|Mouni Sadhu As I Knew Him by Nicholas Tereshchenko
First published in LOT 13, "The Lamp Of Thoth [Leeds, UK] Vol: III No. 1"
Reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Chris Bray, publisher, The Lamp of Thoth' (firstname.lastname@example.org,)
Mouni Sadhu As I Knew Him by Nicholas Tereshchenko
Reading Rafal T. PRINKE'S article on MOUNI SADHU (LOT 10) was most interesting. I first met Mouni in 1963. He was then living in Box Hill, a suburb of Melbourne (Victoria), and had a small group of private pupils, and a larger, public group of interested people, meeting with the more permanent pupils once a month.
This latter group was brought together by 'advertisements' distributed privately, through the branches of the Theosophical Society and also by placing them in libraries and suitable book-shops. The one for 1963 was worded as follows:
'The Arunachala Group is an independent group of seekers beyond all sects and religious organizations, who accept as their spiritual guide and Master, the last Great Indian Rishi - Sri Ramana Maharshi.'
Every February (the last month of the Australian summer) Mouni Sadhu regularly visited Sydney (New South Wales), driving the 600 miles in a Volkswagen camper-body van, together with his current girl-friend (a different one almost every year). There he gave talks at the Theosophical Society and elsewhere, and met people by arrangement, usually in the houses of friends.
Mouni never told me anything about his ethnic origins or early life, nor how he became interested and where he received his training in occultism. But as he spoke Russian well and had several Russian books on occult subjects, I suspected that he must be either Polish or a native of what is sometimes called 'Carpathian Russia'. He spoke mostly about his time in India with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and liked to describe him and the life in the Ashram. Mouni Sadhu was interested in and tolerant of all occult Paths, except the 'Fourth Way', that is, that of the followers of George Ivanovich GURDIEFF. He told me the reason for this, still re-acting emotionally to what had happened twelve years previously.
Apparently, in 1949 (the year in which Mr. Gurdjieff died on the 29th October), Mouni decided that, being himself a senior and experienced occultist, he should meet his aging colleague, about whom he had heard such varying and inconsistent reports. He expected to be met with courtesy and as an equal, but no sooner had he come into - "the room," that Gurdjieff (in Mouni Sadhu's own words): 'grossly insulted me in my mother tongue: So what else could I do, but walk out in disgust and anger, telling Gurdjieff: 'To hell with you, you filthy Armenian old man'.
Although Mouni never told me, nor even hinted at what it was that G. said to him, I am as certain as it is possible to be under the circumstances, that it was just two words which can be transliterated into English spelling as: 'Pshah crave' - meaning: 'Dog's blood', and implying that the one thus addressed is not only a bastard, but has as father a dog and not a man. A most effective and very economical way of mortally insulting not just the man, but also and at the same time his mother and father as well. Moreover, this is a very common taunt and imputation traditionally flung by Cossacks to their 'hereditary foes'.
The despised catholic Poles, who so often, so hard and so unsuccessfully tried to conquer Orthodox Ukraine and enslave GOGOL's 'Taras Boulba' - available in Everyman's Library and/or see the excellent film of the same name, in which Yul Brynner played the title role.
It rather amazed me that someone as knowledgeable and advanced as Mouni just could not see what G.'s unexpected behavior demonstrated. It is clear to me that, if Mouni Sadhu, instead of feeling insulted and leaving in a huff, had bowed down and said something to this effect: 'Master'. How did you know my mother tongue and what for me is a mortal insult? Please teach me how to be able to do the same', then he may have learned something from Gurdjieff (who in the last years of his life was desperately searching for someone fit and worthy to have his deepest knowledge passed on to). After all, how many men - other great 'masters' not excluded, could at a glance instantly know what is a new and unknown visitor's mother tongue and what is for him an unbearable insult?
Mouni also several times exulted that Gurdjieff had died from cirrhosis of the liver and dropsy, saying that a 'Real Master' had perfect control of his body and could not suffer from such diseases. When I pointed out to him that his own idol, Sri Ramana Maharshi, had died from a stinking cancer on his arm, Mouni retorted that suffering and death were 'voluntary and a sacrifice' on Sri Ramana's part. But he would not admit the possibility that so could Gurdjieff's death have been.
Be that as it may, I liked Mouni Sadhu and got on well with him. Every year, while in Sydney, he was a welcome guest in my home, and often met there the members of Gurdjieff and other groups whom he otherwise would not have met elsewhere, as most of his public and private talks were given to young theosophists. He did, though, also meet with a number of 'scientologists', who at that time were not permitted to meet and work openly in Victoria, where Scientology had been banned after a scandal involving attempted blackmail of members of the local parliament by some so-called 'dears'.
During his 1964 Sydney visit, Mouni Sadhu started a 'Tarot Group' of which he asked me to be the leader and organizer. As for private reasons which do not concern this paper, I do not wish to be someone in such a position, I agreed to accept the task to be in charge and begin the group working, but on a strictly temporary basis. As soon as it was possible, we evolved an excellent system by which at each weekly meeting whoever presided it, nominated the 'lecturer' for the next meeting, and whoever had been responsible to speak about some part of the tarot nominated the next meeting's president. In this way, every member got to lead several meetings a year, and also had to present a certain number of talks every year. We therefore heard many different views on the Tarot, as seen by diverse people with many different occupations in life and 'specialties' in their interests in the occult. The meetings were held in the house of one of the librarians in the Theosophical Society, which she later left to become an "Instructress" of "Mind Dynamics", having received training for this in San Francisco.
Usually I came with a friend, the late Fred PHILLIPS of blessed memory. He had the most magnificent library (with books in every room of his house) on all aspects of occultism, (in the widest sense) that I have ever seen. He had read all his books and knew much about almost everything. Whenever he loaned a book - and he was very generous in lending to those who were genuinely interested - it was on the condition that the borrower, when returning it, would be examined on its contents before being loaned another book. Let me record here in passing that I have good reasons to believe that the entity I knew in this life as Fred (Phillips), I had met before, when he had been the "Merlin" of British legendary history.
Another friend who often came with us was Peter OULIANOFF, whose acute critical mind seldom failed to help us get out of some unclear situation, symbolically or otherwise, when everybody else just could only 'waffle' meaninglessly. The group functioned till the end of 1968, but I had to leave it at the end of 1967, when I moved out of Sydney and had too many other commitments to be able to attend regularly.
It is at one of these Tarot Group meetings that I first made the acquaintance of Stephen SKINNER, who had come with his first Mentor in Magic, himself a "founder member" of the group, chosen or rather was asked by Mouni Sadhu to participate in this new venture. I was happy to be able to lend to Stephen and his Teacher my precious copy of the First Edition of Francis BARRETT's "The Magus" which they wanted to study. At that time, it had not yet been reprinted and was not easily obtainable, as it is now, outside the reference shelves of a few libraries.
They well repaid me for this by introducing me to James Branch CABELL's masterpiece: "Jurgen", and through it to the other 24 books which constitute "The History of the Life of Manuel" (of which I have managed to find and read only 14 so far). And so, since then Stephen and I never lost touch with each other, even when working on different Paths and living in different countries and different continents.
The Group was most helpful and useful to us all with new insights on the Tarot, some of which I later incorporated in the 24 articles on "esoteric philosophy as seen through the medium of the Tarot" I was asked to write for the Sydney-based monthly magazine COSMOS, in which they were published between 1974 and 1978. Later I rewrote these articles, including additional material, as a book (THE COSMOS TAROT), not yet published.
Mouni Sadhu died early in 1967 (or it may be in December 1966, I cannot remember the exact date), sadly and unfortunately while I was away on a round-the-world trip. When I came back at the beginning of February 1967, I found waiting for me a two-months old letter from him, asking me to contact him very urgently. But when I telephoned his home in Melbourne, I found to my sorrow that he had suddenly died shortly after writing to me. No one knew - or would admit knowing - why he had wanted to see me before his death. I personally suspect that he may have decided to let me have the Russian books he was treasuring, knowing that I would appreciate them, care for them, study and use them, and generally deal with them as they were meant to be dealt with. Surprisingly, his latest "wife" (whom I had not met before, as she obtained that position after I had left on my trip) categorically denied the very existence of any such books. As I know that they did exist, I wonder what has happened to them and who has them now. I do hope they are in good hands and are not being wasted.
In addition to the books mentioned by Prinke in his account, Mouni Sadhu had also written "Ways to Self - Realization: A Modern Evaluation of Occultism and Spiritual Paths", published in 1962 (by The Julian Press Inc., New York), and "Theurgy: "The Art of Effective Worship", published in 1965 by George Allen and Unwin Ltd., as had been all his other books. He considered this to be his best and most valuable work after "In Days of Great Peace" (first issued in 1952), which always remained his favorite. "Theurgy" has his portrait as frontispiece. I do not know whether he has left any finished or unfinished manuscript. From several things he said to me and as he never spoke about writing another book, I rather think not, and that this is his last and final work.
All in all, whatever his failings may have been as a young man or even in later years, he was a MAN and I am proud of having had him as a friend and companion, for a time at least, in our common Quest for the Way and the Truth. As he wrote in the copy of "In Days of Great Peace" which he autographed for me:
THE PATH EXISTS: WE CAN FIND IT.