would like my reply!)

Another one wrote to me and said that if I “and my chums” would come from Tibet and cluster around his bed in the astral at night then he would be able to feel more happy astral travelling.

Other people write to me and ask me everything from high esoteric things (which I can answer if I want to) to how to keep hens and one’s husband! People also consider that they should write to me just whenever they think they should, and then get offensive if I do not reply by return airmail.

I will ask you NOT to bother my Publishers, in fact I have asked them not to send on any letters to me because they are in business as Publishers. For those who really do need an answer (although I do not invite letters) I have an accommodation address. It is:

Dr T. Lobsang Rampa

PO Box & Fort Erie

Ontario

Canada

But, I repeat, I do not guarantee any reply and I assure you there will be NO reply in any case unless adequate return postage is paid.’

This pretentious drivel is supposedly from an ‘ordained’ and highly ‘evolved’ Tibetan Lama who has taken a vow not to handle or possess money of any kind (i.e. gold or silver, etc.). The tone of this piece is highly defensive, whilst making (what is in reality), a call for more funds. Hoskin’s attitude is abusive to his own readership – who have after, all already purchased his books – as he attempts in a disjointed manner, to assert an egotistical control over their habit of daring to contact the person who has written such an impressive and nonsensical myth! In this page and a quarter of pure vitriol, Hoskin reveals the true nature of his thoroughly unevolved, selfish, and poorly educated psyche. Furthermore, by completely misrepresenting Tibetan culture and Tibetan people, (a process which may be considered ‘racist’ in its mimicry), he portrays the ethnic slurs of all Americans being ‘brash’ and all English people being ‘arrogant’. What is more likely the case here, is that due to the bad publicity Hoskin has been suffering due to the negative media coverage, his publishers have distanced themselves from him and are no longer ‘paying’ to forward letters, or covering Hoskin’s expenses incurred through replying to his fan mail. Hoskin does not want the public to know his real situation, (nothing new here), but still wants to receive the adulation his has become accustomed to. His readership now have to foot he bill following the Publisher’s withdrawal of supporting finance, etc. Hoskin has the audacity to package his request for more money from his readership by presenting his case as an ‘affront’ to his dignity should a letter arrive with no return postage.

This man obviously has psychological issues that he diverts into his work through the creative act of fictional writing. In many ways he is a victim of the theosophical misrepresentation of Tibet, its people, and its culture. Not a single word he wrote in any of his books has any bearing whatsoever upon authentic Tibetan culture and does not assist Tibetan people in anyway. Like many in the West today, Hoskin’s Tibet exists only within the imagination that separates the world into a clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’. In this fabrication, the mythical Tibet is unquestionably ‘good’, whilst the equally imagined and misrepresented China is unspeakably ‘evil’. This is how thousands of years of Judeo-Christian mythology affects the imagination of modern, secular Europe. This polluting and misguiding psychological prism must be transcended if Tibet is to be seen yet again as its true self, existing in a real world. Until that time, Tibet will continue to be the plaything of the Western imagination tainted (and misrepresented) by the subtle presence of Judeo-Christian theology.  The simple fact is that ‘Tuesday Lobsang Rampa’ remains completely unknown in either Tibet or China.     

 

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.

 

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  1. Freeing Tibet from the Western Imagination | The Sangha Kommune.

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