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: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!
* Tibetan Mind Magic
* 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."
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.