by Jason Jeffrey
New Dawn No. 72
I believe the idea of Shambhala has
not yet come to full flower, but that when it does it will have
enormous power to reshape civilization. It is the sign of the
future. The search for a new unifying principle that our
civilization must now undertake will, I am convinced, lead it to
this source of higher energies, and Shambhala will become the
great icon of the new millennium.
– Victoria LePage
For thousands of years rumours and
reports have circulated that somewhere beyond Tibet, among the icy
peaks and secluded valleys of Eurasia, there lies an inaccessible
paradise, a place of universal wisdom and ineffable peace called
Shambhala – although it is also known by other names.
James Hilton wrote about it in the 1933 book Lost Horizon, Hollywood
portrayed it in the 1960s film ‘Shangri-la’, and recent films such
as ‘Kundun’, ‘Little Buddha’ and ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ allude to
the magical utopia. Even author James Redfield, noted for his New
Age best seller The Celestine Prophecy, has written a book called
The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight.
Shambhala, which in Sanskrit means “place of peace, of tranquility,”
is thought of in Tibet as a community where perfect and semi-perfect
beings live and are guiding the evolution of humanity. Shambhala is
considered to be the source of the Kalachakra, which is the highest
and most esoteric branch of Tibetan mysticism.
Legends say that only the pure of heart can live in Shambhala,
enjoying perfect ease and happiness and never knowing suffering,
want or old age. Love and wisdom reign and injustice is unknown. The
inhabitants are long-lived, wear beautiful and perfect bodies and
possess supernatural powers; their spiritual knowledge is deep,
their technological level highly advanced, their laws mild and their
study of the arts and sciences covers the full spectrum of cultural
achievement, but on a far higher level than anything the outside
world has attained.
By definition Shambhala is hidden. Of the numerous explorers and
seekers of spiritual wisdom who attempt to locate Shambhala, none
can pinpoint its physical location on a map, although all say it
exists in the mountainous regions of Eurasia. Many have also
returned believing that Shambhala lies on the very edge of physical
reality, as a bridge connecting this world to one beyond it.
The Sanskrit and Tibetan Shambhala has also been identified by no
less an authority than Alexandra David-Neel, who spent years in
Tibet, with Balkh – in the far north of Afghanistan – the ancient
settlement known as "the mother of cities". Present day folklore in
Afghanistan asserts that after the Muslim conquest, Balkh was known
as the "Elevated Candle" ("Sham-i-Bala"), a Persianisation of the
Tibetan lamas spend a great deal of their lives in spiritual
development before attempting the journey to Shambhala. Perhaps
deliberately, the guidebooks to Shambhala describe the route in
terms so vague that only those already initiated into the teachings
of the Kalachakra can understand them.
As Edwin Bernbaum says in The Way to Shambhala:
As the traveller draws near the
kingdom, their directions become increasingly mystical and
difficult to correlate with the physical world. At least one
lama has written that the vagueness of these books is deliberate
and intended to keep Shambhala concealed from the barbarians who
will take over the world.1
The lama’s reference to the barbarians
“who will take over the world” is directly connected to the prophecy
of Shambhala. This prophecy tells of the gradual deterioration of
mankind as the ideology of materialism spreads over the earth. When
the “barbarians” who follow this ideology are united under an evil
king and think there is nothing left to conquer, the mists will lift
to reveal the snowy mountains of Shambhala. The barbarians will
attack Shambhala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons.
Then the 32nd king of Shambhala, Rudra Cakrin, will lead a mighty
host against the invaders. In a last great battle, the evil king and
his followers will be destroyed.
As the cultures of the East and West collide, the myth of Shambhala
rises out of the mists of time. We now have access to numerous
Buddhist texts on the subject, along with reports by Western
explorers who set out on the arduous journey in search of Shambhala.
There is much we can learn for our own individual journey of
The Lost World
The idea of a hidden world beneath the surface of the planet is a
very ancient one indeed. There are innumerable folk tales and oral
traditions found throughout many countries speaking of subterranean
people who have created a kingdom of harmony, contentment and
The early European travellers to Tibet consistently told the same
tale of a hidden spiritual centre of power. Adventurers recounted
fantastic tales of a hidden kingdom near Tibet. This special place
is known by numerous local and regional names, which no doubt caused
much confusion among early travellers as to the kingdom’s true
identity. These early travellers knew it as Agharta (sometimes spelt
Agharti, Asgartha or Agarttha), although it is now commonly known as
Taking the legend in its most basic form, Agharta is said to be a
mysterious underground kingdom situated somewhere beneath Asia and
linked to the other continents of the world by a gigantic network of
tunnels. These passageways, partly natural formations and partly the
handiwork of the race which created the subterranean nation, provide
a means of communication between all points, and have done so since
time immemorial. According to the legend, vast lengths of the
tunnels still exist today; the rest have been destroyed by
The exact location of these passages,
and the means of entry, are said to be known only to certain high
initiates, and the details are most carefully guarded because the
kingdom itself is a vast storehouse of secret knowledge. Some claim
that the stored knowledge is derived from the lost Atlantean
civilization and of even earlier people who were the first
intelligent beings to inhabit the earth.
The first Westerner to popularize the legend of Agharta was a gifted
French writer named Joseph-Alexandre Saint-Yves (1842-1910).
Saint-Yves was a self-educated occultist and political philosopher
who promoted in his books the establishment of a form of government
called ‘Synarchy’. He taught that the body politic should be treated
like a living creature, with a ruling spiritual and intellectual
elite as its brain.
In his quest for universal understanding, he decided in 1885 to take
lessons in Sanskrit, the classical and philosophical language of
India. He learnt far more than he expected. Saint-Yves’s tutor was a
certain Haji Sharif, who was believed to be an Afghan prince.
Through this mysterious personage, Saint-Yves learnt a good deal
about Oriental traditions including Agharta.
The manuscripts of Saint-Yves’ Sanskrit lessons are preserved in the
library of the Sorbonne, written in exquisite script by Haji.
According to Joscelyn Godwin, writing in Arktos:
Haji signed his name with a cryptic
symbol and styled himself “Guru Pandit of the Great Agarthian
School.” Elsewhere he refers to the “Holy Land of Agarttha”… In
due course he informed Saint-Yves that this school preserves the
original language of mankind and its 22-lettered alphabet: it is
called Vattan, or Vattanian.2
Saint-Yves soon discovered his training
enabled him to receive telepathic messages from the Dalai Lama in
Tibet, as well as make astral journeys to Agharta. The detailed
reports of what he found there became the crowning volume of his
series of politico-hermetic “Missions”: Mission des Souverains,
Mission des Ouvriers, Mission de Juifs, and finally Mission de l’Inde (The Mission of India).
In The Mission of India we learn that Agharta is a hidden land
somewhere in the East, below the surface of the earth, where a
population of millions is ruled by a “Sovereign Pontiff”, who is
assisted by two colleagues, the “Mahatma” and the “Mahanga”. His
realm, Saint-Yves explains, was transferred underground and
concealed from the surface-dwellers at the start of the Kali Yuga,
which he dates around 3200 BCE.
According to Saint-Yves, the “mages of
Agarttha” had to descend into the infernal regions below them in
order to work at bringing the earth’s chaos and negative energy to
“Each of these sages,” Saint-Yves wrote, “accomplishes his
work in solitude, far from any light, under the cities, under
deserts, under plains or under mountains.”
Now and then Agharta sends emissaries to the
upper world, of which it has perfect knowledge.
Agharta also enjoys the benefits of a technology advanced far beyond
our own. Not only the latest discoveries of modern man, but the
whole wisdom of the ages is enshrined in its libraries. Among its
many secrets are those of the relationship of soul to body, and of
the means to keep departed souls in communication with incarnate
To Saint-Yves, these superior beings were the true authors of
Synarchy, and for thousands of years Agharta had “radiated” Synarchy
to the rest of the world, which in modern times has chosen foolishly
to ignore it. When the world adopts Synarchical government the time
will be ripe for Agharta to reveal itself.
Much of what Saint-Yves reveals in his books about Agharta, to the
modern reader, appears of a bizarre nature. His writings are in a
similar vein to the reports of strange worlds visited by numerous
out-of-body explorers over the ages. After his own investigation of
Saint-Yves, the respected historian of esotericism Joscelyn Godwin
I believe Saint-Yves did ‘see’ what
he described, and that he did not consider himself, to the
slightest degree, to be writing fiction or deriving anything
from anyone else. The proof is in his utter seriousness of
character, and in the publications and correspondence of the
rest of his life, which take Agartha… for unquestionable
realities. But it is quite another matter to accept his Agartha
in all the actuality and physicality that he attributed to it.4
Until the start of the twentieth
century, the legend of Agharta remained very much… a legend. Stories
of Agharta had widely spread in Europe since the publication of
Saint-Yves’s books, but evidence to support the claims remained as
elusive as ever. Indeed, it might well have been expected that in
the rational and materialistic new century, such stories would
finally be confined to the realms of fantasy: a colourful tradition
to be ranked alongside other ancient mysteries such as the lost
But such a supposition did not allow for the remarkable discoveries
of two intrepid explorers who in the 1920s went into the vastness of
Asia and there unearthed evidence about Agharta which far exceeded
that of any previous reports. Their accounts, indeed, became the
cornerstone of our present knowledge of the secret kingdom.
Strangely, neither man knew each other, yet both were of Russian
extraction. One made his discoveries about Agharta while fleeing for
his life from the Bolsheviks in Russia; the other came shortly after
from self-imposed exile in America, seeking to penetrate the
mysteries of Tibet. Their names were Ferdinand Ossendowski and
The King of
Writing in the early part of last century, Russian traveller Ferdinand Ossendowski said he noticed there were times in his
Mongolian travels when men and beasts paused, silent and immobile,
as though listening. The herds of horses, the sheep and cattle,
stood fixed to attention or crouched close to the ground. The birds
did not fly, and marmots did not run and the dogs did not bark.
“Earth and sky ceased breathing. The
wind did not blow and the sun did not move…. All living beings
in fear were involuntarily thrown into prayer and waiting for
their fate.” 5
“Thus it has always been,” explained
an old Mongol shepherd and hunter, “whenever the King of the
World in his subterranean palace prays and searches out the
destiny of all peoples on the earth.”
For in Agharta, he said,
“live the invisible rulers of all
pious people, the King of the World or Brahatma, who can speak
with God as I speak with you, and his two assistants: Mahatma,
knowing the purposes of future events, and Mahinga, ruling the
causes of those events…. He knows all the forces of the world
and reads all the souls of mankind and the great book of their
Ferdinand Ossendowski (1876-1945), a
polish scientist who spent most of his life in Russia, was as
intrigued with legends and with the occult as he was with politics.
As he fled through “Mysterious Mongolia… the Land of Demons,” he
paused frequently to speak with Buddhist monks and lamas about the
traditions associated with lakes, caves and monasteries. There was
one story he said he encountered everywhere in Eurasia: he called it
the “Kingdom of Agharti”, regarding it as nothing less than “the
mystery of mysteries.” 8
Ossendowski’s knowledge of the hidden kingdom came about after he
fell into the company of a remarkable fellow Russian speaker, a
priest named Tushegoun Lama, who had also fled the Russian
Revolution, and could claim personal friendship with the Dalai Lama,
then the supreme ruler of Tibet.
It was from Tushegoun Lama that Ossendowski heard the first hints
about Agharta and be inspired to investigate the stories and
ultimately produce the first detailed modern report on the
subterranean kingdom. He called this report,
Beasts, Men and Gods
(1922), and it is now a rare and much sought-after book.
During their journeying, Tushegoun Lama told Ossendowski of the
miraculous powers of the Tibetan monks, and the Dalai Lama in
particular – powers, he said, that foreigners could scarcely begin
to appreciate. Then, he went on:
“But there also exists a still more
powerful and more holy man… The King of the World in Agharti.”
At that point, according to
Ossendowski’s account, the Lama did not wait around to answer
questions, but rode off on his horse. The poor Russian was left
standing in the settling dust with a series of whirling questions
rushing through his head. He had to wait several months before he
began to get any answers to these questions.
Later, another Tibetan called Prince Chultun Beyli told Ossendowski
that sixty thousand years ago a holy man had led a tribe of his
followers deep into the earth. They settled there, beneath Central
Asia, and through the use of the holy man’s incredible wisdom and
power, and the labours of his people, Agharta became a paradise. Its
population now numbered in the millions, and all were happy and
The Prince also added the following details:
The kingdom is called Agharti. It
extends throughout all the subterranean passages of the whole
world…. These subterranean peoples and spaces are governed by
rulers owing allegiance to the ‘King of the World’… You know
that in the two greatest oceans of the east and the west there
were formerly two continents. They disappeared under the water
but their people went into the subterranean kingdom. In
underground caves there exists a peculiar light which affords
growth to the grains and vegetables and long life without
disease to the people.10
Ossendowski, understandably, found much
that was puzzling as well as confusing in these accounts.
Nonetheless he was convinced that he had come across something more
than just a legend – or even an example of hypnosis or mass vision –
but more likely a powerful ‘force’ of some kind, evidently capable
of influencing the course of life on planet earth.
Interestingly, Ossendowski reports that the enormous powers the
people of Agharta were believed to control could be used to destroy
whole areas of the planet, but equally could be harnessed as the
means of propulsion of the most amazing vehicles of transport. It
has been suggested that this could be a prediction of nuclear energy
and flying saucers! (Beasts, Men and Gods was, of course, published
in 1922, long before such topics were even being discussed).
Ossendowski closes off his book with the prophecy of the King of the
World (see “A Prophecy From the Inner Earth!”, page 33), in which it
is stated materialism will devastate the earth, terrible battles
will engulf the nations of the world, and at the climax of the
bloodshed in 2029, the people of Agharta will rise out of their
It would be easy to dismiss Agharta/Shambhala as pure fantasy, were
it not for a very credible explorer who searched for, found and
returned to tell us something about his experiences.
Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), a Russian born artist, poet, writer,
mystic and distinguished member of the Theosophical Society, led an
expedition across the Gobi Desert to the Altai mountain range from
1923 to 1928, a journey which covered 15,500 miles across
thirty-five of the world’s highest mountain passes.
As Victoria LePage puts it in her book Shambhala:
Roerich was a man of unimpeachable
credentials: a famous collaborator in Stravinsky’s Rite of
Spring, a colleague of the impresario Diaghilev and a highly
talented and respected member of the League of Nations.11
He was also influential in the Franklin
Delano Roosevelt United States administration, and was the pivotal
force behind placing the Great Seal of the United States on the
Nicholas Roerich was first exposed to Buddhism and heard of
Shambhala in St. Petersburg, Russia during his involvement with the
construction of the Buddhist temple under the guidance of Lama Agvan
One of the reasons for Roerich’s expedition may have been to return
a stone said to be part of a much larger meteorite possessing occult
the Chintamani Stone, alleged to have come from a
solar system in the constellation of Orion. The stone, says LePage,
“was capable of giving telepathic
inner guidance and effecting a transformation of consciousness
to those in contact with it.” 13
According to Lamaist legend, a fragment
of this Chintamani Stone is sent forth to help establish spiritual
missions vital to humanity, and is returned, when missions are
completed, to its rightful home in the King’s Tower in the centre of
Such a stone was said to be in the
possession of the failed League of Nations, its return being
entrusted to Roerich. Though it is not known whether he was able to
return the fragment or not, his expedition helped those who believed
that Shambhala was more than a myth.
Roerich believed in the transcendental unity of religions – in the
notion that one day the Buddhist, the Muslim, and the Christian
would realize their separate dogmas were husks obscuring the kernel
of truth within. All his works embraced the belief that all faiths
awaited a new age in which this chaff of dogma would be stripped
away, humanity would toss aside its discords, and all would come
together in a paradise of universal brotherhood. His symbol for the
coming paradise was Shambhala.
Roerich kept a diary during the trip (published as Altai-Himalaya: A
Travel Diary)15 and,
while in Mongolia, noted that, “belief in the imminence of the era
of Shambhala was very strong.” In his book, Heart of Asia, Roerich
describes both his scientific observations and his personal
spiritual quest. Although he was ready to listen to tales of
underground cities as part of the adventure, his main interest
centered on the spiritual dynamics of Shambhala and its importance
as a symbol of the coming age of peace and enlightenment. This
blending of the scientific and the spiritual is also present in the
hundreds of paintings Roerich made throughout the expedition.
“His eye captured the shapes and
colours of the mountains, monasteries, rock carvings, stupas,
cities and peoples of Asia,” writes Jaqueline Decter in Nicholas
Roerich. “His soul understood their spirit; and his brush forged
a synthesis of beauty.”
Throughout his life, Roerich strove to
link all scientific and creative disciplines to advance true culture
and international peace, citing the power of art and beauty to
accomplish such a feat.
The Roerich Peace Pact, which obligated nations to respect museums,
cathedrals, universities and libraries as they did hospitals, was
established in 1935 and became part of the United Nations
organizational charter. The connection between Shambhala and the
Peace Pact is clearly evident in the following speech given at the
Third International Roerich Peace Banner Convention in 1933:
The East has said that when the
Banner of Shambhala would encircle the world, verily the New
Dawn would follow. Borrowing this Legend of Asia, let us
determine that the Banner of Peace shall encircle the world,
carrying its word of Light, and presaging a New Morning of human
“Today,” notes LePage, “every major
Russian city has a Roerich organization that expresses his ideas
for a new type of enlightened civilization based on the utopian
principles of Shambhala.” 17
The Sign of Shambhala
Shambhala itself is the Holy Place,
where the earthly world links with the highest states of
consciousness. In the East they know that there exists two
Shambhalas – an earthly and an invisible one.
– Nicholas Roerich
The Heart of Asia
Nicholas Roerich and party set out in
1924 to explore India, Mongolia and Tibet. Like Ossendowski before
him, Roerich soon encountered stories about a secret underground
kingdom. He jotted down his thoughts on this hidden kingdom and
these notes were later published in a remarkable record of the
Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary.18
In the summer of 1926, Roerich reported a strange event in his
travel diary. He was encamped with his son, Dr. George Roerich, and
a retinue of Mongolian guides in the Sharagol valley near the
Humboldt mountain chain between Mongolia and Tibet. At the time of
the event in question, Roerich had returned from a trip to Altai and
built a stupa, “a stately white structure,” dedicated to Shambhala.
In August the shrine was consecrated in a solemn ceremony by a
number of notable lamas invited to the site for the purpose, and
after the event, writes Roerich, the Buriat guides forecast
something auspicious impending. A day or two later, a large black
bird was observed flying over the party. Beyond it, moving high in
the cloudless sky, a huge, golden, spheroid body, whirling and
shining brilliantly in the sun, was suddenly espied. Through three
pairs of binoculars the travellers saw it fly rapidly from the
north, from the direction of Altai, then veer sharply and vanish
towards the southwest, behind the Humboldt mountains.
One of the lamas told Roerich that what he had seen was “the sign of Shambhala,” signifying that his mission had been blessed by the
Great Ones of Altai, the lords of Shambhala. They had also been
witness to a classic UFO, twenty years before the “official”
beginning of the phenomenon with Kenneth Arnold’s sighting in 1947.
Roerich’s account of such a sighting aroused great interest in
Europe and, corroborated as it was by George Roerich, brought to the
West the first concrete evidence that there might be something
present in Eurasia that defied understanding.
describes its significance as such:
In its vivid colour and factuality,
its bizarre but unarguable reference to an unknown golden
aircraft that behaved as no ordinary airplane could, the Roerich
story could rightly be called the first reliable intimation that
the kingdom of Chang Shambhala was perhaps knowable as more than
an intellectual curiosity, a popular Asian fable… and from about
1927 onward the world centre in the northern mountains exerted
on Western occult circles the fascination of an idea whose time
Which brings us to the very nature of
reality. Paranormal experiences, including UFO sightings, are always
indicative of an altered state of consciousness that allows the
witness to see other realities. Often the experience is similar to a
lucid dream, where ordinary space-time physics no longer applies.
The Eastern mystical view of the world can be quite different from
the Western scientific view of it. It maybe that the guidebooks to
Shambhala are describing a landscape transformed by the visions of a
yogi taking the journey there: Where we would see a mountaintop
gleaming with snow, he would see a golden temple with a shining god.
In that case, we might be able to travel the same path, but with a
different view of reality.
To travel to Shambhala, as Nicholas Roerich journeyed, is to
undertake at one and the same time an inner mystical journey and an
outer physical one through desolate and mountainous territory to a
An old Tibetan story tells of a young man who set off on the quest
for Shambhala. After crossing many mountains, he came to the cave of
an old hermit, who asked him,
“Where are you going across these
wastes of snow?”
“To find Shambhala,” the youth replied.
“Ah, well then, you need not travel far,” the hermit said. “The
kingdom of Shambhala is in your own heart.”
1. Edwin Bernbaum, The Way to
Shambhala: A Search for the Mythical Kingdom Beyond the
Himalayas, 2001, p.25.
2. Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism
and Nazi Survival, 1993, p.83.
3. Subterranean Worlds: 100,000 Years of Dragons, Dwarfs, the
Dead, Lost Races & UFOs from Inside the Earth, Walter
Kafton-Minkel, 1989, p.188.
4. Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism
and Nazi Survival, 1993, p.85.
5. Ferdinand Ossendowski,
Beasts, Men and Gods, 1922, p.300.
6. Ibid, p.300.
7. Ibid, p.303.
8. Ibid, p.300.
9. Ibid, p.118.
10. Alec Maclellan, The Lost World of Agharti, The Mystery of
Vril Power, 1982, p. 66.
11. Victoria LePage, Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth Behind the
Myth of Shangri-la, 1996, p.11.
12. See New Dawn No. 68, p. 85.
13. Victoria LePage, Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth Behind the
Myth of Shangri-la, 1996, p.10.
14. Andrew Tomas, Shambhala: Oasis of Light, 1976, p.32.
15. Nicholas Roerich, Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary (1929);
Other books by Roerich: The Heart of Asia (1930); Shambhala
16. Speech by Francis Grant in The Roerich Pact and Banner of
17. Victoria LePage, Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth Behind the
Myth of Shangri-la, 1996, p.12.
18. Nicholas Roerich, Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary (1929).
19. Victoria LePage, Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth Behind the
Myth of Shangri-la, 1996, p.12.
20. As quoted in Edwin Bernbaum, The Way to Shambhala: Jacques
Bacot, Introduction a l’histoire du Tibet, 1962, p.92N.