Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” Men of Ashoka, the Maurya Clan, and its Connection to Theosophy
Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” Secret Society of King Asoka
In 1923, Talbot Mundy, of the British police wrote a fiction novel called The Nine Unknown, about a secret society founded by Mauryan Emperor Asoka (c. 268 to 232 BCE) after his conversion to Buddhism. The secret society preserved the ancient science of India. Koot Hoomi and Morya repeatedly stated in The Mahatma Letters, that the initiates are the protectorates of the Secret Knowledge underlying the Shaddarshanas, or the Six (exoteric) Schools. It would be dangerous, if it fell into the hands of the masses.
Talbot Mundy’s The Nine Unknowns (1923), is eerily similar to the clandestine chiefs involved in the early history of the Theosophical Society in the 18th-19th century literature. A certain J.N. Maskelyne wrote a title, Fraud of Modern Theosophy (1912) dubbing Helena P. Blavatsky the “greatest fraud in history.” J.N. Maskelyne believed there was no evidences of the existence for these “mahatmas.”
The Maurya Clan
That there exists “mahātmās” (i.e., saints), “unknown superiors,” in India was no theosophical fancy. In 1851, H.P.B. met a man by the name of Morya, a Rajput by birth, and a claimed initiate. He lived with the man we quote under the name, Koot Hoomi, who claimed, that Morya lived with him in Little Tibet (Jammu and Kashmir).
The Moryas, H.P.B. explains, is that of the Maurya clan, who ruled from 322-185 B.C.E. Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Dynasty and Empire, united the Indian subcontinent; and his grandson Aśoka adopted Buddhism, and sent out missionaries throughout parts of Asia and the Mediterranean world. Helena P. Blavatsky claims, long after the fall of the Maurya Dynasty, the Mauryas continued to have deep connections with Buddhism.
On the Mauryas—in “436 CE an Arhat (Buddhist saint) named Kasyapa, who belonged to the Morya clan, left an Indian convent in Panch-Kukkutarama with the fifth of seven golden statues of the Buddha, which he carried to a lake in Bod-yul (Tibet), thereby fulfilling an ancient prophecy. Seven years later the first Buddhist monastery was established on that spot, although the conversion of the country did not begin in earnest till the 7th century. Most of the abbots of that monastery “were the descendants of the dynasty of the Moryas, there being up to this day three of the members of this once royal family living in India.” (Shakyamuni’s Place in History, Collected Writings, Vol. V. 245-246).
The Maurya clan is connected to Sakyamuni’s clan, the Sakyas. Both Morya and Koot Hoomi claim, their esoteric school that was in the Trans-Himalayan region. Helena P. Blavatsky said in her time, that “none of the genuine Yogâchârya books have ever been made public or marketable.” She asserts, there were two distinct Aryasangas, separated by long centuries. The first she says, “founded the first Yogacharya school.” It was neither a northern or southern school, or teaching, but an esoteric school of early Buddhist teachings; and later popularized in an ‘exoteric’ form by the ‘second Aryasanga.’
This ‘second Aryasanga’ is the historically known Asanga, who was a saint, according to The Life of Vasu-Bandhu, and the eldest of three brothers. Paramartha narrates, that he went through the Sarvāstivāda school of Buddhism, and later after learning the doctrine of nothingness of the Hinayāna, ascended to the Tuṣita heaven. Whereby, he was taught by Maitreya himself, who instructed him in “the doctrine of nothingness belonging to the Mahā-yāna.” Upon enlightenment, he called himself Asanga, which means “without attachment.”
Core ideas of the Yogācāra system are in the nineteenth-century Theosophical system. Indications point to this high system of thought, to have been systematised by one or several great teachers, and Emil Schlagintweit, in 1863, remarked that the approximate origin of the Mahāyāna religious books, were difficult, because they were written before Asanga.
Helena Blavatsky said according to notes transcribed by Laura C. Holloway in The Mahatmas and Their Instruments (The Word, New York, May 1912, pp. 69-76):
“Western people are in their first phase of spiritual awakening, and want phenomena at every step.”
She stated to Laura C. Holoway:
“People expect too much from others in psychic matters. They demand to know about the Mahatmas and, when answered according to their understandings, they demand that I do just what they tell me by way of proof. When I refuse, they go away and abuse me. You know enough about the law of Karma to realize that I cannot interfere with it.”
“I tell every one that it is possible for them to learn occult things; and how little or how big the results obtained will depend upon themselves, and what they have been in other lives. Because I know the Mahatmas and try to serve them, it does not follow that I can make others acquainted with them. It depends entirely upon thinking.”
Then, H.P.B. quoting a paragraph from her teacher’s letter, repeats:
“Everyone should try to break through that great Maya against which occult students, the world over, have always been warned by their teachers – the hankering after phenomena. Like the thirst for drink and opium, it grows with gratification. The spiritualists are drunk with it, they are thaumaturgic sots. If you cannot be happy without phenomena you will never learn our philosophy.”
“The pendulum has swung from the extreme of blind faith towards the extreme of materialistic skepticism, and nothing can stop it save Theosophy. Is not this a thing worth working for, to save those nations from the doom their ignorance is preparing for them?” (K.H., written 1884, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, C. Jinarajadasa comp., TPH, 1973/77, Vol. 1, pg. 20)
****See Comment Section for interesting details.
Mundy lived at the Pt Loma Theosophical Society for a time. His most famous book OM was inspired by the teachings and presence of the Leader of the TS at that time, Katherine Tingley. Here is his 1924 note expressing gratitude for her help:
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That is an amazing find Nicholas. Had no clue. Where did you find it from?
The TS Pasadena site – click on the letter and note the URL
Mundy wrote over 30 novels, many of occult bent. The best biography on him is Brian Taves’ “Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure.”
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Great work 👍