A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
The episode illustrates the habitual mixture of ridiculous
superstition and profound wisdom which one finds in Oriental
races. Yet no people can afford to go on believing in arrant untruths.
The coming of the white races in the East is like a clean strong wind
which blows away the repulsive cobwebs of outworn beliefs and
barbarous customs. For the whites bring sanity, common sense and
scepticism. There is room and necessity for these things ki life also.
Civilization has almost destroyed our faith in the supernatural.
Yet let it not be thought that the superstition of the Tibetans is all
arrant nonsense. It is not. There is fire behind the smoke. Truth
continues amid the distortions in which we find her engulfed. The
Lamas cannot suspend Nature's laws but they can take advantage of
laws which to us are unknown, to them long known. Men with
genuine magical powers do exist there, but they are not to be found
in the monasteries. Such men always disdain the herd of common
monks and take themselves off to isolated places or high up in the
mountains. And naturally they are very, very few. They are not at all
interested in impressing the masses with displays of their super-
normal gifts. But the boasters and pretenders, the blindly credulous
among the orthodox Lamas, even as in India, acquire and keep a
hollow reputation for miracle-working which would crumple up
with the first touch of scientific investigation.
I have met more than one pretender in India and Africa who
offered to provide me with amulets that would make my body
Nevertheless, not only is there some residue of truth behind
Tibetan claims (and Indian claims) for the existence of psychic
powers and of forces, otherwise inexplicable, but there is also
something behind the tradition of high spiritual wisdom in the bleak
plateau. I believe, from my varied researches, that Mount Kailas
and its vicinity, including Lake Manasrowar, possesses a magnetic
atmosphere-of intense spiritual vibration, as does Mount Arunachala
in South India. I am sure that any genuinely sensitive person would
automatically find his thoughts being caught and held in reverence,
at least, when he approached this mountain, which-is Asia's spiritual
centre and Tibet's spiritual pride.
When the British army under Colonel Younghusband's com-
mand did succeed in reaching Lhasa eventually and the treaty
which was the subject of this little war was finally obtained and
signed, a curious tiling happened to its leader. He told me that
the day following this event he obeyed a profound urge and went
off alone up the steep rocky hill which overlooks Lhasa. After
climbing for some time he} sat down on a boulder and rested.
Quickly there came to him the most overwhelming spiritual ex-