The Counterfeit Lama

Beginning in the 1950s and continuing for decades afterward, the name Tuesday Lobsang Rampa was synonymous with the occult and exotic.  When his first book, The Third Eye, was published in 1956, the author (who had originally gone by the name of "Doctor Carl Kon Suo") described his training as a Tibetan monk.  As Rampa related in his book, he had originally been sent to a monastery at the age of seven and began his  arduous training by having the "Third Eye" awakened to enhance his powers of clairvoyance.  The operation involved a small hole being drilled into his forehead with a U-shaped awl.  In his book, Rampa stated that, "one of the lamas "pressed the instrument to the center of my forehead and rotated the handle. . . . There was a little jolt as the end hit the bone. He applied more pressure. . . . There was a little 'scrunch' and the instrument penetrated the bone. . . . Suddenly there was a blinding flash. . . ." "You are now one of us, Lobsang," the lama said. "For the rest of your life you will see people as they are and not as they pretend to be".  He called himself Tuesday Lobsang Rampa since that was the day of the week on which he was born (which he claimed was a Tibetan tradition for birthnames).

While the notion that the human pineal gland was the seat of the soul and the centre of mystical experience dates back to ancient times, the use of trepanation techniques to enhance psychic powers has been explored to some extent in occult literature.  Still, it was T. Lobsang Rampa who made the idea famous with his best-selling book .  51d7r2DDF0L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1] Rampa also described how the trepanning operation gave him tremendous psychic powers including the ability to diagnose disease by reading "auras", astral travel, and levitation.  He also discussed his meeting with yetis, advising the Dalai Lama, being imprisoned in Russian and Japanese concentration camps, and serving as a medical officer in China.  Readers were awed by the vivid descriptions of the mysterious world hidden in Tibetan monasteries. 

Unfortunately, people who had actual experience of life in Tibet were not so impressed by the book's numerous errors.  Suspicion over Lobsang Rampa's fantastic claims led to a formal investigation by Liverpool private investigator, Clifford Burgess.  The results of Burgess' investigation were eventually published in 1958 in an issue of U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail and revealed that Tuesday Lobsang Rampa was actually Cyril Henry Hoskins.  The son of a Devon plumber, Hoskins had never visited Tibet and didn't even own a passport at the time his book came out.  Prior to 1956, Hoskins was working as a clerk in London while trying to become a successful writer.  At some point, he decided to shave his head, grow a beard, dress in elaborate Chinese robes, and change his name to Carl Kon Suo.  After being confronted with these revelations, Hoskins made no attempt to deny them.  As he would explain in a later book, Hoskins' body was possessed by  T. Lobsang Rampa's spirit after falling out of a tree in the backyard of his Surrey home.   Since Hoskins had become dissatisfied with his own life, he agreed to allow Rampa's spirit to enter his body. 

Despite his very public exposure, it was hardly the end of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa.  Although his British publisher canceled plans for Hoskins' next book, his American publisher was a little more ambivalent about distancing themselves.  In a prepared statement, a representative for Doubleday said that: "We expected that people would think it good reading, but not necessarily true."  The controversy over the authenticity of Rampa's book simply drove further sales.  In 1964, The Third Eye was reissued by Ballantine Books (with no mention of the controversy) and has since gone on to multiple printings.  In the forward, Lobsang Rampa dismissed all claims against him as being due to "vicious hatred" by his many enemies and that all events in The Third Eye were true. He also added that, "I am Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, that is my only name, now my legal name, and I answer to no other"

Rampa went on to write an additional eighteen books including My Visit to Venus, The Saffron Robe, You Forever, and Three Lives.  He also put out a Rampa Meditation Kit including a saffron robe, incense and burner, and a tape of Tibetan monastic chants.  Even his wife San Ra'ab Rampa published several books describing her life with Rampa.  During the 1960s, Lobsang Rampa and his wife immigrated to Canada to escape the high income tax on his royalties.  They both became Canadian citizens and established an ashram in Toronto.  Long after his death in a Calgary hospital in 1981, Lobsang Rampa's books have remained in print and sold millions of copies around the world.  Ironically, the greatest appeal for Rampa's teachings seemed to be in Western countries.  There was little support for the books in India or the rest of Asia where the obvious mistakes could be easily spotted.  At least one journalist has argued that Tuesday Lobsang Rampa was largely a creation of the Western media.

Even today, Tuesday Lobsang Rampa has his supporters as well as an active organization propagating his rather, unique, take on Tibetan mysticism.  Although the 14th Dalai Lama himself has publicly denounced Rampa's books, accusations of "conspiracy" continue to be laid against skeptics.  The Rampa movement has declined in recent years as other cult religions have become better known but the books are still being sold in occult bookstores as well as online (with no mention of the disputed authorship).

As for Cyril Henry Hoskins/Tuesday Lobsang Rampa himself, it's hard to decide what to make of him.  Whether it was fraud or self-deception (or some combination of the two), he certainly knew how to write books that people wanted to read.  Even with more information about mystery religions from faraway lands becoming available, self-appointed religious figures are still able to attract the kind of following that Rampa did.  

Belief can be a strange thing.

 

           

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