Lobsang Rampa and what we choose to believe

When I was perhaps 14, I was intrigued with books by Lobsang Rampa, but I could only afford to buy very few books with my pocket money, and so I would buy another Asimov.

Leafing through one of those Lobsang Rampa books, I recall reading about the mummified bodies of giants hidden under the Potala Palace in Lhasa. I don’t know whether I knew anything much about Tibet then, or whether, indeed, it was this that kindled my interest. Certainly, throughout my life, an abiding fascination for Tibet has lurked in the back of my mind. It was invoked in Ayesha: the Return of She, H. Rider Haggard’s sequel to She—though I read that much later. It haunted me with visions of Shangri-La; though I only read Lost Horizon by James Hilton (another bestseller fantasy about Tibet) relatively recently, and watched (or re-watched? how else did I know about it?) the 1937 film by Frank Capra. Even as the Dalai Lama became an accessible celebrity, those giants under the Potala lurked in my unconscious; I still hold on to a notion of a Tibet that is inaccessible and hidden from the world—even though the Chinese have built a railway to Lhasa, and Tibet is exposed to the outside world, so that it would seem there is no longer anywhere for any of these sorts of mysteries to hide.

So, today, I was watching a spurious, though entertaining—fascinating, even—YouTube documentary about ‘Hollow Earth’ theories. None of it made much sense, but the narration was so earnest, and the ideas—bonkers as they are—so fascinating, and then Lobsang Rampa was mentioned, bringing him back into my mind, more than 40 years on, and I decided to look him up on wikipedia.

And what did I discover but that Lobsang Rampa was actually a Cyril Hoskin, a school dropout born in Devon, the son of a village plumber. This was the man who had written these books. When unmasked by a private detective (yes, really!), Hoskin claimed that his body was now occupied by the spirit of a Tibetan lama—Lobsang Rampa.

Hoskin’s books were bestsellers, and many people who went on to become academic Tibetologists and buddhologists said that “it was a fascination with the world Rampa described that had led them to become professional scholars of Tibet”. The same professor who discovered this added that, when he gave The Third Eye (Hoskin’s most famous book) to a class of his at the University of Michigan, without telling them about its provenance, the students were “unanimous in their praise of the book and, despite six prior weeks of lectures and readings on Tibetan history and religion, they found it entirely credible and compelling; judging it more realistic than anything they had previously read about Tibet.”

So, it seems that I was not the only one who had his views of Tibet formed by Mr Hoskin.

Even the Dalai Lama has apparently admitted that, although Hoskin’s books were fictitious, they had created good publicity for Tibet.

All of this seems to me to point to a rather interesting—alarming, even—characteristic of human beings: we believe that which we want to believe. In this case, many of us have become captivated—have fallen victim to—a mirage of Tibet that we cling to so tightly, that when a plumber from Devon spins fantasies of the place, they become bestsellers and reinforce, in the minds of many people, a collective hallucination of that land so appealing, that it eclipses its reality.

Beyond this, my other examples seem to have a common theme: things being interpreted through a white perspective. Hoskin, a white man, masquerading as a Tibetan Lama. Ayesha, a white woman, lording it over savages in Africa and then Tibet. In Shangri-La, white people stumble into a mysterious valley hidden somewhere in the Himalayas. Though this valley is ruled by lamas, it turns out that their head is a white Frenchman, who also masquerades as a Tibetan.

I am reminded of an interview I watched recently with the boxer Muhammad Ali, in which he riffed on how, growing up, everything white was good, everything black was bad. He pointed out something that, to me growing up seemed perfectly natural, Tarzan, a white man in Africa, was the one who understood the animals and could communicate with them, when the black men all around him could not.

All this could be seen as colonialism, racism even. More innocently, we could see this as just white people doing what people everywhere else do: interpreting the ‘exotic other’ through their own cultural forms and experiences. I grew up on this sort of storytelling—it illuminated my childhood and fed the growth of my imagination—how can I regret that? Even the Dalai Lama—with his characteristic grace—apparently said that Lobsang Rampa/Hoskin had benefited Tibet.

This said, now that we are all growing up from this sort of ‘innocence’, it is time to set aside this sort of white self-obsession, to put aside these distorting fantasies, to make an effort to see everyone in the world as they really are.

Posted by Ricardo

writer and blogger

15 Replies to “Lobsang Rampa and what we choose to believe”

  1. I have red all of Lobsang’s books and now on my 10 k walk each morning I listen to the audio on my mp3 Everything he rights is true and such wisdom is needed right now s there are so many ignorant people who have been dumbed down. When I think of the wickedness of China and it’s invasion of Tibet and the evil way this vile race killed people as you see China is invading every country and taking what does not belong to them and stupid backward countries like Australia have allowed them to walk all over them. A war is coming and China will be silenced once and for all and most of their country will be destroyed.


  2. Only those few who like me deeply studied all his 19 books along with Pranayam and meditation benefitted and thereby proved beyond any doubt that all his books are TRUE. Books were written by the great Tibetan lama and not by Cyril Hoskin. Lama Lobsang Rampa occupied Hoskin’s body, but soul was of Tampa.
    Those who are just skeptical critics will never understand this great saint.


  3. I would agree with you. Ricardo’s opinion may just be an opinion in fact, his own, simply finding corroborated by current social trends, which does not necessarily makes it true.


  4. I looks like the biggest sin of Mr Hoskin is to be a he son of a village plumber and a school dropout. “Higher born” cannot forgive that he became famous and richer than them haha


  5. Shonda J Pertilla 2nd January 2021 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I am of African ancestry, but born in the USA. White perspective permeates everything; washing out everyone else from any sense of pride and greatness in history. One has to find and rediscover one’s self for the first time, it seems after such extensive brainwashing. It is hard. This is why teasing out white perspective from everyone else’s historical truth is necessary. It’s been so invasive and damaging to so many people around the world for centuries. It’s time. *Note: I was thinking to purchase a couple of Lobsang’s books and decided to find out more about him before doing so. That’s how I found this discussion.


  6. Nithyananda a man from south india also demystifies the same mysteries which Mr Rampa was trying to unviel. things like hollow earth and artificial moon and civilizations inside some of the mountains. Fortunately for you he is pretty much black. and what about that. Reader’s doesn’t care about the author’s skin colour all that matters is content. Mr. Ricardo is trying to bring up the racism and colours discrimination which doesnot even exist in this author’s context in the first place.. Point is you are bringing up the ROTTEN POTATO IN PEOPLE’S MIND through this blog.


  7. Do you know that the fourteenth
    Dalai Lama is not the reincarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama


    1. whether he is or not, he is still a Tibetan—being born humbly and living in the Potala Palace into his 20s—and so would seem a reasonable person to confirm whether something was or was not accurate about Tibet and Tibet life, no?


      1. Not necessarily. There may be reasons to in fact hide such a huge fact as those claimed by Rampa from immature individuals. After all, the Nazi seemed to be very driven towards the occult. Aside history, my point is: why do we discredit intuition as fantasy? Tibetan Buddhism contains even more “fantastic” accounts such as “Rainbow Bodies” for example. Unless something is factually proved wrong,opinions remain opinions, whether they seem more realist or fantastic.


  8. You are doing a disservice to yourself and anyone who reads what you have wrote, by denying the authenticity of Lobsang Rampa.


    1. hi Abigail—what do you make of the Dalai Lama saying that Lobsang Rampa’s books being fictitious?


      1. Do you know that the fourteenth
        Dalai Lama is not the reincarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama


  9. “More innocently, we could see this as just white people doing what people everywhere else do: interpreting the ‘exotic other’ through their own cultural forms and experiences.”

    I feel a lot of the racism-denial that suffuses current discourse comes out of this desire to refuse to believe that ‘we’ could be ‘bad’, or ‘wrong’. There is a deep-seated fear of loss of certainty at work here…


    1. I was merely trying to contextualize this sort of behaviour—distinguishing between intention and effect. A little further on, I seek to further contextualize that contextualization with: “However, now that we have all grown up”. That though it may be possible to provide a more forgiving characterization of this sort of behaviour in the past, it is no longer possible to behave like that with any kind of innocence…


      1. A lie, is a lie, is a lie. Lobsang lied by obscuring the full truth from the outset which indicates premeditation to deceive. Who is the father of liars? Who told us that we could be like God if we ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ie duality?
        You are also somewhat naive to think that the Dalai Lama would ever tell the plebs the truth about our true history. He did say Lobsang is a fake monk, perhaps only to distance himself, however, Lobsang did far more than make Tibet popular.
        He was a major psyop in the mind warfare experiments that occur on a regular basis anywhere they target. Just like HIV Aids…
        Also, feeding into the racial hatred is never a wise thing to do, especially judging by a comment by someone who has chosen to believe they are severely oppressed due to skin colour alone.
        I went off the path of Righteousness in Jesus Christ and Lobsang was one of the earliest books I had read linked to the occult and even though he was exposed quite early, I never heard that news, it never made the headline, or discussed much in these buddhist circles that were sparked by Cyril aka St. Nic. aka Satan aka CIA aka Scientists etc.
        But I am filled with joy at the knowledge that because of Jesus Christ I am set free from bondage to error and sin, and my name is written in the Book of Life.
        There is no other truth than one truth. Truth when varied becomes untruth, and a mere version due to its alterations. There is only one truth. Buddhism is a rather recent development fleshed out by scribes devoted to pride in concepts stolen from Jesus distorting them by subsuming them into their cult teachings, to continue to mislead the masses. Just like mohammed the slave of alla did too.
        I am constantly astonished by the gullibility of humanity.
        I myself am often naive about things.
        Surely if it were not for the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ I would be lost forever in the darkness awaiting condemnation for rejecting the One and Only and I am forever thankful for Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
        Take care!
        Read your Bible and repent.


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