Revisionist History Presents: Into the ZoneRevisionist History
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- 10 Sep 2020
Into the Zone, a new show from Pushkin Industries, is a podcast about opposites, and how borders are never as clear as we think. In the 1920s, a messianic visitor to Hari’s family home unveils the connection between Indian Independence movement and the Astral Plane. Nearly a century later, Hari travels to the orange groves of southern California, where the guru made his home, to examine the globetrotting legacy of New Age spirituality.
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Bunga Bunga is a new wonderous original podcast hosted by legendary comedian Whitney Cummings and tells the incredible true story of how one master manipulator hypnotized an entire country. In the early 1990s, Italy was rocked by corruption investigation that indicted half of the parliament. Amidst the chaos, billionaire real estate mogul Silvio Berlusconi saw an opening. Using his wealth, charm and media savvy, he established a new political party, ran for prime minister of Italy and won. But instead of fulfilling his promise to drain the swamp, Silvio threw wild sex parties with prostitutes and rewrote laws to protect himself.
Italy had unwittingly kicked out one corrupt government with ties to the Mafia and replaced it with another until three determined women and two words brought his entire empire crashing down. Bunga Bunga is available on Apple podcast. Download it today. Hey, revisionist history listeners, we have a special episode for you today I wanted to share a taste of Pushkin's newest podcast. It's called Into the Zone, and it's hosted by the author, Hari Kunzru, who's been working with much of the same team that produces this show, Revisionist History.
Our explores ideas we think of as opposites, black and white, East and West, life and death, just to name a few. He asks whether the border is between. Things are as clear as you might think. Harry and I come from a similar background. In one respect. We each have one British parent and one from somewhere else in the UK's orbit, in my case Jamaica, in his case India. But Harry turned out to be a novelist, and his sensibility as a fiction writer is what makes his nonfiction podcast something really unique and unexpected, like the episode you're about to hear, which somehow roams from northern India to czarist Russia to Nevada while incorporating spiritualism and aliens and anticolonial politics.
Not to mention the strange tale of a would be messiah who turned down the job. Give it a listen and find into the zone on Apple podcasts. You'll love it, believe me. OK, here's Harry. Sometime in the late 80s, my great great grandfather built a heavily a large house in the city of Agra in north India. The house had many rooms built around a courtyard and the back garden filled with plants and trees outside, there was a bustling market, but behind the high walls, the house was its own secluded world.
That world is gone now. But when I was a child, it was still there. And whenever we went to visit my grandparents in India, we would stay at heavily the family home. To me, it was a magical place, tribes of monkeys roamed through the trees and they often came into the rooms, you had to sleep with a state beside your bed so you could stop the animals from stealing your shoes. Some rooms were no longer used.
The furniture in them was coated with a thick layer of dust. Outside the toilet block had spiders, which made it scary to visit in the night, even with a flashlight. There was electricity sometimes, but if you wanted hot water for a bath, one of the servants had to heat it and bring it to your quarters. A defining moment of my childhood was the shame of realizing that another little boy just my age had to carry a heavy bucket so I could wash.
It was a house built for a household, a family and the people who work for them.
My great grandfather had loved traditional Indian wrestling when he inherited the house, he built a wrestling pit by the servants quarters in the garden. The pit was a sandy enclosure where matches could take place. One year when I was eight or nine, a big tournament was held there and I was allowed to sit at the front of the crowd as enormous men with impressive curled mustaches oiled themselves up and grappled, competing for a prize given by my grandfather at the house.
When everyone else was occupied, I would climb out of the windows and walk along ledges high above the street. And one day, maybe when I was 10 or 11, I found my way into a forgotten room in the compound. It had been my great grandfather study. The shelves held a dusty jumble of books and papers. There were old photos, family groups, sports teams. A book was lying on the table. I only remember it because of the strange title, The Lives of our Siani by S.W. Ledbetter and Annie Bessant.
Al Siani, a, l, c, y o an e. What did that mean? I doubt I read much of the book beyond the title page. It was published in 1924. I do remember the curious subtitle Rentz in the Veil of Time.
You're listening to Into the Zone podcast about opposite's and how borders are never as clear as we think. I'm Hari Kunzru and this episode is about gurus and disciples. It's about east and west. It's about a young Indian who didn't want to be the new messiah. And it's about my family and how they discovered that fighting colonialism might involve making contact with beings from the Astros to playing. Now, years later, I know much more about the authors of the lives of our Siani together they had become the leaders of a mystical religion.
Their book is a record of the past lives of a boy whom they believe to be the new messiah. Why that book was in my great grandfather's study is one of the strangest stories in my family. It's a story I've only recently begun to understand. But first, young Indiana Jones has a question for his dad.
Father, what's he? Well, theosophists believe in the commonality of all religions, but they call it a brotherhood of man.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones was a TV series that ran in the 1990s. It chronicled the globe trotting colonial youth of the fictional archaeologist from Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's kind of a weird show, very preoccupied by intellectual things. Young Indy Jones goes to Russia and meets Tolstoy in Vienna. His father takes him to the first psychoanalytical conference, where they hang out with Freud and Jung. In one episode, his father has been invited to India to give a lecture, and they attend a meeting of a group called the Theosophical Society.
They're interested in psychic and supernatural phenomenon. There's even a rumor they found a messiah, some sort of great spiritual teacher.
Maybe so the young indies governess dismisses the whole thing as flim flam. Anyway, philosophy is much more than a subplot in an obscure televised prequel. It's one of the strangest and most quietly influential religious organizations of modern times. If you've ever heard about Orrin's color therapy, clairvoyance or spirit guides, you have theosophy to thank. Its behind many of the ideas we associate with the New Age movement. Philosophy inspired some of the wildest pop culture of the 20th century.
The book I found in my great grandfather's dusty study was the first sign I had that my family had been involved in it. It turned out to be woven into my life more deeply than I knew. Theosophy starts with one of those great self invented people, Madame Helena Blavatsky, she was a minor Russian aristocrat and it's probably significant that her mother was a romantic novelist. Though Helena Blavatsky herself wrote a number of books, her most stirring tale was her own life.
She was the heroine of her own adventure story. She grew up in a drafty house in Ukraine where her only pastime was curling up in the library and reading her grandmother's occult books at the age of 17.
She married a 40 year old man who happened to be the vice governor of Yerevan in the Caucasus, a wild border region of the Russian empire. Blavatsky Marriage lasted three months. Then she ran away. Her father sent someone to bring her home, but she gave him the slip and did an almost unthinkable thing for a 17 year old rich girl in 1848. She made it to the Black Sea, boarded a steamship and headed for Constantinople to start a new life.
We don't exactly know how she supported herself, probably by working as a spirit medium. Madame Blavatsky was fond of putting her occult knowledge to use contacting the dead on behalf of the living.
So far all I've told you is actually true.
The rest of Helena Blavatsky romantic story. Well, perhaps not so much by her own account, she set off around the world looking for secret knowledge.
She went to Syria, Mexico, Egypt and India. She was badly wounded in a battle fighting alongside Italian revolutionaries. She was shipwrecked. She journeyed in a covered wagon across America. She rode bareback in a circus. She outwitted secret agents in Central Asia and played a major role in the great game as people called the geopolitical power struggle between the Russian and British empires. Blavatsky climb the Himalayas and studied in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. In London in 1851, Blavatsky attended the great exhibition in the Crystal Palace.
There she had a vision of a spirit, this being master, and Maria explained that he was one of the great white Brotherhood. I know that sounds like a prison gang, but the Brotherhood was Blavatsky reported a band of super beings who secretly looked after the Earth.
From then on, Blavatsky was in regular contact with these so-called ascended masters. They taught her so, she said, the secrets of the universe. Madame Blavatsky led an extraordinary opiated fever dream of a life. At a certain point in a life like that, it becomes obvious that you should start your own religion. She called it the Theosophical Society, it aimed to be the vanguard of a new kind of universal human brotherhood, theosophists, we're going to use the combined wisdom of the world's religions to discover hitherto unknown laws of nature.
They would generally help humanity level up, turning us all into spiritual supermen and women. If you read Theosophical descriptions of the ascended Masters, it's kind of like a cosmic boyband. Everyone has his own look Jesus and the Buddha in there, but so is Pythagoras and various other guys like Hillary on a sexy Greek who's in charge of science. Cool to me, a fair skinned Kashmiri and of course, morea the spirit she met at the Crystal Palace. He's a flashing eyed Rajput prince, a plethora of leading men, all for the leading lady, Madame Blavatsky.
By the time she died in 1991, her new religion was doing very well.
Philosophy was Madame Blavatsky gift to the future Theosophical wizards and mystics were turning up in popular novels, along with shadowy groups like the Nine Unknown Men by the early years of the 20th century.
The public was in love with stories about teams of beings with superhuman powers and missions to save the Earth. The X-Men and The Avengers direct descendants of the beings in Blavatsky Pantheon. DC's Green Lantern is part of an interstellar law enforcement agency that's like a cop version of the Great White Brotherhood. If heroes are one Theosophical legacy. And of course, there's this so it's safe to talk about flying saucers and people from outer space, the aliens.
This is a news reporter called Jack Webster, who had a TV show in Vancouver in the 1960s.
People who may be circulating among us now and who demonstrate their unearthly qualities if they choose you as one of their agents by disappearing and reappearing at will.
The skeptical Glaswegian Webster is queuing up an interview he did with one of the early UFO contacts, a man named George Van Tassel.
And Tassell ran a private airport out in the Mojave Desert at a place called Giant Rock in 1953, a spacecraft that landed on fantasy's runway.
The aliens, beautiful humans, dressed a little like ancient Greeks, had shared with him the secret of time travel.
I say that what is occurring now has occurred before that many records of these ships landing throughout history clear back into Sanskrit. When you realize we're dealing with a weather type of man that is almost as far above Russian intelligence as we are above the lower animals. There is nothing phenomenal in this at all.
I researched UFOs and Van Tassel in particular for my novel Gods Without Men. I discovered that almost all that first generation of contacts, people who claim to have met aliens, were also involved in spiritualism or philosophy.
One belief system that emerged out of the soup of the West Coast UFO counterculture in the 1950s involves the Ashtar Galactic Command, a team of super beings with many names familiar from Madame Lasky's pantheon, including on Kouta, Me and the great beloved commander in Chief Jesus the Christ.
The Ashtar Galactic Command is still around today. I'll let British color therapist and spiritual teacher Heyden Crawford explain more.
The Ashtar command is an ethnic group of extraterrestrials, angels and light beings, plus millions of starships which act as coordinators over the space flight over the Western Hemisphere. They are here to assist humanity through the current process of planetary cleansing, polar realignment and ascension into the fifth dimension.
I think that's reasonably clear.
And then there's the etherial society, the group of UFO enthusiasts founded in 1955 by Yogi guru and former cab driver Dr George King.
They're headquartered in Hollywood and London. But the real work gets done elsewhere.
The top so-called Holy Mountains, like the windswept Hulston down in Devon, site of their operation prayer power. Picture this, a friendly looking group of people, middle aged and retired and dressed in all weather gear in case it starts to drizzle, sitting in folding chairs, communing with the great beyond.
We send out energy from places like this to the world as a whole for healing, for peace. But we do it in cooperation with beings from other planets.
That's Richard Lawrence, the Theory Society's executive secretary.
He's interviewed in a 2017 documentary by Vice Right.
So aliens, if you like. Yes. A number of the great spiritual figures of history, Buddha, Sri Krishna, were from other planets.
In the documentary, Lawrence gestures to a strange object at the center of their circle, the prayer battery. It's the size of an old tripod camera, a brightly colored box with some cables and straps that definitely does not look like a prop in a late night movie.
Has everybody been given the mantra we're going to use today? Good. OK, that's great.
So why don't we prepare ourselves then to become channels as the Assyrians chant, their prayers are stored in the battery. Later, this prayer power will be released in a jolt of good vibes directed at Stryfe anywhere on Earth. In the past, the prayer battery has helped clean up oil spills, protected against hurricanes and even in 1981, kept the Soviet Union from invading Poland.
Oh my team oh oh oh oh oh oh. You might blow with this world.
The prayer battery is a radio sonic device, a physical combination of philosophy and modern engineering. It was invented by a British cabbie, George King, in 1954.
A voice told King he was going to be the representative of the ascended masters on Earth. King was already a serious practitioner of yoga. This is long before it was a mainstream lifestyle activity, he says. A famous Indian yogi walked through his locked door and initiated him into certain spiritual secrets. This type of turn from India to mysticism to any number of incredible beliefs was already, well, warm by the time George King and his followers scaled Holy Mountains with their batteries.
And it all goes directly back to a trip taken long ago by Madame Blavatsky. In 1879, records show that Blavatsky arrived on a ship into Bombay looking for enlightenment. Her effect on my conservative Indian family would turn out to be profound.
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In England, they call this bringing coals to Newcastle. The Internet tells me that the closest American expression is taking sand to the beach. But Madame Blavatsky pulled it off, Theosophy became wildly popular in India, philosophical meetings were one of the few places where British and Indians, the colonizers and the colonized could meet on equal terms around a shared world view. And because of this, something unforeseen happened. Theosophy got political.
The cranks and mystics who followed Madame Blavatsky got mixed up in the Indian independence struggle against the British Raj. This is where my great great grandfather comes in. Pundit alginate, Kunzru was a lawyer in the city of Agra, best known for the Taj Mahal. He was from a wealthy family of high cost Hindus in the one picture that exists of him. He's younger than I am now, maybe in his 30s. He has gentle eyes, but most of the rest of his face is obscured by a huge hipster beard.
Like many educated Indians of his generation, my ancestor was torn in two directions. When he was 17, Indian troops rose up against their British officers in Britain. This is known as the Indian Mutiny. In India, they call it the first war of independence. It was bloodily suppressed and afterwards the British were determined that it wouldn't happen again. They set out to create a trustworthy Indian elite educated in British style schools and universities with a British curriculum. Aju dinner became part of this.
He went to a government college where he learned English poetry, English history, the dates of the Battle of Hastings and Magna Carta. It was drummed into the young men of this Indian elite that their own culture was backwards. All English schoolboys knew that Indians had barbaric gods with too many heads and arms. Indians burned widows on pious Indians were passive and fatalistic. Unlike plucky Victorian Englishmen who had a can do spirit, Indians didn't try to change things because the state of the world was God's will.
My great great grandfather internalized some of these feelings, he wished his country were more modern, but he also found he couldn't ignore the problems colonialism created. Indians had no voice in their own politics, and they were barred from joining the civil service that ran the country on behalf of the Empress Queen Victoria. English businessmen were making vast fortunes in India, but they spent the profits back home. Argentina's wanted social progress, the education of women, the end of child marriage, he was a strict vegetarian and was passionate about animal rights.
He also became a rich man. So he did what rich men do when they want to voice their views. He started his own newspaper. It was called the Indian Herald. I have a good picture on the wall of my study, but it was only while I was researching this podcast that I found out that he'd had a newspaper.
I couldn't believe it. No one in my family had ever mentioned it, though. Perhaps there's a good reason for that. It didn't go very well.
Aju Denias wanted a native English speaker to edit the newspaper, and somehow he hired a young itinerant American named Francis Marion Crawford, who, as far as I can see, was the late 70s equivalent of a hippie backpacker.
Crawford thought his job as a joke.
According to him, my ancestors newspaper staff consisted of a baronet, a disqualified jockey, a drunken parson, a countess, a bank director, several struggling young baristas and a host of others. The struggling baristas would have been a duty Nath's idealistic friends. Whatever really happened at the Herald, Crawford and my great great grandfather soon fell out and the paper went bust. Clifford said the Herald lost money because it was too radical for the British and not radical enough for the Indian masses.
Knowing what I do about it. Mutinous views. That sounds about right. Despite his failures as a newspaper proprietor, a dudin are still wanted to work for his country. His chance finally came when he met one of the greatest eccentrics of Victorian India, a retired colonial official named Alan Octavian Hume. Hume was an obsessive ornithologist who has no less than seven birds named after him as Hume's leaf warbler. Hume's ground hit it short toad lark and so on.
But more importantly for the future of India, Hume believed it was time for Indians to step up and take control. In typical Victorian fashion, he expressed himself in verse all he serves or argue.
Freeman he that grew in the shade in your own hands rest the issues by themselves our nations made.
The other thing about Hume, he was a Theosophist and a close friend of Madame Blavatsky. Through her, he had personally received spiritual communication from two of the ascended masters to me and morea the way it worked. He wrote letters to the Masters, which Blavatsky placed in a special wooden box. From there they dematerialised and were FedExed to the higher plains. The answers floated down from the ceiling or were found on the recipient's pillow. Though this is all rather silly, the Masters gave him a message that was to have profound political consequences.
They told him that British India was in danger and it was up to him to save it. The cosmic balance between East and West had tipped too far toward the western side. It was up to him to correct it. How to do that by helping Indians gain more power. Hume put out a call for 50 good men and true the picked men, the most highly educated of the nation, men like my great great grandfather. In 1885, Hume started an organization called the Indian National Congress.
The British authorities would instantly have shut down anything national started by Indians. But they found it much harder to muzzle the dissenting opinions of Alan Octavia's human companion of the Order of the Bath and the distinguished member of the Imperial Civil Service. In 1888, the Congress met in Allahabad, near Agra.
I have a copy of the speech my great great grandfather gave at the opening of the Congress. He defends his friend, whom we mean to stick to Mr. Hume to the last. He says his advice to us has always been loyalty and moderation, and yet he's been stigmatized as the most seditious man in India. A Judean earth affirms his loyalty to Queen Victoria. He points out that the Congress is only asking for the same rights as other subjects of the English crown.
There's also a defiant note. You know the strength of the opposition, he says. And you also know that it is fast losing its power for evil and dying out as all unrighteous things sooner or later die. A Jinnah's had been influenced by him human more than politics.
He'd begun attending meetings of the Theosophical Society.
He was still a relatively young man, only 52 when he died suddenly of influenza. He left an intellectual legacy for his children, who all became ardent nationalists. Madame Blavatsky died at about the same time as a duty nurse, also the flu leadership of the Theosophical Society passed into the hands of another charismatic woman, Annie Bessant. She'd been a labor organizer in London, leading a famous strike of young women and girls working in terrible conditions at a factory making matches.
Later, Bessant became a disciple of Madame Levitsky and travelled to India. She took over the Theosophical Society with a lapsed Anglican priest called Charles Leadbitter. Leadbitter and Bessant were the oddest of odd couples, the fiery radical leader of the London Match Girls Strike and the former curate of Rimshot Village who'd started talking to spirits and then ran off to Asia. One day in 1999, Ledbetter was walking on the beach when he saw a young boy who had he wrote the most wonderful aura he had ever seen without a particle of selfishness in it.
The boy's mother was dead. His father was very poor. And for whatever reason, Leadbitter became convinced that in this boy, he had found the world teacher, the new messiah. Not everyone agreed, at least one other Theosophist described the child as dimwitted. And then there was the other issue, Leadbitter had already been expelled once from the Theosophical Society because of his sexual interest in young boys. The boy, Gedo Krishnamurti, was very handsome, early photos emphasises fine features and soulful eyes.
Very quickly, Leadbitter ascribed to him dozens of past lives, somehow Krishnamurti family agreed that he and his brother Nitya should go and live at the Theosophical compound in Adya. They're Leadbitter and Bessant would tutor them and do further research into their past lives, which apparently stretch back 25000 years from India to the lost continent of Atlantis. Krishnamurti was given a star name. He was Cioni, the central star in the Pleiades constellation.
Leadbitter began to publish an account of Krishnamurti lives in a Theosophical magazine. Eventually, they were collected together into a book, a sort of reincarnation soap opera in which all the characters were previous incarnations of senior theosophists.
It was this book, The Lives of Al Siani, that I found in my great grandfather's study when I was a boy. To me, the real life of Krishnamurti is more interesting and effective than the stories in the lives of our Siani, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbitter became the legal guardians of Krishnamurti and his brother Nitya, even fighting a court case against their father. The Theosophists formed an organization, The Order of the Star in the East, to promote their young messiah.
Krishnamurti was dressed in tailored suits from Savile Row, and plans were made to send him to Oxford.
Krishnamurti turned out not to be very academic, so the Oxford plan was dropped, though he himself was one of the ascended masters, he never could hold a lot of the complex teachings in his head. In 1915, Charles Leadbeater left India to run the Theosophical Society in Australia, where it was very popular, Krishnamurti was relieved to see him go. Annie Besant, you became a sort of substitute mother, combined her mystical interests with support for Indian independence in the days when Hume was advising my great great grandfather, the ascended Masters, speaking through mystical letters, seemed to be in favor of loyalty to the crown.
Now, the Masters were sending messages from the astral plane, enthusiastically supporting the call for the British to quit India. Enter my great grandfather, Rajnath, the wrestling fan whose copy of Bessant and Ledbetter's book I found in our old house in 1916, Rajnath was a delegate at the Indian National Congress, along with both his brothers the following year, and he Bessant, was elected as the chair. The Congress was gradually turning from an elite talking shop into a serious independence movement.
By the 1920s, Jidda, Krishnamurti, or just K, as his followers called him, was travelling the world with Bessant mixing in high society. Kay had become a startlingly handsome young man with a long straight nose and swept back hair, the order of the star of the East was now very wealthy. Thousands of people came to hear Kay speak.
And maybe sometime in early December 1922, Krishnamurti and Annie Besant were on a whistle stop tour of India. Kay hadn't been home for several years. He stayed the night in Agra and according to my family, it was our house that he stayed in. This was always spoken of as a great event, and it seems to have cemented Rajnath loyalty to Theosophy. But though Krishnamurti was becoming world famous, there were signs that the new messiah was contemplating his own independence movement.
The early 1920s, Krishnamurti, his younger brother, Nitya, fell ill with tuberculosis, a Theosophist offered a cottage in Ohio up in the hills north of Los Angeles. The healthy climate of California would be perfect for his recovery. In 1925, Kay left his brother Norteño, you know, hi there, Nescio is gravely ill. Reluctantly, Kay was on his way back to India to attend a massive rally of the Order of the Star. He stopped in England, where he met senior theosophists.
Aboard ship at Port Side, he received a telegram Tanita had died. Kay locked himself in his cabin, didn't emerge for some days. Much later in an interview, Kay revealed that the English members had told him that if he accepted them as disciples, his brother would recover.
The joke he thought, though, he went on to India, this moment was the beginning of a total disillusionment with the movement and his role as the Messiah. Still, by 1929, philosophy seemed as if it might turn into a global spiritualist church, the theosophists arranged a big meeting at Ommen in the Netherlands, where the order of the star had its headquarters. A wealthy Dutch donor had given them a castle. It was there. A rumor had it that they would announce the names of 12 disciples, just like Jesus had.
That is what the world is attempting to prove. He's not made a plaything for those who are weak, but those who are. But there was a problem. Kay hadn't chosen anybody. The list had been cooked up by Bessant and some other senior theosophists, conveniently their names were all on it. Kay told Bessant that he wouldn't cooperate, that he found their vanity absurd and disgusting. There's a photo of Krishnamurti with Annie Bessant opening the ceremony. They both look unhappy, Bessant is an old lady by this point, and she's dressed up like a Christmas tree with Mystikal embroidered robes and a mess of necklaces and pendants hanging around her neck.
Krishnamurti Movistar, Suave, has an impeccably tailored double breasted jacket and a fashionably casual, open necked shirt. And he Bessant knows what's about to happen. Krishnamurti gets up on stage and he drops the bomb. He tells the assembled crowd that he's not the Messiah. He doesn't want any disciples. Theosophy is a sham. The speech wasn't recorded at the time, but later on he was persuaded to repeat it for a newsreel crew.
Truth being limitless, unconditional and approachable by any powers whatsoever cannot be organized, nor should any organization before to lead all people along any particular path.
Krishnamurti says you can't find truth by following leaders. You have to find it for yourself. He's giving back the castle and disbanding the organization.
The Theosophists are appalled. Leadbitter, the old pedophile who found the beautiful boy on the beach, splutters that the coming has gone wrong. What did Krishnamurti do once he'd walked away from being the Messiah? He went to California. He settled in Ohio and made his home there for the rest of his life. He never stopped writing and giving talks. His presence in Ohio became one of the seeds for the West Coast counterculture that grew up in the 50s and 60s, a fusion of east and West that secretly owes so much to Madame LaVert Ski and the Theosophists.
Kyohei is pretty modest. You can't help feeling that it was a reaction to the pomp and circumstance of his days in Theosophy case certainly wasn't a hermit. But though Krishnamurti always had famous friends and followers from Langston Hughes to Van Morrison, the trajectory of his life was towards quietness and meditation.
Since the famous pepper tree that in the mid 1920s he sat under and he kind of came to some kind of understanding or opening.
This is Christy Lee who helps run the Krishnamurti center in Ohio.
It fell at a certain point and we thought he had died. But obviously it's, you know, gave back roots. This is actually the same tree is the part of the cycle. It's all right.
So it's the stump of the pepper trees, taller than I am. And it shoots out like a branch, a fully mature, beautiful tree with a canopy of shade. There was such profound calmness both in the air and within myself. Krishnamurti wrote the calmness of the bottom of a deep, unfathomable lake like the lake. I felt my physical body with its mind and emotions could be ruffled on the surface. But nothing, nothing could disturb the calmness of my soul.
In Ohio completed his transformation from a beautiful, rather vague young dandy into a profound thinker, Kristy Lee's husband, Yapp Slotter, directs the Krishnamurti Foundation of America. I asked him how he characterized Kay's teachings. Unlike philosophy, there's no complicated metaphysical system, no rituals, no trance's or incantations. He was constantly saying, look at yourself.
Look at what you're thinking. Look at your your thoughts. See how your you were building up images. See how your consciousness is put together and see how it how your consciousness is similar to other people's consciousness and see how that's the root of all conflict in society and conflict inside you and the root of human suffering.
Another person who works ohis Michael Cronin, who used to be Krishnamurti, his personal chef, he would hear K rail against organized religion the lot.
He said, look, I'm not starting a new religion. This is not a new religion. I'm not an authority. You know, I'm not having sacred scriptures or any of that. If the only thing that approaches what you might call advice is observe, observe yourself, be aware of your own reactions, be aware of how you are conditioned.
This feels intuitively right to me. I feel a connection to Krishnamurti partly because I admire what he did, how he had the courage to be simple, to reject or the messianic flimflam of theosophy. But my sense of connection also goes back to something much simpler. Listen for a moment to Krishnamurti accent as he reads out his speech, disbanding the Order of the Star.
I am controlling myself with the central theme, the true freedom of mind. I would help him to break away from all limitations. That clipped old fashioned accent of Cays, it's very familiar to me, I heard it in the mouths of older Indian men, men of my grandfather's generation who'd been taught English by British teachers in the last days of the Raj. I remember being startled once when I was at the house in Agra. An old man, a friend of my grandfather, came walking toward me, supporting himself with a stick.
He was dressed in a shawl in the lungi with a cap on his head. Hello. He said you don't happen to know the latest score in the cricket, that East West accent. I didn't understand until recently how marked my family had been by theosophy, various older relatives were astrologers and homeopaths.
I have an uncle who's a retired army officer but gives out a business card advertising his skill in the mystic science of name ology. My father was different.
He became a doctor, a scientific rationalist, and it's his spirit I've inherited, not the mystical side in Ohio.
Michael Clonan takes me into Kayes personal library where the books are just as he left them in the ways of white folks by Langston Hughes.
This is actually quite a oh, my goodness. Yeah, look at that interest and wonder sincerely. Langston Hughes, Carmel Highland, September 18th, 1934. Mm hmm.
Like most writers, when I walk into a room, my eyes are drawn to the bookshelves in Ohio. It's impressive to see all the various editions of works by and about K. But you can also tell a lot about someone by what they like to read. So when I'm taken into Krishnamurti study, I'm immediately intrigued.
Yeah. A Jack Higgins the eagle has landed. He was a great fan of these kind of books. The thrillers.
Yeah. Alice and Jackie. Oh yeah. I got the freelance spy and the Wolf fleeing the scream of the Dove. Yes, he was in Pulp Fiction, that's what. Yeah, yeah.
Sometimes I remember he asked me, you know, I mean, not here but but over where the lunch was served. And he said, Sir, could you go to the local bookstore and maybe buy by a couple of books by own Eurus, you know. You and I would buy some of those. I may have bought these a God in ruins and the Casino Royale and. Oh, yeah. Tom Clancy, the hunt for Red October.
These books, James Bond, the Scottish thriller writer Alistair McClain, and Leon Urus, who wrote a lot about World War Two, their macho, trashy entertainment, I think this is the moment that Krishnamurti really comes into focus for me. He didn't just reject being the Messiah because he had some philosophical belief in simplicity. He was simple, he was ordinary, he spent the second half of his life turning himself into an ordinary person.
My family house in Agra is gone now. Sometime in the 1990s, it was torn down and all the books and papers vanished. Every time I think about that, I experience a pang of loss, all that lost knowledge, all that history. But the cottage, you know, high, I decide that I'm OK with it. This is a place to let things go, to allow the past to slide into forgetfulness. Maybe the thing to do would be to follow his example and sit under the pepper tree reading Tom Clancy enjoying the afternoon sun.
Krishnamurti was not exactly hiding out in California, not an exile, but many others were, and they hated the sunny state to find them. We have to leave behind the orange groves of Ohio for the freeways of L.A.. I don't know how you feel. General. I don't know what are your feelings generally about literary pilgrimage, do you? Is it something you. You're always up for? I am always up for it. And I'm I'm always disappointed.
Fun sun and lots to complain about. Optimism, pessimism. That's next week on into the Zone. Into the Zone is produced by Rider Olsen and Hunter Braithwaite. Our editor is Julia Barton. McLibel is our executive producer. Martin Gonzalez is our engineer music for this episode composed by Spatial Relations. Our theme song is composed by Sarah Capodimonte, also known as Let Talk Special. Thanks to Jacob Weisberg, head of Fein, John Shayna's Maia Karnig, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rustic and Maggie Taylor.
Into the Zone is a production of Pushkin Industries. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider letting others know. The best way to do this is by writing this on Apple podcasts. You could even write a review. See you next week. I'm Harry Kunzru.