This short book relates some of the experiences of a woman called Mary de la Mont. She married a Lama in secret, bewitched by his charm and power. She was told by the Lama that he and she had been lovers in previous lives. As man and woman, or vice-versa, they have loved each other through many different incarnations.
I loved him then, not as a man, but as the emblem of goodness and love: and now love and goodness are myths to me for ever.
She recounts strange experiences she lived and strange wisdom she obtained from the Lama. Strange rituals involving old mummified Lamas sucking the life force from young maidens. She tells stories of curses and threats by other Lamas who wanted to prevent her from writing what she had seen. One thing to mention here is that the book’s subtitle is “A tale of fictitious people faithfully recounting strange rites still practiced by this cult“. So it is quite possible that part, if not all, of the book, is just fiction. Certainly, she mentions being threatened many times, but here is the book she was told not to write, and it doesn’t seem like it would have been difficult to get rid of her if they had really wanted to.
Chapter I – In an underground temple. Secret tunnels under the pagodas. The narrator meets the Lama and falls in love. A recounting of a ritual where the narrator was made to remember many old memories and lives. She gets pregnant, but all her babies died during birth.
Chapter II – Magic. The science of breath. Some actions must be carried out at the moment the breath is coming out of one specific nostril (this seems like nonsensical superstition to me). The narrator was taught how to make gold and other metals. The curse of the yogini. “Knowledge would teach, but wisdom is always silent“. Early details of the life of the Lama, meeting his guru in a cave.
Chapter III – The Gala Lama. The narrator remembers a time when she was given tea with butter, and her not drinking the butter and asking for milk causes the Lama to compare the butter with spirituality. The Lama tells the narrator that he doesn’t want to lose her but as an Indian wife, her position is always lower than his. Meeting the Gala Lama, the master of his husband. Of her, the Gala Lama says “use her for the elixir of life and give me to drink”. The Lama tells Gala Lama that she is already his wife, to which Gala Lama responds that he has forced him into death.
Chapter IV – X.Y.Z. The narrator meets the chief pupil of the Lama, which she simply identifies as X.Y.Z. He is said to be “hundreds of years old” and alive thanks to the “elixir of life he steals from women“. The narrator tells us that this is why she wrote the book, to “warn those who like me…have fallen at the feet of powerful men with strange powers“. The Lama had prophesied that she would be the father of the Messiah. Hail storms summoned by the power of X.Y.Z.
Chapter V – Past births. The Lama tells the narrator “remember“. She recalls past lives together. In a lifetime she was a Brahmin boy, and he was a maiden seduced by the boy. Many other births after this. Always together, “seducer or seduced“. The Lama asks her how to win her. She answers “ignoring me after first giving me the warmest of love“.
Chapter VI – The Kaula Circle. More threats from X.Y.Z. She goes to India to be treated for sickness. Details of the circle rituals in which participants were intoxicated and their essence was absorbed. A disciple of X.Y.Z. that goes by 666, who also has a pupil. Evocation of spirits who take the life force of X.Y.Z.
Chapter VII – The Maharaja of X. A certain Maharaja who had multiple wives and was famous for the orgies he organized. He was learning the secret of the elixir of youth. He married a particularly beautiful girl, whose parents, after learning of the Maharaja’s orgies, moved her to kill him and then herself.
Chapter VIII – The End. “Man is not a small thing in the universe. This is the grandest thought my philosophy has given me“. The book ends in a somewhat unexpected Christian tone. “God lies in the sweet, tender, simple things of life-and He is the resurrected man-the Christ“.
The narrator changes to Jean de Graeme, the executor of madame La Mont’s will. He tells of different people who came to him trying to recover the manuscript that she wrote. After she died, all the gold she had made turned into an unidentified, worthless metal. The narrator receives the visit of Hari Nur, a Sadhu that had heard about the manuscript of madame La Mont’s memories. He offers to translate other manuscripts in exchange for money. He also begged the narrator to give him the papers from madame La Mont. At one point, even X.Y.Z. visited him (or at least he was identified as such by the narrator). He tells the narrator that he has already read the manuscript using clairvoyance. Of the content, he says that she “was very unwise, and you who intend to publish her ravings are even more unwise“. He talks about the evil in man, and how it should be used. “Suppression of vice is a bad business: so we allow it its fullest expression“.
Part III – The Science of Breath
This part I found absolutely useless. It starts as a normal treatise on breathing, but soon it gets too much into the realm of the fantastic and superstitious – not that the rest of the book shies away from such type of fiction, but things like “If a question is asked in even letters when the moon breath is working, the answer will be favorable” or “If a person is to die within a short time, i.e., one day, he cannot see his tongue“.
This book succeeded in making me more interested in learning about Kaula and weird magical practices. I have heard of entities who steal the life force from humans, and while this book doesn’t particularly teach much about this, it is a nice story set up in a world where all these weird things happen. But, did they really? Is it possible to find out more? I have recently been reading about John Chang and the secrets of Mo Pai, and wonder if there are truly secret masters with amazing superhuman powers and whether it would be a cause worth my time to throw myself into the quest to find these superhuman masters.
Overall, I think this book is a pretty good read, a solid 7/10. It’s short enough that the lack of a more intricate storyline doesn’t get boring, and it can be consumed as an appetizer for other books by the same author. It doesn’t really contain much in regards to secrets, though.