The Land of the Gods: The Long-Hidden Story of Visiting the Masters of Wisdom in Shambhala

The Land of the Gods: The Long-Hidden Story of Visiting the Masters of Wisdom in Shambhala

[H.P. Blavatsky; Franz Hartmann]
New York: Radiant Books, 2022. 139 pp., hardcover, $29.99; paper $9.97.

The recent publication of a book titled The Land of the Gods has raised some queries among TS members as to its authorship, which the publisher attributes to H.P. Blavatsky. Did Blavatsky write this fictional story about a seeker traversing the Alpine mountains in southern Bavaria who falls into a dream state and visits the Rosicrucian adepts in Shambhala?

The book is subtitled The Long-Hidden Story of Visiting the Masters of Wisdom in Shambhala. The publisher claims on the back cover that the book represents “a secret story hidden in plain sight for 135 years.” Like other TS members, I had doubts about it being from the pen of HPB, so I began researching.

The original book’s title was An Adventure among the Rosicrucians, and it was written in 1887 by HPB’s associate Franz Hartmann. That book continues to be available online from various sellers. Reading the first ten or so pages from the sample revealed that the story in Hartmann’s book is the same as the one in The Land of the Gods.

Indeed Blavatsky reviewed the original Adventure among the Rosicrucians in her publication Lucifer in October 1887. She notes that the author of the book is “a Student of Occultism,” with a footnote identifying him as “Dr. Franz Hartmann, a remarkable German physician, philosopher and mystic . . . and a personal friend of H.P.B.”

It makes sense that Hartmann would have written this story. Susanne Hoepfl-Wellenhofer, an Austrian-born scholar who has translated Hartmann’s texts from German to English, noted in her winter 2022 Quest article that after Hartmann left India with HPB in April 1885, he moved to Kempten in southern Bavaria—the place the seeker was visiting when he entered the mystical Shambhala. Hartmann stayed longer than he’d planned “because he met the leader of a small group of Rosicrucians and soon identified himself with this group.”

In her review of Hartmann’s book, HPB writes, “Scattered hither and thither, through this little volume are pearls of wisdom. For that which is rendered in the shape of dialogue and monologue is the fruit gathered by the author during a long research in old forgotten and mouldy MSS of the Rosicrucians, or mediaeval alchemists, and in the worm-eaten infolio of unrecognized, yet great adepts of every age.”

Thus when the narrator approaches the subject of esoteric retreats or communities—a dream cherished by many a Theosophist—he is answered by the “Adept” that “the true ascetic is he who lives in the world, surrounded by its temptations; he in whose soul the animal elements are still active, craving for the gratification of their desires and possessing the means for such gratification, but who by the superior power of his will conquers his animal self. . . . He desires no other good but to create good for the world.’ . . . Saith the Adept.”

To be clear, it is not the actual content of The Land of the Gods with which this reviewer has a problem—simply that it is attributed to HPB when it was clearly written by Hartmann. The content of the book is Rosicrucian theosophy, and much of it sounds familiar to any Theosophist or student of the Ageless Wisdom. There are even some words and phrases that could be from the mouth of HPB, such as calling the Christian Gospel a “dead letter” and referring to the scientific and theological misconceptions and superstitions accumulated through the ages as “rubbish.”

Blavatsky’s influence on Hartmann comes through his story of this adventure to find the truth in the “monastery” of Rosicrucianism. “Knowing the different opinions of the higher accepted authorities and not being bound by an orthodox scientific creed having at their service all the results of the investigations of the learned, but not being bound to their system by a belief in their infallibility, such people would be at liberty to think freely,” explains the Rosicrucian adept in the book.

As the adept tells the seeker, “Your religion isn’t the religion of the living God who still lives and executes His own will; it is the religion of a dead, impotent god who died long ago and left an army of clergy to rule in His stead.” That certainly sounds similar to statements made by Blavatsky about the modern Christian church.

If you are inclined to read this edition of Hartmann’s book, I also recommend reading Blavatsky’s writing on Shambhala, in which she speaks of this as that “certain Sacred Island in Central Asia” and the “sacred Island (now the ‘fabled’ Shambhala, in the Gobi Desert)” (Secret Doctrine, 2:319).

I will conclude this review by quoting HPB’s strong recommendation of Hartmann’s book at the end of her own review: “The ‘adventure’ is more than worth perusal.”

Clare Goldsberry

Clare Goldsberry’s latest book, The Illusion of Life and Death: Mind, Consciousness, and Eternal Being, was reviewed in the spring 2022 issue of Quest.