by Alexander Berzin
revised May and December 2003
Many foreign myths have grown around the legend of Shambhala found
in the Kalachakra literature. Some were spread to win military or
political support, such as the identification of Russia, Mongolia,
or Japan as Shambhala. Others appeared within occult movements and
mixed Buddhist ideas with concepts from other systems of belief.
Several even spawned expeditions to find the fabled land.
Two camps arose among the occult versions. One side regarded
Shambhala as a utopian paradise whose people will save the world.
The British novelist, James Hilton, fits into this camp. His 1933
work, Lost Horizon, describes Shangrila as a spiritual paradise
found in an inaccessible, hidden valley in Tibet. Shangrila is
undoubtedly a romantic corruption of Shambhala. The other side
depicted Shambhala as a land of malevolent power. Several postwar
accounts of the connection between Nazism and the Occult present
this interpretation. It is important not to confuse either of these
distortions with Buddhism itself. Let us trace the phenomenon.
Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) was born in the Ukraine to
Russian nobility. Endowed with extrasensory powers, she traveled
the world in search of occult, secret teachings and spent many years
on the Indian subcontinent. From 1867 to 1870, she studied Tibetan
Buddhism with Indian masters, most likely from the Tibetan cultural
regions of the Indian Himalayas, during her purported stay at Tashilhunpo Monastery in
Blavatsky encountered Tibetan Buddhism at a time when European
Oriental scholarship was still in its infancy and few translations
or accounts were available. Further, she was able to learn only
disjointed fragments of its vast teachings. In her private letters,
she wrote that because the Western public at that time had little
acquaintance with Tibetan Buddhism, she decided to translate and
explain the basic terms with more popularly known concepts from
Hinduism and the Occult. For example, she translated three of the
four island-worlds (four continents) around Mount Meru as the sunken
lost islands of Hyperborea, Lemuria, and Atlantis. Likewise, she
presented the four humanoid races mentioned in the abhidharma and
Kalachakra teachings (born from transformation, moisture and heat,
eggs, and wombs) as the races of these island-worlds. Her belief
that the esoteric teachings of all the world’s religions form one
body of occult knowledge reinforced her decision to translate in
this manner and she set out to demonstrate that in her writings.
Together with the American spiritualist Colonel Henry Steel Olcott,
Madame Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in 1875 in New
York. Its international headquarters moved to Madras, India,
shortly thereafter. When her colleague Alfred Percy Sinnett
identified Theosophy with esoteric Buddhism in Esoteric Buddhism
(1883), Blavatsky refuted his claim. According to her posthumously
published Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Blavatsky’s
position was that Theosophy transmitted the “secret occult teachings
of trans-Himalaya,” not the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
Nevertheless, through her writings, the West first came to associate
Shambhala with the Occult and many subsequently confused this
connection with the actual teachings of Buddhism.
In 1888, Blavatsky mentioned Shambhala in her main work,
Doctrine, the teachings for which she said she received
telepathically from her teachers in Tibet. She wrote in a letter
that although her teachers were reincarnate “byang-tzyoobs” or
“tchang-chubs” (Tib. byang-chub, Skt. bodhisattva), she had called
them “mahatmas” since that term was more familiar to the British in
The Tibetan source of the teachings in The Secret Doctrine,
Blavatsky claimed, is The Stanzas of Dzyan, the first volume of
commentaries to the seven secret folios of Kiu-te. “Kiu-te”
transcribes the Tibetan “rgyud-sde,” meaning “tantra division,”
which is the title of the first section of the Kagyur, the Tibetan
translations of Buddha’s words. “Dzyan” transcribes the Sanskrit
“dhyana” (Jap. zen), meaning mental stability. Blavatsky was aware
that The Kalachakra Tantra was the first item in the tantra division
of the Kagyur, since she mentioned that fact in one of her notes.
She explained, however, that the seven secret folios were not
actually part of the published Kiu-te, and thus we do not find
anything similar to
The Stanzas of Dzyan in that collection.
It is unclear to what extent Blavatsky actually studied the
Kalachakra texts directly. The earliest Western material on the
topic was an 1833 article entitled “Note on the Origins of the Kalachakra and Adi-Buddha Systems” by the Hungarian pioneer scholar
Alexander Csomo de Kцrцs (Kцrцsi Csoma Sandor). De Kцrцs compiled
the first dictionary and grammar of Tibetan in a Western language,
English, in 1834. Jakov Schmidt’s Tibetan-Russian Dictionary and
Grammar soon followed in 1839. Most of Blavatsky’s familiarity with
Kalachakra, however, came from the chapter entitled “The Kalachakra
System” in Emil Schlagintweit’s Buddhism in Tibet (1863), as
evidenced by her borrowing many passages from that book in her
works. Following her translation principle, however, she rendered Shambhala in terms of similar concepts in Hinduism and the Occult.
The first English translation of The Vishnu Purana, by Horace Hayman
Wallace, had appeared in 1864, three years before Blavatsky’s
purported visit to Tibet. Accordingly, she explained Shambhala in
terms of the Hindu presentation in this text: it is the village
where the future messiah, Kalki Avatar, will appear.
Blavatsky wrote, is,
“Vishnu, the Messiah on the White Horse of the
Brahmins; Maitreya Buddha of the Buddhists; Sosiosh of the Parsis;
and Jesus of the Christians.”
She also claimed that Shankaracharya,
the early ninth-century founder of Advaitya Vedanta,
among the Brotherhood of Shamballa, beyond the Himalayas.”
Elsewhere, she wrote that when
Lemuria sank, part of its people
Atlantis, while part of its elect migrated to the sacred
island of “Shamballah” in the Gobi Desert. Neither the
literature nor The Vishnu Purana, however, has any mention of
Atlantis, Lemuria, Maitreya, or Sosiosh. The association of
Shambhala with them, however, continued among Blavatsky’s followers.
Blavatsky’s placement of Shambhala in the Gobi Desert is not
surprising since the Mongols, including the Buryat population of
Siberia and the Kalmyks of the lower Volga region, were strong
followers of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly its Kalachakra
teachings. For centuries, Mongols everywhere have believed that
Mongolia is the Northern Land of Shambhala and Blavatsky was
undoubtedly acquainted with the Buryat and Kalmyk beliefs in Russia.
Blavatsky might also have received confirmation of her placement of
Shambhala in the Gobi Desert from the writings of Csoma de Kцrцs. In
an 1825 letter, he wrote that Shambhala is like a Buddhist Jerusalem
and lay between 45 and 50 degrees longitude. Although he felt that
Shambhala would probably be found in the Kizilkum Desert in
Kazakhstan, the Gobi also fell within the two longitudes. Others
later would also locate it within these parameters, but either in
East Turkistan (Xinjiang, Sinkiang) or the Altai Mountains.
Although Blavatsky herself never asserted that Shambhala was the
source of The Secret Doctrine, several later Theosophists made this
connection. Foremost among them was
Alice Bailey in Letters on
Occult Meditation (1922). Helena Roerich, in her Collected Letters
(1935-1936), also wrote that Blavatsky was a messenger of the White
Brotherhood from Shambhala. Moreover, she reported that in 1934 the
Ruler of Shambhala had recalled to Tibet the mahatmas who had
transmitted to Blavatsky the secret teachings.
Dorjiev’s Assertion of Russia as Shambhala
The first major exploitation of the Shambhala legend for political
purposes also involved Russia. Agvan Dorjiev (1854-1938) was a
Buryat Mongol monk who studied in Lhasa and became the
Partner (Assistant Tutor) of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. In the face
of British and Chinese machinations for control of Tibet, he
convinced the Dalai Lama to turn to Russia for military support. He
did this by telling him that Russia was Shambhala and Czar Nicholas
II was the reincarnation of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug
tradition. Dorjiev went on several missions to the Russian Imperial
Court, but was never able to secure any help. He was able, however,
to convince the Czar to build a Kalachakra Temple in St. Petersburg.
The first public ceremony in the temple took place in 1913. It was a
ritual for the long-life of the Romanov Dynasty on its 300th
anniversary. According to Albert Grьnwedel, the German explorer of
Central Asia, in Der Weg nach Shambhala (The Way to Shambhala)
(1915), Dorjiev spoke of the Romanov Dynasty as the descendants of
the rulers of Shambhala.
The Role of the Shambhala Legend in Russian
and Japanese Involvement with Pre-Communist Tibet]
Mongolia, Japan, and
The next political exploitation of the Shambhala legend occurred in
Mongolia. Baron von Ungern-Sternberg, a German who lived in Russia,
was an avid anti-Bolshevik. During the Civil War that followed the
Russian Revolution of 1917, he fought in Siberia with the White
Russian (Czarist) forces. With Japanese support, he successfully
invaded Outer Mongolia in 1920 to free it from the Chinese.
Notorious for his cruelty, Ungern slaughtered thousands of Chinese,
collaborator Mongols, Russian Bolsheviks, and Jews, earning himself
the nickname “Mad Baron.” Ungern believed that all Jews were
Sukhe Batur established the Mongolian Communist Provisional
Government in Buryatia and led a Mongol army against Ungern. He
rallied his troops by telling them that by fighting to free Mongolia
from oppression, they would be reborn in the army of Shambhala. With
the help of the Soviet Red Army, Sukhe Batur took Urga (Ulaan Baatar),
the Mongolian capital, in late 1921. The People’s Republic of
Mongolia was founded in 1924.
After the Japanese takeover of Inner Mongolia in 1937, Japan too
exploited the Shambhala legend for political gain. To try to win the
allegiance of the Mongols, it spread the propaganda that Japan was
Exploitation of the Shambhala Legend for
Control of Mongolia]
Ossendowski and Agharti
In the 1922 book Beasts, Men and Gods, Ferdinand Ossendowski
(1876–1945), a Polish scientist who spent most of his life in
Russia, wrote of his recent travels in Outer Mongolia during the
campaigns of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg. Ossendowski related that
several Mongol lamas had told him of Agharti, an underground kingdom
beneath Mongolia, ruled by the King of the World. In the future,
when materialism will ruin the world, a terrible war will break out.
At that time, the people of Agharti will come to the surface and
help end the violence. Ossendowski reported that he convinced
of his story and that, subsequently, Ungern twice sent missions to
seek Agharti, led by Prince Poulzig. The missions were unsuccessful
and the Prince never returned from the second expedition.
Kamil Gizycky was a Polish army engineer who also fought against the
Bolsheviks in Siberia and then joined Ungern’s forces in Mongolia.
He made no mention of Agharti in his account of the events of the
time, Poprzez Urjanchej i Mongolie (Across Urankhai and Mongolia)
(1929). Interestingly, he did relate that Ossendowski helped the
Baron by offering him the formula for making poison gas.
Although the Kalachakra texts never described Shambhala as an
underground kingdom, Ossendowski’s report clearly parallels the
Kalachakra account of the Kalki ruler of Shambhala coming to the aid
of the world to end an apocalyptic war. The appearance here of
Agharti, however, is noteworthy. The name does not appear in either
the Kalachakra literature or the works of Madame Blavatsky.
The French author Joseph-Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveidre first
popularized the legend of Agharti (Agharta, Asgartha, Agarthi,
Agardhi) in his 1886 novel Mission de l’Inde en Europe (Mission of
India in Europe). He described it as an underground kingdom with a
university that is a repository of secret knowledge. Originally
located at Ayodhya India, it was moved to a secret location beneath
the Himalayas 1800 years before the Common Era. Its king, a
“mahatma,” guards its secrets and has not revealed them, since they
would enable Antichrist forces to build powerful weapons. Once the
evil forces have been destroyed, the mahatmas will reveal their
secrets for the benefit of mankind.
Saint-Yves d’Alveidre may have in fact borrowed several elements of
his story from the Kalachakra discussion of Shambhala. The number
1800 appears repeatedly as a motif in the Kalachakra literature and
the classical texts do report that the leaders of Shambhala did
possess the knowledge for building weapons to defeat the invader
forces. Nevertheless, the Frenchman clearly wrote a work of fiction.
In Ossendowski und die Wahrheit (Ossendowski and the Truth) (1925),
the Swedish explorer of Tibet, Sven Hedin, dismissed Ossendowski’s
claims of hearing of Agharti from Mongolian lamas. He wrote that the
Polish scientist had taken the myth of Agharti from Saint-Yves
d’Alveidre and molded it to his story in order to appeal to a German
reading public familiar to a certain degree with the Occult.
acknowledged, however, that Tibet and the Dalai Lama were the
protectors of secret knowledge.
An additional explanation, however, could be that Ossendowski used
the Agharti myth to gain Ungern’s favor. Ungern would undoubtedly
have identified the materialistic Antichrist forces, which Agharti
would help to defeat, as the Bolsheviks, against whom he was
fighting. Since Sukhe Batur was rallying his troops with the promise
of Shambhala, Ungern could similarly use the Agharti story for his
own gain. If this were the case, we could trace from here the
version of the Shambhala legend that described Shambhala in an
Shambhala, and Agni Yoga
Nikolai Roerich (1874 – 1947), a Russian painter and ardent student
of Theosophy, had been on the building committee for the St.
Petersburg Kalachakra Temple and had designed its stained glass
windows. His wife, Helena, was the translator of Blavatsky’s The
Secret Doctrine into Russian. Between 1925 and 1928, he led an
expedition from India, through Tibet, to Outer Mongolia and the
Altai Mountain region in Siberia, north of East Turkistan. The
purported aim was to study plants, ethnology, and languages, and
to paint. His primary purpose, however, was to find Shambhala.
According to several accounts, Roerich’s mission was to return to
Shambhala a chintamani (wish-granting gem) entrusted to him by the
League of Nations. His group claimed to have located Shambhala in
the Altai region. Even nowadays, Roerich’s followers continue his
conviction that the Altai Mountains are a great spiritual center,
connected in some way with Shambhala.
Roerich’s search for Shambhala was perhaps partly inspired by
Grьnwedel’s Der Weg nach Shambhala, which contained a translation of
The Guidebook to Shambhala (Tib. Sham-bha-la’i lam-yig), written in
the mid-eighteenth century by the Third Panchen Lama (1738-1780).
The Panchen Lama, however, explained that the physical journey to
Shambhala could only take one so far. To reach the fabled land, one
needed to perform an enormous amount of spiritual practices. In
other words, the journey to Shambhala was actually an inner quest.
This explanation, however, did not seem to deter intrepid
adventurers such as the Roerichs from trying to reach Shambhala by
merely trekking there.
In 1929, the Roerichs created Agni Yoga, incorporating the
Theosophical teachings as its basis. Perhaps they also followed Blavatsky’s model of translating Buddhist terminology with images
and terms that were more familiar from Hinduism and the Occult. The
Roerichs, after all, asserted that Shambhala was the source of all
Indian teachings. They also called its rulers “the Lords of Fire who
will fight the Lords of Darkness.”
Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire – specifically, the sacred purificatory fire of the Vedas. Accordingly, Roerich explained that
the masters of Shambhala harness its powers for purification.
Practitioners of Agni Yoga choose Buddha, Jesus, or Muhammad as a
guide for spiritual practice. Concentrating on their chosen guides,
they pray for peace while performing simple visualizations of the
purification of obstacles.
In Buddhist tantra practice, meditators conclude intensive retreats
with so-called “fire pujas.” In these rituals, they offer several
grains and butter into a fire to purge and pacify any obstacles that
might arise from mistakes made during their meditation. In the
flames, they visualize the fire-deity Agni, a figure clearly
borrowed from Hinduism. Roerich may have witnessed such pujas either
at the Kalachakra Temple in St. Petersburg or during his travels in
the Mongol regions and derived his idea of Agni Yoga from it.
Thus, the primary association that Roerich made for Shambhala was as
a place of peace. In Shambhala: In Search of a New Era (1930),
Roerich described Shambhala as a holy city north of India. Its ruler
reveals the teachings of Maitreya Buddha for universal peace. Each
tradition describes Shambhala according to its own understanding and
thus the legend of the Holy Grail, for example, is a version of the
Shambhala story. Constantine the Great, Chinggis Khan (Genghis
Khan), and Prester John are among those who have received messages
of teachings from “the Mysterious Spiritual Abode and Brotherhood in
the heart of Asia.”
Roerich even coined the term “Shambhala Warriors,” later adopted in
the 1980s by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Incarnate Lama of
the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages who adapted and expressed
Buddhist ideas in a modern American vernacular. Trungpa wrote,
however, that his idea of the Shambhala warrior had nothing to do
with the Kalachakra teachings or with Shambhala itself. It was a
metaphor for someone striving for self-improvement for the benefit
of others. Roerich, on the other hand, used the term for “the
Brothers of Humanity,” who will bring world peace from Shambhala.
The concept of “Kalachakra for World Peace,” associated with the
Kalachakra initiations given by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai
Lama in the West since 1981, is probably also a legacy of Roerich’s
After returning from Asia, Roerich traveled to New York where, in
1929, he was instrumental in promulgating the Roerich Pact, an
international treaty for the protection of world cultural monuments.
The banner of peace Roerich proposed had three circles, which, he
explained, are found in all spiritual traditions, including that of
the “Rigden Jyelpos,” the Kings of Shambhala. Nothing like this,
however, is found in the Kalachakra texts. Numerous countries around
the world signed the pact, including the United States in 1935. The
symbol of three circles was later adopted as an insignia worn on
armbands by physically disabled persons indicating their need for
In Shambhala: In Search of a New Era, Roerich also hinted at a
similarity between Shambhala and Thule, the hidden land at the North
Pole, which, as we shall see below, inspired the Germans in their
quest for a secret land. He also mentioned the association of Shambhala with the
underground city of Agharti (Agarthi), reached
through tunnels under the Himalayas. Its inhabitants will emerge at
the “time of purification.” In her Collected Letters (1935 – 1936),
Helena Roerich pointed out that Saint-Yves d’Alveidre had mistakenly
identified Shambhala with Agharti, but they are not the same place.
Jocelyn Godwin, in Arktos, The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism and
Nazi Survival (1993), identified agni power with vril.
Vril is the
psychokinetic power protected by the inhabitants of Thule, which the
Nazis tried to obtain for helping to strengthen their Aryan superrace. Roerich, however, never made this association.
The Nazi Connection with Shambhala and Tibet]
Anthroposophy, and Shambhala
As a counterpoint to Blavatsky and Roerich’s presentations of
Shambhala as a benevolent land that will help establish world peace,
alternative versions emphasized the apocalyptic aspect of the
legend. They associated Shambhala primarily with the destructive
forces of regeneration that will do away with old outmoded ways of
thinking and will establish a new world order of peace. Thus, the
destructive force of Shambhala is ultimately benevolent. These
versions also had their roots in Theosophy.
In 1884, Dr. Wilhelm Hьbbe-Schleiden founded the German Theosophical
Society. After an initial failure, Annie Besant invited
Steiner (1861-1925), an Austrian spiritualist, to reestablish it in
1902. Steiner left the society in 1909 primarily because he could
not agree with Besant and C. W. Leadbetter’s declaration of the
sixteen-year-old Krishnamurti as the messiah. In a series of
lectures given in Berlin and Munich in 1910 and 1911, Steiner taught
what some have labeled “a Christianized version of Theosophy.”
Steiner, however, claimed that his teachings derived from his
clairvoyant reading of “the akashic records,” not from Theosophy.
Akasha is the Sanskrit word for space, and these occult records
purportedly contain all the wisdom of mankind. The Kalachakra texts
refer to the fully purified subtlest level of mental activity that
is the basis for a Buddha’s omniscient awareness as “the space vajra
pervasive with space.” They do not present it, however, as a record
of all knowledge that can be tapped by psychic means.
According to Steiner, Christ the true prophet will reveal the
of Shamballa (Shambhala) with his Second Coming. Shambhala, which
disappeared long ago, is the seat of Maitreya. In a lecture entitled
“Maitreya – Christ oder Antichrist (Maitreya – Christ or
Antichrist),” Steiner explained that “whatever will come from the
lips of Maitreya will come through the power of Christ.”
Steiner emphasized the conflict between good and evil, as
personified by Lucifer and Ahriman. Blavatsky had already
differentiated Lucifer from Satan. According to The Secret Doctrine,
Lucifer is the “Light-Bearer,” the “Astral Light” within each of our
minds that is both our tempter and liberator from pure animalism. It
serves to both create and destroy, and manifests in sexual passion.
Although Lucifer can uplift humanity to a higher plane, the Latin
scholastics had transformed him into the purely evil Satan.
Blavatsky also wrote about the Zoroastrian dualism and struggle
between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, as the forces of light and
darkness. Steiner, however, went a step further than Blavatsky and
transformed the dualism into an antagonism between Lucifer and
Ahriman. In Occult Science, An Outline, Steiner characterized
Lucifer as a being of light, the bridge between Man and God,
bringing us closer to Christ. The “Children of Lucifer,” then, are
all those who strive for knowledge and wisdom. Ahriman, in contrast,
leads mankind downward to its lower, material, carnal, animalistic
Steiner called himself a Luciferian and, by his logic, Maitreya is
the Antichrist. Since people have perverted Christ’s actual
teachings, Maitreya, as the Antichrist, will come from Shambhala and
purge the world of their blemish and teach the true message of
Christ. In 1913, Steiner’s followers founded the Anthroposophical
Society, although Steiner himself did not join until he
reestablished it in 1923.
According to The Kalachakra Tantra, Raudrachakrin, the twenty-fifth
Kalki ruler of Shambhala, will defeat the non-Indic invaders who
will try to conquer the world. These invaders will follow the
teachings of a line of eight prophets: Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses,
Jesus, Mani, Muhammad, and Mahdi. Historical analysis suggests that
the model for these invaders were the late tenth-century Ismaili
Shiite forces of Multan (present-day Pakistan), an ally of the
Egyptian Fatimid Empire. The Fatimids, with their Mahdi messiah,
sought to conquer the Islamic world before the predicted apocalypse
and the end the world five hundred years after Muhammad. People
throughout the region lived in great fear of an invasion, including
the Buddhist-Hindu-Muslim region of Afghanistan where the Kalachakra
historical teachings likely developed. The predicted conflict and
defeat of the invaders, however, was a spiritual metaphor for the
internal battle against fear and ignorance. It presented an
effective method for the terrorized people at that time to overcome
their strongly felt anxieties.
The Kalachakra Presentation of the Prophets of
the Non-Indic Invaders]
Steiner was probably unaware of the historical context and
metaphoric meaning of the Shambhala legend. Thus, he and several
others in the following decades took Shambhala as the seat of
spiritual power from which the reform of Christianity will arise.
Steiner’s emphasis on Maitreya and Shambhala as the real sources of
Christian reform in the future probably also reflects his dismay at
the Theosophist promotion of Krishnamurti as the new savior.
Holy Wars in Buddhism and Islam: The Myth of
The Kalachakra texts do not even mention the teachings of
Christianity. However, they do indicate methods for Hindus and
Muslims to find alternative meanings of doctrines in their own
religions that would allow them to form a united spiritual front
with Buddhists to face the terrors of an invasion. They even point
out teachings that Buddha gave which parallel some of the Hindu and
Muslim assertions. If followers of those religions were interested,
they could use their own beliefs as stepping-stones for reaching the
Buddhist path. Nevertheless, the Kalachakra texts do not assert that
the Buddhist teachings contain the true meanings of Hinduism or
Islam. Nor do they in any way assert that Shambhala will be the
source of reform that will bring people back to the true doctrines
of the founders of those two religions, yet alone back to the pure
teachings of Christ.
Religious Conversion in Shambhala]
Bailey and the “Shambhala Force”
The British Theosophist
Alice Bailey (1880-1949) was a medium who
claimed to channel and receive occult letters from a Tibetan master.
After losing her battle with Annie Besant for leadership of the
Theosophical movement, she founded the Lucifer Trust in 1920 in the
United States. Originally calling her Trust the Tibetan Lodge, she
changed its name once more in 1922 to the Lucis Trust. Her lectures
and writings spawned the New Age movement. She called the New Age
both the Aquarian Age and the Age of Maitreya.
In Initiations, Human and Solar (1922), Letters on Occult Meditation
(1922), A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (1925), and A Treatise on White
Magic (1934), Bailey wrote extensively about “the Shambhalla Force.”
Reminiscent of Roerich, she took Shambhala to be “the seat of Cosmic
Fire,” which is a force for purification. Rather than conceiving of
this force as benevolent agni, however, she followed Steiner’s lead
and associated it with Lucifer. Thus, she spoke of it as a source of
destructive power to eject degenerate forms of teachings and to
establish a pure New Age.
The Shambhala Force, Bailey explained, is the highly volatile energy
of self-will. In itself, it is extremely destructive and can be the
source of “Evil.” When seen as the Divine Will, however, initiates
can harness it for the ultimate “Good.” A “Hierarchy” in Shambhala,
headed by Maitreya, protects the Force and, at the proper time, will
initiate the ripe into “the Mysteries of the Ages,” “the Plan.” One
wonders if her ideas inspired the Star Wars vision of “the Force,”
as a power that can be harnessed for good or evil, and which is
guarded by a brotherhood of Jedi Warriors.
Like Steiner, Bailey adapted the concept not only of
also of the Antichrist, and this time associated it with the
Shambhala Force. Borrowing Theosophical concepts, she said that the
Shambhala Force had made its presence known twice before in history.
The first time was during the Lemurian Age, heralding the
individualization of mankind. The second was “during the Atlantean
days of struggle between the Lords of Light and the Lords of
Material Form, the Dark Forces.” Nowadays, she continued – referring
to the period between the two World Wars – it is manifesting as the
force to destroy what is undesirable and obstructive in present
world forms of government, religion, and society.
and the Brotherhood of the White Temple
Bailey’s teachings spawned several further occult movements that
associated Shambhala with even more esoteric ideas. One example is
the Brotherhood of the White Temple, founded in 1930 by the American
spiritualist Morris Doreal (1902-1963). In Maitreya, Lord of the
World, Doreal wrote that Shamballa (Shambhala)
is the Great White
Temple of Tibet, located 75 miles beneath the Himalayas. Its
entrance is underground, with space around it bent into a warp that
leads into another universe. He described Shambhala as having two
halves. The southern half is the section where adepts and great
gurus live. The northern half is the land where the avatar or world
teacher Maitreya lives. In the future, Maitreya will come with the
warriors of Shambhala, who are the “light bearers of the Aquarian
Age,” to conquer the dark forces of evil in the world.
Doreal’s main work was
The Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean,
which he claimed to have recovered from beneath the Great Pyramid in
Egypt and to have translated from the Atlantean language. He also
claimed to have received secret initiations from Tibetan monks.
Haushofer, the Thule Society, and Nazi Germany
After the Second World War, Bailey accounted for the Nazi policies
by asserting that Hitler had appropriated the Shambhala Force and as
a “tool of the Dark Forces,” had misused it to fight the "Energy of
Similar to Bailey’s claims of the connection between Hitler and the
Shambhala Force, several postwar studies on Nazism and the Occult
have asserted that the Nazis sent expeditions to Tibet to seek the
help of the forces of Shambhala and Agharti to carry out their
Master Plan. Bailey, however, only mentioned Shambhala in this
connection and said nothing about Agharti. These accounts, on the
other hand, purport that the masters of Shambhala refused to assist
the Nazi expeditions, but the adepts of Agharti agreed and returned
with them to Germany. Moreover, they attribute the Nazi search for
occult support in Tibet to the beliefs of Karl Haushofer and
Thule Society. Haushofer was the founder of
the Vril Society in
association with the Thule Society and was a major influence on
Hitler’s occult thinking. The Thule and Vril Societies combined
beliefs from various sources. Let us trace some of these beliefs
briefly, in chronological order, before we examine these postwar
The Ancient Greeks wrote not only of the sunken island of Atlantis,
but also of Hyperborea, a northern land whose people migrated south
before ice destroyed it. The late seventeenth-century Swedish author
Olaf Rudbeck located it at the North Pole and several other accounts
related that before its destruction, it broke into the islands of
Thule and Ultima Thule.
The British astronomer Sir Edmund Halley, also in the late
seventeenth century, forwarded the
theory that the earth is hollow.
The French novelist Jules Verne popularized the idea in Voyage to
the Center of the Earth (1864). In 1871, the British novelist Edward
The Coming Race, described a superior race, the
Vril-ya, who lived beneath the earth and planned to conquer the
world with vril, a psychokinetic energy. In Les Fils de Dieu (The
Sons of God) (1873), the French author Louis Jacolliot linked
with the subterranean people of Thule. The Indian freedom advocate,
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, in The Arctic Home of the Vedas (1903),
identified the southern migration of the Thuleans with the origin of
the Aryan race. In 1908, the American author Willis George Emerson
published the novel The Smokey God, or A Voyage to the Inner World,
which described the journey of a Norwegian sailor through an opening
at the North Pole to a hidden world inside the Earth.
The Thule Society was founded in 1910 by Felix Niedner, the German
translator of the Old Norse Eddas. It identified the Germanic people
as the Aryan race, the descendants from Thule, and sought its
transformation into a superrace through harnessing the power of vril.
As part of its emblem, it took the swastika, a traditional symbol
for Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. In doing so, the Thule Society
followed the precedent of Guido von List who, in the late nineteenth
century, had made the swastika an emblem for the neo-Pagan movement
Together with Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels and Phillip Stauff,
had been prominent in founding the Ariosophy movement, popular
before and during the First World War. Ariosophy blended the concept
of races from Theosophy with German nationalism to assert the
superiority of the Aryan race as a rationale for Germany to conquer
the global colonial empires of the British and the French as the
rightful ruler of the inferior races. The Thule Society embraced the
Ariosophy beliefs. It must be pointed out, however, that the
Theosophical movement never intended its teachings on races as a
justification for asserting the superiority of one race over
another, or the destined right of one race to rule the others.
When Rudolf Freiherr von Sebottendorff established a Munich branch
of the Thule Society in 1918, he added anti-Semitism and the
sanctioned use of assassination to the Society’s creeds. He had
picked up these elements during his years in Turkey and his
acquaintance there with the Order of Assassins. This secret order
traced back to the Nazari sect of Ismaili Islam, against whom the
Crusaders had fought.
Later in 1918, after the Bavarian Communist Revolution,
anti-Communism also joined the Thule Society’s set of aims. In 1919,
the Munich Thule Society gave rise to the German Workers Party.
Hitler joined it that same year and, becoming its head in 1920,
renamed it the Nazi Party and adopted the swastika for its flag.
Karl Haushofer was a German military advisor to Japan after the
Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. He was extremely impressed by
Japanese culture, studied the language, and later became
instrumental in forging the alliance between Nazi Germany and
Imperial Japan. He also learned Sanskrit and purportedly studied for
a year in Tibet. He founded the Vril Society in Berlin in 1918,
which in addition to the Thule Society creeds, also advocated
searching for vril among supernatural beings beneath the earth. The
most likely location would be in Tibet, which he saw as the
of the Aryan migrants from Thule.
Haushofer also developed Geopolitics, according to which a race
gains power by expanding its living space (Germ. Lebensraum) through
the conquest of its neighboring lands. In the early 1920s, Haushofer
headed the Institute for Geopolitics in Munich and, starting in
1923, began to teach Hitler his views. Haushofer was instrumental in
convincing Hitler to establish the Ahnenerbe (Bureau for the Study
of Ancestral Heritage) in 1935. Its main charge was to locate the
origins of the Aryan race, especially in Central Asia. In 1937, Himmler incorporated this bureau into the
SS (Germ. Schutzstaffel,
In 1938-1939, the Ahnenerbe sponsored the Third Expedition of Ernst
Schдffer to Tibet. During its brief stay, the anthropologist
Bruno Beger measured the skulls of numerous Tibetans and concluded that
they were an intermediary race between the Aryans and Mongolians and
could serve as a link for the German-Japanese alliance.
The Nazi Connection with Shambhala and Tibet]
Search for Shambhala and Agharti According to Pauwels, Bergier, and
A number of scholars have questioned the accuracy of the postwar
studies on Nazism and the Occult. Whether or not they accurately
represent Nazi thought during the Third Reich, still they represent
a further popularized distortion of the Shambhala legend. Let us
examine two slightly different versions from among them.
According to the version found in Le Matin des Magiciens (The
Morning of the Magicians) (1962) by the French researchers
Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier and in Nazisme et Sociйtiйs Secretиs
(Nazism and Secret Societies) (1974) by Jean-Claude Frйre, Haushofer
believed that two groups of Aryans migrated south from Hyperborea-Thule.
One went to Atlantis, where they intermarried with the Lemurians who
had also migrated there. Recall that Blavatsky had associated the Lemurians with Atlantis and Shambhala, and
Bailey had associated
both the Lemurians and Atlanteans with the Shambhala Force. The
descendents of these impure Aryans turned to black magic and
conquest. The other branch of Aryans migrated south, passing through
North America and northern Eurasia, eventually reaching the Gobi
Desert. There, they founded Agharti, the myth of which had become
popular through the writings of Saint-Yves d’Alveidre.
According to Frйre, the Thule Society equated Agharti with its
cognate Asgaard, the home of the gods in Norse mythology. Others
assert, less convincingly, that Agharti is cognate with Ariana, an
Old Persian name known by the ancient Greeks for the region
extending from Eastern Iran through Afghanistan to Uzbekistan – the
homeland of the Aryans.
After a world cataclysm, Agharti sank beneath the earth. This
accords with Ossendowski’s account. The Aryans then split into two
One went south and founded a secret center of learning
beneath the Himalayas, also called Agharti. There, they preserved
the teachings of virtue and of vril.
The other Aryan group tried to
return to Hyperborea-Thule, but founded instead Shambhala, a city of
violence, evil, and materialism. Agharti was the holder of the
right-hand path and positive vril, while Shambhala was the keeper of
the degenerate left-hand path and negative energy.
The division of right-hand and left-hand
paths had appeared already
in Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine. There, she wrote that at the
time of the Atlanteans, humanity branched into right- and left-hand
paths of knowledge, which became the germs of white and black magic.
She did not associate the two paths, however, with Agharti and
Shambhala. In fact, she did not mention Agharti at all in her
writings. The terms right- and left-hand paths derive from a
division within Hindu tantra. Early Western writers often
characterized left-hand tantra as a degenerate form and
misidentified it with Tibetan Buddhism and its teachings of
According to Pauwels and Bergier, the Thule Society sought to
contact and make a pact with Shambhala, but only Agharti agreed to
offer help. By 1926, the French authors explained, there were
already colonies of Hindus and Tibetans in Munich and Berlin, called
the Society of Green Men, in astral connection with the Green Dragon
Society in Japan. Membership in the latter society required ritual
Japanese suicide (Jap. hara-kiri, seppuku) if one lost one’s honor.
Haushofer had purportedly joined the society during his early years
in Japan. The leader of the Society of Green Men was a Tibetan monk,
known as “the man with green gloves,” who supposedly visited
frequently and held the keys of Agharti. Expeditions to Tibet
followed annually, from 1926 to 1943. When the Russians entered
Berlin at the end of the war, they found nearly a thousand corpses
of soldiers of the Himalayan race, dressed in Nazi uniforms but
without identification papers, who had committed suicide. Haushofer
himself committed hara-kiri before he could be tried at Nüremberg in
Search for Shambhala and Agharti According to Ravenscroft
A slightly different account of the Nazi search for Shambhala and
Agharti appeared in
The Spear of Destiny (1973) by the British
researcher Trevor Ravenscroft. According to this version, the
Society believed that two sections of Aryans turned to worship of
two evil forces. Their turning to evil brought about the decline of
Atlantis and, subsequently, the two groups established cave
communities in mountains submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean near
Iceland. The legend of Thule arose from them.
One group of Aryans
followed the Luciferic Oracle, called Agarthi (Agharti), and
practiced the left-hand path.
The other group followed the Ahrimanic
Oracle, called Schamballah (Shambhla), and practiced the right-hand
Note that Ravenscroft reported the reverse of Pauwels, Bergier,
and Frйre’s assertions that Agharti followed the right-hand path and
Shambhala the left.
Ravenscroft went on to explain that according to the “Secret
Doctrine” – alluding to Blavatsky’s book by the same name – which
appeared in Tibet ten thousand years ago, Lucifer and Ahriman
the two forces of Evil, the two great adversaries of human
Lucifer leads people to set themselves up as gods and is
associated with the lust for power. Following Lucifer can lead to
egotism, false pride, and the misuse of magic powers.
strives to establish a purely material realm on the earth and uses
the perverse sexual craving of people in black magic rites.
Recall that although Blavatsky had written about
Lucifer and Ahriman,
she did not make the two a pair and did not associate either of the
two with Shambhala or Agharti. Moreover, Blavatsky explained that
although Latin scholastics had transformed Lucifer into a purely
evil Satan, Lucifer had the power both to destroy and to create. He
represented the light-bearing presence in everyone’s minds that
could uplift people from animalism and bring about a positive
transformation to a higher plane of existence.
It was Steiner who had emphasized Lucifer and Ahriman as
representing the two poles of destructive power. However, Steiner
associated Lucifer with Shambhala, not Agharti and, in fact, like
Blavatsky and Bailey, did not mention Agharti at all. In addition,
none of the three occult authors described Shambhala as located
underground. Only the Roerichs had associated Shambhala with the
underground city of Agharti, but had clarified that the two were
different and never asserted that Shambhala was underground.
Ravenscroft, like Pauwels, Bergier, and Frйre, also asserted that
through the initiative of Haushofer and other Thule Society members,
exploratory teams were sent to Tibet annually from 1926 to 1942 to
establish contact with underground cave communities. They were
supposed to convince the masters there to enlist the aid of
Luciferic and Ahrimanic powers to further the Nazi cause, especially
for creating an Aryan superrace. The adepts of Shambhala refused to
help. As followers of the Ahrimanic Oracle, they were concerned only
with furthering materialism. Moreover, Shambhala had already
affiliated itself with certain lodges in Britain and the United
States. This was perhaps a reference to Doreal, whose Brotherhood of
the White Temple in America was the first major occult movement
assert Shambhala as an underground city. Moreover, this account also
fits well with Haushofer’s disdain for Western materialistic
science, which he called “Jewish-Marxist-Liberal Science,” in favor
of “Nordic-Nationalistic Science.”
Ravenscroft continued that the masters of Agharti agreed to help the
Nazi cause and, from 1929, groups of Tibetans came to Germany, where
they became known as the Society of Green Men. Joined by members of
the Green Dragon Society of Japan, they set up occult schools in
Berlin and elsewhere. Note that Pauwels and Bergier asserted that
colonies of not only Tibetans, but also Hindus were present in
Berlin and Munich from 1926, not 1929.
Himmler was attracted to these groups of Tibetan-Agharti adepts and,
from their influence, established the Ahnenerbe in 1935. Recall that
Himmler did not establish the Ahnenerbe, but rather incorporated it
into the SS in 1937.
A Theory to Explain the Anti-Shambhala Sentiment and Pro-Agharti
Bias of the German Occult Movements
It is difficult to ascertain whether Haushofer and the Thule Society
actually asserted any of the above points, which mix occult
descriptions of Shambhala with both Ossendowski’s depiction of
Agharti and the legends of Thule and vril. It is also difficult to
ascertain whether Haushofer tried and succeeded in influencing
Hitler and official Nazi institutions, such as the Ahnenerbe, to
send expeditions to Tibet to secure aid from the two supposedly
subterranean lands – or even if the Thule Society itself sent such
expeditions. The only mission to Tibet officially sanctioned by the
Ahnenerbe – the Third Tibetan Expedition (1938-1939) of Ernst Schдffer – clearly had a different, though equally occult agenda.
Its primary purpose was to measure the skulls of Tibetans to
determine if they were the source of the Aryans and an intermediary
race between the Aryans and the Japanese.
Aside from certain factual inaccuracies and contradictions between
the above two accounts of Haushofer and the Thule Society’s beliefs,
two points of agreement seem significant.
Firstly, Steiner and
Bailey associated with Shambhala the regenerative power to destroy
outmoded orders and to establish new reformed ones. They represented
this ultimately benevolent power with Lucifer. Haushofer and the
Thule Society, on the other hand, purportedly associated Lucifer and
this benevolent power with Agharti. For them, Shambhala became a
land of purely malevolent destructive power, represented by Ahriman
and unbridled materialism.
Secondly, although the Thule Society and
the Nazis first sought the help of Shambhala, representing the evil
path of materialism, they were refused. Instead, they received the
support of Agharti, representing the ultimately positive path of
destruction of the weak and creation of the Master Race as the next
step forward in human evolution.
Let us leave aside, for the moment, the question of
Thule Society and the Ahnenerbe actually sent missions to Tibet
seeking aid from Shambhala and Agharti. However, let us assume, also
for the moment, that Haushofer actually did combine the legends of
Shambhala and Agharti with the Thule Society’s beliefs and that the
resulting mélange did represent the Nazi occult position. If this
were the case, then a possible theory to explain the claim that
Shambhala rejected the Nazi’s approach, while Agharti accepted it
would be as follows.
Through Dorjiev, Shambhala was associated with Russia and later also
with Communism, while through Ossendowski, Agharti was associated
with the anti-Communist anti-Semitic forces of the German Baron von Ungern-Sternberg. Since the Bavarian Communist Revolution of 1918,
the Thule Society and Hitler were avidly anti-Communist. Before
this, they were both already anti-Semitic. Thus, in their eyes, Shambhala was a dark, negative force that supported purely
materialistic “Jewish-Marxist-Liberal Science.” With his
anti-Communist bias, Hitler signed the Anti-Commintern Pact with
Japan in November 1936, in which both countries declared their
mutual hostility toward the spread of international Communism. Both
agreed that they would not sign any political treaties with the
Soviet Union. Nevertheless, to avoid a European war on two fronts,
Hitler signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact with Stalin in August 1939. He
broke this pact, however, in September 1941, when the Nazi forces
invaded the Soviet Union.
An occult explanation and justification of Hitler’s about-face might
have been through an allegory. Shambhala (the Soviet Union,
Communism, and the Jews) was basically evil (acknowledged by the
Anti-Commintern Pact). Nevertheless, Hitler first sought an alliance
with it (the Soviet-Nazi Pact). Shambhala refused (Hitler placed the
blame on the Soviet Union for why he broke the pact). Hitler then
turned to and received support from Agharti. (Ungern, an earlier
anti-Semitic anti-Bolshevik German, had also sought help from
Agharti, but had failed to locate the fabled land. Thus, Ungern had
failed in his mission. Since Hitler’s expeditions had found
Agharti-Asgaard and received its help, the Nazis would surely
Supporting Evidence for the Theory
The following facts would support the above theory explaining the
German Occult depiction of Shambhala as a land of malevolent forces.
In Der Weg nach Shambhala (The Way to Shambhala) (1915), the German
explorer of Central Asia, Albert Grьnwedel, reported that
had identified the Romanov Dynasty as the descendants of the rulers
In Sturm ьber Asien (Storm over Asia) (1924), the German spy
Wilhelm Filchner connected the Soviet drive to take over Central Asia with
the Romanov interest in Tibet from the beginning of the century. In
1926, the Roerichs delivered soil purportedly from the mahatmas of
Tibet to Soviet Foreign Minister Chicherin to place on Lenin’s
grave. Helena Roerich referred to both Marx and Lenin as
and claimed that emissaries of the Himalayan mahatmas had even met
with Marx in England and Lenin in Switzerland. The mahatmas
supported the Communist ideals of universal brotherhood.
In “Aus den letzten Jahrzehnten des Lamaismus in Russland
(Concerning the Last Decades of Lamaism in Russia)” (1926), the
German scholar W. A. Unkrig cited Filchner’s book and repeated
Grьnwedel’s report concerning Dorjiev, the Romanovs, and
He also reported the ceremony at the Buddhist temple in Saint
Petersburg to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov
Empire. Warning against the influence of this temple and an alliance
of the Soviet Union, Mongolia, and Tibet, Unkrig ended his article
with the Latin quote, “Domine, libera nos a Tartaris (God save us
from the Tartars).” This fit in well with Haushofer’s Geopolitics
and his recommendation for Germany to conquer living space in
Central Asia, the homeland of the Aryan race.
Already in 1910, Steiner was lecturing in Berlin and Munich about
Shambhala as the seat of Maitreya, the Antichrist who will rid the
world of perverted spiritual teachings. Tiere, Menschen und Gцtter
(Beasts, Men, and Gods), the popular German translation of
Ossendowski’s book, appeared in 1923. It introduced Agharti as a
source of power that Baron von Ungern-Sternberg sought for support
in his battle against the Mongolian Communist leader Sukhe Batur,
who was rallying his troops with stories of Shambhala. Recall that
the Thule Society identified Agharti with Asgaard, the home of the
Aryan Norse gods.
During the first half of the 1920s, a so-called “occult war” took
place among the Occult Societies and Secret Lodges in Germany. In
1925, Steiner was murdered and many suspected that the Thule Society
had ordered his assassination. In later years, Hitler continued the
persecution of Anthroposophists, Theosophists, Freemasons, and
Rosicrucians. Various scholars ascribe this policy to Hitler’s wish
to eliminate any occult rivals to his rule. Steiner, for example,
had commissioned the German translation of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel on
vril, The Coming Race, under the more explicit German title
oder einer Menschheit der Zukunft (Vril, or the Race of the Future).
Moreover, since Steiner and Anthroposophy spoke of Shambhala as the
land of the future messiah and benevolence, it makes sense that the
Thule Society and Hitler would describe it in the opposite manner,
as a land of malevolence.
Between 1929 and 1935, five books by the French adventurer Alexandra
David-Neel appeared in German translation, such as Heilige und Hexe
(Mystiques et Magiciens du Thibet, With Mystics and Magicians in
Tibet). David-Neel had spent many years studying and traveling in
Tibet and she reported that adepts there had extraphysical powers
that allowed them to defy gravity and run at superhuman speed.
Consequently, fantasy about Tibet as the land of mysterious magical
powers grew wildly.
In 1936, Theodor Illion, a German explorer who traveled in Tibet in
the early 1930s, published Rдtselhaftes Tibet (In Secret Tibet)
under the pseudonym Theodor Burang. In it, he too described
supernatural powers that Tibetan adepts possessed. In his second
book, Finsternis ьber Tibet (Darkness over Tibet) (1937), he
described his being led to an underground city in the “Valley of
Mystery,” where an “Occult Fraternity” channeled spiritual energy to
gain power. Its ruler was the sorcerer Prince Mani Rimpotsche.
Although this “Prince of Light” pretended to be a benevolent ruler,
he actually was the head of a malevolent cult, a “Prince of
Darkness.” Illion never mentioned Shambhala, but his popular works
would also have added weight to the Nazi occult assertion of
Shambhala as a land of malevolent magic.
Evidence Countering the Assertion of Official Nazi Support of the
German Occult Beliefs about Shambhala
Let us suppose that the Nazi occult movement, as represented by the
Thule Society, used the Shambhala-Agharti allegory to justify
Hitler’s changing policy toward the Soviet Union. Still, it seems
highly unlikely that official Nazi institutions, such as the Ahnenerbe, had Shambhala and Agharti on their agendas, even on their
hidden agendas. Let us examine the evidence that would support that
Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. In the same year,
Sebottendorff, the founder of the Munich branch of the Thule
Society, published Bevor Hitler Kam (Before Hitler Came), in which
he outlined Hitler’s debt to “Thulism.” Hitler quickly banned the
book and forced Sebottendorff to retire. Although Hitler clearly
advocated the Thule Society’s beliefs, he disavowed any connection
with established occult movements. He did not want to leave open the
possibility for rivalry to come from any quarter.
Haushofer and the Thule Society, however, were not the only
behind-the-scenes influences on the Ahnenerbe. Sven Hedin, the
Swedish explorer of Tibet and favorite of the Nazis, also played a
significant role. Between 1922 and 1944, he wrote several popular
books in German on his travels in Tibet, such as Tsangpo Lamas
Wallfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Tsangpo Lamas) (1922). Several
others were translated into German from English, such as My Life as
an Explorer (1926) (Germ. Mein Leben als Entdecker, 1928) and A
Conquest of Tibet (1934) (Germ. Eroberungszьge in Tibet, 1941).
Moreover, in Ossendowski und die Wahrheit (Ossendowski and the
Truth) (1925), Hedin debunked Ossendowski’s claim that Mongolian
lamas had told him about Agharti. In it, he exposed Agharti as a
fantasy appropriated from Saint-Yves d’Alveidre’s 1886 novel.
Frederick Hielscher, whom Hitler authorized to establish
the Ahnenerbe in 1935, was a friend of Sven Hedin. Moreover, Hitler
invited Hedin to give the opening address at the 1936 Berlin
Olympics and in 1937, Hedin published Germany and World Peace. From
1939 to 1943, Hedin made several diplomatic missions to Germany and
continued his pro-Nazi publishing activities. The clearest evidence
of his influence on the Ahnenerbe is the fact that, in 1943, its
Tibet Institut (Tibet Institute) was renamed the Sven Hedin Institut
fьr Innerasien und Expeditione (Sven Hedin Institute for Inner Asia
Haushofer was indeed instrumental in starting the Ahnenerbe and in
its agenda being based on many of the Thule Society’s beliefs.
Nevertheless, because of Hedin, it is unlikely that the Ahnenerbe
sought and received support from Agharti in Tibet. Hedin
acknowledged that Tibet was a repository of ancient hidden
knowledge, but did not attribute occult significance to it. Nor did
he associate this knowledge with Shambhala or Agharti.
Moreover, it seems highly improbable that groups of Tibetans were
present in Berlin and Munich from 1926 or 1929, under the auspices
of the Thule Society. If that were the case, then since the Ahnenerbe unofficially was associated with the Thule Society, there
would have been no need for it to send an expedition to Tibet to
measure the skulls of Tibetans. They could have made these
measurements in Germany. Thus, the assertion that the Thule Society
sponsored annual journeys to Tibet from 1926 to 1942 also seems
The report by Pauwels and Berger that at the end of the war, the
Russians found in Berlin a large number of corpses of soldiers of
the Himalayan race, dressed in Nazi uniforms, who had committed
suicide, also needs scrutiny. The unspoken implication is that the
Russians found the corpses of the Tibetan-Agharti adepts who were
assisting the Nazi cause and that, like Haushofer, they committed
Firstly, hara-kiri was a Japanese samurai custom, which many
Japanese soldiers in the Second World War enacted to avoid capture.
Followers of Tibetan Buddhism, however, consider suicide an
extremely negative act with dire consequences in future lives. It is
never justifiable. The report inappropriately attributes Japanese
customs to Tibetans.
Secondly, any soldiers of Himalayan origin
found in Nazi uniform would most likely have been Kalmyk Mongols,
Further, the Kalmyks’ fighting in the German army does
not prove their support of Nazi ideology or the support of it by
their Tibetan Buddhist beliefs.
Let us examine the historical facts,
supplementing them with information gained from interviews with Kalmyks living in Munich Germany who had participated in many of the
events described below.
The Kalmyk Mongols are practitioners of the Tibetan form of Buddhism
and have a long history of association with Germans. A large group
of them migrated west from the Dzungaria region of East Turkistan
between 1609 and 1632. They settled in Russia along the lower Volga,
where it empties into the Caspian Sea. There, they continued their
nomadic herder way of life.
In 1763, Czarina Catherine II the Great invited almost thirty
thousand Germans to settle in the Volga region to the north of the Kalmyks. She wanted them to farm the fertile land and secure it
against the “Tartars.” She tried to force Christianity and
agriculture on the Kalmyks, causing many to flee back to Dzungaria
in 1771. Eventually, however, those who remained in Russia were
accepted, especially since they were excellent soldiers. During the
Napoleanic Wars (1812-1815), for example, the Russian Army had a Kalmyk regiment. Over the next century,
Kalmyk soldiers were
prominent in divisions throughout the Czarist Army.
Although the life styles and customs of the agrarian Volga Germans
and nomadic Kalmyk herdsmen differed greatly, the neighbors
gradually came to respect each other. The Germans, in fact, took
interest in the Kalmyks. As early as 1804, Benjamin Bergmann
published a four volume work on their language and religion,
entitled Nomadische Streifereien unter der Kalmьken in den Jahre
1802 und 1804 (Nomadic Migrations among the Kalmyks in the Year 1802
and 1804). Sven Hedin passed through Kalmykia on one of his early
expeditions to Dzungaria and expressed great admiration for its
After the Communist Revolution in 1917, many Kalmyks remained loyal
to the Czarist forces and continued to fight on the White Russian
side, especially under Generals Vrangel and Deniken. Before the Red
Army broke through to the Crimean Peninsula at the end of 1920,
about twenty Kalmyk families fled across the Black Sea with Vrangel
and relocated in Warsaw Poland and Prague Czechoslovakia. A much
larger number left with Deniken, with the majority settling in
Belgrade Serbia and smaller numbers in Sofia Bulgaria and in Paris
and Lyon France. The Kalmyk refugees in Belgrade built a Buddhist
temple there in 1929. The Communists severely punished the Kalmyks
who remained behind, beheading ten thousand.
In 1931, Stalin collectivized the Kalmyks, closed the Buddhist
monasteries, and burned the religious texts. He deported to Siberia
all herdsmen owning more than five hundred sheep and all monks.
Partially due to Stalin’s collectivization policies, a great famine
struck from 1932 to 1933. Approximately sixty thousand Kalmyks died.
After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in September 1941, Goebbels
invited to Berlin several prominent Kalmyks from Belgrade, Paris,
and Prague to help with a propaganda campaign. The Nazis wished to
win the Kalmyks to the German side against the Russians and never
sent any of those under their rule to concentration camps. Thus,
Goebbels organized this nucleus into a committee to free the Kalmyks
from the Communist regime. In this connection, he helped them print
a Kalmyk language newspaper and used them to broadcast radio news in
Kalmyk directed toward Kalmykia.
When the Nazi Sixteenth Panzer Division under Field Marshal
Mannstein took Kalmykia early in 1942, three members of this
committee accompanied them. A number of Belgrade Kalmyks also
participated in the invasion, having joined the German army after
the Nazi occupation of Serbia in April 1941. The people of Kalmykia
greeted the German army with butter and milk, the traditional
offering to welcome guests, as liberators from Stalin’s oppressive
rule. The Germans said they would dismantle the collectives and
would divide and privatize the land. They allowed the Kalmyks to
practice Buddhism once more. In response, the Kalmyks exhumed the
religious texts they had buried for safekeeping and built a
makeshift temporary temple. In November and December 1942, however,
the Red Army retook Kalmykia and destroyed everything the people had
The German troops invited the Kalmyks to retreat and continue the
fight with them. About five thousand joined the Nazi military,
forming the Kalmykian Voluntary Cavalry Corps. Only a few woman and
children accompanied them. The Kalmyk troops fought with the Nazi
army behind the lines, especially around the Azov Sea. The majority
of the Kalmyk population, however, remained in Kalmykia. In December
1943, Stalin declared them all German collaborators and deported the
lot to Siberia. They returned only during the Khruschev era, between
1957 and 1960.
In the early autumn of 1944, in the face of the imminent Russian
invasion of Serbia, many Belgrade Kalmyks fled to Munich Germany to
avoid Communist persecution. A learned Buddhist teacher and several
monks accompanied them. At the end of 1944, the Kalmyk cavalry
troops that survived in Russia, together with their families,
retreated with the German army. About two thousand went to Selesia
Poland and fifteen hundred to Zagreb Croatia, where they were
reorganized to fight against the partisans.
Thus, although a number of Kalmyks were in Germany and Nazi-held
territory in the final months of the war, only a few were in the
Berlin area, still engaged in propaganda work. The Kalmyk soldiers
in Nazi uniform were in Poland and Croatia, not in Germany. Although
several Kalmyk monks performed Tibetan Buddhist rituals in the
Kalmyk barracks and homes in Nazi-held territory, they prayed for
peace and the welfare of all beings. No Tibetans were among them and
they did not conduct “occult” ceremonies for a Nazi victory, as some
postwar occult accounts report.
After the war, the Kalmyks left in Western European countries were
interred in displaced persons camps in Austria and Germany,
especially in the Munich area. Released in 1951, they settled first
in Munich. Later that year, the Anna Tolstoy Foundation resettled
the majority of them in New Jersey, USA. Tito handed those left in
Serbia over to the Soviets, who promptly deported them to Siberia.
Assertions of Shambhala and Flying Saucers
Occult interpretations of other Nazi activities, associating them
with Shambhala, also appeared after the war. For example, a 1939
German expedition to Antarctica, led by Captain Alfred Ritscher,
mapped one-fifth of the continent, claimed it for Germany, and named
Neu-Schwabenland. Further Nazi expeditions to Antarctica and
naval activity in the South Atlantic continued until the end of the
In the late 1950s, separately from this, Henrique Jose de Souza, the
president of the Brazilian Theosophical Society at that time,
proposed a new hollow earth theory. Inside the earth lies Agharti,
with its capital Shambhala, as the source of flying saucers that
emerge to the surface through tunnels at the North and South Poles.
Accordingly, the Brazilian Theosophical Society built as its
headquarters in Sгo Lourenzo, Minas Gerais, a Greek-style temple
dedicated to Agharti. De Souza’s student, O. C. Hugenin, popularized
his mentor’s theory in From the Subterranean World to the Sky:
Flying Saucers (1957). R. W. Bernard, in his 1964 book The Hollow
Earth, had the flying saucers from Shambhala in Agharti under the
Earth come out through secret tunnels under the Himalayas in Tibet.
Based on the
Nazi Antarctic expeditions and the above accounts, the
German Occultist Ernst Zьndel wrote several books in the 1970s,
including UFO’s: Nazi Secret Weapons?, claiming that the Nazis had a
secret base in an area of warm water lakes they had found in
Antarctica. There they hid
their secret weapon, UFOs. Zьndel is also
infamous as the most outspoken proponent of the view that the
Holocaust never happened.
The association of flying saucers with Shambhala derives from the
account of the allegorical future apocalyptic war found The
Stainless Light commentary to The Abbreviated Kalachakra Tantra. In
this account, Raudrachakrin, the twenty-fifth Kalki ruler of
Shambhala, will come from his land mounted on a stone horse with the
power of the wind and defeat Mahdi, the leader of the non-Indic
hordes. Although Raudrachakrin represents the deep awareness of
voidness with the subtlest level of mental activity and the stone
horse represents the subtlest level of energy-wind on which this
awareness rides, some have interpreted the image as a flying saucer
coming from Shambhala.
The Kalachakra account of Shambhala has sparked the imaginations of
many foreign political figures and occult authors. Distorting the
original legend and interpolating ideas of fancy, they have
incorporated the myth into their writings to serve their own
agendas. It is an injustice to Buddhism to attribute these
distortions to the original intent of the Kalachakra teachings.
Continuing research will disentangle more of the truth