In answer to Anticult's question: in the 1950s there was a fake guru named Lobsang Rampa. He got away with it because back then there was little information about Tibet or Tibetan Buddhism. His material looks very quaint today. Rampa was actually the pen name of a British author, who wrote a wildly popular book, 'Opening The Third Eye'
"The Third Eye, published in 1956 and authored by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, purported to be Rampa’s autobiographical tale of his study and mastery of Tibetan Buddhism.
Rampa claimed he had been born into a wealthy Tibetan family and had studied in Lhasa to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open up the “third eye” in the middle of his forehead. This operation had bestowed upon him amazing psychic powers.
""Naturally, this description of an ancient Tibetan operation that could provide psychic powers raised a few eyebrows, especially among serious scholars of Tibetan culture. Keen to debunk what they were sure was a fraud, a group of scholars living in Britain hired a detective, Clifford Burgess, to determine the validity of Rampa’s tale.
What Burgess discovered was that Rampa had never been to Tibet, nor had he ever had any operation done to his forehead. Instead Rampa was actually Cyril Henry Hoskins, born in Devon, England, and son of a plumber named Joseph Henry Hopkins.
"Cyril, it turned out, had always been interested in the study of the occult. He had studied it as much as he could in his spare time. But one day he had taken his interest a step further. He grew a beard, shaved his head, and began to refer to himself as “Dr. Kuan-suo.”
"Burgess confronted Cyril with what he had learned, but Cyril had a ready explanation at hand. He said that while he may have been born Cyril Henry Hoskins, he had become Tuesday Lobsang Rampa because his body had been taken over by Rampa’s spirit. Therefore, according to him, all the information in his book was true.
"Despite having been proven to be a phony—a plumber’s son posing as a Tibetan monk— a market still existed for Rampa’s writings. Evidently quite a few people were willing to believe his tale about having been possessed by the spirit of a Tibetan monk. So he continued on with his career as Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, authoring twelve more books before his death in 1981. However, none of them sold as well as The Third Eye.
The question is why so many were and remained willing to believe?
Agehananda Bharati wrote an article trying to puzzle this out.
Bharati goes on to describe a book and a following of that book that both exemplfy the 'cultic milieu.' Bharati seems unsympathetic, but I suspect that part of the mute appeal of the book and others like it was that in the 1950s, many old mysteries (and dreadful diseases such as TB) were being seemingly conquered by the advances of science. At the same time the same scientific triumphs that had given us penicillin and streptomycin and polio vaccine (an uncle of mine was nearly disabled by childhood polio and my grandfather died in 1940 from TB, so I know what this meant)....
These same triumphs of science had also brought in the new terror of nuclear weapons. Those of us old enough will remember how as school children we were taught to duck under our desks 'in the event of a nuclear attack.'
And there was special anxiety in Britain where Rampa's book was first published, because throughout the mid 1940s and all through the 1950s Britain was haunted by a series of treason trials--presons who had worked in atomic research facilities and military installations had been caught selling or transmitting secrets to the Soviets. Science had dispelled the old sense of wonder and had ushed in new anxieties. So, a Jungian might suspect that a deeply frightened population would, unconsciously seek compensation--and consolation by rewarding a new teller of tales who could assure them that benevolent magic and wonders still existed somewhere. About 15 years later, Carlos Castaneda did the same thing--and sadly turned out not to be a harmless man, either.)
Bharati writes with the asperity of a Sanskrit scholar, sadhu, and as one who had worked with and studied with professors of Buddhism, including Tibetan lamas and geshes.
"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.
'Now one would have thought that the disclosures about Rampa-Hoskins and Khasa-Hyde Park might impede, if not stop, the production.
Incredulously, Bharati wrote, '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.
'Reactions to this incredible situation are variegated and, to the cultural anthropologist concerned with ideological change, highly fascinating; and they are far more complex than the Canadians' effusions.
'Less than a year ago — over a decade after the Publication of The Third Eye
, a colleague of mine, a historian with perfectly respectable academic credentials, visited and told me about the wisdom of Rampa, with glowing eyes.
'When I told him the facts in straight, brief words, he was visibly shaken, but said something like: okay, maybe the man is not Tibetan, but he grasps the truths of Buddhism. He does nothing of the sort, I said and proved — but I did not convince the man. He (that historian friend of mine) had gone into Rolfing, Macrodier, Yin and Yang, Hatha Yoga, and a half dozen of other things eminently available in America.
'To him, the question of genuineness or spuriousness did not pose any problem, and I have a strong hunch that this blurring of the possible distinctness between the genuine and the spurious is very much part of the total pattern of eclectic attraction
to the esoteric.(In other words, in a world where rationality and wonder are increasingly split, perhaps people crave some way to make thought and wonder compatible and love stories that seem to resolve this vexed problem for them--C. The problem comes when persons with this legitimate yearning walk right into situations that are bandits lairs)
Bharti wrote of Hoskins, author of the Rampa books:
'Hoskins moved to Toronto and founded an ashram-like place with a medium-large following up to date. This is in the way of things on the lunatic fringe: but astoundingly, he wrote sequels of at least three more books after the exposure of The Third Eye
, starting with Doctor in Chunking
. All of these have been out in paperback for years, and they are visible on all sorts of shelves — bookstores of course, drugstores, airports, even Greyhound bus stations.
'Since publishers are no charitable organizations, this means that the book sell, in great numbers. Saying what I say about Lobsang Rampa, and mutatis mutandis about most other pseudo-Asian cults in the Western world, I have, of course, made many more enemies than friends. People simply cannot stand the idea that there is no abominable snowman, that there is no white brotherhood somewhere in the Himalayas, and that people do not fly through the air except in planes; least of all can they suffer the idea that religious specialists in Tibet are scholars, tough theologians, and down-to-earth monastic leaders, with lots of hard political know-how, and with the measure of cruelty and strategy that seems to be common to all ecclesiastic leader who also have secular powers; and this, of course, was very much the case in Tibet before the Chinese takeover.
But matters go deeper than that. We have to investigate the extreme dislike of hard theological, scriptural, commentatorial argument, a dislike that characterizes all followers of the neo-Hindu-Buddhist, and the pseudo-Asian movements of a millennial type...."
] (Fictional Tibet and the Persistence of Rampa-ism)
Early 20th Century--Gurdjieff. (James Webb, in his book The Harmonic Circle, meticulously traced the sources of all of Gurdy's mysterious Fourth Way stuff and made a convincing case that none of it was unique and that Gurdy himself may well have been a spy for the Imperial Russian secret service...he was denied a residential visa by the British authorities, very likely because his activities as a Russian spy working against British interests had earned him a dossier in the M 15 office. Webb was upper class and was able to read those old files)
BTW in books by Richard Francis Burton (esp Sindh and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus--published in 1851 and with modern and affordable reprints), Burton was a genius at languages and lived as a local among the Sindhis in what is now Pakistan. He later travelled by camel caravan to Medina and Mecca impersonating a Pathan Sufi. Burton successfully passed as a local, spent much time with a Sufi order, did at least one 40 day retreat, and reported being given a mursid's diploma. He spoke Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Sindhi and some Baluch, and in a quest for rare manuscripts, carefully searched libararies at mosques, madrassas and private houses. Burton learned a lot of about magic, partly to perfect his own cover and gain the trust of those he travelled with.
He described how tribes people told the future from a sheeps shoulder bone, described the mandal
or magic mirror, but significantly never at any point mentions the enneagram. He did mention very great deal about local methods of alchemy, and managed to win the trust of varoius clerks with inside knowledge, because in the Sindh book Burton listed various tricks used to counterfeit coinage, make bogus documents look convincingly aged, and ways to counterfeit even seals for offical documents, but...nothing at all about the enneagram.
Burton learned all he could to provide a convincing cover for himself. He also, in his chapter on Sufism mentioned 'Jalal al Din' (Rumi) off handedly as just one among many great Sufi adepts, and didnt single him out or put him on a pedestal, as is done today.)
Late 19th Century: Mme Blavatsky (read Washington's Madame Blavatsky's Baboon--gives a great overview of cultic milieu in the 19th and early 20th centuries, BTW)
Bringing it back to the present day:
One fairly recent story of a magical cure was that of Andrew Cohen.
Cohen's first legitimation narrative was based on his somehow being magically and instantly enlightened in 1986 or so by an Indian guru named HWL Poonja. After a mere two weeks, Poonja reportedly sent Cohen forth to teach and start a revolution amongst the young.'
It even convinced and amazed Cohen's mother, Luna Tarlo, who said her son looked utterly different afterward--suddendly endowed with charisma, all hesitation gone. (Tarlo, The Mother of God
). Significantly, according to accounts both by Tarlo and other early students, AC's charisma was combined with a brutally confrontational manner with students.
This perhaps began to make Cohen's Indian guru look bad. Eventually the two enlightened men quarrelled. Cohen dropped Poonja from his legitimation narrative and later took up or was taken up by Ken Wilber.
Poonja collected a following from Cohen's disenchanted students and reportedly, from orphaned followers of Rajneesh/Poonja and was given credit for enlightening Gangaji.
These days Cohen's magazine has since become a house-organ for Wilber's integral twaddle. In an interview Cohen mentioned an interest in spiritual seeking before he went to india and that he'd been interesting and yoga and martial arts.
If he pursued yet other options before or after his time with Poonja, this has not been mentioned, by Cohen, his mother, or anyone else.
Cohen does offer 11 day intensives, though.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/28/2008 10:14PM by corboy.