Sunday, 10 May 2009

We are the future, Charles, not them. They no longer matter.

Last month Rob from Generation Minus One departed these shores for America. To cut a long story short Jenny, Rob's darling fiancé and Generation Minus One's other creative force, has had to relocate to her home country for a while due to some unforeseen family issues. So Rob decided to take the opportunity to pack his bags and visit his wife to be, as well as taking advantage of some bargain deals from a collection of second hand game stores.

Anyway about a week ago Rob arrived back home carrying with him a bundle of presents that he and Jenny had picked out for me. Chief amongst those was the graphic novel "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier", a book that for reasons way too silly to go in to here isn't available in the UK. Which was awfully nice of him. No really, it was. It was so nice that I've even abstained from calling him a floppy haired goon for a whole week. Hey, it was the least I could do. Well actually the least I could do would've been nothing, but you know, that would just seem mean.

Amazingly that wasn't all that Rob brought back with him. He also turned up clutching three second hand books, all of which are, well, bloody fantastic. Firstly we have "In Search of Lost Civilizations" by Alan Landsburg with a foreword by Leonard Nimoy (Gee Note: Yes that Leonard Nimoy. You know, Mr. Spock. The guy who once tried his hand at a music career and released a number of albums, the second of which featured "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins". "Bilbo… Bilbo Baggins" he sang, "The bravest little Hobbit of them all". Strangely it wasn't enough to convince the record buying public to part with their hard earned cash). And lets face it, any book where the first line proper reads "All dead cities are inhabited by some kind of ghosts, I think" is most definitely worth a read as far as I'm concerned.

The second book is "No Earthly Explanation" by John Wallace Spencer, which leads with a quote on the front cover that goes "I, John Wallace Spencer, hope to prove, using scientific data, that UFOs really do exist, where the extra terrestrial visitors come from, what they are doing here on earth, and where their hidden laboratories and housing facilities can be located." (Gee Note: Congratulations John. You've just won first prize in the "Longest single sentence I've read this week which uses seven words when one will do" competition.) Spencer, who's previous work "Limbo of the Lost" dealt with the Bermuda Triangle, claims in the prologue that he's been studying UFOs since 1945 and apparently wants to set the record straight on the whole flying saucer phenomenon. Good for him. Although his theory that the Earth is a subject of a "gigantic galactic experiment" by "outer space beings" may very well push the limits of his credibility.

The third book was the one that piqued my interest the most though. I confessed to Rob that I'd never heard of the author, and Rob informed me in his inimitable style that "This guy basically had a nervous breakdown and started banging on about a load of New Age stuff". And with that I was drawn in to the wonderful world of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa.

Rampa first came to prominence in 1956 when the book "The Third Eye" was published by Secker and Warburg. The book, detailing the early life of a young Buddhist monk, was an easy read that seemed to be choc-a-bloc full of ancient wisdom. Billed as an autobiography, it depicts a series events during the reign of Thubten Gyatso, the thirteenth Dali Lama. An adolescent Rampa is discovered because he has woovy bezerk powers when it comes to theological studies, and is subsequently trained to become the Dali Lama's aide. On his way Rampa has to deal with an ever changing political landscape as well as trying to continuously better himself spiritually.

Needless to say "The Third Eye" became an instant sensation, shifting volumes normally reserved for stories involving an incredibly irritating teenage wizard with a funny scar on is forehead. Despite it's success, experts on Tibetan literature expressed their doubts. For example Rampa tells a tale where he and a fellow student fly through the air on the back of some gigantic kites, which scholars argued was, er, nonsense. They were even more flabbergasted when Rampa went on to describe a procedure where a hole was drilled into his forehead to release his "Third Eye", after which the book is named. This operation would not cause brain damage and reduce your intellect to that matching Paris Hilton's, as one would think, but instead grant you with psychic powers. You know, like Charles Xavier from the X-Men. Except Charles Xavier didn't have a sodding great big hole in his forehead. Most folk well versed in this type of thing agreed that such a practice doesn't exist within Buddhism.

Oh and Rampa also met with the Abominable Snowman. Sadly Rampa admits that the Yeti scared the living hell out of him and he ran away. Rather than shoot it with a laser beam from his magic eye. You know, like Cyclops from the X-Men. Except Cyclops didn’t have a sodding great big hole in his forehead.

I don’t know about you but I’m starting to see a trend here.

Sensing that this might not be on the level (Gee Note: Really? What gave you that idea?) noted explorer Heinrich Harrer, author of Seven Years in Tibet (Gee Note: Which was made in to a movie staring Brad Pitt, who sportingly gave us the worst attempt at a German accent ever recorded via the medium of cinema) hired a private detective named Philip Marlowe Clifford Burgess to investigate Rampa. Burgess knocked down doors and kicked some ass until he made a shocking discovery, the results of which were published in the Daily Mail in February 1958.

Not only was Tuesday Lobsang Rampa not an actual Buddhist monk, the dude had never even been to Tibet. Instead the man who wrote The Third Eye was none other than Cyril Henry Hoskin, who was born in 1910 in the exotic location of, um, Plymouth. That’s Plymouth in Devon. That’s Devon in England. The England that’s, oh gosh, about 4500 miles removed from Tibet.

A public outcry was had. Paper’s nationwide screamed things like “Fake!” and “Scandal!” while printing pictures of Hoskin that showed the lack of a sodding great big hole in his forehead. Hoskin however had a perfectly rational and sensible explanation for all this however. He wasn’t a fake, oh no siree.

He was in fact simply a vessel for the spirit of Lobsang Rampa.

Basically Hoskin claimed that he was in a tree trying to photograph an owl one day when the clumsy bugger slipped off the branch he was sitting on a planted himself headfirst in to the ground (Gee Note: Obviously I mean Hoskin and not the owl. For a start owls rarely fall out of trees. Secondly an owl that fell out of a tree would probably be a really funny picture and Hoskin would have instantly found a new career path other than writing the memoirs of a fake lama). Hoskin claimed that when he came to he saw a Tibetan monk coming towards him. The monk offered him a deal, how would he like to carry the spirit of Lobsang Rampa after Rampa’s body becomes to weak to carry on? Hoskin, dismayed at the way his own life had turned out, agreed. Which you can’t really blame him for I guess. I mean if I couldn’t take a simple bloody photograph without cracking my skull open then I’d be looking for a way out too.

When the time came, Lobsang Rampa passed his spirit in to the body of Hoskin via a process called transmigration of the soul. Which is a bit like what Sam Beckett used to do in Quantum Leap. And then Rampa proceeded to ask Ziggy what chance little Suzie had of making the big dance if he didn’t get the photograph of the owl write his life story. If you believe Hoskin. Or Rampa. I don’t know. It gets confusing because by this point the guy has two names. You know like Superman. Do you call him “Super”? Do you call him “Clarke”? I’m just glad I’ve never met him at a cocktail party. I’m bound to get it wrong and make a faux pas.

Of course most folks thought this was a load of old bollocks and called him on it. Hoskin relocated to Canada to avoid being hounded with allegations that he was a charlatan, thinking quite rightly that Canadians are just too damn polite to make the same accusations. Like his latter day counterpart David Icke, upon the revelations of his real identity a lot of people believed his assertion that he was the spirit of a Tibetan monk. An awful lot more didn’t however.

At some point Hoskin legally changed his name to T Lobsang Rampa. And until his death in 1981 he always claimed that his work was not fraudulent and nothing but the stone cold truth.

And it’s quite possible that Rampa believed just that. After all his fifth published book “Living with the Lama” he claims was dictated to him by his blind Siamese cat, Mrs. Fifi Greywhiskers. No really. The foreword of the book reads like this.

“You’ve gone off your head, Feef,” said the Lama. “Who will believe that YOU wrote a book?”. He smiled down at me and rub under my chin in just the way I liked best before he left the room on some business.

I sat an pondered. “Why should I not write a book?” I thought. True that I am a Cat, but not an ordinary cat. Oh dear! No! I am Siamese cat that has travelled far and seen much. “Seen?” Well of course I am quite blind now, and have to rely on the Lama and the Lady Ku’ei to tell me of the present scene, but I have my memories!

Which means one of three things. Either Rampa was a skilled fictionist. Or he was barking mad. Or he really was the reinvigorated soul of a dying monk who could also speak cat.

And, honestly, who wouldn’t want to read about that?

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