October 21, 2007

Goin' to the dogs - Part III

So The Scribbler posed lots of unanswered questions in the last "dogs" posting. And he's been digging to find the answers. As a matter of fact, he has even employed the formidable talents of Hellibrarian (hereinafter referred to affectionately as "Hell"), to help him dig.

This whole adventure presents much food for thought on the nature and reliability of information in the Internet age. For a while it seemed this posting would end up being a cautionary tale about the dangers of believing what you read on the Internet, and the virtues of checking facts in more "traditional media" such as newspapers, respectable journals, and long-established reference works. You see, I thought I'd found "the truth" in a newspaper article written by a plucky investigative reporter. But after checking her "facts", the twist is that this posting may as well have been entitled "Snarky journalist repeatedly shoots self in foot in major Axel Springer newspaper."

You just wouldn't believe how many websites there are out there dedicated to those five exercises originally called "the rites of rejuvenation" in the Kelder books, but which have eventually come to be known as "The Five Tibetans." Hours of Internet searches established that there are many dozens of them out there. It would be difficult to say exactly how many.

"Five Tibetan" sites mostly fall into two categories: what we'll call fan sites or propaganda sites, and commercial sites.

The propaganda sites are altruistic in spirit. They're put up by people who are so convinced the five "rites" are incredibly beneficial to anyone who will do them these inspired souls feel they must spread the word, and copyright be damned. Anything this important to mankind as a whole, they seem to think, can't possibly be proprietary. Many of the images are- and much of the text is plagiarized. And after browsing through a certain number of them, it becomes apparent that almost all of them reproduce the same diagrams, instructions and background material, and claims of miraculous effects; at times shamelessly cut and paste from one another.

And it also becomes obvious that site after site repeats the same "information" as fact and truth, when it is apparent their authority is another website, which may also have merely parroted another website.

The commercial sites are just as numerous as the propaganda sites. The amazing thing is that they also mostly just repeat the same things you can find on the propaganda sites, but they're using it to sell something (an e-book, a video, a training course). It's pretty amazing that anyone can create supplemental materials for something as simple and easy as five basic exercises to be performed every morning. And they really are basic. But where good health and longevity are being promised, you are bound to find some snake-oil salesmen hanging about.

That brings us to the article I mentioned earlier. The German version of the Wikipedia article on The Five Tibetans lists a link to a 1999 newspaper article that appeared in Die Welt, entitled "Suche nach dem Buch aus dem Nichts" (translation: Search for the book out of nowhere), by Susanna Schwager (article: part I, part II).

From the very first word of Ms Schwager's article, you can see that her viewpoint goes far beyond healthy skepticism. She has a chip on her shoulder. Admittedly, some of her targets are deserving. However one feels about the efficacy of the exercises themselves (she clearly doubts it), the publishing and promotional phenomenon that has come in the book's wake brings new meaning to the word exploitation. She takes Scherz-Verlag, the publisher of the German translation, to task for publishing a children's Tibetans, and a Five Tibetans cookbook for gourmets. But beyond the excesses of the Scherz-Verlag, among the exploiters of the phenomenon the real topper is the training course to become a "certified" teacher of the Five Tibetans for (hold your breath!) 700 Euros. Certified teacher of something anyone can learn in five minutes?

But Ms Schwager's venom is not just for these money changers in the temple, she's out to ridicule anything she perceives as New Age-y, and she's going to start by proving the book is a fraud. She goes to the Zurich Central library with the hypothesis that the book was all an invention of some clever conman in 1985, who falsely claimed to have found a miraculous book published earlier in the 20th century. She and the reference librarian dug (in real hardbound references) to find the 1939 and 1947 editions of this book.

They started with the National Union Catalogue of the Library of Congress. They could find neither a Peter Kelder nor a book called The Eye of Revelation up to 1975. They also looked in the bibliography of France's Bibliotheque Nationale. No dice. When the journalist asked the chief librarian, a Dr. Kohler, what it meant if you can't find a book in any bibliography, he answered, "It always means something isn't quite right (Etwas stimmt nicht). It's a very strong indication that the book was never published. Naturally there are rare cases in which a book just wasn't registered (in the bibliographies), but every book resurfaces sooner or later, especially if there's a new edition." The journalist reports that Dr. Kohler took an interest in the case and did his own research. After two days he gave up. He said he couldn't even find it in esoteric collections, which usually don't have any gaps in them. Nor could he find either Harry R. Gardener or the Midday Press in old listings of publishers. The first record of the book is the 1985 edition by Harbor Press.

By the end of the article, Schwager asserts: there was no Peter Kelder; there was no Colonel, there was no 1939 edition, and no expanded 1947 edition (on which the 1985 edition claims to be based), and the was no Mid-Day Press. The whole thing was an invented con. She also pokes fun at the idea that the 1945 edition was "lost" until 1985.

After reading this, The Scribbler was itching to publish this information for the first time in the English-speaking world, but then I thought perhaps he should do a bit of fact checking himself before relating data from a single source as fact. It's a good thing he did.

Shortly after contacting Hell, she said she found evidence that there really had been a Mid-Day Press in Los Angeles, because she found other books published by them. And then she found (why didn't I think of looking there?) a rare book seller on e-Bay -- Jerry's Rare Books -- selling what he purports to be the only exisiting copy of a 1946 edition of Peter Kelder's The Eye of Revelation.

Here's where the story get real juicy! If you look at the e-Bay offering, you'll see that he's asking (hold your breath again!) $97,500. He doesn't intend to sell it to the average punter, though, he's looking to sell it to an ambitious publisher! In the description, he says:
"As far as is known for certain, this is the only surviving copy of the 1946 edition of the Eye of Revelation! The first four sections of the 1946 edition are largely similar to the 1939 edition; however, section five is entirely new and contains information about:

* Tibetan Mind Magic
* Mantrams
* The Magic Quality of "Aum"
* and more.

The 1939 editions of the Eye of Revelation have earned millions for their publishers. This 1946 edition can do the same for whomever purchases it. It has been long, long sought after and--with the new, authentic, information--has every chance to outsell any previous edition many times over."
The pictures in his offering (pictures: 1, 2, 3) seem to be convincing evidence of it's authenticity. But I'd still take a documents expert and a lawyer with me before I coughed up $97,500!

He also mentions that the only known copy of the 1939 original is in the New York City Public Library. That was pretty easy to verify.

So, the very premise of the article in die Welt is in error. Ironically, it took Internet resources to check the facts from a traditional medium (a respected newspaper) which is supposed to be more reliable due to the presence of professional journalists and editors. And her facts came from what should be considered a reliable source: a senior librarian at a well-established major library.

But we still don't know who Peter Kelder was, who the English Colonel was, where these exercises come from, or how they really work (or do they?).

All of that is yet to come in "Dogs" - Part IV.


Hellibrarian said...

Wow. This is incredible, coming from someone who is not a librarian or MLS student! It is a relief to see that there are "commoners" out there who realize the problems with plagiarism and not evaluating sources on the Internet.

And you're only the second person in the world who is allowed to call me Hell (Melody Belkin is the first). By default Szilvi is allowed too. Even my husband is not allowed to call me Hell (not that it occurred to him to do so).

vero said...

Wow. And wow!

Theo Huffman said...


Do you recall I studied literature? That I (like you) have worked as a journalist and editor? There are indeed other people in the world concerned about people's awareness of the authenticity of sources.

And the more information our society generates, the more critical this question becomes.


Although it's very wonderful to be marvelled at (thank you, The Scribbler takes a bow), I'd like to know a bit more specifically what impressed you.

Hellibrarian said...

No offense, dear Theo. It's just that there are so many well-educated people in this world who don't know these things, smart ones, too, I've discovered. And hey, you know perfectly well that journalists are some of the worst offenders when it comes to plagiarism!

Still, the "my first pair of shoes" story comes to mind--I can still picture the three of us sitting near St. Stephen's in Vienna and you're spinning that yarn about your first pair of shoes...and I totally fell for it being a snotty New Yorker! (I still tell people that story sometimes).

vero said...

It's the completeness of the post, and the amount of work you put into the research. I can't even ask anything and as I see noone else does... :))

Can we hear that "first shoes" story? ;)

Theo Huffman said...

OK. Talk about off topic!

But you asked for it. Here's the first shoes story.

So I was getting a little miffed with Hell one day while we were traipsing around Vienna, because she was showing the usual New Yorker ignorance about the rest of the USA, and since I'm from West Virginia I jokingly told her I got my first pair of shorts when I was nine years old. "Really?" she gasped. I never expected her to believe it, but I realized I had to take it a little further. "Oh yeah," I said, kind of looking thoughtfully into the distance, "I rmember it well, since it was the same year we got electricity in our house." Hell just stared at me, wide-eyed, and finally managed a "Really?"

"Of course not, Hell! I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. My father was a professor. I travelled to Europe the first time when I was six years old. I grew up in pretty much the same circumstances as you!"

Boy was she embarrassed when she realized how ignorant she'd been.

But I still loved her. Still do.

Theo Huffman said...

Shoes, not shorts. Oops.

vero said...

Is New York THAT far from W-Virginia? :)))))
Good story :)))
Even the shorts variation. LOL

Indie said...

I've held off making any direct comments about the rites until now. Just a few observations for you. Having read excerpts from the original book it seems to me that the wrtiter is simply describing the physical movements he saw being performed. There is no real reference to the real exercises involved in manifesting intrinsic energies in the body and allowing them to flow properly. The original 'rites' were created to help the monks ground and use effectivly the intense inner energies they were developing. One of the common criticisms of the FTR is that many people experience bad back and neck pain after a while. Back and neck pain can sometimes be the effect of rising Kundalini! I know, because I've been experiencing similar symptoms of Kundalini rising-lol

So Theo, what other sensations and experiences have you had since performing the rites? I'm curious because I think I've noticed that the FTB are very Indo-Tibetan in thier form. Am I right in thinking you perform these postures in a state of constant movement flowing from one form to the next and back?

Indie said...

BTW, I really like this subject!

Names like 'Peter Kelder' and the 'Eye of Revelation' sound straight out of a movie or the ARG of 'Lost'!

Hands up who's noticed that some internet references to Peter Kelder say he is 'still' living in California! The implication being the Rites have extended his life! this is so getting like Lost!

Hellibrarian said...

New York is far enough from West Virginia to make it hard to travel to either without frequent flier miles so those of us in the northeast are reduced to images from literature and the news (e.g. Cythnia Rylant or the Sago mining disaster) or stereotypes (inbreeding). Of course, my accusing anyone from WVA of being inbred would be quite hypocritical since my father's East European family was rather inbred itself (rabbis' families marrying rabbis's families). It's a miracle I don't have three heads.

Hellibrarian said...

BTW, looking at Ebay again I noticed that the book is no longer up for sale. Either he sold it or doesn't have it up for sale at this moment. It's still listed on abe.com but not on other bookseller's sites.

Jerry Watt said...

What a wonderful article and comments. (And thank you, Joe, for directing me to this site.)

I am Jerry of Jerry's Rare Books on eBay (you know, the shameless capitalist who offered the 1946 edition of the "Eye of Revelation" for a mere $97,500.) The book is still available on ABE along with a copy of the 1939 "Eye of Revelation." I only recently found the latter.

Since this article was first posted, I have republished the 1946 edition exactly as Kelder published it, complete with typos. It is available from Booklocker.com. Why did I keep the typos? you may ask. Because so many reprints of the "Eye" were revised to fit the preconceived notions of their editors, I wanted to offer an exact reprint so there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that I was NOT sneaking changes in, also.

The first reprints of the "Eye" were by Borderland Science in 1969. Their website says that they republished it in 1975 but I have their 1969 edition. Even they have forgotten their history. Harbor Press republished the "Eye" in 1985 under the title, "Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth." In their later editions, they took great liberties with the text, even going so far as to make up quotes that Kelder did not write.

I have done a fair amount of research into the authenticity of the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation and there genuinely seems to be a "back story" which lends credence. See Appendix D of my reprint edition. As far as the effectiveness of the Rites, they are enormously effective, and no one knows why or how. But they do work, which often can be proved in a week or two of practice.

Indie asked: “Am I right in thinking you perform these postures in a state of constant movement flowing from one form to the next and back?” Answer: Kelder describes a distinct pause between each repetition of Rites Two through Five. Only Rite One is done in a continuous motion.

Jerry Watt
Editor of Peter Kelder's 1946 Eye of Revelation