Lobsang Rampa in Vancouver

Posted by Daniel on Jun 12, 2009 - 5 comments

During the winter of 1969-1970 I worked as a sales clerk at a bookstore called The Book Barrel on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. Forgotten now, the store was owned by Ted Fraser, who ran a small chain of book shops, both new and used. The Book Barrel was a sort of anti-Duthies. Completely unpretentious, it catered to the reader in search of books on car repair, hunting and fishing, and other practical subjects. It also stocked a wide selection of erotic novels for which Fraser was occasionally busted by the morality police.

One of the most patronized sections of the store was the Occult. (Nowadays I suppose it would be labelled New Age.) And one of the most popular occult authors was T. Lobsang Rampa, a supposed Tibetan lama who wrote a series of books about "the third eye" and other mystical matters that sold in the millions of copies. It sounded like hokum to me but it was, after all, the '60s.

So I was delighted and astonished to read in the latest issue of BC Bookworld (Summer 2009) that not long after I encountered his books in The Book Barrel, T. Lobsang Rampa actually lived in Vancouver. Bookworld cites a new book by Michael Buckley, Eccentric Explorers, which reveals that Rampa, who was in fact an unemployed Brit named Cyril Henry Hoskins, settled in a residential hotel in the West End with his wife and his "secretary". They were on the lam from Britain where his true identity had been revealed.

Rampa, one of whose books supposedly was dictated to him by a cat, did not like Vancouver and moved on to Calgary after a couple of years. He died there in 1981, which did not stop his literary output. According to the article, another book appeared ten years after his death, based on supposedly long-lost personal papers. (Notice how often one uses the word supposedly when referring to Rampa/Hoskins.)

Congratulations to Alan Twigg and the folks at BC Bookworld, by the way, for another information-packed issue.